Going the Mediterranean Eating Style for 2019

By Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, Good Housekeeping Institute | What makes this “diet” so great is that it’s a lifestyle, not a traditional weight-loss plan that has you counting calories or measuring portions. It’s all about enjoying meals with friends and loved ones, savoring each flavor, indulging in delicious, quality items like flavorful cheeses and desserts, and making time for plenty of physical activity (ah, to be walking on the beaches of Greece right now!) (Image, Pixabay).

It’s the most popular time of the year to go on a diet. But in my book, better health and weight loss begin not with fad diets but with choices that, over time, become habits — supporting lifelong change through tangible, actionable strategies that you can adapt for any scenario. (Hint: You can start by setting boundaries.)

First, here are my basics for a healthy approach to better eating habits:

  • Pack on the produce: veggies and fruit
  • Prioritize good-for-you fats: plant-based oils and other unsaturated fats
  • Eat more seafood: fatty fish plus crustaceans and mollusks
  • Choose 100% whole grains: farro, buckwheat, bulgur, wheat, and oats
  • Enjoy conscious indulgences: chocolate, sweets, and baked goods in moderation
  • Think inclusive vs. exclusive: full-fat and low-fat dairy, prioritizing quality over quantity
  • Provide enrichment of multiple varieties: cooking with herbs and spices, enjoying favorite restaurants, and trying new flavors

What makes this “diet” so great is that it’s a lifestyle, not a traditional weight-loss plan that has you counting calories or measuring portions. It’s all about enjoying meals with friends and loved ones, savoring each flavor, indulging in delicious, quality items like flavorful cheeses and desserts, and making time for plenty of physical activity (ah, to be walking on the beaches of Greece right now!).

You’ll fill up on tons of veggies, fruit, 100% whole grains, pulses (like beans, chickpeas, peas, and lentils); choose lean protein like seafood, eggs, and some meat; and savor sweets and higher-in-saturated-fat choices (Prosciutto di Parma, anyone?!) in smaller amounts.

While there’s no “restriction” on this plan, the predominant foods in it promote both health and weight loss or management. The idea is to fill up on nutritious items in order to indulge, consciously. This approach naturally limits the amount of ultra-processed foods you’ll eat, which tend to have more sodium, saturated fat, and added sugar. Since the Mediterranean eating style prioritizes enjoyment of your whole dining experience, flavorful ingredients are at the forefront so you’ll never feel deprived.

The Bottom Line
The best diets promote inclusivity over exclusivity and rely heavily on produce. Highly restrictive diets depend on immediate weight loss to motivate you — but some may backfire entirely and others may leave you fully missing out on nutrients and experiences. Think about what works best for you before trying any new approach to eating, and use that as your framework for building healthier eating habits that stick.

For more ideas, tips, tricks, and healthier eating guides that’ll help you stick to your health-focused resolutions, check out our nutrition director’s new book: Dressing on the Side (and Other Diet Myths Debunked): 11 Science-Based Ways to Eat More, Stress Less, and Feel Great About Your Body

Jaclyn LondonJaclyn London is a registered dietitian with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Northwestern University and a Master of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University, Jaclyn “Jackie” London handles all of Good Housekeeping’s nutrition-related content, testing, and evaluation.



Spirit-Filled Counselor Offers Tip to Improve Your Emotional Health in 30 Days

by Dr. Doug Weiss | You can feel! Your body can feel! You can learn to feel, and you can learn as much as you want. To help you move more toward emotional fitness, carve out 15 minutes a day to do five mimes. In one month, your ability to feel emotions in your body will expand greatly (image: Pixabay).

In the ’70s, there was a media fad I remember fondly: Marcel Marceau. He became the rage for quite a while, making appearances on numerous talk shows and in big media events.

What Marcel Marceau did was quite simple, but he was simply amazing at doing what he did. He would captivate audiences everywhere with his ability to mime.

When he did his skits, you both saw and felt what he was doing. A mime does not talk, but instead uses the body and face to communicate and express emotion. I remember one skit where an event made the mime sad. His sadness was so well expressed it felt completely real. Decades later, I still remember that expression.

Mime has much to do with emotional fitness. Miming will become a critical tool in your tool kit as you accelerate in your emotional fitness. Miming allows your body to feel the emotion passively, but as in the last exercise, it also allows you to fully engage and expand your body’s ability to experience and express an emotion. Since this is something you need to experience in order to understand, I am going to ask you to do some miming.

Before we begin, honestly assess which one of the following two categories you are in:

The Wishers Category: These wish they could be emotionally fit. They wish they could feel or master their emotions but they are unwilling to do the work. A weight wisher is someone who wants to lose weight but does not change habits or do the work necessary to lose weight. Weight wishers will not lose weight. They want magic to change them instead of taking personal responsibility to make changes to get the real results.

The Wanters Category: These people make a plan, do the work and keep doing the work until the results arrive. Unlike the wishers, they take personal responsibility, refuse to make excuses, and so always get the results they want. I believe that if you are this far in the book, you must want emotional fitness.

When you mime, it is best for you to be alone so you can in no way be inhibited or self-conscious. Put your body in a position to express an emotion. For example, if you were expressing excitement, you might stand up with your arms raised while you let excitement run through your entire body.

You can sit, stand, lie down or put your body in any position to express an emotion. Remember, acting as a mime would, you will use your face to express the emotion. So much so that if someone were to look at you, they could probably guess the emotion you are experiencing.

It is important that when you actually feel the emotion in your body that you hold the feeling for 15 seconds (make sure to use a timer). Then take a five-second break. After the break, go back to that same emotion until you feel it in your body again. Repeat the miming process until you feel it in your body for 15 seconds. Then take your last break and stop miming the emotion.

For example, first we are miming the feeling of excitement. Excited (held for 15 seconds), break, excited (held for 15 seconds), break, excited (held for 15 seconds). As you do each mime, try to allow your body to express the emotion more each time.

This exercise is powerful for you and your body. Over time, you can go through every emotion on the Feelings list, and you will be extremely connected to your emotions—more connected than you ever imagined.

Find a place to be by yourself, locate a way to time yourself, and then practice miming the six emotions listed below. We will do the same six feelings you just completed in the feeling the emotion exercise.

Calm

Frustration

Boldness

Amusement

Creativity

Eagerness

You can feel! Your body can feel! You can learn to feel, and you can learn as much as you want. To help you move more toward emotional fitness, carve out 15 minutes a day to do five mimes. In one month, your ability to feel emotions in your body will expand greatly. You will no longer fear emotions; you will be able to actually feel them. You can become more emotionally confident and expressive in just 30 days

Doug Weiss, Ph.D., is a nationally known author, speaker and licensed psychologist. He is the executive director of Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Amazon Best Seller including, Emotional Fitness. You may contact Dr. Weiss via his website, drdougweiss.com or on his Facebook, by phone at 719-278-3708 or through email at heart2heart@xc.org.



12 Tips for Holiday Eating

by Patrick J. Skerrett | By practicing a bit of defensive eating and cooking, you can come through the holidays without making “go on a diet” one of your New Year’s resolutions. (Images: Cooking Light, Chickpea Salad Boats.)

It’s easy to get swept up in the holiday season. This combination of religious and national celebrations can help keep the cold winter away. But the feasts and parties that mark it can tax the arteries and strain the waistline. By eating just 200 extra calories a day — a piece of pecan pie and a tumbler of eggnog here, a couple latkes and some butter cookies there — you could pack on two to three pounds over this five- to six-week period. That doesn’t sound like much, except few people shed that extra weight in the following months and years.

You don’t need to deprive yourself, eat only boring foods, or take your treats with a side order of guilt. Instead, by practicing a bit of defensive eating and cooking, you can come through the holidays without making “go on a diet” one of your New Year’s resolutions.

1. Budget wisely. Don’t eat everything at feasts and parties. Be choosy, and spend calories judiciously on the foods you love.

2. Take 10 before taking seconds. It takes a few minutes for your stomach’s “I’m getting full” signal to get to your brain. After finishing your first helping, take a 10-minute break. Make conversation. Drink some water. Then recheck your appetite. You might realize you are full, or want only a small portion of seconds.

3. Distance helps the heart stay healthy. At a party, don’t stand next to the food table. That makes it harder to mindlessly reach for food as you talk. If you know you are prone to recreational eating, pop a mint or a stick of gum so you won’t keep reaching for the chips.

4. Don’t go out with an empty tank. Before setting out for a party, eat something so you don’t arrive famished. Excellent pre-party snacks combine complex carbohydrates with protein and unsaturated fat, like apple slices with peanut butter or a slice of turkey and cheese on whole-wheat pita bread.

5. Drink to your health. A glass of eggnog can set you back 500 calories; wine, beer, and mixed drinks range from 150 to 225 calories. If you drink alcohol, have a glass of water or juice-flavored seltzer in between drinks.

6. Avoid alcohol on an empty stomach. Alcohol increases your appetite and diminishes your ability to control what you eat.

7. Put on your dancing (or walking) shoes. Dancing is a great way to work off some holiday calories. If you are at a family gathering, suggest a walk before the feast or even between dinner and dessert.

8. Make room for veggies. At meals and parties, don’t ignore fruits and vegetables. They make great snacks and even better side or main dishes — unless they’re slathered with creamy sauces or butter.

9. Be buffet savvy. At a buffet, wander ’round the food table before putting anything on your plate. By checking out all of your options, you might be less inclined to pile on items one after another.

10. Don’t shop hungry. Eat before you go shopping so the scent of Cinnabons or caramel corn doesn’t tempt you to gobble treats you don’t need.

11. Cook from (and for) the heart. To show family and friends that you really care about them, be creative with recipes that use less butter, cream, lard, vegetable shortening, and other ingredients rich in saturated fats and cholesterol. Prepare turkey or fish instead of red meat.

12. Pay attention to what really matters. Although food is an integral part of the holidays, put the focus on family and friends, laughter and cheer. If balance and moderation are your usual guides, it’s okay to indulge or overeat once in a while.

Patrick J. Skerrett is former editor of the Harvard Health blog and former Executive Editor of Harvard Health Publishing. Before that, he was editor of the Harvard Heart Letter for ten years. He is the co-author of Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Guide to Healthy Eating, The Fertility Diet, and several other books on health and science. His work has appeared in Newsweek, Popular Science magazine, Science magazine, the Boston Globe, and elsewhere. He earned a B.A. in biology from Northwestern University and an M.A. in biology from Washington University in St. Louis.
    

The Benefits and Harms of Screening Tests

National Institutes of Health (NIH) | Some screenings can reduce your risk of dying from the disease. But sometimes, experts say, a test may cause more harm than good (image: radiologyinfo.org).
Catching chronic health conditions early—even before you have symptoms—seems like a great idea. That’s what screening tests are designed to do. Some screenings can reduce your risk of dying from the disease. But sometimes, experts say, a test may cause more harm than good. Before you get a test, talk with your doctor about the possible benefits and harms to help you decide what’s best for your health.

Screening tests are given to people who seem healthy to try to find unnoticed problems. They’re done before you have any signs or symptoms of the disease. They come in many forms. Your doctor might take your health history and perform a physical exam to look for signs of health or disease. They can also include lab tests of blood, tissue, or urine samples or imaging procedures that look inside your body.

“I wouldn’t say that all people should just simply get screening tests,” says Dr. Barnett S. Kramer, a cancer prevention expert at NIH. “Patients should be aware of both the potential benefits and the harms when they’re choosing what screening tests to have and how often.”

Teams of experts regularly look at all the evidence about the balance of benefits and harms of different screening tests. They develop guidelines (link is external) for who should be screened and how often.

Choosing whether you should be screened for a health condition isn’t always easy. Screening suggestions are often based on your age, family health history, and other factors. You might be screened for many conditions, including diabetes, sexually transmitted infections, heart disease, osteoporosis, obesity, depression, pregnancy issues, and cancers.

Every screening test comes with its own risks. Some procedures can cause problems like bleeding or infection. A positive screening test can lead to further tests that come with their own risks.

“Most people who feel healthy are healthy,” says Kramer. “So a negative test to confirm that you’re healthy doesn’t add much new information.” But mistakenly being told that you do or don’t have a disease can be harmful. It’s called a misdiagnosis.

A false negative means that you’re told you don’t have the disease, but you do. This can cause problems if you don’t pay attention to symptoms that appear later on because you think you don’t have the disease. A false positive means that you’re told you may have the disease, but you don’t. This can lead to unnecessary worry and potentially harmful tests and treatments that you don’t need.

Even correctly finding a disease may not improve your health or help you live longer. You may learn you have an untreatable disease long before you would have. Or find a disease that never would have caused a problem. This is called overdiagnosis. Some cancers, for example, never cause symptoms or become life-threatening. But if found by a screening test, it’s likely to be treated. Cancer treatments can have harsh and long-lasting side effects. There’s no way to know if the treatment will help you live longer.

An effective screening test may decrease your chances of dying of the condition. Most have not been shown to lengthen your overall life expectancy, Kramer explains. Their usefulness varies and may depend on your risk factors, age, or treatment options.

If you’re at risk for certain health conditions—because of a family history or lifestyle exposures, like smoking—you may choose to have screenings more regularly. If you’re considering a screening, talk with your health care provider.



6 Strategies for Preventing Disease

National Institutes of Health (NIH) | Taking steps to protect your health is the best way to prevent disease and other conditions. Health screenings, vaccines, and guarding yourself from germs and bugs can help keep you feeling your best (image: Paul Bischoff).

1. Get screened for diseases
Some screenings can reduce your risk of dying from a disease. But sometimes, experts say, a test may cause more harm than good. Before you get a test, talk with your doctor about the possible benefits and harms to help you decide what’s best for your health.

To learn about screening tests, ask your doctor:

  • What’s my chance of dying of the condition if I do or don’t have the screening?
  • What are the harms of the test? How often do they occur?
  • How likely are false positive or false negative results?
  • What are possible harms of the diagnostic tests if I get a positive screening result?
  • What’s the chance of finding a disease that wouldn’t have caused a problem?
  • How effective are the treatment options?
  • Am I healthy enough to take the therapy if you discover a disease?
  • What are other ways to decrease my risk of dying of this condition? How effective are they?

2. Guard against germs
For nearly a century, bacteria-fighting drugs known as antibiotics have helped to control and destroy many of the harmful bacteria that can make us sick. But these drugs don’t work at all against viruses, such as those that cause colds or flu. Learn how to protect yourself against germs in the environment.

To block harmful germs:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • If you’re sick, make sure your doctor has a clear understanding of your symptoms. Discuss whether an antibiotic or a different type of treatment is appropriate for your illness.
  • If antibiotics are needed, take the full course exactly as directed. Don’t save the medicine for a future illness, and don’t share with others.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle—including proper diet, exercise, and good hygiene—to help prevent illness, thereby helping to prevent the overuse or misuse of medications.

3. Protect your body’s bacteria
Microscopic creatures—including bacteria, fungi, and viruses—can make you ill. But what you may not realize is that trillions of microbes are living in and on your body right now. Most don’t harm you at all. We tend to focus on destroying bad microbes. But taking care of good ones may be even more important.

To protect good microbes:

  • Don’t pressure your doctor to give you antibiotics. They may cause more harm than good.
  • Know when to wash your hands—for example, when preparing food and before eating.
  • Don’t use antibacterial products you don’t need. Antibacterial soaps have little or no health benefit. And antibacterial versions of household products have not been shown to reduce your risk of infection.
  • Don’t go overboard with hand sanitizers. They’re useful in health care settings, but hand washing is a better option in most situations.
  • Experiment with different skin moisturizers to see which work best for you.

4. Protect yourself and everyone else from disease
We share more than food and culture within our homes and communities. We can also spread disease. Luckily, we live in a time when vaccines can protect us from many of the most serious illnesses. Staying current on your shots helps you—and your neighbors—avoid getting and spreading disease.

To protect yourself and others from preventable diseases, stay up-to-date on shots for these 16 vaccine-preventable diseases:

  • Bacterial meningitis
  • Chickenpox
  • Diphtheria
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b
  • Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B
  • Cervical & other cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Influenza (flu)
  • Measles, Mumps, and Rubella
  • Pertussis (whooping cough)
  • Pneumococcal pneumonia
  • Rotavirus diarrhea
  • Shingles
  • Tetanus

5. Prevent mosquito-borne illnesses
Most mosquito bites are relatively harmless. The itchy bumps often last for just a day or two after a mosquito has punctured your skin. But if the mosquito is carrying certain germs, like viruses or parasites, these pathogens might enter your blood during the bite and make you sick. But we can all take simple steps to avoid getting bit by those blood-sucking insects.

To avoid mosquito bites:

  • Use insect repellents. Products containing DEET, picaridin, lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or IR3535 can be applied to skin. Follow label instructions.
  • Cover up. When outside, wear long sleeves, pants, and socks. Mosquitoes may bite through thin fabric, so spray thin clothes with an EPA-registered repellent like permethrin. Don’t apply permethrin directly to skin.
  • Mosquito-proof your home. Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep insects out. Use air conditioning if you have it.
  • Get rid of mosquito breeding sites. Empty standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, and birdbaths on a regular basis.

6. Block tick bites and Lyme disease
When warm weather arrives, you might get the urge to walk barefoot through the grass. But before you stroll through your lawn or head out on a hiking trail, you’ll want to protect yourself and your loved ones from ticks that often lurk in tall grass, thick brush, and wooded areas. Many ticks carry disease, so do what you can to keep ticks from taking a bite out of you.

To prevent tick bites and tick-borne diseases:

  • Help keep ticks off your skin by wearing long sleeves, long pants, and long socks.
  • Ward off ticks by using an insect repellant that contains at least 20% DEET (for the skin) or permethrin (for clothes).
  • Avoid ticks by walking in the center of trails and steer clear of tall vegetation.
  • If you’ve been in an area where ticks are common, bathe or shower as soon as possible, and wash or tumble your clothes in a dryer on high heat.
  • Check your body carefully for ticks. They dig and burrow into the skin before they bite and feed.
  • Removing ticks right away can help prevent disease.
  • If you develop a rash or fever after removing a tick, see your doctor.


Fats: Can they be healthful?

by Yvette Brazier | Reviewed by Natalie Olsen, RD, LD, ACSM EP-C | People often seek to avoid fats when they want to lose weight, but not all fats are bad, and we need some fats to stay healthy.
Plant-based fats such as olive oil, for example, are rich in antioxidants and may be powerful cancer fighters. Without fats, the body cannot absorb some necessary nutrients.

Healthful fats include plant oils like extra-virgin olive oil, flax seed oil, sesame oil, walnut oil, and fats from whole plant sources such as olives, nuts, seeds, and avocado.

Fast facts about fats

  • Different types of fat can be either healthful or bad for you.
  • Healthful fats can protect against cancer and help with the absorption of nutrients.
  • Unsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids can be healthful, including omega 3, which is found in fish.
  • Trans fats should be avoided.
  • You can reduce your health risks by replacing good fats with bad fats in the diet.

Health benefits of fats

Oily fish, avocados, and certain types of nuts are vital sources of healthful fats.

Fat gets a bad rap, and we often try to avoid it. However, fats play a key role in the diet. They not only supply energy, but also help us absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, and carotenoids. They also provide, or help the body to synthesize, essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. All body tissues need these to function normally.

A deficiency in these fatty acids can lead to a range of disorders, including:

  • liver and kidney problems
  • reduced growth rates
  • decreased immune function
  • depression
  • dry skin

Dietary guidelines recommend that an adult should get 20 to 35 percent of their energy intake from fat, and limit saturated fat to less than 10 percent of total calories. A 2,000-calorie-a-day diet should aim for 44 to 78 grams of total fat and no more than 22 grams of saturated fat to be within these guidelines.

The average American adult gets around 33 percent of their calories from fat. Much of the fat in the American diet comes from animal fat.

An excess of animal fat has been linked to higher rates of heart and cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, obesity, and cancer, to name a few.

However, the right kinds of fats bring a range of health benefits, if consumed wisely. Olive oil, for example, appears to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anti-cancerous, anti-diabetic and anti-aging effects.

Fats keep people healthy in other ways, too.

Protection against cancer

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), walnuts, which are high in fat, may help to reduce the risk of breast cancer. They are also particularly high in omega 3s compared to any other nut. Omega 3s are important for brain and heart health.

There is also evidence that healthy fats can help people manage diagnosed colon, prostate, and breast cancer.

Absorbing nutrients

Healthy fats should be consumed with every meal, because many nutrients are fat-soluble. For example, the body cannot absorb beta carotene, or Vitamin A, D, E, or K without fats.

  • Beta carotene, which functions as vitamin A, is also one of the body’s most powerful antioxidants. It helps to minimize cell damage.
  • Vitamin D plays a role in hormone production and regulation, neuromuscular function, and immune function.
  • Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that is vital for immune function and gene expression, and it works to minimize heart disease risk.
  • Vitamin K is involved in your body’s natural ability to clot blood and is important for bone health and heart health.

Some antioxidants that are present in fruits and vegetables also need fat for metabolism. They can help promote cardiovascular health, maintain a healthy weight, and prevent obesity.

In one study, people who ate salads with fat-free salad dressing absorbed far less of the helpful phytonutrients and vitamins from spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, and carrots than those who ate their salads with a salad dressing containing fat.

Cutting out fat can lead to diabetes

People who avoid fats often eat a higher proportion of carbohydrates. Fats can be satiating and deter overeating of carbohydrates. Overeating carbohydrates, especially refined and processed carbs, can raise triglycerides and reduce healthy HDL cholesterol.

Not having a balance of healthy carbohydrates and fats can increase the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. A diet that includes healthy fats, lean proteins, and fibrous, nutrient dense carbohydrates is best.

Maintaining nerves and cell membranes

Fat is needed in nerve transmission.

Myelin is a coating around nerves throughout the body that is composed primarily of insulating fatty tissue. Without proper fat intake, the myelin may be compromised. This can interfere with efficient nerve stimulation and function.

Fat also helps maintain cell membranes, because lipids, or fats, make up most of the cell wall structure.

Which fats are healthful?

The key is to choose the right kind of fat and in the right quantities.

Unhealthful fats
There are two main types of harmful dietary fat: saturated fats and trans fats.

Saturated fats are mainly of animal origin.

They increase levels of:

  • total blood cholesterol
  • low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol

Coconut is a plant-based saturated fat.

Trans fats occur naturally in small quantities, but most trans fats in our diet result from partial hydrogenation, a food processing method.

Trans fats can increase LDL cholesterol, and they can reduce “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

Both saturated and trans fats increase the risk of heart disease, but trans fats much more so. It is recommended that saturated fat makes up less than 10 percent of your total calories, but there is no recommended amount of trans fat in the diet. It is best to avoid trans fat.

Healthful fats
Unsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids are healthful, in moderation.

They are thought to improve cholesterol levels and to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

They usually come from plants, but omega 3 is a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid found in oily fish. It may be good for the heart.

Other good sources of omega 3 include flaxseed, walnuts, and soybeans.

 



Pastors Should Take a Vacation for the Good of their Church

Stephanie Dyrness Lobdell | You are not the linchpin holding your congregation together (Images: Our Dream Cruises, Tracy Arm, AK, USA).
I sit on the couch, flipping through my digital calendar, trying to do the math. When can we actually fit in some vacation time? There are so many factors to consider: the launch of the combined summer service, Vacation Bible School, various camps, vacations for other staff members. I also worry about the summer slump, which is already upon us. Can the church really afford not to have their lead pastors present, if only for morale?

My husband and I, co-lead pastors of our church, have the vacation time. All the books and all the ministry blogs and all the professors say pastors must tend to their families, guard their souls, and rest. I know in my heart we need to take more than one week—that in fact we need two in a row—to truly decompress and separate from the beautiful but weighty vocation that is parish ministry.

But so much can happen in two weeks. My mind begins to race. A conflict might emerge, a pressing administrative issue could arise, someone might end up in the hospital with only a good word from my lips able to sustain them. As my thoughts careen out of control, images of a church in tatters, a mass exodus, and possible explosions flood my mind’s eye.

Get a grip, I tell myself.

The irrational fear and anxiety of taking a mere 14 consecutive days away from my parish has unveiled a wound within me that needs attention.

Why the Anxiety?

Vacation anxiety is not unique to ministry, but the pressure does have a unique faith-flavored flair to it. The stakes feel elevated for those in the field of soul care.

Practical concerns
There are, of course, practical concerns. Who will do what in our absence? How will the everyday, unseen tasks be completed? Who will honor the pulpit and preach faithfully when we’re gone? For those of us who feel a sense of scarcity in terms of local leadership, these practical concerns can paralyze us.

Perceptions
But vacation anxiety runs much deeper than the who, what, and how questions that arise when the pastor is out of town. There is also the anxiety of perception. Some pastors are more prone to this anxiety than others, but it merits mention.

As I plan time away, I find myself explaining, almost defending, our vacation. We haven’t taken any time off in 6 months. Or, We’ve been saving up for a long time to take a trip, and we’re doing it on the cheap, so we’re not being extravagant or anything! I secretly wonder, does my congregation begrudge me the time off? Will they perceive me as disengaged, selfish, and uncommitted to the church and the church’s needs? The fact that my paycheck comes from their tithes and offerings adds a new layer of angst, since I often feel the need to prove I’m worth the investment and that I’m not living large at their expense.

An idolatrous heart
But if I am truly honest with myself, my anxiety surrounding taking adequate time off goes even deeper than the practical concerns or the perceptions. I cannot in good faith say, “It’s them! It’s the congregation with their unreasonable expectations!” Because it is also me, with an idolatrous heart that has participated in and perhaps even propagated the narrative that the life of the church flows from, or at least through, the pastor.

In his ever-timely book The Contemplative Pastor, Eugene Peterson quotes Hilary of Tours who describes a sin so often committed by pastors: irreligiosa sollicitudo pro Deo, a blasphemous anxiety to do God’s work for him.

And there it is: the sin of this pastor’s heart. I could blame the constant deluge of images that portray leaders as an organization’s capstone—the source of inspiration, motivation, and momentum. I could blame those highly “successful” pastors who peddle their systems and theories as necessary to salvation and vital to every church’s life together. I could even blame denominational leaders who present stories of visionary, gregarious leaders to mimic and ensure ecclesial growth and vitality.

But my accusations fall flat. I must take responsibility for the state of my soul and the lies I have believed—lies of my own self-importance, lies that my identity is contingent upon my vocation, even lies about the Spirit’s power to move and transform without direction from me. With that in mind, here are a few commitments I am making as I plan my upcoming vacation.

Commitments to Combat Vacation Anxiety

I commit to being honest about my vacation anxiety.
Some anxiety is appropriate. As the leader, I am responsible for ensuring that leadership is being raised up and trained to do the work of ministry. My husband and I are ultimately responsible for having all our bases covered. Pastors who leave town without a thought to what might go on in their absence send a message of disengaged inattentiveness.

However, some types of anxiety are not only inappropriate—they are toxic to my soul and lead to the sin of idolatry. I have to ask myself,

  • Is my anxiety rooted in fear or in a compulsive need to please the people of my congregation?
  • Am I micromanaging the people around me and doubting their ability to do good work without my presence?
  • Have I taken undue responsibility for the Spirit’s movement among the people of God to the extent that I believe that, apart from my physical presence, the Spirit will not (or even cannot) move?
  • Is my identity so rooted in my vocation that the idea of time away from work is disorienting and unsettling?

These are not easy questions to answer honestly, but my answers reveal the ways in which my heart veers toward that “blasphemous anxiety to do God’s work for him.”

I commit to going.
Yes, I will actually take my vacation. This requires wisdom and discernment. It’s probably not ideal to take two weeks of vacation in the middle of Advent. But I won’t kid myself into thinking every church function requires me to be there in the flesh. I will work to empower my leaders, be they pastoral staff or lay leaders, and then let them do their jobs. Equipping the saints for ministry is sacred work.

I commit to being absent.
When I leave, I will be as fully “gone” as possible. This may not require a costly overseas escape. A simple, affordable “staycation” will work just as well, if I take the call to absence seriously. That means I will need to communicate clearly that I will not be responding to emails, calls, or texts. But that’s not enough. I must follow through and stay off my phone and email! I will probably disconnect from social media as well. It has the power to make us present in mind and spirit to the wrong things, even when we are absent in the body.

I will, of course, leave emergency contact info with someone who I trust to respect my absence—someone who understands the definition of emergency.

I commit to being present.
Being absent is only half the battle. As I embrace the call to absence from work, I must accept the challenge to be present—to my family, to my body, and to my spirit.

Present to my family. I commit to paying attention to my loved ones in intentional ways. Even if I don’t go on a lavish trip or even leave town, I will find a way to spend quality time with my family.

Present to my body. So much of pastoral work is work of the mind. After a long day of sermon prep, I find that I have left my seat perhaps only twice, but I am exhausted from the mental fatigue of studying. During times of increased stress and anxiety, my body lets me know through stomachaches, tight shoulders, and jaw tension—once so severe I could barely chew! I will use the time of absence from work to be present to my body through physical movement and bodily care. Exercise, even a simple walk, reminds me that I am a whole person, not a disembodied spirit or mind.

Present to my spirit. It never fails that when I have a moment of stillness, anxiety pounces on my peace. My initial reaction is to flee or distract. Hurry, get busy! If I’m constantly moving, anxiety can’t slither in. Or, Start that Netflix binge! My mind will be too busy with the steady stream of entertainment for anxiety to get a word in. In her book Don’t Feed the Monkey Mind, Jennifer Shannon says this is the wrong approach to our anxiety. It sends the false message that the fear we are experiencing is dangerous and should be avoided. But it’s not dangerous; it’s just uncomfortable. Shannon encourages her readers to open their minds and hearts to the anxiety and to sit with the discomfort, thereby debunking anxiety’s lies and stealing its power.

As I sit with the discomfort, I ask the Lord to remind me that I am his beloved, and with me, the Lord is well pleased. I confess the ways in which I have sought to do God’s work on God’s behalf. I ask the Spirit to heal the wounds that led me to these anxious behaviors.

Vacation as Co-laboring
Without a doubt, taking vacation as a pastor can be a challenge. But time away is not merely important—it is essential for both the pastor and the congregation. Those of us who bear the mantle of pastor need to be reminded that we are not the head of the church. Christ is.

Pastors are not, as Eugene Peterson puts it, “the linchpin holding a congregation together.” We are co-laborers with our flocks, cooperating with the Holy Spirit who is doing the work of calling, comforting, and convicting. Our congregations need a reminder that pastoral vacations can deliver blessings as well. They are not to be passive consumers of what the “professional” pastor has to offer, but rather to be engaged, contributing members of the body of Christ.

By refusing to participate in the blasphemous anxiety to do the work of God for him and confessing the idolatry in our own hearts, we will shape our congregation to follow Jesus faithfully—more faithfully than 365 consecutive days of work ever could.

Now, you’ll have to excuse me. I need to get back to planning my vacation.

Stephanie Dyrness Lobdell currently serves as co-lead pastor with her husband Tommy at Mountain Home Church of the Nazarene in Mountain Home, Idaho. She blogs at www.stephanielobdell.com.



Week after he begged God to take his life, Nigerian stage 4 cancer patient dies

by Oga | May his soul rest in peace.

A Young Nigerian man – Edu Val, who had been battling stage 4 cancer for over a year, passed away in the early hours of this morning in Lagos. Edu was in so much pain a week ago that he begged God to take his life. His twitter timeline is proof of how much he was suffering and how heartbreaking it was to see his mother cry over his condition.

For the past few days,  well meaning Nigerians had been donating blood to him at the Holy Family Hospital, Festac, where he was receiving treatment.

May his soul rest in peace.

See his posts on Twitter prior to his death.

Edu Val Posts

Edu Val Posts

Edu Val Posts



Cooking Comfort Food

by

Former New Yorker editor Emily Nunn has always loved food. It’s what brought her often dysfunctional family together, what propelled her to pursue a writing career as a journalist and food critic, and what helped her heal from one of the most traumatic experiences in her life.

Nunn’s new book, The Comfort Food Diaries, follows the author as she travels the country, visiting old friends and relatives, cooking with them and sharing memories. The journey began as a way for Nunn to reclaim her life after the loss of her brother to suicide, the dissolution of her relationship with her fiancé, and her relapse, when she used alcohol to numb the pain.

“When you’re an alcoholic, turning to alcohol is the equivalent of giving up,” Nunn tells Guideposts.org. “You use it not to ease the pain but to block it entirely, so that you do not have to process it. Or that’s the way it has always seemed to me.”

The death of her brother, the loss of her job, and the end of her relationship left Nunn homeless with no money and a huge amount of grief she didn’t know how to process.

“I had been in rehab once before and sober for many years, but I had slowly begun to dabble in drinking,” Nunn explains. “When my brother died, I went straight back to my worst habits. I gave up and because of that, I also lost my self-respect.”

Nunn checked herself into a Betty Ford clinic with the aim of getting sober again, and along with that, she rediscovered her love for food and her need for familial connection. She began to truly mourn her brother and her old way of life. Then, she made a decision to visit the people most important to her.

“When I finally embarked upon my many trips to visit friends and family and a few cooking professionals I admired, I honestly didn’t have a clear goal in mind, beyond connecting through cooking,” Nunn says. “I was pretty broken, and had no idea how to put myself back together again.”

Some of Nunn’s fondest childhood memories involved cooking. The act of cooking for someone else was a way to show how much you cared for them – something she felt she needed to do for the people in her life she had been neglecting.

“The more I reached out and allowed people to cook for me and the more I cooked for them, the more I began to believe that I deserved love. Because for me, that’s what cooking is: showing people how much you care for them.”

Nunn traveled constantly, cooking salty Virginia ham biscuits, baking her grandmother’s tangy lemon cake, crafting the perfect morning custard, all while communing with people who loved her, people who were able to restore her sense of self-worth through friendship and food.

“It wasn’t really about the dishes as much as it was about the fact that so many people—many of whom I had not seen in decades—opened up their kitchens to me and made me a dish that was special to them, which is the same as opening up your heart in my opinion,” Nunn explains.

The experience left her with a handful of delicious recipes, ones she shares in her new book, but it also taught her a valuable lesson about relationships and turning to those you love in your darkest moments.

“Sometimes the only way to get back up when you fall down into a deep dark hole is to ask for hand up,” Nunn says. “You have the power to create your own recipe going forward. It’s your responsibility.”



Cancer: Early Warnings and Tips to Help Beat it

by Don Colbert, M.D. | Numerous studies have shown that people who exercise regularly have lower incidences of cancer in general. (image, YouTube)

Researchers all seem to agree on at least one point—the Western world is killing itself slowly by choosing to be obese and far too sedentary. As part of the 2009 American Association of Cancer Research 100th Annual Meeting, Harvard School of Public Medicine nutritionist Walter Willet presented an overview entitled “Diet, Nutrition and Cancer: The Search for Truth.” In it, he said:

“The estimate that diet contributes to around 30 to 35 percent of cancers is still reasonable, but much of this is related to being overweight and inactive. At this point, being overweight is second only to smoking as a clear and avoidable cause of cancer. … People should stay as lean as they can.”

Your body mass index (BMI) should be between 18.5 and 24.9 as a healthy weight for an adult. If you are overweight or obese according to the BMI, change your diet and read my book Dr. Colbert’s “I Can Do This” Diet. Also find an exercise routine you can stick with and read my book Get Fit and Live! Getting down to your healthy weight is one of the best things you can do for your body to prevent cancer. Belly fat raises the CRP (C-reactive protein), and elevated CRP is associated with an increased risk of cancer.

Preventing breast cancer begins with Diet

  • Increase broccoli, kale and cabbage. These and other cruciferous vegetables contain a compound called Diindolylmethane, or DIM. DIM is a metabolite of indole-3-carbinol and has several effects on cancer cells, according to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. It blocks division of many different types of malignant cells and even causes some of these cells to die. It may also prevent malignant cells from invading healthy tissue and it may slow or prevent growth of blood vessels in tumors. DIM may also act specifically against breast cancer cells, blocking the positive effect of estrogen on some cancers and causing it to be deactivated and excreted.
  • Eat Pomegranates. Pomegranates contain ellagic acid, a natural chemical that inhibits aromatase, an enzyme linked to the development of estrogen-responsive breast cancer. Pomegranate supplements can also provide a boost for the immune system.
  • Add Walnuts. Walnuts should become part of your anti-cancer diet. Researchers now think that having two ounces of walnuts every day may reduce your risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Drink Green Tea. The special nutrients found in green tea may decrease the risk breast cancer. Green tea is high in a unique class of nutrients known as catechins. Catechins may combat cancerous and precancerous breast cells. By drinking three cups of green tea per day, women under 50 years of age may reduce their breast cancer risk.
  • Eat Oatmeal. Pre-menopausal women who eat at least 20 g of dietary fiber per day may lower the risk of breast cancer. When it comes to fiber, it’s hard to beat oatmeal. A single serving of oatmeal contains nearly 4 g of fiber. Oatmeal can be easily combined with other high fiber and cancer fighting foods such as blueberries, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
  • Add Blueberries. The antioxidants in blueberries may offset breast cancer risk. Blueberries can help fight off cancer cells. It recommends that women looking to lower their breast cancer chances eat about 3 .5 ounces of blueberries per day.

Exercise Daily

How often do you exercise during the week? Did you know that getting out and jogging, walking or bicycling—or participating in any type of regular, moderate form of exertion—can help you avoid cancer? It’s time to get up off that couch and get active! Regular exercise is one of the best ways to maintain good health. Besides, I have a feeling that God takes pleasure in the health of our bodies:

“He gives power to the faint, and to those who have no might He increases strength. … But those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint” (Is. 40:29, 31).

Numerous studies have shown that people who exercise regularly have lower incidences of cancer in general. Another great thing about exercise is that it makes our digested food move more quickly through the GI tract. That way it can’t sit there and produce potentially cancer-causing toxins. Exercise also lowers the risks of endometrial and breast cancers by reducing a woman’s body fat (which produces estrogen, an encourager of several cancers).

“Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases” (Ps. 103:3).

The best form of exercise is aerobic exercise, which includes brisk walking, cycling, rebounding, swimming or jogging. Some doctors say that just 30 minutes of exercise every other day can reduce the risk of breast cancer by 75 percent! You see, cancer cells are anaerobic, which means they don’t thrive in high-oxygen environments. Exercise pumps oxygen to your cells, giving your body an added ability to win the war against cancer. I encourage you to read Get Fit and Live!, which includes an entire chapter of exercise workouts for people battling cancer.

Sleep Is a Reward of the Righteous—and Good for Your Immune System!

Research suggests that inadequate sleep and rest may shorten your life by eight to 10 years, if not more, because you have weakened your immune function and probably decreased your natural killer cell count, which is your first line of defense against cancer. A lot of people think of sleep as a time when everything shuts down, but the truth is your body does a lot of important repair work and immune surveillance while you are asleep. Lack of sleep may also raise cortisol levels, which suppress immune function. Melatonin, a compound we discussed in the last chapter, has anticarcinogenic properties and is produced while you sleep, so cutting sleep short over and over again is often what leads to being deficient in it. No wonder the Bible tells us:

“It is in vain for you to rise up early, to stay up late, and to eat the bread of hard toil, for He gives sleep to His beloved” (Ps. 127:2).

All of us need at least seven to nine hours of sleep a night (eight hours is usually ideal), and if you are not getting that, you are not giving your body the time it needs daily to repair and rejuvenate itself. If you are suffering from insomnia, you are weakening your immune system and increasing your risk of cancer. For more information on insomnia, refer to my book The New Bible Cure for Sleep Disorders.

Dedicate Your Days to God

I want to remind you to keep praying and seeking God as you make these dietary and lifestyle changes! Take a lesson from the prophet: “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple” (Jonah 2:7).

Even if you don’t feel like praying, keep on approaching the throne of grace every day; your prayers do come before the Lord as much as your daily decisions and behavior do. I know it can be difficult. If you have some form of cancer, the pain and weakness can bring on bouts of discouragement. But those who wrote the Bible learned about God in the same ways that you and I learn about Him. They became discouraged and fearful at times too, so David wrote these words of truth and encouragement:

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the broken-hearted, and saves the contrite of spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Ps. 34:17-19).

These are certainly words to live by.

A Bible Cure Prayer for You

Father, guide my days and my steps as I seek to follow You with all of my heart. Keep me free of sickness and disease, especially any form of cancer that would try to keep me from fulfilling all You have called me to do on this earth. Guide me to walk in divine health and in ways that prevent disease so it is never an issue. Heal my mind and attitude as much as my body, and make me an example of all I should be as Your follower. As I love You with all of my strength, heart, soul and mind, strengthen each of those areas through the power of Your Spirit. I ask this in the name above every name, Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Amen.

Article derived from The New Bible Cure for Cancer: Ancient Truths, Natural Remedies, and the Latest Findings for Your Health Today by Don Colbert, M.D. Copyright 2010 by Don Colbert, M.D.



Healthy Living

Making just a few changes in your lifestyle can help you live healthier and longer (image, Gatago).

A recent study found that four bad behaviors—smoking, drinking too much alcohol, not exercising, and not eating enough fruits and veggies—can hustle you into an early grave, and, in effect, age you by as many as 12 years.

Fortunately, you can do something to correct these and other unhealthy behaviors. Adopt the following nine habits to keep your body looking and feeling young.

Don’t overeat
If you want to live to 100, leaving a little bit of food on your plate may be a good idea. Author Dan Buettner, who studies longevity around the world, found that the oldest Japanese people stop eating when they are feeling only about 80% full.

St. Louis University researchers have confirmed that eating less helps you age slower; in a 2008 study they found that limiting calories lowered production of T3, a thyroid hormone that slows metabolism—and speeds up the aging process.

Get busy
Having satisfying sex two to three times per week can add as many as three years to your life. Getting busy can burn an impressive amount of calories—sometimes as much as running for 30 minutes. (Which would you rather do?)

Regular sex may also lower your blood pressure, improve your sleep, boost your immunity, and protect your heart.

Turn off the TV
Too much time in front of the boob tube can take a serious toll on your health. In fact, a 2010 study found that people who watched four or more hours a day were 46% more likely to die from any cause than people who watched less than two hours a day.

Even cutting back a little can help; each additional hour you watch increases your overall risk of dying by 11% and dying from heart disease by 18%.

Stay out of the sun
Avoiding too much sun can head off skin cancer, and it can also keep you looking young by preventing wrinkles, fine lines, and saggy skin.

It’s never too early—or too late—to add sunscreen to your daily skin-care regimen (look for an SPF of 30 or higher). And don’t focus only on your face. Sun damage spots and splotches on your chest and neck will also make you appear older.

Reach out
Research shows that you’re at greater risk of heart disease without a strong network of friends and family. Loneliness can cause inflammation, and in otherwise healthy people it can be just as dangerous as having high cholesterol or even smoking.

Loneliness seems to pose the greatest risk for elderly people, who are also prone to depression.

Drink in moderation
Women who have two or more drinks a day and men who have three or more may run into detrimental effects ranging from weight gain to relationship problems. But in smaller quantities, alcohol can actually be good for you.

A 2010 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology linked light drinking (defined as one drink a day for women and two for men) to significant heart benefits.

Eat fruits and vegetables
Getting fewer than three servings of fruits and vegetables a day can eat away at your health. Nutritional powerhouses filled with fiber and vitamins, fruits and veggies can lower your risk of heart disease by 76% and may even play a role in decreasing your risk of breast cancer.

As an added bonus, the inflammation-fighting and circulation-boosting powers of the antioxidants in fruits and veggies can banish wrinkles.

Focus on fitness
Daily exercise may be the closest thing we have to a fountain of youth. A 2008 study found that regular high-intensity exercise (such as running) can add up to four years to your life, which isn’t surprising given the positive effects working out has on your heart, mind, and metabolism.

Even moderate exercise—a quick, 30-minute walk each day, for example—can lower your risk of heart problems.

Don’t smoke
Quitting smoking is perhaps the single most important thing you can do for your health—and your life span. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that women who quit smoking by age 35 add roughly six to eight years to their lives.

It’s never too late to kick the habit. Quitting can slow disease and increase survival odds even in smokers who have already caused significant damage to their lungs, like those with early lung cancer or Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

See original article on the health.com website.