Posts Tagged ‘health blog’

Well-Being with Whitney: Fasting from Comfort Food

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

Who doesn’t love comfort food? Chips, brownies, macaroni and cheese, ice cream — it’s all fun to eat. Holiday food (from casseroles to cookies) is often comforting. Indulging in comfort food is fine once in a while. But eating comfort food regularly is a sign of using it for something it can’t reliably provide: good feelings. God designed food to nourish our bodies in enjoyable ways, but not to be the source of our comfort, as emotional eating leads us to believe. So fasting from comfort foods to lessen our dependence on them is a healthy choice to refresh ourselves in body, mind, and spirit.

That’s easy for me to say, but not to do.

Potatoes, cheese, and gravy sat before me at the table, all piled on top of each other in a deliciously squishy mess of a meal called “poutine” — the signature dish of Montreal, Canada. As I dug into it on a recent trip there, I savored every bite of that tasty concoction featuring not just one, but three of my favorite comfort foods.

Poutine was so comforting, in fact, that I found myself seeking it out whenever I felt stressed on the trip. Wait a minute, I finally reminded myself, poutine isn’t a friend — it’s just food!

Once again, I’d fallen into the trap of emotional eating. That’s something I’ve struggled with since childhood, when I began rewarding myself for finishing school homework by eating chocolate candy. Fasting from comfort foods from time to time is a great way to remind myself that food is meant for my body — not my emotions — and get back on track with healthy eating habits.

What foods do you turn to for comfort, and why? Do you tend to eat brownies when you’re worried? Do you relieve stress with a bowl of popcorn in front of the TV screen?

After you’ve identified what you’re feeling when you eat, you can choose new ways of dealing with those feelings — ways that don’t involve food. So instead of eating a brownie when you’re anxious, you can pray about what’s worrying you, and rather than eating popcorn to try to relieve stress, you can take a walk. Both prayer and walking can actually help you achieve your emotional goals, unlike comfort food, which may make you feel better for the few minutes you eat it but do nothing to help you in the long run.

Try fasting from your favorite comfort food for at least three weeks, since it takes at least 21 days to develop a new habit. Then, when you return to it, do so only in moderation and after you’ve already filled up on a healthy meal or snack. You can still indulge once in a while — just not in an emotionally dependent way. Enjoy a treat occasionally, but get your comfort from more reliable sources: God and caring people.

Well-Being with Whitney: What are You Willing to Change?

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

When healing — of body, mind, or spirit — happens, it’s never by magic. Healing happens by relationship, through decisions to grow closer to God. Too often, we pray for better health and then passively wait for something to improve. But God always asks us to participate actively our healing. Saint Brother André Bessette (who became famous for many healing miracles that happened after he prayed for people at Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, Canada) often asked people seeking healing one key question: “What are you willing to change in order to grow closer to God?”

The power to heal ultimately comes from God. So when we want to be healed in some way, the most powerful step to take is to move closer to God — Creator of our bodies, minds, and spirits; and the source of all healing.

Brother André, who spent many decades praying for people in need of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual healing, challenged people to open their hearts when approaching God. Rather than seeing God as some sort of magician they hoped to convince to help them with a trick for their health, people should engage in personal conversations with God in which real love is exchanged, Brother André advised. “When you pray,” he said, “you talk to God the way you do to a friend.”

I visited Saint Joseph’s Oratory (named for Brother André’s patron saint, St. Joseph, Jesus Christ’s father during his earthly life) recently to learn more about this humble man who believers say God worked through to heal thousands of people in different ways. What was the meaning of wellness to him?

It was simple, yet profound. Wellness, from a faith perspective, means being connected to God in relationships where we’re willing to do whatever God asks, because God loves us and we love him.

God doesn’t expect us to be perfect; only to be willing to say “yes” to what he asks us to do. What are we willing to change in our lives that we know is currently putting distance between ourselves and God? That’s a challenging, yet worthwhile, question to consider. If we dare to ask in prayer or meditation with God, we’ll get the insights we need.

For instance, I was moved after my visit to ask God to show me one specific bad habit I could change to move closer to him. What came to mind was my tendency to yell at people around me when I’m under stress. That was something significant enough to be worth working on, yet manageable enough for me to handle. So, with God’s help, I’m working to grow beyond that. What motivates me is simply love for God, not an attempt to convince God to give me something I’d like to have in my life. Just like I want to do whatever I can to keep my relationships with other people healthy, I want to do the same with my relationship with God, just because I love him. The next time I ask God to heal something in my life, I know that whatever he decides to do will also be based on love.

We can’t predict what will happen when we ask God for healing, but we can be confident that God will respond with love, and we can best receive his love when we’re in close relationships with him.

Well-Being with Whitney: Alcohol Detox

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

The health risks of drinking alcohol — from brain and liver damage to weight gain — are well known, yet alcohol use remains widespread. Popular culture portrays alcohol as a harmless way to relax and have fun. An occasional glass of wine with dinner or beer in the backyard isn’t too bad, but even one alcoholic drink does some damage to the body, and it can be challenging to stop at just one. So if you’ve been drinking alcohol lately, you can detox your body’s system from its effects by completely abstaining for a while.

I go weeks or even months between drinking any alcoholic beverages. From time to time, I enjoy a hard apple cider at an Irish pub or a glass of sangria wine at a social event. But I always stop at one drink only. I’ve never  gotten drunk. If I never drank any alcohol beverages again, I wouldn’t miss them much, either. Since I barely drink any alcohol, my body isn’t desensitized to it, and just one drink is enough for me to feel that pleasant “buzz” that many people enjoy from alcohol. Most importantly, I keep my mind clear. Mental impairment is too high a price for me to pay for any type of enjoyment. By exercising self-control with alcoholic drinks, I make sure they don’t control me.

Many people I know and love, however, struggle to control their alcohol consumption — especially when they’re drinking as a way of trying to escape from stressful problems. It’s easy to become addicted to alcohol. When I worked for The Salvation Army’s national magazines, I edited story after story about people working hard in rehab centers to rebuild their lives from the destruction that alcohol caused.

Here are some ways you can detox your body from alcohol:

  • If you’re addicted to alcohol, get help now. Reach out to caring, trustworthy friends and family, go to rehab, and participate in counseling or a support group.
  • If you’re not addicted but tend to overindulge, cut back to just one alcoholic beverage every time you drink and notice how good it feels to think clearly and feel fully in each present moment rather than numbing your senses with alcohol.
  • If you drink alcohol just occasionally like I do, abstain completely the next time you feel like having a drink (such as when you’re at a party). Fulfill your craving for an alcoholic beverage with something healthier that you also enjoy, like eating fresh fruit.
  • No matter how much alcohol you usually drink, consider the emotional factors that are fueling your desire to drink it, and identify any unhealthy patterns you can start changing. Why do you drink? What negative feelings are you trying to escape from through alcohol? What pleasant feelings are you trying to experience by drinking alcohol? Prayer and meditation can help you figure out how you’ve been using alcohol to deal with your emotions, and how you can start expressing those emotions in healthier ways.
  • Drink lots of water — at least 8 to 10 glasses every day. Water flushes out toxins from your body’s cells, so it will help get rid of toxins your body has stored from alcohol consumption.

Well-Being with Whitney: Caffeine Detox

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

Caffeine is such a common part of everyday life that it’s easy to forget caffeine is actually an addictive drug. Coffee, tea, and other drinks containing caffeine are popular, and enjoying them in moderation can even lead to a variety of health benefits. Those range from physical benefits (such as antioxidant protection for cells that helps prevent disease) and mental benefits (better cognitive function and mood boosts). But consuming too much caffeine can harm your health, in ways that include insomnia, headaches, and abnormal heart rhythms.

So it’s wise to figure out how much caffeine is really the right amount for you to consume each day — and detox your body of the excess caffeine that you’ve been ingesting.

Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system by causing the brain to release adrenaline. That’s fine if the body uses all of that adrenaline (such as for energy to handle a crisis). But if excess amounts of adrenaline hang around in the body, over time, it builds up in the body’s muscles, causing tension and pain. That’s when a caffeine detox can be useful.

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with caffeine.

Tea is my favorite drink, and I’m fond of coffee, too. Caffeinated drinks play a prominent role in the experiences I treasure — from having afternoon tea with my daughter to reading the morning news while sipping a cup of coffee. I appreciate the many health benefits of tea in particular, and even made a pilgrimage to a tea plantation on vacation once.

But I’ve also suffered insomnia and a racing heartbeat from drinking too much caffeine. Never once have I ever tried an energy drink, because I’m wary of the unregulated and often excessive amounts of caffeine they contain. Sometimes I worry about people I know and love who have high blood pressure yet consume copious amounts of coffee (and have told me to keep my suggestions about reducing their coffee intake to myself).

So how much caffeine is too much? The Mayo Clinic says that up to 400 milligrams per day (up to four cups of coffee) is generally safe for adults and cautions going beyond that amount.

If you’ve been drinking more than that, here are some ways to cut back on the amount of caffeine you consume:

  • Replace just one of the caffeinated beverages you usually consume every day with a drink that doesn’t have caffeine — such as decaf tea or coffee — and gradually work your way to up to replacing most of your caffeinated drinks with no-caffeine alternatives.
  • Enjoy caffeine in the morning and at lunch, but stop drinking it later in day or in the evening. Give your body a break from caffeine from mid-afternoon on.
  • Drink more water. Water flushes out all sorts of toxins from your body, refreshing you. If you’ve already had enough caffeine for the day and find yourself craving more, drink water instead.

 

Well-Being with Whitney: Sugar Detox

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

By making just one simple choice, you can lose weight, gain energy, and experience a host of other health benefits that include reducing disease-causing inflammation and boosting immunity. That choice? Reducing the amount of sugar in your diet. Doing so is a powerful way to cleanse your body by detoxifying it from the harmful effects of consuming too much sugar.

A plethora of research studies have linked sugar to illnesses (such as cancer and heart disease) while also showing that cutting down on sugar consumption leads to greater wellness. When children in a large study by the National Institutes of Health reduced the amount of sugar they consumed, they experienced many health benefits (like better blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin levels) after only 10 days.

Making sure we don’t consume unhealthy levels of sugar is challenging when we’re constantly surrounded by sugary food and drinks. But it can do a lot to help our bodies function the way God designed them to work.

Growing up, I ate way too much sugar, like many Americans do. Candy, cookies, pie, ice cream, popsicles, cake, sweet tea, soda, punch — the list of sugary foods and drinks I consumed knowingly was long. Then there were all the ways that I was ingesting sugar without even realizing it, through sugary ingredients (like high fructose corn syrup) hidden in processed foods and beverages. Not only did I consume to much sugar physically, but I also developed an unhealthy habit of eating it for emotional reasons.

Fortunately, when I was training for a triathlon in my early 20s, my boyfriend (who was training with me) challenged me to give up drinking soda. He said that by eliminating as much sugar as possible from my diet, I would have more energy. At first, that didn’t make sense to me, since I had been drinking soda for late afternoon bursts of energy. But I had to admit that those bursts didn’t last long — and that they led to energy crashes later.

So I rose to the challenge and stopped drinking soda completely. It didn’t take long for me to have more energy throughout the day. I also slept better at night. Other benefits included feeling less stressed and being able to concentrate more. That was just what I could tell myself — lab tests, I suspect, would have revealed many more health benefits that resulted from my decision to get rid of sugary soda.

I haven’t missed soda since.

There are many ways you can start decreasing the amount of sugar you consume, including:

  • Decreasing your sugar use one meal at a time (such as by replacing sugary breakfast cereal with healthier food at breakfast) and then gradually moving on to other meals.
  • Replacing food and drinks that have sugar additives with no-sugar added alternatives. For instance, stop drinking sweet tea and start drinking unsweetened tea flavored with lemon juice.
  • Cutting back on the amount of dessert you eat, and choosing natural options over processed food. Enjoy something that’s sweetened naturally (like fruit or honey) for dessert instead of something that’s loaded with processed sugar (like candy or cookies).
  • Avoiding products that contain high fructose corn syrup, a sugar additive that’s often hidden in food (like bread, peanut butter, and salad dressings) and beverages (like juice). Read nutrition labels to identify products that are more pure.
  • Using spices (such as cinnamon and ginger) or extracts (like almond and vanilla) when cooking instead of sugar.

Well-Being with Whitney: Detox Your Emotions by Crying

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

Just like a refreshing shower washes dirt off your body, a good cry cleanses you of negative emotions stored deep inside you. A great way to detox feelings such as anxiety, sadness, frustration, loneliness, anger, and disappointment is simply to let yourself cry.

Research from St. Paul Ramsey Medical Center and the Primal Institute shows that the act of crying releases stress hormones, detoxifying the body from the effects of storing up negative emotions.

After my mom passed away, I didn’t allow myself to cry about it for several years! I was afraid that if I started crying, I wouldn’t be able to stop. I’d developed a bad habit of suppressing my feelings because of past criticism for being emotionally sensitive. I missed my mom terribly but held back my tears — because I knew that letting one tear trickle down would unleash a torrent of tears that could overwhelm me and others like a gushing waterfall.

So much time went by without me weeping, though, that eventually I felt guilty that I had never cried over my mom’s death. Crying certainly seemed like the right thing to do in that situation. Remaining stoic made it seem like I didn’t care about my mom, and that couldn’t have been farther from the truth.

One day, as I was driving home from an aerobics class at my gym — a route that takes me past my mom’s former apartment — a wave of grief rolled over me and I decided not to fight it. I just relaxed into the grief so I could feel it. Then I gave myself permission to express it by crying. Sure enough, after the first tear fell down my face, a torrent of other tears followed. After pulling into a nearby parking let, I sat in my car weeping for a long time.

Then a wonderful peace settled in my soul, and my body felt refreshed. Crying had cleansed me.

What do you need to cry about? A broken relationship with someone you love? A job loss? A frightening health condition? Whatever circumstances have led you to store negative emotions in your body, cry about them to release those feelings.

Who could you cry for to release compassion into a situation of suffering? Do you know someone going through a divorce, struggling with an addiction, stressed by the demands of caring for a loved one, or facing another type of painful challenge? Hurting people are all around you. Cry for them, and let your tears motivate you to help in ways that you can.

Crying is a powerful way to detox your emotions. When you let your tears out, you welcome healing in!

Renewing Your Mind: Angels and Addiction

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Addiction is a widespread issue in our society. We’re all prone to developing addictions, because we’re all tempted to seek fulfillment in someone or something else besides God. The list of what we can become addicted to is long: food, sex, gambling, alcohol, shopping, cigarettes, work, the Internet, etc.

I used to silently judge people who got drunk, smugly taking pride in the fact that I barely drank any alcohol at all. But then I realized that I had just as much of a problem with compulsively eating chocolate. None of us is immune to falling into addictive behavior. We all have to choose, day by day, to devote ourselves more to God than to anything or anyone else.

Angels, who are God’s messengers, are valuable allies to have in the fight against addiction. That’s why I’m writing a series on angels and addiction for About.com, covering such addictions as pornographyfood, and alcohol and other drugs. Hope you find the articles helpful! And if God or one of his angels have helped you recover from an addiction, please send me your miracle story or angel story to post on the site to inspire others.

Thanks, and Blessings,

Whitney

aboutangelsmiracles@gmail.com

Renewing Your Mind: Body, Mind, and Spirit Connections

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

Emotional stress can lead to physical pain. The body, mind, and spirit are connected in ways that affect each other when there’s a problem with one part of the system. Fortunately, the angels who answer our prayers are also closely connected, so when we pray about a health issue, God may send us help from different angels working together. The archangels Michael and Raphael often join forces in healing work, since Michael is a master of empowering us to overcome fear (which causes stress) and Raphael is an expert at sending us guidance for the physical healing process.

I discovered how well Michael and Raphael work together when I woke up with pain in my jaw during a particularly stressful season in my life. While sleeping, I had been grinding my teeth because of anxiety caused by stress, putting pressure on my jaw and causing the pain in the process. I asked God to assign both Michael and Raphael to help me. Later, not only did my jaw feel better, but my mind was more at peace, as well.

How can angels help you with your own health right now?

If you’ve ever had an angel answer a prayer about your health, consider sharing your story about the experience on the About.com angels and miracles site to help others.

Blessings,

Whitney