Bridget Hughes, licensed acupuncturist, Qigong instructor, meditation teacher, and owner of Healing Point Acupuncture & Healing Arts in the Medical Pavilion at Howard County has spent the last two decades looking at the many ways our mind-body connection enhances (or undermines) our health. Hughes calls the mind-body connection our “greatest yet least tapped personal resource for health,” and considers the best key to unlock that resource to be meditation.
“To meditate in such a way that the biochemistry of the body changes profoundly enough to support improved health,” Hughes describes, “a person must learn to reliably access resourceful and beneficial feeling states. This meditation isn’t what people typically expect; it’s not emptying the mind or focusing on the breath,” says Hughes. Rather, she describes her meditation technique to be more like “getting the right feeling song stuck in your head.” To further clarify, she quotes Paracelsus, the famous 15th century physician, “The spirit is the master, the imagination the tool, and the body the plastic material.” Hughes remarks, “We’ve known since at least the 15th century that using our mind, our heart, and our spirit changes our bodies. It is up to us to do it.”
On March 12th from 7:00-8:30PM, Hughes will teach us how. In a free community offering Rewiring Your Neural Pathways of Emotion, Hughes will teach us how to find the feeling states that scientists have shown change our biochemistry, neurotransmitters, and immune system, and how to use those feelings as a basis for a meditation practice. Says Hughes, “Meditation must be something we can practice as we are driving in rush hour traffic, and as we are dealing with a confrontative boss or colleague. The fruits of our efforts must be accessible right in the midst of our busy, challenging lives.”
Hughes explains that anything practiced over time changes the brain. “Rewiring Your Neural Pathways” is the result. “People intuitively know that anger, disgust, depression, and overwhelm are bad for their health” says Hughes. “They also can sense that states like love and gratitude can improve health. What they don’t know is how to change states, especially when life is frought with hardship. Many of us grapple with anger, depression, anxiety, or stress every day. For meditation to be most useful, it must be effective irrespective of how difficult the circumstances of life may be.” Hughes cites a passage from Maxwell Maltz’s Psycho-Cybernetics to describe her approach to meditation, “Feelings cannot be directly controlled by willpower. They cannot be voluntarily made to order or turned on and off like a faucet. If they cannot be commanded, however, they can be wooed…Remember that feeling follows imagery.”
“We are using imagery to woo the feelings that change the biochemistry” says Hughes. “Through such a meditation practice, we engage our greatest hidden resource for wellness: the power of our mind and the mind-body connection to heal.”
Class info: Wednesday, March 12th 2014 from 7-8:30 p.m. Howard County General Hospital: Johns Hopkins Medicine Wellness Center, 10710 Charter Drive, Columbia, Maryland 21044. To register: (410) 740-7601. Free.
Bridget Hughes is a licensed acupuncturist and co-founder of Healing Point LLC in Severna Park, Maryland, and of Healing Point Acupuncture and Healing Arts in the Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource Center at the Medical Pavilion at Howard County General Hospital in Columbia. She was named a 2010 and 2011 Favorite Doc in Chesapeake Family Magazine. Bridget is a certified Qigong instructor and a Board Certified Clinical Hypnotist and has been interested for over 20 years in the intersection of health, wellness, brain science, energy arts, quantum physics, psychology, and peak performance. She speaks on a wide range of health topics including: Get Your Spontaneous Healing On!, Qigong: Meditation in Motion, A Mind-Body Approach to Pain, Natural Approaches for Healthy Living for People Living With Cancer and Cancer Survivors, Rewiring Your Neural Pathways of Emotion, Using Imagery, Visualization, Meditation, and Feeling States to Groove New Neural Pathways, and Transitioning to Wellness of Body, Mind, and Spirit for Survivors. She considers time spent with patients to be a great blessing and takes a keen interest in each person and their unique situation and experience.
One of the struggles of living with a chronic condition, in my case rheumatoid arthritis (RA), is that when I’m feeling bad physically it leaks into my attitude and feelings about my self-worth. When I have a lot of joint pain and stiffness, after an extreme day (or several) I start feeling badly about myself.
My husband notices that how I talk changes, I’m more negative and down on myself. I blame myself for ridiculous things, like rainy weather or traffic delays. Everything I observe becomes clouded in gray and gloom.
I really can’t explain what happens because my usual self is annoyingly upbeat and optimistic. Somehow the weight of my chronic pain tips the scale and permeates my mind, poisoning it against myself. On these days, having a supportive outside observer, like my husband, really helps because he gently reminds me that I’m getting down on myself. With his observations, I’m better able to see through the clouds and recognize that it’s not me talking, it’s the RA.
When I’m able to see the mental cloud for what it is, I’m better able to recognize the problem and combat it with some strategies I’ve developed for myself.
Positive self talk. When I’m aware of the negative self-talk, I work to turn it around by speaking positively instead. No self-insults or criticisms allowed! Instead, I remind myself to speak sweet nothings of positivity and compliments. “You may feel bad, but you’re coping well.” “Don’t listen to the gremlins, remember how far you have come, how hard you have worked.” It may seem silly, but after you say nice things to yourself you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel.
Treats and rewards. On bad days, sometimes I need a treat just for getting through it. Maybe a little chocolate, maybe listening to some favorite music. Rewards for managing tough days are vital for picking up my spirits. Sometimes I promise myself the reward or treat at the beginning of the day, other times it may be an impromptu decision. The point is to remember to treat yourself well, especially on the most difficult days.
Taking a break. Sometimes I just need to cut myself a break. I’m not perfect—no one is. And I can’t control my disease and a lot of other things about life. Remembering to be gentle with myself is important because I am my harshest critic. So in these moments I have to take a breath, let it go, and give myself a break. Tomorrow is another day and I can hope for better.
On Valentine’s Day remember that you also need to treat yourself well, try a little self-kindness and gentleness. When the negativity gets started, it can make you feel worse and harm your health. Some mental grooming may help with coping on bad days.
Here are a few books to help get you started with simple ways to take care of yourself.
Kelly Mack lives in Washington, DC, and works for a marketing communications firm.
Eating for Two? Are You at Risk for Gestational Diabetes?
Do you have a family history of diabetes?
Were you overweight before becoming pregnant?
Did you gain more weight than your doctor recommended in your first trimester?
If you answered yes, talk to your doctor about monitoring your blood glucose level.
Your Diet, Your Weight and Gestational Diabetes
Eating for two may be a commonly used expression when referring to pregnancy, but this phrase can be misleading when it comes to the health and well-being of pregnant women and their unborn babies. Thinking about what you eat when you are pregnant and how much you weigh is part of being proactive when it comes to gestational diabetes.
According to the American Diabetes Association, roughly 18 percent of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes- typically around the 24th week of their pregnancy. Without enough insulin, glucose builds up in the blood instead of leaving and being changed into energy.
“A diagnosis of gestational diabetes doesn’t mean you had diabetes before you conceived, nor does it mean you will have diabetes after giving birth, although it does increase your lifetime risk of diabetes,” explains Abimbola Aina-Mumuney, M.D., a specialist in high-risk pregnancies at the Johns Hopkins Maternal Fetal Medicine Center at HCGH. “You need to talk to your doctor about your blood glucose levels to ensure you and your baby remain healthy.”
Thinking About Getting Pregnant?
According to Dr. Aina-Mumuney, taking care of yourself before getting pregnant goes a long way towards having a healthy pregnancy and delivery. She urges overweight patients to talk to their doctor prior to conceiving, so they can be properly prepared for the risks. Pregnancy risks linked to obesity include preeclampsia, diabetes, premature delivery, stillbirth and an increased rate of cesarean section delivery.
Dana Baras, M.D. an obstetrician on staff at HCGH, adds that “not only do overweight women have an increase in the likelihood they’ll have a C-section, but they have an even greater risk of complications of cesarean delivery.”
Weight Gain During Pregnancy
Many women are concerned about “normal” weight gain during pregnancy. “What is normal for one patient is not the same for another,” states Dr. Aina-Mumuney. Data suggest women who are overweight or obese should not gain as much weight as women with an ideal body weight. “A patient in her ideal body weight range could gain weight whereas overweight or obese women may not need to gain additional weight or gain very little,” explains Dr. Aina-Mumuney. “Women carrying twins or multiples may need to gain more weight, so it’s important to talk with your healthy care provider to determine what is right for you.”
According to the Institute of Medicine, a normal weight woman should gain between 25-35 pounds during pregnancy. “Women are often surprised that translates to only about 300 extra calories per day, less than three slices of bread,” says Dr. Baras.
What to do if You Have Gestational Diabetes
“We explain the importance of regularly testing blood glucose levels to women with gestational diabetes who come to HCGH’s diabetes program,” says Teresa Love, MS, RD, CDE. “We review their numbers and assess their eating style, focusing on carbohydrates. We help them develop a budget for carbs, outlining how many to eat. Just like you budget at home for other things, now these women have a budget for foods that raise their blood sugar. That is not to say they cannot eat carbs. There is a healthy middle ground in carb consumption.”
Love’s Wellness Tips for Women With Gestational Diabetes
The only beverage containing carbohydrates you should drink is milk.
Re-evaluate breakfast. Instead of cereal, choose eggs and toast or cottage cheese.
When it comes to diet, you are eating for 1 and ¼ – not two. A larger baby doesn’t always mean a healthier baby.
Incorporate exercise. You don’t have to be an athlete, but exercise moves glucose into the muscles where it belongs. It is often as effective as medication in terms of treatment.
For more information check out our entire series of videos at www.hcgh.org/videos including:
Diabetes and Pregnancy and Weight Gain and Pregnancy with Donna M. Neale, MD is the Director of the Center for Maternal and Fetal Medicine and Obstetrics at Howard County General Hospital, and Assistant Professor of the Gynecology/Obstetrics Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
I can’t help but remember that popular jingle from the “Chia Pet” commercial whenever I reach for Chia seeds in my pantry! Up until a couple of months ago, I’d been a flax seed lover, but recently, learned I could eat those seeds used to grow “hair” on the popular planters from the 80’s! When I learned of the health benefits of the Chia seed, I became more intrigued by them.
Chia seeds come from the plant Salvia Hispanica, native to Mexico and Guatemala. They’ve become popular due to their ease of use and superior nutritional value. Chia seeds are often called a “superfood” because of their many health benefits and micronutrients. (I like to think of “superfoods” as the superheroes of nutrition!)
The Chia seed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which we can only obtain from diet, and are essential for the body to function normally. They are low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Plus, they are an excellent source of calcium, potassium, iron, and magnesium, not to mention protein as well.
I like using them daily because they can be eaten whole without having to grind them. And I love how versatile they are! They can be sprinkled over any dish, or soaked to form a gelatinous texture to make puddings, for example. There are so many Chia seed recipes available now: from sauces and jams, to pizza crusts and baked goods. The possibilities seem endless and the health benefits are amazing!
Combine all the ingredients in a pint jar. Cover the jar with a lid and give it a vigorous shake.
Chill for about an hour, then return to the jar and shake it up. Let chill for at least 4 hours and overnight is even better.
Chia seeds will expand and turn into pudding the consistency of applesauce (it won’t get really thick).
Serve cold with sliced fruit or toasted nuts on top.
Wendy Camassar is an Instruction and Research Specialist at the Central Branch of the Howard County Library System. Prior to joining HCLS, she worked as a freelance makeup artist for several years. She enjoys hiking with her family, exercising, reading, and organic foods and skin care products.
The National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research estimates nearly a third of youths today are overweight or obese; that’s more than 23 million children and teenagers. The Howard County Health Assessment Survey showed that one in two Howard County residents is overweight or obese, and that one in 10 Howard County parents were told by a doctor that their child should lose weight. In a 2008 survey, 17 percent of school-age children were considered overweight and 14 percent obese. Regardless of whether you think your child will outgrow his or her weight issues, childhood obesity has immediate and long-term effects on your child’s health and well-being.
Did You Know?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obese children and adolescents are more likely to:
Have risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure
Experience bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem
Be obese as adults; therefore, they are at greater risk for developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and osteoarthritis or having a stroke as well as have an increased risk for many types of cancer, including breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix and prostate.
What is Overweight vs. Obese?
Obese children and adolescents have a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile for their gender and age. The term “overweight” describes those with a BMI at or above the 85th but below the 95th percentile. To calculate your child’s BMI, visit cdc.gov/bmi. According to Edisa Padder, M.D., a pediatrician on staff at Howard County General Hospital, the goal of BMI screening is to recognize the weight gain trends earlier and initiate prevention before serious obesity has developed.
What Can Parents Do?
Dana Wollney, M.D., a pediatrician on staff at HCGH, outlines simple things parents can do to help their children with weight loss:
Confirm that your child is ready to work on their weight.
Once they are committed, include their physician as an extra layer of accountability.
Establish goals so everyone is on the same page; work with your physician to determine what is a reasonable amount of weight loss.
Change one habit at a time. Once a new habit becomes routine, it is easier to keep and you are more likely to be successful.
“Close” the kitchen before bed to avoid snacking right before bedtime.
Offer fresh fruit and vegetables; they will help your child feel full and your child will come to appreciate natural sweetness.
Pack your child’s lunch for school and be sure to include fresh fruit versus cookies/unhealthy snacks.
Remember you don’t have to be perfect to claim success—even five pounds of weight loss has health benefits.
“A nutritious diet is necessary to maintain a healthy weight but exercise is important too. Family exercise time is a great way to strengthen both muscles and relationships,” says Dr. Padder. “Exercise does not have to be rigorous. A great way to start being active is simply walking together as a family. And, remember to be a good role model for your children; if your children see you eating healthy and exercising, they will be more likely to do those things too.”
Weighing in on Your Child’s Weight
For more information, join us for a free panel discussion on March 25, 6:30–8:30 p.m. at the Howard County General Hospital Wellness Center. Join pediatrician Edisa Padder, M.D.; psychiatrist Robin Toler, M.D.; dietitian Ashli Greenwald; and exercise specialist Suzie Jeffreys to hear ideas, tips, and tools to help your child reach a healthier weight. Submit your questions in advance to HCGH_news@jhmi.edu. Click here to registerfor this free discussion.
While dysmorphia is complicated by myriad cultural issues, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health offers well-researched ways of altering an adolescent’s perception of perfect. Here’s an excerpt from the published material (p. 13, pdf p. 28).
Consider: junior-plus-sized Virginia Shreve is fifteen, smart-mouthed, and standing on the precipice of an emotional cliff. Should she take the plunge and mess around with a boy from school? A boy actually called Froggie? Or should she just go in the kitchen, call it a day, and eat another Twinkie?
Nothing seems right in Virginia’s life, but her insensitive parents (and truly rotten brother) are only half the problem. Her best friend has moved far away, and then, there’s that relentless queen bee at school. Not to mention, she may never ever be the size 2 of her mother’s dreams. And then, a harrowing event changes everything.
Sharply honest, young (and young-at-heart) readers will find themselves cheering for Virginia – all the way to her “a-ha” moment in a Saks Fifth Avenue dressing room, where self-esteem finally outweighs the scale.
Feel good about yourself, and read this book.
Aimee Zuccarini is a research assistant and instructor at the East Columbia Branch. She facilitates several book discussions and writes the book reviews for The Maryland Women’s Journal.