PIECES OF THE HEALTH PUZZLE – 3 Part Series / Part 2: Four Components of Well-Being

Four Components of Well-Being

Last week I wrote about our health being complex and multi-faceted, and this week I break it down into four main components.   I’m assigning 25 % importance to each component to make up the whole, but with the caveat that the last component actually encompasses and affects all the others.  A concerted effort needs to be made if one is going to stay on top of these 4 elements of health, or even to do just 2 or 3 of them well.  As I talked about last week, if it is comfort, ease, and pleasure you seek, I suggest you start treating your health like the most important business you will ever run.

Let’s take a look at 3 of the four components, those which I would venture to say are pretty universally accepted.  We’ll begin with diet, as good eating habits are hard to come by, being surrounded by empty-calorie food every day.  The organic vegetable section at the grocery store hardly registers on our radar, as it isn’t half as exciting as stopping at the local pizza parlor for a plate of starchy white bread and beer.  This meal is mainly carbohydrates (much of them refined), and has very little nutrition or fiber – but it’s enough to keep you alive.  man-juggling It isn’t feeding your good cells or your healthy metabolism, but rather is allowing the complex chemical reactions in your body to happen, while your body is actually still starving for nutrition.  This catches up over time in fatigue, obesity, and disease.

At the very least, buy more vegetables and fruit, stay away from battered fried foods, replace juice drinks with water or hot tea, eat whole wheat bread and pasta, and learn to read the ingredients so you can avoid or minimize your intake of hydrogenated vegetable oil (trans fat), sugar, white flour (bleached in a chlorine gas bath), and artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.  The next step would be to learn your nutritional typing, so you know what kinds of food provide the best source of energy for your body.  Each person requires carbohydrates, protein, and fat, the three macronutrients, in different proportions to feel their best.  You can access the GAIA method of metabolic nutritional typing at: http://www.gaiahealthcare.com/documents/MetabolicTypeQuiz_000.pdf.

One of the worst things we continually put into our bodies, is soda.  There isn’t much natural about soda.  Regular soda has lots of refined sugar in the form of HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), with no fiber, and thus goes straight to our bloodstream, leaving our body trying to figure out how to deal with this sugar spike if you’re not engaging in intense physical activity to burn it off immediately.  Diet soda is just as bad or worse, with its artificial sweeteners that wreak havoc on our body’s internal fuel consumption system, not to mention all the negative side effects people have reported over the past 15 years.  It should be of concern that the main ingredient in most sweeteners, sucralose, was created by a scientist who was trying to find a new insecticide in his chemical laboratory.  Anyway, when we ingest the artificial sweetener, our brain recognizes it as sweet, and thus expects it to have calories.  When we digest the soda with no caloric value, this confuses our metabolic system, leading to less efficient burning of calories and use of food as energy in our body, equaling weight gain.  If you’re a stubborn soda drinker who doesn’t want to deprive yourself of the perceived jolt you receive from it, and need more persuasion, let’s glance at what it does to your pearly whites – those things you hope to keep throughout your whole lives.  tooth-smiling All sodas have the effect of eroding our dental health, as I’m sure you’ve seen what happens to a coin left in soda for a few days.  Consistent soda consumption leads to tooth decay, as the soda induced decalcification process slowly dissolves our teeth.  Yipeee, can’t wait to gum my food!

Well as I’m sure we’ve all heard by now, although processed foods are convenient and cheap, they are your health enemy.  If it comes packaged in a box or bag, and has a long shelf life, it’s probably not very good for you, having very little nutritional value.  In most all processed foods, sugar in some form has been added.  We need some sugar in our diets, but we need to make sure it is natural sugar and not refined sugar, and we really get plenty of sugar through the carbohydrates in the breads, pasta, grains, vegetables and fruit that we eat.  Companies like to hide added refined sugar in their products, with terms in the ingredients such as maltodextrin, evaporated cane juice, barley malt, corn sugar, cane crystals, corn sweeteners, agave nectar, rice syrup, sucrose, and so on.  When sugar does not come inherent in the food you are buying, then it has usually been refined in some way so as to be cost effective, and much more unhealthy to your system.  If you are going to add sugar to your food, or bake a sweet treat, a couple good alternatives to the processed and refined sugar sweeteners mentioned above, are honey and molasses.  You can try them in recipes to replace white or brown sugar, or add them to yogurt or toast.

Americans consume on average 156 pounds of added sugar each year on a per capita basis, according to the USDA.  The recommended amount of sugar consumption per day by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2001-2004) is 25 to 37.5 grams a day, or 6 to 9 teaspoons, however the average American consumes approximately 22.2 teaspoons a day.  Nancy Appleton, author of ‘Licking the Sugar Habit’, is a self-proclaimed former sugar addict who ailed from headaches, boils, canker sores, gas, stomach cramping, and allergies early in her life.  As she got older she dealt with bronchitis, pneumonia, and a huge calcium deposit (tumor) in her chest, all stemming from her body’s inability to process the pounds of sugar she ate.  Luckily now she is regaining her health and life, as documented in her book.

This phenomenon of eating three or four times too much sugar for healthy functioning leads to constant cravings, immune deficiency disorders, high blood pressure, obesity, cardiovascular disease, increased insulin levels, insulin resistance, and diabetes in our country.  One of the reasons this refined sugar is so detrimental to our bodies is because it has been depleted of its life forces.  Fifty years ago, Dr. William Coda Martin stated that refined sugar is a poison.  When talking about it in 1957 he stated, “What is left consists of pure, refined carbohydrates. The body cannot utilize this refined starch and carbohydrate unless the depleted proteins, vitamins and minerals are present. Nature supplies these elements in each plant in quantities sufficient to metabolize the carbohydrate in that particular plant.”  Our body doesn’t know what to do with this toxic, altered, foreign ingredient we keep putting in our bodies, and it is taxed as it works to find ways to remove it from our blood and store it somewhere as fat.  However, if these physical reasons are not enough to make you want to reduce your sugar intake, then how about for the mental affect it can have as well.  A link has been found between high sugar consumption and mental illness.  Sugar slows growth of a hormone in the brain called BDNF, and levels of this hormone are critically low in both depression and schizophrenia patients.

Moving on, component number two of the health puzzle is to get sufficient activity.  I’m going to keep this one short, because we were all kids at one time and know what movement is.  As an adult, activity can have many different looks to it, such as cleaning the house, taking the dog for a walk, playing with children or grandchildren, mimicking your cat’s stretching moves, going to the gym, turning on the stereo and dancing around, standing to watch TV, volunteering, washing the car, playing tennis, mowing the lawn, walking in the park, etc.  The key is to make activity a regular part of your life.  Our bodies weren’t designed to be sedentary, they were designed to stay in motion.  Don’t waste the magnificent body that you were given, as some in wheel chairs or paraplegic wards would give anything to be in your shoes and have the opportunity to move, play and walk that you squander every day.

Component number three is to get plenty of sleep.  This sounds pretty easy, but most Americans aren’t getting enough these days.  We let work, television, inadequate preparation, and anxiety get in the way of our 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night that we need.  This requirement of your body for plenty of sleep needs to be thought out ahead of time, and be important enough that you live your day and life around healthy sleep patterns.  This means going to bed around the same time most nights and waking up around the same time most mornings.  Our bodies function according to certain circadian rhythms of nature that we should align ourselves with to feel optimal energy.  You can find the highlights of the late shows online the next day, so don’t go to bed too late, and don’t wake up too late.  If you have to, force yourself to go to bed at a certain time even if you don’t feel tired, and lay in bed until you fall asleep.  Your body will adjust to the new healthier sleep patterns in a couple weeks, and your sleep will be deeper and less interrupted.  You’ve got to set the expectation for yourself and your body will fall in line.

In a Feb, 2008 Press Release, the Centers for Disease Control stated, “Nationwide, an estimated 50 to 70 million people suffer from chronic sleep loss and sleep disorders. Sleep loss is associated with health problems, including obesity, depression, and certain risk behaviors, including cigarette smoking, physical inactivity, and heavy drinking.”  When we get tired, run down, or sick these days, we don’t go to bed but rather stay on the couch in front of the TV, or at our desk in front of our high tech gadgets, where our eyes and mind are riveted and constantly engaged.  We don’t want to miss out on anything as we feel that our life won’t go on unless we are abreast, informed, and involved in everything going on.  We are always looking outside of ourselves for our well-being, zest, and stimulation, instead of also remembering to look inward.  We must take care of our inner selves, and get back in touch with our heartbeat and breath, to which we are attached.

In my view the first two components of diet and exercise are fairly straight forward, and can be accomplished with enough will power and commitment.  The third one can be a bit tricky because it is more intrinsically tied into the other three components, and sometimes seems out of our control.  For instance, sometimes we don’t sleep well if we have something on our mind, or troublesome circumstances happening in our lives.  In my opinion however, the most difficult component is the fourth one.  It affects the other three, and without it, one cannot truly be healthy and happy.  Tune in next week when I discuss this crucial, all-encompassing fourth component that I alluded to in the paragraph above.

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PIECES OF THE HEALTH PUZZLE – 3 PART SERIES / Part 1: Committed Pleasure-Seeking


To be healthy is not an easy endeavor, as it encompasses several facets which are hard to keep on top of with our hectic schedules and wishy washy attitudes.  We all want fulfilling and balanced lives, but sometimes we fail to realize we won’t have this if we keep neglecting our well- being.

One must first decide if their health is important enough to take care of.  For many people, who are busy ‘living’ their lives, health is down the list of priorities.  Sometimes people use different scapegoats to justify their unhealthy ways saying, “Oh I don’t want to live forever anyway”, or “I want to enjoy my life while I can and not deprive myself.”  This is all fine and good as long as someone takes us out back when we’re say 40 or 50 years old and shoots us.  But the reality is, that’s probably not going to happen, and then we have to not mind living our last 10 to 40 years in discomfort, pain, illness, disease, or immobility.

Unfortunately, the American way is to grab onto what we can in the here and now, with our ‘lack’ mentality driving our actions.  We tend to hoard, indulge, and placate our grubby noisy selves and persistent urges.  We don’t want to get left behind or miss out on the supposed goodies.   How many times have you eaten fudge, cookies or pralines at holiday time because they were there and you didn’t want to deprive yourself of the ‘opportunity’ to treat yourself?  If you’re going to eat sweet treats, at least let them fill a craving rather than a misplaced emotional need.  If we use food and drink to feel the holiday season and be merry, then we’re probably not in the right state of mind and spirit anyways. lazy-man-on-couch

We need to learn how to take control of our actions rather than giving in to our lesser, greedy selves.  We should hold ourselves up higher than that, value ourselves more, and connect with our inner beauty and greatness as we recognize the amazing lives we have been given.  We are not just physical beings with urges, let’s tap into our underlying self, our true being, as it already has everything it needs within if we just look for it.  When we try to escape reality through numbing ourselves with food, drink, and laziness, it always catches up with us.

Think of your health as a business – actually the most important business you will ever run.  To run it competently and productively, you need to be your own administrator, planner, researcher, manager, and boss.  You need a game plan, a way to get there, and then the desire to stick with it.  Be smart and invest in your company, it will be with you your whole life!

We all have the temptation to give in to laziness and indulgence, it is human.  That’s why we need to think things through ahead of time, make commitments to ourselves, and realize what brings true happiness; instead of muddling through life and trying not to miss out on our fair share of instant gratification.  In seeking short term gratification, we fail to see the bigger picture, not only of our physical well-being down the road, but also of our mental well-being in the present.

When we don’t use restraint, gumption, and the powers of our own psyche in leading our lives, we find that over time things become less and less pleasurable, and our lives actually become more burdensome.  You can escape reality for a short time, but our thoughts and actions always catch up with us.  I think even Pink Floyd would agree that being ‘comfortably numb’ is a temporary and ineffectual fix, leading to unhappiness.  As he found out in The Wall, when we don’t deal with issues in our lives, we are building a wall of isolation around ourselves, brick by brick, in which we feel stuck.  The realities of life always catch up with us, and the responsibility for our health and outlook on life, always lies with ourselves.

If you are a pain-averse, pleasure seeker, then you will want to focus on your health and well-being.  Some have a misconception that those who live in a disciplined way are depriving themselves and missing out on partaking of pleasures available for their consumption.  Yet the truth is, people who aim to live in a healthy manner and control their consumption and exercise, are choosing to be satisfied more often.  They aren’t slaves to their desires or allowing themselves to be blown around like unwitting kites in the wind, as they have taken the driver’s seat in their own life.

It is my desire to feel good that day, next week, and next month, that I don’t eat donuts for breakfast, lounge and watch movies during all my time off, or forego my workouts for days on end – although they are all alluring options that are calling out to me.  I want to be able to smile when I step on the scale, knowing that I’m not putting extra strain on my heart and metabolic system, and slowing myself down.  Likewise, as far as mental health, if I go for longs spells without quiet time to re-charge my batteries and re-connect with my inner stillness, I pay for it with a less joyous and darker view on life.  I don’t like pain, don’t like feeling groggy, don’t like my back to hurt, and it really depresses me when I allow myself to become depressed.  Keeping things in check requires attention and commitment.  True pleasure is not found through the seeking of it, it is a byproduct of our daily actions, attitude, and appreciation of life.  It is only through a plan, some restraint, some purposeful movement, and proper care of ourselves that we find true happiness.

So in seeking the easy life, the life of least resistance, we are doing ourselves no favor.  Not only does it make us less ready for difficult times when they come, but it also puts us in the wrong mindset to deal with life’s daily demands.  As we become more and more unhealthy, we become less and less happy; even though it was happiness we were seeking in our laziness.  True happiness does not come from loafing and indulgence – however when they are the exception and not the rule, they are nice little pleasures.  Moderation and discipline are the traits that actually lead to contentment and bliss.

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Hit the Golf Ball Further


If you want to hit the golf ball further, you have to increase your club head speed.  One way to do this is to train and improve the reaction time of your fast twitch muscles.   Think of Pistol Pete and his fast draw, he’s got good fast twitch muscle reactivity at precisely the correct moment.  To maximize the club head speed, you also have increase your explosive force capability.  Whereas Pistol Pete has his gun for force, you have to supply yours.  Here are 5 helpful tips to achieve this explosive club head speed for longer golf shots:

1)  John Daly Drill:  Tee up 10 balls in a row, each about 5 inches apart.  Hit them all in succession as fast and hard as possible while still maintaining balance and form.  2 Sets.

2)  30 Minute Walks with 4 Sprints in the Middle:  Start walking slowly and gradually work into a brisk walk.  After 10 minutes of this warm up, start going into sprints, each separated by a couple minutes walking.  Pace your sprint speed according to allotted sprint time.  First sprint 1 minute, second sprint 30 seconds, third sprint 45 seconds, last sprint 20 seconds.  The two sprints that are 30 seconds or less, you should be running as fast as possible.

3)  Burpies:  This plyometric military drill is great for training the nervous system for sudden, explosive movement.  Stand–squat down to the ground putting hands palm down just in front of feet–thrust legs back until fully extended and toes on floor–quickly stand back up as you jump with arms reaching in the air (this is all done in one continuous movement without stopping).  Two sets of 8.

4)  Whipping Shaft Through Drill:  Turn club upside down, imag0375 and hold the club imag0374 head in hands.  Swing club from there, making the grip end swoosh as it comes through impact zone about 6 inches above the ground.  See how loud you can make this noise.  To simulate this sudden quick movement, think of the motion of wringing a towel, and using your wrist flick to make it extend and pop with a crack!

5)  Speed Jump Roping:  There is a reason boxers do this movement every day, and it’s not for weight loss, but for quickness baby.  Do it both forwards and backwards, using your forearm and hand strength to make that rope go as quickly as you can, while your feet learn to keep up.  3 sets of 1 minute.


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Stay in the Moment Golfers

We humans are good at obsessing about the past, what went wrong with it, and how it could have been better. We are also good at worrying about the future, and what it may or may not hold for us. We are not as good however, at being absorbed in the present.

This goes for golfers out on the golf course as well, and has a negative effect on our play. This is something that needs to be worked on and given attention. If a professional golfer has this problem of dwelling on the past, or prognosticating about the future during their tournament play, they will not be playing professional golf for long. Their games will reflect this lack of presence in the here and now.

It is imperative for players on the PGA and LPGA Tour to stay in the moment, not letting their thoughts and emotions wander off irresponsibly. In order to compete at their level, the professionals have to be 100% focused on the shot at hand. This is also important for amateurs, so that they can get the most out of their games. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1) Let the Future Take Care of Itself: Instead of thinking about what you may shoot that day, or what you can shoot if you do such and such on the next several holes, be totally absorbed in only your shot at hand.

Start taking in all the information for your shot before you get to your ball. As you are walking up to your ball, start assessing the wind, how many yards you have to the hole, your lie, how you’ve been hitting the ball that day, and what the shot will look like. Then when you get to the ball, you can make your decision on what club to hit and what shot you want to attempt, making your best effort at doing that. You cannot control the shot, but you can choose and control what pre-shot thoughts and routine you will focus on.

2) Let Go of the Double Bogeys: If you are still thinking about what happened two holes ago, your play is only going to get worse. Regardless of how you’ve been hitting up to that point, and regardless of what you may shoot that day, those past holes are over and you can only affect your present shot at hand. You can analyze those bad shots after the round, but in the meanwhile do your best on each shot at hand, always!

3) Be an Observer of Yourself: There are two ways to react to a golf shot on the golf course, objectively and subjectively. We can respond rationally and reasonably, or we can react in an emotionally temperamental way. The best way for the betterment of our golf games and for our happiness, is to react in a calm and level-headed manner.

This may not always be possible, however, due to our humanness and maturity level at the time. So if you have to occasionally make a spectacle of yourself and react emotionally to your golf game, do it quickly. If you get mad at a bad shot, do it for a few seconds and be done with it, then move onward. Don’t dwell on the good or bad, for it isn’t productive or helpful, but rather is indulgent, embarrassing, and destructive.

While out there playing, try to be an objective observer of your tension level, your thoughts, and your swing tempo; rather than being oblivious and only noticing what the ball has done. Awareness of the process, our body movements, and the swinging motion of the club, go a long way toward improvement of our golf shots and game!

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I often hear golfers ask how they can hit their iron shots more solid like the pros. This entails hitting down and through with the club head, making a nice divot past the ball. In this way you’ve compressed the golf ball in between the club head and the ground in front of it. This is what creates that great sound of having made square impact, in which the ball explodes off the club face.

One of the main problems that prevent amateurs from achieving this kind of contact, is that they don’t retain the angle long enough on the downswing. That is, they break and uncock their wrists too soon, before getting to the ball. This is usually because they are trying to scoop the ball up, trying to help the ball into the air. This is an incorrect perception, as your irons have plenty of loft to get the ball in the air, they don’t need any help. club-hitting-down-on-ball

What you want to concentrate on in order to avoid that early unhinging of the wrists, is to point the butt end of the club (top of grip) toward the ball for the first ½ of the downswing. This will keep the club head nicely behind the hands with all the energy of your swing loaded into that club head, equaling potential power.

For the last ½ of the downswing, and on into the follow through, you want to think about releasing the club. That is, rotating and turning the arms and club over, just as if you were flipping pancakes over on the griddle. The right arm should pass over the left arm through impact.
This whole movement should simulate the action of hammering a nail in, at point of impact. When you use a hammer correctly, the handle is ahead of the hammer head to create leverage and power. The handle then acts as a fulcrum point as the hammer head bursts forward at impact. This is the same in the golf swing. The handle of the club will be ahead of the club head on downswing, and then at the last second the club head will pass the hands at impact, the grip end staying still for a brief half-second.

A great visualization for this is to see the head of a nail on the back of the ball, and to think of hammering that nail through the ball into the ground in front of it. This will help you to hit down and through with your irons, making that elusive, solid, dynamic contact we all strive to achieve.

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Overwhelmed by Lifestyle Change

Often, people new to dieting or working out, are prone to feeling overwhelmed during the first three to six months of a lifestyle change.  This perception is normal, as they fear change to be an all or nothing ordeal, with the finish line miles and miles out of sight.  Don’t let this misperception scare you into running to the kitchen freezer for the whole carton of ice cream to drown your sorrows, but realize that it is your intent and accumulated efforts over time that count.

You shouldn’t let this feeling of, ‘too much to conquer’, deter you from continuing on as best you can.  We all feel overwhelmed at times in our lives, it’s alright, it’s human.  But don’t use it as an excuse or reason to stop your healthier living plan, to jump off the wagon, and start eating bad or stop exercising altogether.

We all have hard days, that’s a part of life.  Sometimes we’ve just gotta do what we can do to get through the day, whatever that looks like.  Some days it’s hard to eat well, and some days it seems we just don’t have the willpower or energy to get through a workout.  That’s okay, if you slip a little, just continue onward on these days, and still do something good for you.  If that means getting up off the couch and standing to watch TV for 30 minutes, doing your workout with less intensity or cutting it in half, taking a nice stroll through the neighborhood, dancing in the shower, or calling an old friend, then make those adjustments.  Or perhaps you allow yourself a treat of a few cookies or a big piece of pie for an indulgent midday snack, go ahead and enjoy them, and then have a nourishing dinner that evening.

I think it is all in how you react to the difficult days that matters.  If you let them get to you and ruin  your whole psyche, then you may be tempted to slip back into your bad habits, letting those negative feelings define you.  Rather, choose to react to them with understanding and reason, so that you can realize they are just passing emotions we all go through.  Don’t justify their permanence by saying that it’s just too hard to change the way you live.

Next time you’re feeling low-energy, or agitated with anxiety, still try to do your best for that day.  So long as you’re doing something, you’re doing well.  Don’t throw in the towel and give up totally, for that will inevitably lead into the next day, the one after and so on.  Be ready for it to get difficult every now and then, because it will.  Devotion and commitment aren’t always smooth flowing, easy, or go as planned; but they are a good way of living a life of happiness.  As Napoleon Hill, the author of success, said, “Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit”.



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