If you see red everywhere on any day other than tomorrow, Friday, February 1, you may have an anger issue you need to address.
But if you’re seeing red tomorrow, it’s because February 1 is National Wear Red Day. This event is part of an effort by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to promote health awareness for women.
Eight million American women are currently living with heart disease.
Cardiovascular disease causes almost half of the deaths of American women each year (nearly 500,000).
Heart disease kills six times as many women as breast cancer does each year, approximately 300,000 women.
Smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and ethnicity can increase the risk for individual women.
What can you do? First, you can educate yourself. Once aware of the risks, you can talk to the women around you and let them know of the dangers. You can also promote heart-healthy habits and make yourself an example for others to follow. For a copy of The Healthy Heart Handbook for Women, call the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Health Information Center at 301-592-8573.
We owe it to our families to learn how to care for our heart. But we also have an obligation to spread the word to our sisters, mothers, daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters. Broken hearts hurt the patient, but they also hurt everyone who loves the patient. As a sister, mother and grandmother, I’m going to do my part. What about you?
I first met Martha Rust when she applied to participate in the GoFat to Fit reality television show I was
co-producing with Debbie Wagner, RN and coordinator of the wellness center for the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital. The 12-week program was broadcast on NCTV, our public community television station. Each week while the camera whirred, a dozen participants met and publicly discussed their progress and obstacles as they learned about exercise options and nutrition.
Martha worked as a nurse at the hospital and had battled weight most of her adult life. She was so successful that by the time she finished her makeover, some of her former friends and patients no longer recognized her.
But the story doesn’t end there. Martha, like many other people I’ve talked to, was derailed by a UFO-an Unexpected Fitness Obstacle. She developed a life-threatening systemic infection from a spider bite during the program but that didn’t stop her. She found exercise she loved to do, Jazzercise, and surrounded herself with a new group of friends who worked out. She lost forty pounds and kept it off. But then she became a little casual in her commitment to regular exercise and some of her good habits began to slip. When a recent problem with her back slowed her down, Martha wrote to me. Here’s what she said:
I've had another "a-ha" moment that I need to share. First, I wanted you to know that your presence in my life has influenced this positive thinking.
While an injury is usually viewed as a bad thing, my recent experience with one has been anything but negative. When people throw out their backs, they invariably puzzle over how exactly it happened. In that regard, I am no different. What makes the difference this time is the way that I have responded to being laid up. I find it surprising.
Sitting immobilized in my recliner, zoned out on muscle relaxants, my mind was still racing. Yet all I could do was sit there! Faced with being unable to move, it became crystal clear to me that working my body is fundamental to my physical as well as emotional well-being. I really missed being able to exercise!
For the past six months, I've taken for granted my ability to be mobile in a pain-free body. Truth be told, I've been downright lackadaisical about my fitness program, blowing off a workout opportunity merely because I didn't feel like it. I've been exercising regularly, just not quite as dedicated as before.
Being unable to move and feeling trapped in my body made me realize how precious a gift being fit is. Moving freely without pain is not something to be taken for granted. This injury has reinforced my resolve to be a better caretaker of this body of mine. I'm not going to miss out on the opportunity to move!
You have made such an impact in the way I think, and I am grateful for that every day.
Bless you my friend,
When Martha injured her back, she had a choice. She could use the back injury as an excuse to quit exercising and regain the weight she’d lost, sliding back to the place she started from. Or she could recommit. While Martha was deciding, a light bulb lit up in her head. She liked her new life and didn’t want to give it up!
I’ve talked with Martha since receiving her letter, and although she is still moving a little gingerly, her commitment is unwavering. In fact, I’ve never seen her more enthusiastic about her new lifestyle. Keep going, Martha.
For years, individuals have argued that their genetic makeup made it easy to acquire andstore fat and equally difficult to lose weight. At the same time, a commonly promoted view is that the mechanics of weight gain or weight loss are straightforward. If you eat more than your body needs to maintain your weight, you will gain weight. If you eat less, you will lose weight.
As you might have guessed, the chemistry of weight gain and loss isn’t quite that simple. Research reported in the article “Genetics Linked to Diet Patterns and Fat Fondness” in the September 2007 Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter forces us to revisit the issue.
In a study of 1,000 participants funded by the National Institutes of Health reported in Clinical Chemistry, June 2007, researchers reported that our genetic makeup may determine our preference for fat and the way our bodies will treat that fat. Unfortunately, fat-partial participants tended to add fat to their waist and to their weight—a double whammy.
Certain genetic combinations in participants (both men and women) were linked to a preference for dietary fat. These fat-preferring participants consumed more calories per day (about 200) than the other participants consumed. In addition, they were twice as likely to be obese as the other participants. The participants who favored protein and carbohydrates had reduced body mass index, regardless of their caloric intake.
The implications of this research have yet to be realized in practical applications. What we can glean from the study, however, is what our mother always said: ‘life isn’t fair.’ Some of us prefer fat on our plates. Left unchecked, that preference will cause us to be heavier than our sisters and brothers who prefer protein and carbohydrates, even when the number of calories we consume is the same as theirs. Armed with this information, we have to be even more conscious of and conscientious about the amount of fat we include in our daily choices.
I have a ritual. I begin my day by cleaning the kitchen sink. I think the ritual started when I read that a woman with a clean kitchen sink feels better. After I clean the debris and stains away, I certainly think better, and I’m more organized and confident. I stand and admire the shiny porcelain, ready to start the day.
Truth be told, the rest of my house is not that spotless. For sure, the clothes and shoes in my closets could use a good weeding. But I have far less stuff today than I did before I lost weight.
Each month during my weight-loss period, I called a local charity for a pickup of extraneous stuff. The driver was greeted with numerous bags and boxes of clothes, equipment, shoes, dishes and knickknacks—all the unneeded and now outdated goods I had accumulated. And although it was sometimes difficult to put old-time “friends” in the bags, once gone, I never missed them.
Interestingly enough, I notice that participants in my fitness and weight-loss classes report a similar impulse to clean out and clear away the excess material possessions cluttering their homes and lives.
I thought it might be a coincidence, until I read an article by Tara Parker-Pope in the New York Times, “A Clutter Too Deep for Mere Bins and Shelves.” In the article, Tara writes about her interview with Lynne Johnson, president of the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization and a professional organizer. Lynne notices the same phenomenon.
Here’s how Lynne explains it: “I think someone decides, ‘I’m not going to live my life like this any more. I’m not going to hold onto my stuff, I’m not going to hold onto my weight.’” She adds, “I’m not sure one comes before the other. It’s part of that same life-change decision.” One of Lynne’s clients, for example, cleaned her home and lost 50 pounds.
Lynne’s perspective is reinforced by comments from Julie Schwartz, nutritionist and counselor to people considering gastric bypass surgery at the Emory Bariatric Center. In an article on how eliminating household clutter has physical and mental benefits reported in the Chicago Tribune, Julie says, “Once you clear out the obstacles, the health tends to fall into place.”
One of the key myths that people believe is clutter is the result of inadequate organization. If only they had a better system of organizing their stuff and more storage, they tell themselves, the clutter problem would be solved. But the real problem is not inadequate storage or organization.
Rather, the problem resides in the way people view their material possessions. Each item is as valuable as the next one, so nothing can be discarded. Until the thinking process is changed, no matter how many systems are adopted or storage bins added, the problem of clutter won’t go away.
The same holds true for weight loss and getting fit. The individual who believes the solution to being overweight will be found in the perfect diet or the breakthrough exercise misses the point. The problem rests with our internal decisions. Our daily choices reflect the perspective we bring to the challenge of losing weight. Once that mind-set shifts, all sorts of possibilities open up.
If you’re ready to clear out the clutter in your life, you may discover that you are also ready to discard some of your extra weight. Or, like the students in my fitness-class and me, you will begin by losing weight, and, as a by-product, you will start clearing out the surplus stuff that is holding you back. Either way, it’s a wonderful outcome.