Healthy Concepts

I’d like to invite you to consider what you mean when you say (or hear someone else say) you want to “be more holistic,” or “adopt a holistic lifestyle.” If we think about the meaning of holism (from ὅλος holos, a Greek word meaning “all, entire, total”) from a philosophical perspective, it is a belief that all the properties of any given system (physical, biological, chemical, social, psychological, etc.) cannot be determined or explained by its component parts alone. If we take that one step further, and apply it to health and wellness, to treat someone within a holistic framework requires the treating of the whole person, accounting for psychological, cultural, and spiritual factors, rather than just the physical symptoms of a disease or injury.

It is interesting, then, that we often hear more about modalities than about a true holistic perspective. Are herbs holistic? Are essential oils? Is massage or acupuncture? The answer to this is that it all depends on how you think about and use these modalities. If your mindset is “Do you have an herb for my headache?” then you are looking for symptom management using an herbal versus a pharmaceutical approach. And while there is nothing wrong with that, it is not a holistic approach. If you only look at health/well-being as something that requires treatment when a malady arises, you may still be approaching health from more of a Western, reactionary mindset rather than a holistic, promotion/prevention mindset.

So how does a holistic, or traditional health perspective (sometimes called folk medicine, which may be intended to minimalize its effectiveness) differ from a Western perspective? Rather than treating only the symptom, holistic care looks for what is going on in the person’s life, which might be at the root of the headache. How is his stress level, and could the adrenal glands be depleted? How is the individual’s nutrition? His sleep? How active is he? How are his relationships with his family/friends, at work, in his community? What is his spiritual belief system? Are there cultural/ethic/familial traditions that might influence his health and well-being (positively or negatively)? What are his beliefs about stress, about pain, about nutrition, about health? Understanding an individual from a holistic perspective requires time to build a relationship, a willingness to listen, and an ability to consider the person’s own values and beliefs and how they can influence health.

Herbs, essential oils, massage, yoga, t’ai chi, bodywork: these are just some of the many modalities that can be integrated into personal care in a way that allows the individual to take control over his or her own health and well-being. These modalities can be integrated with Western medical practices — screenings, medication, physical and occupational therapy — in a way that can improve outcomes; they can also be used alone. However, to be truly holistic, we have to think beyond the “Do you have an herb for this condition?” mindset in which we simply replace a pharmaceutical agent (medicine) with a natural agent (also a medicine). We have to address the person, in all his complexity; if we do not consider all the parts, as an integrated whole that forms the human being, then we remain stuck in the “fix it” mentality often associated with Western medicine, and we resist holism at its very roots.

Let’s be clear, people have found both methods (traditional and Western approaches to health) to be effective but today, more and more people are finding a balance between the Western, allopathic beliefs and the more traditional, holistic ones. So perhaps as we move into this new year, we can consider a different route than merely looking for a prescription/herb/essential oil, and instead taking the time to truly understand what is influencing our health — for good and for ill — and address that using a variety of methods that support our existence as complex, holistic beings.

As we flip the calendar to the New Year many people turn their aspirations inward to improve their health going forward. Today we will delve into considerations for the New Year and make it great!

1. Choose foods wisely. The Environmental Working Group website has a list of the “clean 15” and the “dirty dozen.” Fruits and vegetables on the dirty dozen list should be purchased organically due to the heavy pesticide residue, which does not contribute to overall good health. For the produce on the clean 15 list, you can save your grocery pennies and buy non-organic as there is not significant spray detected or there is a protective peel or rind surrounding the fruit or vegetable that can be removed before eating. Another recommendation is to eat with seasons to vary your produce choices to incorporate more nutrients. Unfortunately the average American eats only 15 foods — over and over and over again potentially leading to food sensitivities.

2. Exercise. In my practice I commonly see patients who regularly incorporate cardio into their fitness routine. Unfortunately strength training and flexibility often take a back seat to cardio but are equally important. I am in favor of group, or individual training, as it can be helpful for an instructor to observe and critique the clients form and posture, in addition to simply making it more fun. I have also seen positive results with step counters in my patients trying to incorporate more motion in their day and to keep moving. Motion is the body’s lotion so get up and start moving!

3. Consider nutrient testing. There are specialty labs using a simple blood draw that can evaluate if one has nutritional deficiencies, which can be corrected with supplementation. Our population in Wisconsin is especially susceptible to vitamin D deficiency as we have many days where the sun is too far away to absorb adequate vitamin D effectively through our skin. Supplementation can prove helpful to correct imbalances. I also like evaluating B vitamin status, as this vitamin complex helps us deal with stressors, which are plentiful in our daily lives.

4. Cultivate or immerse yourself in a new activity or hobby. Below is a list of three common traits of people who live to 100 years of age.

  1. They are lean.
  2. They don’t smoke.
  3. They have hobbies.

Hobbies, especially in retirement, are important when transitioning from the work place to retirement. It is great brain food, to learn something new, which helps develop new neuronal pathways, and as a bonus, it is good to tap into your inner creativity.

Try to incorporate some helpful tips from this article and make it a great 2018!

The arrival of cooler temperatures sparks various changes. Chilly air and precipitation can be dangerous, especially to pets that are unaccustomed to extreme changes in temperature.

Pet owners may be well aware of the hazards of warm weather, including the threat of leaving pets in hot cars. But cold weather also has its share of risks. Heed these tips to keep pets safe and secure.

Schedule a well visit. The American Veterinary Medical Association suggests scheduling a visit with a veterinarian to check for any medical issues. Cold weather can aggravate symptoms of certain conditions, such as arthritis. A thorough examination can shed light on potential problems.

Keep homes humidified. Going in and out of the house and moving from cold air to dry indoor heat can affect pets’ skin. Itching and flaking may result, causing pets to scratch at such areas. Maintain humidity in the home for comfort. The ASPCA also says to reduce bathing to help preserve essential oils on the skin.

Protect paws outdoors. Pet paws are sensitive to sand, ice, snow and chemical ice melts. Massage petroleum jelly or another protectant onto paw pads, or consider the use of pet booties.

Keep pets indoors more often. Pets should not remain outdoors for long stretches of time in frigid temperatures, even if they are accustomed to roaming during other seasons, advises The Humane Society of the United States.

Provide options for sleeping. Come the winter, cats and dogs may need new sleep spaces to avoid drafts and stay warm. Give them other spots they can call their own.

Consider a sweater or vest. Some pets are more tolerant to the cold than others. However, some dogs and cats may benefit from a sweater, vest or coat designed for pets to offer a little more insulation.

Update identification and contact information. Snow and ice can mask scent cues that help pets find their way home. Update contact information and make sure pets’ collars are on tightly.

Keep coolant and antifreeze locked away. Coolant and antifreeze are lethal to dogs and cats and should be kept out of reach. Clean up any spills from vehicles promptly.

Provide fresh food and water. Pets may burn more calories trying to stay warm. Be sure the animal has a little extra food and plenty of water to stay sated and hydrated.

Winter weather requires pet owners to make changes so pets can remain happy and safe.


Source: MetroCreative Connection.

Life insurance; everyone says it’s important but it can be a difficult topic to talk about and even more difficult to understand. However, it is a critical topic to grasp because of its importance when building a financial strategy.

Eight in ten adults say their family is most important in their lives, but just a little over half (55 percent) have life insurance to protect them in the event of an unexpected death. Another fact? 54 percent of Americans would have trouble paying living expenses immediately or within several months if the primary wage-earner died.

Life insurance is a cornerstone of a sound financial strategy. It can help provide for the people and organizations you care about. Choosing the right life insurance solution makes a difference in the future of your loved ones, and gives you a sense of reassurance knowing they’ll be taken care of. Here’s a quick primer on some of the most common types of life insurance.

Types of life insurance

Term life insurance – Temporary life insurance that offers simply a death benefit and is generally less expensive than permanent insurance. It’s ideal for short-term life insurance needs, like when you are raising a family, paying off a mortgage or starting a business.

Whole life insurance – Permanent life insurance that gives you a guaranteed death benefit, guaranteed level premiums and guaranteed cash value that increases each year. The guarantees are contingent on all premiums being paid and no loans or changes being made to the contract.

Blended life insurance – Permanent life insurance with added flexibility. It lets you “dial in” your premium to the level of whole life and term insurance desired. Offers lifetime protection through a blend of whole life insurance plus term insurance and paid-up additional coverage.

Universal life insurance – Permanent life insurance that allows you to increase or decrease your death benefit and your premium is flexible; subject to any limitations in the contract. Accumulated value in a universal life contract earns interest at a current rate, with a minimum rate stated in the contract.

Variable universal life insurance – Permanent life insurance that gives you a flexible premium and the potential to build accumulated value. However, death benefits and other values may vary, because you direct how the cash is invested among the investment portfolios offered. Do remember that the investment performance has no guarantees and could lose money and remember to review the prospectus offerings of any investment decisions you make.

Life insurance is an important tool to consider on your journey to being wise with money. Many of the people we talk to want to prepare for the future, protect the people they love and live a more generous and fulfilling life. It’s important to have a trusted guide on your wise with money journey so consider talking with a financial representative. 


Reference: LIMRA 2017 Insurance Barometer Study.

In February we take a break from winter’s icy grip to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Some of the most popular gifts include cards, candy, flowers and an evening out. What do you like to receive? While most people agree it’s important to express love on Valentine’s Day, people sometimes disagree about what they like to receive.

Disagreements are common too when it comes to money. Couples often have different financial priorities and goals. Here are some simple strategies couples can use to communicate more effectively about money.

Set joint goals

Talk about what is coming up in your lives. For example, talk about planning a warm, sunny summer vacation. Also talk about your long-term goals like saving for college and when you want to retire. What will retirement look like? Where will you live? When do you want to retire? If you want to retire at a young age, you may need to save aggressively to make that happen.

Review your long-term goals before making large purchases, like buying a new car. The new car smell wears off, but the car payments usually last for years. The average cost of a new car today is more than $30,000, and payments of $500 and more a month are common. That’s $500 plus a month going toward a depreciating asset and not toward your retirement. Don’t hijack your long-term plans making a large impulsive purchase you’ll regret.

Don’t blame

Don’t blame one person for doing all the spending. Usually both people spend more than they realize.

Spending money

To minimize blaming, each partner should receive some personal spending money every payday that can be spent on anything. You have freedom to spend this money spontaneously without judgment.

Talk through disagreements

When you disagree, get it out in the open and talk about it. Patient communication and compromise can help you resolve disagreements and identify choices both people can live with.

Plan for the unexpected

Unexpected expenses and low savings can strain relationships. Work toward having at least three to six months of living expenses in an emergency savings account. To boost your savings, talk with your bank or credit union about setting up automatic monthly payments from your checking account to your emergency savings account.

If you don’t have a significant emergency fund, use your tax refund to jump-start your savings. You’ll sleep better knowing you are prepared for the proverbial rainy day.

Keep debt low

Many couples disagree about how much debt they are comfortable carrying. While an affordable home can be a good long-term investment, it’s seldom wise to carry credit card debt. If debt is a concern, work toward reducing it. Don’t take on more debt unless you both genuinely agree.

It’s about balance

Managing money wisely isn’t just about putting numbers on a spreadsheet. Often there isn’t enough money to buy everything we want and save aggressively for retirement. We must talk through our needs and wants and balance competing priorities.

Valentine’s Day is a great time to express love for others. It’s also timely to reflect on how we can make our relationship even better and communicate more effectively about money.

I have been a dancer for many years, and in that time I have trained in many formats including ballet, modern, hip-hop and jazz. No matter what style of dance you are training in there are always certain techniques to be learned specific to that genre. In ballet, one must learn port de bras, or the carriage of the arms. In modern one must learn about fall and recovery, and contracting-releasing. These are all codified techniques from many dancers and choreographers over the many years the styles have been around.

I find this fascinating as a classically trained dancer because all forms of dance require control and certain skills the body must be trained in, including pole! Pole dance, however, is very young and while the techniques may not be codified, there are very specific ways to be able to use this apparatus correctly and without injury. The first and most important in my opinion is what we call push-pull. This means utilizing your grip on the pole to get enough leverage to take the feet off the floor into spins and tricks. We begin students with engaging their muscles in this push-pull motion without releasing their feet off the ground and gradually build up to that over time.

Another incredibly important skill is learning about pelvic tuck. This is vital in all of the aerial arts. Pelvic tuck is what enables someone to invert themselves while in the air. We begin training this movement with many different abdominal exercises from the floor. The tuck needed to invert oneself comes from the very deepest layers including the transverse abdominis and the pelvic floor.

One more major building block is shoulder and back engagement. This can be difficult particularly for women as we naturally tend to have less upper body strength and more leg strength. To protect the shoulder joint from wear and tear, a pole dancer must always be engaging the shoulder because of how much mobility the joint has. This is especially true when the dancer starts to take their feet off of the floor and lift their own body weight. The latissimus dorsi, a major back muscle, plays a role in this as well, particularly in the pushing and pulling mentioned above. There are 17 muscles that control shoulder movement and each has to be properly developed for a dancer’s full, consistent engagement.

The last piece of technique from a dancer’s perspective is artistry. Artistry can be seen in all genres and is where the execution of technique and one’s own creativity cross paths. This can be different for anyone and everyone. We begin finding this artistry with free dances and games, combining different movements in each woman’s own way. This combination of muscle and grace is where we find our strength and believe our beauty.

As an instructor I sometimes hear students say things like, “I had no idea this would be such a tough workout” or “You make it look so much easier,” and I believe that is what is so special about all types of dance. There are so many things to think about and execute at one time and yet it must look powerful but effortless. These pole techniques when mastered lead to exactly that — a powerful and breathtaking performance! 

Self-confidence is a pivotal key to success in every aspect of our life. Ego, on the other hand, gets us into trouble and is the basis for all our bad habits, addictions and self-loathing. So what’s the difference between self-confidence and ego? Self-confidence comes from positive actions and positive attitudes, and is very different from ego.

When our ego runs amuck, selfish and narcissistic behavior begins to manifest. Drinking, drug abuse, gambling and other self-destructive behaviors arise from ego. Ego is an over-inflated view of our self that feels we are naturally more important than others. Achieving personal success and overcoming our bad habits depends on reducing ego and starting to truly love ourselves again. When we truly love ourselves this is not ego because it eliminates self-destructive behavior and is the foundation of confidence.

Self-destructive behavior makes us lack confidence and eventually we can begin to even hate ourselves. Alcoholism and drug addiction erode our self-love and confidence and the self-hatred that can develop causes many people to commit suicide.

By focusing on our positive qualities and positive actions we naturally and effortlessly begin to feel good about ourselves. Letting go of bad habits and addictions is important to allowing our confidence to surface. As we let go of bad habits and replace them with positive and beneficial ones our mind becomes clearer, our energy improves, we sleep better, and each day seems brighter and fuller of opportunities.

Using self-hypnosis is really a way to become your best self. When we are our best self not only do we love ourselves and feel great about ourselves but it carries out into our relationships and daily interactions so that we make people feel good about their selves!

For both our professional and personal success tossing out bad habits and developing self-confidence is of paramount importance. Using hypnosis is safe, effective and unties the deeply rooted knot of ego for a more fulfilling and love-filled life.

Neil Jacobson’s study of couples, two years after the end of couple’s therapy, differentiated between “maintainers” of change and “relapsers.” He found that couples who were able to decrease the stress they experienced from sources outside the relationship, were more successful in maintaining the gains they had made during couple’s therapy. This was the only criteria that made a statistically, significant difference in couples being able to retain the gains, and new skills, that they learned as the result of going to couple’s therapy. That is how important stress-guarding your relationship from outside pressures really is. Think about that for a moment.

You can have a wonderful partnership, great conflict resolution skills, possess the ability to repair your relationship once it goes off track and be deeply in love; however, that is not enough to keep your relationship sound and in good working order. “Me and you against the world, Baby” — that is what every couple needs, to stay strong and healthy, in the long run. We all need to be heard, validated and to receive empathy from our partners on a daily basis. Everyone needs to know that when they arrive home, there is safety and unconditional love. But how do we know that we are safe and have that love?

Gottman therapists teach couples to have “Stress-Reducing Conversations” for 20 minutes, every single day. Each partner gets to both speak and listen. Each partner gets a minimum of 10 minutes to be in the role of speaker (or until they feel understood, validated and have received empathy from their partner). It isn’t complicated but it does require a certain skill set, and practice, to perfect.

Here are the rules:

  1. Each speaker gets 10 minutes to talk about anything they want, or need, to talk about; however, it cannot be about the relationship, and preferably, not about the children. The topic can be about anything else. There is nothing too big, or too small, to be a topic of discussion.
  2. The listener needs to give undivided attention, and the communication of understanding is crucial. The speaker should be able to tell by observation, and hearing the listener’s responses, that they have been heard and understood. Showing genuine interest; making eye contact and really getting those “back channels” going (nodding, smiling, turning toward the speaker and looking interested) all help the speaker know that they have been heard and understood.
  3. When the speaker has gotten the first thought or two out, it’s the listener’s turn to practice active listening. The listener will say something like, “OK, let me make sure that I am hearing you correctly. You said, “….” did I get that right? Is there anything else that you want me to know or anything that I missed?” If the listener has missed anything or misheard, the speaker will give the correction; then, the listener will “play the corrected content back” for the speaker.
  4. The listener’s job is to find out more information about the situation by asking open-ended questions; questions that cannot be answered “yes” or “no.” Questions that start with “who,” “what,” “when” and “where” are good questions to ask. “Why” questions should be avoided because they tend to convey a felt sense of criticism. The following questions are good ones to use to help the speaker open up:
    • What is most upsetting for you about this?
    • What is it that you don’t like about this situation?
    • What is the worst thing that could happen in this situation?
    • What is this like for you?
    • Is there anything I can do to support you in this?
    • What do you need?
  5. The listener should give voice to their emotions as the speaker shares their thoughts:
  • Interest: “Tell me more about that.”
  • Excitement: “Wow! This is really hot stuff! Let’s do it!”
  • Sadness: “That is so sad. That must have really hurt.”
  • Fear: “That is something that I would be worried about, too.”
  • Irritation and anger: “I can see why you’re annoyed here.”

Other helpful hints for you and your partner: Don’t side with the enemy! If your partner says, “I was 10 minutes late to work today and my boss wrote me up!” You may be thinking, “Well you are usually late everywhere you go.” This is not the time to say that. “That is terrible, how upsetting!” is a much better response. Do not be critical of your partner, how they feel or what they are thinking. There is no such thing as “overreacting,” being “too sensitive” or being “irrational.” Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, do not give advice. You may believe that you are being helpful; that is usually not the case. You partner will either become frustrated, insulted or simply start to “yes, but...” you {“Yes, I thought of that (tried that), but it won’t work (didn’t work, has never worked)}. At that point, you will become angry and your stress-reducing conversation will go up in flames.

So, make it a point to start having a stress-reducing conversation with your partner tonight. Isn’t your partnership worth 20 minutes a day?

Whether you have heard it from your doctor, from a friend or family member, or saw a late night infomercial, we all know that regular exercise is good for us. It can improve mood, lower blood pressure, ensure a good night’s sleep, help manage weight and a host of other benefits. However, for those diagnosed with a medical condition, starting or maintaining a regular exercise program may seem out of reach.

Medical conditions like stroke, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis can make people feel as if they are sidelined from exercise. There may be a tendency to fatigue quickly, feel weak and unsteady or even be anxious about exercise due to fears of falling or suffering a setback, so consulting your doctor before starting to exercise is important. But perhaps the question to ask isn’t if you should exercise, but rather how you should exercise.

It’s amazing to see how warm water coupled with determination and a positive attitude can break down so many of the barriers that limit a successful exercise program. Warm water exercise can open the door for many who feel isolated due to a medical condition and its imposed limitations and offers several benefits.

Stretching is easier

Daily stretching is beneficial for everyone; however, it’s of vital importance to those with a medical condition. Only when your body is adequately stretched can you begin to successfully work on gaining strength. Stretching helps manage spasticity, tone and loss of range of motion (ROM) and warm water enables you to increase the elasticity of tight muscles, utilizing rhythmical active ROM exercises. These stretches are performed by moving through water in a slow, fluent and relaxed manner, which alleviates pain and tightness in targeted muscle areas of the arms, legs and torso.

The warm water alternative

Traditional land-based exercise programs can prove to be a challenge for many. Warm water provides an alternative environment to advance further in a strengthening program. Exercising in water reduces your body weight up to 90 percent. By alleviating gravity, those with poor muscle control and limited endurance can increase the number of repetitions or length of time each exercise is performed.

Water also provides a supportive cushion around an individual that allows them to focus on core strengthening, standing/balance and gait training exercises without the fear of falling. Barbells and hand/ankle weights may be added to achieve the desired level of resistance to maximize progress. I believe if we can successfully educate people about proper body mechanics and safe ways to exercise in water, it will carry over to their everyday lives, and their ability to perform tasks at home with more ease and self-confidence.

Brain training

Whether our bodies are slowing down due to age or a medical condition, warm water therapy is an extremely effective avenue to retrain the brain. Many neurologic disorders cause brain impulses to stop firing correctly and therefore do not communicate with the body as they once did. If “rewiring” of the neural pathways can be facilitated, then you can regain movement.

Unpredictable Movement Command is a technique used in water to target the use of multiple brain areas simultaneously. It consists of movement patterns being performed with quickly changing or random combinations (e.g. small-big, start-stop and directional changes). This fosters the brain’s ability to multitask, improve somatic awareness (feel where body is in space), self-righting reactions (needed to prevent falls) and overall coordination.

What to consider before diving in

The ultimate goal is to keep moving. Check into one-on-one aquatic therapy and specialty classes offered at warm water facilities in your area, and don’t forget to plan ahead for your mobility needs. You may want to inquire about accessible parking, entrances and locker rooms. Bringing a family member, friend or attendant on your first visit will help ensure that you have positive experience.

Once in water, you will see firsthand how it gives those with mobility impairments due to a medical condition a sense of self-empowerment, a reason to smile and the courage to keep pushing past preconceived exercise barriers, to live again with confidence and a new twinkle in their eye! 

Have you ever tried to break a sweet tooth addiction only to find yourself still craving cookies, soda or other refined carbohydrates? Do you want to know why it is hard to break your sweet tooth addiction? The answer is simple: because it is a real addiction.

So while you might beat yourself up inside for not being strong enough to fight your sweet tooth, you should cut yourself some slack because it is not “a piece of cake.” Research shows that sugar is a highly refined substance that actually acts a lot like heroin when it hits the brain. Although the idea that sugar is addictive was controversial among scientists for years, studies have shown that sugar affects the brain chemistry and thus might be expected to cause addictive behavior. Sugar has also been shown to cause withdrawal symptoms and cravings. The behavioral effects are similar to the neurochemical changes in the brain that also occur with addictive drugs. Both sugar and the taste of sweet activate beta endorphin receptor sites in the brain, the same receptor sites that are activated by heroin and morphine.

Needless to say, sugar is usually found as simple carbohydrates, which are not exactly “healthy” foods. They are considered high glycemic index (GI) foods, which produce high levels of blood sugar. A diet that consists primarily of high GI foods can lead to carbohydrate cravings and an overall increase in appetite — potentially resulting in unwanted weight gain. These foods can cause large fluctuations of both blood sugar and insulin levels, leading to a vicious cycle of overeating (even overeating foods that are good for us). And studies have shown that each time you give into this cycle, “the chronic consumption of a diet with a high glycemic load is independently associated with an increased risk of obesity, developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers.”

As far as choosing products without refined sugar goes, unfortunately, so many of these “better alternatives” contain artificial sweeteners, which studies have shown do not ultimately control your cravings for sweets. Some people do use these to bridge a gap here and there, but never should be used long term. Reason being is that they are unnatural, and hundreds of times sweeter, tricking your body into thinking it craves even more of that sweet flavor. So replacing things with sugar-free and diet beverages will definitely not break the sugar addiction. The body sees sugar as sugar, and you would just end up compensating by taking in more calories later on.

To break your sweet tooth addiction, focus on products that contain natural forms of sweeteners (i.e. stevia) in small amounts. Also slowly replace one unhealthy sweet food (i.e. cookies) with another food that is naturally sweet like fresh fruits, small portions of dried fruits, Greek yogurt and unsweetened dairy alternatives, etc. Even adding things like a little honey, cinnamon or cocoa powder could be helpful in satisfying a sweet tooth in a healthy way.

Be creative! Break the cookie cycle!


“Sugar and Fat Bingeing Have Notable Differences in Addictive-Like Behavior.” Journal of Nutrition. 2009.

“The role of glycemic index concept in carbohydrate metabolism.” J. Ciok et al. 2006.

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