Monday, December 28, 2015

Here's to a Healthier 2016

With three days remaining in 2015, this week is a great time to reflect on your wellness goals for the upcoming year.   Do you feel healthier today than you did in a year ago?  What did you learn about your own health and wellness in 2015?   In what areas do you feel the need for change?

Statistics indicate that nearly half of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions, with losing weight being the most popular.  Unfortunately, only 8% are successful in achieving their resolution (Statistic Brain, 2015).  This begs the question…why aren’t Americans achieving their goals?
According to Psychology Today online, the majority aren’t actually ready to change their habits – particularly bad ones – and this lends to a high failure rate.  Avya Sharma of the Canadian Obesity Network says that people tend to set “unrealistic goals and expectations in their resolutions” (Williams, 2014).  Guilty as charged.  

With the help of Psychology Today and, I’ve compiled some tips to help you reach a healthier lifestyle in 2016.

1.  Make a plan.
Outline the changes you want to make, and then create a plan to accomplish them.  Smaller steps are more feasible than tackling everything at once.  For example, I plan to complete a Tough Mudder event in June with my husband and some friends.  To start challenging myself daily, I’m planning to do 20 push-ups when I wake up and 20 before bed.  Every day that I finish these, I’ll put a little “check” in my planner.  It’s a small, but doable action that I’m hoping will make a difference (even a minor one is helpful at this point!).

2.  Be mindful.
Mindfulness is a general awareness of your physical, emotional and mental state on a consistent basis.  Being mindful helps one live in the present, rather than reflecting constantly over past events or worrying needlessly about the future. 

3.  Celebrate success.
As an example, don’t wait until you’ve lost 20 pounds to acknowledge your progress. 

4.  Create a focus.
This unique suggestion caught my attention.  Psychology Today suggests creating an area of focus, rather than a time-bound, specific goal.  According to Peter Bregman, writing in the Harvard Business Review Blog Network, “An area of focus taps into your intrinsic motivation, offers no stimulus or incentive to cheat or take unnecessary risks, leaves every positive possibility and opportunity open, and encourages collaboration while reducing corrosive competition.” In lieu of setting a specific goal, an area of focus may allow you to hone in on an area of your life and develop more creative ways of approaching issues.

5.  Find your motivation.
For me, motivation stems from my children.  I want to keep myself healthy and active as a role model for them, and to foster my own ability to keep up with them!  For you, it might be overcoming a health issue, improving energy levels, boosting confidence, etc. Turn to your source of motivation for inspiration throughout the year ahead.

Happy New Year!

Sara Police, PhD 

1.  10 Tips to Help You Achieve Your New Year’s Health Goals.  Fitday.  Retrieved from:
2.  New Year’s Resolution Statistics.  Statistic Brain Research Institute.  Retrieved from:     
3.  Williams, R.  Why People Can’t Keep Their New Year’s Resolutions.  Psychology Today, 2014.  Retrieved from:

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Power of Smiling

This time of year, the movie Elf, starring Will Ferrell is a popular choice among those who wish to laugh at holiday silliness.  One of my favorite lines when he’s asked why he’s smiling, Elf replies ‘I like smiling; smiling’s my favorite.’

The power of a smile benefits the human body is so many ways, releasing positive energy throughout.  In turn, a smile even affects those around you because it’s contagious. Have you ever noticed when you start out the day in a good mood, this positive energy seems to follow throughout the day?  This can begin with a simple smile before getting out of bed or while preparing breakfast.

Research shows that a smile releases neurotransmitters that help to reduced stress, cause relaxation and reduce the heart rate and blood pressure.  The feel-good emotions that are created even act much like anti-depressants. 

A smile causes you to look different, in turn people treat you differently…better than when frowning.  You look more confident, reliable, happy, etc.  I have found when walking through the day with a smile, others smile back at me.  The treatment I’ve experienced while wearing a smile include more doors being held open, generosity, and people being genuinely sweet and reflective of my happy mood. 

I encourage everyone to walk thought the day with a smile and work hard during a negative experience to overcome the situation with this simple facial expression. 

Joyce Rode, MA

S. Stevenson (June 25, 2012) There’s magic in your smile. How smiling affects your brain. Psychology Today. Retrieved December 11, 2015.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

How to Achieve Professional Baking at Home

I used to wonder how bakeries created such delectable treats while my home baked goods were edible but no comparison.  Come on, we can all imagine the sensation of biting into a crumbly muffin or a chewy donut.  Is there a secret to baking at home with professional results?

After years of baking at home, I believe that it comes down to a few simple tips.  The most important aspect of baking starts with the flour.  There are many varieties of flour available and each has a specific application.  Of course, the home baker can use all-purpose flour; however, this is too general for professional quality.  Protein content defines the final structure and texture of baked goods.

High protein flour (bread flour) = More gluten development = chewy and/or elastic texture
Low protein flour (cake flour) = Less gluten development = crumbly and/or course texture

Think about the texture of the baked good to determine when it's best to use these different flours.  For example, pizza dough is elastic and yeast breads are chewy; this is where bread flour works best, along with kneading to further develop the gluten strands.  Foods such as muffins, quick breads, pancakes, etc benefit from using cake flour and gently mixing ingredients just until combined.

I have actually used bread flour when baking simple chocolate chip cookies because it results in a more chewy cookie.  For cupcakes, cake flour is used and results in a delicate texture.  When baking bread, I will also use whole wheat flour; however, bread flour and cake flour are mostly stocked in my pantry.

One additional tip to making professional home baked goods includes choosing high quality ingredients.  The quality of the butter, vanilla, and chocolate can influence the final texture and flavor.  Since I enjoy baked goods in moderation, I find that when it tastes as good as a bakery, a small amount can satisfy a craving.

Happy Baking
Joyce Rode, MA

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


Ahh… the dreaded strep throat.  My eleven-year-old daughter has suffered multiple cases in the last three years.  So many that they have finally decided to take out her tonsils.  In fact, she is scheduled for a tonsillectomy today.  We’re both looking forward to and dreading the procedure.  Dreading the pain and recovery time, but looking forward to the infection free life she will hopefully have after the procedure.

Why do we even have tonsils?  It is thought that tonsils capture incoming infections in the first few years of life.  The tonsils, which are comprised of glandular tissue, then help develop antibodies against bacteria and viruses.  After the first few years of life, they are not really needed anymore.  In fact, studies show that after tonsil removal, patients don’t incur more infections than someone who keeps their tonsils.

So, it appears that tonsils serve a purpose early in life, but after they complete their duties, they don’t provide any more protection.  Aren’t our bodies fascinating?

Valerie J Connor, MA CCC-SLP, CHES


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Happiness and Learning

Most people strive to be happy.  We look for ways to reduce stress and improve our overall wellbeing.  It is a well-know fact that living well (i.e., eating right, keeping our bodies active, getting enough sleep) contributes to positive feelings. Did you know that learning can increase happiness as well?  Studies show that adults who continue to learn are much less likely to develop symptoms of dementia or memory loss (Duljovic, 2015).  It’s also a great way to meet new friends and develop new relationships.

So, this holiday season, consider giving the gift of learning experiences!  Art classes, foreign language tutorials, sewing lessons, or a membership to the gym would be great gifts.  For the New Year, consider challenging yourself with a new goal.  Last year, I made it a goal to improve my horse-riding skills by changing my fitness regimen to include balance and stretching exercises.  This lead to an interest in yoga, which became another goal! 

Have fun picking your new adventure or gifting one to others.  Tis the season!

Valerie J Connor, MA CCC-SLP, CHES

For more info:
Thursday, December 3, 2015

Man in the High Castle

This blog post is a wee bit selfish.  I recently binge-watched the first season of an amazing show called Man in the High Castle.  (I don’t want to be a commercial, but if you search that one really big online retailer, you might find it.)  This show is based on a book by the same name written by Phillip K. Dick.  Let’s just say I enjoyed the show so much that I requested the book from our local library and am patiently awaiting its arrival.  (I’m also hoping there will be a Season 2, which is the selfish part of this post…).

The show begins with an alternate history.  The Allies lost World War II to the Axis powers and now the eastern half of the country is controlled by Germany and the Western half is controlled by Japan.  There is much more to the story, but an interesting outcome of this power shift is that Nazi philosophies are simply a way of life in the United States.  In one scene, a main character asks why it appears to be snowing.  The response is a something like “Oh, that’s the hospital.  It’s Tuesday.  They burn the terminally ill and elderly”.

Later in the show, one of the Nazi leaders discovers that his son has a degenerative disease.  When he requests a second opinion, he is gently reminded by his physician that if anyone else finds out about the diagnosis, it will become an “institutional” issue and the father will no longer have a choice about time/place to end his son’s life.  He is given a kit to take home and use at his convenience.

Wow.  We talk about assisted suicide in our country and some states have even legalized it for certain diagnoses (Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and California).  These rights are given to mentally competent patients only, and a long list of criteria must be met.  After that, it is up to the patient to take the prescribed lethal dose of medication and only if they decide to go through with it.  No one can assist and it can certainly never be imposed.

Watching this show was an excellent reminder of the healthcare freedoms we have in our country.  We can seek a second opinion any time we like.  In most cases, we can choose our own physicians.  We can always refuse procedures and even when we face tough choices, we can request an audience with an ethics committee to help us make those difficult decisions.

Healthcare in our country is not without problems or controversy.  However, sometimes it is necessary to step back and be thankful for the freedoms we hold dear.

Valerie J Connor, MA CCC-SLP; CHES

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What’s on my mind about the AquAdvantage salmon (GMO)

Renee Gosselin, MS MBA RD
Nutrition Sciences Instructor                                                                                                             

Well, I am going to keep my own opinions to myself in this as I am sure there will be a lot of debate throughout the nutrition/healthcare/general public.  However, this has been on mind and has made it to the media. The term pinned as the AquAdvantage salmon refers to a GMO engineered Atlantic Salmon  .  The FDA has approved and deemed this salmon as being as safe as the non-GMO. There has also been discussion about the environmental impact of using/harvesting the GMO salmon. The FDA stated that this salmon will be far away from water sources where it is unlikely it will escape into the wild. 

On the other hand, there are some stores/grocery providers that are already stating they will not carry this product. Costo, Wholefoods, Trader Joes’s, Aldi, Kroger,and Safeway have  gone on record to state that they will not carry such the AquaAdvantage Salmon in their stores. However, we do have to be aware that over 80% of the foods Americans eat daily have GMO within in them. This could be as simple as high fructose corn syrup.  So something to ponder is are we already eating the equivalent to the AquaAdvantage if we are eating GMOs?

 Possibly just some things to ponder:
GMOs are outlawed in many countries
Organic products do not contain GMOs
Organic meats/milk/dairy are hormone, antibiotic free 
If we do not use GMOs will we have enough food supply?
Are allergies on the rise because of GMOs? 
Lastly here is a link that discusses GMO information

Breyer, M. (2015). Costco says no to GMO salmon. Retrieved from

FDA. (2015). FDA has determined that the AquaAdvantage Salmon is as Safe to Eat as Non-GE Salmon. Retrieved from

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