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National preparedness month

Each September we are reminded about the importance of preparing for emergencies and disasters. We must now expand our thinking to include “active threats”.  The 2021 theme is “Prepare to Protect. Preparing for disasters is protecting everyone you love.”  

Surviving an active threat, emergency or disaster of any kind requires planning.  The best place to start preparation is to know the risks in your community. For example, those living in the Midwest would not prepare for a hurricane, but families would prepare for severe thunderstorms and possible tornadoes.  Those in Florida would be ready for a hurricane. Each community may be slightly different, but the overall master plan will be similar then you “tweak” the plan for your area.  For all weather-related emergencies, it is a good idea to have a battery-powered NOAA weather radio.  Do not rely on your cell phone!

Start by signing up for weather alerts to come over your phone.  Make sure emergency contacts with contact information are listed in each family members phone.  Make copies and scan important documents you may need for an emergency response.  (Have current pet immunization records in hand as this may determine if your pet has shelter with you or is left behind!)

Inventory your property and possessions yearly by taking pictures or using a video survey.  Have a fireproof, waterproof safe for important documents.  Make sure your insurance is current.

Plan how you will communicate with those important people in your life during and after an emergency.  We all rely on cell phones but consider if you cannot get to your cell phone, do not have power or the cell tower is overloaded or downed what you should do.  Consider and plan for all the risky scenarios possible in your area. 

Build an emergency kit.  Have a first aid kit and train everyone on its use.  Have at least 1 gallon of water for each person per day and enough non-perishable food for the maximum time you are comfortable planning.  Most agencies suggest that you plan on storing enough items for 3 to 7 days.  You must be self-reliant and plan for as long as necessary without help given the possible threats to survival.  In the world we live in now, you may wish to plan longer to improve your chances.  It is one thing to make through the disaster and quite another to survive the aftermath.  

Determine how you will evacuate, take shelter or reunite following the disaster.  Determine a meet up place with a back-up place in mind.  ideally pick a contact person out-of-state who may not be involved in the disaster so they can coordinate people along with possible rescue plans if necessary.

Ideally, you would shelter in place but if you need to evacuate then you should also have pillows, blankets, air mattresses and folding chairs ready to grab.  In a true emergency you do not have time to run around looking for items.  You need a set place for items (also plan for your pets and their needs) then use a checklist so you know quickly that you have all that you need to “grab and go”.  A bag with clothes, hygiene products, glasses, hearing aids with batteries/ chargers and medications along with identification including something with your address so that you can re-enter the area once the danger is over. (Some areas require a pass that you can obtain at your local police station prior to an emergency and keep in your car’s glovebox.)   Make sure important papers are scanned in your phone with phone charger or take the documents with you.  (If you do not take them with you then place the safe in the safest place possible.)  Make sure you also take your “emergency cash” because without power you may be in a bind.

Following a disaster—help your neighbors and protect yourself from fraud.  Hire only licensed contractors and get a written quote with start and completion dates noted on the contract.  The contractor must be the one to obtain permits—do not do this for them!  Do not pay in full before work begins and do not pay the final balance until the work is completed to your satisfaction.  Never pay a contractor in cash!

Take action NOW.  Prepare and practice your emergency plans with your family so it lessens the impact of an active threat, emergency or disaster.  Survival may be determined by how your family reacts in an emergency so practice, practice, practice and be ready! 

Remember:  An active threat, emergency or disaster will always occur when you least expect it!

Final thought–We developed an “active threat” policy in recent years for camp and it was so very hard for me to think that we had to practice these drills with children.  I was convinced that we would scare them, but I was reminded that this was nothing new for them because drills were conducted at schools all the time.  

As the adults it is our duty to put our children’s safety first and education begins at home!  Simply reassure them when practicing these drills that strength comes in knowing what to do.  Then tell them everyday that you know that they are smart, that they are strong and although these things probably will never happen, you are confident that they will be okay because they will know what to do.  And do not forget to tell them that you love them!

Kids and covid-19

Kids get Covid and kids spread Covid. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more than 90% of Covid cases were missed in children over the last year! Cases get missed because kids typically do not present the same way as adults with this infection. There is also a very short window for testing in children—likely 2 days—to detect the infection. For most kids, the illness appears mild with congestion, stuffy nose and sneezing only for a few days. Although some kids may present with a myriad of adult symptoms. The good news has been less than 1 % of kids under the age of 18 end up in the hospital. Yet, thousands of kids have died from Covid-19 and many more continue to suffer from long term complications!

Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome was discovered only a year ago when kids had a 50-50% chance of ending up in the Intensive Care Unit. Three to four weeks after a mild case of Covid, kids developed inflammation in various organ systems which in many cases was life threatening or life altering with heart, lung and brain involvement.  A curious change has occurred over the last few months. Kids coming into the hospital emergency department are now having an 80-90% chance of requiring intensive care due to septic shock related to a previous mild Covid illness. Many kids need long term care following a mild covid infection related to neurological damage from the virus.  For example, will a teenager no longer able to walk due brain inflammation be able to rehab and walk again? 

As kids are resuming physical activity we have noticed that many are having a hard time. At first, they appear de-conditioned and out-of-shape but it may be more than that. If your child has had symptoms from Covid previously then it is recommended that they have an evaluation by a cardiologist prior to resuming sports! Long haul Covid causes inflammation around vital organs such as the heart or lungs. A simple exam by a cardiologist and possibly an EKG can alert you to a potentially dangerous condition before it is an emergency situation.

SARS-CoV2 is causing illness unlike any other pediatric disease and this virus continues to evolve. Only time will give us the answers we are seeking. What we are learning from the United Kingdom is the rate may be as high as 10% of those children infected with Covid do not get better! They develop long haul covid. They may experience headaches similar to a migraine, shortness of breath, hair loss, brain fog, difficulty concentrating, fatigue and low energy.

We cannot predict this virus so we must protect ourselves and our children from getting it.  This summer keep your kids close to home and your circle small until your child can be vaccinated. Vaccinations for children should be available first quarter of 2022. We all want life to be normal again but this virus is not over for anyone until it is over for everyone. 

Covid Chaos

In a split second it seems that COVID-19 changed all our lives. 

Camp was at the peak in our history—we had the most campers registered and we had just received a verbal commitment for a $500,000 gift toward building a gymnasium.  It was the best of times!

And in just that split second,  it became the worst of times.

Pandemics are stressful.  Fear of a novel or new virus can cause overwhelming anxiety along with other strong emotions.  Add to it the isolation required to stop the spread of the illness and mental health is at risk.

Concern over your own health and the health of your loved ones can become all consuming.  Eating patterns change.  Activities are curbed.  Difficulties in sleep emerge.  As the pandemic draws out disruption in concentration occurs as focus shifts to jobs and financial challenges.  Tempers flare.  The crisis amplifies all previous life problems and many people will self-medicate using food, tobacco, alcohol or drugs in an attempt to numb the pain. 

People respond differently to stress depending on prior experiences, background, financial situation, social support, community involvement and health.  We are connected to others as human beings so how each of us responds affects those around us too.

The best ways to cope with Covid stress and avoid choas is to:

  • Research the “facts”.  It has been stressful for everyone as the guidelines change but that is the problem with a novel or new virus.  We must be cautious and be willing to change as we learn more.
  • Know how to take care of yourself or your loved ones if sick.
  • Know how and where to seek help if needed. 
  • Take care of your emotional health and give yourself credit for surviving in difficult times.  No one is perfect so lower your expectations and give that grace to others. 
  • Recognize that this is one huge storm and we are all in different boats experiencing calm waters and turbulent waters.  It depends on the boat as to what the experience is at any given moment.  We find strength in reaching out to others and drawing them close stabilizing BOTH boats.
  • Turn off the news!  You need a break!  Vow to only watch or listen ONCE A DAY. 
  • Spend some time doing things that you enjoy—garden, read, listen to music, exercise, etc
  • Try yoga, meditation or simply stretch and breathe.
  • Pay attention to the food you are eating.  Avoid junk food.  In a pandemic you need to be in the best shape of your life so fuel your immune system with veggies (especially the green ones), fruits, beans and whole grains.
  • Exercise daily as your body needs to be fit to fight the virus.
  • Connect with others daily.
  • Forgive yourself in the moment.
  • Keep your faith. 

This, too, shall pass.

Boosting your mental health

We all long for life to return to normal, but that is not how life works, it moves on. We will never return to the good ‘ole days. Rather we will evolve to a new normal. Now is the time to consider what we want that to be.

Almost everyone during this unprecedented time in history is feeling a great deal of stress, fear, anxiety and even depression. We feel little control over our individual lives. Yet this is exactly where we should start—we need to take control over that which we can control. We will all be stronger for it!

When life is uncomfortable, the natural tendency is to escape. Most people will retreat and become immobilized in the world of television or computers. This will not help us manage our thoughts and feelings for long. Instead we need healthier coping strategies to survive this unsettled time in our life.

Many regions have gone into lockdown once again due to Covid-19 and we are unsure of what the future holds, but humans are creatures of habit, so you need to plan your habits. You know what to expect when you have a daily routine and it does not take much effort once the routine is established. It is just what you do.

  • Set a firm time of when you wake up and when you go to bed each day. Sleep is the key to a heathy life because it allows for rejuvenation of our mind, body and soul.
  • Follow your normal routine for daily hygiene even if you are not going to work and even if you do not feel like it.
  • Plan your schedule and eat on schedule. Do not go in the kitchen if it is not time for a planned meal or snack. No eating after dinner—The Kitchen Is Closed!
  • Drink ½ your body weight in ounces of water per day. Any other beverage is in addition to this!
  • Exercise releases chemicals in your body that will naturally boost your mood. There is no prescription medicine that comes close to achieving the same results that exercise provides so plan your daily activity time.  Each day should be different.  
  • Aerobic activity especially during these times of Covid is needed every day for 45 minutes to an hour so try walking around the block or go to a park. Try running, biking, dancing or anything that makes you breathe deeply and sweat!
  • Strength training is needed 2-3 times per week. You do not need special equipment. Your own body weight is the best resistance.
  • Stretching and flexibility training is necessary to avoid injury and maintain good form. Just watch the animals as they naturally do this every time they get up.
  • It takes at least 66 days for a new routine to become a habit.  One good choice leads to another!
  • Be kind to yourself. These are tough times, so you need to take care of yourself, especially if you have to take care of others. Your home is your safe space and you can practice self-care by building in specific times to soothe your soul. Make a list of your favorite things that involve all your senses and commit to this daily:
  • Things to see—cards from friends or sending cards to friends, pictures of your family, books from times gone by, travel literature, magazines, video chat or Facetime
  • Things to hear—music from when you were in high school, white noise like thunderstorms or ocean waves, wind chimes, books on tape, talking on the phone
  • Things to smell—candles, aromatherapy with essential oils, other fragrances and lotions
  • Things to taste—making HEALTHY comfort foods including soups and stews to warm your home, herbal teas, holiday baking (but give most away to maintain your own health)
  • Things to touch—blankets, slippers, journaling, writing letters, facials, hot bath/shower, and do not forget hugging the people you live with and your pets!

The greatest enemy is isolation, but you can change that quickly. You can call family and friends, you can Zoom events, you can join an online group and share books or hobbies—you can try new books or hobbies by ordering online those things that you find interesting, you can social distance on a walk and initiate conversations with new people who may need you as much as you need them. Loneliness is not a permanent condition nor is this Covid chaos. Find a way to reach out in service to others. Most nonprofits are struggling terribly and could use your help. It lifts our own spirit when we can help someone else. 

It is a unique time, but there can be good that comes from this bad. Take this opportunity to improve your mental AND physical health by creating your new normal routine. Try some of the items listed and add your own ideas to the list. 

Trying any or all of these coping strategies might help you feel a little bit better. We all must “fake it ‘til we make it”.

And we WILL make it!

Goodbye and good riddance 2020 and HAPPY NEW YEAR to all!!!!

Let’s start 2021 off right! Have you thought about your New Year’s Resolutions?

Are they the same ones you made last year? Lose weight. Exercise More. Eat Healthier. If you are like many of us, these three are at the top of our list and may have been for several years. The fact is, four out of five people who make these New Year’s resolutions will eventually break them before the end of January!

So, here’s an approach that has a far greater chance of success. First think about the reason you want to reach a specific health goal. Wanting to avoid diabetes, heart disease, cancer or Alzheimer’s are admirable goals, but let’s be honest, you do not really believe these bad things will ever happen to you. So, ask yourself, “Why am I really making this resolution? Is it because I want to wear a certain little dress, have more energy, walk my daughter down the aisle at her wedding, hold my grandbabies, climb to a mountain top, swim with dolphins?  Figure out your “why”, then capture how that looks in your mind. Write it down on paper and place it on your refrigerator. Share your resolutions with your loved ones. Motivation comes from within the person, telling someone else makes it a commitment, writing it down will remind you daily and this is how you will reach your goal. 
Here are some baby steps you can take to a healthier lifestyle.

Make just ONE resolution and understand your “why”. You will have success if you concentrate and put your energy into just one resolution.  More than three resolutions and your chances of success in any of them is greatly reduced. This year set yourself up for success and focus on one resolution. At the end of this year you can celebrate without regret knowing that you have successfully improved your life circumstance.

Start your day with steel cut oatmeal topped with flaxseeds and fruit.  Focus on making this one easy healthy meal and let it become a new habit. You do not need to overhaul your entire daily menu at once! If you make one good choice to start the day, then the rest of the day it is easier to make healthier choices. This breakfast choice will keep you full until lunch and will help your body run efficiently.

Always start your lunch and dinner with a soup (watch the sodium) or salad. Americans today eat mostly “fake food” and we are suffering from malnutrition. The highly processed food industry has taken out all the good stuff needed by our bodies and replaced it with potentially harmful substances causing us distress. We need the micronutrients and phytochemicals from plants to avoid dietary deficiencies and over consumption. Food is fuel and we all must choose wisely for our bodies to run well. 

Make over one meal each week. Once oatmeal has become routine for breakfast then improve the health content of one more meal each week until you have 3 weeks of healthier options. Focusing on one meal at a time is easier than trying to overhaul all of your daily eating habits at once.  It is important to cut down on animal protein if you truly want to avoid heart disease and cancer so try to plan for a “Meatless Monday”.

Buy a monitor.  People who track their food intake and activity will be more accountable by wearing a monitor. We all play mind games. For instance, we overestimate the amount of exercise we do and we underestimate the amount of calories we eat. The math is not always easy calculating calories in and those calories we burn, but you should track this to the best of your ability if you want to reach your goals. Just wearing a monitor will remind you to make better choices in all parts of your life.

Try new things. We can get stuck with all things in life. Buy and experiment with unfamiliar fruits and vegetables. Take a new exercise class or participate in a new activity. Meet new people who are trying to do what you are doing. Challenge yourself!

Play with the kids in your life.  It means more exercise for all. Combine this with trying new things. You do not have to be an expert on all things; let these children teach you something new! Play tag, jump rope, dance, learn different sports or just go for a walk or run together.  Even physically interactive video games can be beneficial. 

Make time for rest.  Rest, relaxation and sleep are all components of a healthy lifestyle. Plan to get at least 7 hours of good sleep per night. It takes time for your body to rest and repair.

Be a role model.  Children do as we do and not as we say. Role model these baby steps so the children in your life will grow up not having to make this same resolution.  Because of you, they will be in the habit of living a healthy lifestyle.

Wishing you health, happiness and hope for a better life in 2021! We have all been looking forward to this new year!

News You Can Use This Flu Season With COVID-19 Present

The good news is that the COVID-19 virus today is different from the COVID-19 virus at the beginning of the year. Most of the coronavirus strains seem to have weakened but remains aggressive. And although the death rate is approaching 210,000 people in the United States, this is far less than predicted when it first originated.

The bad news is that flu season is upon us and people will begin staying inside gaining more winter weight. This is not a good combination while COVID-19 rages among us. Most people remain susceptible to this virus and one of the major risk factors involves another unspoken pandemic—obesity! 

Overweight and obesity are major risk factors with COVID-19.  We determine overweight and obesity by using weight and height to calculate the “body mass index” (BMI). Although not absolute, the BMI gives us a good starting point in determining our body make-up. For most Americans, our body fat is out-of-control. The average BMI of an American is roughly 29 which is very close to becoming obese. The most recent data is always about 2 years old so in the year 2018, 32.5 percent of American adults were overweight and 42.4 percent were considered obese. That means that at most only one out of four Americans are a normal body weight! This may explain why COVID-19 has wreaked mayhem on our population.

Simply, obesity puts you in the danger zone not just with COVID-19 but with other obesity related diseases including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. These co-morbidities complicate the course of infection from this virus and that is not expected to change.

So, what can you change TODAY to alter the course of your own destiny with COVID-19? 

First, do not wait for someone else to protect you! All the measures taken so far were to “flatten the curve”. It was never expected that people would forever avoid getting it. We simply wanted to kick the can down the road until we learned more about the virus and we developed treatments. Waiting for a vaccine will not give you the same protection that you can give yourself and it is likely that each of us may get some strain of COVID-19 eventually. So, plan for it and be ready! 
This virus is much like the flu. Even with a vaccine, flu shots are only 40 percent effective because the virus mutates. This is exactly what the COVID-19 virus is doing, so do not bank on the vaccines protecting you. 

Your secret weapon is making good lifestyle choices!
You must start today moving the scale numbers down to a healthy weight—

  • Drink half of your body weight in ounces of water and if still thirsty have coffee or tea. Eliminate all sugary drinks or diet drinks. Eat the fruit instead of drinking juice.
  • Get rid of the junk food in your house. Do not tell yourself that you can never have the junk food ever again as this will make you want it more. Instead make access to it difficult or tell yourself that you will only have it on special occasions but never allow it in your house. 
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables so your body gets the nutrients that it needs to function at peak performance. Food is fuel. We need to increase consumption of good-for-you foods while decreasing room for the bad-for-you foods.
  • Continue to move to the healthier side on the Camp Jump Start Eating Plan continuum by cutting out dairy and decreasing meat, sugar, salt and all oils. 
  • Calculate your fiber intake and aim for 35 -50 grams per day by eating the naturally high fiber foods which will fill you up but also help remove substances that make you sick.

Other tips for this flu season—

  • Continue social distancing, hand washing and wearing masks. 
  • Always think about your masking procedure—wash your hands before putting it on, do not touch the outside of the mask EVER, wash your hands before taking it off and wash them again once the mask is removed. Determine an area to keep the mask and avoid contamination by cleaning and storing as instructed.
  • Get your Vitamin D level checked with a blood test and talk to your doctor about supplementing if you are low. Low Vitamin D levels set you up for viral infections due to your decreased immune response to them.
  • Have zinc lozenges available and use every two hours while awake if a sore throat develops.
  • Continue regular outdoor activity even if it is cold. Healthy activity will cause you to work up a sweat and we need to do this every day for about an hour for maximum benefit. Bodies were meant to move so “get up, get out and move!”
  • Pay attention to your mental health. Seek joy in your life and do the things that you love. Read, listen to music, look at family picture albums, walk, dance, do yoga, meditate and try new things. Find new interests by looking for ideas on the internet. And always remember to balance physical inactivity with exercise time. The best medicine for depression is exercise but if that does not help your mood then seek help.
  • Connect with other people in new ways like Zoom and facetime but use old-fashioned phone calls too.
  • This year get a flu shot! You cannot get the flu from a flu shot. If you got sick after getting a flu shot previously, it is likely that you were exposed prior to receiving the vaccination. This year avoid exposure by practicing social distancing, hand washing and wearing a mask while standing in line for the flu shot.
  • Stay home if you are sick and avoid sick people.

My hope is that COVID-19 and this pandemic encourages us all to value our health. It has given us an opportunity to get fit and embrace a healthy lifestyle. The decision is yours to make and either way you are the only one that will either reap the rewards or suffer the consequences by the way you choose to live. I hope you live well.

Everything You Learned About Protein – Forget it!

Phil* was determined to keep his New Year’s Resolution to go to the gym. He heard a lot of chatter about the importance of protein, especially among the muscle bound gym rats who can dead lift a small nation. He was curious so he asked how he too could have bulging muscles. Their advice was based on good intentions and a desire to help a fellow gym buddy. The problem is, their advice  was not based on sound nutrition and in fact could cause more harm that good. They were sharing what they were told and are now practicing. But it is simply not true. 

The fact is that Americans get far more protein than they need. Americans eat on average 100 grams of protein per day, which is almost double the recommended daily allowance. More is not better!  People eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) often take in an excess of 30 percent (and higher) of their calories from protein. Most of the protein we consciously choose comes from animal products. Yet, this type of protein will deplete calcium from our bones, increase the work on our kidneys, add stress on our heart and promotes cancer. Just to name a few of the concerns surrounding the consumption of excess protein.

We all started at the same point in elementary school where we were taught that the body needs protein to build muscle.  Then we quit learning.  Human nutrition is likely the subject that most people know the least about and this includes many health professionals treating disease caused by excesses and deficiencies in our diet. It is also the very subject that determines how we live our life.

It’s time to re-evaluate what we thought we knew and expand our knowledge from reliable sources whose education and life work revolves around nutrition. 

In 100 calories of beef sirloin or 100 calories of broccoli – which has more protein per calorie? Most people (even some doctors and dietitians) would say beef. But most people would be wrong! The next response typically is “I did not know that broccoli even had protein!” The fact is that broccoli has 15.5% more protein per calorie than the beef. The difference being you cannot over-indulge in plant protein.

But don’t take my word for it-

Joel Fuhrman MD, board certified physician and president of the Nutritional Research Foundation, who was himself an Olympic athlete, asked which has more protein-oatmeal, ham, or a tomato?  According to Dr. Fuhrman, the truth is that they all have about the same protein per calorie! Investigate a little further and you will begin to see the benefits of your new way of thinking.  The ham comes with extra saturated fat and cholesterol which we can agree is not good for you. In addition, the pig used up all the micronutrients that our bodies needed! On the other hand, the oatmeal and tomato have fiber and other powerful micronutrients, so it is a bigger bang for your buck.   

There is an outdated belief that plant protein is incomplete and it must be mixed and matched to obtain what the human body needs.  This again is simply not true.

Almost any assortment of plant foods contains about 30-40 grams of protein per 1,000 calories.  If your caloric needs are met with these plants then your protein needs are automatically met as well.  Focus on eating natural plant-based whole foods then forget about the protein debate. Plant protein is different from animal or processed protein.  Your body will take what it needs from plant protein and get rid of the excess. 

Do athletes need more protein?  If they are training intensely for several hours per day or are heavy weight lifters, this may be true.  But they also need more of everything else like: extra fat, extra carbohydrates, and extra micronutrients!  Their increased appetite will take in the needed additional calories and meet their other dietary needs as long as they are eating healthy plant-based whole foods instead of high calorie junk food. For example, Nathaniel Jordan is a body builder and world-class powerlifter who eats a totally plant-based diet.  He does not supplement with protein powder or worry about his protein intake. He is a world class athlete. Weighing 165 pounds, with about 5 percent body fat, Nathaniel can bench press 275 pounds, squat 445 pounds and deadlift 600 pounds – and counting. Most of the people working out next to you in the gym are not full-time athletes, so if Nathaniel does not need the extra protein then neither do you or your gym buddies. 

What builds muscle?Strength training builds muscle.  If you want to have well defined and big muscles then you have to put in the time just like your well-meaning gym buddies who always seem to be at the gym and work out consistently.   

Back to Phil*Phil is the name of a dear colleague of mine.  He and I would have intense discussions on his protein powder habit.  In the short term, his muscles were big and even though he worked out hard, Phil was convinced that the protein powder was responsible for his success.  I won the debate but lost a dear friend – Phil’s life was cut short when he died of kidney failure at a very young age. His doctors said it was Phil’s type of protein and the excess intake that destroyed his kidneys.  The problem with kidney failure is you may not recognize the symptoms until it is too late. Phil did a lot of good in the world and the world is a bit empty without him. In memory of Phil, I hope someone reading this will re-evaluate their own protein intake. The science is out there if you look at reputable sources without any conflict of interest.  That is the key to all information in the world today…you must follow the money in order to find the truth.