Ways to cope in the midst of uncertain times

LIVING WITH HEART & HOPE-“It is often in the darkest skies that we see the brightest stars.” — Richard Evans

The world as we know it has undergone quite a lot of change and it can be challenging to navigate the stress that often accompanies uncertain times. During this month that’s so focused on love, we want to focus on the most impact-full thing you can do to diffuse stress and keep hope alive: self-care.

Here’s the paradox—when you’re stressed, it makes sense that taking care of yourself falls to the bottom of your to-do list; after all, there are so many other people and priorities that are more important, right? Well, no. Self-care is actually MOST important to help buffer you against the health-eroding effects of stress and it’s also a way to keep what’s going on around you in perspective. You can only change yourself and how you show up in the world—and you can only do that when you are healthy and nourished. So avoid the temptation to brush it aside.

To that end, here are three ideas for how you can remain grounded and cared for during the month of February and beyond.

Find community

In stressful times, it’s even more important to reach out to your community—to become engaged with other people, and build human connections. This can be as simple as finding time to spend with friends or family. Kids, in particular, are fantastic supporters of living in the moment and building connections. (Try obsessing about politics around a two-year-old—they will not let you!)


Our smartphones have our go-to for staying connected, but spending all of your waking hours glued to a screen is bad for your soul. Balance out the need to stay informed with some simple time-outs:

  • Go for a walk in nature.
  • Make time for exercise—sweaty exertion is GREAT for clearing the head and harmlessly channeling any feelings of anger or frustration.
  • Read a book: Nothing can help you gain perspective like reading about how others have overcome obstacles.
  • Take care of your basic physical health: practice good sleep hygiene, eat well by focusing on whole foods, and remember to stop and breathe when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Simplifying is not an excuse to tune out. It’s a necessary step to keep yourself from burning out and lapsing into apathy.

Give Back

The best cure for an anxious, blue mood? Giving back to those who are truly less fortunate.

It’s tempting to hide away and remain overwhelmed. But using your skills to give back is not only beneficial to the world—but also beneficial to your well-being! Giving back to others is a great way to feel proud, motivated, and strong. It allows you to really define, prioritize, and fight for your values: What’s most important to you? What good can you do in the world? How can your skills help others? Start thinking of small steps you can take to help others:

  • Can you volunteer some time to help a local charity?
  • Can you mentor someone in need?
  • Can you forego that daily Starbucks run and commit to a small donation to a non-profit?

Seemingly tiny acts add up mightily if you can start a real habit.

To your good health,


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Lying ChEats: Foods You Thought Were Healthy That Aren’t

By Grace Wang and Dr. Chris E. Stout for ATI Physical Therapy

If you’ve been inside a grocery store lately, chances are you’ve been barraged by labelsgranola-bars like, “Made with All Natural Ingredients!” or “Made with Whole Grains!” You’ve seen ice cream claiming to be a great source of calcium or gummy snacks exclaiming in bright colors that they are “Made with REAL Fruit!”

The sad truth is, potato chips that come in earth-toned, papery bags are still potato chips. The FDA considers high-fructose corn syrup to be “natural”, and nutrition labels don’t have to be accurate in order to be compliant with national regulations. We’ve been tricked over and over, and it’s time to put an end to it. Here are a few foods you may have thought were healthy that really aren’t:

Dave Ensign, the Director of Workers’ Compensation Case Management at ATI Physical Therapy says, “You can’t expect your body to stay healthy when what you put into it is unhealthy.” His wife’s blog, “Good Food and Gratitude” is an excellent source of nutritious recipes.

  • Frozen Veggie Burgers. Most frozen veggie burgers don’t contain vegetables at all. Instead, they are made from highly-processed soy or a mysterious-sounding product called “textured vegetable protein”. Seriously, if Dickens had written a dystopian novel, “textured vegetable protein” would be eaten for every meal.

If you need your frozen veggie burger fix, try to find one that’s actually made of vegetables. That’s kind of the point, isn’t it? Prevention.com recommends Hilary’s Eat Well Adzuki Bean Burger.

Healthy eating can be a complicated business. Before your next shopping trip, ATI 300x250remember these three rules that will help you navigate through all the lies. First, companies aren’t trying to keep you healthy – they are trying to sell their products. Second, if they have to convince you that their products are healthy, they probably aren’t. Thirdly, and most importantly, instead of agonizing over whether or not the gummy snacks are really, truly made of real fruit…just put down the box and buy some real fruit.


If you’re a body builder, you may have followed a ketogenic diet in order to lean out and look ripped right before an upcoming show.

When you eat a diet with few carbs, lots of fat, and adequate protein, your body responds to the lower levels of blood sugar by switching to an alternative power source. It converts fatty acids to ketones, which become your main energy source.

Translation: Instead of burning carbs, your body burns FAT.

Feel the burn. Not the pain. 

According to recent studies, a ketogenic diet is an optimal method for shedding body fat and exposing toned muscles. Here are some specific benefits of a ketogenic diet:

  • If adequate amounts of protein are consumed while in a state of ketosis, your body will spare protein and preserve muscle.
  • Many beneficial hormones (GH, testosterone, and IGF-I) are released, which leads to more fat breakdown and lean muscle growth.
  • You may experience decreased appetite and fewer carb cravings, making dieting easier to accomplish.

Here’s the problem: Preparing meals and adhering to the strict guidelines of a ketogenic diet can be extremely difficult for many as it involves a very rigid ratios of carbs, proteins, and fat.

Fortunately, simply combining MCT Lean MCT Oil with a reduced carbohydrate diet can generate therapeutic blood ketone levels and deliver all the benefits of following a ketogenic diet—without the struggle.


Want to build lean muscle and a strong body via a ketogenic diet?

Get started today with MCT Oil or Vegan Protein Blend (or both—they’re the perfect pair)!

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By Dev K. Mishra, M.D., President, Sideline Sports Doc, Clinical Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Stanford University

Key Points:

  • Processed sugar and high fructose corn syrup are likely responsible for a number of negative health issues, such as obesity and metabolic syndrome
  • Create a lifetime healthy habit by eliminating processed sugars from a kid’s diet, whether athlete or not

This week I’d like to highlight a brief and excellent article by Gary Taubes that appeared sugarrecently in the Wall Street Journal, titled “Is Sugar Killing Us?” This article is a summary of some of Taubes’ key findings to be expanded upon in his coming book about the dangers of processed sugar. His premise in a nutshell: processed sugar (such as granular white sugar and high fructose corn syrup) is responsible for a myriad number of ills in the human body, most significantly obesity and diabetes.

I first came across Taubes’ work back in 2002 when he published an article on the cover of the New York Times magazine that featured a photo of a big juicy steak covered in butter and the title was “Fat Doesn’t Make Us Fat”. I remember reading the article and thinking he was nuts. Everybody knows that fat is the evil, avoid it and you won’t get clogged arteries and you won’t get fat. Right? Furthermore, I grew up believing the body treated all calories equally. Which was why as a college student I ate at least two bowls of Cap’n Crunch every morning for four years…

Fast forward 14 years and Taubes’ opinions look to be far closer to the truth. Processed sugar is the likely key factor in increased fat accumulation in the body, a principal trigger to the development of metabolic syndrome in adults, and many other life affecting health issues. It’s pretty clear that there are substantially more bad things that can happen to you from consuming processed sugar and high fructose corn syrup than good.

To be clear, I’d like to separate naturally occurring carbohydrates such as those found in ssd.bannerfruits and vegetables from processed sugar. There are many anti-carb zealots that eliminate most fruits from their diets because of the insulin response the carbs in the fruit creates, but for young athletes and kids who are not athletes I’d strongly recommend including multiple fruits and vegetables in a normal diet. There is no responsible child nutritionist who would eliminate fruits and vegetables from a child’s diet. So when Taubes refers to “sugars” he’s mainly referring to white granular processed sugar, and high fructose corn syrup.

This post was a significant diversion from my usual posts about youth sports health, but this topic is huge for all of us. Sugar will kill us. I’m a believer.

Gluten Free Demystified

Gluten Free Demystified

You see it all the time, “gluten free” bread, tortillas and crackers line the shelves of grocery stores and your favorite pizza joint now asks if you’d like gluten-free crust on your order. Unless you have a medical condition like celiac disease, most people have no idea if gluten is good or bad, much less if they should be omitting it from their diet. The number of people with celiac disease has risen in the U.S. in recent years to as many as three million people, causing the term to become more popular on packaged products and in restaurants.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and different blends of these grains. Gluten causes the small intestine to become inflamed in people with celiac. Over time this inflammation damages the intestinal lining and prevents the body from absorbing the nutrients that it needs to stay healthy.

This can lead to malnutrition and delayed growth that can later cause additional problems like anemia, osteoporosis, thyroid problems, diabetes and even certain types of cancer. In order for a food to use the “gluten free” label, the FDA requires that the product contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten, be free of any type of rye, wheat, barley or blend of these grains, as well as any ingredient that comes from them and hasn’t been processed to remove the gluten to the allowable amount.

Most whole, natural, unprocessed foods are already gluten free. So consuming foods like beans, eggs, unbreaded meats and fish, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, seeds and nuts are going to be your best bets. Just make sure that they have not been processed or mixed with any additives or preservatives that may contain any hidden gluten byproducts. As for grains, flours or other starches, there are many safe alternatives available to you.

Many packaged products will now say whether they are gluten free or not, but it is better to be safe than sorry, so look for rice, corn, nut and seed flours, or flours made of tubers like sweet potatoes or arrowroot. Legume flours made of soy or chickpeas will also work for those avoiding gluten. The key is to avoid anything containing barley, rye, wheat or any crossblend like triticale. And if you are visiting a restaurant, try searching for one online that caters to your needs, like The Steeping Room in Austin, Texas, who marks approved items on the menu.

Some foods are more versatile than others when it comes to replacing gluten-filled flours. Rice, corn and beans are easy replacement ingredients in recipes or fill in as a healthy side dish. Nuts are also very useful in gluten-free cooking; use them to give cooked meat a nice crunch instead of using breading or any type of batter. You can also make nut butters that add a nice flavor to casseroles and other dishes, or just throw some on a rice cake as an alternative to the classic PB and J.

If you are craving cereal, try swapping your usual for grits, buckwheat or a rice pudding. If you think that going gluten free might be for you, try these easy swaps for a couple weeks and see how you feel. You might find out that this easy transition could make you feel great.

Grits for oatmeal Especially good on a cold morning, corn grits is an easy replacement for your bowl of oats that may be processed in factories that can cross contaminate.

Brown rice flour for whole-grain flour Being gluten free doesn’t mean that you have to completely give up all breads and baked goods. Brown rice flour is naturally free of gluten. Experiment with it and you’ll quickly learn how to get the taste and texture you love.

Quinoa pasta for whole-wheat pasta Pasta lovers are miserable at the thought of giving up their weekly spaghetti or linguine meals, but with quinoa pasta becoming more accessible in grocery stores you don’t have to give it up.

Corn tortillas for whole-wheat tortillas There are so many styles of corn tortillas available that you are bound to find one that you love as much as flour. The taste and texture are about the same, but they have less fat and calories on top of being gluten free.

Zucchini slices for lasagna noodles Zucchini is so versatile that you can use them in your lasagna and barely notice the difference. You’ll also get a boost of nutrition and slash the calories.

If you feel that you might be sensitive or have an intolerance to gluten, the best thing for you to do is visit your doctor and find out for sure. It’s also important to keep track of what you eat and pay attention to how you feel afterward so that you can relay that information accurately to your doctor.

by Shanna Oatman for toptrainer.com