Love Is All You Need?

As I kissed my wife goodbye and headed to the airport I was, once again, thankful for the wonderful relationship we have. There has been a lot of traveling lately. Both of us headed in different geographical locations but, thankfully, not in different emotional directions. Even our 25th wedding anniversary took a backseat this year (we will be celebrating in Vancouver, BC later) because of international meetings, conferences, and presentations at professional meetings. We both work hard, she more so than I, but we both know we can count on the other for support. This is part of the reason I took an old book along with me during one of my latest trips. It was Dr. Dean Ornish’s book titled, Love and Survival: 8 Pathways to Intimacy and Health.

Now, if you are like me, when you hear the name “Dean Ornish” you think of the well-known health and lifestyle physician, most famous for his work in reversing heart disease with a plant-based vegetarian diet, meditation, and mild exercise. There are many physicians today who understand his work (though most do not) and are now suggesting plant-based vegan diets and lifestyles to their patients for better overall health. Dr. Ornish, though not the first to publish research in this area, is the first person who became well-known for doing so.

The book I have was published way back in 1999 and I have to say, it’s not a book I would highly recommend. Not because he didn’t make a good case for love being an important (if not the most important) indicator for overall health and as something that, when strongly present, lowers risk of all causes of mortality – he did. It’s just that he did it so well, I found myself thinking, “Alright already – I get it! Love is good for the soul and the body…”

What Ornish writes about most in the book is the loving relations that come within good marriages. However, he also makes it clear that marriage is not the only place where love can be found. I’d also like to say that “love” is not the only word we should be using. Strong and constant “support” can also be of great aid for our emotional and physical wellbeing.

The opposite of these positive relations are those lives lived in isolation, some (like Thoreau) might say lives of quiet desperation. You need not be living alone on Walden’s Pond to feel alone. You can live in the big city, you might work at a firm with hundreds of employees, the geographical location is not of great importance for those who are isolated. It is the lack of support where we find ourselves to be most vulnerable.

My sense is that most of the people who read these posts are not isolated individuals. Most comments I’ve received lead me to believe many are in good relationships, are connected to community, and receive support, if not all the time, when it is needed.

I’m very fortunate that when I come home from my travels, or my spouse comes back from hers, we are able to pick up where we left off, that we do not question the support of the other, and that we are (most often) headed in the same direction. While love may not be ALL we need, it is a great gift nonetheless when present. 

I’d be very interested to hear what steps you might take if you found yourself living an isolated life. Please do me the favor of using the comments section below so others, who might be isolated, can read your ideas.

Until next time, I’m…

Wishing you well,

Russell


Rev. Russell Elleven, DMin, BCC, CWP is a Board Certified Coach and Certified Wellness Practitioner. He helps individuals obtain health and wellbeing through his coaching practice The Minister of Health, LLC and through congregational work as the executive director of The Genesis 1:29 Project.


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Excuses!

Hey Everybody!

I know it’s been a while since my last post. My apologies! I have two excuses, and they are just that, excuses. The first excuse is that my spouse and I are in the middle of moving back to Chicago from Puerto Rico. There is a great deal still left to do but I am certain when I write again I will be doing so from the Windy City.

The second reason I’ve not communicated in a while is that I’ve actually been in the Chicago area getting our place in order so we can move back. But more importantly, I was able to conduct my first Healthy Basics cooking class series at a congregation just outside of Chicago. It was a wonderful experience and getting that first series of classes under my belt was a huge boost to my confidence. It was definitely a challenge to conduct a cooking class with only one arm but I also now know it is entirely doable.

Here is a picture of the lovely participants:

In the class I shared the idea of Hara Hachi Bu. Have you heard of this?

As some of you may remember from other posts, I’m completely enamored with the concept pf Blue Zones. Blue Zones are those places in the world where the inhabitants have a greater proportion of people living to be 100 years old.

There have been five regions identified as Blue Zones but the most famous of these is Okinawa, Japan. They have a saying in Okinawa, born out of Confucianism, that is roughly translated into English as “Eat until you are eight parts (80%) full.”

Hara Hachi Bu…

This ancient wisdom reminds us of the physiology we are familiar with today. You probably already know this but the indicators which tell us we are full from eating are not immediately received by our brain. There is actually a delay of time between the stretching of our stomach walls that occurs when we eat until those signals suggest to our brain that we are full and should stop eating. We are, very likely in most cases, eating more than we should because we continue to eat during this signal delay.

The Okinawans must have figured this out ages ago by eating until they are 80% full. While they  still easily get their nutritional needs met, they stop eating before the “full” messages reach the brain. This makes overeating much more difficult. Ingenious!

This is also, I believe, the reason we should eat more slowly. If we eat more slowly, and the stomach stretching begins, there is an opportunity for this signal of fullness to reach our brain prior to overeating. I’ll be the first to admit I have difficulties eating slowly (mindfully) but I think there is good reason to do so.

Well anyway, I was nervous about teaching the classes but am very glad I did. I think sharing the ideas of healthy eating will be something I’ll enjoy even more as my experience grows.

I’d love it if you would consider sharing something have you done in the past that may have been  difficult but you found greatly rewarding after it was all said and done? Please use the comments section below. If you reply to this message it often winds up in my spam folder.

Until next time, I’m…

Wishing you well,

Russell


Rev. Russell Elleven, DMin, BCC, CWP is a Board Certified Coach and Certified Wellness Practitioner. He helps individuals obtain health and wellbeing through his coaching practice The Minister of Health, LLC and through congregational work as the executive director of The Genesis 1:29 Project.


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You Have High Blood Pressure

It is a phrase people in the United States hear all too often, “You have high blood pressure.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 75 million adults in the US, approximately 1/3 of the population, have high blood pressure. Another 1/3 has what physicians call prehypertension, numbers higher than normal but which have yet to reach official high blood pressure (HBP). Additionally, the CDC says over 1,000 deaths occur in the US each day which are attributable to HBP and that we, as a nation, spend well over $48 billion dollars each year on this problem.

Like carrying too much weight, having high blood pressure (or almost having high blood pressure) has become the norm. Most of us will to have to deal with the effects of HBP unless we do something about it.

But isn’t HBP going to occur anyway as we age, you might ask? The answer is no, it doesn’t always have to be that way. Scientists looked for a culture which ate well and exercised. The people studied lived in a remote area and did not have modern electrical or mechanical conveniences. They had to do things by hand and, because of this, movement (i.e. exercise) was part of their everyday existence.

These people rarely had high blood pressure. In fact, their blood pressure often lowered as they aged!

So, high blood pressure is not inevitable. But with our modern lifestyle of convenience most people will deal with HPB. We all know we must eat right and exercise in order to keep blood pressure normal but who has time for that?

I hope you do. Just taking a pill does not really fix the problem very well and those pills often come with side effects. The side effects are such that doctors report a great deal of noncompliance in taking the medication because having high blood pressure doesn’t make us feel as bad as the pills do. You probably already know that HBP is referred to as “The Silent Killer” because we do not often feel poorly because of high blood pressure.

I struggle with this myself. For years my blood pressure was perfect. There was never an issue. I ate well, almost all vegetables, whole grains, fruits and nuts and seeds. I exercised, much of that time I rode a recumbent bicycle many miles four or five days a week.

But then my life circumstances changed and I moved from Texas to Illinois. There are many days (months even) where I have no desire to ride my bike out in the cold weather of the North Shore of Chicago. And while I continued to eat well, my blood pressure started to rise. Now I know I must do both in order to keep the pills away and it serves as great motivation for me. There may come a day when I must take some form of HBP medication but that day will not come without a fight.

There are other things we can do to naturally lower our blood pressure. I have two books that might be of interest. The first is called, Thirty Days to Natural Blood Pressure Control. It is a very interesting and helpful book based on science. However, the authors are committed Christians and a portion of the book talks about how The Beatitudes of Jesus can be used for blood pressure control. I found this fascinating but other may not. So, I’ve also provided the Mayo Clinic’s, 5 Steps to Controlling High Blood Pressure (2nd Edition). This book has much of the same science and strategies but without the religious overtones.

If you have high blood pressure, you can almost certainly lessen or even eliminate the need for medication by doing some pretty simple things – things you know you should be doing anyway. Yes, it takes effort but the results are very satisfying. I love working with people who change habits which ultimately changes their lives. If you do not have high blood pressure then keep up the good work. One of these books might very well still be good for you to pick up and read. I’ll be rooting for you either way!

Until next time I’m…

Wishing you well,

Russell


Rev. Russell Elleven, DMin, BCC, CWP is a Board Certified Coach and Certified Wellness Practitioner. He helps individuals obtain health and wellbeing through his coaching practice The Minister of Health, LLC and through congregational work as the executive director of The Genesis 1:29 Project.


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Motivation?

What motivates you to lead a healthier life? I’ve often thought about this and it comes up regularly when working with people who are trying to make significant positive behavioral changes.

These days experts cite several things that make up health and wellbeing. The graphic above is from the National Wellness Institute and outlines six dimensions of wellness. I don’t believe any of these dimensions would come as a great surprise to people who think in terms of “wholeness.” But to be well in all six of these dimensions requires, it seems to me, a significant amount of motivation.

Truth be told, the vast majority of us are not well in all six dimensions. Many of us may only be healthy in one or two of these dimensions and, because we rely on our own determination of health, we may may not even be as healthy as we believe (hope?) ourselves to be.

So, what does it take to screw up the courage to attempt a healthier lifestyle?

Some believe our motivation primarily derives from external sources. That is, we are motivated to change because there is something beyond ourselves which creates a desire to do something different. Examples might be that we want to fit into a certain dress or pant size, we want to get a partner off our back, or there is some sort of a reward from an employee health program.

Others think the only way to real change comes from internal motivation. Examples of internal motivation might be the self-knowledge and joy that comes from doing things that are healthy, the desire to see one’s children or grandchildren reach specific milestones in life, or the desire or drive to live the fullest life possible.

I have seen both types of motivation work for people. To me, it is not important where a person’s motivation comes from. What is often most important is whether or not the motivation is sufficient to make lasting behavioral change. I generally attempt to discover a person’s motivation through an exercise which examines their deepest values. Often what a person truly values will be a wonderful indicator of what motivates her (or him).

For most people, health and wellness is something “out there,” it is something beyond in the distance, something they will get around to eventually. If we can take a pill or simply ignore our least healthy dimensions we will be happy enough to just schlep along. We often do not appreciate health until we no longer have it. Yet, once our health is gone it can then be much more difficult to recover.

What is it that you value? What is it that motivates you to “do the right thing” when it comes to health and wellbeing?

I’m interested to hear from you and hope the new year is your best yet. Please use the comments section below.

Until next time I’m…

Wishing you well,

Russell


Rev. Russell Elleven, DMin, BCC, CWP is a Board Certified Coach and Certified Wellness Practitioner. He helps individuals obtain health and wellbeing through his coaching practice The Minister of Health, LLC and through congregational work as the executive director of The Genesis 1:29 Project.


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What The Doctor Told Me…

In my last post I wrote about how staying active with exercise isn’t getting any easier. More specially, how the type of exercise I enjoy most now, interval training, isn’t supposed to get any easier. I also mentioned how one particular physician motivated me more than any other.

The physician is Dr. John McDougall. He is a board certified internist and was one of the earliest to advocate lifestyle change and eating rather than putting people on medication. Of course he will put you on medication if you need it but most of his patients don’t when they eat right and exercise/move.

If you think about it there is not much money in that. If a doctor teaches you to be healthy the “return business” is much lower. Doctors make money when they see you and if there is no reason to see the doctor the revenue flow is greatly diminished.

One of the ways Dr. McDougall makes money is by offering retreats of varying lengths. He is located in Santa Rosa, California and hosts three day and 10 day educational sessions. I went to meet him on a three day retreat a few years ago. I’d read a great deal of his work so didn’t elect for the ten day package but thought it an interesting opportunity to meet the man who, in a very real way, changed my life when he changed the way I thought about health.

Dr. McDougall has a reputation for being, shall we say, “direct” when talking about diet and lifestyle. I think he probably has to be. He is doing medicine a very different way, a way that in some sense can shame other doctors who he holds responsible for doing as much harm as good.

It is in this directness that he said during the retreat I attended, “Healthy people don’t take medicine.” This took me aback initially. Most people in America (about 60%) are taking prescriptions and 15% take five or more drugs daily. That is a lot of sick people!

In my work as a health coach I’ve spoken with plenty of people who use prescriptions to manage some part of their health. Some believe that they no longer have a disease because they are taking pills to manage it. In my experience these are mostly people who take medication for high blood pressure. They often believe they no longer have HBP because the pills reduce their numbers. This isn’t the case. The HPB is still there and the effects are too.

I think because I’ve been gravely ill before, due to two bouts with cancer, being sick is something I want to avoid as long as I possibly can. I remember going in for a colonoscopy a few months ago and the attending nurse was surprised that I took no prescription drugs. “Most people,” she said, “by your age are taking something.” I was pleasantly pleased with myself but I also knew what I’ve done to create this drugless situation. It may have also been the first time I’d heard the phrase “Most people your age…”

There may come a day when I must take medication(s). And, there are good reasons to take some medications. But I will not go quietly into the night. I will eat right, I will exercise and do the other things necessary to make my health a priority.

You can too and, hopefully, you’ll not have to go through two bouts of cancer (or something else horrific) in order to make your health and wellbeing a priority.

Until next time I’m…

Wishing you well,

Russell


Rev. Russell Elleven, DMin, BCC, CWP is a Board Certified Coach and Certified Wellness Practitioner. He helps individuals obtain health and wellbeing through his coaching practice The Minister of Health, LLC and through congregational work as the executive director of The Genesis 1:29 Project.


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