No tension, no worries

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Hi again, Marquette! We’re only a little over a week away from Thanksgiving break and only 4 more weeks of classes (including this week and the short Thanksgiving week) before finals week. As always, the semester is flying by. In the midst of this, it is sometimes hard to find some time for yourself and to wind down and just enjoy life. We are just trying to fit everything into our busy lives. We have work, and we want to spend time working out, eating healthy, relaxing, spending time with family and friends, catching up on a good book. And the list goes on and on.

One part of having such a chaotic life that I have always struggled with is the actual physical pain it leaves my body in. Yes, I know, I am 21 years old, I shouldn’t have so much pain. But, I tend to carry all of my stress in my neck and shoulders. A lot of it stems from my struggle with an autoimmune disorder that affects my thyroid. And if I am managing to fit in regular workouts, that muscle tension gets even worse. Today, I want to be the one that tells you to go ahead and splurge on something for yourself. If you carry a lot of your stress in your muscles like I do, then you are just as much in need of a massage as I am. I don’t get massages frequently, but when I do, it leaves me wondering why I don’t do it more often. Especially since it has so many great health benefits.

Massage therapy can help with everything from that stress and pain relief I was talking about, to anxiety, headaches, sleep troubles, blood pressure, and an endless list of other issues. This means there can’t possibly any downside to going for it. I also firmly believe that massage therapy on a consistent basis creates the best results. It gives you some down time to unwind and relax, to release the tension in your body and mind. And while massages can be expensive, they don’t have to be. Marquette offers a very generous massage therapy discount to students, faculty and staff. This means you can focus on the relaxation aspect instead of the frightening costs. And of course there is always the option of arranging a massage agreement with a loved one. It may not be the same as a trained massage therapist, but it offers many of the same benefits along with providing a bonding moment.

Allowing yourself something that makes you feel good is an absolutely essential aspect of wellness. Working out feels good. Eating healthy feels good. Mindfulness feels good. And so does taking time to take care of yourself. So go ahead, take some time for you and work on making yourself well.

Alicia Diedrich

The season of eating

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Hi everyone! We’re almost to that time of year again. The time of year when there is delicious food everywhere in sight. The time of year where it is next to impossible to resist eating tons of extra unhealthy food. I am here just as a simple reminder that it is possible to keep to a healthy diet, even during the season of social eating.

Although it is extremely difficult, it can be done! And maybe it doesn’t need to be that difficult. Now, I do like to promote healthy eating and balanced diets, but I also like to add on: everything in moderation. One of the most difficult parts about eating healthy during huge Thanksgiving feasts and holiday parties that would give any buffet a run for their money, is simply just the volume of food there is. It seems next to impossible to not load up your plate full of everything in sight. I would like to offer some advice to make conquering your cravings easier. This past weekend, my mother and I were discussing what we wanted to do for Thanksgiving dinner. Since we try to eat healthy, we decided the easiest way to do that during the season of eating would be to just cut back on the amount of food we’re making to begin with. If you’re throwing a get together, just simplify your menu. Pick out just a few items for your menu, maybe you decide you need your turkey and mashed potatoes because they are staples to any Thanksgiving dinner! But maybe you decide instead of stuffing, cranberry sauces, green beans filled with fattening ingredients, and three different kind of pies, you opt to make a side salad. Suddenly, you only have a few options to choose from, making eating healthy and choosing good portions a much easier feat, and you have a new found sense of willpower.

Let’s say you’re not hosting, then what? There is food everywhere! And I’m sure we all feel like we have to try at least some of everything. I want to propose that the same advice works here. Simplify your personal menu, choose just a few dishes to put on your plate. I repeat again, everything in moderation. Go ahead and have a piece of pie if you want it, but then make sure you skip on the thousands of other desserts that are there. Eating healthy during the holidays doesn’t have to be depressing. In the end, when you make a healthy choice about your eating habits, you’ll feel better physically and mentally. I don’t know about you, but when I eat too much in one sitting and your stomach hurts from all the food, you end up regretting it almost immediately .

So, although it may seem incredibly difficult to eat healthier during the holidays, I want to assure you it’s easier than we make it out to be. Give yourself some credit and realize that you have the power and the option to overcome your cravings and to make good decisions for your body. In the end, you will be happier and healthier. I will leave you this week with a challenge for us all, to take control of our bodies and test out that willpower that we all have deep within us. Have a great week Marquette, I’ll talk to you next week!

Alicia Diedrich

Forgiveness is wellness

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Every week I try to bring you the best in wellness tips and news on campus. I have discussed this concept of wellness lows and highs before, and at the beginning of the semester I made it my goal to make this my (and our) best year yet. Well, let me tell you, I was not prepared at all for what this semester has thrown my way. It has sent me spiraling into a wellness low, but that is OKAY! One of the most important things I have learned about wellness is that when you are not being as well as you can be (making poor nutrition choices, skipping workouts, or even not taking enough time to relax) you must forgive yourself.

It took me a while to not feel guilty about poor wellness decisions, or at least feel like I should feel guilty. However, I have come to realize that beating yourself up over past mistakes only leads to a hindered sense of emotional wellness. The only thing we can do when it comes to bad decisions (or just a wellness low we are experiencing that may be no fault of our own) is to learn from them and use that to work towards bettering ourselves in the present and future. So you ate two pieces of cake, maybe three, that’s okay. You skipped your workouts for the last week? Or you haven’t exercised in months, maybe years? That’s okay too. Remember how that made your body feel. We have one body to get us through the rest of our lives, and we should treat it as such, no matter how poorly it may treat us at times. I shared a quote on our Twitter account a while back by Jim Rohn, who says “[t]ake care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” Despite how simple this is, it made a big impact in my mind because there is so much truth to that. Good wellness decisions may not cure our health problems, but it will 100% make the ride that much easier.

Proper nutrition, regular exercise and mindfulness, just to name a few, all help to put us in the state of mind we need to be in to tackle every day with our best and brightest selves. These simple things give us the energy to get up and do great things, to grow stronger and smarter, and to be the best for others in our lives as well. I have always been a firm believer that if you don’t first take care of yourself, you can’t be at your best for others in your life either.

This is just another friendly push to make this our best year yet, and to remind you that wellness setbacks can and do happen, and it is OKAY! Now, go do something that is good for you, you deserve it.

Alicia Diedrich

Art and nutrition? Everything pumpkin

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Hello again, Marquette! Fall weather seems to finally be upon us. I hope you are all enjoying the cool, crisp weather by staying active outside, but also by curling up will a blanket and some hot apple cider, because we should always find some time for relaxation and rejuvenation as well. I may have mentioned before that fall is my favorite season, but I don’t think I mentioned that Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday. And with halloween comes so many spooky and fun activities, decorations, and food – many of them revolving around pumpkins! And no, this is not your typical crazed, pumpkin spice everything post. This is a dedication to the wonderful super food and exciting activities that come with pumpkins.

Whether you are pumpkin carving, painting, growing, cooking, smashing, or whatever it is you do with pumpkins, there is a great potential for some awesome stress relief and bonding with friends or family. Many of these pumpkin-related activities are like a form of art in themselves. And the science between art and reduced stress is pretty cool! The best part is, you don’t have to be good at art for it to work its magic. As the great Pablo Picasso once said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows.” That being said, I think we should all get out there and try to reach our inner child. Have some fun, let loose, and just let your creative mind take over for a while. Let the pumpkins inspire you.

Another art form with pumpkins that we should all try out is cooking! Pumpkins are actually really healthy for us, and if we are carving them anyways, then we might as well take any opportunity we can get. One of the greatest parts about cooking with pumpkin is its endless possibilities. Pumpkin is perfect for both sweet and savory palettes. There are so many options from pumpkin pancakes, smoothies, breads, soups, curry, and of course don’t forget the guilty pleasure: pumpkin pie. There are tons of great, healthy pumpkin recipes out there to give you a health boost when we all need it the most. And there’s always pumpkin seeds: a classic and a favorite. You can never go wrong with pumpkin seeds. They are just as healthy as the pumpkin itself. So make sure that when you carve your pumpkins and make delicious recipes with the pumpkins that you keep those seeds and bake them for a great mid-day snack.

Halloween is a week away, so take advantage of this healthy treat now and make some art while doing so. I wish you wonderful, exciting pumpkin adventures.

Alicia Diedrich

Destress with fall colors

We are getting to that time of year where everyone is getting sick and feeling stressed out. There are a lot of things you can do to help yourself destress and guard yourself against sickness. The best part is most of these strategies to better yourself, your health and your state of mind, are usually pretty simple. Some of them are as simple as eating certain foods to build up your immune system. Others are as easy as just setting foot outdoors.

Fresh air and exercise are always good for you, but with fall comes a whole new set of weather and surroundings. One of the most beautiful parts of fall weather will also help you relieve some stress. You guessed it: leaves! Fall has always been my favorite season because of the temperatures, the beautiful fall colors, and all of the fun fall activities. But, it is so interesting and exciting to know that there is actually science behind the destressing qualities of turning leaves. It turns out that the mere contrast of colors in the leaves spirals our brains into excitement because it’s something new! We get used to seeing only greens all summer, and then the fall leaves seem to appear suddenly, shocking our brains.

Not to mention, if the fall weather tempts us outside for a walk, then we are getting active. And being active always has a positive effect on our brain to release some stress. The combination of exercise and of the visually-stimulating effects of the colors around us are just enough to tell our brain to relax.

So, this is my way of saying we all need to get outside and enjoy the weather. I am accepting no excuses of having no time (especially from myself). I can’t wait to get outside and enjoy the weather while stealing away some great, stress relieving benefits. I hope to see all of you out enjoying the weather on campus, whether it’s just to have a short lunch, or to walk around and really take in all of the beauty that Marquette has to offer.

Alicia Diedrich

Wellbeing biography: Kristin Kipp – Whole 30

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I’ve never liked the word diet. I think it’s because, more often than not, the word “diet” is used to describe a way of eating to lose weight, and in this sense, Garfield said it right, “DIET is DIE with a T.” There are many different definitions of the word diet, but one definition that puts diet in a positive light comes from the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Here it’s defined simply as “habitual nourishment.” I love thinking of food this way. I grew up on a farm with an abundance of fresh produce. We canned a lot of fruits and veggies for the winter and made our own jam. We even raised a pig every year to eat. From a young age, I loved good nutrition and physical activity, and my passion brought me to what I do today, so I am thankful for that.

Now I have a family of my own, and we are trying our best to instill good habits for our little girl. Thankfully my husband loves to garden and eat good food. He devotes much of his time to cooking good meals for us. We are a “whole foods” family – we drink whole milk, eat real butter, and eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. We buy our pork from a local farmer and make sure that there are no nitrates or MSG added at the butcher. We participate in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), go to local farmer’s markets, and try to buy organic, grass-fed, cage free etc. when possible. We rarely go out to eat, cooking most of our meals at home, but we’re definitely not perfect when it comes to food. No one should be. And although we try following all the good things I listed above, it doesn’t always happen, and we tend to follow the “everything in moderation” rule. Besides…Who can pass up those hostess cream filled chocolate cupcakes?

I really had no desire to look into the Whole30 when it came out. I hate all the fads that come and go, and I try to promote lifestyle changes for the people I work with. I’m not overweight, and I’m fairly physically active, so besides enjoying some sugary treats and having a glass of wine or a beer every now and again, I thought I was doing pretty good with my overall nutrition and health. A few years ago, though, I started having some health issues that took me almost 2 years to work through. During this time, I became really attuned to my body, and although the issues I was having didn’t stem from my diet, I became curious after I started feeling better. Was I feeling the best that I possibly could be? Could the Whole30 help me identify foods that aren’t working for me? Would elimination of these foods help me to run again without pain? Having felt really good for the last 6 months before I decided to try the Whole30, I really didn’t believe that I was going to feel much of a difference, but it turns out, I was wrong.

The first couple of days of the Whole30 were the worst…I’m not sure if everyone feels that way, but I was miserable. I felt like I was detoxing. I hated restricting myself from foods that I really wanted to eat, and not having my morning cup of coffee with whole milk and Organic Valley’s French vanilla half and half creamer was the worst. I also had a headache for the first four or five days, which could have been attributed to not drinking enough water, but nonetheless…I felt crappy. What I do know is that after about that first week, I started to feel good. Actually, I felt great. I had so much energy. I wasn’t experiencing that afternoon sluggishness around 2pm that makes you want to go to the nearest candy bowl on your co-worker’s desk. When my alarm went off at 4:45am, I felt well rested and ready for my morning swim. When I worked out, I felt amazing. I feel like I could go on and on about how great I felt, but then something really crazy happened after about two weeks….. I was able to run for the first time in 2 1/2 years without pain or stiffness.

Having completed the Whole30, I have a deeper appreciation of what eating healthy means to me, and to really eat well, feel good, and enjoy our food, I believe it takes a true conscious effort to eat mindfully. I’ve always told people to pay attention to how food makes them feel, and it’s not that I don’t pay attention to this myself, but the Whole30 required me to practice mindfulness as it relates to food every day for 30 days. Many people may do the Whole30 just to lose weight. They treat it as another fad diet that they are going to try and hope for results. Don’t get me wrong…you will lose weight, but if that’s all you are doing it for, you are missing the point, and as soon as you go back to your normal habits the weight will come back on. Eating mindfully – understanding what and why you are eating, taking the time to enjoy food, listening to whether you’re hungry or not, and understanding the effects food has on your body – is important for weight loss as well. Your body can’t do what it’s supposed to do if you are not fueling it correctly. This means that if you aren’t eating enough calories, or too many calories, or just not the right combination of foods, you’re not going to lose weight. This also means that if are fueling your body with foods that are causing inflammatory responses, you may just be sabotaging all your efforts to be healthy and lose weight as well.

Doing this 30-day challenge isn’t easy (or inexpensive). It takes a lot of preparation/cooking, time reading labels, space in your refrigerator, and self-discipline to do it. I’ve kept a lot of great habits from this process and found out what foods really impact the inflammation in my body. It hasn’t completely stopped me from eating these foods, but I do pay the price. I don’t know if there is anything else wrong in my body that is keeping me from running like I’d like, but now I know how food affects this already present inflammation. If you are thinking about trying it, I would ask you to the approach the Whole30 differently. Think of it as an experiment in helping you to take a mindful approach to your eating that will help you create new healthy habits that you’d like to continue once you’ve finished, and as a way to identify how food truly affects your body so you can try to limit these foods and avoid the ill effects.

Written by Kristin Kipp

Kristin is the Director of Employee Wellness at Marquette University and is a Registered Dietitian.

Marquette Wellness Ambassadors

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As promised at the beginning of the semester, Marquette University Employee Wellness has some exciting new changes and improvements going on. We already celebrated the grand opening of the new employee wellness space! And now we are excited to bring you the news of the formation of Marquette University Wellness Ambassadors.

The Wellness Ambassadors program was formed with the vision of being able to better promote, support and encourage healthy choices. I have always been a firm believer that it is so much easier to make better choices for yourself when you have great support from others backing you. For me it is so much easier to stick to my fitness goals and really push myself when everyone around me is doing so too, this is why I find having workout buddies or going to the gym where everyone around you is working out to be so beneficial. The same thing holds true when we are talking about making healthy food choices or discussing our mental, emotional and spiritual wellness. And this is why it is so difficult to maintain our healthy eating habits around the holidays: everyone is eating cookies, cakes and unhealthy snacks. It is extremely difficult to maintain healthy choices when we give way to social eating or “I’ll just have one.” This is why support systems with healthy intentions and encouragement are so vital to our own healthy choices.

The Marquette Wellness Ambassadors (MWA) will work to create these networks of support and encouragement. The goal for the ambassadors is to help others work towards healthy lifestyle choices at work, identify environmental supports to influence and enhance co-workers healthy lifestyle, create peer support networks and other wellness and health related topics. If you are passionate about wellness, or just want to take on a new challenge for yourself and your peers, the Ambassador team is looking for individuals who can be enthusiastic and inspiring in a wellness role and lead by example. Our motto here is BE THE HEALTHY DIFFERENCE. If this sounds like you, you can fill out the application or contact Kristin Kipp at kristin.kipp@mu.edu for more information on the Marquette Wellness Ambassadors program.

Even if you decide not to become a MWA I still urge you to make a healthy difference in your own life and those around you. We all have to power and ability to make healthy choices and changes in our lives. Choose to do that now and you will thank yourself later.

Alicia Diedrich


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