Learning from the Oldest People in the World How to Live Longer & Happier

In 2004 Dan Buettner headed a team with National Geographic and researchers of longevity to find places around the world where people lived longer. They named these places the Blue Zones. Buettner identified five geographic areas where people live statistically the longest: Okinawa (Japan); Sardinia (Italy); Nicoya (Costa Rica); Icaria (Greece) and Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California. They learned that people in these locations reached the age 100 at rates much greater than the national average in the United States.  In Loma Linda, CA, Seventh Day Adventists live 10 years longer than the average North American does. In IcariaGreece, an April 2009 study on the island of Icaria uncovered the location with the highest percentage of 90-year-olds on the planet – nearly 1 out of 3 people make it to their 90s. Furthermore, Icarians “have about 20 percent lower rates of cancer, 50 percent lower rates of heart disease and almost no dementia.” quoted from:The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest

Teams of scientists studied these 5 Blue Zones to identify which lifestyle characteristics might explain why these people lived so much longer than other people. They found 9 characteristics common in all of the Blue Zones.

Buettner put this information into action. He joined AARP and the United Health Foundation to apply these 9 principles first to a city in MN called Albert. Within a year, the people who participated in this project added an estimated 2.9 years to their average life span while their health care costs dropped 49 percent. He started Blue Zones Projects across the nation with the mission to help people in additional communities to live longer and healthier lives. These projects have led to significant drops in employee absenteeism, double digit drops in obesity and smoking as well as millions of dollars saved in health care costs.

The 9 characteristics found in the Blue Zones are as follows:

1)  Move Naturally: These people move (exercise) as part of their daily lives. They don’t go to the gym or lift weights. They grow their own gardens and don’t have conveniences for house and yard work. Many Okinawans practice martial arts. They do some form of activity that works their whole body to the point of breathing rapidly or sweating 5 to 10 hours a week.

2) Purpose: Each of these 5 groups had a sense of purpose for their lives. The research shows that having a sense of purpose can be worth up to 7 additional years of life expectancy.

3) Downshift: The longest living people have daily routines to slow down. The group of Adventists prayed, the Ikarians take naps while the Sardinians have a happy hour.

4) 80% Rule: People in the Blue Zones eat until their stomachs are 80 % full. They also eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening then don’t eat any more the rest of the day. This gives their digestion at least 12 to 14 hours to rest

5) Plant Slant: Beans such as soy beans, lentils or fava beans are the mainstay of most centenarian diets. Meat, usually pork, is eaten on the average only 5 times a month with serving sizes 3 to 4 oz.

6) Wine at 5 pm: With the exception of Adventists, the people in the Blue Zones drink alcohol moderately and regularly. They drink 1 to 2 cups of glasses of wine a day with friends or family.

7) Belong: Of the 263 centenarians interviewed, only 5 did not belong to a faith based community. Research shows that attending faith bases services 4 times a month will add 4 to 14 years of life expectancy

8) Loved Ones First: These centenarians put their families first by keeping aging parents and grandparents in the home or nearby. They are committed to a life partner (this can add up to 3 years life expectancy) and spend quality time with their children.

9) Right Tribe: These long living people chose or were born into communities or social circles that supported their healthy behaviors. One Blue zone, the Okinawans, create “moasis”, which are groups of 5 people who commit to each other for life.

I found reading about the Blue Zones made me think what I could do to make my life include all of these characteristics. Hopefully they will help you as you prioritize how you spend your time. Some of these characteristics are not that easy to create in our lives.

Knowing what you want to do to change your life is easier than implementing that change. If you feel you don’t have enough support to make positive changes to increase the quality and length of your life, now may be the time so to seek therapy. I would be happy to provide a free phone or in person consultation about what I can offer you as a therapist. Just call me at 586-799-2399.


Sugar-Pleasure or Poison?


This blog post is for people who want to motivate themselves to stop overeating and eat healthier.

Sugar brings pleasure.  When does sugar become “a poison?”  It all depends on the amount of sugar eaten, if a person is “sugar sensitive” (sometimes addicted to sugar) and the kinds of sugar eaten. In the 1700’s the average American intake of sugar was 1 teaspoon a day. Today the average American intake of sugar is 22 teaspoons of sugar a day.

Dr Lustig, Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California,  has decoded sugar metabolism. He explains this in a youtube video called Sugar-The Bitter Truth, viewed by over 7 million people, which I HIGHLY recommend everyone watch from beginning to end. He tells how in the 1970’s the food industry learned to process sugar into HFCS, High Fructose Corn Syrup, which is 20 percent sweeter, cheaper and much more addictive. He explains the bio chemistry of why sugar is harmful in clear  scientific terms.

This new form of sugar, HFCS, High Fructose Corn Syrup, is used most in soda pop and processed foods. Dr Mercola states HFCS is more metabolically risky than sucrose due to its chemical form. He writes, “The fructose and the glucose are not bound together in HFCS, as they are in table sugar, so your body doesn’t have to break it down. Therefore, the fructose is absorbed immediately, going straight to your liver… Too much fructose creates a metabolic disaster in your body.”  Dr Lustig states that 80 percent of HFCS has to be metabolized in the liver. The liver is already over worked detoxing  toxins in the water, air and food we take in.

Processed sugar fools your metabolism by turning off your body’s appetite-control system. This kind of fructose does not stimulate insulin, which in turn does not suppress ghrelin (the “hunger hormone”) or stimulate leptin (the “satiety hormone”). People don’t feel full, get hooked to processed sugar, eat more and often develop insulin resistance.

Dr Lustig states “Fructose is a chronic toxin. The liver does not get sick after one meal of fructose, it gets sick after 1000 meals of fructose but that is how many meals people eat”. He states that 30 percent of fructose ends up as fat in the body.

Dr David Reuben, author of Everything You Wanted to Know about Nutrition, writes “White refined sugar is not a food. It is a pure chemical extracted from plant sources, purer in fact than cocaine, which it resembles in many ways. It’s true name is sucrose and it’s chemical formula is C12H22O11. It has 12 carbon atoms, 22 hydrogen atoms, 11 oxygen atoms and absolutely nothing else to offer”.  The chemical formula for cocaine is C17H21NO4, which basically is the same as sucrose except it has nitrogen instead of oxygen. This information relates to a University of Berkley you tube video that showed how rats in a study addicted to cocaine chose sugar before they chose cocaine.

The fructose in processed foods increases uric acid, which can increase your blood pressure and potentially damage your kidneys. Too much uric acid over time increases low-level inflammation, which affects health in many ways.  For instance, when blood vessels have too much inflammation, this can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Mercola writes there is “a good deal of evidence that some cancers are caused by chronic inflammation”. Mark Hyman, MD,  writes  “The inflammation triggered by sugar leaves in its wake a sea of diseases beyond the brain-heart disease, obesity, cancer, diabetes, and rapid aging. The evidence is overwhelming and irrefutable.”

Dr Mercola also writes, “Fructose rapidly leads to weight gain and abdominal obesity (“beer belly”), decreased HDL, increased LDL, elevated triglycerides, elevated blood sugar, and high blood pressure—i.e., classic metabolic syndrome.”

Lustig states “chronic fructose exposure” over years of consuming create 8 of the same major health problems that alcohol abuse does, which he lists as: hypertension, myocardial infarction, dyslipidemia, pancreatitis, obesity, hepatic dysfunction, fetal insulin resistence, habitation if not addiction.  He states that fructose is alcohol “without the buzz.” Lustig believes that metabolic syndrome, largely caused by too much processed sugar consumption, uses 75 percent of all health dollars.

Processed sugar is usually made from sugar can or sugar beets. Through chemical processing these natural foods, 64 food elements are destroyed. The minerals and vitamins are destroyed. Proteins, fats and enzymes are removed.  At the end of the process, the sugar is bleached snow-white, usually with the use of pork or cattle bones.

Lustig reports 80 percent of the foods in grocery stores are “laced” with process sugar.

Processed sugar harms the nervous system, which affects emotional and physical health.When people eat processed sugar, the bacteria in the intestines that manufacture B vitamin complexes, begin to die. As the B Vitamin complex decreases, glutamic acid, is not processed. This leads to decrease in short term memory and brain functioning. The B vitamins are needed for healthy myelin sheath that is the protective covering for nerves. Maybe this partly explains when people say “my nerves are raw”.

Sugar intake can be related to mental problems. Brains are very sensitive.  As sugar consumption decreases vitamin B, insulin production decreases. This causes high glucose levels in the bloodstream, which can lead to a confused mental state or negative moods. Dr Alexander B. Schauss, wrote in Diet, Crime and Delinquency that many people in the psychiatric inpatient ward and prison are “sugarholics”. He observed erratic emotional outbreaks often followed a sugar binge for people he observed in these settings.

When refined sugar is eaten, the body has to use vital nutrients such as calcium, sodium, potassium and magnesium from other parts of the body, to process the sugar. Many times so much calcium is used to neutralize the effects of sugar that people develop osteoporosis and have more tooth decay. Some chiropractors believe lack of minerals/nutrients may be related to increase in back problems due to weak bone structure.

A documentary called “The Secrets of Sugar” examines sugar addiction. It explains how Dr Suzanne De La Monte from Brown University did research where she fed healthy rats the equivalent of the North American diet with the same sugars and kinds of fat. All of the rats in her study developed dementia. She said sugar resistance can occur in any organ. Dr De La Monte believes alzheimer’s is insulin resistance in the brain.

” Secrets of Sugar” also tells about a University of California study run by Dr Kimber Stanhope,  when  college students were fed fructose sugar in drinks (soda pop) for 2 weeks to test for risk markers. Every time she ran the tests, the results were the same: risk markers for cardiovascular disease in the blood increase.  Other kinds of sugar did not get these results. She said if she was testing a new food additive and got the same results when she tested fructose sugar, that food additive would be pulled quickly.

A favorite quote in Dr Mark Hyman’s book The Ultramind Solution: “The most powerful tool you have to change  your brain and your health is your fork…Food contains information that talks to your genes, turning them on and off and affecting their function moment to moment. Food is the fastest acting and most powerful medicine you can take to change your life.”

In my opinion there is no safe amount of processed sugar. For years I had bad head aches and was more tired than I should have been for my age. When I cut out eating sugar the head aches went away and my energy increased. I know many people in a self help program that helps people abstain from addictive foods who share at meetings how much better they feel physically and emotionally once they get off sugar. I often wonder how many of my clients who are depressed and/or anxious would feel if they stopped eating sugar and ate real food instead.

Sugar in fruits and vegetables are balanced by fiber, vitamins, enzymes and other properties that help the body deal with it. Dr Christine Kaczmar, a Natural Digestive Health Specialist, urges people to eat more “real food”. In a blog post, Kaczmar writes “Health is a choice. Every day you have the opportunity to improve your health ‘What choice will you make today’?”

Often having enough knowledge such as the information given in this blog post is not enough to motivate someone to stop eating sugar and processed food. I understand this as years ago I myself would eat too much sugar knowing the next day I would have a sugar hang over. I sought support and help until I was able to give up sugar in 1989. I know how to use methods EMDR and EFT to help reduce sugar cravings and reduce the emotional pain that can trigger people to over eat. I know resources to direct people to if they need additional help. If you are interested in working with me, just call or text me at 586-799-2399.

Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. They are not intended to diagnose, prescribe for, treat or claim to prevent, mitigate or cure any human disease. They are intended for education only.


How EMDR reduced Anxiety for One Artist

Anxiety can affect people in many ways. Creative people often struggle with anxiety about their creative process.  This post is how EMDR helped one woman artist change her negative self-talk about her artistic talent to positive self-talk.

EMDR, which stands for Eye Movement Desensization Processing, is my favorite therapeutic technique. For many people it quickens the pace of progress in therapy. It is a practice of using bi-lateral stimulation, which could be through eye movements back and forth, a tone heard in one ear then the other ear or tapping one knee then the other knee.

My client, an artist, had an idea in her head of what she wanted to paint but was not able to sit down and paint the idea due to panic she felt when she thought of doing this.  She said the idea was a more impressionistic kind of painting that was not her normal style and was larger than she usually painted.  Her level of distress when she thought of painting the idea was a 8 out a scale of 1 to 10, (where 1 was no distress and 10 was the highest distress).

I also asked this client to rate beliefs she had about herself related to this painting idea. She rated feeling as true a 5 out of 7 for the belief: “I cannot succeed” and a 6 out of 7 on the belief “I have to be perfect”.  I reversed these beliefs to what is known as positive cognitions. She rated the belief “I can succeed” as being true as a 2 out of 7. She rated the belief “I can be imperfect” as true a 2 out of 7.

I asked the artist to imagine painting her idea then used  20 to 30 eye movements. (I pass my hand back and forth for her to watch, to create eye movements)   I then asked her what came to her mind. She said “There is a part of me telling me ‘it is senseless to panic. You know you have the skills’.”

We did round 2 of eye movements.  Then I asked what “comes up for you?” She said she heard a part of her say, ‘You never had to be perfect. This is a gift you came in with. It was for you. No one has to judge it and if someone judges it as bad, that is their problem. There is no such thing as perfect. Painting is meant to be enjoyable and bring you joy’.”

We did round 3 of eye movements. This time the thoughts she had were “When I was a child, I was called ‘lazy’ a lot of times. I used to procrastinate when I sat down to do something, thinking I wanted to do something fun instead.”

Round 4 of eye movements. Client said she was thinking, “You are not an artist unless you make money at it. My Dad saw something that I painted in college that was abstract and said to me, ‘Can’t you do boats or ducks?’ I thought ‘Am I wasting my Dad’s money?’ Since I was a little child I had felt like I was an artist.” (note: the paintings used in this blog post are not painted by the artist I did EMDR with for her confidentiality but are used for illustration purposes)

Round 5 of eye movements: Client said “The artist in me is saying ‘Bull shit!’ It is not about the money! Painting is meant to be a gift. To bring me joy and happiness, and possibly bring other people joy and happiness. It is a tool to help me manage being in the world.”

I asked the client to imagine she was sitting down to work on this painting idea. She said the thought that came to her was “You’ve always been able to do this. Don’t let the negative voices distract you. Just let the painting come through. Whatever you paint is ‘enough’”.

At the end of the session, my client felt no distress about painting her new idea. She said before the session the inner confict she felt about painting this idea was “like a bridge over a river being blown up” compared to the end of the EMDR session where she felt like “the water in the river was flowing nice and easy”.

Also by the end of the session my client’s rating of the positive cognition of “I can succeed” had gone from 2 out of 7 to a 7 out of 7 for feeling true. The positive cognition for the belief “I can be imperfect” went from a 2 out of 7 to a 7 out of 7. She was happy, dare I say a little giddy, to feel such a shift in her emotions and beliefs. She told me at the next session that she had been able to make good progress on this painting.







Progress using EMDR is not always this fast. It depends how many associations there are to what is being  worked on, how much trauma a person has experienced and other variables. Chronic childhood trauma can take numerous sessions while a recent one time traumatic experience may only need one session to clear.

For more information on how I treat trauma, click here

Reducing overeating using EFT

EFT is one of my favorite techniques that speeds up clearing or reducing negative emotional intensity. It uses tapping of the fingers on acupuncture points while having the person tune into specific issues using a protocol simple enough anyone can learn.  While it can be used as a self-help technique on one’s own, it is by far most effective to use with the help of an experienced EFT practitioner.

I have known about EFT since the mid 90’s but did not start to use it until about 7 years ago. I became friends with a social worker named Annette Richards. She was enthusiastic about how well EFT had helped her, her clients and her friends.  I have worked on some of my own issues at an EFT workshop and one on one with Annette. Each time I worked with her using EFT, it resulted in improved emotions and perceptions.

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Time Debt, Trauma, Trying Too Hard and Ambition

One of the most common after effects of any kind of trauma is becoming so busy one does not have time to process one’s emotions or feel the emotional pain.

Do you find yourself frequently striving to achieve the impossible?

These photos are of my dog Pebbles jumping to catch a squirrel about 20 feet above her (looking down at her smugly). I wonder why my dog will jump 20 times to reach an animal that is clearly out of her reach.  I also wonder why people  try so hard to make relationships work where they are being mistreated by their spouse, work long hours to experience a sense of  achievement that keeps escaping them, and try to do more than their time allows.

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Trauma and Overcoming Insomnia, Part 1, video and article

Do you have an over active mind that won’t shut off at night? Do you find yourself dragging at work because you could not get to sleep the night before?

Often people with unresolved trauma have difficulty consistently getting a good night’s sleep. I read on one book that having insomnia is a kind of trauma in and of itself. Even going to bed begins to have a negative association for these people who fear another long night being awake when it feels like everyone else is sleeping.

In this video I hope to present some ways to reduce insomnia that is not well known compared to  the typical good sleep hygiene tips: https://youtu.be/QdltoHRevos 

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Trauma treatment — Under the influence of trauma, Part 2

People who have experienced emotional and mental abuse often are so wounded they sometimes do not have the ability to empathize with other people. They are unable to put themselves in the other person’s shoes. Ironically these same people may do too much for others and allow themselves to be taken advantage of. They sometimes feel another person’s pain as if it were their own pain.

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Trauma treatment — Under the influence of trauma, Part 1

Are you living under the influence of trauma? It is easy to see when a person is under the influence of drinking too much alcohol, or high on drugs. People who have experienced trauma are also often under the influence of that trauma. Often they don’t know how much it affects them. Unresolved trauma profoundly affects how people see themselves, relate to other people, and view the world.

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Fascinating research on overeating, using mice

For years I wondered why people, including myself, were unable to say “no” to certain foods. A book titled The Sugar Addict’s Total Recovery Program by Kathleen DesMaisons provides some answers to this question. DesMaisons has a degree in Addictive Nutrition, which uses nutrition to heal addiction.

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Trauma, insomnia and how to handle “the morning after” (you slept poorly)

Trauma, whether big or “small” often interferes with sleeping. Even when someone is in therapy, self help support groups and/ or taking medications or supplements to help the person sleep, insomnia may persist. I believe therapy that gets to the root of the problems using EMDR, EFT or other methods can restore one’s sleeping patterns.  In the mean time, this post is how to help a person make the most of a bad night’s sleep.

Note: I know insomnia is a very frustrating complex problem that can cause great suffering. I have experienced it many times myself. Keeping this in mind, I hope the following reflections can be helpful:

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