Healthy, Wealthy and Wise – January 2013

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7 truths
for self-empowerment

By Diane E. Lykes, LCSW

Self-empowerment means taking complete responsibility for our health, our happiness, our successes (and failures) and of our life.  It’s the belief that in any single moment, we can begin changing our lives for the better.  That’s really the heart of self-empowerment – that we inherently know what is best for ourselves, that we need to listen to our inner voice and believe that we have the power and ability to achieve our dreams.

Use these 7 mantras and supporting words of wisdom to begin your journey toward a
fully-empowered life.

  1. Find your strength
  2. “Strength does not come from physical capacity.  It comes from indomitable will.” Mahatma Gandhi

  3. Believe in yourself
  4. “Whether you say you can’t or you can, you’re right.”  Walt Disney

  5. Don’t let fear control you
  6. “Confront your fears, list them, get to know them, and only then will you be able to put them aside and move ahead.”  Jerry Gillies

  7. Strive for balance
  8. “There is a delicate balance of putting yourself last and not being a doormat and thinking of yourself first and not coming off as selfish, arrogant or bossy.  We spend the majority of our lives attempting to perfect this balance.”  Cindy L. Teachey

  9. Stop the negative chatter
  10. “You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”  Louise L. Hay

  11. Find your courage
  12. “Courage is being scared to death – and saddling up anyway.”  John Wayne

  13. Try flying

“‘Come to the edge,” he said.  They said, “We are afraid.”  “Come to the edge,” he said.  They came.  He pushed them…and they flew.’”  Guillaume Apollinaire

Diane Lykes is a Principal of Synergy Counseling Associates in Albany where she specializes in individual and couples counseling, educational training and clinical consultation.  She can be reached at 466.3100 or lykes-synergy@nycap.rr.com

A road map to avoid common credit mistakes
To err is human, but some mistakes – whether just dumb or well-intentioned – may seem like they can only be fixed through divine intervention. Common credit mistakes can make you feel that way.
Staying alert and prepared can help you avoid some of the most damaging credit mistakes. And if you do blunder despite your best efforts, knowing how to clean up after yourself can shorten the time it takes your credit to recover.

Here are five common credit mistakes:

  1. Mixing personal relationships and finances.

    For example, co-signing an auto loan or mortgage for a friend in need may seem like a nice thing to do. But will the relationship survive if your friend defaults on the loan and your credit score suffers because of it? Many experts say that a marriage is the only point in life in which a personal relationship and financial one should converge.

  2. Not paying bills on time or at all.

    This is pretty much the worst credit mistake you can make. Your payment history is a major factor in determining your credit score. Missed or late payments show up on your credit report and can linger there for years, dragging down your score – and your ability to secure future credit at good terms.

  3. Over-shopping for credit.

    Of course it makes sense to look for the best deal whenever you’re spending money. But over-shopping for credit by making a large number of applications in search of the best terms can impact your credit score. Too many inquiries on your credit report can negatively affect your score.

  4. Abusing your credit cards.

    Running up the balance on your credit cards not only causes you to pay a lot of interest, it affects your credit utilization ratio. Keep in mind your standing balance, compared to your maximum limit. It is a key factor in determining your credit score.

  5. Checking your credit only once a year.

    You probably know you’re entitled to a free peek at your credit report from all three major bureaus once a year. But checking your credit infrequently can be a costly mistake. Monitoring your credit can help you catch errors or evidence of identity theft, assess what steps you may need to take to improve your credit score, and give you a better idea of how likely you are to get new credit with good terms. Yes, you’ll have to pay to monitor your credit, but that expense may seem minor when compared to the potential costs of this common mistake.

Avoiding mistakes
While some of life’s biggest lessons are the ones you learn the hard way, credit mistakes have consequences such as getting hit with high fees or reducing resources, due to a lower score. Ultimately, this makes it difficult for you to secure financing when you really need it.
To avoid credit mistakes, never allow yourself to be pressured into making a big financial decision before you have the chance to learn all the implications. Whether it’s accepting dealer financing for your new car or co-signing a college loan for a loved one, every decision deserves careful consideration. Monitor your credit regularly, use credit wisely and take steps to protect your score.
–    (BPT)

Self-empowerment tips from our columnists

“To stop the growing problem of bullying, I strongly recommend families visit www.stopbullying.gov. It is full of useful tools, from identifying the different types of bullying to offering tips and videos to educate you to spelling out the laws on bullying in your state to toll-free numbers to call if you want to speak to someone about a bullying issue. It also has many links and other resources so you won’t feel powerless when you see bullying in your school or community. It will benefit parents, children and educators alike. Together we can stop bullying today.”
– John Gray

“I get together with a trusted friend and pour out the issue I am stuck on or that is giving me grief and use their wise sage input to make a plan for resolution. Knowing someone is there to listen, help me see things a new way and also hold me accountable makes me feel like change is on the way and that is empowering!”
– Diane Lykes

“In addition to being a certified Astrologer, I have also been certified as both a Spiritualist Medium and Healer since 1981. I do believe it is possible that resentment can be a leading cause of many illnesses. I have listened to Louise Hay’s meditation throughout the years on her CD – Cancer: Discovering Your Healing Power.  I truly feel that if everyone, not only cancer patients, listened to this meditation at least once a month, there would be less cancer.  You can find the CD online at www.hayhouse.com.”
– Arlene DeAngelus

“In lieu of New Year’s resolutions, which I can never seem to commit to, I schedule a class to learn something new each year. This year I am taking up quilting. My first class is January 6.”
– Kimberly Hickok

“Habits tend to create destinies, so we need to be focused on positive, healthy habits. Many times we seek a solution to a life challenge in a BIG ANSWER or a BIG change in life.  This is rarely where real empowerment comes from.  Instead, changing a small habit and then building upon those small, positive changes can lead to major shifts in life over time.  The key is to get those small habits working for us, and allow the bigger habits to ‘come to us’ over time.  A great book on this topic is The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.”
– Dr. Randy Cale

“I highly recommend The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal Ph.D. Anyone who is battling a behavior that they are trying to eliminate, such as overeating, compulsive spending, watching too much TV, or under-exercising, etc. will benefit from learning how the way we are thinking is getting in our way of changing our habits. This book demonstrates how the newest research in neuroscience can help us change the way we think and finally break the negative patterns that stand in the way of our greatest satisfaction!”
– Judy Torel

“I’ve recently decided to upgrade my reading choices by reading, or in some cases, re-reading, the classics. In the last half of 2012, I read Moby Dick, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and started Les Miserables. In 2013, I plan to re-read A Tale of Two Cites and maybe try to re-read War and Peace (with comprehension this time around…..).”
–    Susan Taylor

“New Year, New You”
Connecting the dots…nutrition simplified
Nutrition by Sarada Bernstein

Realistic resolutions for 2013
It’s that time again—time to reflect on events of the past year and on what lies ahead. Since many people are in the process of making New Year’s resolutions, here are some suggestions to consider. Each is based on three principles for success: keep it simple, keep it practical and make it a joint effort.
Focus on nutrition

The desire to quickly shed unwanted pounds can sometimes bring on some “not-so-healthy” behaviors this time of year. Fad diets, unsafe diet supplements and deprivation are just a few methods people try for a “quick fix.” The reality is there is no magic bullet when it comes to weight loss. Focus on adopting reasonable and healthy habits that you can easily incorporate into your lifestyle. Make it a goal to:

  • Include a fruit or vegetable in every meal and snack.
  • Cut back on high-calorie, sugary beverages. When weight loss is your goal, every calorie counts!
  • Swap out refined (white) grains for whole-grain products like whole-grain bread, pasta, cereal and brown rice and quinoa.
  • Choose lean meats, fish and poultry as well as non-meat protein sources like tofu, beans and nuts.

Don’t forget to eat
It’s true what they say, six small meals spaced throughout the day can help guide you to a healthier weight. Skipping meals can run you off track and lead to overeating. Aim to eat within one half hour of waking and every 2-3 hours thereafter.

Portion sizes matter

You can even over-eat healthy foods, so it is important to be aware of portion sizes. For example, two cups of brown rice is still around 500 calories, even though it’s a low-fat, whole grain food.

Enjoy family meals
Eating dinner together is a great way to encourage the whole family to get involved in adopting healthier habits. Make a set time for a meal and get everyone involved. Consider not only cooking together, but also getting others involved in meal planning, setting the table and even choosing a topic for dinner conversation. Dinner will go from being a meal to being a not-to-be-missed event.

Get fit together
Make exercise a group event, whether it’s with family, friends or even a team or support group. Try new exercise classes, a new walking or biking route or even swap your favorite fitness DVDs with friends. When it’s done together, it feels less like work and more like fun!

Reduce screen time
Spend less time in front of the TV and computer. Did you know that the average American spends up to five hours a day in front of the TV and/or computer? Swap half that time for a healthier activity such as going for a walk with a friend, taking a yoga class, preparing a healthy meal or even relaxing with a good book.

Exercise is not a license to overeat
Exercise burns calories, but it’s not a license to binge. It takes 30 minutes to burn between 200-300 calories, and only 1-2 minutes to eat a few pieces of candy or cookies for the same amount of calories.

Not enough water
Dehydration can be mistaken for hunger, so be sure to keep yourself well hydrated. Invest in a reusable water bottle and carry it with you to remind yourself to drink often. Choose calorie-free beverages such as water, seltzer or other sugar-free drinks to ensure you don’t consume excess calories from your beverage choices.

Not enough sleep
Hunger is a symptom of fatigue, so it is common to remedy your sleepiness with eating. In addition, if you are tired your judgment may be impaired and you are less likely to care about planning healthy meals or making it a point to go to the gym after work. Make sure you are getting an adequate amount of sleep each night.

Why calories count
With so many fad diets promoting instant results, losing weight in a safe and healthy way can seem almost impossible. The key to healthy weight loss is actually a simple concept: calories in should be less than calories out. The calories you consume are your “calories in” and the calories you burn by exercise and daily activity are your “calories out”. This is often referred to as energy balance and depending on your goal (weight loss, weight gain or weight maintenance) you will have to adjust between the two:

Weight Loss = Calories In < Calories Out
Weight Gain = Calories In > Calories Out

Here are some tips that can help:

  1. Understand calories

    Calories are the energy that fuels your body much like gasoline fuels your car. All of the food you eat is made up of protein, carbohydrate and fat. Per gram, fats contain more calories than proteins and carbohydrates. This explains why certain foods that are higher in fat, like cheese, nuts, and oils, are higher in calories than low-fat foods that are mainly comprised of carbohydrates or proteins. However, it is still important to include healthy, unsaturated fats like oils, nuts and fish in your diet as they provide the “good fats” that are needed to support certain bodily processes. Keep in mind that they are still higher in calories. Watch portion size and enjoy them in moderation.

  2. Know your calorie needs

    It is important to be aware of how many calories your body actually requires each day. Calculate your calorie needs by visiting the MyPlate website at www.supertracker.usda.gov/foodtracker.aspx. The calculator will give you the amount of calories your body needs to maintain your current weight. If weight loss is your goal, you will have to either consume fewer calories and/or burn more calories through physical activity.

    For weight loss, subtract calories from your diet or burn them with exercise:

    • 250 calories a day to lose ½ pound per week
    • 500 calories a day to lose 1 pound per week

    *1 pound of fat is equal to 3500. Do not go below 1200 calories per day. Eating too little calories can be counterproductive by slowing down your metabolism and making it more difficult to lose weight.

  3.       Log It
    • Keep track of how many calories you consume and how many calories you burn by logging this information in a food diary. Read labels to learn how many calories are in the foods you eat. Some foods do not have labels, like fresh produce, meats and seafood. For these, use an online calorie calculator (try Food-A-Pedia on www.myplate.gov) or a reference guidebook like The CalorieKing: Calorie, Fat, and Carbohydrate Counter. 
    • For exercise use an Activity Calorie Calculator found at primusweb.com/fitnesspartner/calculat.htm. Simply log in your weight in pounds and the length of time you want to exercise and you will be given a calorie breakdown of various activities from high impact aerobics to everyday activities like ironing and cleaning!

REMEMBER: Always speak with your doctor before starting a calorie-controlled diet or exercise plan.

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.”
 —Abraham Lincoln

Sarada Bernstein MPH, RD is a Corporate Dietitian for ShopRite Supermarkets.

Hyperpalatable foods
What they are and how to avoid becoming victimized by them
Fitness By Judith Torel

New research is proving beyond any reasonable doubt that a particular class of foods is addictive and causes chemistry changes in the human brain that make it difficult to limit consumption. 
These foods have been coined “hyperpalatable” – they are sugary, starchy, fatty, salty, and calorically dense. In other words, things like honey barbeque potato chips, peanut granola bars or cookies.
Since the complications of being over-fat are affecting everyone from our youngest of children to our oldest seniors (with illnesses such as diabetes, hypothyroid, gall bladder issues, a  variety of gastro-intestinal problems, and extreme fatigue and low energy) maybe it is time we take a different approach to eating.

New insights into food as addictive
There was a time when the mention of food as a possible addictive substance was laughed at.  Cocaine and alcohol are both categorized as addictive because they light up the reward centers of the human brain like a Christmas tree and there is a build-up of tolerance so that more and more is needed to achieve the same pleasure or “high”.

The newest research using brain imaging leaves no doubt that food releases dopamine in the reward centers of the brain.  Animal studies actually show that when cross-addicted to cocaine, mice actually will go for the food even when cocaine is available.

But it isn’t just any food that trumps cocaine as a “high”, it is the hyperpalatable ones.

Never before at this point in human history has there been as many products available for consumption that fit this category.  Our brains have adapted so that we need more of these foods to get the same high; unfortunately our bodies have to store the extra energy as fat and our organs have to work too hard to try to keep homeostasis, thus they begin to shut down resulting in illness.

New strategies for eating
When a holiday or other special event approaches where the main attraction is food most people take a small amount of everything that appeals to them, this way they don’t feel like they are depriving themselves and can limit any weight gain.

Usually this approach fails. These highly pleasurable foods are in the very same category of foods that we eat throughout the rest of the year that our brains are already primed for needing more than just a taste of in order to get the pleasure we expect. Because of this, we need a new strategy for eating during these occasions.

Moderation in everything is the current mantra when it comes to eating great tasting foods. This would never be applied to a cocaine addict or alcoholic because we know that once a small amount is put into the body their brain chemistry causes them to over-indulge and lose control. But now that we know that these hyperpalatable foods are even more addictive then these other substances, it appears that this mantra needs to be revamped. Instead, we may need to consider NOT serving high sugar, high fat, high salt foods that are high in calories; instead we need to look to reduce the calorie density and over-the-top palatability. 

You can do this by using a variety of herbs and spices in your meals.  By limiting the multiple tastes within the dishes we invent and serve, we can help ourselves tap back into our hunger and reduce the influence of a hyper brain chemistry when deciding how much is enough to eat.

I also recommend that instead of taking one or two tablespoons of all the different side dishes or desserts available at a party, pick one and have one serving and eat it slowly with awareness and savor every bite. By doing this you can avoid the over-release of dopamine which leads to the brain becoming desensitized and causes a drive to eat more in order to get the same level of pleasure that we would have gotten from less in the past.

As you can see the battle of weight gain and health complications is more than just an issue of self-discipline and individual decision to eat more or not.  Our brains are designed to become addicted to hyperpalatable foods and there are more and more of them available to us than ever before. 

Long-term pleasure has to start to take priority over short-term pleasure at least when it comes to food. By serving healthy great tasting foods and focusing on relationships and activities, we won’t become overweight and sick and can enjoy life!

Judy Torel is a USAT coach, personal trainer, nutrition consultant and psychotherapist. Her office is located in Planet Fitness, Loudonville. She can be reached at 469.0815 or jtorel2263@yahoo.com

Are you empowered?
 Reflect now …
Careers By Dan Moran

“Usually, when the distractions of daily life deplete our energy, the first thing we eliminate is the thing we need the most: quiet, reflective time. Time to dream, time to contemplate what’s working and what’s not, so that we can make changes for the better.”  Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Breathnach

It is a new year. A year full of promise, opportunity and success. It is the time of the year to connect (or reconnect) with new contacts, opportunities, and yes, potential employers. It is the time to renew friendships that may have slipped away due to time. A new year gives you the opportunity to empower yourself to change your habits that may not have worked and to embrace new ones and new ideas.

And, it is a great time to rediscover yourself.

Everyone is very busy and the importance of setting some time for self reflection gets lost in calendars, emails, phone calls, kids and responsibilities at home. Usually it’s a crisis in life or career – what I call a “defining moment” – that causes us to reflect on ourselves and where we’re going. It brings issues of life or career front and center when you may not be ready to deal with them.  That is not the best time to reflect and plan as usually there is a fair amount of stress and pressure which can cloud thinking.

Those who are successful in career and life have a plan – and they set time aside for them to think, reflect and plan the coming year (or years).  It is important that you do the same for yourself.

How do you do this?
Take inventory. You count what you have (assets) and determine what you would like to have (goals).  This process begins with reflection and discussion with yourself – yes, with yourself. Talking to yourself (okay, maybe just thinking to yourself) clarifies thoughts, actions, issues and opportunities and allows you to think creatively. What follows?

The Five-Steps:
Step One: Talk to yourself. Spend time thinking about what you really want from a new job, career or life change. Not just a hit-or-miss thought, but thoughts you will commit to writing. Seeing it on paper is the first step in developing a strategy to achieve your goals.

Step Two: Answer the tough – real tough questions – and write down the answers. Looking over the past year, ask yourself these questions:

  • Did I learn? If so, what?
  • What did I accomplish that I can measure?
  • What was the greatest contribution I made to myself or my career that I am proud of?
  • What has been my most significant roadblock or challenge I did not overcome?
  • How am I different this year versus last year at this time?
  • What are the three most significant events to happen in my career or life this past year?
  • For what am I grateful?

Step Three: Ask the simple yes/no questions:

  • Am I fulfilled?
  • Am I having fun?
  • Am I motivated?
  • Do I have energy?
  • Am I happy with myself personally?
  • Am I happy with myself professionally?

Step Four: Plan the year, which is critical to success. Don’t just “talk” it; plan it and commit to it. Nothing happens until you commit to success and I dare you to prove me otherwise. Ask yourself:

  • What is the most critical thing I will accomplish in the 12-months ahead?
  • How will I do this?
  • How will I feel when I achieve it?
  • Will it be enough to fulfill me?

Step Five:  Take action. You asked yourself the tough questions and have answers; some you want to know and maybe others scare you a bit. Now take actions for success:

  • Are you in the right job? Answer: No. Change it!
  • Are you fulfilled in your personal life? Answer: No. Change it!
  • Are you in the right career that energizes and charges you? Answer: No. Change it!

Need help sorting all this out? Talk to your friend (not family) or get a pro to help. Most importantly – Change it!

If “it” isn’t working, accept it and commit to change it! Make 2013 your best year ever and give yourself permission to do so…now!

Dan Moran is president & founder of Next-Act, a career management & transition firm located in Colonie.  You can reach him at 641.8968 or dmoran@next-act.com or visit www.next-act.com
 

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