Coping With Pet Loss: Try Walking

Pet loss and coping

RIP my friend

Grief is what we feel at loss. The loss of a person, a four-legged buddy, or your past way of life. Everyone grieves and copes differently. But even though we all grieve in different ways, we all need to cope. Walking can be a coping tool for all loss, including pet loss. As hard as it may be to start walking to cope with grief, it’s a tool that most of us can use as we cope with loss of any sort.

Planned walking for coping with pet loss

I walk regularly. Walking for me is usually for my physical self-care. But, walking can be for mental health as well. On this day, walking is for my mental well-being. I got on the treadmill after being away from it for a few days. After 2 miles, I got off the treadmill. Then, I got ready for the next exercise event I had mentally planned so I could start to feel better. I had suffered yet another pet loss that I needed to heal from.

Over the weekend, I lost my seemingly healthy 12 year old cat. He was a very cool cat that acted like a dog. Everyone loved him, including all my granddaughters. He is the third fur baby I have lost in 3 years. His death was very unexpected as he had passed his vet check-up less than a month ago with flying colors. He was eating, drinking, playing and being his normal self. I have a hole in my heart. I haven’t really gotten over the loss of my last two pets, and was cherishing the “wellness” of my remaining fur baby.

My planned strategy

What was my planned exercise event? I got off the treadmill and went to a canine rescue shelter that allows volunteers to walk the dogs. I knew I needed to do this for my mental health to help healing. The walking of the shelter dog was purely selfish. But, I just knew it would help me and help whatever dog was allowed to escape for the 30 minute walk. It was a calculated move for my mind that was a win-win. I can’t wait to go back.

Walking for mental health

So how does walking help our mental health and just plain old coping? Here are some reasons researchers have suggested walking can help lift our mood and help our mental health.

Fatigue. Regular walking can actually alleviate physical fatigue. Physical fatigue begets mental fatigue. I know when I have experienced severe emotional stress, I always feel physically exhausted. As exhaustion lessens, our minds are better able to refocus and cope with life.

Better sleep. We don’t need to be a scientist to know that a good night’s sleep can be magical. A good sleep allows our mind to start healing and lets us get through the next day more effectively. Better sleep casts a better light on EVERYTHING life throws at us.

Hormones. Some hormones will be increased and others lowered. The shifts in the hormones are of benefit to our brain. Walking releases mood lifting hormones called endorphins. Endorphins reduce pain and improve our mood. At the same time, mild exercise can decrease the stress related hormone called cortisol. While we need cortisol, we don’t need the blood levels that come along with chronic stress.

And walking in sunshine? Even better! The sun will allow your body to make vitamin D which will boost serotonin levels. Increased serotonin levels is a known mood booster.

RIP my Louis. You loved hanging with me by the computer and the treadmill. We had a nice visit in Michigan on the porch just before you left me. I am so glad you were able to see all the birds and do your goofy chirp.

For more excellent tips on how to manage grief from pet loss, see the suggestions from the American Veterinary Medical  Association.

Grieving moves in stages. The passing of time helps our wounds. Have you walked or turned to physical activity to help soothe the process? Please share.

 

 

 

A Strong Diet: Food That Pumps You Up

Man Lifting Weights

In the wake of America’s growing waistline, fitness trends have spread like wildfire throughout the nation. While more people are hitting the gym and attending their local Zumba class, it’s just as important to pump up your diet as it is to pump up your gym time. Learning about what foods keep you lean and strong is imperative as more processed foods flood mainstream marketplaces.

Bulking up

When you’re ready to bulk up, foods high in protein are your friend.  There are complete and incomplete proteins in the food we eat. Animal products are high in complete proteins.  Lean beef, chicken, egg whites, low-fat cheese, and skim milk are all categorized as complete proteins in that they have all the essential amino acids that your body needs to build muscle mass. Because proteins we ingest are not stored, and amino acids are recycled, even proteins that are not complete-like those consumed from plant based foods- can contribute significant amounts of protein to your diet.

How much do you need?

Proteins should be consumed in grams per day depending on your weight. For example, if you weigh 135 pounds, you should be eating about 50 grams as a non-athlete, but as an athlete, your requirements could increase to as much as 105 grams (most Americans already eat this amount of protein and may not need to bump their intake up). Competitive weight lifters need to be mindful of not only their protein intake, but also their carbohydrate and calorie intake.

Role of carbohydrates

Contrary to popular belief, carbohydrates can be your friend when you’re looking to be beach body ready. Carbs are essentially sugars that give you the energy to start and finish your workouts. The complex carbohydrates in oats, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and whole wheat pasta release their energy more slowly. This provides your body with a constant source of energy to pull those final shoulder presses from. Stay away from simple carbs that are commonly found in candy, soda pop, pre-sweetened cereals, and some high sugar energy bars. If you think about foods your dentist would like you to skip, you can more easily identify foods higher in these simple carbs. Getting enough of the complex carbs in your daily diet spares protein to work to assist in building and repairing your muscle!

Breakfast

Taking time to eat breakfast in the morning will help to kick-start your metabolism. Making an omelet with leafy greens or vegetables, and adding a small bowl of oatmeal is perfect for regulating your sugar levels. Even adding a glass of reduced/low fat milk or cottage cheese with fruit is a much better option than a trip to Starbucks. You’re preparing your body to face the day ahead of you and starting your digestion early in the day. This will help you transition from larger meals at the end of the day to a larger breakfast, followed by a smaller lunch and humble dinner.

Staying hydrated

As you move through your daily grind and workout, don’t just grab a Gatorade or so-called power drink! Stick with water, and stay hydrated all day long. Properly hydrated muscles will recover more quickly. The recommended daily intake for water is between 2.5 and 3 liters. If you’re not used to drinking water consistently throughout the day, start with breakfast and bump up your fluid intake. Have a glass of water along with your glass of orange juice. Bringing a travel cup to work or school is also helpful. When you drink water throughout the day, you help your digestive system process food more efficiently.

Gaining muscle mass doesn’t stop at the gym. Being disciplined and committed to the improvement of your overall health will only allow you to achieve your goal quicker.  A regimented weight training schedule and proper nutrition will help you feel and look better in no time!

This post was written for Chew on this blog by Dr. David Kulla. Dr. Kulla is a licensed New York Chiropractor and a nutritionist as well as owner of http://synergywellnessny.com in Manhattan.

5 Tech Strategies for Successful Weight Loss

Sample view of Nutrihand, my client online food tracker

If you just ate too many jelly beans and chocolate bunnies, consider using some tech strategies to help. With some time ahead of us before the next holiday, it’s a great time to start tracking your diet and physical activity. Tracking your food intake allows you to avoid denial about your calorie consumption. And, it keeps you honest with yourself on a daily basis.

If weight loss is your goal, then the only way you will reach that goal is to somehow eat fewer calories than your body needs. Or, use more energy than you consume through food. To lose one pound of fat per week, you must go into a 3500 calorie deficit per week. By doing so either with less food, more exercise, or a combination of less food and more exercise you will see the scale change! Crossing your fingers and “hoping” the weight comes off is a rather common occurrence. But being systematic with your focus can mean the difference between hoping and happening.

Some of my favorite for weight loss tools

Use the Internet for nutrition information

If you “must” dine out often, you need to be aware of the nutrients and calories you are eating away from home. While a full service restaurant is not required by law to provide the calorie content of its meals, franchises with 20 or more locations are. This is very helpful to anyone who frequents Panera to P.F. Chang’s. Check the nutrition information prior to dining at franchises to make better choices.

Online food documentation

Nutrihand is one of the online food tracking platforms I now offer my clients. Clients log in their food intake and day-to-day, we can both see if goals are met. Goals may revolve around calories, but also other specific nutrients. Carbohydrate, fat, protein, calcium, potassium, sodium, and fiber can all be assessed. There are similar programs on the Internet to serve a similar purpose. It’s worth your while to experiment with a format that works for you.

Using smartphones for food related decisions

At this point, there are so many great smartphone apps on the market. And, more become available daily. These apps allow for tracking food and calories on the spot. Others track your physical activity like a pedometer. We can even find apps to help us make better nutritional decisions at the grocery store. With the smartphone camera, you can even take photos of foods to share with your favorite dietitian for further discussion.

A Pedometer

While basic pedometers are not exactly high-tech, they can be effective for assessing baseline physical activity. The more expensive pedometers allow for downloading of collected data (steps, aerobic steps, calories, distance) to your computer. This allows your data to be documented, graphed, and saved on your computer. Then it’s available for review or sharing with your dietitian.

BodyMedia Armband

This is the ultimate assessment tool for determining how many calories you require for weight management. Worn on the left upper arm, it measures your calorie burn in a 24-hour period. It seems very accurate and after the collected data is downloaded, you are able to look at your energy expenditure in sections of the day. This allows you to evaluate the activities and movements which are most effective at burning calories. Knowing this information will help you lose weight. Furthermore, sleep quality is assessed. Current research suggests sleep quality is correlated to weight management.

With the help of these self-monitoring tools, your behavior and diet will be consistent and effective enough to help you reach your weight goals.

Do you have any special weight loss tech tools you would care to share?