Wow, does time fly! This marks the 100th issue of Healthy Living Magazine. In our inaugural issue back in October 2008, we ran a feature story titled “10 Steps to Healthier Living.” Now, we are significantly expanding on that story to bring you a more in-depth, well-rounded look on how you can achieve a balanced, healthy lifestyle.
Imagine waking up each morning with abundant energy and a laser-sharp mind. You rise out of bed without any aches or pains. You glance at your lean body in the mirror and smile because you’re at an ideal weight. You excitedly dress for work and cannot wait to arrive there because you are stress-free and positive.
This can be much more than an exercise in imagination. While improving your health requires hard work, determination, and stamina on your part, the rewards are invaluable. Your thinking will be improved, you will have more creativity and energy to pursue your goals, and you will feel more confident and in control of your life.
That begs the question: What steps can you take to improve your health?
Since this month marks the 100th issue of Healthy Living, we are providing readers with 100 ways they can achieve a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle. We’ve included valuable tips and advice from locally and nationally renowned doctors, nutritionists, personal trainers, psychiatrists, and health enthusiasts. We also talked to ordinary, everyday people who are in the process of transitioning to a healthier lifestyle.
“100 Steps to Healthier Living” touches on four core pillars—body, mind, spirit, and finance. When these pillars are in balance, you maintain long-term success and happiness.
1) Maintain a healthy outlook
Improving your overall health is impossible if you cannot muster a little faith in yourself. Of course, maintaining a healthy outlook can be difficult in today’s world, especially with the stagnant economy, public shootings, and a long list of other problems. Despite all that, you still have to maintain a positive attitude and remain confident in who you are as a person.
A negative attitude leads to negative results. Conversely, believing in who you are and what you can accomplish helps you navigate through difficult times. You can reinforce positive thoughts by telling yourself you are beautiful, intelligent, and fun-loving. A positive attitude garners respect from others and makes them want to be near you. According to the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking results in numerous health benefits, including increased life span, lower rates of depression, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, and better coping skills during times of stress.
“The reason saying ‘I can’ is so powerful is because of what it represents when you say it to yourself,” says Wendy Lyn Phillips, a professional image and personal branding expert who frequently serves as a guest speaker at large conferences and events. “It’s personal, it’s a commitment statement, and it’s empowering. It is not safe or easy, and it certainly does not belong in the same verbiage that excuses do. Unlike ‘I’ll try’ or ‘maybe,’ saying ‘I can’ causes a stirring to rise up from the one who is speaking, producing energy for completion of the task at hand. It has always served me well to use this kind of discipline to be my own best cheerleader and set a positive tone for those in my space. Taking steps out of your comfort zone are uncomfortable but worth it. Saying ‘I can’ will help.”
2) Set goals
Goal setting is the second step in achieving a healthier lifestyle. Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to reduce your cholesterol and blood pressure levels? Decide what you want to achieve for your health for the next month and the next year, and map out a realistic plan to meet those goals. One good goal that’s easily attainable is bringing a healthy lunch to work four days a week instead of eating lunch in restaurants.
“Oftentimes, when people decide to improve their health, they have no idea what they’re getting into,” said Lady Lake resident Larry Cooksey, a professional bodybuilder and personal trainer. “They set unachievable goals, grow frustrated, and give up. Learn what you want to accomplish for your health and thoroughly educate yourself on how to go about it. That’s when you can set realistic goals and work hard to achieve them.”
3) Start with the basics
Many people beginning a weight-loss program overexert themselves physically and make wholesale changes to their diets before their bodies can successfully adapt. Remember, weight loss is a marathon not a sprint. Chris Powell, trainer and host of the hit ABC show “Extreme Weight Loss,” offers the following tips for people beginning a weight-loss journey.
1. “Eat within 30 minutes of waking up and every three hours afterward.”
2. “Drink an extra quart of water every day. Ultimately, you should be drinking one gallon of water each day.”
3. “With each meal, eat protein first. Protein makes you feel full and slows down your digestion, and as a result, prevents you from overeating.”
4. “Reduce your sugar and salt intake significantly. Also, try to eliminate foods high in sodium, such as canned food and microwave dinners.”
5. “Move for five minutes a day. Even if you simply stand up and march in place, that’s better than doing nothing. Remember, though, if you only march in place for four-and-a-half minutes then you’re not ready for transformation. It’s not about the exercise; it’s about the commitment.”
4) Catch some Z’s
It hits every day at 2:30 p.m.—the droopy eyes, slouched posture and long yawns. Acquiring seven or eight hours of sleep each night is vital. According to WebMD, the benefits of obtaining enough sleep include clearer thinking, better mood, increased memory, and a stronger immune system.
“There are many benefits to better sleep, including increased productivity at home and at work, improved personal relationships, and prevention of cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. Ahmad Jalloul, a pulmonologist with Pulmonary Critical Care and Sleep Specialists of Lake County. “It can also help prevent automobile accidents. After all, a sleepy driver is as impaired as a drunk driver.”
5) Junk the junk food
There was a time in Gidget Blunt’s life when she ate microwave dinners or “whatever was convenient and easy.” Five years ago she weighed 240 pounds, had breathing problems, and suffered pain in her back and knees. However, life changed for the better after she changed her dietary habits. She eliminated processed food and dairy products while consuming more vegetables and fruit. In addition, she adds coconut oil and apple cider vinegar to every meal. The change has paid big dividends. In the past few years, she completed two full marathons, zip lined across a Guatemalan jungle, and got down and dirty in mud races.
“I feel much better at 40 than I did when I was 30,” says Blunt, who is now the owner of No Limit Fitness in Tavares. “I have much more self-confidence than I ever did before. Exercising not only gives you strength in your muscles, but on the inside as well. I want other people to discover the health benefits because their lives will change for the better.”
6) Educate yourself about nutrition
Of course, junking the junk food has little impact if you cannot distinguish between what’s healthy and what’s not. Furthermore, all the exercise in the world will yield little to no results if you continue satisfying your hunger cravings with grease-filled cheeseburgers and pizza. If you’re like B.E. Thompson, a Eustis resident who lost 320 pounds, here is what you’d eat throughout the course of a day.
Breakfast: General Mills Cheerios cereal. Low-fat organic milk. 1 banana. (205 calories).
Lunch: Boiled green beans. Tea sweetened with Splenda. Tyson boneless chicken breasts. (293 calories).
Dinner: Loin pork. Boiled sliced summer squash. Crystal Light sugar-free lemonade. (375 calories).
Late Snack: Low-fat cottage cheese. (81 calories).
7) Stop Facebooking and start face-to-facing
Social interaction keeps us connected, gives us a sense of belonging, and helps us make a difference in the lives of others. There is nothing wrong with using Facebook to locate a long, lost friend. That said, wouldn’t your time be better spent strengthening relationships with close friends instead of constantly checking on the status update of someone you have not spoken to in years and will likely never see again?
Moreover, you may have 600 “friends” on Facebook, but how many of them are truly important friends — friends who provide a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on during difficult times? Personal interaction helps you build strong communication skills and a healthy, lasting self-esteem. In addition, having the ability to hold a conversation, influence others, and build rapport are skills we must possess to succeed in the workplace.
“Typed black words cannot properly convey the meaning of your message,” says Betsy Barbieux, a professional development coach and certified image consultant who owns of Image Inside and Out in Leesburg. “Take away the body language and the meaning of your message is not clear. People have become discouraged, angry, hurt, alienated, and frustrated by messages conveyed via social media. Business dealings have gone wrong because neither party picked up the telephone. People have ‘fallen in love’ with someone they met over the Internet — really? Without face-to-face interaction over time, you cannot truly love someone you have never met. I suggest stepping away from the keyboard, engaging your people skills, and talking. Communication is the giving and receiving of information with understanding.”
8) Eliminate addictions
Addictions come in many forms—nicotine, alcohol, drugs, caffeine, gambling, and materialism. Eliminating addictions helps reduce physical and mental stress on your body.
“Addictions create dependency and weakness in people and interferes with the formation and nurturing of relationships,” says Dr. Patrick Ward, a psychologist at NCS Counseling and Development Center in Tavares. “People need to understand that quitting something only leaves a void and is often substituted with another addiction. Once you stop something, you have to fully recover, which means reconciling personal issues, reconstructing relationships, and accepting personal responsibility.”
9) Lose fat, not faith
The world we live in can be depressing and disheartening. We watch the news and hear stories about murder, corrupt politicians, and accusations of racism. Feeding our minds and hearts with spiritual things can bring inner peace, true happiness, and a full purpose to our lives. Faith can give you the willpower and strength to reach health and fitness goals.
“The healthier our spiritual lives, the more abundant will be the fruits of our love, hope, joy, and kindness,” says Bill Hartman, senior adult ministry pastor at Lady Lake Assembly of God. “Having strong faith can help you in all aspects of your life. Just stick with that faith, and you’ll see yourself changing for the better. Having faith is perhaps the best thing we can do for our emotional and physical health.”
10) Walk this way
Walking represents the easiest, most convenient way to lower blood pressure, tone muscles, reduce stress, and maintain healthy bones and joints.
“If you want to enjoy the full benefits of walking, it has to be part of your daily routine,” says Debra Dabney, who served 37 years as physical education instructor at Lake-Sumter State College. “You don’t have it make it a marathon trek, and it doesn’t have to take a huge chunk out of your day. But you should walk a minimum of 30 minutes each day.”
Dabney strongly recommends purchasing proper-fitting walking shoes.
“Buy comfortable shoes that give support to your feet and make walking a delightful experience. Don’t put on just any pair of shoes; make sure you wear shoes that fit your foot size and meet your walking needs. This way you can avoid foot-related problems and injuries.”
There are several venues in Lake County that offer outdoor wellness stations strategically placed along walking trails.
Palatlakaha Environmental and Agricultural Reserve (PEAR) Park
4800 University Ave.
1195 W. Magnolia St.
North Lake Community Park
40730 Roger Giles Road
Lake Okahumpka Park
6085 E. State Road 44
11) Learn to say no
No is a simple word that many people have a difficult time saying. Around the holidays, for example, people commit to too many things. They plan parties, attend parties, buy Christmas gifts, and clean the house because family is visiting. This often leaves them feeling overwhelmed and depressed.
“Identify what you can do and what you can’t do,” said Dr. Nick Ungson, a psychiatrist and owner of Lake Center for Hope. “And then live with that decision. If you say yes only to what you really want to do, you’ll avoid feeling resentful and bitter.”
12) Find some lovin’
Intimate relationships are worth maintaining. Studies show people are healthier, have fewer diseases, endure stress better, and live longer if they are engaged in an intimate relationship.
“Being in love matters,” according to Dr. W. Steven Saunders, psychologist and owner of Central Florida Psychological Consultants in Clermont. “The economy could be failing and the world could be in flames, but having that one special person in your life means something to you in an endearing way. When we are in a loving state, the two halves of the autonomic nervous system are in sync and operating much more efficiently together.”
13) Organize your home
Look around your home. Do you see piles of laundry, dishes, bills, and overdue library books? Clutter and disorganization are serious problems because they add frustration to your life, family, and home. In contrast, being organized and maintaining a clean home has numerous benefits.
“It simplifies life rather than being in disarray all the time,” says Ed Seabrook, an interior designer who owns Seabrook Interior Design in Mount Dora. “If you live in disarray at home, there’s a good chance your personal life is in even more disarray. Also, dirty homes—especially ones that are dusty—can trigger allergies. Living in a cleaner environment is healthier and can reduce overall stress.”
The most effective way of organizing your home, he says, is simply put things back where they belong. For instance, designate specific places for cell phones, keys, wallets, and everything else you take when you leave home. Keep all bills, checkbooks, and receipts in a central location. Keep shoes in the closet rather than lining them up along the kitchen wall. Put dirty clothes in a laundry basket instead of throwing them on a couch or bed.
“Instead of giving some things a permanent home, we end up moving them from place to place. Then, we become confused as to where it actually belongs.”
14) Spend time outdoors
Planting a garden can sprout health benefits. At least that’s the case for Bob Denis, owner of Stanley Pond Farm in Astatula. On his 20-acre property are endless rows of daylilies that come in all sizes and colors, including orange, yellow, pink, and creamy white. He believes his garden has been instrumental in helping him overcome high blood pressure.
“When you’re spending time outdoors in the peace and tranquility of the beautiful countryside the worries of the world melt away,” he says. “There’s nothing like being outside and enjoying the soothing colors and scents of the daylilies.”
Another fun-filled outdoor activity is cycling. Since it’s an aerobic activity, your heart, blood vessels, and lungs all receive a workout. Your muscles get a boost, too, because cycling strengthens your thighs, hips, and buttocks.
“Riding your bicycle makes you feel like a kid again,” said John Elder, an 80-year-old Groveland resident who has enjoyed cycling on both a recreational and competitive level. “It rekindles memories of when we used to race our friends, pedal our way to school, or ride down our favorite trails.”
Fortunately, Central Florida is blessed with some of the state’s most popular cycling trails.
*The James Van Fleet State Trail is 29.2 miles and is considered one of Florida’s most rural and remote trails. It cuts through swampland, forests, flatwoods, retired citrus lands, cattle ranches, and several rivers.
*The 5.5-mile Lake Minneola Scenic Trail and 4-mile South Lake Trail connect in Clermont. Cyclists will enjoy stunning views of picturesque lakes and rolling hills. In fact, the Lake Minneola Scenic Trail features the highest elevation of all Florida Rails-to-Trails projects.
*Spanning 46 miles and three counties, the Withlacoochee State Trail is the longest paved rail trail in Florida. Along the way, cyclists will pedal past numerous small towns, beautiful wetlands brimming with wild flowers, and the historic Fort Cooper State Park.
15) Drink alcohol in moderation
Alcohol is hard on the body, causing liver damage, stomach distress, muscle cramps, and sexual dysfunction, among other problems. If you have an alcohol dependency, do not be afraid or ashamed to seek help. Going through recovery with other struggling alcoholics yields positive results.
“You’re never alone at Alcoholics Anonymous,” says Bernice Walker, a Mount Dora resident who continues attending meetings despite being sober for three decades. “We’ve all been down that same road, and therefore, we can relate to what everyone is going through. We’re like a family that loves each other and would do anything in the world for each other.”
We’d all like to strengthen our hearts, increase our stamina, and boost our mood. Aerobic exercise and aerobic sports represent excellent ways to achieve these goals. One of the most popular aerobic sports is tennis, a game where participants easily burn between 400 and 600 calories an hour. A 2005 issue of Consumer Reports ranks tennis as one of the top five calorie-burning activities.
“I try to play tennis often because tennis releases endorphins and makes me happy,” says Leesburg resident Sally Bosshardt, a tennis player of 27 years. “When I’m out there playing on a beautiful day and getting plenty of exercise, it puts everything else in a different light. I feel like the rest of my day is a great day.”
17) Change your attitude
Having a positive attitude is the most important decision you make on a day-to-day basis. The attitude you choose either promotes progress or cripples you. It is more important than your job, circumstances, and education. It either ignites your fire or banishes your hopes. With the right attitude, there is no mountain too tall, no dream too big, and no challenge too small.
“Get rid of self-defeating words,” says Lori Esarey, founder of Total Nutrition and Therapeutics, who specializes in nutritional and metabolic medicine. “Compliment and encourage yourself. Even the small accomplishments matter, so you should make a big deal out of them. Also, focus on your abilities instead of your disabilities. Develop a support system of family, friends, and health professionals who have a healthy attitude and will support you in your efforts to improve your health.”
18) Be happy
In her 20s, Theresa Morris was a single mother of two children trying to juggle her time between family and career. That did not stop her from becoming the county’s top-producing real estate agent in the county’s top-producing real estate office. In her 40s, she divorced her second husband and once again found herself raising a young child by herself. That did not stop her from opening her own company—Morris Realty and Investments.
“There is always going to be negativity and drama around you,” she says. “However, happiness is a choice. You should put a smile on your face every day and along the way maintain hope, faith, and confidence in your abilities.”
19) Don’t give up on relationships so easily
Don’t feel discouraged or frustrated if you’re not head over heels in love after the first or second date. Some experts feel those in the dating game give up too easily if they don’t feel a romantic spark on the first date, leaving many good men and women shunned.
“Dating shouldn’t be about looking for a soul mate,” says Dr. John Gray, a relationship counselor and author of the New York Times bestselling book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. “Instead of looking for a soul mate, look first for companionship and friendship. That way you give yourself a better chance of going through the relationship process.”
20) Be a quitter
Smoking cigarettes can lead to many adverse health effects—emphysema, bronchitis, heart disease, stroke, cancer, etc. For some people, quitting cold turkey or even weaning themselves off cigarettes has proven ineffective. For nearly 16 years, Diane Ackerman, owner of Alternate Pathways in Tavares, has used hypnosis to help people stop smoking. Using breathing and visualization techniques, she puts new ideas across to the client to discourage smoking. These could be ideas about the benefits of quitting or about the health hazards of not quitting.
“Hypnosis is not intrusive and it is relaxing, therefore, addressing stress,” she says. “Most people who smoke do so because of stress. So hypnosis is a dual tool. As they breathe in through the nose, they visualize their cells filling up with clean, clear oxygen that rejuvenates the body. As they exhale, they push out all the toxins in their body, including nicotine from cigarettes. They can utilize these breathing techniques whenever they feel anxiety or stress and have a strong urge to smoke.”
There are other effective ways to quit smoking. Lady Lake resident Corey Chancellor smoked for 15 years. He had developed the dreaded smoker’s cough and occasionally had high blood pressure. Kicking the habit proved difficult. He tried quitting cold turkey, chewing nicotine gum, and even wearing nicotine patches. Nothing worked.
Then, three years ago, he purchased a battery-operated device that delivers flavorful vaporized nicotine with the simple touch of a button. This latest alternative to smoking, known as e-cigarettes or vaping, does not include tobacco, tar, and other dangerous chemicals found in cigarettes. For the first time, he discovered an effective solution that not only allowed him to quit smoking cigarettes but also yielded positive results.
“I haven’t smoked a real cigarette in three years,” says Chancellor, a graduate of Leesburg High School. “Within months, I regained my sense of smell and taste and stopped hacking up mucus. My blood pressure is lower.”
21) Be yourself
What’s the definition of normal? Normal is being the person you are rather than the person you think others want you to be. Rather than worrying about how other people perceive you, it’s important to march to the beat of your own drum in life. Simply put, making choices to impress others may ensure their happiness while potentially negating your own. Life is too short for that.
“People should express their gifts, but our own feelings of inadequacy often keep them from doing that,” says Dr. Bowen White, a nationally acclaimed physician, author, and speaker. “Part of what we learned to do on the road to becoming an adult is to pretend and become focused on our image in the eyes of other people. As a result, we end up doing what we consider to be appropriate and that means we’re not being real with each other. Is that really living?”
22) See the glass as half full
Raising a child with autism presents many challenges for Dr. Kristina McLean. Her son, Cole, has a tendency to wander aimlessly. The family placed video cameras inside and outside their home, and all doors have dead bolts and alarms. He cannot verbally communicate or form emotional bonds with his family. Still, Dr. McLean focuses on the positives.
“It’s natural for human beings to take things for granted, but with Cole you don’t take anything for granted because his successes are so hard fought,” says McLean, a gynecologist with Clermont Obstetrics, Gynecology and Infertility. “I cannot consider myself unlucky because many parents lose their children to cancer or other horrible diseases.”
23) Add strength training to your routine
Cardiovascular workouts alone are not enough to keep you healthy and strong, especially as you grow older. In fact, both the American College of Sports and Medicine and the American Heart Association encourage people to add strength training to their regular cardiovascular exercises. Both organizations recommend two strength training days per week to prevent muscle loss and to produce more lean muscle tissue.
“Strength training can be beneficial in a lot of different ways,” says Al Cardiello, a certified personal trainer and owner of Infinity Fitness and Spa in Fruitland Park. “It allows you to burn more calories and reduce body fat, add more muscle mass, and create stronger bones. If you feel that lifting dumbbells or barbells is not for you, you can strength train with the use of machines and various resistance bands.”
24) Get that flu shot
People do not want to sneeze and sniffle their way through the flu season. Those of us who had the flu probably wish we’d done more to prevent it. However, few realize how serious seasonal influenza actually is. It kills 36,000 people and is responsible for 200,000 hospitalizations in the United States each year. High-risk groups include babies, people with chronic medical conditions, and anyone over 65. Dr. Scott Brady, president of Florida Hospital Centra Care, strongly urges his patients to receive flu shots.
“The seasonal flu typically comes any time between November and March. That’s why I recommend patients get their flu shots in late September or October. The flu vaccine is a dead piece of virus. It cannot replicate, multiply, or give you the flu. When your body sees that foreign virus, your body attacks it. It’s called an immune response. And then after a few weeks your body develops memory cells in your immune system for that particular virus. So now if you get exposed to the same influenza virus your body mounts a pretty significant immune response as opposed to the 10-14 days it takes to mount it the first time your body sees a disease.”
25) Soak your skin with essential fatty acids
Since our bodies don’t produce essential fatty acids, it’s important to maintain the appropriate amounts by using topical skin care products. Dry skin affects millions of Americans. Fortunately, the use of topical essential fatty acids provide light occlusion that helps retain moisture levels in the skin, while also avoiding inflammation and acne. Flaxseed oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, and grape seed oil are all topical skin care products that contain essential fatty acids.
“Essential fatty acids have a soothing ability, which is beneficial for inflamed conditions such as rosacea and atopic dermatitis,” says Trina Nesselrotte, a licensed medical aesthetician and clinical nurse at Clinical Skin Services in The Villages. “They are excellent for fighting free radicals in the skin, which leads to premature aging.”
26) Don’t be afraid to seek help
Diseases and illnesses can be potentially life-threatening if we don’t seek professional help. That was the case for Allison Kreiger, former Miss Florida 2006 who found herself in a vicious battle with bulimia and anorexia. The diseases controlled her life.
“I was consumed by my bulimia. I thought about it all times of the day. I knew where all the restrooms were on my way to school and where all the private restrooms were located at my high school. I knew the best times I could get sick and hide it.”
Starving for help, she ultimately sought treatment from a team of physicians, including a psychologist, psychiatrist, nutritionist, and her family doctor.
“The road to recovery is often long and frustrating, but it can also be a time of great hope and great relief. You experience a wide range of emotions: fear, impatience, and frustration on one hand, and determination, confidence, and empowerment on the other.”
Kreiger overcame her battle to become director of business development at Umatilla-based Recovery Village, a 67,000 square-foot facility that treats people with bulimia and anorexia, as well as addiction and mental health problems.
“If you live through something like this, it is your responsibility to help others who are struggling. Although recovery is a long road, enjoying your life again is absolutely possible. I’m a breathing, living example.”
Many people become bulimic and anorexic in hopes of remaining thin and beautiful. In Kreiger’s mind, society has a very narrow-minded definition of beauty. Although her eating disorders were not triggered by a quest to become more beautiful, she has a message for women who feel fat or ugly.
“Embrace who you are and let your inner beauty shine through. Your personal worth and value far outweigh your size or how beautiful you are. Place important value on academics, friends and all the wonderful things you have in life. Remember, our body is a vehicle for life, so don’t let it run down to fumes.”
Never assume your child is too young to develop dental problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease. Be sure to start early teaching your child to brush and floss regularly.
“Many children who come to my office have rapid decay of their teeth,” says Oscar Palau, coordinator of Lake County Children’s Dentistry. “Some even have cavities on every tooth. We’ve even seen young teenagers who need to have all their teeth pulled and have dentures put in.”
28) Hop on the bus, Gus
Bet you didn’t think that public transportation could help you improve your health. However, bus trips usually entail walking to and from stops, meaning users are more likely to meet the American Heart Association’s recommended 30 minutes of moderate physical exercise each day. Just ask Eustis resident Mary McCoy, who faithfully rides LakeXpress to go shopping in The Villages. While she’s shopping, she spends several hours on her feet before walking back to the bus stop.
“It’s not a strenuous workout, but at least I’m getting some form of exercise,” she says. “I feel good at the end of the day. Actually, it is probably a good thing I don’t drive a car because I might be tempted to stop at a fast-food restaurant, which I’d obviously regret later.”
Public transportation is also economical. Rene Bass rides the bus to and from her Lady Lake home and the Lake County Agricultural Center in Tavares, where she is employed as an office associate.
“When I was driving to my job every day I was filling up my gas tank about twice a week,” she says. “Now, I’m filling up about once every two weeks. Obviously, this allows me to save money or spend it on things other than gas.”
According to McCoy, taking public transportation has also widened her social circle.
“The travel experience is not as lonely because there are other people with you. I’ve met complete strangers who I ultimately befriended and exchanged phone numbers with or invited them to my church. I’ve also become reacquainted with old friends who I had lost contact with over the years. It’s always fun to catch up with them and see how they’re doing.”
29) Get a leg up
Many women suffer from varicose veins. Wearing compression stockings is a non-surgical way to combat this problem. Compression stockings apply gentle pressure to your lower legs, which helps maintain blood flow and reduce discomfort and swelling.
“Pregnancy is an important time to wear these stockings,” says Dr. Samuel Martin, owner of Vascular Vein Centers. “When a woman is pregnant, the fluid volume in her veins is increased by 50 percent. Even when the pregnancy is over veins never return to their former state. Thirty percent of women will develop varicose veins after their first pregnancy. With subsequent pregnancies, that figure increases to 50 percent.”
30) Be on your breast behavior
When breast cancer is detected early, the five-year survival rate exceeds 96 percent, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. That’s why mammograms are extremely important.
“Women should have their first mammogram at age 35 and start performing monthly breast exams,” says Dr. Ram Krishnan, head of Florida Hospital Waterman’s imaging services department. “Once they reach 40, they should have a mammogram at least once a year.”
31) Eat healthy before bed
You don’t have to go hungry before bedtime, but do avoid stuffing yourself with calorie-filled sweets and candy.
“My pre-bedtime snack usually consists of a bowl of whole-grain oat cereal with natural yogurt, cottage cheese, dried blueberries, a scoop of whey protein, and low-fat milk,” says Leesburg native and national fitness model Max Wettstein. “Other times, I’ll have an all-natural, chocolate protein bar and a glass of organic milk. I feel satisfied when I lie down, and it helps me get a good night’s sleep.”
32) Work for a health-conscious company
Each year, many people spend approximately 2,000 hours working in an office. Being sedentary leads to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Fortunately, pioneering businessmen realize healthy workers make healthy businesses and look for ways to improve the overall well being of their employees. One such company is Eustis-based Vann Gannaway Chevrolet, which pays monthly membership fees for employees who work out at the Golden Triangle YMCA more than 10 times each month.
“Our workers will come in and say, ‘Look how much weight I have lost,’ or ‘Look how many inches I’ve lost,’” says Chip Gannaway, owner of the dealership. “We give them a big hug and congratulate them.”
33) Find a partner in health
Having a workout partner provides extra motivation to help you achieve exercise goals. It is certainly beneficial for Dottie Beebe, who frequently competes in 5k races and marathons.
“If you want to start running, make sure you have a friend to run with for encouragement,” says Beebe, a registered nurse at Florida Hospital Waterman. “Sometimes you don’t feel like running, so it’s beneficial when a friend comes to your door and says, ‘Come on, let’s go run!’ It’s nice to have someone encourage you, and you can probably run an additional mile because you have someone to talk with.”
34) Strengthen your core
Your core is not just one muscle group, but rather a set of muscles encompassing the entire trunk of your body. In the past, people seemed to focus more on having six-pack abs while neglecting the muscles surrounding the spine. This led to muscular imbalances and injury. Numerous studies have proven that a strong core prevents injuries in the spine, provide stability and strength for explosive movements, and increase balance.
“Think of it like building a home—if the foundation is solid, the structure will be more resistant to damage,” says Kerry Macias, an Ocala-based certified personal trainer with more than 23 years of experience. “If it is not, one big gust of wind will send it crashing to the ground. What kind of house do you want to live in? Knowledge of the core has led to a big change in how we exercise. For example, we now know when you strengthen one set of muscles, you must strengthen the opposing set of muscles to create a more balanced and functional body.”
35) Keep moving
The body is designed to move, and even pain sufferers need some form of exercise. The late Donald Harshbarger was an avid roller-skating enthusiast well into his mid-90s before he died in December 2015. He had arthritis in his lower back and shoulders and suffered from emphysema. He also underwent a knee replacement and survived colon cancer.
“I typically skate six miles a day,” he said in a 2010 interview with Healthy Living Magazine. “People wave at me, while others stop and talk to me. Roller skating helps with my arthritis. When you have arthritis, you cannot stop moving. Otherwise, you will be confined to a chair all the time.”
36) Drink water
The benefits of fueling ourselves with water are endless. Water aids in weight loss, flushes out toxins, helps with digestion, relieves fatigue, and helps maximize physical performance, among a host of other benefits.
“Everyone should drink a minimum of 64 ounces of fresh, pure-as-possible water each day and more if you are exercising, doing strenuous activities, or working in the sun,” says Jeff Wittman, a licensed nutritionist and owner of Jeff’s Health and Nutrition in Leesburg. “Don’t drink it all at once. Drink small amounts throughout the day. Be sure to start at 7 a.m. rather than 7 p.m.”
37) Be a mindful eater
Do you ever find yourself sitting in front of the television munching on snacks or eating when you aren’t hungry? How about when you’re bored or anxious? This is known as mindless eating and is a common problem everyone faces at one time or another. Conversely, mindful eating is eating with attention to help notice and enjoy food and its effects on the body. It is not a diet; it is simply about being more aware of what you eat. When you are eating mindfully, you enjoy your food, savor your food, and feel more in control. In other words, it is the polar opposite of binging.
“A mindful eater is nonjudgmental, compassionate, and above all, aware of the taste, texture, and process of eating,” says Dr. Susan Albers, a psychologist for the Cleveland Clinic who conducts mindful eating workshops throughout the country. “Being mindful means knowing exactly how your body feels at all times. You are so closely in touch with what is going on inside that you know the exact moment you are satisfied, rather than stuffed or starving, by learning the why, what, when, and how you eat.”
38) Cultivate better health
Joy Packard Scroggie of Belleview hasn’t suffered from a cold or flu in several decades. As a matter of fact, it has been nearly 36 years since she last visited a doctor. She has spent most of her adult life enjoying what she calls “vibrant health.” Her secret? Eighty-five percent of everything she eats is raw, organic food. Her organic garden outside her home features a variety of fruits and vegetables, including broccoli, tomatoes, peas, cucumbers, celery, lettuce, butternut squash, strawberries, and pumpkin.
“More and more, people understand we must provide our bodies with food God gave us to remain strong and healthy,” she says. “Those who rely on doctors for their health and well-being need to realize medication can mask problems. At 24, I was diagnosed with a kidney disease and taking handfuls of medication. I felt like I was 90 years old. Fortunately, I was introduced to organic foods and began eating raw vegetables and quit eating commercially grown food. I gained more energy and stopped taking all medication.”
39) Log your food intake
Research shows that individuals who log their nutritional intake are two times more successful in maintaining healthy habits. It is preferable to use a computer-based software to log everything you’ve eaten; many are available at low cost. The information you obtain by logging helps you learn about and develop healthy eating patterns that last. Remember to log everything that goes into your mouth. Be honest, because if it goes past your lips it goes to your hips.
“Logging has many benefits,” says Lori Esarey, founder of Total Nutrition and Therapeutics who specializes in nutritional and metabolic medicine. “The most obvious benefit is that logging intake gives true insight. Often individuals think they don’t eat much. But when logging they notice what seemed like what was small in quantity was a lot in terms of calories. Logging serves as a deterrent, especially for mindless munching that can result in hundreds to even thousands of excess calories per day.”
40) Save money with coupons
Tanya Senseney certainly knows the value of coupons. In 2010, she saved her family $15,800. During one shopping trip, she purchased $457 worth of groceries and paid only $45. She began religiously using coupons 14 years ago after a tornado destroyed her home shortly after her first child was born.
“I learned that coupons were like another form of currency,” says Senseney, who launched the company Divine Deal Diva and travels around the country teaching others how they can save thousands of dollars by using coupons. “Throwing coupons away is like throwing money away.”
41) Consider a personal trainer
Exercise is extremely important, but sometimes going about it alone can be detrimental. Injuries can result from improper use of exercise equipment or ill-fitting shoes. A good personal trainer teaches you how to exercise safely, provides support and motivation, and offers fresh perspectives on the latest trends in fitness, health, and nutrition.
“A personal trainer offers assistance for those looking to become physically fit, lose excess body fat, and achieve a fitness goal, while providing the tools needed to live a healthy life,” says Kerry Macias, an Ocala-based certified personal trainer. “Word of mouth is one of the best ways to find someone to work with because, more than likely, the person referring will be able to give you reasons as to why they like their trainer and what kind of success they’ve experienced with their trainer.”
42) Consider a nutritionist
Food is fuel. What we put into our body affects how we feel, how we think, and how we function. Yet, we often fail to make changes to our eating habits because they are just that, habits. A nutritionist provides a personalized, structured dietary program for you while also helping you with education and support.
“The biggest adversary I see people succumb to in an effort to change their eating habits is lack of support,” says Jeff Wittman, a licensed nutritionist and owner of Jeff’s Health and Nutrition in Leesburg. “Generally speaking, most people can identify the changes that need to be made in their diet. They have the knowledge, but they don’t have the accountability and encouragement to see it through.”
43) Don’t ignore automobile accident injuries
You’re stopped at a red light. Suddenly, a vehicle traveling 15 miles per hour rear ends you. Because the damage to your car is minimal and you feel no pain whatsoever, you assume it is pointless to seek medical attention. Little do you know that a minor automobile accident can result in soft tissue injury or whiplash. Months or even years later, the debilitating effects of whiplash—headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain, and back pain—will eventually rear its ugly heads. Dr. Tige Buchanan, a Lake County chiropractor for more than 15 years, has seen more than his fair share of automobile-related injuries.
“These accidents, no matter how minor, can cause injury. If the injuries are not corrected, they can lead to long-term problems. Some of the patients I’m currently treating suffered automobile-related injuries years ago.”
44) Don’t jump into new relationships
Coming out of a relationship where you ended up heartbroken? Don’t rush to meet that new man or woman in your life. Chrisann Reid, owner of Central Florida Counseling and Psychological Services in Leesburg, recommends a six-month “cooling-off” period before seeking a new relationship.
“What I mean by this is that bad relationships can skew your self-esteem,” she says. “They can alter what you come to believe as being reasonable and appropriate expectations in a healthy relationship. Return to that place where you no longer overreact or feel defensive because of how you assume your partner is going to react to you.”
45) Never ignore chest pain
Too many people suffer fatal heart attacks because they ignore warning signs. Some think they’re suffering from indigestion, while others assume they have a bout of acid reflux. Acting promptly is a matter of life and death.
“Every minute counts when a patient suffers a severe heart attack,” says J. Henry Lesmes, a cardiologist with Cardiovascular Associates in Tavares. “Indeed, time is muscle—for every minute blood flow to the heart is blocked, the heart muscle is being deprived of oxygen. The faster we can open up a blocked artery, the better chance we have of preserving the heart muscle.”
46) Maintain a healthy marriage through communication
Research indicates that a healthy, lasting marriage reduces the chances of a heart attack or stroke, lowers stress levels, helps people get better sleep, and helps ward off mental illness. Communication is a vital component to any healthy marriage.
“Clear communication is not negotiable,” says Sean Cort, an ordained minister and motivational speaker. “If you keep your partner guessing and in the dark, you open the door for a battery of questions and suspicions to sneak in the back door of your relationship. Lack of communication is as frustrating as trying to operate a life-saving defibrillator with instructions in a foreign language. Share what’s going on in your heart in the same kind and respectful manner you wish your spouse would share with you.”
47) Take time to floss
Many people assume that brushing their teeth two or three times a day is enough to maintain maximum dental health. However, to significantly reduce periodontal disease and cavity-causing bacteria, flossing must be part of the dental care regimen.
“Every time you eat something there are little pieces of debris that get stuck in-between your teeth, and the bristles on your tooth brush simply do not touch them,” says Dr. Timothy Pruett, dentist and owner of Lakeview Comprehensive Dentistry in Tavares. “This is where plaque and tartar often builds up, leading to oral health problems such as cavities, gingivitis, tooth decay, gum disease, and even heart disease.”
48) Juice up your diet
The 2010 documentary Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead featured two obese, unhealthy men who used juicing to tap into their body’s natural healing ability and help them achieve better health. Since the release of the movie, the popularity of juicing has skyrocketed. By juicing, we are not talking about taking steroids. Juicing is using a blender to extract juice from fruits and vegetables. So, instead of eating them, you are drinking them. All the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients from fruit and vegetables end up in the juice and enter your bloodstream immediately, an obvious advantage over digesting them. Thus, you end up with a healthy and tasty drink.
“Juicing is a great way to achieve a balanced diet,” says Jeff Wittman, a licensed nutritionist and owner of Jeff’s Health and Nutrition in Leesburg. “Everyone in the health field strongly suggests that we consume numerous servings of vegetables and fruits per day. I’ve been juicing on and off for 25years, and to me, this is the best way to ensure I consume three green vegetables and two to four fruits on a daily basis. When we juice, we absorb all the nutrients from the vegetables. The shape and chemical composition of the nutrients are not altered like they are in cooked or processed food.”
49) Choose a career you love
You know the old saying: “If you love your job, you won’t work a day in our life.” That’s certainly the case for Chelsea Eubank.
“After my father died, I developed a deeper, more meaningful relationship with God. I wanted to wear clothing that showed by faith in a subtle way, but I couldn’t find anything on the market.”
So as a high school senior, she combined her strong faith and love of clothes by forming an online, Christian-based clothing company called Faithful Fish. While attending Beacon College in Leesburg, Eubank served as president of the company and formulated designs for all clothing apparel, which includes polo shirts, hats, t-shirts, and baby clothes.
Eubank’s entrepreneurial spirit captured the hearts of many, landing her in the national spotlight. She appeared on Dave Ramsey’s radio show and Fox and Friends. In addition, she was featured in publications such as Atlanta Christian Family Magazine and Ignite Your Faith.
That exposure helped Faithful Fish enjoy a 68 percent increase in sales volume. Her company has been going strong for more than a decade.
“I wake up so excited because I love coming up with new ideas and designs for my clothing apparel,” she says. “The Christian market is a very difficult market to be successful in, but I relish that challenge. I feel very fortunate that my company is not in debt and that I haven’t had to take out any loans.”
50) Be healthy role models
Jenny Ducharme of Lady Lake incorporates healthy habits into the daily routines of her two children—Kayleigh, 10, and Christian, 7. A full-time yoga instructor in Ocala, Ducharme allowed her children to embrace the yoga lifestyle.
“I don’t make them practice yoga, but I do encourage them to practice when I am practicing,” says Ducharme, who spent 13 years as a gymnast and ballet dancer. “They see me doing it and usually will just join in. I feel that yoga helps them bring peace, stillness, and grounding to their lives. It also helps them with flexibility and allows them to find comfort in their own skin and body.”
From a nutritional standpoint, Ducharme introduced vegetables and fruits into their diets when they were both infants. Today, grilled or steamed vegetables come with every meal.
“Ninety percent of the time vegetables are the first thing gone on their plates,” she says. “We do not have pizza very often, but their favorite topping is mushrooms. And believe it or not, their Easter baskets are still full because our family is not very big on sweets.”
51) Maintain a clean home
Home is where the heart is. Unfortunately, it’s also a place where mold, mildew, and bacteria can be found in every nook and cranny. Denise Berlin, owner of Wildwood Kitchen and Bath, cleans her refrigerator on a weekly basis; steam mops her porcelain floors, cleans her faucets with a special paste consisting of baking soda, lemon juice, and water; and ventilates her utility room to keep mold from growing around the washer and dryer.
“I enjoy coming home to a clean house every day,” she says. “We like to entertain in our home, and it is rewarding to have family and friends appreciate the efforts I do in keeping a clean environment.”
52) Don’t sit on your wallet
Men have a tendency to put their wallet in their back pocket. Sitting with one butt cheek higher than the other throws off spinal alignment, resulting in back pain, hip pain, and shoulder pain. In addition, wallets cause pressure on a little-known muscle called the piriformis. When that happens, men often experience numbness, burning, and tingling in their lower back and leg.
“It’s a muscle under the gluteus maximus, and what happens is the wallet pushes up on that muscle and causes it to spasm, triggering inflammation of the sciatic nerve root,” says Dr. Jeffrey Glover, owner of Glover Chiropractic Clinic in Leesburg. “Don’t forget to move your wallet to the front of your pants. “
53) Get fit for CrossFit
The brilliance behind CrossFit is simple: It combines cardio, gymnastics, and weightlifting movements into one powerful, whole-body workout. Clint Lowery is a CrossFit enthusiast who owns Sweat Factory CrossFit in Minneola. As an instructor, he loves helping clients get into shape through this high-intensity fitness program.
“CrossFit is a well-rounded workout program and helps you become fit and functional for everything in life,” says Lowery, a resident of Clermont and paramedic for Lake Emergency Medical Services. “Clients are tired by the end of a workout, but at the same time, they feel like they’ve accomplished something significant. The hardest step is taking the first step to get here. If you can get through the first day and make it to the second day, you will have confidence that you can follow through. It takes discipline.”
54) Consider joining a gym
There are numerous perks to joining a gym: state-of-the-art equipment to enhance your workout, various classes that help members achieve well-rounded workouts, 24-hour accessibility, and even on-site nutritionists who can help you formulate a food plan. Of course, some people feel uneasy about joining a gym because they are not as fit and toned as other gym members.
“People fear that others might talk about them when they enter the gym,” said B.E. Thompson, director of development at LifeStream Behavioral Center who joined a gym weighing 540 pounds. “If they do, they do. Don’t let it bother you. They are probably going to find something to talk about anyway.”
Don Ledbetter moved from Texas to Eustis to be a caregiver for his mother, who was suffering from emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). After she passed away, Ledbetter suffered depression. He needed a way to effectively cope. At the urging of a friend, he began taking yoga classes and meditation at WindHorse Wellness Center in Eustis.
“I lost eight pounds, and I have also experienced an increase in muscle tone and endurance,” he says. “I also feel mentally sharper and more connected to the people around me.”
Meditation has numerous physical benefits, including lower blood pressure and heart rate, increased airflow to the lungs, and a decrease in chemicals that trigger stress.
“When we meditate we are making a complete break with how we normally operate,” says Mark Winwood, founder and resident teacher of the Chenrezig Project, a Tibetan Buddhist study group in Yalaha. “We enter into a mind state that is free of all cares and concerns, in which there is no competition, no desire to possess or grasp at anything, and no hunger to achieve. There is no acceptance or rejection; no hope or fear. And through it all we slowly begin to release all the judgments and emotions that have imprisoned us. It is only when we have removed the harm in ourselves that we become truly useful to others.”
56) Be consistent with exercise
Consistency is more important than intensity when it comes to exercise. Thirty minutes of exercise every day is going to pay off more than going crazy the first day and not being able to move the rest of the week.
“Exercise is important for all people of all ages,” says Mike Brashear, a personal trainer who owns multiple Anytime Fitness gyms throughout Lake and Sumter counties. “Consistent exercise keeps us feeling good about ourselves both physically and mentally. When we feel good about our appearance, we’re more productive, which leads to greater success.”
57) Slather on the sunscreen
For decades, a deep tan was synonymous with healthy skin, but now we know the price continued tanning is premature aging. Prevent early skin aging by wearing sunscreen daily.
“The most important thing I try to teach people about sun protection is there is no healthy tan,” says Ruth Ann Byrd, a licensed aesthetician with Aesthetic Skin Solutions in The Villages. “A tan is a sign of sun-damaged skin, and when the skin sustains enough sun damage over a long period, the skin cells become permanently damaged.”
58) Talk things out
When you endure difficult times causing stress and anxiety, consider talking to a friend, family member, or a professional. Often, an unbiased ear can help you make sense of complicated situations and guide you to a path of resolution.
“Counseling is like cancer treatment; if signs and symptoms are dealt with early, the prognosis is excellent,” says Dr. Steven VanGelder, who provides adult counseling and psychotherapy at Adult Counseling and Psychotherapy of Lake County. “If allowed to progress into late-stage toxicity, the prognosis for improvement decreases with time and may become untreatable.”
59) Pay it forward
Many people who feel they’ve been blessed in life display their gratitude by exhibiting acts of kindness to improve the lives of others. It’s an act of purity, and nothing is expected in return. In 2010, Healthy Living Magazine challenged B.E. Thompson to embark on an incredible journey—one that would challenge him to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle. At the time, Thompson weighed 520 pounds. The magazine recruited a team of nutritionists, exercise coaches, and personal trainers to work with Thompson on a weekly basis. In addition, Healthy Living Magazine provided bi-monthly updates of his progress. Thompson ultimately lost 320 pounds. Since then, he has inspired and encouraged countless Lake County residents to embark on their own weight-loss journey.
One of them was Jason Kilcrease of Tavares.
“B.E. is the Tiger Woods of weight loss. I work out with him daily and he’s a machine that just doesn’t stop. He motivates me to move my butt, and that’s why I’m down 32 pounds in 45 days.”
For Thompson, the best part about paying it forward is the mutually shared joy between giver and receiver.
“My best advice in recent years came from my primary care physician, Dr. Dan Boggus. After noticing my considerable weight loss and reviewing the significant improvements in my lab results, he said, ‘You have your life back. Pay it forward. Share your experiences with others who struggle to overcome obesity.’ Many have repeated this sentiment to me. I try to pay it forward daily and inspire others to achieve their personal goals.”
60) Spend some quiet time
Life can be chaotic, so it’s important to fit in a little quiet time to examine your thoughts, feelings and relationships. Daily reflective time can be spiritually rewarding.
“Take time every day to be reflective, focusing your attention on spiritual things,” advises Dr. Isaac Deas, interfaith chaplain for Cornerstone Hospice. “Too many people end the day mindlessly in front of the television. Try to spend some time being humble, apologetic, and contemplating what you can do to be a better person.”
61) Exhibit willpower
Traci Oliver, a teacher at The Villages Charter School, lost 100 pounds in span of 13 months. Achieving this extraordinary feat required an immense amount of willpower. She vividly remembers her willpower being put to the test during a family dinner at Crabby Joe’s Deck and Grill. For dessert, her husband ordered an orange cake, which made Oliver’s mouth water. This occurred in the middle of her weight-loss journey.
“They brought it out, and it looked amazing. I told my husband to just let me smell it and I’ll be fine. I have discovered that smelling food can satisfy my craving. Plus, I had eaten so clean that I probably would have been in a diabetic coma had I taken a bite.”
For Oliver, willpower played an instrumental role in helping her tip the scales toward a healthier lifestyle.
“For me, it is a great feeling knowing that I’m no longer restricted by my obesity. When you’re obese, it controls every moment and thought. I am now in control of my life. I feel like I have been liberated and can do almost anything I want.”
As a result of her weight loss, this longtime teacher moves sprightlier, keeps pace with her students, and feels more confident in the classroom.
“I’m able to get down on the floor and play games with my students,” she says enthusiastically. “What a wonderful feeling that is!”
A simple smile yields numerous health benefits. It lowers stress and anxiety, releases endorphins, strengthens your immune system, and makes you appear trustworthy.
“If I’m walking down an aisle in Wal-Mart, I look at someone and smile at that person,” said Annacelia Gander, who launched the website getfitlake.com in 2008. “Although the person may be a complete stranger, maybe he or she hasn’t received a smile all day. It’s important to be positive in life and respect other people.”
63) Don’t make excuses
Saying you don’t have enough time to exercise is a pathetic excuse when you look at the athletic accomplishments of Dr. Richard Bosshardt, a plastic surgeon in Tavares. He trained for and competed in numerous marathons, Olympic-distance triathlons, and even the daunting Ironman triathlon. That’s rather impressive for someone who operates a busy medical practice.
“We all have 24 hours in a day, and everyone has time if they make time,” Bosshardt says. “I also believe that everyone is capable of doing more than they do. In one year, you can be in a completely different place.”
64) Expand your comfort zone
Every single step you take beyond your comfort zone will have a profound effect on your self-confidence. Just ask Dr. Ishbel Nieves, who never envisioned herself competing in mud races. Getting down and dirty simply wasn’t her thing. However, after some encouragement from friends, she entered a mud race and actually enjoyed submerging herself in an ice water bath, hurdling over fire, crawling under barbed wire, and climbing over cargo nets.
“I compete with my husband and a group of friends,” says Nieves, owner of Highland Lakes Dental in Leesburg. “Exercising and staying healthy gives me an outlet to do something other than dentistry.”
65) Pay off debt
Between a mortgage, automobile payments, and student loans, Ethan and Lindsey Green of Mount Dora found themselves $44,086.55 in debt. They attended a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace class in Tavares to learn how to manage their money more efficiently. After living within their means and carefully budgeting every penny, they became debt-free in three years.
“Doing this is not easy and it takes lots of discipline,” Ethan says. “However, when you realize sacrifice is for a reason, you do not feel like it’s a sacrifice. We are trading the niceties of now for a financially stable future.”
66) Ladies, take your heart to health
Heart disease does not only attack elderly men. Just ask Eustis resident Susie Burrow, who suffered a major heart attack at age 27 and underwent quadruple bypass surgery. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading killer of women and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined.
“Women should not assume that their age or gender makes them immune to heart disease,” Burrow said. “The only risk factor I had was a family history of heart disease. I did not smoke, I was never obese, and I never battled high cholesterol.”
67) Consider hands-on healing
A combination of gentle and firm strokes from a licensed massage therapist increases blood flow, stimulates nerves, and reduces pain and muscle tension. Michelle LaFever, owner of Healing LifeCare Center in Leesburg, often finds herself treating clients suffering from headaches, neck pain, muscle spasms, and sciatic nerve pain.
“I give more therapeutic massages than I do relaxation massages. Massage has healing benefits for both the mind and body.”
68) Volunteer your time and talent
Not only does volunteering allow you to help others; it actually boosts your physical health, as well. Studies show that volunteering decreases your risk of depression, increases your brain functioning, and reduces stress levels. Avid cycling enthusiast Tracy Draper knows about the benefits of volunteering. During her cross-country bicycle ride in 2014, she raised $30,000 for Hope for the Warriors, which assists military men and women who sustain injuries in the line of duty.
“Doing this was very important to me because I have a deep appreciation for our military,” she says. “My father is a Vietnam veteran and my son is attending the U.S. Air Force Academy. The cross-country bicycle ride helped me grow as a person in an emotional, spiritual, and physical sense. Doing good for others makes you feel very good about yourself.”
69) Bond with siblings
A study conducted by researchers at Brigham Young University concluded that strong bonds between adult siblings make people more selfless, improves their physical and mental health, and helps them live longer. Sibling bonds are strong at Fross and Fross Wealth Management, which is owned by twin brothers Robert and Thomas Fross and their older brother Patrick.
“Working alongside two people you have known your entire life is a blessing,” Patrick says. “In a sense, we’re like a married couple because we always seem to know what the other person is thinking. That kind of chemistry is hard to generate between two strangers who might open a company together.”
70) Manage your money with software
There was a time when Jason and Tricia Merill of Umatilla foolishly spent money. However, their money management skills drastically improved when they purchased the accounting software QuickBooks.
“I love how I can run a report and see how much we’re spending on things like eating out, gas, and groceries,” Merill says. “It gives you ways to measure your spending and helps you make better decisions. Finances can be very stressful for a marriage, and this helps lift that burden.”
71) Give yourself some credit
Your credit score is one of the most important digits associated with your name. A credit history and a good credit score are vital to a healthy financial life. Among other things, it determines whether financial institutions will approve a loan and how much interest you –pay on a loan.
“Employers have started to incorporate credit checks as part of a background investigation, which means poor credit can affect your ability to get a job,” says Thomas Fross, a financial advisor and owner of Fross and Fross Wealth Management.
72) Keep your nose clean
Your nose is often the hangout for all sorts of allergens. Allergies—and particularly a stuffy nose—can leave you feeling downright miserable. Thus, using a nasal spray to clean your nose regularly is important.
“Everyone cleans the filter inside their homes to reduce the amount of dust they’re exposed to,” says Dr. Ed Neuzil, owner of Allergy, Sinus and Asthma Family Health Center in Lady Lake. “Your nose is a filter also and it is important to clean the filter from time to time. Essentially, we’re rinsing out pollen and dirt while at the same time providing freshness and relief through the use of essential oils. Maintaining a clean nose is very important. When your nose is stuffed up, you breathe through your mouth and take dirt and other contaminates down to your lungs.”
73) Quit flopping
Flip-flops are wildly popular, comfortable, and easy to slip on. However, they can be dangerous to the overall health of your feet. Dr. Johnny Wu, a podiatrist at Tri-County Podiatry, recommends wearing laced tennis shoes because of their superior shock absorption and arch support.
“Flip-flops do not have nearly enough shock and absorption support. In turn, it puts strain on your tendons and ligaments to absorb the shock of weight bearing. This leads to tendons becoming inflamed and putting pressure on nerves.”
74) Be optimistic
A large study involving 2,300 elderly adults found that those who maintained a positive outlook were more likely to stay healthy and remain independent than their less cheerful counterparts.
“Studies have consistently shown cancer patients who approach their treatment with optimism do measurably better than those who don’t,” says Dr. Richard Bosshardt, a plastic surgeon in Tavares. “Much the same can be said for almost any medical condition. As a physician, I have seen it countless times. Pessimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
75) Power up with protein
We know protein is popular among bodybuilders and weight lifters, but it does so much more than build muscle mass. Protein also helps regulate blood pressure, increases cardiovascular health, and reduces body fat. Good sources of protein include eggs, milk, fish, turkey, pistachio nuts, and yogurt.
“Every time you eat a meal with protein, it’s broken down into essential amino acids your body uses to repair, build up, and maintain itself,” says Jaime Alonso, a health coach and nutritionist at Total Nutrition and Therapeutics. “Another benefit of protein is that it keeps you fuller longer and helps with weight management.”
76) Consider alternative treatment
While you should never go against your doctor’s orders, people often experience great success through holistic medicine. Linda Cieri of The Villages constantly battled bronchitis for 15 years. Like clockwork, the illness would strike immediately after the holidays and also during her yearly long-distance flight to California to visit family. Fortunately for Cieri, life has become a breath of fresh air since she began visiting The Salt Room nearly two-and-a-half years ago. Her treatment at The Villages-based company consists of lying peacefully in a salt-covered room for 45 minutes while listening to soft background music. During that time, she breathes in salt particles, which act as an anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial agent and help remove mucus and pollutants inside her respiratory tract.
“I haven’t had bronchitis since I began receiving treatment at The Salt Room. I go several times a week to be preventative and stay on top of it. I think salt therapy is wonderful because it’s noninvasive, therapeutic, and risk free. Also, the décor and music are so calming that sometimes I close my eyes and peacefully drift to sleep. When you’re so relaxed it helps heal the body.”
77) Get a bang for your buck
You’ve decided you need a financial advisor to navigate this complex financial world. When selecting a financial advisor, one of the most important things to do is ascertain the fee structure.
“It’s important that your advisor provides you a written estimate of the fees and charges you will pay on an ongoing basis,” says Joe Dykes, a retired financial advisor with Edward Jones. “The advisor should also thoroughly explain those costs to you. Be sure you understand these costs because there are advisors out there who will sell you anything for a commission, whether it’s right or wrong.”
He also says to make sure there are no conflicts of interest regarding investment strategies.
“For example, if you’re semi-conservative with your money, your advisor should not make a risky investment just because it gives him or her a high payout. Conversely, when clients desired to make an investment I felt was wrong for them, I had them sign a letter that the investment went against my advice.”
Finally, ask all potential financial advisors about their education, certifications, and experience.
“Ask them if they have any special designations, such as certified financial planner or chartered financial consultant. Also, ask if they receive any ongoing training or education so that they’re up to speed on the latest changes and trends in the financial industry.”
78) Engage in family activities
Sharing a common activity the entire family can enjoy brings about bonding and togetherness. At least that’s what Mark and Lisa Coffman of Eustis discovered. When their children were infants, Mark attached a two-seat bike trailer to his mountain bike and took the kids along for a ride. Now that Justin and Hannah are older, the family embarks on a weekly cycling trip around their neighborhood or local parks.
“We all love getting some fresh air and exercising together,” Lisa says. “We do this primarily because we want the kids to feel loved and know that they are a priority in our lives. We’re a close-knit family, and I think one of the reasons for that is we share a common activity.”
79) Dress for Success
Wear an outfit that matches you. Your eyes glow, those dark eye circles are reduced and you’ll appear energetic and alert. Wear an outfit that does not match you, and your skin looks drained, your double-chin appears larger, and your face fades into the background. Nobody knows this better than Betsy Barbieux, an image consultant and owner of Leesburg-based Image Inside and Out.
“To make a good first impression—whether you’re in a job interview, selling a product or conducting a business transaction—our eyes should walk into a room first before our hair, makeup, clothes or body parts,” Barbieux says. “If you dress to match yourself, then your eyes will be dominant and that’s what others will focus on.”
But what happens when we do not dress properly? Imagine being interviewed by a chief executive officer for a position you’ve craved for quite some time.
“If the CEO notices something out of whack—like a woman’s hemline or wrinkled pants on a man—then his eyes get stuck there. You begin to wonder what the interviewer is looking at, and then suddenly the interviewer notices that you have upset him by starting at his blemish. We now have three conversations going on. The interviewer is thinking, ‘Why would he wear pants with wrinkles?’ And the person being interviewed is thinking, ‘Why does he keep starting at my pants?’ When you are dressed appropriately, then there is constant eye contact and communication and no distractions.”
80) Pre-plan your meals
Pre-packaging your meals helps you avoid those unnecessary and unhealthy trips to fast-food restaurants and convenience stores. On Sundays and Wednesdays, Wildwood resident and health enthusiast Phil Stokes grills 12 chicken breasts, fills his oven with sweet potatoes, and sautés kale in a pan. He then packages the food in containers and brings them to work. Without fail, he eats three meals at the same time each day while at work.
“I am very dedicated about staying healthy because I don’t want to deal with heart problems, diabetes, or knee and back pain down the road,” he says.
81) Consider a pet
While our pets provide us with loyal companionship, they often do not receive the credit they’re due. Research indicates pets help lower stress, improve our self-esteem, and even reduce the risk of heart disease, according to studies conducted by the American Heart Association. But the one thing some people don’t realize is that pets can be exercise partners in our journey to better health. Just ask Umatilla resident Rhonda McMillan. She and her 4-year-old miniature dachshund, Ryder, hike local trails in Umatilla, swim in the ocean, and stroll the streets of downtown Eustis and Mount Dora.
It doesn’t stop there. The two companions engage in a unique workout together known as doga, a popular fitness craze where yoga enthusiasts perform traditional exercises and stretches with their furry friends.
“When I’m lying on my back, I put Ryder on my stomach and she goes up in the air with me,” McMillan says. “Or while I’m sitting and stretching I’ll pet Ryder and put her in a relaxed, Zen-like state.”
McMillan and Ryder are beach buddies who frequently visit Smyrna Dunes Park, a pet-friendly beach in New Smyrna. They walk and jog along the beach and take occasional swims together.
“Ryder is my best friend. Exercising together allows us to have an even stronger bond and trust factor between us. Our relationship is amazing. Exercise can be stressful, but when you have a dog at your side you can walk three or four miles stress-free.”
82) Grow spiritually
In a world of commercialism, materialism, and secularism, it can be difficult to keep our soul spiritually nourished. Plus, taking a leap of faith is difficult in our hectic, chaotic lives. Perhaps the best thing to do is meet other spiritually healthy people. You’ll find that they are magnets for happiness, freedom, and generosity. In addition, they have a unique ability to enjoy the present moment and appreciate the small things in life. Fred Rahming of Eustis finds spiritually nourishment by being a member of Citadel of Hope in Leesburg.
“Attending church helps you to cope with everyday life in a number of ways. Coming together with friends and family who believe in the same faith as you builds and motivates you. As children we attend school for 13 years and learn how to read, spell, count, etc. It’s the same as attending church. We grow spiritually, and by doing so, we’re better equipped to handle the stressors of everyday life.”
83) Get hooked on fish oil
Many researchers and doctors have championed fish oil for its positive role in brain and heart health. Omega-3 fatty acids even help reduce chronic inflammation in diabetes patients.
“Fish oil is very beneficial for cardiovascular health, cognitive function, eye function, and for healthy joints and skin,” says Evan Dupont, manager of Vitamin Shoppe in Clermont. “Of course, your doctor should be aware of any supplement you’re taking so there are no adverse reactions.”
84) Go organic
Chances are that shiny red apple you’re eating was grown with synthetic chemicals such as pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, and fungicides. This can present adverse health risks. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 90 percent of fungicides, 60 percent of herbicides, and 30 percent of insecticides are carcinogenic, meaning they’re a cancer-causing substance or agent.
“To be certified organic, food cannot be grown with synthetic chemicals and cannot be exposed to radiation,” said Pam Blue, who serves as director of the health educator program at Hippocrates Health Institute. “In addition, animals must be raised without antibiotics or growth hormones. For me, the best thing about eating organic is that my head feels clear and my body feels energized.”
85) Start wine-ing
Located in Clermont, Lakeridge Winery is the largest winery in Florida. The company typically produces 2 million bottles of wine each year. Not only is the wine tasty; it’s healthy, as well. Lakeridge’s wines are made of native muscadine grapes, which contain high amounts of resveratrol. Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant that protects against cancer and heart disease.
“Research has indicated that muscadine grapes contain 10 times as much resveratrol than other varieties of grapes,” says Charles Cox, owner of Lakeridge Winery.
86) Put your mind at ease
As psychiatrist and medical director of LifeStream Behavioral Center, Dr. Thomas Valente has seen many patients with mental health problems enter remission and successfully transition back into society. Much like heart disease or breast cancer, early recognition and treatment of a mental illness are vitally important to help patients recover and prevent recurrence.
“With treatment, mental illness can have a high success rate,” he says. “Many of my patients have recovered. They realized they had a problem, sought professional help, and underwent treatment. If left untreated, mental illness is disabling because it leads to cognitive deficits and impairs your ability to make logical decisions.”
87) Feed your brain
Most of us already know that mind-boggling puzzle books are a great way to stimulate your brain health. However, brain-healthy food is also beneficial for your noggin. Avocados, beets, blueberries, broccoli, celery, salmon, and green vegetables are among the foods known to boost brainpower.
“Your diet choices affect your brain health both directly and indirectly,” says Kim Baden-Kristensen, founder of the Danish-based company Brain+. “It has a direct impact because your brain needs raw materials to fuel it and to build new cells like any other part of the body. Your diet indirectly affects your brain because it greatly affects the overall health of your body. A healthy diet can lower the rate of cognitive decline from aging and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”
88) De-stress yourself
Stress can have an adverse effect on our mental and physical health. One of the best ways to combat stress is to engage in activities that reduce tension and help us relax. Those activities include listening to music, performing breathing exercises, visiting a day spa, exercising, and sex.
“De-stressing is very important because stress is a major issue in our society and a much overlooked part of health,” says Dr. Michael Holloway, owner of Lifestyle Solutions MedSpa in The Villages. “Stress affects all aspects of one’s health, including struggles with weight, blood pressure, diabetes, energy levels, and mood.”
89) Find strength in adversity
Sometimes, adversity is a blessing in disguise. That’s certainly the case for Brandon and Brittany Buell, who in August 2014 gave birth to a child born with a rare brain disease. Their son, Jaxon, has a brain that is one-fifth the size of a normal human brain.
Since his birth, Jaxon has been hospitalized three times for rhinitis, an inflammation of the mucous membrane that makes breathing difficult. Brittany must also closely monitor him when he suffers from light seizures—he sometimes has 10 episodes a day—that cause his arms to tremble and legs to kick simultaneously.
He has periodic check-ups with a neurologist to control his seizures and regularly visits another specialist to treat severe gastrointestinal issues. Because Jaxon cannot swallow, he is hooked 20 hours each day to a feeding tube that delivers hypoallergenic baby formula. He also undergoes regular physical therapy sessions to learn tasks like sitting up straight without leaning over and falling.
“Sometimes I have to take him to a doctor as many as three times a week,” Brittany said. “When unexpected things like rashes or infections pop up, I have to take him to a pediatrician. Raising a child with special needs is difficult. Right now the house needs to be cleaned, and I have six loads of laundry that need to be done. Taking care of him is a job for sure.”
While raising a child with special needs is demanding, the Buells consider themselves fortunate to have Jaxon in their lives.
“One of Jaxon’s favorite activities is snuggling with us while we read a book to him,” Brandon said. “We cherish moments like those and take one day at a time. We feel blessed by each day we get to spend with Jaxon because we don’t know what the future holds.”
90) Heart patients: Don’t bypass exercise
There used to be a time when open-heart bypass patients were encouraged to slow down, lead sedentary lifestyles, and consider leaving work. Times have changed. Nowadays, bypass patients are mobilized as soon as possible and enter a cardiac rehab program, where they undergo supervised exercises.
“Patients who have just undergone bypass surgery should begin exercising by doing little things, such as walking for five minutes and then resting,” says Dr. Mark Rothschild, a cardiologist with Heart of The Villages. “They should attempt to walk every day and gradually build up their endurance. Once their endurance has increased, they can participate in other exercises. They should exercise for the rest of their lives because it helps slow down further progression of heart disease.”
Eustis resident De Burkholder would certainly agree. After undergoing bypass surgery in 1999, he has spent the past 16 years exercising religiously and eating healthy. In fact, he frequents the Golden Triangle YMCA to engage in strength and aerobic training, spends several days each week tending to his beautifully landscaped yard, and engages in ballroom dancing every Saturday night in Leesburg.
His decision to live a healthy lifestyle following open-heart surgery has paid big dividends.
“Other than heavy lifting, I can participate in most physical activities,” he says. “My level of physical fitness is much better than other people I know who are my age.”
91) Love others
Some people teach their dogs to heel. Eustis resident Ryna LaValle teaches her golden retriever to heal. And she has a doggone good time putting smiles on the faces of people who are sick or lonely. LaValle is founder of Caring Canines Therapy Dogs, a nonprofit organization comprised of dog owners who take their pet dogs to nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.
“I’ve always been a dog lover, and this is my way of helping other people,” she says. “Some of the patients we see at nursing homes seldom have any other visitors. When I show up with my dog, you can instantly see the expression on their face turn from a frown to a smile. Helping others brings me lasting happiness, and I’ll continue sharing my dogs until I can no longer do so.”
92) Love yourself
An unhealthy obsession with body image as a high school student triggered Emily Middleton’s seven-year battle with bulimia. For Emily, discovering the power of self-love proved one of the most important tools in her road to recovery. Today, Emily is helping others as an intake coordinator of The Recovery Village, a residential treatment facility in Umatilla for people suffering from drug addiction, mental health issues, and eating disorders.
“When you discover self-love, you celebrate all that is good about life and recognize your own worth, beauty, and strength,” she says.
93) Laugh it up
Like exercise, laughter actually causes physical changes in brain chemicals, your heart rate, and blood pressure that relive stress. Just ask Pona Dos and his wife, Ginger, who spearheaded the Laughing Yoga Club in The Villages.
“Laughing releases endorphins that help you with pain, stress, and depression,” Ginger says. “It also helps expel dead air so you can get more oxygen.”
94) Teach children the value of money
Children are never too young to learn about dollars and cents. Tom Ruggie, a certified financial planner and owner of Ruggie Wealth Management, had his two children put a portion of their allowance into stocks when they were five.
“I made a list of stocks they would be familiar with, such as McDonald’s and Walt Disney World,” he says. “I let them make the decision of which stock they wanted to invest in. Then I showed them how to make an Excel spreadsheet and track how their stocks were doing. People need to understand that sometimes they’re going to lose in the stock market. I wanted my children to realize that at an early age so they wouldn’t put blinders on and make emotional decisions.”
95) Don’t let fear stop you
During a Sunday church service in 2007, daredevil Lon Dowis demonstrated his faith by jumping off a tall ladder. The harness broke; he fell 16 feet, 2 inches and landed on his chest. That unexpected fall gave him new life. Instead of succumbing to fear, the 51-year-old man competes in mud runs, frequents the gym, and dreams of one day opening his own zip line.
“That accident made me realize that life is too short to just go to work every day then go home and sleep. It was time to add some excitement to my life. People often ask me what I would do if money were no object. I tell them I’d build a zip line and swing through the redwood trees in California for an entire week.”
96) Never say ‘I’m Too Old’ to Try Something New
Bernice Prek has a look of confidence as she walks onto stage. The bikini she’s wearing barely covers her tanned, golden-oak skin, rock-hard abs, and muscular biceps. She is a female bodybuilder with perfectly sculpted anatomy. It wasn’t until she was 36 that she decided to undergo a life transformation and become a bodybuilder. This happened on a whim in February 2015 when she accompanied Mia Finnegan, the 1995 Fitness Olympia champion, to a bodybuilding competition in Tampa.
“I instantly fell in love with the sport,” says Prek, a resident of Ocala. “When I was at the competition, I was able to meet many of the female competitors backstage. Seeing how good they looked in their bikinis made me realize that I could also look that good.”
Prek made her bodybuilding debut in October 2015. Competing in the NPC Ocala Cup Classic, she muscled her way to first-place finishes in three categories: Masters Bikini, Open Class B Bikini, and Novice Bikini.
“I was very surprised that I did so well at and letting people see all the hard work I put in 12 weeks leading up to the competition. I practiced posing every single day.”
One month later, Prek competed in the Amanda Marinelli Classic in West Palm Beach. She won third place in her open bikini class, which qualified her to compete in the NPC Team Universe competition in July.
“With each show, I come up with a better physique and package to showcase to judges. Undergoing competition prep makes you a more committed and stronger person. You grow in so many ways.”
97) Don’t ‘D’-plete yourself
Unless you spend ample time in the sunlight, acquiring proper levels of Vitamin D is difficult because it is not abundant in food. Deficiency in Vitamin D levels can lead to osteoporosis, rickets, psoriasis, obesity, and diabetes.
“Vitamin D has always been known for supporting healthy teeth and bones,” says Lori Esarey, owner of Lady Lake-based Total Nutrition and Therapeutics, who earned a master’s degree in nutrition and metabolic medicine. “But in the past 15 years studies have indicated that it is also beneficial for neurologic health and in the treatment of skin conditions. It is important for people to take Vitamin D supplements so they can achieve maximum health.”
98) Cool down your air conditioning costs
Living in Florida, our air conditioners work overtime during the sizzling summer heat. However, we don’t want air conditioners to overheat our bank accounts. David MacDonald, owner of Fruitland Park-based M & S Air Conditioning, provides helpful tips to keep people from being hot under the collar when that monthly utility bill arrives.
1. “If you want to balance comfort and cost, be sure the lowest you set your thermostat is 78 degrees. Anything under 78 degrees represents more money. Since it cools down somewhat at night, you may want to consider setting the thermostat around 82 degrees.”
2. “People spend one-third of their lives in their bedrooms. It would be wise to have a separate air conditioning unit for your master bedroom. That way, you can keep your bedroom temperature at 78, while the rest of the house—which you’re not using when you are asleep—can be set at 85 degrees. It costs less money to keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature as opposed to an entire 2,000 square-foot house.”
3. “Have maintenance performed on your air conditioner at least two times each year. Dirty filters and debris-filled coils cause more strain on your unit. A well-maintained air conditioning unit will keep your utility bill down and prolong the life of your unit.”
4. “Consider purchasing a solar attic fan. It helps vent hot air outside while drawing cool air into the attic. Plus, they are energy efficient because their power comes from the sun.”
Each year, there are more new cases of skin cancer than breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancers combined, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. That’s something Tavares resident Glenn Cowham learned the hard way. All those shirtless summers he spent as a boy in Alabama caught up to him later in life.
Since 2001, he has had melanoma—the deadliest form of skin cancer—removed from his body on five occasions. He developed two lesions on his back, one on his shoulder, one on his chest, and a precancerous lesion on his right hand. These days, he takes extreme caution. He visits his dermatologist every three to six months for regular screenings. And he never mows the lawn or takes a fishing trip without lathering up with sunscreen consisting of a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.
“There’s a price to be paid for those hoping to have the ultimate suntan,” he says. “You’ve got to be proactive and smart by covering up.”
Too much sunlight can also leave people covered in clusters of sunspots.
“Sunspots can be dangerous because they ultimately can turn into skin cancer,” says Halah Ismail, owner of Alani Medical Spa in Lady Lake. “They also cause white and dark spots to appear on the skin. They are common in fair-skinned people and those who spend lots of time outdoors and do not protect their skin.”
100) Be flexible and willing to adapt
Sometimes, unforeseen medical events arise. That doesn’t mean your life is over, but it does mean that your life may need to be re-directed and have new purpose. Such is the case for Calista Bennett, a 16-year-old Leesburg High School junior who dreamed of following in her older sister’s footsteps and playing volleyball at the collegiate level. Unfortunately, she’ll never play sports again after undergoing two back surgeries to treat degenerative disc disease and spinal stenosis. Now, she hopes to attend college and become a nurse to help others who, like herself, are hurting.
“Life can be difficult and challenging, but you’ve got to maintain a positive attitude and get through the tough times,” she says. “I’m so blessed to have a supportive family that listened to me when I was first experiencing my pain. Other parents would’ve told their kids to suck it up and keep going.”