5847802511_e74b43baa7_bLadies and gentlemen, boys and girls, gather your glitter and wave those rainbow flags proudly- LGBTQ pride month is upon us yet again! Pride events are annually recognized in honor of the struggles and victories of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) community; the most significant of these struggles being the Stonewall riots that took place in Manhattan, NY in 1969. Thanks to the brazen courage of the activists and political renegades who set the modern day gay and lesbian movement into motion (such as Del Martin, Phyllis Lyon, and Harvey Milk), many of us have claimed the right to live every beautiful shade of our lives out in the open and crave to celebrate that simple fact with our fellow human beings.

While many of us are lucky enough to live in countries where being ourselves and loving whom we choose is possible, sadly, not all of us are so lucky. When there are men, women, and youth still being persecuted, imprisoned, and/or murdered in many parts of the world for how they identify, for whom they choose to love, and for how they choose to express themselves, the concept of pride takes on a bigger significance. Currently, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association provides information regarding LGBTQ rights (or lack thereof) within the international realm. For instance, their website features a color coded world map that denotes countries where homosexuality can fetch up to 10 years imprisonment or even death.

The psychological and emotional stress of knowing one’s life is threatened by the laws and beliefs of one’s own country can scar a person in unimaginable ways. When we consider personal health and well-being, mental and emotional health are significantly important components to that puzzle. Living in a society with legally established modes of discrimination can affect a person, and may lead to anxiety, depression, self-harming behavior, or suicide. According to an article published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), titled Prejudice, Social Stress, and Mental Health in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Populations: Conceptual Issues and Research Evidence, the prevalence of mental disorders in the LGBTQ community are precipitated by stigma, discrimination, experience of prejudiced events, expectation of rejection, concealing (i.e “being in the closet”), and homophobia (especially internalized forms).

A loving, honest, and safe environment should begin at home first and foremost. Life gives us each our fair share of challenges, and tests our will, our strength, and our well-being over the course of a lifetime. LGBTQ identified individuals must face even greater challenges when they are exposed to discrimination at home and within the society they live in from very early on. Imagine, just for a second, how you might respond in a world that did not fully accept you for something about yourself that you could not change. Sometimes all it takes is a compassionate heart, and the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, in order to gain some sense of another’s struggles from beyond the confines of our own perspectives.

There are various kinds of support available to LGBTQ individuals, and their allies, located in the US, and the Washington/Baltimore area in particular. Organizations, such as Chase Brexton, Human Rights Campaign, Whitman Walker Health, Equality Maryland, and the Fenway Institute’s National LGBT Health Education Center, are prepared to provide LGBTQ individuals with health and/or legal resources. Knowing that there are professionals and organizations equipped with the skills to serve the LGBTQ community is effectively beneficial, and lends great peace of mind.

Pride is a chance to collectively celebrate with members of an extended family and allies, with courage and love, knowing that we are each part of one human family. We have the honor of gathering and celebrating, as we fondly remember those who fought relentlessly so that we may be where we are today and have the rights we are entitled to. To my fellow LGBTQ family, and strong allies, I say, let us continue showing one another love, respect, and support. Life may be hard, but it’s most certainly short. Let’s embrace ourselves even more fully and celebrate all that we are, and all that we have yet to achieve. Happy Pride!

When Jinelee De Souza isn’t channeling her inner super-heroine at Howard County Library System as an Instructor & Research Specialist, she’s doing so at the gym, during impromptu photoshoots with her bff, and everywhere in between.

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PamPeeke_BrownLeather_webIn her publications – The Hunger Fix, Body for Life, Fit to Live, and Fight Fat After Forty - Dr. Pamela Peeke takes a holistic and integrative approach to mental, emotional, and physical fitness. From a perspective of full body health, she describes how to stay (or get) fit, healthy, and happy without endangering any aspect of your well being – a much needed and appreciated approach in our diet-obsessed culture.

The formula for weight loss is simple, right? Burn more calories than you eat – easy as that. However, becoming or staying truly fit takes more than eating the proper foods and getting enough exercise; it involves reducing stress and eschewing self-destructive habits. But how do you do that? Each aspect taken on it’s own seems easy enough, but taken as a whole it’s a hefty list: reduce stress, eat nutritious foods, decrease or eliminate self-destructive habits, and practice enough safe and satisfying exercise. Whew! I can’t even get to the end of that sentence without getting tired.

Luckily for all of us, Dr. Peeke has outlined a couple scientifically backed plans to improve health and wellness for people of any age or gender. Following Dr. Peeke’s three stage detox and recovery plan as outlined in The Hunger Fix or the five point plan she lays out in Fit to Live will ensure that all variables in the health and fitness formula are addressed. In The Hunger Fix, Dr. Peeke describes how dopamine rushes can be connected to unhealthy foods in the brain, and she lays out a plan to replace “false fix” foods with healthy fixes like meditating, writing, walking, or even laughing. In Fit to Live, she reframes healthiness with a simple question, “Are you fit to live?” Meaning, are you really mentally, emotionally, and physically fit enough to survive in the modern world with all it’s stressors and possibilities? With a lifestyle and health assessment, Dr. Peeke provides long term prognoses of different levels of fitness and a plan to improve by cutting out toxic lifestyle elements.

As you’ve no doubt seen previously on Well & Wise, Dr. Pam Peeke, internationally renowned expert on nutrition, stress, fitness, and public health, will be speaking tonight, Monday June 9th, at the Howard County Library System Miller Branch at 7:00pm. Registration is available online or by calling 410-313-1950. Come by to ask Dr. Peeke your nutrition, stress, and fitness questions directly!

Jessica Seipel is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She has worked for the Howard County Library System, in various positions, for a decade.

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Did you know that Columbia’s movie theaters offer free refills on tubs of large popcorn? Sadly, I not only know that, but I get the free refill, bring it home, and find myself eating a handful of popcorn without even having felt hungry or made a conscious decision to eat a snack. Because of this behavior and many others that inevitably will surface in future blogs, Dr. Pamela Peeke’s The Hunger Fix flew off the shelf and into my hands.

As I settle in for a motivational read, I wonder how the book will speak to me. I pride myself on being self aware. I try to be self critical on an as-needed basis, but often I feel free to put myself down just because. Since my childhood found me in a family where food was the solution to every problem, self-deprecation and food can be a vicious cycle for me. I dole out my own misery and its relief. Will Dr. Peeke recognize this pattern, acknowledge this person?

Dr. Peeke convincingly promotes the idea that food can be an addiction. One in three Americans is obese. Even many Americans who are not overweight struggle with food addiction. One’s body physiology helps fuel this food addiction by creating the urge to satisfy the “dopamine-driven reward pathway.” Unlike other addictive substances, food is needed for life. The challenge is to avoid “False Fixes” (destructive behavior) and the “dopamine-fueled pleasure burst” that lead to unhealthy overeating. The goal is to say “no” to false hunger and go for “Healthy Fixes” (productive behavior) instead.

When science is presented alongside advice, my attention is focused. Dr. Peeke’s advice hooked me. She points to studies of brain scans showing diminished dopamine receptors in the brains of obese subjects, causing these subjects to have to eat more to trigger the good feelings associated with food. This is the same physiology seen in the brains of substance abusers and alcoholics. Dopamine is released by the brain during pleasurable activities. Eating and thinking about foods we like causes dopamine release. The “high” we get with dopamine release leads us to seek that high. If the dopamine release continues to increase in frequency and amount, the body accommodates by decreasing the number of dopamine receptors. With fewer receptors, the “high” feels diminished, causing the addict to increase the consumption in order to achieve an equally powerful high. The activity in the brain’s prefrontal cortex (PFC) is also reduced in obese subjects. The PFC is the region of the brain associated with complex decision making. Decreased activity in this area of the brain may indicate an association with lack of willpower and reduced mindful behavior. Of note, stressful lifestyles increase the body’s acetylcholine and cortisol levels. Dopamine can counteract the uncomfortable feelings caused by those hormones.

The chemistry behind food intake as a means to cope with stress is real. The power of reward is just as real. We can form new habits regarding what we see as a reward. Just because food was a reward for me as a child does not mean it always has to be this way. Dr. Peeke applies her knowledge of neurochemistry to guide readers to the place of “Healthy Fixes,” taking us through the stages of detox and recovery. She provides abundant information on constructive thought processes (mind), nutritious dopamine-building foods (mouth), and healthy dopamine receptor-regenerative behaviors (muscle). As the “fix” proceeds, the PFC is strengthened. Just as overeating can become the body’s new normal, so too can healthy behaviors become what we are accustomed to and what we crave. A healthy relationship with food can be achieved.

Intriguing, right? Well, I invite you to explore The Hunger Fix further. Browse our blogs on Dr. Peeke’s books. The best news of all is that you can hear her in person when she visits the Miller branch on Monday, June 9, 2014 at 7 pm.

Cherise Tasker is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Central Branch and has a background in health information. Most evenings, Cherise can be found reading a book, attending a book club meeting, or coordinating a book group.

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Sexual harassment takes many forms and it can come from co-workers or strangers on the street. But what do you do when your customers harass you? Share your comments below.

Last month I regaled you, dear reader, with some challenges of working in the public service realm, specifically some of the harassment (intentional or not) that can come from customers/clients/patrons/vendors. I did not, however, get to talk about any potential solutions or coping mechanisms. This month, I’ll try to explore those (though I am no expert).

First and foremost, a company or organization may not even realize that there is a problem unless the employee brings it to their attention, which a lot of employees are hesitant to do since harassment from customers doesn’t fall under the traditional definitions/policies. This great article from Work It, Richmond discusses how employers, once aware of the problem, should let the customer/client know that a behavior is unacceptable. Some businesses are even making their in-house harassment policies available for customers/vendors/business partners to openly read; therefore, people who do business with a particular organization will already know what behaviors will not be tolerated and what consequences they may face (such as being banned from that organization). Companies/organizations should support employees who are made to feel uncomfortable, but sometimes an employee may not even know that she/he is being harassed.

Equal Rights Advocates provides a clear description of different types of sexual harassment, including the tricky nonverbal types. They state, “To be illegal, sexual harassment must be unwelcome. Unwelcome means unwanted. For this reason, it is important to communicate (verbally, in writing, or by your actions) to the harasser that the conduct makes you uncomfortable and that you want it to stop.” So even without involving the company, an employee has the right communicate a wish for the harasser to stop certain behaviors. Sometimes communicating this type of information may be difficult. There are plenty of resources to help, such as Deal with Difficult People: How to Cope with Tricky Situations and People; Perfect Phrases for Dealing with Difficult People: Hundreds of Ready-to-Use Phrases for Healing Conflict, Confrontations, and Challenging Personalities; and Dealing with Difficult People.

Of course all of these “solutions” puts the onus on the employer or the employee. What about the harasser? Sadly, some people may not recognize that they are acting in an abusive way unless they are informed of it. Even more sadly, some people may not care. Not to oversimplify, but I’d challenge people to put themselves in the position of the worker. I put this challenge to myself and came up with a list of things I will not do to someone who is my “captive audience” on a public service desk:

  1. I will try to only discuss topics that deal with the workplace in which you are working.
  2. If we do engage in “small talk,” I will keep it to a minimum and be sensitive to the fact that you are at work and have limited time for chit-chat.
  3. I will try to avoid asking questions that require you to reveal personal information.
  4. I will not comment on your appearance, good or bad.
  5. If I am overcome with a desire to be your friend or try to get to know you on a personal level, I will ask you politely if you wish to get together sometime outside of work, and then drop it completely if you tell me “no thank you,” without trying to wheedle or press you for more information.

I’d love to know if anyone else has any suggestions/modifications to add to my list. I do think these would make a nice basis for anyone trying to be considerate of those working in a public forum.

Recovering from an abusive situation at work and regaining a sense of comfort in your workplace is a whole other undertaking, an important one–one that, hopefully, a human resources department can provide some help with. There are some resources that might be helpful, such as Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace; The PTSD Workbook; The Body Keeps the Score; and Anxiety and Avoidance: A Universal Treatment for Anxiety, Panic, and Fear, just to name a few. Also, seeking counseling and guidance from a professional would be wise.

Joanne Sobieck-Lingg is glad to blog about her many, disparate interests (though expert in none, except maybe parenthetical asides). In past lives, she was a writer, proofreader, editor, project manager, teacher, and even co-coordinator of a certain health blog. She has been happily ensconced among the fiction and teen books at the Central Branch of HCLS since 2003.

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“It’s about change, about committing to a new way of living–one that will ensure a lifetime of self-esteem and confidence.” Cindy Crawford, model

Ready for mind and body fitness? Open Body-for-LIFE for Women and be amazed by the attention-grabbing cover lining. Like the personal stories inside, the before and after photos attest to the success that so many different women have found following this book’s advice. Dr. Pamela Peeke, a physician specializing in nutrition and metabolism, introduces MMM – the Mind-Mouth-Muscle Formula for physical and mental fitness. Relying on the gender-specific studies of women’s biology and physiology, Dr. Peeke presents a health plan tailored around hormonal milestones. Taking into account biological, behavioral, social, and psychological factors, MMM confronts the challenges of motivation, healthy eating, and fitness. The book even includes detailed weight training and stretching instructions with helpful photos guiding the reader in proper form.

PamPeeke_BrownLeather_webSome highlights of this inspirational book include the “Cut Calories without Counting Them” page and the “Smart Foods Table” for constructing healthy meals. There is an informative nutritional table comparing energy bars. (The healthy fast food, energy bars are not all created equally so it can be tough to know which one to choose). Dr. Peeke’s fitness guidelines are especially encouraging in their emphasis on intensity rather duration. The goals are based on the science of metabolism and never feel overwhelming or unrealistic. There is also an abundance of insightful stress management tips such as the Rule of Reverse Expectations, “Anticipate that there will be obstacles in your path….Remember that in the midst of difficulty lies opportunity.” Dr. Peeke writes about creating “motivational targets” to overcome tough times and invigorate healthy choices.

Whether you are most interested in improving your emotional, nutritional, or physical fitness, check out Body-for-LIFE for Women. Next, register at hclibrary.org to meet the author on Monday, June 9, 2014 at 7 pm at the  Miller branch. Dr. Peeke will be speaking about her books and taking questions. See you there!

Cherise Tasker is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Central Branch and has a background in health information. Most evenings, Cherise can be found reading a book, attending a book club meeting, or coordinating a book group.

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Are you ready for the nice weather and the unofficial start to summer this Memorial Day weekend? After the winter we experienced, I think we’re all excited to finally be outside doing something other than shoveling snow! I’m looking forward to gardening, barbecues, and spending time with family and friends. Are you planning a trip to the beach or spending time at a pool?

Many of us look forward to this time of year, but this time of year can also elicit fear and anxiety. Why? It’s simple: swimsuit season. Shopping for a swimsuit is usually on top of our list of things to avoid. This year let’s make a pact to not let body image issues affect us in negative ways. We will not succumb to the fear and anxiety that normally accompanies us into the dressing rooms when we try on swimsuits. Everyone has something he or she would like to change about his or her body and this can motivate us in a good way to exercise more or eat better. Our goal should be a stronger body and better health, year round.

The days are warmer and there are more hours of daylight! Get outside and walk, run, swim or bike! You will feel better afterwards, I promise. We all deserve the benefits of exercise, so start now. HCLS has a great collection of books and DVD’s to help you get started.

Whatever you do this summer, focus on what you love about your body instead of what you want to change. Be mindful about what you say about your body, because it will affect how you feel about yourself. It won’t be easy, but try to silence your inner critic and speak to yourself like you would to a friend. Stop comparing yourself with the body images so often portrayed in the media. Many of us do not have time or money for personal trainers, in-house gyms, or the best photographers or airbrush artists. What we can do is make realistic, positive changes in our lives to become more fit and healthy. We can commit to not dwelling on the negative. Friends and family love and support us just the way we are!

Isn’t it time we free ourselves from worrying about what other people think? If there are people in your life who are making you feel inadequate in some way, it’s time to ignore them and trust yourself. Go ahead and try on that swimsuit and smile at what you see. It might be hard to do at first, but most things that are worthwhile are. Make it a goal to give yourself a compliment every day. When you look in the mirror say something positive about what you see.

If you are interested in learning more about body image check out the many books, magazines and articles available at HCLS. Information on body image is also available at Womenshealth.gov.

So, are you ready to make the commitment to stop the negative self-talk? To not let worries about how you look in your swimsuit spoil your summer fun? Great! Go ahead and give yourself an emotional high-five the next time you look in the mirror! Now grab a book from one of the summer reading displays at the library, put on your swimsuit, smile, and I will see you at the beach or pool this summer.

Don’t forget your cover-up. No, not your swimsuit cover-up (you can bring that too), but your sunscreen. Visit the Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library for more information on how to choose and apply sunscreen.

On a more serious note, if you know someone who has an unhealthy preoccupation with body image, encourage him or her to seek help from a counselor or doctor. You can visit the Johns Hopkins Medicine Eating Disorders Program to find answers to frequently asked questions.

Nancy Targett is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Miller Branch. She lives in Columbia and is the proud mom of three boys and a girl and a Siamese cat.

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