Tag Archives: wellness

A Clean Slate, Or Is It?


I’m always fascinated about trends, especially in the health and wellness industry. Coming from a background in public health and working in various sectors, including managing an employee wellness program, there were always conversations about the new “it” thing that’s “life changing.” But, at its core, most things are just that, trends. The underlying motivations to improve or change one’s life is what’s really important to understand. Brands such as hims and Russell Wilson’s Good Man Brand provide a platforms for education and engagement on relevant health issues. The search for understanding human behaviors is what ultimately piques my interest.

A few of Well + Good’s top 18 of 2018 fitness and wellness trends that caught my eye:

Self-care is not an indulgence

High-tech sleep science in the bedroom

Analog destinations to unplug are the new “it” spots

The examples above fall under lifestyle changes, specifically on the ever elusive work-life balance sweet spot working professionals are always striving to achieve. While work-life balance is highly personalized, the fundamental question is true for everyone: how should I prioritize my time to maximize my productivity in professional and personal fulfillment? And what better time to ask this fundamental question than on the first few days of the new year.

Lindsay Jean Thomson, a regular contributor on Medium, offered an alternative to the annual resolution-setting ritual. In her piece, she encourages her readers to set a theme for the year rather than a goal-oriented resolution. This strategy empowers readers to focus on an improvement in lifestyle over singular goals.

New year’s resolutions such as losing weight or training for a marathon are admirable. Ms. Thomson also points out that only 8% of people actually keep them. By focusing on a theme or vision of how each of us wants to live in 2018 (and beyond), it provides a road map that can be a source of constant feedback and adjustment. It forces us to pay more attention to our behaviors, and maybe, just maybe, it forces us to examine the underlying motivations for said behaviors.

Unfortunately, no one really has a silver bullet answer or life hack that translates to conquering work-life balance. That answer lies within each of us and is a moving target. It is an evolving process of self-awareness, reflection, and readjustment. For that reason, the best advice I can pass on is from Ms. Thomson:

“Whether you choose a resolution, a vision, a theme, or something else, be kind to yourself — because it’s not just about what you do, but how you do it.”

Here’s wishing each of you an introspective, intentional, and personally fulfilling 2018. And remember, nothing worth doing is ever easy.


Public Health in Action – Actions Speak Louder Than Words


Source: article.wn.com

Muriel Bowser was sworn into office this past January and remains focused on delivering a fresh start for the District of Columbia (DC).  Mayor Bowser, a native of Washington, pledges to tackle problems past mayors haven’t: chronic homelessness, economic divide and disappearing affordable housing.  Engaging residents through community forums for their input and new ideas appear to be a long-term strategy for progress.  One such initiative that caught my attention was the 1 Billion Steps Challenge (currently at 3 million), under the larger FitDC umbrella.  The FitDC website serves as a resource and platform to engage residents on nutrition and fitness.  Currently, ten coaches are in place to motivate residents to improve their health and well-being.  I connected with Darryl Garrett, appointed the “Senior Coach” for older city residents (In 2013, individuals 65 and over comprised 11.3% of the population), and asked him a couple questions.

Let’s see the world of health and well-being from Darryl’s perspective.

Me: How did you end up doing the work that you’re currently doing?  Describe your journey from your work in the federal government to your leadership in health coaching in the DC community.

Darryl Garrett: I spent 25 years at CIA and then took an early retirement at 48. I then worked for a couple of defense companies before becoming an independent consultant working inside the intelligence community (IC). I’ve been doing that for about 12 years and was wondering what to do with the last third of my life. I continue to enjoy the mission and people in the IC—it is more like a calling than a job—but thought it would be fun to do something different.

About four years ago I and my wife started working with a terrific trainer—Deshaye Tillman—and I became inspired by the transition that occurred as he helped people become healthier. So I started studying to be a personal trainer and applied and got into the third running of Georgetown University’s Health Coaching Certificate program. That program will end in September. Then I will see if I can start a business of health coaching, while continuing to work part time in the IC.

At about the time I was starting the health coaching program at Georgetown I saw a news story about DC Mayor Bowser’s FitDC initiative. I applied to be one of the community health coaches and was blessed to be picked as the FitDC coach representing seniors. It has been an absolute blast working with the FitDC team: it is a diverse and interesting group that mirrors the city, I think. And as an old CIA hand who avoided the public light, it has been an amazing experience going to photo shoots and getting my first Twitter account!

Me: What inspires you on a daily basis, especially when things get hard?

DG: I try to remember that it is not my life, but life and I am a part of it. I try to make the best of it but at the end of the day billions of people go to sleep without thinking about me and my problem at all. I am not the center of the universe. I also have several networks of friends and colleagues that I rely on for support.

And sometimes I drink a little bourbon and have some popcorn!

Me: What do you think it will take for our healthcare system to improve?

DG: I remember being on a consulting team for a large IT company that had several retired military flag officers. One of them was also a doctor and had been the Surgeon General for his branch of service. He once said something that stuck with me: “Everyone knows that the US medical system is broken. And no one wants to fix it because everyone knows how to make money from it.” I took that to mean that the system is so complicated that any reforms upsets the revenue flow, so there is some group or groups who will oppose almost any change.

So I don’t see that changing radically in the near future. However, estimates are that 60-70% of chronic diseases could be eliminated or at least controlled by lifestyle choices. Many of our most severe challenges—diabetes, obesity, cancer, smoking, high blood pressure—can be effectively combated with exercise, healthy eating and adhering to medication plans.

When I started training at 60 years old, my bio markers after a few months dropped into a normal range where they had not been since my late 30s. That is the power of exercising and eating healthy food.

Me: Why is holistic and community health so important?

DG: People often have the information on how to stay healthy or prevent a disease, and yet many people cannot do it. I think there are several reasons for this:

  1. People don’t like to feel they are being told to do something. They often get resistant.
  2. People know the large goal “exercise more” but struggle with breaking it into small, actionable steps.
  3. People start and encounter relapses, obstacles and challenges and give up.
  4. Once starting it is hard to continue something long term on your own.

So community health can help to break down these challenges. Health coaching can help a person visualize something that is powerful for him or her: so instead of “I need to exercise.” The vision is “I want to be able to play with my kids at the park like the other moms.” Setting a powerful vision of health helps a person relate why they are doing something new and perhaps difficult to something that is important to them.

Working with initiatives such as FitDC and other DC and community programs also make it easier to stick to a program. Hard programs can be made fun and having buddies give you a team to help you overcome obstacles, break down goals into small steps, and stick to a plan over the long term.

Me: What are the current needs in DC and where you live, as they relate to social determinants of health (i.e SES, poverty, access to care, transportation, safety, etc.)

DG: DC, like many cities, has areas of great access to healthcare and healthy food, and other areas where that access is a struggle. As a representative for the senior residents I know that some of them cannot drive and must rely on public transportation. While the city has a robust transportation system, it can be hard to carry many bags of groceries on a bus or metro…and relying on cabs can be expensive for some. Seniors sometimes can be challenged by navigating the healthcare system and understanding complex medication regimes, which can lead to poor adherence to treatment plans.

That is why I am proud to be part of an initiative that will help focus attention on the importance of moving and eating healthy. We currently have a Billion Step Challenge in which each ward has a community “Ward Walk”, and citizens are encouraged to log their steps each day. We hope to get to a billion steps in the next year.

Public Health in Action – Heather Freeman Believes We All Have Capes


Heather Freeman, MPH
Founder, Gutsy Girl Club

As I described on a previous post, the internet is one of the easiest ways to connect with someone else with similar interests and views.  Heather Freeman of the Gutsy Girl Club reached out to me after reading one of my blog interviews.  After checking out her website and understanding the concept of how she was impacting the world around her, I knew that it would be a great addition and offer a unique perspective – empowerment.  Empowerment is essential in sustaining new behaviors and programs long after funding resources have dried out.  Empowerment passes the torch to individuals and allows them to want it for themselves.  It shifts from motivation from extrinsic to intrinsic; it places ownership and accountability back into the individual’s hands.   Her concepts parallel the views Paulo Freire advocated for: an interactive form of education and social justice for everyone.

Now to my questions for Heather!

Me: How did it all start?  Where did you get the idea from?

Heather: The Gutsy Girl Club (GGC) was inspired by my own personal journey and struggle with self-confidence.  At a very young age I had a strong sense for who I was.  I loved to laugh, run, be outdoors, and simply enjoy the world and people around me.  But as I got older that high level of confidence started to crumble and I found myself having a difficult time finding my way.  My parents divorced when I was in 5th grade and my mother, whom I needed the most was caught up in her own swirl of mess, unable to help me navigate through the precarious teen years ahead.  On the inside, I felt my life spinning out of control.  However I didn’t dare show this vulnerability to the outside world.  Instead, I hid my insecurities behind the one thing I was well known for – my smile.  I made my way through the next critical season in my life not letting on of my inner truths & struggles to anyone.

As difficult as this early experience was, I learned from it and slowly found my way back to myself.  With the help of a few key superheroes who showed up in just the right time, I began the journey to reconnect with my confidence.  After spending over 10 years working in health promotions I now help others reconnect with their true confidence through the GGC so they too can experience the joys of taking the lead in their health and wellness.

Me: What inspires you on a daily basis, especially when things get hard?

H: We are all superheroes, sometimes our capes just need a little mending.

The moment my first daughter Bailey was placed in my arms, I experienced a huge shift – an “Ah ha” moment so to speak.  Cradled in my arms, I looked down at her and realized I was in a very powerful position in terms of her survival.  This little girl was helpless and at the most simplest level of being; her life depended upon me.  Regardless of my own experiences as a child, my daughter depended on me to be her superhero.  From this moment forward, I was not only responsible for myself, but I was also responsible for nurturing my daughter’s health until she was ready to be her own superhero.  I also realized that survival wasn’t good enough.  I wanted her to thrive in this world.  I wanted her to have the most magical and extraordinary life.  I wholeheartedly believe every mother has this desire for her newborn child.  I truly believe that we all want a life for our children that is better than our own.  While holding my daughter in my arms, I realized that was my moment of truth.  There have been many moments where this truth has been challenged, but I continue to make the choice to do things differently.  There is not a day that goes by when things don’t get hard, when my work asks me to stretch and go beyond what I think I can give.  It is within these moments that I remember that little girl in my arms and that original moment of truth.  This is what inspires me to help the millions of other little girls out in the world who deserve the same opportunity for an extraordinary life.

Me: What do you think it will take for our society to view health more seriously?  As in, why is health lower in priority to careers and education and relationships?

H: Wow, what a great question. While we typically tend to get caught up in the complexity of the current situation of our society’s health, I believe the answer is quite simple and comes down to a simple choice.  When we choose to say to yes to health we make a mental shift, a shift which precedes a behavioral shift of doing more of the things that support health and wellness.  The choice is available to each of us many, many times each day.  If more people choose to say yes to health more often, then not only does the individual experience greater health in their own life, but it also impacts the people in their life in positive ways.  This creates a ripple effect which indirectly affect communities in which they live and ultimately the greater world.

Me: What are some important insights that the attendees get from your camps?  What are some that you and other staff members observe?

H: The Gutsy Girls Empowerment Camp is one of my favorite programs because evidence shows that by the age of 9 a girl’s self-esteem has peaked.  Which means that during the critical years of emotional development that lie ahead of her, she is at a disadvantage and is less likely to be able to make the smartest choices for her safety, health, and well-being.  The Gutsy Girls Empowerment Camp is all about increasing a girl’s self-esteem and confidence before this critical period hits by seeing her for all that she is and affirming her emerging talents and passions.  One of the biggest insights campers get is ‘hey, they get me here’ and “I am accepted because of who I am.” Girls of the Gutsy Girls Camp don’t have to act perfect, they don’t have to do art that looks like it should be hung in a museum and they don’t have to say the perfect things.  Girls at camp get to be kids, create wildly, and share themselves freely and honestly.  Moms love having a place their daughters can go to for this kind of support.  And through ongoing conversations with moms about the Gutsy Girls Empowerment Camp, I’ve learned that moms want to be a part of the action, too.  That’s why we are bringing the fun to both moms and their daughters through our GGC activities that are starting up this year.  These Club activities will give moms the chance to join in on the fun while at the same time strengthen the bond between her and her gutsy girl.

Me: What are the current needs in your city as they relate to social determinants of health (ie SES, poverty, access to care, transportation, safety, etc.)?  Social determinants of health are any factors that directly or indirectly affect health.  For example, being homeless could cause stress and malnutrition which could drastically affect one’s health.

H: While the GGC is growing to serve a national audience, our home base is in Tolland, CT.  Tolland is a community, which based on the Health Equity Index (a web-based assessment tool developed by the Connecticut Association of Directors of Health) rates average or above average on the social determinants of health (civic involvement, community engagement, economic security, education, employment and housing).  There are however groups of people within this community who for instance do not have equal access to healthcare and who experience transportation and housing issues.

The GGC is committed to building on the strengths of this community by empowering girls of all ages to take charge of their health.  A gutsy girl who believes in her power is able to confidently make healthy choices which not only serve her, but benefit the people around her and the community she lives in.