Category Archives: Mind•Body•Soul

The Magic of Getting Lost

As a senior in college, I find the question “what are your plans for after graduation?” completely agonizing. Although a little hectic with senior seminar, work, trying to decode my math homework, and trying to make it to the gym at least once this week, my day is going along just fine. Then, someone dares to ask about what I plan to do with my life after college. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you know exactly what you want to do. If you’re like me, and most other college students, you have absolutely no idea.

So, naturally, I email my advisor immediately to make an appointment on how my life is going nowhere because I can’t seem to figure out what to do with it. As usual, he calms me down and tells me that I’m exactly where I need to be and that it’s completely natural for a college student to have absolutely no idea where they want to take their diploma. As he always says, “Look at me, I came in as a music major and now I’m an English Professor.” However, this time I came to my advisor’s office for my monthly freak out, he had something else to give me; The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman.

As someone who is very organized, a master of To Do Lists, and needs to have a plan for almost everything in her life, this book was perfect for me. The Good Girls Guide to Getting Lost is a coming-of-age memoir about the amazing journey Friedman embarks on when she, a college grad, surprises herself and everyone around her by purchasing a ticket to Ireland. Never having been to Ireland, the good girl who had always done what she was supposed to now finds herself in a strange new country, making friends with a free-spirited Australian who loves nothing more than a good adventure. While abroad, Rachel travels from Ireland, to Australia, and to South America where she discovers her love for travel; all the while finding her true self.

Not only was this book warmhearted, hilarious, and honest, but it offered an amazing insight into what it’s like to travel abroad. This book is a fantastic read and highly recommended for anyone who feels like taking a trip and getting lost for a little bit. Even though my advisor had assured me many times before that it’s perfectly fine to be a little lost right now, I never truly accepted that until I read Rachel Friedman’s memoir. The Good Girls Guide to Getting Lost taught me that it’s okay to be unsure of yourself sometimes. It’s okay to be lost. Rachel shows us that in momentarily escaping some of life’s hardest decisions and living for the moment, getting lost allows us to find ourselves.

 

Written by Taylor Ward

 

“Perfection”

What is perfection? According to Dictionary.com, perfect is defined as “conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type.” However, when it comes to wellness, I am not certain there is an exact definition of an ideal type. What makes one individual healthy and happy may not necessarily work for someone else. Even the guidelines set out by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) regarding nutritional intake and the exercise standards promoted by the ACSM (American Academy of Sports Medicine) are just that: guidelines. Both organizations take large volumes of data from hundreds of thousands of people and create standards that fit the majority of the US population regarding what might constitute optimal health. These standards can’t possibly consider each individual’s unique genetic makeup and personal preferences for a fulfilling life.

So why do we strive for perfection when perfection is at best a guess of what might work for some people? Why do we pressure ourselves into comparing what we feel others are doing that seems to be superior, and quite obviously in our minds, the best way to pursue optimal health? Earth Girl recommends we reframe our thinking when we consider our daily habits and how they impact our wellness.

Instead of berating ourselves because we had a piece of cake at a friend’s birthday party and subsequently deciding we have no self control so we might as well give up on living a healthy lifestyle (because in a perfect world we wouldn’t eat any cake), let’s refocus. Birthday parties are fun and a small celebratory piece of delicious chocolate cake might be what we seek as perfection that day. We celebrated, we ate cake, we enjoyed and then we moved on to a healthy option for dinner later that night.

Instead of relinquishing a regular exercise routine because we missed one run to enjoy an evening out with our family (and in a perfect world we would not skip a run), let’s refocus. Time spent with family can also be active and, certainly, quality time with loved ones has amazing health benefits. Enjoy the spontaneity of the situation and clock your three miles the next day.

We often think that unless we pursue everything to its “perfect” ending, we might as well not pursue it at all. Such a sad way to live the adventure called life! Let’s strive to be perfectly imperfect. Or perhaps, imperfectly perfect. Decide what is best for the situation and use the opportunity to grow and enjoy life!

Earth Girl thinks perfection is what we make it. It looks different for everyone so stay on the adventure that makes you perfectly you!

 

Written by Tina Hatcher of Earth Girl Wellness

What does gluten-free really mean?

Gluten-free is currently one of the major health trends. Every decade or so, we have a new trend with thousands of new products. Some trends have greatly backfired on us such as the “fat-free trend” and the “eat only meat” trend when we found out, after several years of research into the health of individuals following them, that they weren’t so healthy after all. I am not necessarily claiming that gluten-free diets will meet the same ill demise as other trends, but consider this: Gluten-free meal plans can have health benefits, especially to those with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivities. Even individuals with no significant health risks arising from the consumption of gluten can eat gluten-free and maintain a healthy lifestyle. But buyer beware!

I often hear of individuals going on a gluten-free diet so that they can lose weight and “be healthier.” Great! I applaud any efforts to engage in a healthier lifestyle. However, often times, a gluten-free diet is filled with highly processed, low fiber, empty calorie foods. It’s not healthy at all! Gluten-free pancakes, gluten-free cookies, gluten-free toaster pastries certainly fit the bill for a gluten-free diet! But are they healthy? Not so much. Nor are gluten-free pizzas full of preservatives, gluten-free pasta dishes with no veggies or gluten-free sandwiches full of highly processed cheese, mayonnaise and other “unmentionables.” Also consider that many of these processed, gluten-free items are pretty darn expensive! You end up throwing money away on food that has “no life” and certainly isn’t healthy!

So what’s a gluten-free health nut to do? Look at other whole food options that are naturally gluten-free. There are so many healthy, inexpensive options available that no one should feel confined by a gluten-free diet. All fruits and veggies are gluten-free, so indulge in plenty of those! Beans also gluten-free. Grains such as quinoa, rice, buckwheat (in spite of its name) and amaranth are all excellent sources of fiber filled carbohydrates. Nuts and seeds? Gluten-free! A wonderfully healthy and delicious gluten-free plate would include a preferred vegetable (or two!), a healthy dose of protein such as organic chicken breast, and a side of rice or quinoa.

Earth Girl recommends you break free from the highly marketed, gluten-free products lining the grocery store shelves. Focus instead on lovingly grown, naturally gluten-free products that you can find every weekend at most any farmer’s market!

 

Written by Tina Hatcher

Tour Roanoke Outdoor Adventure!

Tour Roanoke was the first group to host food and beverage tours in the Roanoke Valley. Of course, our city is rich with history to explore, and that includes the surrounding mountains and rivers. One of the more spirited ways to learn about and fall in love with southwest Virginia is by taking to the water and the trails, so Tour Roanoke decided to try something new. This year, they offer Kayak the James and Craft Beer Trips with Twin River Outfitters. Each trip includes a six mile paddle on the river to one of three local breweries. This section of the James River includes Class I & II rapids.

“All of our tours–food, beer, wine–it’s all about showcasing local Roanoke. So it was not a difficult leap from that to local recreation. The James River is an appealing location because it’s 60 miles of uninhibited river there. It is one of the longest navigable rivers on the east coast,” says Larry Landolt, founder of Tour Roanoke.

The series of three Sunday trips began last month, but they will host another on July 23. They plan for this month’s adventure to include Great Valley Farm Brewery. Located in Natural Bridge, the brewery is not only a place to appreciate local craft beer, but also offers a remarkable view.

“It’s a really cool brewery. It’s on a nice hill overlooking the mountains. You can sit on the patio and drink a beer and look down to see Safari Park,” explains Larry.

Those participating in tours this summer will be picked up at Target (located near Valley View Mall) or the downtown Visitors Center, and transported to Buchanan, where their trip will begin at Twin River Outfitters. The oldest and most experienced outfitter operating on the Upper James River, they have safely conducted paddle trips since 1978. Sign up fees include equipment and instruction provided by Twin River Outfitters, and one pint or flight from the brewery on the trip.

Southwest Virginia is quickly becoming an outdoor recreation destination, and it’s not hard to understand why. With breweries popping up all over the area, the two leisure activities easily go hand in hand. For Larry and so many others, it is an unforgettable experience to escape and unwind. So, why not also take the opportunity to enjoy it with old friends and make a few new ones on the journey?

Or, as Larry says, “Let’s go do something really fun, drink beer, and talk about it.”

Can’t make it to one of the dates online? No worries! Tour Roanoke is also open to hosting private tours for up to 14 people. It’s the perfect adventure for wedding parties, birthdays, company functions, and more!

Visit www.roanokefoodtours.com for more information on how to schedule your trip, or one of their many tour options in Roanoke.

The 10,000 Steps Goal

Fitness trackers abound these days along with pages of advice encouraging us to walk 10,000 steps. We faithfully don our wristbands and watches hoping to achieve the magical distance of five miles per day. But have you ever stopped to think about why we need those steps? Are 10,000 steps necessary or is it an arbitrary number conjured up to make us obsessive compulsive about walking the last 103 steps needed to reach 10,000 before getting into bed?

Let’s go back a few decades, to say, the 1970’s. If you were alive (and if you weren’t, use your imagination), think of all the things you did throughout the day that involved taking steps. To open the garage door, you had to get out of your car, walk to the garage door, open it, walk back to your car, pull in, then walk back and close the garage door before entering your house. Hmm…maybe 50 steps involved? In order to change the channel on the television (which only had 4 channels to begin with), you had to walk to the TV, change the channel, then walk back to the couch. Another 20 steps. To fill a prescription, you had to get out of your car, walk into the pharmacy, wait for the prescription to be filled (during which time you probably walked around the store because they didn’t have convenient chairs to sit in while you waited), get your prescription, and walk back to your car. Log another 150 steps, at least. We were naturally walking roughly five miles just to accomplish the tasks needed for daily living.

Now, welcome to the 21st century. We use the drive thru at coffee shops for our daily cup of joe. We use riding lawn mowers to cut our grass. We use an elevator to take us up two flights of stairs! These “activities” require no steps. We simply do not have to walk like we used to. We have to schedule time and add “taking steps” to our daily agenda.

Five miles, or 10,000 steps, is a sweet spot for health. When comparing the population at large, individuals that average 10,000 steps per day tend to be healthier than individuals that walk less. You can, however, stop short of berating yourself if you are a few steps shy of your daily goal. Some days your sneakers will pound the pavement with more than 10,000 steps. Some days your shoes will have a little less wear. Look at the bigger picture and see how your steps average out for a week. Remember, life does allow a day or two of leisure on occasion.

Earth Girl’s recommendation is to keep your fitness trackers on, your shoes tied, and your ambition ready to tackle every step of your day!

 

Written by Tina Hatcher

Get Outside in Virginia State Parks!

Virginia State Parks provide wonderful opportunities for those who enjoy being outdoors and are looking for ways to use their time outside to give back to the community. Although almost all of the volunteers are users of Virginia State Parks, there are groups that sign up with members who have never visited them before. Both levels of experience are welcome, as all volunteers go through orientation and are supervised.

“There are volunteer opportunities that work for different age groups,” says Andrea Hasenfus, Camp Host Program Manager. “Retirees may be able to do a Wednesday gardening at noon, while someone who works a full-time job may be available to do trail maintenance on the weekends.”

There are also opportunities for young people. The Youth Conservation Corps is a great program for teens 14-17 who want to learn about conservation and working in parks. They spend three weeks living and working in parks around the state, supervised by college-age adults. Although the deadline to participate in this program has passed, visitors to the park may still get to see the group in action this summer. This is a competitive program. In 2017, 800 applications were received to fill 170 spots. If your child is interested in being involved in the future, it may be a good idea to sign up to volunteer and get some experience before the 2018 application process starts on December 1.

Joining a Friends Group is another way to contribute. It takes a lot of work to keep up state parks, and Friends Groups play a huge part in building and maintaining trails, helping staff visitor centers, working on educational outreach programs, and raising funds for park projects and facilities. There are several parks with Friends Groups looking for members. Being part of one of these groups has the potential to create a lasting impact for generations to come, as they also help with advocacy for the invaluable resources offered through the parks.

“Sometimes the most help, if you can’t put your elbow grease in on the trail, is to be an advocate. Whether you are a member of a friends group, or used to doing advocacy in the community, advocates are always great to have on our behalf.” explains Andrea.

For those who want a more immersive and active experience, the AmeriCorps program engages its members in meaningful service in Virginia State Parks by providing extensive training and professional development opportunities. They go through grants, and work on natural resource management in the parks. Some of them last all summer, and those who complete them receive an education award at the end.

There will be a big opportunity for volunteers on June 3 for Clean the Bay Day/National Trails Day. In fact, every park in the Virginia State Parks system will have a need for help that day. Those who wish to volunteer will not have to sign up through the website to be a one-time volunteer for the event. Simply show up at your local park and offer to lend a hand.

Visit www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks for a full list of parks in your area. Click on individual parks to see what they need.

Go Red for Women Luncheon

Heart disease is the number one killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths every year. The warning signs are not the same for women as they are for men. They can include chest discomfort, shortness of breath, and discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Heart disease and stroke do not discriminate by age, ethnicity or background. It is important to know your numbers and do what you can to prevent permanent or fatal damage from both–even if it means going to the hospital at an inconvenient time to make sure everything is okay.

Learn more about how to stay heart healthy and your personal wellness by visiting your doctor and www.goredforwomen.org.

You can support the life-saving efforts of the American Heart Association by attending their Go Red for Women Luncheon on May 25 at 11 a.m at the Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Ijeoma N. Okogbue of Carilion Clinic Cardiology. The event will also include a fashion show by Macy’s, a networking reception with a silent auction, and heart-healthy living demos, education, and lunch.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit their website or call 540-989-2810.

Women and Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease has a striking impact on the lives of individuals, but it can be especially strong for women–whether they are living with the disease or they are caregivers, relatives, friends, or loved ones of those directly affected.

So, why do we feel that women are impacted more significantly than their male counterparts? The answer is that we do not completely understand the why but we do know that Alzheimer’s dementia disproportionately affects women in a variety of ways. According to Alzheimer’s Association research, women are 2.5 times more likely to provide 24-hour care for an affected relative than males. Many of them have been forced to quit work or reduce their work schedules to do so. This can have a long-term effect on them financially, emotionally, and physically.

In addition, women make up nearly two-thirds of the more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s today.  The Alzheimer’s Association states in their 2016 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, that an estimated 3.3 million women aged 65 and older in the United States have this disease.

Researchers are passionately working to determine if or why women develop the disease at a higher rate than men. Even though women live longer than men and age is a significant risk factor, researchers suggest that longevity alone may not account for the unequal disease burden that women face. Studies have revealed that there may be distinct biological and genetic factors shaping how the disease develops and progresses in women.

The Alzheimer’s Association concludes that more research is needed to understand the different roles that genetics, hormones and lifestyle factors play in Alzheimer’s in men and women. Several factors now in the spotlight that are potentially modifiable are years of education, occupation, exercise, diet, stress, anxiety and sleep. A better understanding of these differences will be extremely important as we move forward with more effective strategies for treating, preventing, and diagnosing Alzheimer’s.

With all the unknowns, we can say that Alzheimer’s disease remains one of the most critical public health issues in America. The Alzheimer’s Association is the leader in advocating for public policy issues and critical research funding. Call 1.800.272.3900 or www.alz.org to see how you can join the fight.

Resources:
Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures reports and excerpts from “Sex biology contributions to vulnerability to Alzheimer’s disease”: A think tank convened by the Women’s Alzheimer’s Research Initiative.  The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Submitted by Annette Clark, MsG, Alzheimer’s Association, Family Services Director