Lighten Up to Live Your Healthiest Life 

Research shows that there’s a surprising connection between elevating your mood and shedding stubborn pounds. It’s difficult to feel calm when you worry about what to eat, when to work out, and whether your effort will pay off – all while keeping up with your everyday obligations. So, someone suggesting you relax during this process is laughable.   

Stress, like a roll of fat above your waistband, isn’t easy to shed. But by learning a few ways to slow down, put yourself first, and yes, relax, you can get both your stress levels and your weight under control for good.   



We all have times when we fall into a self-neglect rut, but lately that seems to be almost an epidemic. The American Psychological Associated reports that 44 percent of Americans believe the level of stress in their life is increasing, but only 9 percent think they handle it well. In studying the relationship between stress and being overweight, researches have zoned in on a key hormone called cortisol. You’ve probably heard of it, but it’s not necessarily a bad hormone. Our bodies use it to maintain blood pressure, and it plays a key role in the way we metabolize both fats and carbohydrates for energy.   


The trouble happens when we are under chronic stress and secrete too much cortisol for our bodies to break down properly. A common side effect of extra cortisol is increased appetite. Being constantly hungry is bad enough, but cortisol also tends to direct pounds to accumulate in the abdomen, rather than the hips, and this belly fat is closely linked to heart disease and stroke. Stress has the biggest impact on weight gain in individuals with an already-high body mass index (BMI), making stress and weight gain something of a vicious cycle.  



One of the most effective ways to manage stress is also one of the simplest: Just breathe. You hear this a lot in yoga class, but you don’t need a mat to practice it. Simply set a timer for eight minutes and find a comfortable position. Now begin. Inhale for a slow count of eight, hold, and then exhale for a count of eight. The first few times you try this, your mind will likely wander. Be patient – when you notice thoughts creeping in, just return to counting your breaths, and when you lose track, start over.  


When the eight minutes are up, stop. Shooting for eight minutes a day is an amazing first step. Health benefits will kick in with repeated practice. Sticking with a deep breathing meditation practice for 8 weeks will change how your brain responds to stress. You may sense that you become less reactive to tension and that you have stress-proofed your body.

Live your Healthiest Life with a 7-Day Sleep Makeover to Take You from Exhausted to Energized

Follow these simple steps to put yourself on the path to a fully energized, fully awake YOU! Start by running a “7 for 7” sleep experiment. Seven hours of sleep for seven nights in a row. No excuses. Even if you think you can function well on five or six hours. This is non-negotiable. Which means you will also need to…

Pick a bedtime. Choosing a set time that you day will end is THE KEY to getting those seven hours. If you know when you must wake up back it up by 7 hours and viola, that is your bedtime! This becomes the hard stop for your day. To close your eyes at the time you’ve picked, you’ll need to…

Establish a wind down routine. A regular wind down routine is vital to falling asleep more easily at night and staying asleep until morning. You will want to begin this routine about an hour before bedtime, giving your body and mind time to decompress from your day.

Cut out caffeine after noon. Caffeine can temporarily block sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain and increase adrenaline production.

Clean up the clutter. Visual clutter stresses us out, so tidying up each evening helps you feel ready for bed. This is why spas are so Zen! Just take a few minutes to put things away.

Dim the lights. Go through the house and dim the lights (or turn some off if you don’t have dimmer switches). This sends a subtle signal to your brain that it should start to wind down.

Soften sound in the house. Like the lighting, changing the soundtrack in the house in the hour before bedtime can be powerful. Choose music or TV programming carefully so the sounds in the house are aligned with your goal of getting to sleep.

Stow your devices. I know, I know…but do it. Take the phone and the tablet and ALL the electronics that emit blue light and put them away. A digital detox for the last waking hour is HUGE to sleep wellness. It will keep you from scrolling mindlessly for hours. Instead, read or journal, or have a conversation with someone you love. PS – if your phone is your alarm, put it in the next room and turn up the volume or buy an analog alarm clock.

Clear your head. If your thoughts prevent you form falling asleep, keep a journal or notebook on your nightstand. If you are worried you might forget an errand or deadline the next day – jot it down. If you are stressing about something, write about it. This simple act of clearing your head is the last step toward a restful night of sleep. For more information on healthy sleep, visit the National Sleep Foundation at

The Daily Dose

Things you can control:

  1. Your beliefs
  2. Your attitude
  3. Your thoughts
  4. Your perspective
  5. How honest you are
  6. Who your friends are
  7. What books you read
  8. How often you exercise
  9. The type of food you eat
  10. How many risks you take
  11. How you interpret situations
  12. How kind you are to others
  13. How kind you are to yourself
  14. How often you say “I love you”
  15. How often you say “Thank you”
  16. How you express your feelings
  17. Whether or not you ask for help
  18. How often you practice gratitude
  19. How many times you smile today
  20. The amount of effort you put forth
  21. How you spend/invest your money
  22. How much time you spend worrying
  23. How often you think about your past
  24. Whether or not you judge other people
  25. Whether of not you try again after a set back
  26. How much you appreciate the things you have

Courtesy of Devin C. Hughes

Multiplying the Value of Wearables

This Herman Trend Alert is great news for people like our author Joyce who wears a FitBit. Not long ago, we had the pleasure of sharing a flight with Mark Silverio, Vice President, Sales, for the company that makes these practical wearables. We took the opportunity to learn more.

Wearables are becoming smarter
Like many trackers and watches, FitBits are evolving. Not only are the touchscreens easier to use, but there will be more notifications—if you want them—and they will even detect problems in the wearer’s heart rhythm.

But that’s only the beginning
In the future, these wearables are going to not only deliver the user’s health stats, but more health insights and additional coaching as well.

Monitor and motivate
Already, the Fitbit reports the user’s Cardio Fitness Level—shows how fit one is compared to others of the same age and sex. The score is an estimate of the maximum amount of oxygen the body can use during exercise. The level is based on the resting heart rate and the user’s profile. The Fitbit also currently tracks the percentage of time the heart rate is at fat-burning versus cardio or peak level. Knowing what your levels are and what they could be creates the motivation.

Now employers can get even more from wearables
The recently released 2018 HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) Media Report says that blending wearables and PGHD (Patient-Generated Healthcare Data) with health coaching multiplies the value of the devices and data alone.

Why collecting data works
According to Rob Havasy, Senior Director, Health Information Systems at HIMSS, “It’s the Hawthorne effect. When patients believe their doctor or their nurse is looking at their data, they don’t eat the cake, take a walk rather than sit in front of the TV—they change their behaviors because they think someone is watching.” Moreover, researchers are learning how to transform wearables and activity monitors into more effective tools in both preventing disease and managing chronic disease. In fact, this HIMSS report found that 90 percent of business leaders who include wearable devices in their wellness initiatives believe they can have a positive impact on chronic disease management.

What to expect
With increasing capabilities, wearables will become more valuable to individuals and companies alike. Expect to see an expanding variety of wearables to suit every preference and taste.

To read the entire HIMSS study, visit here.

© Copyright 1998-2018 by The Herman Group, Inc. — reproduction for publication is encouraged, with the following attribution: From “The Herman Trend Alert,” by Joyce Gioia, Strategic Business Futurist. 336-210-3548 or

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Slip, Slap, Slop. Summer Sun Safety. (Say that five times fast)

by Liz Stovall, Division Manager- Fitness and Wellness

Some people think about sun protection only when they spend a day at the lake, beach or pool. But, sun exposure adds up day after day, and it happens every time a person is in the sun. While brief exposures to sunlight help the body make Vitamin D to stay healthy, too much sunlight can cause cancer. That’s why sun-safe habits should begin in childhood and last a lifetime. Everyone’s skin and eyes can be affected by the sun and other forms of ultraviolet (UV) rays. Tanning occurs when UV radiation is absorbed through the skin. It causes an increase in the activity and number of melanocytes, the cells that make the pigment melanin. Melanin gives the skin its color. It also helps to block out damaging UV rays up to a point. While sunburns are thought to increase a person’s risk of skin cancer, UV exposure, even without a sunburn, can raise skin cancer risk.

Take these steps to stay sun-safe:

  1. Slip on a shirt and sunglasses: When out in the sun, wear clothes that protect the skin as much as possible. Clothes provide different levels of UV protection. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, or long skirts cover the most skin and are the most protective. Many companies now make clothing that is light-weight, comfortable, and protects against UV exposure, even when wet. These sun-protective clothes may have a label listing the UV protection factor (UPF). The higher the UPF, the higher the protection from UV rays. UV-blocking sunglasses are also important for protecting the delicate skin around the eyes. The ideal sunglasses should block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays. Before you buy, check the label to make sure it reads “UV absorption up to 400nm.” Sunglasses labeled “cosmetic” block only 70% of UV rays. If there is no label, don’t assume the sunglasses provide any protection.
  2. Slap on a hat: A hat with a two to three-inch brim all around is ideal. It protects areas often exposed to the sun such as the neck, ears, eyes, forehead, nose and scalp. A shade cap (which looks like a baseball cap with about seven inches of fabric draping down the sides and back) is also good. A baseball cap protects the front and top of the head but not the back of the neck or ears, where skin cancers often grow. Straw hats are not recommended unless they are tightly woven.
  3. Slop on the sunscreen: Apply sunscreen to the skin to help protect against the sun’s UV rays. Sunscreens come in many forms – lotions, creams, ointments, gels, wipes, and lip balms, to name a few. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher (broad spectrum means that the sunscreen blocks both UVA and UVB rays). Be sure to use enough and re-apply every couple of hours while you’re in the sun. Best practice is to use sunscreen as one part of your skin care routine, especially if staying in the shade and wearing protective clothing aren’t available as your first options. Some cosmetics such as moisturizers, lipsticks, and foundations, are considered sunscreen products. Be sure to always check the label first.

Additional sun-smart ideas:

  • Protect children from the sun: Since they tend to spend more time outdoors, children need special attention as they can burn more easily than adults. Parents and caretakers should be sure their children wear clothes, hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect from harmful UV rays.
  • Limit midday sun exposure: UV rays are most intense during the middle of the day, usually between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. To check the sun’s intensity, use the shadow test. If a person’s shadow is shorter than they are, the sun’s rays are the strongest. If possible stay out of the sun during this time of day.
  • Avoid tanning beds and sun lamps: Tanning beds and sun lamps give out both UVA and UVB rays. These rays can cause serious long-term skin damage and can lead to skin cancer.