Wellness Wednesday: Exercise Doesn’t Guarantee Weight Loss, So Why Do It?

I’d like a good swim or long walk to earn me a Snicker’s bar, but that’s not how it works.

As a rule of thumb, weight loss is generally 75 percent diet and 25 percent exercise.

Shawn M. Talbott, PhD, nutritional biochemist and former director of the University of Utah Nutrition Clinic, cited on Oprah.com

So, why exercise if it’s not about weight loss?

I posed that question to my friend Marlo Scott, owner of First Class Fitness and Wellness and a former colleague when I taught exercise classes to active seniors in nearby Boynton Beach. Marlo, a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor, holds a Masters degree in Health Education and is on the faculty of Broward College.

Although exercise alone doesn’t guarantee weight loss, it does make us healthier by reducing blood pressure, the risk for diabetes, arthritis pain, and depression and anxiety.

Marlo Scott

Exercise reduces blood pressure

The Mayo Clinic explains the correlation: physical activity makes your heart stronger = pumping more blood with less effort = reducing the force on your arteries and lowering your blood pressure.

Exercise reduces risk for diabetes

The Joselin Diabetes Center says that exercise alters fat to release a protein into the blood system, helping to improve glucose tolerance.

Exercise reduces arthritic pain

The Aquatic Exercise Association has partnered with the Arthritis Foundation to develop pool-based classes that use water’s buoyancy, resistance, and pressure to facilitate movement and relieve arthritic pain. I was an AEA-certified instructor before my 2019 illness, and being in water gave me back my body after losing so much muscle mass in the ICU.

Exercise reduces depression and anxiety

The Mayo Clinic says that exercise releases feel-good endorphins, natural cannabis-like brain chemicals, and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being. Getting more social interaction lifts the spirit. And the positive feed-back loop about knowing you’re doing something good for yourself brings you back for more.

Above all, find something that you enjoy! Have fun while you move.

Marlo Scott, First Class Fitness and Wellness

You can find out more about Marlo Scott’s fitness and wellness work here.

Wellness Wednesday: Krispy Kreme, Sam Adams, and the Tooth Fairy

In his article for USA Today, Nathan Bomey writes that Krispy Kreme — click here for video — is offering a free doughnut every day day for the rest of 2021 to anyone who shows their vaccination card. That’s 260 original glazed doughnuts, or 54,600 calories, according to My Fitness Pal. That’s nearly a month’s worth of food value, all free! Please plan accordingly.

The marketing incentives promoting vaccinations can’t hold a candle to my mother’s subtle control strategies. Here’s a story about Krispy Kreme, Sam Adams, and the Tooth Fairy.

Free rides and beer

Bomey writes that Uber and Lyft are offering free rides to vaccination sites to some customers. Staples is offering to laminate vaccination cards for free. Samuel Adams offered free beer to a limited number of people who showproof on social media of their vaccination.

Maybe good health is good for business, but savvy marketing may not be good for our health.

…you’ve got to recognize that giving people a doughnut a day might not be consistent with the message about caring about health.

Peter Jaworski, Georgetown University, quoted by Bomey USA Today

It would be weird if Krispy Kreme was offering a kale smoothie.

Theresa McEndree, Blackhawk Network, quoted by Bomey USA Today

Because I drove so far for the doughnut, I did end up getting six, so I think it was a good business practice.

Valerie Bennett, Roanoke college student, quoted by Bomey USA Today

Selling the baby blanket

My mother was a master at spotting opportunities for incentivizing her kids’ behavior while making us think it was all our idea. Here’s how my sister came to finally releasing her ragged security blanket.

The year was 1960. We were settling into Dad’s Foreign Service assignment in Milan when I lost my first tooth one evening as my little sister and I were going to bed. After she finished dressing to attend the evening’s performance at La Scala, my mother put my tooth in a little box and tucked it under my pillow for the Tooth Fairy.

However, I really did not want some strange lady poking around while I was asleep. My mother thought fast. “How about Dad and I take your tooth to the office on our way to the opera for the Tooth Fairy to find there?” And sure enough, I had money in my hand in the morning.

My savvy sister saw a business opportunity. “I want to sell my nighnee to the Tooth Fairy babies,” she announced over breakfast Susie had clung to that raggedy baby blanket for two years, from Caracas, to Minnesota, to Milan. Mom quickly found a box, Susie packed it up, and Dad took it to the office.

By gum, the fairy bought it and Susie was thrilled to be paid. Lucky fairy babies.

Nancy Amerson, letter to her parents

It’s about providing an additional extrinsic motivator.

Theresa McEndree, Blackhawk Network, quoted by Bomey USA Today
Illustration, USA Today Network; photos, Amy Huschka, Detroit Free Press; Diedre Laird, Charlotte Observer

Travel Tuesday: Looking At The Dutch Tulips

Visitors tiptoe through the tulips in Dutch virus test, wrote Mike Corder recently for the AP, documenting the opening of the famed Keukenhof Gardens for a lucky 5,000 people. It is one of hundreds of public venues that the Dutch government has allowed to reopen under strict conditions to evaluate whether rapid testing can safely help the country ease coronavirus restrictions amid rising levels of vaccinations and warmer weather.

This is a gift. It feels great today. It is beautiful weather anyway … but to walk through the tulips is fantastic!

Corder quotesWritingBerries blogger Berry de Nijs, who shared the following picture on her WritingBerries Facebook page. Dank, Berry!
Dutch blogger Berry De Nijs posted this photo of the tulips in Keukenhof Gardens after her recent visit.

On May 5, 2019, we were scheduled to spend the day at Keukenhof Gardens when our cruise ship stopped in Amsterdam for the day before sailing on to Norway to complete a three-week cross-Atlantic voyage. We had missed the brief tulip season when we were in Amsterdam 2018, catching glimpses of the flowers only at the floating market during our week-long stay, so we’re really looking forward to seeing the 7 million tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and myriad other flowers meticulously hand-planted throughout Keukenhof’s manicured lawns by a small army of gardeners.

Photo by Jane Kelly Amerson López, 2018

But, through one of the zillion of timing miracles that allow me to tell you this today, we were not among the tulips on May 5, 2019, when I fainted on an Amsterdam sidewalk. We were outside a pharmacy getting medication for my husband’s bronchitis. Quick response by EMTs had me in an ER within minutes just as my heart stopped. I had ruptured an undiagnosed aneurysm. OLVG Hospital’s expert intervention sealed the leak, but I would be in the ICU for six weeks as my body struggled to survive, and another six weeks in the gastroenterology unit as I slowly regained movement of my wasted limbs.

I celebrated my one-year anniversary back on my feet. But this year as I commemorate surviving and recovering, I am even more grateful to have been spared breast cancer, to be vaccinated, and to be the least interesting patient in my doctor’s roster.

There’s a whole lot to look forward to, maybe even tiptoeing through Kukenhof one day, while living in each moment.

Politics Monday: Of Course We Need a Vaccine Passport

Travel is ticking back up, and with it talk of a vaccine passport, writes New York Times reporter Claire Moses. It’s not a new idea — inoculations against yellow fever and other diseases are already required for travel to certain countries. Growing up in the Foreign Service, my diplomatic passport was twinned with a passport-sized yellow vaccination booklet.

Opposing on grounds of personal freedom

Like everything else pandemic, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has politicized the notion of a vaccine passport, using the cover of “personal freedoms” to prevent their use.

…vaccination passports reduce individual freedom and will harm patient privacy.

Governor Ron DeSantis

Suing the feds to release cruise industry

And there’s a weird twist to this position, because the return of Florida’s cruise industry, in dry dock since March of last year, is dependent on the concept of a vaccination passport. DeSantis cares so much about this key business that he has sued the Biden administration to release the CDC’s hold. Does his left hand not know what his right hand is doing?

It’s just such a bizarre, mixed signal.

Peter Ricci, director of hospitality and tourism management programs at Florida Atlantic University, quoted in Wendy Rhodes, The Palm Beach Post, April 12

Prolonging the pandemic

He’s fighting for the liberation of unvaccinated people to spread germs as they please in the middle of a worldwide pandemic — one that appears to be surging again. By preventing Floridians to distinguish between who is vaccinated and who is not, DeSantis is telling us to be content with prolonging the pandemic.

The Editors of The Palm Beach Post

Florida leads the country in the number of COVID variant cases, which are 50% more contagious and 64% more deadly. On March 21st, Florida’s deaths surpassed two million. Two million souls are nothing more than data points. You won’t hear this from the state’s confident governor.

I think things are going well.

Governor Ron DeSantis
Pulitzer Prize winner Clay Bennett, Washington Post News Service, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Wellness Wednesday: Feel the Liberation of Getting the Vaccine

Not only was there no longer like a light at the end of the tunnel, there was no longer any tunnel.

Kristen Whitson, 38, Oregon, Wisconsin, in Jordan Mendoza’s USA Today article.

We were in the dark

Yes, we were all in that dark nowhere for months, feeling terrified and lost and hopeless and unseeing.

I thought I’d never get sprung.

My friend Deb

The vaccine lights the way

And, then, the unimaginable happened. A light beamed from not too far away, revealing a short tunnel through which we only had to step to be delivered from the Coronavirus killing machine. Yes, it seemed like an eternal wait, complicated by lottery scrambling for access, but then I entered a grocery store for the first time in eleven months. Inhaling the heady scent of fresh bread, I got a needle in my arm and the world changed.

Gratitude washes over us

United States is the first country to administer 150 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, on track to meet the president’s goal of administering 200 million shots in his first 100 days in office. USA Today reporter Jordan Mendoza writes about Americans getting emotional when being vaccinated.

As soon as I got into the line, I saw an elderly person in a wheelchair getting their vaccine, and I think it was just like a really full-circle moment for me.

Michael Limus, 29, Sacramento, California

The magnitude of the moment just kept washing over me.

Kristen Whitson, 38, Oregon, Wisconsin

I had tears in my eyes, literally. But I also had just a tremendous amount of gratitude and hope in my heart that better days were ahead for all of us.

Tom Miner, 25, Charlotte, North Carolina 

I feel like it’s one step closer to a little bit more normalcy for my family.

Travel blogger Hather Montgome

It’s still miraculous that we’ve been able to come so far.

Mike DiBenedetto, 46, Phoenix

Zimbabwean-American Dr. Tererai Trent and her husband, Mark Trent, celebrated being vaccinated in the best possible way.

Compassion carries us forward

Everyone benefits if you’re a little bit more compassionate and open to being more flexible and more understanding of different challenges and needs. The pandemic is not the only time we should be thinking about these things.

Travis Chi Wing Lau, Assistant Professor, Kenyon College, Columbus, Ohio

Politics Monday: How I Make The Pandemic Numbers Count

We’ve become used to the COVID numbers

As the pandemic war on and people became more accustomed to the new reality, the statistics on new cases and deaths largely receded from the public consciousness, the numbers less of a blaring siren than quiet background music.

Zac Anderson, Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Deadly illness has become the elevator music of our daily life.

I type the numbers out each morning

One of the rituals that I have adopted during the pandemic is typing the daily numbers into a spreadsheet. It comes out of my career as a New York State budget examiner in Albany. Identify the data to understand the world.

As I add the digits, I repeat the figures out loud and connect them to real people. Yesterday, 325 people, the equivalent of my entire Florida neighborhood, were diagnosed with COVID in my county. At the state level, nearly 5000, twice the number of students at my Maryland high school, found out they have COVID, too. The 100 Floridians who died on April 2 feels like losing two-thirds of all my Facebook friends.

Florida deaths exceed those of Canada and Australia combined

Florida had more COVID-19 deaths in a year than Canada and Australia combined, even though the combined population of the two countries is triple that of Florida.

Zac Anderson, Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Florida leads the country in the number of COVID variant cases, which are 50% more contagious and 64% more deadly. On March 21st, Florida’s deaths surpassed two million. Two million souls are nothing more than data points. You won’t hear this from the state’s confident governor.

I think things are going well.

Governor Ron DeSantis

Politics Monday: How Governments That Support Society Make Us Happier

I’ve seen inequality widen, the social fabric decay, the racial wealth gap increase. Americans are rightly convinced that the country is broken and fear it is in decline.

David Brooks, The New York Times

The coincidence of the pandemic’s one-year mark, President Biden’s gargantuan COVID relief bill, and the annual World Happiness Report makes me hope that America may be ready to acknowledge that society’s health and wellbeing comes before individual wants.

Americans need government help

In his recent column, The Biden Revolution Rolls On, New York Times columnist David Brooks writes that President Biden’s epic spending plans — the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package followed by a $3 trillion package of jobs, clean energy and infrastructure proposals — raise a fundamental question.

Should the government redistribute money to the disadvantaged for the sake of common decency and to restore social cohesion?

David Brooks, The New York Times

FDR’s post-depression social welfare programs gave us Social Security, and LBJ’s war on poverty and civil rights work gave us Medicaid and Medicare. Still, America spends far less of welfare-state programs for the young, the old, the sick, and the disadvantaged than do other developed nations.

Americans distrust government

As compelling as our current crisis makes me say YES to government support, the notion goes against our grain, Brooks writes. Our origin story, our revolutionary break with a central power, make us distrust The State. The government as provider of social benefits conflicts with The American Dream gospel that individual hard work leads to success.

Northern European countries outrank us

The World Happiness Report is out, reported David Keyton of the Associated Press. The respondents ranked much social support they feel they have if something goes wrong, their freedom to make their own life choices, their sense of how corrupt their society is and how generous they are. The top 10 countries are Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg, New Zealand and Austria.

We find year after year that life satisfaction is reported to be happiest in the social democracies of Northern Europe. People feel secure in those countries, so trust is high. The government is seen to be credible and honest, and trust in each other is high.

Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia University

When I first wrote about the World Happiness Report in 2018, I was not surprised to see America far from the top ten countries: we are number 18. With American’s distrust of each other, community is challenging to build and government seems ever more alien. The report notes that American culture prizes signs of wealth such as big houses and multiple cars more so than other countries.

Material things don’t make us happy.

Sonja Lyubormirsky, UC-Riverside, author of The How of Happiness

Support, generosity, honesty = happiness

Supporting first responders. Lending neighbors a hand. Volunteering at food pantries. Haven’t we learned that community is all that matters? After all, just being here after this crushing year is pretty darn good.

Editorial Cartoon by Kevin Necessary, Cincinnati Enquirer. Masked man says: “The sun has been shining, it’s getting warmer, and the vaccine is rolling out. Now I have this weird feeling. What’s the opposite of despair?”  Masked woman says: “I think you mean ‘hope.’”
Editorial Cartoonist Kevin Necessary, Cincinnati Enquirer

Wellness Wednesday: Three Strategies Behind My Recovery

Dr. Lisa Sanders’ Diagnosis column in The New York Times Magazine tantalizes me like a true crime story, only with a happy ending. Sanders’ January 17, 2021 column was about a man who’d been diagnosed with a fatal neurodegenerative disease revealed to be a treatable brain disorder. She closed her essay with this:

It was only later that he recognized how strange it was to get a death sentence and lived to tell the tale. ‘“It was,” he told me, “like I was hearing my own eulogy without dying.”

Lisa Sanders, The New York Times Magazine

As a survivor of a near-death illness, I recognize that feeling. Two years ago, I suffered a ruptured arterial aneurysm and weeks of system failures in an Amsterdam ICU, and when I emerged from the fog of illness, my body had lost the ability to move. That intubated and inert body in a hospital bed was me. Yet here I sit, on the eve of my second anniversary, stronger than ever and completely myself in body, mind, and spirit. How in the world did I do this?

Three things have carried me forward for these past two years: keeping focused, celebrating small goals, and repetition.

Keeping focused

Focus seemed to take care of itself, at least initially. When I was really sick, the world shrank to nothing..Taking the next breath was the only thing. As I got better, the perimeter slowly expanded to include my body, my bed, my room, the physiotherapy gym, the park across the street.

After three months, I flew home, knowing how far I’d come. A wise doctor in Amsterdam counseled me to not let myself be discouraged at this phase by others’ impressions of me, but to keep my focus on the next step in getting better. One foot in front of the other, literally. Head down. One step at a time.

Celebrating small goals

At first, my only goals were small ones, and they felt huge. It took me several days to relearn to chew and swallow food before I could be released from the ICU. I could barely make a fist, so holding my iPhone was a victory. It took me an hour, but I finally peeled a tangerine.

Bending a knee, rolling over, and finally standing. My physiotherapist Gemma held me like a junior-high date and I shifted my weight from foot to foot..I walked out of the hospital, onto the airplane, and into my house, and every day since then I’ve continued to seek and nail those small goals.

Repetition

Every day my feet hit the floor is an opportunity to get better, and the morning begins with exercise. At first, it was 10 minutes of shuffling.. It’s now an hour of striding and weight lifting. Every day.

Four times a day, I repeat the pelvic floor exercises I learned from my gynecology nurse practitioner. I use the breathing prompt on my Apple Watch to consciously breathe for those two-minute sets. Every day.

It’s gotten me a long way. And I still have a long way I want to go.

One day, you look up and realize how far you’ve come.

Director of Outpatient Rehabilitation, Our Dear Lady Guesthouse, OLVG Hospital, Amsterdam

Wellness Wednesday: How Getting the Vaccine Has Opened Up Our Life

A PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll released Thursday found that 41 percent of Republicans – and 49% of GOP men – said they wouldn’t get vaccinated. One such person in Virginia‘s Shenandoah Valley was quoted by AP national political reporter Jill Colvin and her St. Louis AP colleague Heather Hollingsworth for their recent article on how GOP worries threaten the vaccine rollout.

I just don’t believe we need vaccinations. I don’t think it is the way God intended for us to be. The majority of my friends and the people that I associated with, the people that we go to church with, we don’t wear masks, we don’t get the shots. I don’t know why people are so terrified of this. It is nothing worse than a flu.

75-year-old Republican, Ron Holloway, quoted in article by Jill Colvin and Heather Hollingsworth, Associated Press

How “God intended for us to be.” Hmm. Makes me think of an old joke. The river has flooded and water surrounds a house. It climbs past the first floor, then the second floor, and then approaches the roof, to where the home’s sole inhabitant has fled. A rescue crew comes by in a rowboat and offers to take the man to safety. No, he says, God will save me. An hour later, the water is lapping at the man’s feet when a second rescue boat comes by. Once again, the man refuses to leave his perch. God will save me, he repeats, as the water closes in on him. He drowns and goes to heaven, where he asks God why He didn’t save him.

Who do you think sent the boats?

God

Vaccines are a miracle

The fact that we have three vaccines — and more being developed — just a year into this catastrophic pandemic is nothing short of miraculous. Maybe it’s science, maybe it’s divine intervention, and maybe it’s both.

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Immunization is freeing

My husband and I are now among the more than 110 million Americans immunized against the coronavirus and able to resume interacting with the populated world after living apart from others for twelve months. And that was on top of being hospitalized for three months overseas and frail for much of the previous year. I’ve never been so happy to make doctors’ appointments.

And it was a very big deal to go for a drive to one of our favorite towns, Delray Beach, on Sunday, a beautiful day with no agenda. What fun to wander down shop-lined streets together for the first time since our 2018 trip Amsterdam, although we were shocked by the number of maskless pedestrians, and not just college students on Spring Break. The beach was packed. We wore our masks the whole time. Although 56 percent of Palm Beach County voters went for Biden last November, it clearly isn’t only Republicans who are ambivalent about the coronavirus.

Picture-perfect Delray Beach, other than too many packed people. Photo: Jane Kelly Amerson López

Mask and vaccines save us

…if we get stuck at 60 or 65% vaccinated, we are going to continue to see significant outbreaks and real challenges in our country, and it’s going to be much, much harder to get back to what we think is normal unless we can get that number higher.

Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, quoted in article by Jill Colvin and Heather Hollingsworth, Associated Press

Although we are beginning to see the light at the end of this very long tunnel, it will have been just a mirage unless we all work harder at doing the right thing. President Biden pleaded with us to wear a mask and get a vaccine. Listen to the man. And that light at the end of the tunnel might just turn out to be July 4 fireworks.

I need you.

President Joe Biden
President Biden during his March 11 televised address

Wildcard Weekend: Looking Back, Looking Ahead, Living Today

‘I didn’t think that it would take years.’

12-year-old Darelyn Maldonado, quoted in an AP article by Michelle R. Smith and Andrew Ledrum, After Pandemic Year, The World Looks Back

Few of us understood a year ago what lay ahead. We forget that living one day at a time is the only way life works. As world looks back at the year of pandemic, here’s what I see.

  • Two years ago, my husband and I sailed for Europe on a trip that nearly ended my life.
  • One year ago, I was finally strong enough to resume normal life when the coronavirus pandemic struck.
  • One month ago, my surgeon told me that the lump she removed from my breast isn’t cancer.
  • Yesterday, two weeks after our second Moderna vaccine, my husband and I emerged into new normal life.

Here’s what hasn’t changed.

I will do everything in my power to stay healthy for the rest of my life: exercising, eating right, and staying away from risky situations. Three months in a hospital, nine months of recovery, and twelve months of partial living are enough.

I’m still under the care of the University of Florida Shands Hospital. My one-year follow up is in August. I am planning to be discharged.

For the rest of my life, I will be at high risk for bacterial infections. My spleen was killed during the surgery that saved my life. I keep a supply of antibiotics close at hand and will stay vaccinated for everything.

We have an amazing daughter who we speak with often and dear family across the United States with whom we’ve stayed in contact throughout these two long years.

We live in paradise.

Here’s what’s different.

The bureau next to the front door contains a drawerful of masks.

Going to Target feels like emerging into the Technicolor Land of Oz.

Our daughter is engaged to a man we love for caring so dearly for our girl. Although V is now vaccinated, we are waiting for her fiancé to also be immunized, and what a hug lies ahead when we can finally get together.

We have a new president, a man who overflows with empathy and good will, and a congress that supports him.

We won’t cruise again, and it will be some time before we feel safe getting on an airplane. But when we do, we’ll go to Amsterdam to hug the people who saved my life.

‘I’m starting to get that feeling: It’s time to go back and do something.

96-year-old Jean Allen Queen Anne Healthcare in Seattle, quoted in an AP article by Michelle R. Smith and Andrew Ledrum, After Pandemic Year, The World Looks Back