Don’t Miss the Sunrise

I was in the midst of being in my happy time and place– my silent retreat where I return year after year to simply breathe. To remind myself of the beauty and stillness of the outdoors. To quiet my racing mind. To come so close to deer in the woods that I feel the earth vibrate under my feet as they leap away after our eyes have locked for several seconds. To share sacred space with other women who come to do the same.

I woke up early one morning with the excitement of seeing the sun rise. I threw on yoga pants and a sweatshirt and on my way out the door I caught a glace of myself in the mirror.

“Gosh, my thighs look so flabby.”

Uuuuuuuuummmm…. excuse me, myself? What the actual f***?

There I was, about to set out to take in beauty that is utterly incomprehensible, and I almost ruined it because of a stupid mirror and a nasty comment I made to myself.

Now. I am an American woman. So, it goes without saying that this is not the first time I had done this to myself. Oh, no. This was a fairly typical daily conversation I had had with myself, just like many other women, no matter how beautiful or perfect their physical appearance may seem to the rest of us. For heaven sake, part of what I teach girls is that the images of the models on magazine covers aren’t real, that everyone’s bodies have natural lumps and bumps, and that 6-pack abs are rare. I KNOW THIS! Yet still, I often look in the mirror and scorn myself for not meeting an imaginary standard. That is how ingrained this harmful self-ridicule is for women in our society.  

Here’s a common scenario for me. On a day that I feel particularly happy, light on my feet, and confident, I say to myself, “Girl- you are rocking those jeans! And your skin is looking awesome! Oh!! Maybe you lost weight!?” To confirm my positive outlook, I walk to the ever-wise, ever-truthful tool that grants me the permission to be either kind or cruel to myself, the scale. I hop on with great anticipation that my reason for my self-acceptance today will be confirmed.

Up 3 pounds.

In a fraction of a second all the pleasure, peace of mind, lightness, self-kindness is stolen and sucked into the cold, black piece of rectangular metal on which I stand. My thoughts and feelings about myself just 90 seconds before?

I guess I was wrong.

What the actual f***?

Back to the morning of the sunrise, and the flabby thigh comment to myself. That moment was a turning point for me. 

Before that morning, I would have freely allowed the cold glass mirror to suck my joy from me as it had many times before. The mirror and the scale– they had always been my affirmers. Except they never affirmed joy for me.

At that moment, I instead looked myself in the eyes, and said, “Don’t miss the sunrise. Let’s have a redo and pretend that you didn’t consult the mirror to affirm your joy before walking out the door. You can pretend that you have no idea what you look like. Now, go! Hurry! Don’t miss the sunrise!”

What if we were blind to what we looked like? I don’t mean walking around with unbrushed teeth and dog poop on our shoes, but beyond looking offensive, what if the image we see in the mirror is actually a reflection of what we carry in our hearts?

It reminds me of a conversation I had with my daughter in the car after I picked her up from school. She often begins to process her day relatively quickly after she gets in the car and usually begins by asking an off-kilter question that I don’t always know where it will lead. That day she started with, “Mom, name the 3 ugliest things you can think of.”

Oh boy.

“Ok, well, I’m gonna say a dead fish head, poop, and a land fill.”

“Ok, well, I’m gonna say _____________.” She named a person of whom she is not a fan.

Careful, carefuuuuuuul… parenting opportunity here. TRY not to blow it!

I knew who she was speaking of, and I’m not condoning calling someone ugly, but she wasn’t wrong.

I replied, “I always thought it was so interesting how someone may just look like a regular, average person; but by how they treat others, they can either look beautiful or ugly to us.” 

My daughter is a child of few words. She got my point, her posture softened, and no more was said.

A child feels a person’s character before physical appearance comes into focus. We are all born with this ability, though most of us have lost it by adulthood. By the time we’re adults, we judge first by physical appearance, and character may never even be seen. Even, and perhaps most harshly, we do this when looking at ourselves.  

That morning in front of the mirror before the sunrise was a game-changer for me. No longer will I let the mirror decide what I look like or the scale tell me how I should feel. My heart is my mirror, and my character is my scale. When I look at others I will look with the eyes of a child, and not through the lens of Vogue Magazine. I will not do this perfectly, but with practice, I will see people and myself as I did when I was a child. I will continue to exercise, fuel my body with nutritious food, and practice good wellness; not because it will make my thighs less flabby, but because I need to be healthy. I am valuable and important and needed.

How many sunrises have you missed because of what a cold piece of glass, metal, or person told you or how they made you feel? Whatever your “sunrise” is, for heaven’s sake, don’t miss it! Not because of that.  

I’m so glad I didn’t miss mine. I never will again.

Go forth and be WELL,

Heather

My Thoughts on the “F” Word

That’s right- the “F” word. There’s one “F” word that I will admit to strategically dropping in conversation here and there with good friends. It’s kinda fun to say and, when used sparingly and in the right setting, can be very effective. So, that’s one “F” word that I’m okay with. And then there’s one that I really hate.

FAT.

I hate how the use of this word in describing someone holds such negative power. In our body-image obsessed society, I dare say it’s near the top of the list of words that most people would NOT want used to describe them- whether they are overweight or not. We are a fat-phobic society. It always offends me when the “F” word is used to describe someone, because it is usually equated with “bad”. There is nothing- NUH. THING. wrong with overweight people. They are not bad, or dumb, or lazy, or unfriendly, or menaces to society or anything else that may accompany feelings with the “F” word. We must stop the ridicule of overweight people. It is unacceptable. Period.

When I was a middle school student in the 80s (at the height of deep, dark tanned skin lathered with baby oil in the midday sun), I was horribly ridiculed for having ghostly white skin. There was nothing more wrong with me, as a person, for having blindingly white skin as there is with a person with brown skin or a larger body. Here’s why: We are not our bodies. 

Say that out loud with me. WE ARE NOT OUR BODIES. 

Say it out loud a thousand times, if you need to, for that fact to internalize; because it doesn’t get much truer than that. As a personal trainer whose life work, partly, is changing people’s bodies, I’m telling you that we are not our bodies. Whether you need to lose 100 pounds or turn heads in your bikini on the beach, you are not your body. There is nothing that could possibly convince me otherwise. 

Here’s what we ARE:

We are our minds.
We are our thoughts and beliefs.
We are our intentions.
We are our actions.
We are our souls.
We are our spirits.
We are our hearts.

Not our bodies.

How do I know? Because I have looked into countless new clients’ eyes and have seen their spirit wanting to feel better and more energetic, and knowing that the only way to achieve that is through the body. I have helped many, many people over the years transform their deconditioned bodies into fitter, healthier, more compact bodies. In this process, the individual does not change. Confidence may increase, self-consciousness may decrease, but the core- the spirit- remains the same.

We are not our bodies. 

It is here that I believe our view of health and wellness needs to make a major shift if we are to change the epidemiological state of our society. Though we are not our bodies, we NEED our bodies. Our bodies are the vehicles that transport the spirit and soul. We need them to be strong and work as efficiently as possible and we need them to last as long as possible. It’s not about image or being swim suit ready or skinny. It’s about providing the best possible transport for your spirit. We need to think of health, fitness, and wellness as a way to provide the spirit with the best dwelling place possible while here on Earth. If this shift in our perception can take place, I believe we will start a new chapter in wellness and become a healthier, happier society.

Here’s another way I like to think of it: You’re en route from Miami to Seattle transporting a Monet masterpiece in a car that has bare tires, an engine that overheats, and a transmission that’s on the fritz. Does the car define or diminish the value of the painting inside? Of course not! Because the painting is a separate entity from the vehicle by which it is being transported. The car will likely break down along the way, the precious painting will be put in jeopardy, and it may not even make it to the end because the car isn’t up to the task. The car is the limiting factor. If only it had been a well-cared for Toyota. 

Your body needs to be a Toyota for your spirit. Not the limiting factor.

I’ve seen a lot in the fitness/wellness world. I see the type of person that makes it and type that doesn’t. Always, always the ones that make it are the people who understand this notion: wellness not about image, but about taking care of the only thing that can keep their spirit around as long as possible. They don’t worry about perfection, but about consistency and feeling good in their own amazing, healthy body- no matter the size. Sure, the ones who think of fitness purely in the context of image may make it… for a little while. It usually fizzles out relatively quickly for them, though. Those who exercise and eat in a way that makes them feel good, confident, and energetic will look better, anyway. They don’t have to worry about that part. Amazing how that happens. 

Please make your body healthy. We need you. If it means losing weight to make it easier for your heart to pump and your lungs to breathe, then do it. But do it for the right reason.

No more calling people the “F” word. I’m over it. 

You are not your body. You are so much more.

Keeping Kids Healthy at the Start of School

For y’all who live in my neck of the woods, summer is coming to an end and a new school year is right around the corner. Whether you’re a parent who counts down the days with anticipated relief, or the phrase “back to school” is the equivalent of saying “Voldemort” (it’s the latter for me), preparations are likely happening in the next week or two. What does that mean for you and your kiddos? Sharp pencils? Funk-free lunch boxes? Matching socks? Organized, unmangled folders? Clean hair? (Er… I mean, lake water gets hair clean-ish, right?) Yes, even I, who will not speak the aforementioned phrase out loud, have to admit that there is satisfaction that comes with the trip to Target to see what themed backpack my kids will choose this year. But much, much more than this, I start preparing for my kids’ wellness as they begin the new school year. Because here’s the thing:

Kids getting sick just because they start back to school is not– should not be– an inevitability.

Illness at the start of the school year is common. I get it. My husband and I are both teachers and we have 3 kids. Actually (get this) we have 5 people in our family who attend 5 different schools! I promise you- I get it. I read the same “heads up” emails you do from teachers telling us about the first case of strep or flu and urging – begging- parents to keep sick kids home (thank you, teachers; and, parents, please keep sick kids home!). I also overhear parent conversations when someone says something like, “Well, it’s the start of the school year, so they’ll all be sick soon.”

No! No, that’s not (necessarily) true! Bear with me here as we think this through…

The reason I hear most often to justify why kids get sick at the beginning of the school year is that kids are all together in a room and “passing around germs.”

Nope. I don’t buy it. Here’s why. Think of how often your kids get sick in summer compared to the autumn months, and think of what your kids are doing all summer. Mine are around kids all day and I know many of yours are, too. Camps, vacation bible school, grocery store, bowling alley, dance/art/robotics/swim lessons, sleepovers, pick-up games on the basketball court, etc., etc. They come in contact with at least as many kids as they do in school, and in much less hygienic surroundings (let’s not think about the hand-washing that’s not happening!). There’s more than enough contact with germs, more than enough opportunity to get sick in the summer.

Automatic illness just because school starts? I don’t buy it.

So, let’s think about what the real differences are and the roots of why kids get sick when school starts.

#1 SLEEP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (um, did I yell that loud enough?)

Your kids (hopefully) go to bed earlier during the school year than in the summer. But even so, they still get less sleep. Lots less. Here’s what sleep looks like for my kids in the summer:

Jack (14): In bed around 11/11:30pm, wakes up around 10:30/11am = 11-12 hours. Caroline (12): In bed around 10/10:30pm, wakes up around 9/9:30am = 11 hours. Julianna (7): In bed around 9/9:30pm, wakes up around 8/8:30am = 11 hours.

So, on average, my kids get 11 hours of sleep per night in the summer. Now lets look at the best case scenario school year sleep schedule:

Jack: In bed (if we’re lucky) around 10:30pm, wakes up at 6:30am = 8 hours. Caroline: In bed (if we’re lucky) around 9:30am, wakes up at 6:30am = 9 hours. Julianna: In bed at 8:30pm, wakes up at 6:30am = 10 hours.

Look at the difference! In one school week (5 days, Mon-Fri), collectively, my kids get 35 (THIRTY- FIVE!!) LESS hours of sleep (per week) during the school year than in the summer! And that’s the best case scenario! If homework is piled on one night, they go to bed way later. Teachers can help with this by coordinating with other teachers so tests and due dates for large projects don’t all fall on the same day.

PARENTS: MAKE YOUR KIDS GO TO BED! (Am I yelling too much?) Help them manage their time so they’re not starting homework at 8pm. Hold their phones for them so they aren’t distracted with a screen beside them while they do homework, making it take twice as long to finish. If your kid doesn’t get enough sleep, your kid will get sick. And don’t say it’s because “they’re passing around germs.” No. It’s because our bodies fight viruses when we sleep. If we don’t give our bodies the time to fight when we’re asleep, the virus will win every time. But not only that, your kids will be happier and do better in school (heck, they’ll do better in everything!) if you make sleep a TOP priority.

This week, start “practicing” going to bed earlier and getting up earlier to prepare for school starting. Here’s a video I’ve shown my students in the past to start a conversation about the importance of sleep. Watch it with your kids. Help them understand how important sleep is for their health.

#2 STRESS

I know we all have different life circumstances, and sometimes have to deal with vastly different individual issues. “Stress” is a complex word that means something different to everyone. But… generally speaking… summertime for kids should (hopefully) be relatively low-stress. Let’s face it. School has become more intense for kids in the last decade or so. I’m not saying it’s necessarily bad or good, it just is. We (myself definitely included!) expect things from our kids during the school year that we don’t expect of other adults or even ourselves. It’s stressful for them! If kids don’t sleep enough, the stress is even harder to handle. Stress is an immunity zapper. Big time. This short article does a good job explaining it.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/how-the-mind-heals-the-body/201411/how-stress-affects-the-immune-system

I know you have high hopes for your child this school year. I do for mine as well. But instead of thinking about ALL she’s going to accomplish this year, pause for a second. Take a breath. This week as you prepare for school to begin, perhaps think about ways you can help alleviate some unnecessary stress. How can you make your home a calm place of refuge for her to decrease her stress at the end of the day? Now, I’m not saying it has to be neat and tidy and smell like potpourri all the time. But you have an enormous impact on your child’s stress level. Laugh. Eat together. Talk about pleasant things or the “best part” of everyone’s day. Listen to the issues that are troubling him. Empathize. Praise honest effort, even if it’s not an A (or a B). Make sure she knows that life is wonderfully imperfect. Let him see you trying your best, and laughing at your own shortcomings. Tell her calmly when you think she can do better, but let go of unimportant things that are potentially stress-inducing. And MAKE HIM SLEEP!

#3 Nutrition

I know the school year is busy. Crazy busy, compared to summer. I’m not suggesting you make fancy or even hot meals every night. But try your best to make them nutritious. (I’ll share some of my go-to weeknight meals in an upcoming post). Our bodies need nutrients for our immune system to function well. This week start getting in the routine of planning easy, nutritious meals. Yes- that means your kids eating veggies. Yes- that means staying away from the drive-thru. Yes- you can!! I’m not saying it’s easy, but neither is figuring out how to stay home with a sick kid. I’m saying it will be worth it to have a healthy child.

Start giving a quality multi-vitamin this week and make sure your kids are drinking plenty of water.

This is a bonus, but if you want to go the extra mile with me, I think this supplement makes a huge difference. Colloidal silver. No, it won’t turn you blue. No, the FDA does not recognize its effectiveness… blah blah blah. I’m here to tell you- it works. But if you don’t want to try it, don’t try it. If you do, I get mine from Whole Foods (Warning: it’s not cheap. But it’s cheaper than a doc visit or missing a day of work to stay home with a sick kid). It is a yellow-orangeish, flavorless liquid that’s administered with a dropper (read the instructions). I try to give it 2-3 times a day in juice, starting the week before school starts. My husband and I take it, too. I continue to give it at breakfast for the first 3-4 weeks of school (but reduce to giving it just once a day).

#4 Outdoor exercise

Kids during the summer months are outside quite a bit, running around and playing, right? (Please say yes, please say yes, please say yes.) Even good schools that make getting outside time and exercise a priority can’t compete with how much kids get in the summer. Exercise, fresh air and sunshine (Vitamin D) are huge immune boosters.

Read about this here: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150916162120.htm

And here: http://www.mysportscience.com/single-post/2016/09/25/Strategies-to-reduce-illness-risk-in-athletes-Part-1-Behavioural-lifestyle-and-medical-strategies

Think of ways you can supplement the outdoor exercise they are lacking. Can you go to a nearby park after school for an hour, or stay to play at the school playground? Is there a new sport they might want to try? Can you plan an outdoor activity on the weekends? Can you simply tell them to go outside and play in the yard or take a walk together around the neighborhood?

If your child doesn’t get enough outside exercise opportunity at his school, talk to the school principle about it. Advocate for it! By law, your child is to be given 90 minutes (but hopefully more) per week for recess. This article gives excellent advice on how to approach this if inadequate recess is an issue: http://memphisparent.com/health/are-your-kids-getting-the-recess-they-need/

#5 Don’t freak out!

Yes, I put forth a fair amount of effort to keep my kids from getting sick at the start of the school year. At the same time, I know that it happens. Humans get sick from time to time. There’s no avoiding it altogether. I’m not saying this to confuse you or to counter all that I’ve yelled about this far, but there’s a fair amount of FREAK OUT that happens if/when kids get sick. The things I mentioned above I believe will help more than anything else to keep your kids well, but they may still get sick at some point. Mine may, too. Last school year, no one in my family missed any school or work due to illness until after Christmas, but this year could be different. So. If your kid does get sick, don’t freak out! Most illnesses are viral, which means there’s not a whole lot your pediatrician can do to help. So, stay calm, keep your child home and try these things (obviously, these are suggestions for otherwise healthy kids without immune deficiencies or other conditions that compromise their immunity):

  1. Pay attention to your kids to catch the illness when you first suspect the first inkling of it. Make them go to bed (without their phone or other screen) and SLEEP! I can’t tell you how often sleep has been the miracle cure for a looming virus. Don’t make them power through it!
  2. Feed them the most nutritious food you can. If there’s ever a time to avoid junk food and sugar, it’s when they’re sick! Push fluids over food.
  3. Keep them home from school to REST! My kids know the drill when this happens at our house. If they stay home for illness, I take their phones. This is not punishment and they understand that. Their brains can’t rest and they won’t sleep if they’re staring at their phones. There’s something about YouTube and social media 6 inches from their face that’s different from watching TV. Since I want them to be still and able to fall asleep, I make them lie down and they are allowed to watch Bob Ross, Little House on the Prairie and Andy Griffith reruns on Netflix until they’re out. this is also a great way to test if they’re really sick. If they are, this is just what they are needing and wanting. If they aren’t it’s torture, and they are back to school the next day.
  4. Right before your put them to bed at the inkling of your suspicion, give a full dose (read the instructions) of colloidal silver in some juice. Stay on the colloidal silver until a day or so after they start feeling better.
  5. Let a fever do it’s job. You’re gonna think I’m the meanest mom after reading this (I’m good with it), but I don’t necessarily run for the medicine cabinet when my kids have a fever. A fever has a purpose in killing a virus. This article explains this much better than I can: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321889.php There’s another reason that I’m slow to reduce a fever. Giving a fever reducer is going to make your child feel better and mask the symptoms of illness. I don’t want to do that (I know. Mean.). If my kid is sick, I want him down and resting so he can recover as quickly as possible. If she’s just completely miserable, or if the fever gets higher than 102-ish, then I will give something to reduce it.

So there you have it! Let’s enjoy the excitement of the first few weeks of school by being WELL. It does take effort, but it’s not hard. Continue these tactics all school year, and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how effective they are at keeping your children healthy and HAPPY.

Oh, and psssssst… these will work for YOU, too!

Go forth and be WELL,

Heather

The Summer of Withdrawal

“Hey. What would hurt more: Sliding down a giant razor blade into a pool of rubbing alcohol, or lighting all your toes on fire for one minute?”

“I’d say either way, you’re gonna feel a bit of a burning sensation.” Hysterical laughing by two silly- and bored- 14 year-old best friends commences.

It was the summer of 1989, and a fantastic time to be a kid. Before Netflix, YouTube Instagram, texting… heck… practically before email! All I did with my best friend for several summers in my tween and teenage years was jump from one activity to another with the sole purpose of avoiding boredom. All you who were born before, say, 1980 know exactly what I’m talking about.

To avoid boredom, by bestie and I would find things to do like:

Walk around the neighborhood, or…

Cook the grossest food we could think of, and dare the other to eat it, or…

Choreograph the silliest synchronized swimming routine in the neighborhood pool, memorize it, and perform it over and over and over again, or…

Make up imaginary languages, or…

Design and sew our Halloween costumes, or…

See who could write the best poem in 5 minutes, or…

Try to harmonize songs, or…

Cut each other’s hair (sometimes that one did not end well), or…

Take a nap, or…

Hone our problem-solving skills (Aka, figuring out how to break rules without getting caught. I did not say we were angels.) or…

If things got really bad, we would just sit and stare in silence until we thought of something to talk about or do, or…

or… or… I could go on and on with the list of activities we came up with to avoid boredom. The funny thing was that avoiding boredom was SO. MUCH. FUN. We were designing and writing and singing and talking and thinking and resting and sewing and cooking and choreographing and imagining and walking and conniving, er… I mean… problem solving. All of these silly, seemingly pointless, time-wasting activities made us the inventive, thoughtful, life-long learners and bonded friends we are today. I can’t stand the thought of what I would be like now had grown up with YouTube in my face all day.

I’m worried, y’all. More than worried. You can call me crazy- it’s fine, but I truly think we have a catastrophe on our hands. Kids don’t do those things any more. They don’t. Look around. Anywhere and everywhere. All what you’ll see is kids looking, totally mindlessly, at their screens! It scares me. I mean, truly keeps-me-up-at-night scares me.

This is becoming the norm. Wait. Who am I kidding? It IS the norm. How on earth is this OK? What is our society going to look like in 30 years when my 14 year-old son is my age? Don’t think I’m a blameless parent, here. I am not. I admit to loving those blissful silent times in the day when my kids are in screen world and not talking to me or wanting something or whining or fighting or asking me to explain something. To a weary parent who needs some time to herself, it’s lovely. We all need a little zone-out time here and there. But can we be honest here? It goes far beyond “a little time here and there”, doesn’t it? The worst, though, is when I’M in screen world and my littlest asks me to play with her. It’s jarring and confusing because when that happens, her little voice speaks to my heart, but the problem is that in screen world there are no feelings, no imagination, no interaction, no thinking, no reality, no sense of time, and the mind has trouble returning to the world of the living. Screen world is where our children spend much of their time. If we’re still being honest, it’s often the same for adults. Maybe even worse. I’ll ask again… what will life look like in 30 years?

As a health and wellness-obsessed mother and educator, if I were pressed to say one thing that is the largest contributor to our current state of unwellness, I would say it is our addiction to screen world.

I am in the trenches with you. It is a battle and I get it. Overcoming addiction is never easy, and in the summer when kids are home, overcoming this particular addiction can feel like an intervention is occurring about every 3 hours. So what do we we do? It’s a scary concept, but I’m throwing it out there, anyway. Brace yourself, because here it comes.

MAKE YOUR KIDS GET OFF THEIR SCREENS!

Yes. You can do this. First, there’s something you need to know. Hear this so that it doesn’t throw you off course. Your child will become the devil for roughly 30 minutes after you break the news that it’s time to find something to do that does not involve a screen. The docile, quiet child in screen world just moments before will suddenly develop strange symptoms as screen withdrawal begins. Take heart, though! As with most childhood issues, it is more painful for the parent to experience than it is for the child. I’ll share my experience with my kids’ screen withdrawal and walk you through step-by-step to help you prepare for screen withdrawal with your child.

Meet Jack. My smart, charming, big-hearted 14-year old son.

Isn’t he sweet? Just look at how he loves his mom at his 8th grade graduation. Awwwwwwww!

That sweet, intelligent boy suffers profound side-effects when told that he must walk away from the screen and find something else to do. For the first 3-5 minutes, he becomes unable to speak and cannot look directly at light or any living things. He also loses all muscle control and falls to the ground.

My friends, I give you screen withdrawal scenes that I have captured over the past couple years.

Holiday break screen withdrawal:

Summer break screen withdrawal:

And my personal favorite, titled, “Withdrawal at the Park”:

Yes. Oscar-worthy performances that are so convincing that, to the untrained eye, could be mistaken as child abuse. Luckily, you will know what is happening and will remain strong and calm. My hope is that you will also be able to explain to others this bizarre, but natural phenomenon. This is just the first of three stages, but it’s the most intense and frightening. Thankfully, it is the shortest stage.

You will know that stage two has begun once the ability to speak and hold an upright position returns, and loud moaning, pacing, and a general state of confusion begins. This is the longest stage and **WARNING** when the parent is at most risk of caving and returning the screen to the child to stop the agony. Don’t do it! Stay with me, here. At this point, I feel the most humane thing to do is to sequester the child to their (screen-free) bedroom (offering assistance if the use of limbs is lost again… or suggesting that they crawl, if they are able) where they will feel more comfortable detoxing. This second stage generally takes about 30 minutes, but in severe cases or if this is the child’s first withdrawal, it can take several hours. You must stay strong! I suggest finding an enjoyable non-screen related activity for yourself to focus on while this is going down. The good news is that the duration of subsequent withdrawals are much shorter. I’d say my kids’ withdrawals from start (loss of muscle control) to finish (finding something non-screen related to do) are now around 5-15 minutes. I find that a 10 minute, then a 5 minute warning before the dreaded announcement is made helps with the intensity and duration of the withdrawal (and the parent gets the opportunity to be impressed by their darlings’ incredible negotiation skills for “just one more minute… PLEASE!!!!!“).

Stage three is a magical time at which, even after living through 11 zagillion screen withdrawals between my three kids, I am always amazed we arrive. This is when the child accepts his/her fate, finds something to do, and you have triumphed through the deep, dark valley of your child’s screen withdrawal!

One last word to the wise: While it is exciting to discover what your child has chosen to do, resist the urge to offer help or suggestions, make comments, or supplement what your child has chosen to do. This undermines their ability to feel that they have conquered their withdrawal on their own, will make them (and you) believe that they need your help, and will squash what may be unfolding (thank you, Maria Montessori). Here’s a case in point…

After a particularly intense withdrawal a few summers ago, Jack was working through withdrawal stage two in the comfort of his bedroom, when suddenly there came an abrupt and disturbing end to his moaning. My husband, Ben, went to check and see that Jack was still alive and found him sitting on the floor staring into a box fan. Ben came back to report to me what he had found Jack doing and, while we were a bit concerned and perplexed, we didn’t say a word or do anything to change his “activity” of choice. Some time later, I went to check on him again- purely out of curiosity. I found him writing and illustrating a short story. Had we deemed the weird box fan-staring “activity” an unworthy choice, we would have screwed up the whole process and that short story would never have been written. Just curiously watch how things unfold in stage three. It’s fascinating.

Now getting ready to begin high school, Jack rarely has long withdrawals. He’s used to getting kicked off the screen and has an immediate transition/go-to activity: shooting hoops outside. If he has a rare struggle in stage two, however, we will remind him that his box fan is ready and waiting for him in his room. A few times he has actually repeated the box fan “activity”, and generally afterwards has done something quiet and creative, or comes and asks us deep questions about life for which we have no answers.

I get a glimpse from my childhood of staring into nothingness with my bestie until a thought pops up that one of us wants to discuss, and know that Jack has learned how to live outside of screen world.

The screen is incredibly addictive. You already know that, as we adults struggle with it, too. But we’ve lived longer out of screen world than in it. The problem is that our kids have never not had access to screens. So, you need to show and teach them that life outside of screens exists. The sparkle in your child’s eye, and proof that she is a creative, imaginative individual with interests and talents will come to life.

Just to be clear- Caroline and Julianna experience screen withdrawal, too. It’s not just Jack. Sometimes I wonder if it’s worse for boys than girls, though. Regardless, screen withdrawal is crazy. Kids are literally out of their minds as they detox, and though I jest (it’s how I’ve coped!), it’s actually a very sad phenomenon.

So… what will it be?

This?

Or this?

This? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Or this?

This? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Or this?

Parents, we can do this. Start this week and make this the Summer of Screen Withdrawal! Feel free to share pictures of your children’s withdrawal symptoms if you’d like. We need to support each other through it, and if snickering at their symptoms helps, then so be it! But mostly, I would love to hear about the activity your child chose in stage three. After all, that’s the whole point of all of this.

During this process, also notice the the difference between how you as parents feel when your kids are glued to their screens all day and when they’re not. How might it affect your wellness?

Kids can’t discover their interests and talents when their brains are numbed all day by a screen 6 inches from their face… and it’s very difficult to be happy and well when we don’t feel we are interesting and talented. Teach your children wellness.

Let me know how it goes!

Go forth and be well,

Heather

Embarking on the Journey

Holistic Wellness. It’s all the rage these days. Google it and 5 gazillion matches will pop up: blogs, foodies, centers, products, podcasts, logos… and the list goes on. Our society loves the idea of it, talking about it, dancing around it, and Googling it, but there is a disconnect. If we are so wellness-obsessed, why are we still hearing the abysmal statistics about the continuing health decline of the people living in our country? Why the disconnect? Why are we hovering around the intrigue of wellness and not diving right in? Ask any physician, drug company, or health insurance company and they will tell you: real Holistic Wellness is a hard sell. It’s abstract, somewhat undefined, and highly individualized. Deep down, we all know we desperately need it, we’re just not sure how to go about getting it and there is no quick fix or simple answer. Our children need to be taught, which takes time, persistence, connection to a larger purpose, and nitty gritty hard work. For wellness educators like me, to see the change one child, one student, one individual at a time is not about money. It’s a labor of love.

In addition to teaching my own children, I teach Holistic Wellness to high school kids in Memphis, TN. The curriculum I have designed is built on pillars of wellness that my students learn to incorporate during their high school years. The concepts of wellness they learn reach far beyond the walls of the school, and my overarching goal is to infuse the facets of wellness into the future success of my students.  Once they reach graduation prepared to pursue (or figure out) their passions, they understand that wellness cannot be extrapolated from the success equation. To have long-term success and happiness, wellness must be practiced. There simply is no other way.

The beginning of Holistic Wellness Education begins with the deep understanding that it is not a means to an end. It is the foundation upon which life-long, sustainable success is built. I would confidently wager a bet that you know someone who fits this description: A brilliant and wildly successful, driven workaholic who is sedentary, lives on fast or processed food, stressed to the max, and makes no time in her schedule for leisure or hobbies. Of course, you do; and I know you are well-aware of what happens next in the story. We just all hope that what happens next is not the end of the story. Building success in life without a strong foundation in wellness is living life in a house of cards.

So, what is this holistic stuff about, anyway? Am I urging students to buy organic herbs from Whole Foods? Hardly. My holistic approach simply means that I consider all the parts of wellness that kids—that people – need to learn to fully thrive. The whole is much more than the sum of its parts. All elements of wellness work together to strengthen each other, and one part is no more or less important than the other. My approach in teaching Holistic Wellness goes something like this:

We must pay attention to how our lives are balanced, or we may inappropriately allocate our focus and time, and could become bored or burned-out. If our time is not managed well, stress sets in and sleep suffers. When we are tired, or feeling stressed, we often make poor nutrition choices attempting to find quick energy or comfort. If we are not fueling our bodies properly with healthy foods, we are more likely to become sick. And exercise is the glue that holds it all together- adding strength to all aspects of wellness.

We practice, then we talk about it, then we practice some more. For four years my students weave the truths of wellness into their lives so that by the time they move on, it is beautifully engrained. They know no other way. I care about these kids. I care about the future health of our community and our nation. To make real change happen, I know no other way.

I have taken on this crusade. I hope other schools, parents, businesses, local governments join me in teaching Holistic Wellness Education. When my students have families of their own, I anticipate hearing new health statistics, but I can’t do it alone. Help me be the change.

Yesterday, I watched students walk across the stage at graduation, knowing that they are more than academically equipped to excel at their college of choice, and that they have the strong foundation of wellness to build a life of health, success, and happiness. They will come to forks in the road and hit some inevitable bumps, as we all have. The difference is that the walls of their houses are made of iron, not cards, and they will continue their journeys upward. They are going to be fine. No… they are going to be well. Whether watching as an educator, parent, friend, or mentor, there is no greater feeling.

In the next post, I will begin diving into how you can teach life-long wellness to your children, your students, maybe even yourself.

Go forth and be WELL!

Heather

You’ll Either Love Me… or Run the Other Way

My mother has said that when I was a little girl, I loved hearing adults tell me about their lives. I remember being fascinated by these stories because, for me, they served to the connect the dots to help me understand who they became. I asked about what they did for fun, what made them mad, who they dated, how they got in trouble, who their best friend was, their favorite subject in school, what their grandparents were like, how they spent their summer, the meals their mother cooked, their neighborhood… on and on and on. You get the idea. Any information about who they were, I craved.

I was doing my own version of Oprah’s Master Class when she was still an anchor on the local news.

Fast forward to high school- I asked everyone what they thought their major would be in college. In college, I wanted to know how everyone thought they would use their degree. After graduation, I would listen to whoever would tell me about their 5-year plan. Friend or stranger, it didn’t matter. I was all ears.

I never memorized my multiplication tables. Please don’t ask me what seven times four is. I can’t tell you. But by golly, if you ever told me anything about who you are, it is etched in stone in my mind forever. I drive some people crazy. Heck, I drive myself crazy sometimes. If I meet you for the first time, at the very least I’ll need to know where you grew up before the conversation can go much further, but I try not to let my questions get out of hand. More on this quirk of mine in a minute…

In case you’re wondering (and how could you possibly not be?), my favorite subject in high school was anatomy and physiology. It answered my questions about how the human body worked, much like the conversations I had with people answered my questions about how their minds worked. My major in college (are you on the edge of your seat?) was Exercise Science, and (just so you know) I put my degree to good use for about 20 years teaching group exercise classes and personal training. My approach as a trainer was definitely different. If you watched me training my clients, you would see them sucking air and dripping sweat as they answered my questions about things like the church they attended growing up and how it shaped their current belief system. My tactics didn’t work for everyone, however. It seemed like there was always a soon-to-be bride in my client rotation who I helped to look amazing in her wedding gown. There’s certainly nothing wrong with her wanting to look great on her wedding day, but with no connection to a higher purpose, I knew her reason for taking up exercise would likely end the day of the rehearsal dinner. I began to see that while exercise is an important piece of wellness, exercise alone will not make someone fully well. During these years I became increasingly interested in the connection between wellness and its importance in supporting the essence of the individual. Wellness is an intricate web made of many components that are woven together to uphold the being that sits at its center. If some spindles are broken, the precious life in the core of the web struggles and falls. I knew these connections I was helping to make for my clients were meaningful and also gave me a greater sense of purpose for my own life.

Over the years, I have come to realize why I ask all these questions. Every single person I meet I see as someone who fills a vital role on this earth, and whose unique qualities we cannot do without. If you are here, you have a purpose, and I have an innate desperation to know what your “earthly job” is. If you don’t already know, I have to help you figure it out, or else I can’t sleep at night. I wish this was an exaggeration. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with a new question or idea for someone that may turn a stone to bring them one step closer to figuring it out.

From my work with countless clients, it became clear to me:

People who are well have a clearer knowledge of their purpose, and people who know their purpose have a stronger yearning to be well.

My job? I help people make the purpose-wellness connection.

My children are the only humans who have walked this earth to whom I don’t ask a thousand questions. I don’t have to. I get to see their childhood unfold and watch with wonder as their interests and talents emerge. Jack is 14, Caroline is 12, and Jules is 7. Only they truly know what their purpose is. All I know is that they have one and that it’s important. My obligation is to love them, support their unique talents and interests, show them right from wrong, and teach them how to be WELL. My hope for this blog is to offer ideas and suggestions for other parents to also teach their children wellness. It’s not easy, and you’ll either love me or run the other way, but I so hope you join me.

And… if I have the pleasure of meeting you one day, when you tell me your name, go ahead and tell me the city where you were born. It’ll just make things easier on both of us.

Go forth and be WELL!

Heather