Sunday, November 20, 2016

My Year Of Grief: From Tears to Gratitude


"When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight." - Khalil Gibran




This Thanksgiving will be unlike any before, Dr Beasley, my mentor will not be here asking when the pies will be ready, Peaches his beloved dog will not be barking telling me the turkey is done, my precious dog Hope will not be here to jump on top of the table to try to steal the turkey and our son, David will not be visiting talking about the latest book he read. As those of you that follow me on this blog or social media already know all these beloved members of our family have died this last year. This is why I refer to it as, "My Year Of Grief".

While each death might have been different in its grieving process, each one had one thing in common, they all triggered my emotional eating. Dr Beasley's death sent me to find comfort in Double Chocolate Milano Cookies, Hope's death drove me to boxes of Devil Dogs, Peaches' death lead me to making & eating muffins, and my son's David's death found me climbing in bed with Ben & Jerry's not wanting to ever get out of bed again.

What does a health coach do to help heal the grieving health coach? She treats herself like she would a client, with compassion & kindness while making a commitment to self care and accountability. I acknowledged each craving without self judgment while dissecting the craving, I made a commitment to 90/10 eating and home cook meals even when I didn't feel like it as I knew that it was important to my health as well as the health of my family. I required myself to get out of bed when at times all I wanted was to stay under the covers and snuggle with the cat. I made time to pray, meditate, and take long walks as I knew that not only was it important to my one surviving dog but also it was part of my self care regime. And most of all I made a commitment to continue on with school as I knew it was important to not only my future clients but myself as at IIN, I had found "my tribe".

You see, finding my tribe at IIN, helped me to go from tears to gratitude and as I healed my cravings subsided. The more I focused on my modules at school, watching the lectures, reading the texts, participating in the Facebook classroom, reaching out to fellow health coaches in my class and lastly but most important attending coaching circle provided the support I needed to put one foot in front of the other and go on.

What I know now is the death of a loved one is not something you ever "get over" but you do learn to live with it and find the courage to go on. I know that there will still be tears but now the grief is mixed with gratitude for the fact that those I lost were once a part of my life.

This Thanksgiving, give thanks for all those that have left footprints on our hearts but can no longer be at our tables in person. Be mindful that for some of us, we will be missing those that we have lost and be there for them so they too can find their tribe.

May Your Thanksgiving Be One Of Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney

Health Coach

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Election 2016 and Your Health: The Good, The Bad, and The Nasty





     Unless you have been "living under a rock" as the kids would say, you are already aware that this election has been unlike any other in our lifetime. Not only has Election 2016 been more stressful then years past but it was also longer. And if you consider the 24 hour cable news cycle along with social media its a 24/7 596 day affair that we can consume on our phones, tablets, laptops, satellite radio and yes, television anytime we wish.

 Gone are the days of our childhood where the election news was watched in the evening on our televisions or listened to on our radios and then discussed at the water coolers allowing us a respite from politics for the majority of our day. Don't get me wrong I have no desire to go back to those days and in full disclosure, I am a politics geek & history buff who thinks a romantic getaway is a trip to Historic Williamsburg or Washington D.C. to look at the monuments. So what do I suggest to survive the constant barrage of Election 2016 which can be a stressor for many of us? Balance.

Five Tips For Reducing Stress During Election 2016


1. Take A Break From The Media (yes, including social media): I am not saying to throw away your phone but to know your limits as there is a difference between being informed about Election 2016 and being stressed by it. Some suggestions are: 
  • Limit your news, try reading the news instead of watching, don't drive while listening to the news during your commute to/from work and turn off devices when you eat or at least put them in another room.
  •  Schedule breaks from social media. For example, put down your twitter feed for a few minutes several times a day, take a mini vacation from Facebook several times a day, and turn off the notification on your phone so you don't hear the alerts . You can also choose not to debate with others on Facebook or twitter, or as I like to say- Don't Dance.
  • Try not to sleep with the television on as it will disrupt your melatonin and effect the quality of your sleep. If you can't fall asleep without the t.v. use the sleep timer so it turns itself off after a few minutes.

2. Take a Walk: Or even better unplug and take a walk. Take your dog for a walk if you have one. Take a quick walk during lunch with a friend from work. Walk after dinner with your spouse, friend or neighbor. Enjoy the crisp autumn air and the beauty of the season. And don't think or talk about the election.

3. Just Breathe: Breathing Exercises can be a simple and quick way to relieve stress. If you are unfamiliar with breathing exercises you can start with this one: Take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale slowly out through your mouth. Feel better? If you want to try more breathing exercises several of my favorites are some of the ones suggested by Dr Weil: "The Stimulating Breath", "The 4-7-8 Exercise", and "Breath Counting" (my personal favorite). Instructions and videos for each of these can be found on his website DrWeil.com.

4. Are you drinking enough? Stop laughing, I am talking about water. Hydration is essential for good health. Stress can cause dehydration & dehydration can cause stress. It's a vicious cycle so break this cycle by taking a water break. Carry water with you and keep it next to you as a visual reminder but make sure it's filtered & the container is BPA free.

5. Eat Comfort Food: I mean real food or as I like to refer to it as "foods that our great grandmothers ate". Choose real whole foods instead of junk food, fast foods or highly processed food. Looking for ideas? The following foods are said to reduce stress: oatmeal, blueberries, bananas, whole grains, greek yogurt, almonds, asparagus, avocado, broccoli, cantaloupe, green tea,  oranges, raw cashews, peppers, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and my personal favorite dark chocolate (in moderation). Remember as always to eat with your individual health in mind avoiding foods you can't tolerate or are allergic to. Avoid alcohol, artificial sweeteners, caffeine, high fructose corn syrup, excessive salt & sugar, and trans fats as these items are not only detrimental to our health but are said to exacerbate stress symptoms.

Remember whatever happens on Nov. 8th, life will go on and the sun will still rise on November 9th and yes, our country will have a new President-elect. Whether it is the person you voted for or not, remember our political system and our three branches of government will assure that there are checks and balances in place. Most of all avoid catastrophizing and try to maintain a balanced perspective while maintaining a balanced lifestyle. And remember no matter who becomes our next President, feel free to use these tips Post Election too.

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, B.Sc., P.T.A.
Health Coach





Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Blessing and The Curse

"Death ends a life, not a relationship." - Robert Benchley





As Dr. Beasley's illness progressed and our conversations went from "if  I die" to "when I die", he presented me with a folder. As I opened the folder to find a stack of legal papers, he asked if I would promise to carry on his work and keep his legacy alive.

As I teared up he said in a southern drawl, "Darling this is not the time to cry, this is the time to listen" and he then gave me a list of things to do when he was gone. As I read the list and realized it would take me at least three lifetimes to accomplish it, I noticed that the last two things on the list were "Make it yours" and "Don't change anything" which caused me to burst out laughing and crying at the same time.You see those two things summed up our relationship, I was always trying to "change things" and he was always trying to "keep things the same". 

For example, when twitter came along, I wanted to get him a twitter account which he promptly refused saying, "Darling, birds tweet, people don't" and when I wanted to set up a blog for him, he said, "Why blog darling, when you can write the book?".

It was during this dinner that he warned me for the first time that carrying on your mentor's work and legacy can be both a blessing and a curse. While I understood the blessing part, I asked him about the "curse" which caused him to say with tears in his eyes, "you will see".

A year after his death, with Peaches his beloved dog dying in my arms, I was able to see it clearly for the first time. While I knew he wanted Peaches cremated, I wanted her buried with her canine sister, Hope who passed a few months earlier. When I told Peaches it was ok to go to heaven and be with her Daddy she opened her eyes and wagged her tail and that is when it became clear. I would have her cremated to honor Dr. Beasley's wishes and then bury her later with Hope.While the blessing of carrying on your mentor's legacy was easy to see, the "curse" was harder, it was that unconscious feeling, "Am I carrying out his wishes?". 

Since Dr. Beasley's passing, I have learnt to do both, "Make it mine" and "Don't change anything", as I discovered it was about merging Dr. Beasley's dream and wishes with mine. For example, I have returned to school to finish the master's degree which I put on hold when Dr. Beasley became ill but this time it was in health coaching not a MPH. I am blogging about our book, "Food For Recovery" as I update the book version. And yes Dr. Beasley, in your honor 11,666 tweets later- I am "tweeting like a bird" on twitter.

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, B.Sc., P.T.A.





Friday, March 20, 2015

Finding My Voice On Kickstarter

"If you never risk to lose, You may never get to win" - Yusuf




When Dr. Beasley illness progressed to the point that he could no longer take care of his dog, Peaches, I adopted her and took her home. How could I not? She is the sweetest Cavalier King Charles rescue dog I have ever met and it also gave Dr. Beasley a chance to still spend time with her during our visits. Peaches quickly adapted to my home of rescues which consisted of a japanese chin, a cocker spaniel-poodle mix, a couple of cats, and an amazon parrot.

Several months later when Dr Beasley's illness progressed further to the point where he could no longer live on his own, I took him home to care for him. Peaches was very happy and quickly attached herself like velcro to her Daddy refusing to leave his side. While Dr. Beasley was very happy to be living in my home as part of the family and to be with his dog again, he was not happy that "I broke his dog" as she learnt how to bark.

Yes, Peaches at the age of six learnt how to bark after I adopted her. She now barked when she wanted to be lifted on the bed, when she wanted to be lifted off the bed, when she wanted her dinner, when she wanted a snack, when she wanted to go out and when she wanted to be petted. I remember explaining to Dr. Beasley that she was not "broken" that she simply found her voice and learnt to express her needs and wants.

Why am I telling you this story? It's because while our Kickstarter project was not 100% funded (I refuse to say it failed); I realized that my attempt at fundraising on Kickstarter caused me to find my fundraising "voice" as I learnt to express my needs and wants for the nonprofit. You see I too, just like Peaches, have found "my bark". 

What did my unsuccessful attempt at crowdfunding on Kickstarter teach me? It taught me that it was ok to try different things even if you might not succeed. I also learnt that even in "failure" there is a blessing. While the Kickstarter project was not funded, just being on Kickstarter did give our blog "Food For Recovery" visibility which resulted in spreading the word on how important nutrition is in recovery. That alone was a win and a blessing.

While Dr. Beasley sadly is no longer with us, Peaches is. And yes, she still rules the household with her mighty bark.

Would I try crowdfunding again for the nonprofit? Yes, And I have already started, as like Peaches, I have found my "bark" :-) .

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, B.Sc., P.T.A.


P.S. Thank you to those that did back our project, I am so grateful for the support. While this project did not meet its goal, I promise I will keep writing Food For Recovery on my iPad :-)



Check out our current fundraiser at:  www.gofundme.com/AddictionEnd








Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Count Nutrients, Not Calories

"In recovery, we need to focus on the nutrients in our food and then the calories will take care of themselves." - Mary P. Cheney




Before we discuss the nutrients in our food, it's important to get a handle on one of the most misunderstood concepts in nutrition, calories.

What is a Calorie?

Strictly speaking, a calorie is not a specific thing at all but rather a measurement of how much energy a given food provides. When we talk about the number of calories in a food, we are really discussing how much energy the body gets from that food. Calories are not nutrients, and it is possible for a food to provide plenty of calories without many nutrients.

Ideally, we want to have an even balance between the numbers of calories we consume and the amount of energy we expend. But caloric need can vary a great deal among individuals. If you are a professional figure skater who practices six hours a day and competes ten months out of the year, you burn a lot of energy, and you need a fair number of calories to power all that activity and maintain normal bodily processes. If on the other hand, you are an accountant who does a lot of detail work behind a desk and exercises only intermittently, your energy needs are a lot less spectacular. If you eat foods that provide more calories (energy) than your body needs at the time, your body will store it away for later use - in fat cells.

Calories, then, are only the most basic and simplistic of nutritional measures. A food such as sugar or bourbon may provide energy in the form of calories, but it won't provide any of the nutrients that the body needs to help run the "furnace" that burns all that energy. 

The Importance of Nutrient Density

The balance of calories to nutrients in a given food is usually referred to as "nutrient density." Nutrient dense foods provide lots of nutrients in relatively few calories, while low nutrient density foods have far more calories than nutrients. 

Some examples of nutrient dense foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free milk and dairy products, nuts, beans, seeds, eggs, turkey, chicken, fish and lean cuts of meats. These foods provide fewer calories while being excellent sources of nutrients such as the B-vitamins, vitamins A, C, D and E, protein, calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, fiber and monounsaturated fatty acids. Vegetables, fruits, grains and beans also contain phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are natural compounds such as beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene. Like vitamins, minerals, and fiber, phytochemicals promote good health in recovery.

Some examples of low nutrient density foods include cakes, cookies, pies, pastries, puddings, doughnuts, jams, syrups, jelly, sweetened fruit drinks, "fast foods" such as fries, fried chicken etc; ice cream, chips, salted snacks, candy, soda, and energy/sports drinks. These foods are high in calories but low in nutrients and should only be eaten sparingly or better yet, avoided in recovery.

Unfortunately, most people with alcohol and/or substance abuse problems, as well as, those with eating disorders tend to consume these low nutrient density foods in the form of highly processed fast foods, junk foods, and so called "convenience" foods that contain huge amounts of refined carbohydrates, artificial additives, and unnatural fats. When this poor diet is compounded by alcohol intake, drug use, or the devastating effects of binging, purging, excessive exercising, and inappropriate dieting it provokes an even greater nutritional crisis wherein the already overburdened body must draw on stored nutrients in order to function. If we really intend to nourish the body, we must give it not only the nutrients it needs to function right now, but also the nutrients it requires to replenish those lost nutritional stores. 

Focus on the Quality of The Calories Not Quantity

If we focus only on our caloric intake in recovery we will set ourselves up for nutritional disaster. For example, while almost anyone could survive and perhaps even loose weight eating 1200 calories a day of low nutrient density foods like soda, ice cream, and chips; you would not only be malnourished but you would feel really lousy doing it. This is because a malnourished brain is a malfunctioning one with the body exhibiting the symptoms of this dysfunction. And for those of us in recovery, a diet of low nutrient density but high in calories foods will not only perpetuate the cycle of nutritional deficiency but could also result in feelings of depression, fatigue, anxiety, mood swings, concentration problems, and cravings which could interfere with the recovery process. 

When eating for recovery, we need to start putting the focus on the nutrients in the foods we consume and less on the calories and then the calories will take care of themselves. In other words, we need to focus on the quality of the calories not the quantity. While knowing how many calories a day your body requires is helpful, it need not be a blue print for eating in recovery. 

Practice Portion Size

While those of us in recovery may be free from calorie counting, we are not free from the practice of choosing healthy portion sizes when eating our meals and snacks. As I like to tell my husband, "You can have a grass-fed organic steak but you can't have half the cow." In recovery while many of us are learning what "normal" is for the first time; we also need to learn what healthy normal portion sizes are for our meals and snacks.

Choose High Nutrient Density Foods over Low Nutrient Density Foods

When choosing foods that will nourish your body, mind, and spirit in recovery, you need to choose high nutrient density foods over low nutrient density foods. And in order to do that, you need to know what they are, how to shop for them, prepare them, and cook them; so that you can make the changes that will help your brain (and the rest of your body) heal so that you can experience the joy of a healthy recovery. Our blog and our book, "Food For Recovery" is here to assist you in this journey to wellness. The choice, and the power, are yours.

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, B.Sc., P.T.A.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Symphony Of Nutrition

"You Can Trace Every Sickness, Every Disease, And Every Aliment To A Nutrient Deficiency." - Dr. Linus Pauling



According to the Random House College Dictionary, food is "any nourishing substance that is taken into the body to sustain life, provide energy, promote growth, etc. Nutrients on the other hand, are chemicals within foods that our bodies use to conduct the myriad biochemical reactions of life. From the killer cells of the immune system to the most delicate reproductive cell, every fiber of our being depends on the presence and balance of nutrients within the body.

Nutrients In Food Work As A Team

In the body, nutrients function like an orchestra. In order for a symphony to reach its full expression, all the instruments must perform together. Similarly, in symphony of human biochemistry, nutrients always act in concert.

If you were attending a symphony and the entire string section went on strike, you would certainly notice the difference. If however, only one violinist chose to walk out you might not consciously notice the difference in sound, but something would be missing.

To take it a few steps further, any nutrient deficiency, no matter how small, is going to have a very wide impact. Like a snowball rolling downhill, a seemingly insignificant nutrient deficiency can grow to enormous significance as its effect spread through the nutritional system.

From a recovery perspective, the thing to remember is that the nutrients in food work as a team, and that it is crucial to your body's health to have all the team members present at all times. This means looking beyond the mere appearance or amount of food and considering its contents.

Being Well Fed vs. Well Nourished

The degree to which a given food is "nourishing" depends on the number and proportion of nutrients it contains. Food, like gasoline, can be either high or low octane. The more nutrients a food contains, the better its ability to sustain life, provide energy, and promote growth.

In these days of ready-to-eat meals, few of us think about where our food comes from, or what it contains, or what it can do. It's easier to just put something into our stomachs to stop pesky hunger pangs or nagging cravings than to think about what our bodies are going to do with the food once it's in there.

But there is a big difference between being well fed (having enough food to fill your stomach) and being well nourished (having the right food to fill your nutritional needs). If you ate a box of cornstarch you might feel full (and a little nauseated), but you certainly wouldn't be nourished. Even very overweight individuals, who seem to have too much nutrition, are critically malnourished as they are consuming the wrong balance of nutrients in the wrong amounts.

Good nutrition encompasses not only the foods we eat, but every aspect of the way we live our lives. It is affected by anything that affects our bodies, including our emotions, our relationships, and the stresses we encounter in day-to-day life. It depends not only on foods, but on our bodies' ability to digest, distribute, use, and store the nutrients contained in those foods. Anything that interferes with the body's ability to carry out these tasks is going to interfere with nutrition.

Using The Principles of Nutrition For Recovery

Addictions, eating disorders, emotional stress, and many other disorders addressed in recovery interfere with almost every aspect of the body's ability to carry out its nutritional tasks. Add to this fact the harsh reality of what most of us are eating, and it's small wonder so many of us in recovery begin our journey as nutritional disasters. If it can be done wrong, nutritionally, most of us have been doing it.

If you are battling an addiction or eating disorder and want not only to survive but thrive in recovery, you must counter the toxic and malnourishing effects of your condition. You need to rebuild your body from the inside out, cell by cell.

The first and best way to start this process is through nutrition. Food truly can work for recovery, when you understand your body's needs and how to meet them. You can give your cells the fuel and tools they require to heal, and build a strong foundation of physical health that will make your recovery a joyous, vital, lifelong process.

In order for you to begin "eating for recovery", it is important to understand what addiction has done to your body and what proper nutrition can do to help you recoup your losses. And in order to do that, you must have at least a basic groundwork in the principles of nutrition and by reading this blog you are one step closer to that goal.

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, B.Sc., P.T.A.




Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Importance Of Nutrition In Eating Disorders

"Health Requires Healthy Food." - Dr. Roger J. William





Approximately 24 million people in the U.S. struggle with an eating disorder. Eating disorders, just like alcoholism and/or drug addictions don't discriminate and can affect anyone regardless of race, gender, sexuality, or socioeconomic status. About 50% of all people in the U.S. either know someone with an eating disorder or have been personally affected by one. Despite its prevalence, major misconceptions about eating disorders are widespread leading to myths and stigmas which sadly can result in either a delay in treatment or not seeking treatment at all; with the result being only 1 in 10 men and women with eating disorders receiving treatment.

Just as an alcoholic doesn't choose to have the disease of alcoholism, obese people don’t choose to be heavy. Likewise the bulimic doesn't choose to purge nor does the anorexic choose to be skinny. Instead, the behaviors of eating disorders are driven by specific biological mechanisms that drive these addictive behaviors. These behaviors rise out of primitive neurochemical reward centers in the brain that override normal willpower, as well as overwhelm our ordinary biological signals that control hunger and appetite.

With eating disorders, whether a person is undereating or overeating; food takes on an inappropriate role as eating becomes the center of the universe. For anorexics and bulimics, food is the enemy, a trap waiting to be sprung. Eating is a failure of will that must be atoned for through purging (vomiting, taking diarrhetics or diuretics) or excessive exercise to burn the hated calories. For compulsive overeaters, on the other hand food is a panacea, a comforter and friend in time of need. Eating is a fix. 

Eating disorders share the following characteristics: Food takes on an inappropriate role in life. Food is consumed at the wrong times. Food is consumed in the wrong amounts. And the foods that are consumed are nutritionally deficient. These factors together with the behaviors often seen with eating disorders such as purging or excessive exercise renders an individual malnourished.

But it's also about more then appetite with eating disorders as the quality of the food consumed is generally nutritionally poor. Compulsive overeaters tend to choose foods high in refined carbohydrates such as sugar; fat, and highly processed "junk foods" which are known to have drastic emotional and psychological effects. During binges, bulimics make similar food choices, sometimes consuming pints of ice cream or boxes of cookies in one sitting. But eating disorders do more than just disrupt the normal process of nutrition; they also reprogram the body's internal thermostat and cause chronic disturbances in neurotransmitter activity.

When individuals with eating disorders get into recovery, they are faced with other issues besides malnutrition due to their eating disorders; they also have the formidable task of both repairing the gastrointestinal damage due to purging and "reprogramming" brains that have become seriously disrupted. And for those persons battling obesity, there is also the stubborn internal thermostat that needs resetting, while for anorexics and bulimics there is the seductive and addictive call of stress-induced brain chemicals.

Fortunately, there are ways to combat these problems and help the body, especially the brain and the organs of the digestive system to achieve a normal balance once again; it's called food for recovery. Food can be a potent ally in bringing the brain back "on line" by tailoring your diet to include the dietary precursors of your damaged neurotransmitters, you can give your brain the raw materials it needs to resume normal production. And by eating a high quality diet at regular intervals you can ensure that your brain is properly fueled to carry out these processes. "Food For Recovery" is eating for recovery so to repair the damage done by eating disorders and to promote optimum health for your recovery journey.

Recovery from eating disorders can be challenging, not just because the substance being abused is food, so total abstinence is not an option but because there are specific biological mechanisms that drive this addictive behavior. Further adding to the challenge is the biological and physical impact of these disorders on the body.  A recovery treatment plan which includes an emphasis on nutrition, using food for recovery, will help a person with an eating disorder fully recover and go on to live a healthy life. While recovery takes time recovery is absolutely possible.

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, B.Sc., P.T.A.