Sunday, December 23, 2012

Massage…not a luxury

One of the small changes I’ve made over the last 18 months is allowing myself a monthly massage. I used to feel that because I was large (read fat), that I really didn’t want to take my clothes off in front of a stranger. As well, I have a real aversion to allowing anyone not family to touch me. But, while having physical therapy for frozen shoulder, I became convinced to try it. It helped with the soreness that the physical therapy caused to start with. It relieved neck and shoulder tension that I didn’t even know I had until it was loosened up. But massage still seemed like a luxury.

Recently though, I started thinking that I should really start taking better care of myself, since I intend to stick around for another decade or two. And so, I started going in once a month for a massage. I have found a goddess massage therapist (Melissa, bless you) who makes me feel like a human being again. And I started doing research into the other benefits of massage.

Massage reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, resulting in lifted spirits and often lower blood pressure. It can also boost the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which are involved in depression. High blood pressure patients demonstrate lower diastolic blood pressure, anxiety, and stress hormones. Stress kills. Even without obvious narrowing of coronary arteries, stress can cause heart attacks.

Obviously, massage helps relieve muscle tightness and aches. But, one of the benefits of flexibility is again, heart related. Arterial stiffness often precedes cardiovascular disease. Staying flexible, through massage and exercise, keeps those arteries flexible as well, and more able to keep the blood moving. My massage therapist told me that the calves, in particular, help move lymph around the body, acting as almost a second heart. So, massaging them helps bring all that lymph back through the system, and helps keep the white blood cells working more efficiently.

But, best of all, I walk lighter after a massage. I have my head held high, I breathe deeper, I have at last a few hours of contentment.

Get a massage!


#massage #cortisol #reducestress

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Why change?

My father died at age 55. He never lived long enough to retire, to see grandchildren, to truly relax. He loved life, and his life choices cut his life short.

So, I've never smoked. That is what took his life. But I've made a lot of other life choices that have probably shortened my life expectancy. I'm hoping that the changes I'm writing about here will allow me to reverse what some of those bad choices have done to me.

The first is weight. I worked out 6 days a week for years, teaching Taekwondo and juijitsu. 3 or 4 classes a day, working out with the students through every class. Although I wasn't slim, I was in good shape. I still have a perception of myself as a strong woman, and every time I have to ask for help with something, it irritates me, and jolts me back to my current reality.

Then, I picked up a box of books the wrong way, and messed up a disc. Back surgery, and fear of more damage stopped my workouts. Not smart. Exercise would have probably kept my core strong and avoided back pain for years. But, I can exercise again. I've added Tai Chi to my mornings. Dr. Paul Lam has a lovely program that is designed for arthritis. Short form, and a type of exercise I am comfortable with.

So, a start back to health. Tai Chi and walking. And, looking back at a previous post, I've cut back the soda. Only about 3 in the last 3 weeks. Not as hard as I had feared.

SO, let's continue. The goal is to have a longer life, a healthier life, an enjoyable life. Hope you come along with me.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Soda Replacements.

When diet soda was introduced back in the 1960’s, my mom was thrilled. She bought a dozen cans a week, thinking she was doing a great thing by cutting out sugar. Mom was on a constant diet, and tried everything that came around. I think the worst was the hardboiled egg and coffee diet. Constant irritation and whew…the smell!
Like Mom, I figured that I could drink soda, as long as it was diet. So, a couple of cans a day, for years, went down my throat. What have I done to myself with all of that?

On, they say “regular consumption of diet soda may indirectly lead to weight gain, because it may make you crave sweets”. This was based on a report from Harvard School of Public Health. The taste of something sweet makes your body think it needs energy. Since the diet soda doesn’t produce any energy, your brain sees that that food does not make you feel full, and makes you hungry for more. So, consuming diet soda could contribute to overeating. Just what I need. So, one of my first small steps is to eliminate soda from my life.

So, the sugar in regular soda is an inflammatory, and the lack of real calories in diet makes you hungrier. And this is just the first bad effect soda has. I’ve looked for substitutes that don’t have artificial sweetener, and found this great tasting tea in one of my books:

Herbal Juice: From the Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book: Protect Yourself and Your Family ... By Jessica K. Black
½ cup hawthorn leaves
½ cup hawthorn berries
½ cup rose hips
½ cup dried peppermint leaves
¼ cup dried hibiscus flowers
Zest of one lemon
Honey or stevia to taste
Mix dry ingredients together and store in an airtight container. Use 1 Tablespoon tea mix per 10 ounces boiling water, and allow to steep for 10-15 minutes. Strain and sweeten.

If you like to make a gallon at a time like I do, use ¾ cup tea mix and one gallon of boiling water. Strain through a very fine strainer or a couple of layers of cheesecloth. You can drink this warm or cold.
The ingredients in this tea are generally considered safe for all ages. Hawthorn is great for the heart, hibiscus can lower blood pressure and help with weight loss, and rose hips are full of vitamin C. This tea is a beautiful ruby color, and sweet/tart on the tongue. Enjoy! I’ll be bringing a thermos full to work as soon as my new shipment of hawthorn berries comes in from Mountain Rose Herbs (

Herbal references from

Friday, November 23, 2012

Small changes

The smallest change. All too often, I've tried to change my life in drastic, dynamic jumps. No carbs, Mediterranean diet, exercise programs that had me in agony by the third day. This time, I'm going to take it in small steps. This blog is going to be my journal as I ease into change. Some of it will be recipes. I love to cook! Low carb and paleo diet recipes are going to be my focus. I probably won't be pure paleo, as I love cheese too much. As well, I'm going to include recipes and information about herbs and other natural healing. Exercise? Well, I will probably journal that, too. I'm trying to accommodate a body that is putting limits on me, but more gentle exercise is possible. Tai Chi, yoga, walking...all part of a balanced lifestyle. And, once in a while, there will be rants. Rants about work, rants about what's going on in the food world, rants about life in general. Feel free to join in, or ignore. Up to you!