Archive for September, 2018

As a society, we’ve finally started to embrace not going out on Saturday nights and forgoing dinner dates for Netflix and chill. Instead of feeling compelled to agree to every social gathering offered to us, people are feeling more empowered than ever to set their boundaries, stay in, and focus on themselves and what their minds, bodies, and souls really need. Saying no can be hard—but we know it’s an absolutely vital part of self-care. These boundaries allow us to keep our sense of self while navigating our relationships with our loved ones, making sure that we’re still taking care of ourselves and establishing our own identities.

Yes, it’s difficult saying no to the people we love. Naturally, we want to make them happy—but at the same time, we also need to honor ourselves. There will be days that we can say yes, when it’ll be heartfelt and lead to a beautiful time with friends and family. However, when we force our “yes,” it can actually be even more damaging to the relationships than just being honest from the get-go and opting out.

Importantly, that doesn’t mean we need to sacrifice all our friendships in the process of learning to take care of ourselves. There are many ways to say no while still showing love to others and keeping those relationships strong. Let’s get into a few of the ways to navigate this tricky territory with love, communication, and empathy.

1. Communicate your boundaries.

Setting boundaries is easiest right in the beginning of a relationship because it sets up foundational expectations for how you like to socialize with others. So for example, let’s say your new friends ask if you’d be interested in going out for 10 p.m. drinks on Tuesday night. If your idea of the best Tuesday night is soaking in a bubble bath and reading a self-help book, then you can say no while also communicating your self-care needs and lifestyle preferences at the same time. You can let your new friends know that you strongly prefer drinks on a Friday or Saturday night because you value having those after-work evenings to yourself to recharge.

Making those boundaries known right at the beginning will ensure that your friends know what to expect from you moving forward, and it also signals to them that you passing on their invitations (both now and in the future) isn’t reflective of them or your feelings about them whatsoever.

Communication is one of the most fundamental and crucial parts of any relationship because it allows for honesty and trust to be built. In turn, we get much richer and stronger bonds. Communicating boundaries, in particular, allows us to make sure we’re bringing our most authentic selves and building a relationship that can grow within those boundaries.

2. Don’t compromise.

There’s strength in realizing when it’s a no to begin with. For example, when your friend offers to go out on a Sunday, and you know that day is usually your self-care day, it’s time for you to be realistic. Is this something that you can even say yes to in the first place?

If it’s an immediate no, we owe it to ourselves and our relationships to make it clear that it is a no before making any commitment. It is more damaging to commit and then to cancel later (or show up in a bad mood) than it is to just immediately say no. When we make it clear from the beginning that the suggested plan isn’t realistic, it’ll be far healthier for our relationships in the long run.

3. Don’t say, “Sorry.” Try “thank you” instead.

Apologizing or making an excuse when saying no shines a negative light on both people. When we say we’re sorry, we are taking on guilt. Apologies are given when we have hurt or failed someone and make us seem like the bad guy. But saying no has nothing to do with the recipient and shouldn’t be interpreted as an offense or failing. Meanwhile, when we add an excuse, we’re making our time and attention into some kind of contest that the person who invited you just lost. Citing other plans as part of our “no” can make them feel as if they’re not as important as whatever else we have going on in our lives.

There’s a better alternative: saying “thank you.”

Expressing gratitude for your friend’s regard for your needs feels better for both parties. It allows your friend to feel like they’ve done you a kindness and helps them understand your needs better, such that they don’t feel slighted or rejected. Gratitude transforms a possible moment of tension or neglect into a moment of tenderness and connection. This way, you both feel way better about the no.

4. Offer another alternative that meets both parties’ needs.

Saying no doesn’t have to be the end of it. Offering a “next time” is also an awesome option because it expresses interest in meeting with the friend in the future. When it comes to my self-care days, my go-to line is simply saying, “I cannot commit to that day, but perhaps we can make another day work.”

You can make an offer to meet at another mutually convenient date, which puts it back into the hands of the person who invited you and makes a more comfortable situation moving forward. It allows them to feel recognized and wanted.

Lastly, just remember: Our self-care is also reliant on our ability to sometimes say yes.

In our stronger dedication to self-care, our relationships still play a huge role. The people we love uplift us, encourage us to move forward, and make us feel loved in our darkest times. Having these supportive relationships is absolutely necessary for maintaining our long-term happiness, meaning saying yes when we can is also a vital part of our self-care. Our wonderful relationships contribute as much to our lives as we ourselves do, and they’re worth celebrating and honoring with our time and energy.

With that in mind, it’s important for us to reframe the way we view time spent with others such that we don’t see it as an obstacle to accomplishing our own personal needs. When you’re with a friend or considering whether to agree to a suggested plan, think about how that relationship has played a role in your life and reflect on how that person has been instrumental in your growth. That gratitude is a guaranteed way to gear our mindset toward knowing that our loved one is worth each and every moment of our time. Being grateful for our relationships makes it that much easier to give a heartfelt yes to the plans that nurture both our bonds and ourselves.

Healthy relationships can be born out of our boundaries, but we still have to contribute to them as well.



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If there is one thing everyone can agree on to maintain a healthy weight, it’s cutting down significantly on their intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates.

I say “refined carbs” because unrefined carbs like beans, fruits, and whole grains are carbs, per se, but unlike bread that is bleached and heavily processed into flour, natural carbohydrates are metabolized slowly and won’t send your blood sugar on a high-speed train ride up. Spikes in blood sugar are a ticket to cravings, hunger, and lethargy.

That being said, cutting out carbs and sugar is way easier said than done. The blood sugar roller coaster is no joke, and the changes in our gut bacteria that come with perpetual sugar and carb consumption make us crave those very foods like nobody’s business. Luckily, you can use these 10 great tips to help get yourself off the carb-sugar train:

1. Drink more water (or low-calorie drinks!).

Probably more times than you realize, you are confusing hunger with thirst. So sipping on water, sparkling water, low-sugar kombucha, or iced herbal tea throughout the day is a great way to make sure you’re not dehydrated. It’s also a great way to keep yourself busy, so you don’t turn to mindless snacking.

2. Let vegetables multitask for you.

Eating veggies—especially those high in cellulose like dark leafy greens (especially the stems) and cruciferous vegetables—results in increased intestinal bulk. Their high water content also increases satiety. They also promote hormonal balance, help repopulate the gut, and give you phytonutrients not available elsewhere. On top of all that, they are also the most nutrient-dense foods out there. Need I say more?

3. Fill up on high-fiber foods.

Photo: Gillian Vann

High soluble-fiber foods—like properly soaked beans, legumes, vegetables, and fruit—will stretch your stomach and empty it slowly, which means you’ll feel fuller and more satisfied for longer. Fiber also slows the release of sugar into the blood, stabilizing blood sugar, curbing hunger, and cutting down on cravings. Lastly, fiber is the mainstay for gut and hormone health. Good gut bacteria need prebiotic fiber to function well. Consuming more fiber can transform your health, especially your cravings for sugar and carbs.

4. Sit down and eat without distraction.

I know it is tempting to eat in front of a screen or newspaper, but taking time to eat sitting down, relaxed, and focused on each bite aids digestion. Not only will you chew more, but when your brain can register each bite, you feel fuller faster. We also know that harried emotions (anxiety and depression) can bring on disordered eating. All in all, it’s best to eat when you are away from stress.

5. Chew your calories (slowly), and don’t drink them.

A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2014 concluded that those who chewed the most ate the least. That’s because, like sitting down without distraction, chewing alerts the hunger hormone, ghrelin, that food is coming in. If you eat too fast or down a smoothie in 90 seconds, it doesn’t register as completely and your brain will prompt hunger. Rushing also creates an insulin spike, which will cause you to become hungry again as soon as it goes away.

6. Prioritize eight to nine hours of sleep.

Sleep is a big factor in how much ghrelin you produce, and to put it simply: The less sleep you get, the more ghrelin is produced and the hungrier you are.

Not to mention, sleep aids stress relief, and stress is a fast train to emotional eating. Getting eight to nine hours of dark, uninterrupted sleep is one of the best things you can do for your waistline and overall health. If you need a little help winding down or suffer from insomnia, try using 1 milligram of melatonin every evening.

7. Use your caffeine wisely.

Photo: Nataša Mandić

Caffeine can be an appetite suppressant, but it also dehydrates you and can lead to a crash. So drink your coffee in the a.m. and then don’t overdo it in the afternoon. Some slow caffeine metabolizers (like me) need to limit their intake to one cup a day. For others, one cup of coffee and one to two cups of green tea works well.

8. Fully immerse yourself in your work and activities.

Boredom is one of the largest contributors to mindless snacking, and lack of purpose and isolation can lead to emotional eating. What’s the solution? Move! Do things you love with people you love, preferably outdoors. You’ll feel great, and when you feel great, you don’t crave comfort food.

9. Consider natural carb craving aids like L-glutamine, cinnamon, and chromium.

I don’t recommend these as everyday things (except cinnamon; I definitely have cinnamon every day!). But if and when those insatiable hunger and carb cravings strike, the amino acid L-glutamine and the mineral chromium can be terrific tools, decreasing carb cravings in as quickly as 20 minutes.

10. Make room for the occasional treat.

Feeling deprived is no good for long-term health. If you say, “I’ll never eat ice cream or crusty bread again!” you will likely obsess or eventually overindulge. Find healthful alternatives daily (like two squares dark chocolate), or have the real stuff on birthdays and special nights. If you’re straying from your healthy diet one meal a week, you’re doing just fine!

These 10 tips will help free you from carb cravings so that you can go back to your life and worry about more important things, like your work, your hobbies, cooking, and time spent with friends.


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The good news: many of them are under your control.

As the second leading cause of death in the United States, the threat of cancer can be scary. But the good news is that some of the most common cancer risk factors are within your control. By making a few lifestyle changes, you can reduce your odds of developing cancer, not to mention a host of other health conditions. Even for causes of cancer that are beyond your control—like inheriting genetic mutations—you can use that information to take the best steps to protect your health.

1. Smoking
Quit smoking


“The first five risk factors on this list should be: smoking, smoking, smoking, smoking, and smoking,” says David N. Oubre, MD, an oncologist and the founder of the Pontchartrain Cancer Center, which has two offices in Louisiana. That’s how dangerous your cigarette habit can be.

The more often you smoke and the longer you smoke, the riskier it becomes. Smoking increases your risk for not only lung cancer, but also cancer in areas around your mouth, like your throat and esophagus. Your body’s digestive organs, including the liver, bladder, pancreas, kidney, stomach, and colon, can also take a hit.

The National Cancer Institute reports that there are 250 harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke and at least 69 of themcan cause cancer. Think: arsenic and formaldehyde. And your cigarette habit doesn’t only affect you. Secondhand smoke can also cause lung cancer in nonsmokers.

So how can you quit this unhealthy habit for good? “It really starts with a decision that, not only am I going to quit, but I’m really going to quit—despite the cravings. Because they will get cravings,” says Dr. Oubre.

While there isn’t one method that works for everyone, there are many effective ways to quit smoking. You just have to find one that works best for you and your lifestyle. If nicotine gums and lozenges don’t work, consider Chantix, a nicotine-free pill that helps reduce cravings.

2. Drinking too much alcohol


It’s completely fine to enjoy a glass of wine or beer every now and then, but going overboard can increase your health risks.

“If you’re starting to drink wine, maybe you’re helping your heart, but once you go past two drinks a day for a man and one drink a day for a woman, mortality climbs,” Dr. Oubre explains.

However, it’s also worth noting that a 2018 study from Lancet shows that the safest level of drinking is none. That’s right—no alcoholic beverages at all. Why? Because drinking alcohol contributes to causes that can take a toll on your overall health.

Drinking too much alcohol (of any kind) raises your risk for cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, and breast. In fact, drinking and smoking at the same time increases your risk even more, according to the American Cancer Society. Drinking alcohol can help tobacco chemicals get inside the cells of the mouth, throat, and esophagus. Alcohol also makes it harder for cells to repair damage from tobacco.

3. Eating an unhealthy diet
Close-Up Of Burger With French Fries On Table


Research has found that eating red meat (beef, pork, lamb) and processed meat (sausage, hot dogs, and cold cuts) increases the risk for colorectal cancer. While that doesn’t mean that you should completely eliminate hamburger, hot dogs, and pulled pork sandwiches from your diet, you should definitely limit your intake of these types of dishes.

Studies have also found that high-glycemic foods and beverages, such as juice, pizza, and soda, have been associated with a higher risk for prostate cancer. But eating nutritious foods like legumes (beans, peas, lentils) has been linked with a lower risk for prostate and colorectal cancer.

4. Sitting too much
Top view of man and woman using laptops and taking notes


Being sedentary is one of the worst things you can do for your health. One study found that people who sat for the longest periods each day were at an increased risk for colon, endometrial, and lung cancer, compared with those who sat for the least amount of time per day.

To help you stay more mobile, consider replacing your desk with a standing one. At the very least, be sure to walk around and stretch as frequently as you can throughout the day. And don’t forget to exercise regularly, ideally for at least 30 minutes per day. High levels of physical activity have been associated with a decreased risk for colon, breast, and endometrial cancer. Exercise can also help reduce inflammation, boost your immune system, and help improve digestion.

“Exercise releases some molecules that could have a anti-cancer and anti-inflammation effect,” says Ali Mahdavi, MD, a gynecologic oncologist and the Medical Director, Specialty Care Ascension Medical Group, OB/GYN Clinic at Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

5. Being Overweight


Packing on too many pounds increases your risk for several cancers, including breast, ovarian, colon, thyroid, gallbladder, and pancreatic. Abdominal fat, aka belly fat, is the riskiest kind of excess weight to carry. By sticking to a healthy diet and regular exercise routine, you can better manage your weight and keep it at a healthy range

6. Getting HPV
HPV is a contagious virus that can increase your risk for certain cancers.


The human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause many types of cancer, such as cervical, anal, oropharyngeal (the middle part of the throat), vaginal, vulvar, and penile cancer. HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that’s spread through skin-to-skin contact. One of the best ways to protect yourself is to get vaccinated, which is recommended at age 11 or 12 (or women up to 26 years old and men up to 21 years old who were not adequately vaccinated previously).

Using a condom and limiting your number of sexual partners can also help lower your risk of HPV. Visit your gynecologist routinely and follow their recommendations for getting a regular Pap and/or HPV testing so you can catch any precancerous cervical changes early.

7. Aging
Older Hispanic woman lifting weights in living room


So you can’t turn back the clock, but the older you get, the more important it is to see your primary care doctor for worrisome symptoms and regular physicals. That’s because various cancers are more likely to strike when you’re older. Although cancer can occur at any age and some cancers are more common in young people (like bone cancer, leukemia, and neuroblastoma), the median age for a cancer diagnosisis 66.

“With advanced age, there is an increased risk of gene mutations because of environmental factors (like exposure to certain chemicals or sunlight),” says Dr. Mahdavi. “The DNA is capable of repairing some of these alterations. And even if there are a few alterations that can’t be repaired, it would not really make a significant difference in cell function,” Dr. Mahdavi adds. But as you age, Dr. Mahdavi says these alterations in the DNA accumulates and reach a critical point. “The cell can’t function in a normal fashion and cancer forms,” he explains.

8. Inheriting genetic mutations
DNA Molecule Structure


Unlike genetic mutations that you acquire as you age, inherited genetic mutations are ones that you’re born with and can’t change. While you have no control over the genetic mutations you inherit, it’s your job to understand and keep track of your family history of disease. If cancer is prevalent in your family (especially if it affects first-degree relatives—a parent, sibling, child—or relatives at young ages), talk to a genetic counselor or your doctor to see if genetic testing might be right for you.

Knowing your genetic makeup gives you options that your ancestors didn’t have and can help you make the most informed decisions about your health. For instance, someone with Lynch syndrome (who has a higher risk for colon and endometrial cancers, among others) may choose to start getting colonoscopy screenings at a younger age. Moreover, women with a BRCA1 or 2 genetic mutation may opt to have her breasts and/or ovaries removed, due to an increased risk of cancer in those areas of the body.


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