As I smeared deodorant/antiperspirant all over my armpits this morning, I couldn’t help but wonder; is this going to be what kills me? Everything we do, everything we use, everything we eat, drink, breathe or absorb into our skin contains some level of “toxins” that alter the way our bodies function, believed to contribute to disease and chronic health conditions. We wonder why diabetes and cancer and other horrible, life-threatening diseases seem to be on the rise; the answer is all around us. On us. In us.

I try to buy and use “non-toxic”, “natural”, “organic” products whenever I can, but, quite frankly, they don’t all work as well as the more chemically based products on the market. Deodorant being one. I have tried several “natural” varieties and they, quite literally, stink. Going without has not worked well, either. I value my friendships.

In reading and re-reading and re-reading again (and again) Jillian Michaels “Master Your Metabolism …”, I am convinced that the more pure food and products we use, the more pure our environment (home and yard) can be, the better. True, we can’t be in control of every aspect, for example, this week, my mother’s gardener put highly toxic chemicals all over the lawns. I can smell them from inside the house, days later. I can also smell something coming from the dishwasher, a steam tainted with a quasi-lemon-“flavored” chemical substance. I use organic products to wash my dishes, but I have a hard time avoiding the toxic steam coming from the kitchen. But, again, I can’t help but think, the more I do, the more I will benefit.

Cleaning products, personal care products, air pollution, impure and over treated water supplies, genetically modified foods, chemical ingredients in food, pest-control products in our homes and on our pets and even on our skin, lawn and garden products, everything. There really, truly is no escape. So, the best we can do is to try to limit our use and ingestion of “toxic” products. Not that it’s a lost cause if we can’t eliminate them all, really, any measures we can take will be beneficial. Just remember, all we can do is all we can do, but something is better than nothing. Dabbling is always better than wallowing.

There are toxins in our homes, toxins in our environment. But that’s not all. “Toxins” exist in other aspects of our lives, too. There are toxins in our mind in the manner of toxic thoughts. Any thought that does not serve to promote our goals, to enhance our self-esteem, our growth as an individual, our happiness is toxic and should be avoided, removed and an alternative used in it’s place.

The “egoic” voice, as my yoga instructor calls it, our “superficial” voice, that voice in our head that talks and talks and talks all day, and sometimes, all night, very often is toxic. Listen to that voice. Actually, don’t. Identify it, and disregard it. Today, I caught my superficial voice tell myself, twice, that I’m fat. I’m not at all fat, I’m a size six. I caught that voice tell myself that my nose is crooked. So what, whose isn’t? The plastic surgeon’s wife, and that’s about it. And who cares. It adds character. Today, I caught my superficial voice tell myself I’m stupid. Wrong, again. Our superficial voice tries to make us irritable, grumpy, impatient, intolerant, judgmental, overindulgent, critical, controlling, and so much more. Have you noticed? Do. Treat that superficial voice, your egoic voice, as though it were toxic. Quickly neutralize it and replace it with something more wholesome and pure, your inner voice, your true voice. Find that inner voice, deep inside you, fueled by your true desires, your goals, your values and replace the toxic, superficial voice with what your true voice has to say. The true voice is “organic”, but it is polite and quiet, like all truly great leaders. Give your true voice a chance to lead, neutralize the toxic voice and you’ll find a level of happiness develop within your life you only ever imagined possible. Think of your true voice like Gandhi, Buddha, or the Dalai Lama and your superficial voice as Hitler, Saddam Hussein or Kim Jung Il. That should give you some perspective. The best resource I have found here is a book by Richard Carlson PhD “You Can Be Happy No Matter What: Five Principles for Keeping Life in Perspective”, and, for the record, any book he recommends is equally as valuable. I’ve read them all.

What other toxins poison our lives? Toxins within us that pollute our relationships, whether friendships, family relationships, working relationships, marriages or other long-term committed relationships. What are these toxins? Jealousy, deceit, dishonesty, control, and probably the worst enemy of just about everything, complacency. True, it is nearly impossible to completely eradicate these toxins from our natural disposition. With the help of our organic, inner voice, though, we can gain an upper hand on most of these relationship toxins once we’ve identified them. We can turn the tide on almost any relationship, as long as it isn’t abusive, by replacing toxic behavior with wholesome behavior. This. Takes. Practice. The behaviors that will benefit a relationship, any type of relationship are integrity, honesty, compassion, understanding, the act of genuine and active listening, tolerance, acceptance, interest and attentiveness. Just like replacing the toxic cleansers we use in our home with natural-based products, we can replace toxic behavior with behaviors that will grow our relationship, which will bolster it, that will deepen it, that will improve it. The best resource I can recommend for additional information is a book by Mali Apple and Joe Dunn, “The Soulmate Experience: A Practical Guide to Creating Extraordinary Relationships”.

While we’re talking about people in our lives, are there people with toxicity causing disease and dysfunction in our lives? It is a harsh assessment, but, sadly, necessary. In discussing relationships, above, I mentioned that any relationship was salvageable, as long as it wasn’t abusive. If you are in an abusive relationship, of any type, GET OUT and GET HELP!  If you are the abuser, GET HELP! An abusive relationship is most certainly toxic, and, again, can be any kind of relationship; friends, coworkers, family, significant others. It matters not the who of an abusive relationship, what matters is that you remove yourself from it. Fast. And find some support. Now.

If you are in a relationship that isn’t abusive, but is toxic, then you need to weigh some alternatives and make a move. Something has to change. Just like all toxins in our lives, toxic relationships have no place and we either need to neutralize them, or get rid of them. Harsh, I know, but true. You cannot begin to be who you deserve to be if someone, through their toxicity, is undermining your self-esteem, your self-confidence, your motivation, your energy and your enthusiasm.

Toxic relationships often have certain, easily identifiable elements; usually the toxic party is negative, most of the time. They may think in very black and white terms, all good or bad, they always need to be right, it’s their way or the highway. Most often, they are takers, but not givers. Their own lives tend to be extremely chaotic and that’s all they’re willing to talk about. Toxic people are usually needy and seek to become instant friends or lovers or partners and they will often idealize you, at first. Toxic people are usually passive/aggressive and can be manipulative, even exploitive. They are extremely judgmental. Toxic people are seldom satisfied, they always seek more and whatever you give is never quite enough, is denied or completely dismissed. Toxic people are needy and require constant attention, reassurance and validation, they are self-involved, self-absorbed, and not only are they only focused on their own needs, insecurities and emotions, but insist that your attentions also be so focused. Does this sound like anyone you know? Yes? So, what to do?

When we have toxic people around us, and especially when those toxic people are folks we simply can’t just “unfriend”, like on Facebook, we have to figure out how to deal. Distance is good, unless “the toxin” is close enough to you (as in, perhaps, spouse or family) that you can suggest they seek some professional guidance. I’m sure, if you’re like me, you have no limit of toxic people in your life. Usually, “unfriending” or “divorcing” these people, either literally or figuratively, while a solution, winds us up with a certain amount of regret. If we aren’t in a position to suggest they seek help, then distance and infrequency is, perhaps, a workable solution. Unless a relationship is seriously toxic, perhaps limited exposure is better than “unfriending”. Just like any toxin, if you must be exposed, limited exposure is best. I suppose we have to determine the level of toxicity, our ability to distance ourselves, or “limit” our exposure, and then execute a plan from there. It isn’t an easy topic. Identifying toxic people is FAR easier than knowing what to do about them.

In an effort to evolve into more healthy, happy, productive and fulfilled people, we need to care for ourselves on several levels; physical, environmental, mental, interpersonal, and emotional. One of the key things we can do to this end is identify things that will impede our progress or undermine our efforts. Toxins are high on that list, in every realm. Look around you. What’s toxic? Look within you, What’s toxic? Let’s do everything we can to remove toxins from our lives!




Just Do It

That was the Nike slogan a few years back, and it still resounds, it is still relevant and appropriate every morning I open my eyes to meet a new day. Just do it.

I don’t care if you weigh 400 pounds and can’t lift yourself off the couch or if you’re a 110 pound marathon runner, we owe it to ourselves, to our family, to our country to – just do it. To get healthy and remain healthy. Do it every day.

The Centers for Disease Control estimate that between 2007 and 2009, 2.4 million people became obese. Harvard researchers fear that 42% of Americans will be obese within the very near future, and this, they estimate to expand to 75% by the year 2020, if we don’t change our ways. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that weight related diseases account for ten percent of all medical spending, impacting the cost of health insurance for all of us. Employers are terrified of this trend and how to cover the increases that are expected as we become larger and larger. My employer offers us monetary incentives (reduced rates and reimbursement plans) for active and healthful lifestyles. The National Institute of Health estimates that $75 – $125 billion is spent each year on the direct and indirect costs associated with obesity related diseases.  Being unhealthy is a burden not only to yourself, your family, loved ones, but to our nation. This goes way beyond being a personal lifestyle choice. The choice may be personal, the cost is global.

I don’t care how you start. Just do it. Find a success story that inspires you, read it, follow it if its ongoing, then make your own story. Seek medical advice, trying, at all costs, to avoid quick fixes like surgery and prescriptions. More lasting, satisfying and meaningful results come from one thing only; more lasting, satisfying and meaningful work. Hard work, daily sweat, and adopting moderation into your life. With each day comes some small triumph, and in time, however long it takes, your life is reshaped, remodeled. The burden is lifted.

This will require great effort, of course. But think of the great effort your life already requires. Is there a significant amount of effort required to stand up, to walk any distance, to bend over, to tie your shoes, to go to the bathroom, to bathe. This will just be a gradual exchange of effort.

If you are resistant to the idea of changing yourself for the better, talk to somebody you trust, a friend, an expert of some sort, a therapist; what are the underlying causes for your resistance, for your self destructive behavior? Get to the root of the cause, resolve those issues, then take the next step, the step to better health, now knowing you are worth it and you deserve it, you were always worth it.

An alarming trend in our society, coincidentally matching our increase in obesity, our increase in heart disease, in diabetes is the advocation of tolerance for obesity. I, personally, do not think less of overweight people, having been one myself (my BMI put me in the “overweight” category for the better part of two decades, and I flirted with “obese” a time or two). I will admit, though, that people who won’t make an effort to become healthier, just baffle me. Being baffled is not disrespect. I respect everyone for who they are, whatever shape or size (or color or creed, or nationality or religion, or political party or sexual orientation). I just really want to help! I want everyone to be able to really experience health, to experience life, to be fulfilled. 

Now to be brutally honest; as a frequent flyer, when I see a new baby, a toddler or an obese person enter the cabin door, I’d prefer to sit next to the baby or the toddler because at least I’ll have room for my shoulders. If someone is going to take up a quarter of my shoulder space, all of the arm rest and prevent me from being able to sit comfortably, maybe even cross my legs at some point during the flight, I’d like them to contribute to the cost for the portion of my space they’re using. Thank you very much. 

There is another movement afoot, of sorts, that I find quite offensive, and it seems to be somewhat in line with the tolerance for obesity campaign, and that is the public disrespect of skinny people, skinny girls in particular. “Skinny bitch” is actually the phrase I see most. Just like some people have a natural tendency to be large, others have a natural tendency to be slight. By no fault of their own. The persecution of these people is as cruel as the persecution of the obese. It doesn’t hurt any less. Persecution is never appropriate, on any basis, for any reason. 

For those of us who have to work very, very, very hard keeping unwanted pounds off, the persecution of thinness causes, in me, besides a silent explicative, the same reaction the gun control issue invokes in me, “you want to take sides and fight it out?” In both cases, being both armed and fit, I’m thinking the odds are in my favor. But let’s not go there, shall we? Luckily, I have great self control, I am able to control, for the most part what I eat, how my firearms behave, and I even have some control over my thoughts. 

Just do it. Make the effort to make a change. After two years of hard work and sacrifice, having lost fifty pounds and five pant sizes, I was able to do an hour on the cardio machines, an hour of Zumba and an hour of cardio weight lifting, in the same night, if I chose to (which was not all that often). But running a single mile, outdoors, on real terrain, seemed insurmountable. I joined a running club, my impetus was to run 13 by 13, and the day I did my timed mile, to identify which “pace group” I would train with, I was so triumphant! I ran a whole mile without stopping. I ran a whole mile at a fairly respectable time, though my heart rate was way off the charts. Within a few months, I’d moved up a couple of pace groups and could run six, seven, eight miles. Another month and I could run ten or twelve. I completed my first half marathon running at a pace a full minute faster than I’d trained at. Then, I ran eighteen, then twenty miles. I continue to run. Now I’m shooting for a full marathon, which, honestly, seems insurmountable right now. 

It all starts with the very first step. It all starts when you lace up your shoes, stand up and take that very first step. Every step forward is a success, no matter how far you go. One little step forward is one little step further than you were yesterday! Whether you are running or walking, whether a block, a mile or a marathon, every step forward is a triumph.

My first home work out video, when I first started this journey, I did half the warm up, half-heartedly. Sweating and panting, I was impressed with myself that I was able to remain standing to view the remainder of the forty minute video (thanks Jillian Michaels). Within a week, I was able to complete, with effort, the video, following the “beginner girl”. Now, I can run twenty miles, I cannot complete a Jillian Michaels video at the hardest level, following the “advanced girl”. And I’ve just begun the “Insanity” work out series, talk about humbling, there is no “beginner girl”, I am the “beginner girl”. I have yet to finish every exercise in any one video. But I make progress every, single day. Just sayin’, don’t let what others can do discourage you, there should ALWAYS be someone to inspire you, there should always be something to aspire to. Marathon runners often continue to strive for longer distances, fifty kilometers, fifty miles, a hundred kilometers, a hundred miles. Seriously. Weight lifters always strive to lift more weight, high jumpers always try to reach new heights, long jumpers, new lengths. There is no athlete out there content with where they are. Athlete, or not, we should not be content with where we are. 

I am fifty pounds lighter, I wear a single digit jean size. I am not content. I have more capacity for improvement in my cardiovascular fitness. I definitely have more muscle tone I could develop, I still have the whole rest of my life to keep fit to live to it’s fullest. 

And I know I’ll never be perfect, I’ll always have a little extra skin on my belly when I lean over, I’ll probably always have a bit of cellulite, I’ll always have those stretch marks. Does that prevent me from moving ahead? No! Hell, no! That isn’t the point. It isn’t at all about how I look, it is so much more about how I feel! And I want you all to feel as good as I do, all the time! I feel amazing! My ability to manage stress is greatly improved, my energy and enthusiasm is greatly improved. I am more focussed on tasks, I get more accomplished in a day. I am so much happier. What doesn’t sound appealing about all that?

So, I invite you. Just do it. I’ll be right there with you!