Cissy Brady-Rogers
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Archive for April, 2014

On Wednesday, April 30th at 7:30 p.m. I’ll be at the Laurie Hendricks Gallery in South Pasadena for a screening  and panel discussion of Long Live L.A. - a series of artists’ videos addressing the public health crisis. If you’re interested in the intersections of health and art, how media can change lives for the good, or looking for ways to engage, educate and inspire health in yourself and your community, I’d love to have you join me!

Long Live L.A. was originally commissioned by Freewaves and broadcast on L.A. Metro  County buses during February and March 2014. With 70% of health care spending going towards diseases that are preventable through lifestyle changes, finding new and culturally relevant ways to educate people and inspire good health is an important part of the solution. Art is a fabulous way to access our “WHY” for taking care of ourselves in ways the written word alone cannot.

Six of the original videos will be screened followed by a panel discussion about how artists can contribute to public dialogue about health while educating people who might not be reached through traditional formats. Maybe I’ll see you there!

1504 Mission Street, South Pasadena, 91030

LA Times writer Michael Hiltzick’s article “Federal rules on diet supplements do users no favor” lends further support to the point of my last blog. Uninformed use of diet products, supplements, energy boosters can be hazardous to your health! He exposes a dietary supplement named OxyElite Pro that has been linked to multiple hospitalizations and one death.

According to Hiltzick, the 1994 Dietary Supplement Heath and Education Act “essentially requires the Food and Drug Administration to assume that dietary supplements are safe until proved otherwise.”

Not surprisingly, the authors of the bill, Senators Harkin and Hatch, both cashed in heavily on campaign contributions from supplement manufacturers and related professional associations.

While some of us may benefit from and need supplements, eating real food as close to nature as God created it is the best way to nourish our bodies.

If you decide to explore dietary supplements, be a wise consumer and do your research. Be wary of brand-new products and anything promising too-good-to-be-true results. And nothing can replace the support of well-trained, licensed professionals. Always consult with your doctor when introducing even seemingly benign supplements as everybody is different.

Additionally, there’s a growing number of integrative medical doctors, like my colleague Marina Khubesrian (offices in South Pasadena and Montrose), who are trained in both traditional medicine as well as complementary methods. They can help you get a clear picture of  your health profile to accurately assess and determine appropriate supplements as well as make recommendations on other non-traditional interventions.

A humorous personal opinion piece from the NY Times reminds me why everybody needs to take personal responsibility for finding our own unique blueprint for optimal health.

Apparently, kale and other cruciferous vegetables must be avoided by people with hypothyroidism. These “super foods” that health gurus juice, powder, and encourage us to eat in mass quantities may actually be making some people sick. Wrap your head around that!

And those fruit and veggie juices you drink because of all the nutrients they deliver? When it comes to your oral health, you may as well drink cola and eat chocolate because to your teeth, sugar is sugar!

I’m not going to stop eating my cruciferous veggies and I don’t juice. I like my food as close to nature as God made it. No point in throwing out all that good fiber and having a mess to clean up. I prefer to just eat my fruits and veggies whole. But, that’s me. Some of my best friends swear by their juicing routines.

The next time you see someone touting their latest wonder remedy for whatever ails you, remember that you must be your own health expert. Know yourself. Know your body. And listen to your gut.

There are many well intentioned so-called “professionals” offering services, products and plans that aren’t regulated by any governing authority. The detox programs,  vitamins, supplements, and other regimens they offer may have value, but can also be ill-advised for some people.

Be a wise consumer. Know your own health profile. Listen to your body and trust yourself first of all!

Years of healing work with myself and other women have taught me that God loves all of creation, including the parts I’d rather exclude from love–like the increasingly droopy skin encasing my upper arms. If I can’t love my body exactly as it is today, whatever my weight or state of health or disease, then I settle for far less than the fullness of life that lives in my by the Spirit of God. And I cut myself off from the transformational power of God’s love.

Having spent the first 30 years of my life in varying degrees of distance from my body, ashamed because my body didn’t match those of the models and movie stars of my day, I know about resistance to accepting and loving your body just as you are.

my nieces Sophia and Caity inspire my work - loving ourselves just as we are today

Acceptance and love for your body doesn’t mean you’ll “feel” good about yourself. Emotions come and go. I’ve worked with countless women with eating disorders and body image problems whose external appearance matched the cultural ideal perfectly, but still loathed their thighs, breasts, belly, nose or some other part of their body. As my all-time favorite Saturday Night Live character Rosanna Rosanna Danna, played by the amazing Gilda Radner (God rest her soul), used to say, “It’s always something…” Either your nose is too big, your breasts are too small or just when you finally came to a place of peace with your body, some other change comes along to upset your equilibrium–like pregnancy, menopause, an illness.

Loving your body as God loves you is about attending to the real needs of your body for nourishing foods, plenty of fresh water, and adequate sleep—at a minimum. Many of us run on sleep deprivation and then drink caffeine or eat sugar to compensate for our lack of energy and focus during the afternoon. Statistics indicate over 30% of adults get less than 6 hours of sleep a night. Most of us need 7-8 to function at optimal levels. Countless numbers of us exist at varying levels of dehydration—75% being the statistic most often sited.

Regardless of other possible ways you might respond more lovingly to your physical needs, how might getting seven hours of sleep a night and drinking more fresh water improve your life? It’s likely you’d even begin to “feel” more loving toward yourself as both of these deprivations are associated with increased emotional distress—particularly anxiety and depression.

You can’t have fullness of life if you aren’t fully inhabiting your body. It’s that simple. Your body is where God’s transformative power dwells. The Spirit is an energetic presence that lives in our bodies. I imagine the Spirit operating within our bodies along the central nervous system, but that’s a blog for another day. So the wisdom, vitality, radiance, power, joy, peace, hope—and all the other transformative energies of our new life in Christ—live in and are accessed through your body.

What loving action will you take today on behalf of your body’s real needs? Drink more water? Plan to go to bed earlier?

Pick one small change and work on that for a month. Build the muscle of choosing to love yourself as you are by treating your body in loving ways, even if you don’t feel loving or accepting. Even if you feel shameful, disappointed, regretful for all the years you’ve spent living at a distance from your body. Shame and fear are huge obstacles for many of us. I’ll write more about that in an upcoming blog.

But for today, what might treating your body with more lovingkindness look like, just for today?

Mark Bittman, one of our family’s favorite go-to chefs for healthy, easy to make recipes, posted a marvelous article in the NY Times last week about a meta-analysis of 72 studies which indicates there’s no evidence that saturated fats increase the risk of heart disease.

Bittman says you can go back to butter, if you haven’t already done so!

Butter for Breakfast

I never liked fake butters. I tried them when I was on my post-breast cancer anti-fat kick 22 years ago, but it didn’t take long for my body and taste buds to tell me to quit eating that nasty stuff.

The bottom-line, which many of us in the eating disorders world have been advocating all along: “eat real food” and “avoid anything that didn’t exist 100 years ago.”

So this morning for my second breakfast (tea and toast for pre-workout energy was first), I happily spread some butter on my bagel. I remember my mom saying that butter made your skin shine and your hair glow. She loved her butter. She didn’t eat processed foods and wasn’t big on sugar–the two current favored nutritional culprits that contribute heart disease. Apparently her decision to minimize the amount of sugar and processed foods in our family food supply was a smart one. In spite of our pleadings for Captain Crunch and Cocoa Puffs, the only cereal mom ever bought was corn flakes (the non-frosted ones). But she didn’t limit the amount of butter we spread on our toast!

Thanks Mom! Your inner wisdom about sugar and processed foods paid off. Thanks for listening to your instincts.

P.S. If you’re looking for a good way to add leafy greens to your diet, try spinach with your scrambled eggs. Spray a non-stick pan with olive oil, saute a little garlic, then throw in the spinach to cook until wilted. Put the spinach on your plate while you scramble the eggs in the same pan, and you’re good to go!

I woke up today feeling unmotivated to get out of bed, uninspired by the day ahead of me, pondering what it would be like “if only…” I got up anyway.

As I made my tea and prepared breakfast, I looked out the window at the clear blue, crisp Southern California morning, heard the sparrows chirping and the doves cooing and decided to change my attitude. Just because I woke up feeling discouraged doesn’t mean I need to spend the rest of the day there.

Legend wants to know: What will you choose today?

Attitude is largely a matter of choice–especially for those without psychological conditions. But even those who suffer from mood disorders benefit from learning to shift their focus from what feels most natural (discouragement, sadness, suffering) towards something more life-giving. Our attitude impacts everyone around us, including our pets. When I’m in a grumpy mood, my dogs stay away. When I’m lighthearted they draw near. Same with my husband. The energy I communicate through my attitude changes the way others experience me and will reinforce whatever state I’m in.

Thoughts and feelings come and go. To a large extent we don’t have a lot of choice about the content that appears on the screen of mental awareness. But we do have choices about what we will do with what shows up.

Attention is the mental process that enables us to selectively concentrate on one thing to the exclusion of others. It is like a spotlight energizing whatever it shines upon. Deficits in attentional capacity contribute to all sorts of psychological, academic, occupational and life problems. It’s an essential skill for navigating the details of daily life, managing resources like time and money, and making health behavior changes. Without a strong capacity to focus attention on what is life-giving, we are prone to dysregulation of all sorts.

The apostle Paul knew about the power of choice and attention regulation. From a Roman prison he wrote these words of encouragement to his brothers and sisters in Christ who lived in the city of Philippi: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence or anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Powerful words from a man in prison. Like Nelson Mandela and other inspirational leaders throughout history, Paul didn’t let feelings evoked by unpleasant circumstances dictate his mood. He chose to set his mind on something bigger than his own miserable condition–specifically his faith in the God who radically interrupted his previous life as a persecutor of the Christian communities and called him to serve the very people whom he’d previously sought to destroy.

Twenty years ago I wanted desperately to do what Paul wrote about, but didn’t have the mental muscles to do so. I’d read biblical instructions telling me to choose to think differently, but couldn’t actualize it in my own daily life. I was largely subject to whatever thoughts and feelings rose to the front of my mind. In those days, “uninspired and unmotivated” might have set the tone for my day.

Like many of my brothers and sisters in Christ, I needed more than just good information and the power of the Holy Spirit within me to live out the transformation Paul describes in his letters. I needed mental muscles to access the power of the Spirit and mind of Christ.

The good news is that attention is trainable. Consistent use of mental and spiritual practices that work the aim and sustain part of our brains can strengthen attentional capacity. Over time the effort of intentional exercise of those neuronal pathways leads to what interpersonal neurobiologist Dan Siegel calls “effortlesss traits of living…” which make setting our minds on what is life-giving possible.

Fifteen plus years of exercising my aim and sustain muscles through yoga, centering prayer and mindful awareness of all sorts, have enabled me to practice what Paul wrote about to the Philippians. If I’d stayed in bed with discouragement this morning, I might still be there.  Instead, I chose to get up and into action, to set my mind on what I really want–to be inspired and motivated. That got me moving in the right direction. Then I chose to notice the beauty of the day. That shifted me a few degrees more toward a positive mindset. Then I chose to show up to my blog and share my experience, strength and hope with others. That leaves me feeling inspired and motivated for the day ahead.

If you struggle with choice and attention regulation, instead of suffering through another day of “trying to get focused” or “trying to change your mindset” I encourage you to invest 20 minutes exercising the attentional muscles of your brain through a guided practice. Transformation is possible when you have the mental muscles needed to access the power of the Spirit of life within you.

Join me for weekly Christ-centered yoga classes at Fuller Seminary and Glendale Presbyterian Church or come to my June 21st “Self-Care through Self-Compassion” workshop.

For online resources, Dan Siegel shares downloadable audio practices as well as lots of other resources on his website. His Mindsight book is a wonderful introduction to both theory and practice related to mindful awareness.