My Eccentric Journey

FeaturedMy Eccentric Journey

Depending on how you pronounce it, the word “eccentric” has two meanings. I’ll let  you look it up, but you are either talking about a weird or off-beat character or characteristic, or you are talking about a type of movement. While either definition may be applicable to me, the  latter definitely is.  I started in late 2017 on a journey to become certified to teach Essentrics®  This is a fitness program designed to re-balance every part of the body through simultaneous stretching and strengthening of all 650 muscles. It also lubricates all 320 joints to keep them supple and moving well. Did you know you had that many muscles and joints?

The program name uses the “soft c” pronunciation, with a different spelling: Essentrics®–tweaked by using part of the creator’s name: Miranda Esmonde White. Miranda is a former member of the National Ballet of Canada, and since developing this program more than 20 years ago, she has become a TV personality, author, much-sought after speaker, and of course, she is still teaching at age 70!

Miranda Esmonde White    

I’d been watching Miranda’s PBS program “Classical Stretch” for many years, and it continues to draw huge audiences. The program seems to be geared more to Baby Boomers, and younger generations wanted this type of strength and stretch program, but  with a different name. So Miranda and her daughter Sahra developed Essentrics®, which is now taught around the world.

After doing the exercises by myself, either watching “Classical Stretch” or working out with a DVD, I introduced the program to friends, and we’d do it together. Then I decided to become a Certified Essentrics® Instructor. 

That’s where the “weird” or “offbeat” part of “eccentric” comes in.  Many people will tell you that I have an eccentric sense of humour. Telling myself that I could become a fitness instructor at age 65 might be the funniest joke of all!  Yet, here’s the thing: I knew I had the support of family, friends,  a great group of Essentrics® instructors, and the Essentrics® training team, so I knew I could do it. No joke.  I am now a Certified Essentrics Aging Backwards® instructor. I love it! I love sharing this program with even more people. I move more easily. My posture is better.  I am almost pain free from my fibromyalgia and other chronic issues and I look and feel younger! Check my Essentrics Classes page on my website to find out why you’ll love this program.

I  want to, as Miranda and many others are  clearly doing, “age backwards.”

Please join me as I continue on this eccentric/Essentrics Aging Backwards® journey.

Featured

Losing–and Finding–My Passion

Do you ever feel like a fraud? I was starting to feel like a writing impostor.  I’d been a freelance writer for many years and I was becoming tired of it all–not so much the actual writing but all of the stuff that goes with it: the seemingly endless work of finding markets, pitching to editors, waiting for answers, and then, if that all went well, waiting to get paid. I wanted, no, I needed, to get out of this loop. I’d lost my passion for the work, and in this game, if you’re not passionate about the writing then the rest becomes a chore. I wrote a few articles and really tried to stoke the fire but I had to let it all go, including this blog. I couldn’t really call myself a writer anymore.

What was I though?

I’d always loved sharing my passion for writing with others and really enjoyed the time I’d spent with my writing group, but how could I teach others about writing when my heart wasn’t in it?

I still wanted to teach though and enjoyed teaching a fitness class at the Seniors Outreach Services (SOS) centre in Napanee.  I’d made new friends, they enjoyed my class, and I was improving my own fitness at the same time. With the support of the program director I’d changed my class from low-impact strength training into a strength-and-stretch class. The new program was inspired by Essentrics®.  I had a new passion: learn this program well enough to teach it. As I moved along on my Eccentric Journey I became more enthusiastic. The Essentrics® program evolved and there are now two tracks for instructors. The Aging Backwards® stream is perfect for me.  I know how much it will continue to help me and the people in my classes and anyone who needs a gentler exercise program because of chronic pain or injury. I received my certification as an Essentrics Aging Backwards® instructor in December 2019.

I now teach three or four classes a week and I love it!

As my enthusiasm for teaching Essentrics® grew, a funny thing happened: I found the passion for writing again. Now I want to write articles about health and fitness and specifically how we can all “age backwards” and take better care of ourselves. I want to share what I’ve learned and tap into the knowledge of others. I won’t even mind the pitch-wait-write-wait-loop again. I want to help other writers promote the work they are passionate about, so I will be posting more book reviews here. Check the Captions Communications page on my website for more news about my writing.

My passion for freelance work is also fueled by the fact that there will be a new Canadian Freelance Guild launching in May 2020. My writers’ organization, the Professional Writers Association of Canada, is a founding partner. Being a member of this new organization will help my work as an independent writer and Essentrics Aging Backwards® instructor.

I no longer feel like a fraud or an impostor. I am a fitness leader. I am a writer. Sometimes these two passions will come together. I will continue to write about them both with more passion, which I seem to have lost but now have found once more.

What’s your passion? How do you fuel it? What do you do when you start to feel like you’re losing it? Please let me know.

Bigger, Brighter—and Better!

Bigger, Brighter—and Better!

Posted April 22, 2015

 

My third time visiting the Yoga Conference and Show was, as I predicted in my last post, definitely the charm. This year’s show, held April 9-12, 2015, was bigger, brighter, and …better.

From the moment I stepped into the halls booked for the show at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, I was impressed with the different layout, which was more spacious than in previous years. There also seemed to be a more positive energy, which you “yoga people” will understand, but one that’s difficult to put into words. The room seemed brighter too. Maybe it was because of the larger space.

The energy was evident in the Yoga Garden where continuous classes were offered, and I enjoyed doing some Pilates. (Yes, it’s called the Yoga Show, but many studios offer Pilates, and other movement therapy, which is all part of the show.) This was a chance to try a new movement style, or experience it in a new way with the addition of a prop. The Garden was definitely bigger so we all had more room to move.

“Ecstatic!” That was how Amanda Bond, the public relations director for Yoga Conference and Show summed up her feelings about this year’s event. Attendance was up—approximately 24,000 over the three days, almost 3,000 more than last year. There were more exhibitors—290 this year, 250 last year; and the feedback coming in, especially on the show’s Facebook page, has been very positive.

No wonder she was so excited when I chatted with Amanda a few days after the show. She told me that things would continue to grow every year and get better. Plans are already underway for next year.

“We’ll be at the Convention Centre and since we expanded our space this year, and plan to do so again next year, as that seems to make a lot of difference to our exhibitors. Everyone had more room to engage with visitors to their booths, and that seemed to lead to more discussion—and more sales, which of course made everyone happy.”

With the focus on health and wellness, the exhibitors offered a variety of products and services. What struck me more so this year was a lack of duplication. While there were some exhibitors offering similar products, there was still a bit of difference between them, giving visitors a lot of choice. There were familiar faces among the exhibitors and some newcomers. While you were certainly encouraged to buy from these vendors, and there was some pressure to do so, it wasn’t a high-pressure sales event as some trade shows become. Perhaps it was the larger space—visitors didn’t seem to feel rushed to move on to the next booth to make room for more visitors.

The trade show is, of course, a large part of the event, but it is the Yoga Conference that sets this show apart from others, according to Amanda.

“What we’ve been hearing is that the workshops we offer—everything from a two-hour to a full-day session with one of 60 international faculty—really add value to the show.” “Rather than these yoga practitioners having to go to see the faculty, they came to us, and there were opportunities to work one-on-one with them during the workshops, which everyone enjoyed.”

Sharing the day with my friend Lillie, who hadn’t attended a show before, was wonderful as I was trying to see it all for the first time as she was. Lillie shared her thoughts on the show on her blog.

As I only attended the event for one day, I didn’t take part in any workshops, but I will give serious consideration to doing so next year, which will mean that I will attend the 2016 Toronto Yoga Conference and Show for more than one day in order to take it all in. Lillie and I commented that you really do need more than one day to really enjoy all that is offered.

In a coming post I will give you more specific impressions about some of the exhibitors and faculty I was able to meet or talk to. The 2015 show was definitely Bigger, Brighter and …Better this year. I look forward to next year, already scheduled for March 31 to April 3, 2016.

I hope to once again attend with a friend, or perhaps a group of friends, as the experience is so much richer when shared. Amanda alluded to that in her comments about the sharing among the yoga community, which is a good wrap-up for this post.

“The Yoga Conference and Show brings so many people together, who are going deeper in their personal yoga practice combined with other core elements of spirituality and personal development. In the future, we will continue to focus on our brand and keep developing the Conference and Show portion to serve the needs of our community. By creating human connections, one-on-one, between Faculty, workshop attendees and other participants, our event offers something currently unprecedented in North America.”

 

 

 

 

 

Living Well with “Gluten Freedom”

The Background Story:

There is no denying that the term “gluten free” can evoke very interesting, and sometimes combative, discussions. There are those who will insist that only those diagnosed with Celiac Disease (CD)—a relatively small percentage of the population—need to follow a gluten-free diet. That is difficult for the millions of others who will insist that they are healthier, both physically and mentally, by cutting gluten from their diet. I am one of them.

After a process of trial and error, and a lengthy “elimination diet” I cut out gluten-containing foods several years ago. Therefore I cannot go for a test that would definitively determine whether I have celiac disease but health professionals and I agree that I am likely Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitive (NCGS), and following a gluten-free diet has made an improvement in my health. I am always looking for ways to continue this healthful journey.

I’d read a review of Gluten Freedom by Dr. Alessio Fasano on the blog, The Patient Celiac,  and wanted to read it myself. While I was certainly aware that there was a “bandwagon” that many people have jumped on, this is not the situation for me. I’ve made changes to my diet before to help improve my health, and I never did so without doing some research. Changing to the gluten-free diet was no different. I researched it well before making the change, and I continue to read a great deal about all of this. So I was happy to receive this book.

The Book:

Gluten Freedom

Fasano, Alessio M.D. with Susie Flaherty

Wiley General Trade (Turner) 2014

ISBN 978-1-118-42310-3 (hardback)

312 pp

Gluten FreedomImage found on amazon.ca

 The Review

Gluten Freedom is divided into four sections, taking you from looking how gluten entered the world to looking towards the future with new therapies and new treatments that might make it easier for us to live gluten-free, and maybe even are able to better tolerate gluten. The layout of the book also allows you to choose where to start, depending on where you are in your life.

I started with the chapter Gluten in Your Golden Years, because I was in my 50s before I was diagnosed. I don’t know if your 50s are considered your “golden years”, but that seemed like a good place to start.  It was interesting for me to learn that while Celiac Disease is often diagnosed as a paediatric condition, it can come on later in life. Or, it may be that while the disease actually never goes away, the condition can improve due to diet changes—and then come back if those diet changes are not made permanent. It was also good to read stories from others who had a later-life diagnosis.

The personal stories are a definite asset to the book, but at times they are a bit too long. That said, it’s good to have them, so that reader knows he/she is not alone. By the same token, the research is a bit too detailed, which made me, and perhaps other readers skip over it at times, which is unfortunate, because it’s important research. We can learn from both the research and the stories.

The research comes from Fasano’s Center for Celiac Research & Treatment, which he founded in 1996. Since it’s definitely become easier to live gluten free, it is difficult to imagine dietary hardships and other problems faced by those with CD in the earlier years, or the need for a research facility dedicated to this. Clearly there is a need for the center*, and I for one, am grateful for the research done there.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions, and there is a need for more research (hence the Center) For example, why is CD diagnosed in some people as children, yet not until later in life for others? Why are there only intestinal problems for some while others experience symptoms affecting different systems in the body, including the brain?

Whether you are seeking Gluten Freedom for yourself, or you know someone who is, I urge you to read this book. You’ll understand more about what affects your gut health, and how important a healthy gut is to your overall health.  Then you can decide whether there is a need for a CD test, or whether you or someone in your family may have developed NCGS. I wish I’d known before I removed gluten from my diet the importance of the tests, so that I would have had a more accurate diagnosis.

Living with gluten sensitivity is not fun, but it is manageable, and there are more products available, which makes it easier. Information and research being done by Dr. Fasano and others is welcome.

Have you tried a gluten-free diet?  Is anyone in your family or circle of friends “gluten free”? What were the results? Share your experiences here.

Head over to my other blog, “Local Business Matters” where I talk about the importance of supporting local businesses. While there may be more choice of gluten-free products in larger centres, I can get what I need in my local stores, featured in this post.

*I am sticking with the “American” spelling of center, as the Center for Celiac Disease is located in Boston, Massachusetts. I would normally use the “Canadian” spelling of “centre.” Either is correct.

 

 

 

 

 


Fighting chronic illness with humour and hope

As I hope you can tell from the posts in this blog, I try to approach most things in life with a sense of humour and a sense of hope. These are especially important when you live with a chronic illness—or two or three– as I do.

I hesitate to call them “illnesses.” Sometimes I may be not all that well, but I’m not really sick–at least not all that often. I may be fatigued or have some discomfort, but I don’t think of that as being sick.  I am however constantly trying to calm waging wars in my body. For the past couple of weeks, it’s been my stomach fighting with the rest of the internal organs. The conversation goes something like this:

Stomach: “I’m hungry. I need to eat something.”

Internal Organs: “Don’t you dare eat anything else until we figure out how to deal with what you’ve already eaten.” [I’ll spare you the details of the conversation, as it gets kind of gross.]

“Water with lemon for you, missy—maybe some soup.”

Stomach: “You’ve got to be kidding! I have to eat.”

Organs: “Well, ok. But take it easy. Nothing greasy, fried, or raw. Only gluten-free and dairy-free.”

[I’m guessing the organs really didn’t like the really good french fries I ate last Thursday or the delicious salads I ate on Sunday as much as I did.]

This conversation or something pretty close to it happens frequently. Then there is the one that happens between my muscles and my brain.

Brain: “I need my body to get more aerobic exercise.”

Muscles: “No, you don’t. The strength and stretching exercises are better for your fibromyalgia and the aerobic stuff just exhausts you too much—and then you don’t want to do the other exercises that are better for us.”

Brain: “Well, I can at least walk, even if I can’t do the cardio classes.”

Muscles: Yes, that would be good. Don’t forget about the stretching though.”

So, what do I do?

I try to eat a balanced, gluten-free, dairy-free diet that includes a good balance of protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates [with not too many grains or raw foods] and I stick to my strength and stretching exercises sneaking in a little bit of “cardio” when I can.

I also try to remember that I am living my life with a sense of humour and a sense of hope to make things better. It really is the only way to live, isn’t it? I also remind myself that there are plenty of people dealing with a lot more than I have to, and I admire their strength and tenacity.

The conversations and wars may get interesting over the next six months as I may be participating in a research study looking into some potential treatments for fibromyalgia. If I am chosen, I’ll be writing about it. So stay tuned.

What are your coping strategies if you’re living with a chronic illness? I’d love to hear what you do to keep yourself healthy and how you calm the wars raging in your body.

The Joy of Pain

Sorry if I had you going for a moment, thinking this post is going to deal with whips and chains and tight black leather. You may not want to read any further. It is, however, going to talk about pain in a way you may not have thought about—joyfully.

I am not a sadist or a masochist but since reading an article* called “Pain Pain Go Away” I’ve been thinking a lot about pain. The article included comments from Dr. Dean Tripp, associate professor in the departments of psychology, anaesthesia, and urology at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. In their lab at the university for the past 10 years, Tripp and his colleagues have been studying the physical, mental, and emotional factors accompanying chronic pain, and better ways of managing it.

Everyone experiences pain, Tripp says, and so we might as well get used to it, and learn how to better live with it. If we can get past the mental block of “this hurts, so I can’t do anything,” then we can manage the pain before it manages us, he says. Tripp also notes that patients may have unrealistic expectations of being “cured” of their pain. It’s more than just “mind over matter” though, he adds. There are techniques and programs that were outlined in this article, which really had an impact on me.

I contacted Dr. Tripp and we had a great conversation about the research that he and others are doing to learn more about chronic pain management. I’m going to start looking at that research and writing about both the evidence-based findings, and the stories that people like to tell about what works—and doesn’t work—for them. I’ll also share anecdotes and “unscientific” research from health and fitness practitioners who have first-hand experience helping people to live healthier lives.

I’ll be writing about this on the blog, and for an upcoming book. My first book about forging a healthier future from an unhealthy past dealing with depression and alcoholism came out in 2001. Meeting Dr. Tripp tells me this is another book that I was meant to write, and he has been very encouraging.  It’s important to me to stay with the theme of “with humour and hope” that was in my first book, and on this blog, so I’ll be looking at the funny side of pain, or at least how having a sense of humour when dealing with pain, makes it all easier.

Do you have chronic pain? What helps to manage it, and what doesn’t? Join the conversation and keep coming back to see what’s new that may help you live with your pain—joyfully.

* Good. You followed the asterisk. The article that got me started on this path is published on a website for the medical business, 2Ascribe. Some of the health-related articles I’ve written have been republished here.

What Does Wellness Mean To You?

I was asked to write a column* that would be called “Wellness Words” so I started thinking about the meaning of the word wellness.  It’s not in my dictionary so I looked online and found “wellness” equated with “health”.  I’ve talked about some of this in one of my previous posts “Choices in Healthcare”.

To explore the idea further I spoke with two people who use the word wellness. Mora File, owner of the Wild Orchid Health and Wellness Centre on Centre Street in Napanee had this to say about wellness:  “It’s the integration of all aspects of the things that have an impact on our life including the work we do, the food we eat, and the things we do to keep things in balance. It’s also knowing when you need to take better care of a certain aspect of your life and how to access what you need to do that.”

Joanne Maclean, owner of Wellness in the Woods on Highway 2 east of Napanee said that she thinks of wellness as something that is “achieved from the inside out,” and “is a way of making yourself feel better.” She said her clients tell her they always feel better and more relaxed when they leave her salon, in its  lovely wooded setting, so it was easy coming up with its name.

Does wellness just mean health? It’s fortunate that while none of my health problems have been life-threatening, they have affected my quality of life, and they have led me to search outside the norm for answers to my problems. I have a family doctor who supports my belief that she is just one of many health professionals I can consult. I also have complementary care available including chiropractic, massage therapy, yoga, naturopathy, holistic nutritional counselling, and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Thanks in part to this team of practitioners I maintain my wellness. I’ve referred to this in The Best of Both Worlds.

We have a hospital in my community and a number of doctors to care for us when we are not well. We also have a growing number of complementary and alternative care providers in the area. I’ve mentioned some here. Others may be introduced in upcoming posts.

Wellness is a state of being: having a healthy mind, body and spirit. It’s more than just being free of disease.  Achieving wellness requires active promotion of health and prevention of illness. While it’s good to have a team of people who can help us achieve optimum health, ultimately, it is up to us. We need to make the best choices we can and not always rely on someone else to take care of us. We need to work to achieve whatever wellness means to us. Heredity or just bad luck may give us some health challenges to deal with but if we keep wellness as the goal, and we have a range of choices, then meeting those challenges will become easier.

What does wellness mean to you? Please post a comment here on the blog and let me know.

*I won’t be writing that column because an agreement could not be reached on the contract. Certain writers’ rights were  requested that I would not license or waive. It was nice to be asked but there are other publishers who may be interested in this type of writing, and who are more willing to negotiate contracts.


Choices in Health Care

In my last post, The Best of Both Worlds I referred to the different health practitioners that I’ve been fortunate to work with. I’m glad to have so many choices. I just wish that they weren’t [at least in part] dictated by cost.

There should be more choice as to how health care dollars are spent. What if there were a system offering “flex dollars” where we would have money to spend with health care practitioners as we choose? Family doctors, specialists, hospitals, and other “Western medicine” services would have to be set up with a different fee structure than what exists now. Essentially, there would be no “free” health care. It isn’t really free anyhow. It is paid for from our tax dollars including  premiums deducted from paycheques, or paid by employee or pensioner benefit plans.

That is the basic flaw in the current system. We don’t have a health-care system. We have a sick-care system, as we only tend to access it when we are sick. Except perhaps for dental care. Many, if not most of us, go to a dentist for a check-up on a regular basis. Yet we don’t do that with other aspects of our health. Why not? There are likely a myriad of reasons, but perhaps it is just the way the system is set up– to be there when we are sick, and not so much to make sure we are staying well. That takes more time.

Eastern, naturopathic, homeopathic and complementary medicine (in which I include chiropractic, osteopathy, and holistic nutrition among other practices) offer a different approach. They take more time. Initial consultations may take up to two hours, and then a treatment plan is worked out between the practitioner and the patient/client. Follow-up sessions may be only 10-15 minutes, or they may take more than an hour. When was the last time you spent that much time with your doctor?

Practitioners often work as a team in the same location. I go to the Kingston Integrated Health Care clinic (www.kihc.com). There are now seven practitioners offering a variety of service all for a fee. I don’t begrudge these fees as I know they reflect the years of training that each practitioner has undergone, the time they take to see each patient, and their research making sure the right treatment is prescribed. I just wish I could afford to use more of the services available.

If we are going to really have a health care system, then it needs to be about health, not sickness. Individually, and collectively we need to do more health promotion and practice more prevention, and we need to do it without worrying about whether we can afford it.

Although many will think this new system of “flex health dollars” as too expensive it may not wind up costing any more than is spent now by government health care ministries. Money will just be spent differently according to how people choose to take care of themselves.

Clearly what we have in place now doesn’t work as well as it was intended. We  need a way to credit people for living healthier lifestyles, and give people more choices. There may be difficulties making sure there are no abuses of this new system by either practitioners or patients, and it will take some organization to make sure that it is truly fair to everyone and accessible to all who need it. The system needs to be set up to make sure it only covers those who are part of regulated health care professions.  It’s time to look at other options for paying for a truly public health care system. It’s a discussion worth having.  Our health depends on it.

The Best of Both Worlds

Should Eastern, or other complementary health care be publicly funded in the same way that Western medicine is–through government-run health insurance plans (here it’s called OHIP–Ontario Health Insurance Plan), supplemented by group insurance plans?  Should there be a system where money is allocated to each individual or family at the beginning of each year for them to spend on their health care they way they see fit? Could we have the best of both worlds of medicine under one system? These are questions I’ve been asking myself, and discussing with others lately.

Our Western health care system in Canada is very good in that anyone can access it regardless of socio-economic status.  Yet this publicly-funded system is deeply flawed, and economics do enter into it. Western doctors are divided into two camps–general medicine (also called family medicine) and specialist medicine. There are fewer specialists than there are general practitioners (GPs), so we wait weeks, months, or sometimes years to see the specialists. If we live in a rural or isolated part of the country we may not even have easy access to the specialists who tend to practice in larger urban centres. Both the generalist’s and the specialist’s services are covered by government insurance plans. Yet there are some who request a fee for services not covered by the plans. There are others who set up their own clinics and request a fee for you to be registered with their practice. Some doctors own or have some connection with pharmacies, labs, and other services. Pharmacies charge dispensing fees for medications on top of the cost of the medication.  Many labs for blood work and other diagnostic tests are run by private corporations even though the facility may be located within the publicly funded hospital. This is our Western medicine system, and whether you want to admit it or not, it’s two-tiered.  If you live in an area well serviced by doctors, and you have money for the medications they prescribe, or you have a group insurance plan that will pay for the medicines, you have good health care. If that is not your reality, this system doesn’t serve you well. I’ve been fortunate to have received excellent care within this system, but I’ve also had to look outside of it when the care I was receiving wasn’t offering the solutions or pain relief I needed, or when the wait time was too long.

In my last post, I mentioned that I’ve had a few health problems.  Fortunately none have been life-threatening but they have affected my quality of life.  Numerous visits to my family doctor, and visits to  specialists and a psychiatrist were all covered by OHIP, and the medication they prescribed was covered by insurance. When the Western medicine no longer offered relief, other complementary care did, starting with chiropractic care and massage therapy, and now including naturopathy, holistic nutritional counselling, and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

OHIP covers none of the counselling, treatments, and medications, as it does all of the Western medicine. Some of the complementary medicine has been partially covered by insurance.   Yet all of these practitioners, just like the Western doctors, have trained for years with accredited institutions. Their professions are or soon be will be regulated with strict guidelines governing the practice.

I propose a system that would cover it all. I think it would cost us less than we are paying for our health care system now through our taxes, and we’d be healthier.  Stay tuned.