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Live Happy & Illuminate

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Greetings from Michigan

As some of you know, I wrote a piece about the healing power of gratitude in the new book, “Live Happy: Ten Practices for Choosing Joy” by Deborah Heisz (Harper Elixir, 2016). This month, I also had the pleasure of speaking with Deborah  during a Live Happy podcast. We talked about finding purpose and joy after any loss.

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Intent.com

Kristin Meekhof writes about her experience as a panelist at The Parliament of World Religions, and shares a bit about the valuable conversation she had with Dr. Robert Gunn in this Intent.com blog.

A few weeks ago I had the honor of being a panelist at The Parliament of World Religions conference in Salt Lake City. The Parliament of World Religions held its first conference in 1893, and since this date has attracted such remarkable speakers including: His Holiness The Dalai Lama, former president Jimmy Carter, Dr. Jane Goodall, Dr. Vandana Shiva, and Dr. Eboo Patel.  [Read More]

Interview with Kristin Meekhof

Kristin Meekhof was interviewed by Super fab magazine and talks about the physical effects of grief in general and then discusses how her own lost impacted her health. Interview is in this link.

Can you die of a broken heart? At first, this might sound like a song title or dramatic story line. In actuality, there is such a thing as broken heart syndrome and author Kristin Meekhof knows it all too well. [Read More]

ABC Headquarters – New York City-

On September 17, I was honored to be the guest for Dr. Richard Besser’s live one hour tweet chat. Dr. Besser is the Chief Medical Director and Editor at ABC World News. Several months ago, I proposed that we tweet about the physical effects of grief. This piece, Can You Die Of A Broken Heart?, that I wrote for Psychology Today explains the impetus for this topic.

Many of you participated and I am grateful for your support. The American Psychiatric Association, St. Jude for Reserach, Jefferson Hospital, Gundersen Health, American Greetings (card company), Dr. Lisa Gualtieri, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Liz Neprorent, Modern Widow’s Club, Cook Children’s, Seleni Institute, Pregnancy Death and Infant Death Alliance, University Pittsburgh Medical Center, Amy Morin LCSW, Dr. Alok Patel, Beaumont Health System, Rainbows 4 Children, Dr. Kathleen Rehl were just some of the participants.

Some of the topics we talked about were: the stages of grief, healthy ways to cope, broken heart syndrome, where to get help, how children grieve.

The transcript from the tweet chat is here.

The Value of Emotional Generosity

There is a lot of chatter about people being emotionally unavailable to fulfill certain roles, participate in a discussion or provide support. At times, it seems the phrase is used as part of an exit strategy to end a conversation or relationship. When one is seeking a way out of any type of commitment they offer this phrase, “I’m emotionally unavailable. All the best.” Of course, what this really means is that the person has no vested interest in pursuing any long term communication. Few want to be disturbed with having to follow up on another phone call or email. This is also a convenient phrase because in a world that honors the over-scheduled and hurried, being unavailable sounds logical and fits neatly into any dialogue.

However, I wonder how many of the emotionally unavailable obtain genuine support from others. After all, receiving support means to some extent that one is open, and this also infers that one is willing to give. To be clear, emotional generosity is not referring to a co-dependent, financial or abusive relationship. Instead, emotional generosity is being available for another, offering support, providing honest communication, and giving without an agenda.

Emotional generosity is critical for developing authentic relationships. It offers presence, trust, and comfort in world that can be overwhelming and lonely. Things happen over a lifespan, relationships fall away, but friendships where this generosity is practiced are deeper and wholeheartedly richer.

In doing research for my upcoming book, A Widow’s Guide To Healing, I interviewed widows of all ages about how they coped with their loss and what they found to assuage their grief. An overwhelming number of the widows reported that a close friendship, either with a family member or friend, was a critical factor. Now, I am not suggesting that one can only benefit from emotional generosity if a death occurs. What I am suggesting is that there are great benefits in having this deep social support.

Young children are often the best models for practicing emotional generosity. They are apt to tell you exactly what is on their mind, and find joy in giving. Years before my late husband was diagnosed with cancer he was visiting his close friend’s son, Charlie (not his real name), who had terminal cancer. Charlie knew he was dying and was prepared to say goodbye. Before my husband left their home, Charlie gave him a Transformer toy car. Charlie said, “This is for you because I’m being transformed.”

The day after I found out that my husband had advanced cancer, I noticed that the Transformer was on our fireplace mantle. It was Charlie’s mother who spoke at my husband’s funeral. Then without judgment she went on to teach me about emotional generosity. Now, the Transformer is on my bookshelf. It is the kind of thing that always stays with you as do dear friends.

Article published in HuffPost Healthy Living, 2/4/15

From Sea to Table

I admit I am a bit challenged when it comes to cooking, so the thought of cooking fish from Melinda Fager’s new cookbook, Living Off the Sea, put me in a mild frenzy. Then I stopped to actually read the cookbook, and I realized that it was written in a language that even I could understand. The ingredients and preparation work appeared simple. Melinda was very sweet and assured me that I wasn’t the only one with this fear. She suggested I try the pan seared bass recipe. I wasn’t as challenged as I assumed I would be and the preparation time was minimal, and it tasted delicious. I was so encouraged that I tried the same recipe with bluefish, and had the same satisfying results. Melinda normalized my worries. She explained, “I’ve learned a lot of people are afraid to cook fish, so I hope this book dispels some of that fear.”

Melinda has been married for 30 years to the highly regarded producer of 60 Minutes and Chairman of CBS, Jeff Fager. In this book, however, it is clear Jeff is all fisherman. The book reflects life on the island of Chappaquiddick and brings together family recipes, essays and her photographs. They have spent over 30 summers as a couple on this island, raising their three children, who are now adults. The children also contributed to the book.

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Aside from cooking, Melinda also loves being behind the camera lens and has taken photos for years. She explains her passion for this art grew while participating in Alison Shaw’s photography workshop. “I followed Alison for years. At the end of the workshop, she (Alison) said you should have a project to keep up with everything.”

Melinda took this suggestion to heart, and decided to put a cookbook together with photographs and essays. In order to photograph all the stages of the island, this meant that she lived on Chappaquiddick for eight months. When she tired of writing she would grab her camera and go to the sea. During the off months, she focused on the essays, book design, and layout. “I lived like a monk for a year,” she jokes.

The photographs tell a simply beautiful story. Not only do they capture a day in the life of a fisherman, but Melinda also captures moments of the island that many may overlook. With her camera she brings to life wisps of delicate sand angels, clusters of berries cradled in a branch, and whistling bent sea grass. On another page, Melinda gives you the sight of birds stepping on the shore and if you pay close attention, you can see they are conversing with one another. It is as if they know they are stepping on protected shore.

Jeff and Melinda have appreciated and followed the writings of Vineyard Gazettecolumnist Brad Woodger for years. Melinda adds, “My husband and I would read it out loud to each other. Brad has a beautiful way with words.” They decided his contribution would provide the perfect complement to Living Off The Sea.

Melinda is especially fond of Brad’s essay, “A Fishing Affair,” written for her book, in which he describes the intimate relationship between man and the fish. Brad writes, “I think if we held everything before we ate, we might be considerably more reverent of our place in life, and the gift of each meal.”

It is with this reverence for the sea that Melinda and Jeff raised their three children. They built their family life here, Melinda says, with simple pleasures: fishing, reading, playing games and eating together. She explains, “Raising kids in a fishing culture gave them a chance to master skills while they thought they were having fun.”

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In an equally collaborative effort, Jeff and Melinda put together these seafood recipes. The main course of each meal is Jeff’s daily fresh catch. Typically, this means bluefish, and then local fresh ingredients, from the farmer’s market, are added to bring out the flavor. “I don’t want to camouflage. I want to bring out the best flavor. The key ingredient is freshness… All of our recipes have evolved from making the most of the abundance of fish and shellfish coming directly from the waters surrounding us.”

The recipes are inspired by many local chefs. Melinda is quick to point out that she looks to others for inspiration and she admires chefs like Chris Fisher. Both bring a farm- to- table experience with every meal. She also looks to Vineyard chef and author Suzy Middleton for her presentation and use of fresh foods.

With recipes for blueberry pancakes, skunked pasta, stuffed quahogs, and blueberry vodka tonic, the cookbook can easily move you from breakfast to after dinner dessert. All the recipes are simple, involve minimal prep work and contain a handful of ingredients. Over this summer, Melinda says she has created additional recipes that will be added to her online blog.

Melinda’s blog, website, and book also contain stories and essays about the island. A recent blog entry profiles Chappy local Dana Gaines. He is the talented illustrator for the book, and delivered the sketches for her book in true Chappy form. Melinda says on her blog, “Jeff and I were boating in Edgartown Harbor and we heard our names being called out by someone in a passing sailboat. It was Dana and he was waving a packet. We pulled up alongside him and he handed over the latest illustrations.”

With her blog, Melinda plans to feature other recipes, photographs and stories that all part of the island. I’ve been happily surprised that the stories and essays have drawn as much interest as the recipes.”

You can read an excerpt of the book here, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Below you will find a recipe for the Fish Marinade — I made this. It is simple and delicious.
“This is my basic marinade for bluefish, bonito, and striped bass, and it can extend to almost any fish you have available. I tend not to use as much basil with striped bass, so that I don’t take away from its subtle flavor.”

What you need:
2-3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Juice of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper
1-2 tablespoons chopped basil leaves.
Melt butter in saucepan and add all other ingredients.
Spoon this mixture over fish fillets that have been placed skin side down on a platter.
Refridgerate for an hour
Near the end of cooking the fish, either on the grill or on the stove, use the leftover marinade to top off your fish.

You can also read this article on The Huffington Post

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Your Caloric Footprint

If you are like most people, there is a good chance that you recently set a wellness goal for yourself. To help you reach your goal, you will probably be engaging in some form of exercise. This means that some of you joined a gym or perhaps purchased a new piece of exercise equipment. Whatever your goal is, why not focus on giving while you burn calories? The Weightless Project allows you to do just this.

The Weightless Project partnered with charities, and established an easy to follow formula of giving and receiving. For every 1,000 calories you burn, a dollar goes to charity. This allows you to make your workout count in a meaningful way without having to open your wallet. Yes, that’s correct, the program is free. Your calories are held in reserve, and the dollar will not be released to the charity until you reach the 1,000 calorie mark. In other words, the more calories burned, the greater the gain for the charity.

Rest assured, this is a respectable project. Deepak Chopra and his foundation, The Chopra Foundation strongly encourages it. When asked about the project The Chopra Foundation said, “The Weightless Project is an example of how we can harness collection and creativity to move on the direction of a more peaceful, just, sustainable, and healthier world.”

Earlier in 2013, Mr. Poonacha Machaiah recalls asking himself these questions: “Can we equalize hunger in Africa with our own calorie footprint? How can we get people healthy? How do you transfer empathy? Can you create a habit of healthy living?”

In answering these questions, Mr. Machaiah thought about how those living in the United States of America are losing the fight againist obesity. At the same time, thousands of children and adults, all over the globe, are suffereing from hunger. Ironically, the common tread that is woven into both of these health related problems is weight. In the one situation, an indivdual’s weight is too much for their body, and the additional weight creates health problems, such as diabetes. In the other situation, the child is underweight due to malnutrition.

Mr. Machaiah wanted to restore the global weight balance, so he created the Weightless Project. He explains it this way. “This project uses calories as currency. I wanted to create a sense of empathy. I wanted (others) to see that you can move something with your actions. If I workout, it will impact the person down the road. It means something for me and for someone else if I am active.” He then approached Dr. Deepak Chopra with the idea, and found immediate support from him and the Chopra Foundation.

Technology is part of making this program a success. To make every step a smart step, you can register your fit device, such as the Jawbone or fitbit with the Weightless Project website. Once this is done, the calories will automatically be calculated. In the near future, Mr. Machaiah intends to enroll other similar devices. However, if you don’t own a device, you can still go online to register your calories burned.

Currently, all calories burned are converted into dollars going to The Chopra Foundation, who in turn sends it to the Red Cross. At this time, the money goes towards victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. In the near future the Weightless Project is hoping to add additional charities, so that participants can choose where they would like their donate their calories.

Reframing your wellness goals can offer hope to others. Each step matters. Your fitness resolution may not be grand, but adding the Weightless Project component can be life changing.

You can read this article on Huffington Post

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Helpful Meditation

Mediation is one of the coping skills that really allowed me to take charge of my grief and brought about a sense of healing that other things (being with friends, reading) had not.

Over the years, I’ve struggled with keeping meditation as part of my routine. Last year I caught a brief segment of a television episode that featured conversion about meditation between Dr. Deepak Chopra and Oprah. While I can’t recall his exact words, I remember he said that if you don’t know where to start your mediation, you can begin with ‘om’.

After watching this episode, I started this practice of just being present and saying ‘om’ followed by a short prayer. As woo-woo as this may sound it has brought about a beautiful peace. Less than a year after I began this morning practice, I had the honor of meeting Dr. Chopra. I told him how this had become a full circle moment for me.

There are many tools and books that provide different meditative practices and I am sharing with you this one because I know first hand just how authentic Dr. Chopra is and he knows that I am sharing this with you.

Letting Go of Sugar with Dr. Mark Hyman

If your New Year’s Resolution goals failed or you are looking for a healthy and simple way to approach meals, this new book, The Blood Sugar Solution 10- Day Detox Diet by Dr. Mark Hyman is your answer. This book provides a comprehensive blueprint for integrating pracitical tips to help you live a healthy life. The recipes are delicious and easy to follow. Buying the book just for the recipes is well worth your purchase.

At first glance, I seem an unlikely candidate for a health fix detox program. In an average week, I run four days a week; it’s routine for me to stop at the gym before work or run outside with my running group after work. Thin and fit, I don’t worry about my weight but recent blood work showed that despite my high level of fitness, my blood sugar levels are still too high. Like most Americans, I consume too much sugar, bread, and caffeine. Mini- chocolate bars, hot cocoa packets, peanut butter crackers, organic dark chocolate chips are in my cupboards, freezer, car console, desk, and purse. I find myself justifying my sugar and bread consumption because I run. You know that person running in deep snow, when it is ten degrees outside? That is sugar addicted me.

At the onset of Dr. Mark Hyman’s new 10-day detox program, I admit, I was second guessing my commitment to give up my chocolate bars stashed away in my desk drawer and that post run hot cocoa. I scheduled the detox to begin on a week that didn’t have any scheduled dinner parties. I announced to a few friends that I was “breaking up with sugar for 10 days”, and the looks I got ranged from horror to genuine care and concern. Clearly, they knew, for me, that this wouldn’t be an easy task. “Who in the industry is doing this to you?” I explained, “No one. I need to eat better.” Another friend, with a glass of wine in her hand, put her arm on my shoulder and said, “You are about to turn forty and you need to enjoy life.”

For many Americans enjoying life equates to indulging in whatever food is easiest to obtain. Unfortunately, this means we are getting our meals out of a paper bag passed through a drive-thru window or eating mindlessly out of a cardboard box.

Dr. Hyman argues that we should hold the big food industry accountable for their conscious and negligent behavior. In his new book, The Blood Sugar Solution 10- Day Detox Diet, he writes, “We live in a toxic food landscape with tantalizing, addictive choices everywhere we go. The food industry justifies its production of toxic, addictive food by saying, ‘We are just producing what our customers want.'” Major food corporations and fast food restaurants would rather hide behind this argument than admit that they continue to play a major role in starting Americans on a lifelong path of poor nutrition. Ultimately, the path for most Americans leads to obesity and diabetes. Dr. Hyman calls this national health crisis ‘diabesity’.

Even if you are not experiencing ‘diabesity’, this detox plan can help you end your tight grip on sugar. Dr. Hyman also believes that our relationship to food is directly connected to how we think. He writes in 10- Day Detox Diet, “The biggest challenge you’re facing here is not your waistline or your weight.  It’s not your belly. It’s your brain. Changing the way you think about food so you get your mind working with your body, not against it, is critical to weight loss and healing.”

One of the ways that we can become aware of our thinking is through journaling. Part of Dr. Hyman’s 10-Day Detox Diet includes keeping a journal. He offers some suggestions about what to write about each day. There is also an online community to provide you with support.

I will share this with you about my experience (Full Disclosure- I did not use any of the supplements recommended). On day three of the detox, I felt the positive effects of a healthy diet. I embraced it now that I got through the first two days and my break up with sugar no longer seemed like a long haul. I don’t own a scale, but I felt lightweight. No cravings. My head was clear; no clutter; no anxiety despite the difficult phone call the night before. Now, I notice that my running is stronger and I’m sleeping through the night.

Even if you don’t feel that you are ready or can commit to ten days, I encourage you to take a look at this book. Many of the meal and suggestions you can incorporate into your daily routine. Feeling better about ourselves comes when we are living a healthy lifestyle. This plan teaches you how to listen to your body and provide it with nutrient rich foods. The recipes are easy to follow. Even the kitchen challenged, like myself, can complete them. Dr. Hyman explains his reason for developing this plan. “This is why I decided to write this book: to give people powerful tools to painlessly detox from sugar and processed food and reset, reboot, and restore their body to health.”

To learn more about Dr. Hyman’s The Blood Sugar Solution 10- Day Detox Diet you can go here drhyman.com.

Follow Dr. Hyman on Twitter @markhymanmd

The Huffington Post Article

Feed America With ABC’s Dr. Besser’s Tweet-a-Thon-

Look around you and chances are you will see someone using a cellphone, tablet, or computer. There is also a good chance that this person is using social media. Social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, is the major foundation of the smart phone and internet era. It has changed the way people communicate, and transformed the manner in which people obtain and understand information. People use social media not only as a portal to view their relative’s family snapshots, but also rely on it for breaking news, editorials, and health living tips.

Psychologist and author James Windell says, “Social media is important because it is the quickest and most powerful way to reach many people and establish your brand. Twitter has something like 95 million users every day. Because of the extensive reach of the media, you can get your message out to far more people than you ever can through the traditional media.”

Perhaps, no one appreciates social media power and value more than ABC News medical reporter and tweet chat director Liz Neporent. She considers Twitter her “passion”, and has gone so far as to contact a Tufts University Professor of Social Media Lisa Gualtieri to help her medical team at ABC News analyze and improve the methods in which ABC is using social media.

ABC Chief Health and Medical Editor, Dr. Richard Besser is an active participant in social media and writes his own tweets. “When I get on the train each day I check Twitter first, then Facebook”. For the past two years, Dr. Besser has facilitated live ABC News Health tweet chats. These Twitter chats are organized by the use of “T”s to introduce topics during the chat and summarize each topic. Invited guests are carefully selected to ensure not only that the chats retain a high standard of credibility but also that it remains an open non-judgmental chat. For example, during a recent chat about domestic violence, Dr. Besser carefully chose which comments to re-tweet. “We wanted to create a place for women to share their stories. That’s powerful when you hear from these women.”

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Dr. Besser also understands the impact and reach of these ABC News Health tweet chats, and uses it as a platform to address a variety of topics that impact health and well- being. On average about 20 million people are exposed to the topics via his weekly Twitter chats. These topics include autism, rare tropical diseases, breast cancer, orphan diseases, and colon cancer. Katie Couric, special correspondent for ABC News and anchor for ABC daytime show, ‘Katie’, was an active participant in the colon cancer chat bringing awareness to the disease that her late husband battled, and also dispelling myths related to colon cancer. Another tweet chat about meditation included Goldie Hawn as a guest. Dr. Besser explains, “We were able to talk about the health benefits of mediation and yoga.”

About three months ago, during a walk, Neporent hatched the idea of a Tweet-a-Thon to raise money for the non-profit organization Feed America. She wanted to increase awareness about those individuals who face food insecurity as well as bring in much needed funds for local food banks. Neporent explains, “As a group at ABC we crafted the idea of a Tweet-a-Thon, and the idea caught fire immediately. The medical team at ABC really understands social media and how it impacts lives.”

Immediately, Dr. Besser welcomed the idea of raising money for Feed America. He says, “Our twitter chat, #abcDrBchat, is a great way to share information about hunger. Last year alone, 49 million people in the United States lived in a food insecure household, meaning they don’t know when or where their next meal will come from. We will explore many of the myths and misconceptions about hunger in America. While doing so, we will raise money for America’s food banks. For every tweet that gets tweeted out during the hour-long ABC Health tweet chat, Disney/ ABC will donate $1.00 to Feeding America — up to $10,000. What a wonderful lead in to our season of Thanksgiving.”

The Tweet-a-Thon takes place on Tuesday, November 19th from 1-2 p.m. ET. To participate go to Twitter and search for the hashtag #abcDRBchat. For more information on how to participate, check out this video here.

To learn more about Feed America you can click here.

To follow Dr. Richard Besser on Twitter — @DrRichardBesser and here @abcDRBchat

You can look inside about his book, TELL ME THE TRUTH, DOCTORhere.

For an inside look into the Tropical Disease Twitter chat visit here and the Autism Twitter chat here.

To learn more about food insecurity go here.