February 2008 Issue
Look Better, Feel Better
Experts give tips on how to achieve health and fitness.
By Myra Orenstein
You probably didnâ€™t give it much thought at the time. Suddenly you stopped worrying about pimples and started zooming in on the crowâ€™s feet around your eyes. You didnâ€™t hop off your bike after your workout, you eased your way slowly over the bar.
Chances are, you made a promise to yourself that day. You promised youâ€™d make a change. You made a commitment to feel better, look better and live longer. You promised to achieve a state of wellness.
If you thought you were alone in this quest, look around you. Thereâ€™s a reason pharmaceutical companies create so many new drugs and why creams purporting to stop signs of aging appear inÂ so many magazine and television advertisements.
Marianne Robinson, certified health education specialist and program manager of The Ohio State University Faculty and Staff Wellness Program, recognized this in 1996 when she first envisioned the program. Designed for faculty, staff and employees to learn about health in a preventive way, the program offers on-site health screenings, flu shots and a highly successful Lunch and Learn series, and sponsors an annual campuswide Wellness Fair.
Wellness program staffers screen patients and provide them with information on measures including tests and immunizations and age-appropriate counseling. The program has eight work sites and employs mobile teams all over campus, providing 8,000 employees with information and services.
The university, like many major corporations, has discovered that it may reduce the cost of health care by providing financial incentives to employees who embrace healthy lifestyles. In the case of OSU, employees earn up to $125 (through a point system that provides $1 for each point earned). Fifty points are given for a health assessment that includes information on proposed exercise and diet programs.
Â â€œItâ€™s never too late to take care of yourself,â€ Robinson says. â€œItâ€™s important for all of us to make healthy living our goal and to add to the quality of our aging.â€
The challenge is that we all define â€œhealthy livingâ€ differently. For Eileen L. Seeholzer, M.D., assistant professor of medicine and director, Weight Management Center Case Western Reserve University at MetroHealth Medical Center, maintaining a healthy weight and a fitness regime is crucial to good health.
â€œOur bodies donâ€™t let us pick between weight loss and exercise. We must choose both. We canâ€™t be one or the other.â€
Seeholzer takes her cues for wellness from the days when man was roaming the earth hunting for food. The physical act itself required man to exercise in order to eat. â€œWe are evolutionarily unprepared for what has become of us,â€ she says. â€˜We must commit to an active lifestyle and avoid processed meals. We must question why we donâ€™t want to be better to ourselves. We need to avoid processed foods and get back as close as we can to eating food as it was grown.â€
But, what kinds of food should we eat? And in what portions? Heather Butscher, Outpatient Clinical Dietician, Nutrition Services, University Hospitals Chagrin Highlands Medical Center, directs us to the newly revised food pyramid at www.mypyramid.gov
. â€œIt goes back to old-school principles of three meals a day and five servings of fruits and vegetables.â€
Although this harks back to our elementary-school days, now we have to be grownups about all of this. The difficulty for most of us comes with what Butscher defines as â€œnormal eating.â€ That means that we should eat when weâ€™re hungry and stop when weâ€™re satisfied. We should look for whole grains for their heart-healthy properties and be aware of portion sizes.
â€œPeople develop habits because they deprive their bodies in some way. They cut out fat and then eat more grains. They cut out grains and they have cravings. The body is a biological machine. It knows when we are suddenly introducing restrictions. Suddenly intense cravings take place. Itâ€™s necessary for everyone to pick foods from each food group, eat in moderation and establish a program of physical activity.â€
Finding food is far too easy for all of us. Finding time and the energy to exercise is way too hard. Helping our bodies stay healthy, however, must at some point take precedence over our desire to be couch potatoes.
Valerie Holbrook, licensed athletic trainer and certified strength and conditioning specialist at Medina General Hospital, has seen firsthand that physical activity helps decrease the risk of death from heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Exercise also helps us stay independent longer.
She advises everyone starting a fitness program to have a physical first. To begin a program, contact a local hospital outpatient rehabilitation center or YMCA and find experts who are qualified to discuss physical activity in a medical setting. Increasing activity by doing chores around the home and walking in your neighborhood or at a mall are good ways to start. Add weight training for maintaining muscle mass and resistance activity for maintaining bone density.
â€œThe program is different for everyone,â€ Holbrook says. â€œHaving a baseline physical assessment will help determine where to start.â€
Now that we feel better, what about looking better? Eric J. Light, president of the Medical Spa Association Worldwide, says, â€œWe donâ€™t talk about anti-aging. We talk about intelligent aging. We talk about transformational care and living longer, smarter.â€
According to Light, who also is president of the Strawberry Hill Group in Cincinnati, which designs spas and wellness centers, â€œConsumers would rather feel better on the inside than beautiful on the outside.â€
In speaking with physicians around the world, he has discovered that â€œif we only focus on reactive medicine â€” providing BotoxÂ® injections, erasing things â€” weâ€™re missing the large market and weâ€™re not totally helping our client.â€
His prescription for wellness is threefold: (1) Drink more water (Light says that water plumps skin, hydrates tissue and makes everything work better); (2) get a thorough skin analysis (he makes the distinction between a â€œregular spaâ€ that does facials and a medical spa that provides good skin care using more advanced procedures); and (3) find the facility that feels best to you, as a consumer.
For those seeking a more spiritual approach to wellness, Reiki provides deep relaxation and stress relief, says Edward Coyle, a Reiki master/teacher affiliated with Connecting Touch Therapy and Wellness Center in Cuyahoga Falls and Hudson. He explains that Reiki is based on the premise that the force that animates us gives us life similar to the Eastern concepts of chi or prana.
â€œIf someone can get into a deeply relaxed state, the body can heal itself through natural healing mechanisms,â€ Coyle says. The effects of Reiki are cumulative, and while most clients schedule one-hour sessions once a month to maintain good health, others come more often.
Clients choose Reiki for a number of reasons, he says. â€œThe treatments work on a lot of different levels â€” mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. Clients feel great after sessions. Their batteries are recharged. They look happier, more relaxed. Thatâ€™s true of almost everyone, from clients in their 20s to people in their 90s.â€