Gini MaddocksAnti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael Brickey

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

Host: Anti-Aging Psychologist Dr. Michael Brickey

Expert Guest: Movement Guru Gini Maddocks

Broadcast: 2-3-08 on webtalkradio.net where the latest shows are broadcast and posted as podcasts

What if you could get rid of those aches and pains and have more energy–just by tweaking the way you stand, sit, walk, and move? Today’s guest expert is Gini Maddocks. She is a genius at teaching easy exercises and simple changes in what we do with our bodies—tweaks that make a huge difference. She is an award-winning author, educator, columnist, speaker, and licensed medical massage therapist. Her three time award winning book R&R: Rescue and Relief for Computer Users and those at Risk of Repetitive Motion Injury (RMI), is a gem that has step by step illustrations of the exercises she teaches. She also does hands-on therapy and workshops to get people to move and feel better. In the first part of today’s show, we’ll look how to avoid aches and pains from using a computers and from how we stand and walk. Later in the show we’ll look at moving holistically to get more energy, aid digestion and address a number of health problems. Her website is http://www.holisticmatters.net/

TRANSCRIPT ©Michael Brickey–excerpts permitted with attribution

MB: This is Dr. Michael Brickey with Ageless Lifestyles Radio, cutting-edge thinking for being youthful at every age. On each program I interview experts on what it takes to live longer, healthier, and happier. Our program takes a holistic approach in addressing anti-aging psychology, medicine, alternative medicine, fitness, nutrition, and wellness. Our emphasis is on innovative thinking and practices that have solid data and results. What if you could get rid of those aches and pains and have more energy, just by tweaking the way you stand, sit, and walk? Today’s guest expert is Gini Maddocks. She is a genius at teaching easy exercises and simple changes in what we do with our bodies, tweaks that make a huge difference. She’s an award-winning author, educator, columnist, speaker, and licensed medical massage therapist. Her three-time award-winning book,  R&R: Rescue and Relief for Computer Users and Those at Risk of Repetitive Motion Injury, is a gem that has step-by-step illustrations of the exercises she teachers. She also does hands-on therapy and workshops to get people to move and feel better. In the first part of today’s show, we’ll look at how to avoid aches and pains from using computers and from how we stand and walk. Later in the show we’ll look at moving holistically to get more energy, better digestion, and address a number of health problems. Gini, you started as a social worker. How did you get to be a holistic movement expert?

GM: Well, I think actually it probably began before that. It probably is something that came from childhood, because I had some disabilities myself. I was one of those people at the tail-end of the Polio epidemic, and self-care was the biggest way that we approached my wellbeing. So I think I grew into the social work position because, at the time, it was the only way I could think of to try to impact people in large groups – thinking, not really – being a little naïve about what social work was, especially when you’ve got a mere four-year BA. So I had stars in my eyes and I thought this was the way I was – and you know, it was the ‘60s and ‘70s, so if you didn’t know what to do, you thought you were going to do social work and save the world. I kind of sobered up a little bit and realized there might be other ways of approaching that.

MB: But that got you on a holistic frame of mind and kind of set the canvas background?

GM: Yes, I would say that’s true. Plus the era – that era, that was sort of the holistic – that was like the dawning of holistic thinking, as far as – as least as far as I was concerned. You know, there was a push to go back to nature. And I started working at a health food store, which probably opened my eyes to alternative therapies and holism. So you know, I think it’s all part of the fabric you weave as you grow.

MB: Now, a lot of the exercises you developed were to help with your own health problems?

GM: That’s true. But you know, what really brings that home the most is computer work, because I’ve – you know, I’ve grown up, I’m in my 50s – I can’ believe I just admitted that. But you know, you grow up accommodating and adapting and finding ways to move. So I’ve had that in place for many years. But when I got a computer myself, I started feeling what so many of my clients present to me when they come to me as a massage therapist. It work me up to how what I was doing unconsciously all these years was working on what hurt or was uncomfortable in the moment, when I learned early on to address discomfort as soon as possible, because that really is the way to keep it from compounding. So then, when I started doing computer work, I realized, “Oh, my gosh, here’s a whole new set of problems.” Coupled with being a massage therapist, I myself have to watch out for carpal tunnel and all those issues that – I call them tissue issues – that come with that. So it’s something – it’s common sense. It’s common sense, but I started writing common sense down and developed a book out of it.

MB: Well, it’s common sense to you, but I think most people don’t see it.

GM: I’ve been accused of that before.

MB: You probably see somebody at a computer and internally gasp and say, “Oh, my God, the things they’re doing to themselves!” What do people do wrong at computers?

GM: We – and this is part of our society, but computers makes it worse – we are folded forward. In fact, you know, as our listeners are listening to this, they might check in on their bodies, and you and myself also. We probably have our shoulders folded forward, which is an inward rotation, and I’ll bet you that your head is sitting a few inches in front of the midline of your body. And most likely, there’s a belly bulge. And who knows what we’re doing with our legs and feet – I’ll bet they’re not sitting firmly and evenly on the floor. And when we do this position that I’m describing, we are prolapsing our organs together, which includes our lungs, and lungs need room to breath. So we’re inhibiting our very breath, our very life force. We can’t live without breath. And so when we impede that activity, a whole lot of other activities cascade. Hormones are released that we didn’t mean to be released and the body tries to make up for the stress of that poor posture.

MB: What hormones are getting released?

GM: Most people would know them as the stress hormones, the fight and flight hormones, because when our body is stressed, physically or through thought, through reaction to fear or danger, the hormone that’s released is the one that is meant to ready us for some sort of activity, evasion or fight. Well, that’s fine if it’s released when it’s necessary. But if it’s released continually, we deplete that ability and we set up a situation where the body thinks we’re its own enemy.

MB: So just having our shoulders forward like that for long periods of time is setting up the fight and flight response system?

GM: Isn’t that incredible? That’s the very truth. And here’s the thing that might get people even more than that, is that becomes fattening. When that becomes fattening, especially women, we’re going to pay attention to that.

MB: So how does that become fattening?

GM: Because the cortisol hormone – that’s part of what its issue is, is to shut down digestion and to store fat in case you need it. You know, when we were in the caves and we needed that fight and flight hormone probably on a daily basis, that was important. We needed to probably conserve what resources we had in our body at the time. But that’s certainly not true today.

MB: So nothing’s changed – we’ve gone from caves to cubicles.

GM: Ooh, that sounds like the title of a book.

MB: There you go. You know, we’re talking about breaking little habits that people have. How do you break that habit?

GM: This is so incredibly simple – and don’t confuse simple with easy, but you could talk yourself into thinking it’s easy, because repetition creates a habit. Repetition creates a habit. For instance, when you’re driving to work in the morning, let’s say you stop and get a Danish and coffee. Well, that’s fine. But if you stop the next day and get a Danish and coffee, by the third day your brain is telling you, “Oh, my gosh, I think I want some Danish and coffee.” And it’s that simple. So one of my little – I have these pet bottom line phrases that I call zingers, and one of them is: “Don’t confuse a habit for a trait.” When we say, “I always do this” or “I can’t do that” – and when we say that more than once, we start to talk our – we’re telling our brain what we want to be reinforced. So we need to stop and think, “Now, is that really what I want?” And if not, the way to start a new habit is simply do what you’d rather have. Do the desire that you want, repeatedly. Now, the trick is, is that really what you want? Because sometimes we want to cling to our bad habits because we’re getting some sort of reward. So what I say to that is create a new reward. Create a reward for the desired behavior, the one that makes you feel good about yourself.

MB: So at the computer, we want our shoulders back, our feet on the floor. How do you create a reward for that, other than Danish?

GM: This is one that takes trying it to believe it, but actually, when you start feeling better – and energy, to me, is a reward, and I think maybe the older you get the more you understand that the real fuel is not food. Our real fuel is energy, how much energy do we have to do all the things we need to do. And if we’re a little bit hedonistic and we want to get the most bang for our buck, energy becomes a really important commodity. And when you start sitting better and when your attitude reflects that posture – because that’s what’s happened – sometimes, if you can’t conjure up a good positive attitude, simply improving your posture facilitates that – then it becomes self-rewarding because you have more energy and you have a better attitude and it feels better to move when you don’t hurt.

MB: And part of that, too, then is listening to your body more and noticing the difference, otherwise you’ll miss the difference and slip back into the old habit.

GM: You know, I broke this down, just exactly what you’re saying, into four steps. I call it the healthy habit technique. And the first step is: Attend – paying attention. If you don’t even know there’s a problem, if you don’t know, your body will tell you eventually and it’s usually in the form of pain or fatigue, a bad taste in your mouth, and a bad mood. All these things are telling you all is not well in your world, and that’s the point to which you could pay attention, because everything’s vying for our attention. So our body does give us clues. But I believe, in the morning and at night before you go to bed, if you tell yourself, “I want those clues to come to the surface,” I think you start paying more attention to them, and then you can intercept them faster.

MB: I bet the one about bad taste in your mouth is a surprise to a lot of people. Is that back to the fight and flight syndrome?

GM: That, or it can be several things. It can be lack of water – that’s a real big one. We’re dehydrated because there’s so much in our environment that dehydrates us, and that fight and flight has a lot to do with that, too. When our hormones are in gear in that way, we require more water. But here’s the cool thing about drinking water. Not only does it help with that bad taste in your mouth, just on a cellular level, but the digestion of water creates molecules of energy, so it’s another way to fuel ourselves with energy. And then also, the thing about that bad taste, it can tell you that you’ve got a cold coming on and that you’ve got debris in your lungs, so maybe some deep breathing exercises could help clear that, if you’re listening. Or it could even be something intestinal, something to pay attention to and watch for and maybe – however you feel about alternative medicine – gets some herbs, do an intestinal cleanse. It’s hard to know exactly what it’s telling you, but it’s telling you something. So then you start asking for more information and paying attention to what suggestions your body gives you.

MB: So our first step was to attend, and our second step is…?

GM: Intend. The second step is, okay, you know that you’re feeling discomfort. You’re sitting at that computer and every day, let’s say, your eyes get tired. And so you pay attention to that, that you’re bleary-eyed and not breathing deeply. And so then you make an intention, meaning what would you rather have? And usually it’s going to be lack of pain or lack of that bleary feeling every day. It may be that you intend that you want more energy and that you want to feel better. Which would then bring us to the third step, which is the action step. And I call it pretend. Pretend is a play on words, because sometimes you have to make believe until you buy what it is you’re trying to accomplish. Sometimes, like when I work with people with weight issues, for instance – I had one woman say, “I can’t see myself, I can’t visualize myself as what I want to be. I can only visualize myself the way I am.” So you have to make sure that what you’re going to visualize or what you want to desire is something you believe you can accomplish. So you may think – in her case, she started visualizing herself slightly thinner, until she got there, and then she could go slightly thinner again. So when you’re sitting at the computer, you know, a thing you want to pretend is that – and by pretend, again, I mean practice – is that you’re going to do these exercises in my book or you’re going to use some common sense and know that you should look away from that screen for a few minutes, you should close your eyes and give it a rest.

MB: Just like the athlete picturing themselves making that touchdown catch.

GM: Exactly. It’s an interconnectedness that never stops.

MB: So are we at the fourth step now?

GM: The fourth step is – remember the thing about repetition, that a habit starts as repetition. And what research is showing that 21 days of sustained behavior will create a habit. So if you just practice it, then you depend on your new habit. So you’ve got attend, intend, pretend, and depend.

MB: With computer use, should we just focus on the habit of shoulders back, feet on the floor, and breathing well?

GM: I’m going to give you a new zinger-

MB: Okay.

GM: A new bottom-liner to remember, and it applies to posture everywhere, and particularly at computers, because what I’ve described to you is this posture we sit in actually shortens the muscles in the front of the body. So the muscles behind you, on the backside, are being overextended. So the muscles in the front, for the most part, we call flexors, and the muscles in the back we call extenders, and they’re always trying to keep us from falling forward, those muscles in the back. If we’re at a computer or any position longer than 12 minutes, our muscles will shrink to accommodate whatever that position is in, or overextend – whichever their role is in this posture. And then that becomes the habit. So when you stand up, for instance, after sitting at a computer or maybe being in your car, you feel stiff. And that’s because that has happened. All of your tissue has shrunk to fit that size – I mean, that position. The trick is, every time you get up – this is a back saver, this is probably the biggest thing I like to share with people because it can actually keep you from having back issues. Every time you get up, you should arch your back slightly in the opposite direction. And every time – like even if you’re sitting, you can do that with your shoulders by pulling your arms behind you and stretching in that position. So basically, everything that’s bent forward needs to be bent backwards. And you don’t have to do it to a degree that’s going to hurt you – use, again, a common sense about this – just enough to feel better. You’ll know when you try it. But the trick is to do it often, because if our tissue is solidifying in 12 minutes, then giving yourself a stretch in the morning or doing it at night when you get home, is not really enough to make the difference that I’m talking about. So we incorporate that, incorporate that into the way we’re doing things. Every time we get up, arch our back a little bit. While you’re sitting at the computer, do a shoulder shrug. Keep moving, and it doesn’t have to interrupt what you’re doing.

MB: So as long as we take a minute every 12 minutes, we’re going to be in a lot better shape.

GM: Tremendously, I promise it.

MB: I see some people sitting on gym balls. Is that a good thing to do?

GM: That is so interesting. There’s so much more to that than people understand. You know, I even think that there are implications that it would help – I haven’t seen research on this, this is just coming to me – but I think it would help with people who are hoping not to get Alzheimer’s. You know, a lot of us are trying to keep our brains active. Well, what that does is it stimulates the brain and all these balancing bodies called proprioceptors that we have in our bodies. And the proprioceptors are these little organelles – they’re everywhere, we don’t even know, you know, as people – we never pay any attention to them because they’re these little silent workers that are figuring out how to keep us from falling, how to be balanced. So when we sit on a ball like that, those little proprioceptors, they just wake right up and they keep us from falling over. It’s very stimulating to the brain.

MB: So we’re getting a micro-workout by sitting on a ball.

GM: Yes, that’s a good word for it.

MB: Should we be concerned about carpel tunnel syndrome and computers, and is there a wade to avoid it?

GM: Yes and yes. And we should watch it at early ages now, because children are doing so much with gaming. Basically, carpel tunnel is just one of many syndromes that have to do with doing things over and over and over. Repetitive motion injury has to do with a lot more than carpel tunnel, and many of the other syndromes accompany carpel tunnel. For instance, many people who have this issue will have a TMJ problem, because our bodies don’t just use one muscle at a time. They don’t use just one nerve pathway at a time. We are so interconnected that different syndromes are set up by the same repetitious behavior.

MB: And TMJ would be the tight, painful jaw.

GM: Yes, right. And basically, what I – another zinger I have for you is – and this has to do with carpel tunnel and TMJ and all that – is if we could just keep our muscles longer than our bones, we wouldn’t have all this problem. And the reason I say that is that our bones are connected by muscles which have these endings – they’re called tendons – that’s how we move. Now, if we had perfect muscle health and they were stretched out to the lengths that they’re meant to be for their optimum efficiency, we would not have any joint problems. But when, over time and over behaviors and bad postures and so forth, these muscles start to shorten. And that pulls the bones together at the joint, and then all kinds of problems start happening. And that’s basically what’s happening with carpel tunnel is we’re using our hands in such a way that shortening the muscles, which is shortening the tendons, which is compromising the joints and the blood vessels and the nerves and all that good stuff inside. And if we just knew how to warm up the tissue first and stretch it, we could keep our muscles longer than our bones.

MB: And it’s going to fit through that narrow opening better.

GM: Exactly. That’s that piece. But there’s so much you can do about it that, you know, I’m kind of painting a bleak picture, because it sounds like you have to be moving all the time, but it really doesn’t take that much to address it.

MB: What does it take?

GM: Movement. Movement’s a good one and an easy one, because you can move while you’re sitting in your chair. You can move by paying attention. Music helps – I find that music helps, anyway, and rubbing. And unless you’re already having a carpel tunnel syndrome that’s so severe that you can’t use one hand – you’ve got a tool, you know, you’ve got your hands. You can use balls. If you do have a carpel tunnel problem, you can use a tennis ball, you can use a handball, and you just create friction and warmth. That’s the bottom line about that. Yes, there are techniques for massage, and yes, there are better ways to do it. But basically, we have the tool and what we need to do is apply some pressure and some movement with that tool, and hey, you’ve got a self-massage going. And we should rub what hurts. We shouldn’t be afraid of that. So many people are afraid, “Oh, my gosh, if this hurts, rubbing it’s going to hurt it worse.” Well, you are the determiner of that, because when something hurts when you’re rubbing it, you can back off a little bit. If you rub it at that just tender, not so painful that it brings tears to your eyes, you’re actually flushing toxins from that site, and that’s what’s wrong. They need those toxins moved from that site. And it moves through your lymph channels. And moving it with your hands is the best way to do it.

MB: And what’s really nice about this is you can do these exercises while you’re watching TV, you’re at a traffic line, in the line at the post office or something. It doesn’t take any extra time.

GM: Exactly. And I made sure that they could be done in 30 seconds to a minute, even less in some cases. You know, there’s nothing to sitting in traffic and bringing your shoulders up under your ears and letting them drop and learning-

MB: You don’t have to stand on your head to do this, huh?

GM: That’s right, that’s right.

MB: Let’s take a break. This is America’s Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael Brickey, with Ageless Lifestyles Radio, your source for cutting-edge thinking on being youthful at every age. Today’s expert guest is holistic movement expert Gini Maddocks. Her website is http://www.holisticmatters.net/. Notice that’s .net rather than .com. Her site has lots of tips and information on her blog and newsletter, and on her fabulous book, priced at only $21.95, with all those illustrations, it’s a steal. And her email address is mailto:Gini@holistichealthmatters.net. Information on Anti-Aging Psychology and my free Defy Aging Newsletter is at DrBrickey.com, or you can just go to NotAging.com and it will take you to DrBrickey.com. Gini, what are the common problems people make with posture and walking?

GM: Yeah, and we’re too forwardly folded or inwardly rotated. We use our head to lead us instead of walking in a balanced way. You know, everything seems to be about balance. And even people who are bodybuilders and are really tuned into exercise, they tend to overdevelop their flexor muscles, their lifting muscles, and then the extensor muscles, the muscles that are meant to stabilize, and that’s usually our back muscles, they have to try to keep up, and they don’t have that capability. They’re not that kind of muscle. So balance is where we should be keeping our intention. Learning to – if we just kept the tissue warm, and we could start in the morning with a nice warm shower or basically pumping our arms and legs to get things moving – that really gets the tissue warmed up. The fascia is this interconnective tissue that gets cold, and when it gets cold it gets semisolid, so it makes us stiff. So if we kept ourselves warmed up through movement, through massage, through self-massage, through hot water – those kinds of things, things that common sense tells you makes you warmer – we would be able to move easier. And posture would not be such a sometimes crippling thing, and walking would be something that’s effortless, where we swing our hips and find a gait that’s comfortable. But it just takes a little bit of attention and then practice to make that happen.

MB: So we all should be swinging our hips.

GM: Yes, we should be swinging our hips. Sometimes this sounds crazy, but – and remember, I’m this person who had polio, so walking is not exactly the easiest thing for me. But I have found a gait, and I just – someone gave me this tip. They say, when you’re swinging your arms, pretend that the person in front of you is trying to hand you a coin, and so you’re trying to reach for that coin with your hands. Well, when you do that, you’ll notice that your legs start swinging along with your hands, and it becomes a gait. And there have been times I’ve been trying to walk up a hill, and that has saved me. It was like pulling me up the hill to have that swinging and that momentum going. And also, you just feel like your joints are well-greased. I don’t know how to explain it, but just try it and you’ll see what I mean.

MB: I remember things about imagining a string was pulling up your head. Does that help?

GM: Through the very center of your head. And that particular imagery goes a long way to correcting your entire posture. I encourage everybody to do this right now. Just imagine that there’s a string in the dead center of your head, and someone from above is going to yank your string, so to speak, and it’s going to pull you up so that – and this is important – your chin becomes parallel to the floor. This is really, really important. And the cool thing about that is you’ll notice that your stomach goes in where it belongs at the very same time, and that helps elongate your ribcage, which means your lungs have more room and your hips will be seated evenly on the seat you’re in. Or if you’re standing, you’ll notice that you’ll be standing with both feet with equal amounts of weight. So just that one image is really helpful.

MB: Now, something you said a few minutes ago – I would think that most people who exercise with equipment would be well-advised to really study whether the exercise is balancing the muscles instead of overdeveloping the – was it the flexors?

GM: Right, overdeveloping flexors, yes. I think that’s really true. I think that’s where some education is very important when you’re going to do weight training.

MB: Many people have one leg that’s longer than the other. Does that matter?

GM: It matters a lot. Often the diagnosis is a muscular diagnosis rather than the actual length of the bones. In fact, I think the research says 90% of people who have one leg longer than the other really have the musculature in their hip has contracted on one side more than the other, or it can even be low back. And it hikes and usually torques – which means twist – the pelvis in such a way that functionally one leg is longer than the other. The good news about that situation is it can be changed, it can be affected. But the only way to tell the difference actually is an X-ray.

MB: Who knows how to identify that and how to correct that?

GM: Any doctor that has access to X-rays would be able to do that. A chiropractor would be able to do. A massage therapist would not. But what you would do for both cases, as a massage therapist, would be virtually the same, even if it’s something that’s absolutely the bones are longer on that side of the body, you still would want to soften that tissue on both sides and make it so that the person could be as comfortable as possible. Whereas if it’s just the function of tense muscles in the gluteal part of the body – the buttocks and the hips and the lower back – same thing. You would want to soften that up and do some stretching and some heat, that kind of thing.

MB: And the X-ray you’re talking about is just of the hip area?

GM: No, they would need to do from hip, full length of the leg.

MB: All the way-

GM: Any of those bones could be part of the problem.

MB: All the way down to feet?

GM: Right.

MB: Speaking of feet, what do we need to know about taking care of our feet and how it affects everything else?

GM: Boy, your feet – I remember when I worked all day at the health food store on cement floors, and I had – my husband was kind enough that he would stop in during the middle of the day and we’d find a place somewhere in the back of the store and he would rub my feet. And oh, by gosh, it meant that I could work the rest of the day. It was just incredible. So for one thing, your feet can be an amazing healing tool, whether you believe in reflexology or not. And reflexology is the study of reflex places on the foot. That body of information is that there are places all over the body that can be affected by these places on the foot. On that level, healing goes on. But just in how it makes you feel, how it seems to ease the pain out of the rest of your body is healing in itself, because, remember, every single thing that happens sets off a cascade of hormones. And if you’re feeling something good, that has its own set of hormones just as well as the stress hormones that are released when something dangerous or fearful happens or stressful. So anything you can do to feel better is going to impact your entire body, and your feet is a wonderful place to start. So that also means that if your feet are uncomfortable, your whole body is going to translate that to discomfort. One of the things I suggest for people at work is to take another set of shoes and trade shoes during the day. Change shoes – that helps. And if you could sneak those shoes off and could bear without them, who knows – maybe you could even rub your own food. And I promise you you’re going to like it. It’s not quite as much fun as when someone else does it for you, but it still does the trick.

MB: Yeah, I hadn’t thought that the muscles are getting over-flexed or tight just from walking or standing and that a foot massage might do wonders.

GM: Just wonders. Really, we should have people coming through offices just to do that for people. And I also have this idea that, wouldn’t it be great when you wake up from surgery if someone – when you’re coming out of surgery – if someone were rubbing your feet when you came to?

MB: I think in hospitals and nursing homes they could cut medication by at least a third, just by having some massage therapists there to help out with the muscle pain.

GM: Maybe we could even train like what used to be Candy-Stripers, you know. If we could have muscle therapists going in and training people to do this so everybody got it. Boy, we might really heal people. Actually what it is, it’s facilitating their own healing.

MB: Anything we need to know about shoes?

GM: Shoes, of course – yes. And everybody – you know, I would never tell someone what kind of shoes to get because I know from my own problems that all feet are different, and I know from working on people, all feet are different. A lot of times people will go and get orthotics, which are inserts that help realign the body by the shape that the foot stays in when you’re using these orthotics. The only caution I have about that – I think that’s a good thing – but if you’re doing real therapy to change – say you’ve got one leg longer than the other – well, if you’re working on that and you’re doing therapy maybe with a massage therapist or a physical therapist or whatever, you’re on your own – if you’re going to change the way those tight muscles have been, you’re going to need to get different orthotics. So I would caution people to pay attention to that. If you have orthotics and now you’re really doing things and getting better and better, you might want to make sure that those orthotics are still serving you.

MB: So it’s like losing weight; you have to get a new wardrobe. And if you get healthier, you need new orthotics or maybe no orthotics.

GM: That’s right, that’s right. But yes, shoes are really important, so don’t put up with something that hurts. Don’t put up with something that hurts. Now, I did for many years, and because of the way my foot is shaped – and whoever invented those great soft thick soles on shoes, they changed my life. They really did. I can walk anywhere now. But before that, it was really difficult.

MB: At home, are we better off walking barefoot or wearing some kind of shoes or slippers?

GM: That depends on the person. For instance, being overweight is harder if you’re walking barefooted, because you run the risk of flattening your arch. So probably wearing shoes is a better idea. But then, if you’re thinking about needing to stimulate those reflex places on the bottom of your foot, it’s better to walk barefooted. So again, it’s an individual decision, I think. And probably balance is the best idea, so maybe do a little bit of both.

MB: I see shoes that have little spikes in them-

GM: Right.

MB: And there’s the shoes modeled after Masai warriors. Have you seen any that especially impressed you as helping a lot of people?

GM: Well, I know a lot of people really like Birkenstocks and I know some people like the Earth Shoes – with them you really have a different – oh, they kind of let your heels be lower than the front of your feet. Again, there are so many – how your body is set up and the posture you have depends on the patterns you’ve developed over the years. So what works for one person might not work for the other. Some people love those little nubs that are supposed to stimulate the reflex places; some people, it drives them crazy. So I wish I were more of an expert to say this and this and this would fit this and this and this type, but I think people just have to go try them on and see what works for them. I need the soft, cushy stuff. Some people would need a harder – something that’s more unyielding. It’s too varies to really give any kind of certainty to that.

MB: So you need to experiment and actually try them out for a few hours and see what works for you?

GM: You really do. And I find, you know, if you take them home and walk around in them and don’t get them dirty, more place will take them back than you think.

MB: Let me take a break. This is America’s Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael Brickey, with the Ageless Lifestyles Radio, your source for cutting-edge thinking on being youthful at every age. Today we’re talking to holistic movement expert Gini Maddocks. Her website is http://www.holisticmatters.net/. Make sure you’ve got .net there. Her site has lots of tips, information on her blog and newsletter, on her videos, and her fabulous book. And her email is mailto:Gini@holistichealthmatters.net. Information on Anti-Aging Psychology and the free Defy Aging Newsletter is at DrBrickey.com, or just go to NotAging.com. Gini, one of the things that you advocate is that walking better and moving better gives a lot more energy. How does that work?

GM: Almost all of our basic needs, I’ve noticed that if they’re done in balance, you get more energy from them. Like eating – you have to eat for energy, but if you eat too much, it takes your energy. And I’ve found that to be true about movement. When I have a workshop, we make a list of what gives us energy and what takes our energy. And movement is always one of the ones that you put in both columns. It gives us energy and it takes our energy if it’s out of balance. Many things are going on physically that metabolism is increased when you move, so they call that actually catabolism because the movement itself causes an energy molecule to be released. I almost – when you think about the chakras, the energy centers up and down the body in the Hindu way of looking at the energy systems of the body – you’re making that energy move from the bottom chakra up to the top when you’re moving, so that distributes energy. If you’re thinking about meridian, like acupuncture in Chinese medicine, the way they look at it, movement makes the energy move along these circuits in a more efficient way. And then if you think about physically the way Western medicine looks at the lymph system – now, the lymph system, you know, are these channels that take toxins and move them to the kidneys through the – and back to the heart, even – and distributes then the white blood cells and the things that are actually delivering nutrition – again, it’s movement and it’s only movement, as far as that’s concerned. The heart doesn’t pump that stuff; only movement does. So you’re not going to get nutrition to the rest of your body unless you move. There you go. There’s at least four different philosophies.

MB: So choose the brand that you like to explain it, but it works.

GM: Right, right.

MB: Rather than plastic surgery, are there exercises a person can do to have a more energetic, youthful face?

GM: That’s a really good question. Actually, this would probably surprise you, but I hang upside down towards that end.

MB: I would love to do that. I can’t figure out a place to hang the hooks on the inversion boots.

GM: Well, instead of the inversion boots, I have – and this is not quite as drastic – it’s a slantboard and it’s a freestanding one, so you actually strap your ankles in. And it’s like a teeter-totter – wherever you put your arms will then change the position you’re in. so finally, when you have your arms right above your head, you’ll tip almost, but not quite, upside down. It feels great. And what’s happening is that not only is it helping – it’s cheating gravity, is what it’s doing. We’re cheating gravity when we’re upside down like that. It’s also pulling the bones away from each other, like when I was describing what to do if you want your muscles to be longer than your bones. A pretty gentle traction – it’s a method of traction, so that if you hang there long enough, your nerves will tell your muscles to let go, your muscles will then elongate at the very tapered ends called the tendons, and you really do get longer. You can restore your height that way. And at the same time, you’re cheating gravity and you’re getting more circulation in your face. But beyond that, if you don’t do – and you can like hang off your bed, just to get some of that going for your head. But be careful – I don’t want anybody falling on their head. But another thing you can do is make sure that you’re gentle with your skin. Some of us have grown up treating our faces like we do everything else about our body, like it will always be okay. And we end up maybe with places where our skin is thinning and now we have dark places where we’ve kind of abused that part of our face. So what we need to do is be gentle and always stroke upward. You want to do strokes upward. And if you go to a massage therapist and she’s young or he’s young, they may not realize that. It’s your body; you take control. And if you’re think that they’re pulling downward on your face, just tell them you’re rather them do the upward stroke – so that kind of thing.

MB: So the inversion’s also going to help with disc problems. My father used to kid that he was being downsized and getting shorter. This will help prevent downsizing of your height.

GM: Yes, yes. Right. And you’d want to start out slowly at first, so that you can get those muscles that aren’t used to that elongation. You don’t want them to spasm in response, so just do it a couple of minutes at a time. And finally, I can do it for about a half an hour now. It’s where I meditate.

MB: One of the tips that you inadvertently gave us is one of the ways to tell a good massage therapist is whether they stroke upward on the face. How else would you judge whether a massage therapist is really doing what he or she should be doing?

GM: You would want to know how much training they have. But even so, that’s not always what constitutes a good massage therapist. But I must say that I was forced to go to massage school three different times because I move from state to state and that’s tricky. Licensing is not reciprocated from state to state. But with my education, I definitely became a better massage therapist. But also, probably you’re going to want someone who is intuitive and compassionate. And how you find that is tricky, too. You know, you might be good at – I would look – when I hit towns, for instance, a new town, and I want a massage, I go to the health food store and sometimes I go to the library. And it’s interesting. And at the library, I just ask people there. Librarians – if it’s a small area, librarians know their community really well. And a health food store, the same way. And sometimes you can find publications, free publications in the health industry, here, there, and everywhere, and they will have ads. And I intuitively look at the ads, and if they say holistic, I know they think like I do and I probably would find affinity to that. But maybe somebody doesn’t want that. Maybe somebody wants someone who’s just going to kind of shut up and rub them. And I think you’d be able to tell by the way they place their ads, and if they’re going to the trouble to do that, I think that tells you something about them, too. Sometimes you can see a person reflected even in their Yellow Page ad. That would not be me, though – I have one little line in there. I’m not sure how to tell you about that. And I trust – I sort of have good luck and I trust my luck. So the people I find seem to be the people I needed. So maybe if you set your intention that you want to find someone who’s really a good therapist for you, maybe the law of attraction kicks in.

MB: Okay. I’m reminded that I used to go to a massage therapist who was very, very good at the massage, but she was an unhappy, negative person. And after a while I just said, “This isn’t good for me.”
GM: That’s a good point. I think anything in the healing – including the MD that you might have to choose – I think somebody with a positive attitude is always going to be a better choice.

MB: Yeah. I mean, I’ve changed doctors just because I concluded the person was a pessimist and I want someone who’s looking for how something can be done instead of why it can’t be done.

GM: You know, I had – we didn’t talk about this yet, but I had breast cancer. What made the most difference to me was the surgeon on my way out after our consultation. He hugged me! And he said, “You’re going to get just fine.”

MB: Wow.

GM: And that just – it was like my grandpa was there! And it just meant so much. We need to follow our intuition in how someone makes us feel, because that’s part of our healing.

MB: One of the things I love about your exercises is they’re so simple, they’re so easy. You know, Pilates is very good, but you have to be a contortionist sometimes to do the exercises. But yours, you don’t have to get a sweat up or anything and you see the results so quickly.

GM: If someone would like to try this right now, it’s as simple as this. We could just turn our chin, keeping our nose and our forehead and our chin in alignment – just turn your head all the way to the right and look over your right shoulder, and stop where it feels a little painful, like a stretch. And then bring your chin back into the center. And then turn your head all the way to the left, and when you get to where it stops, look – look and see what you can see. Where’s your area of vision? Now turn your head back to center and then go back to the right again. And low and behold, your head goes further around the other way. You can see further, just by that little exercise. And if your head goes all the way around, then you’ve got a whole ‘nother issue going.

MB: Head-spinning, huh?

GM: Yeah.

MB: So that little exercise alone is also going to help with the computer use.

GM: Exactly. That’s one of my favorites. And it’s a dramatic one, because it’s so fast already. That’s all your muscles needed. And if you do it three times, you’ll be really amazed at how far around you get. And it’s that fast and then you go right back to work. I teach in the book breathing along with it, because basically, when you’re doing the stretch, you’re exhaling, and when you’re returning from the stretch, you’re inhaling. And you’re feeding your body when you do that. And after a while, because your body knows it needs it, it adopts that as the habit very easily, because it does know that you need it.

MB: Gini, in my book, you’re part of a long tradition of therapists who solve their own problems to develop systems, like Frederick Alexander with voice problems, and Moshé Feldenkrais with knee problems, and Pilates who had asthma and rickets and rheumatoid fever. I think it’s wonderful the way you’ve come up with such easy-to-do exercises that incorporate balance and just bring everything together so holistically – the breathing, the energy, the digestion, the posture – literally from head to toe. You really are a gem.

GM: Ah, I love being included along with all those people. That’s – thank you so very much.

MB: And you’ve got an advantage over them. Some of them have passed on.

GM: Hey, that’s right, that’s right. That’s a wonderful thing to think about. And it feels better to feel better. And indeed, need is the mother of invention. You know, without those difficulties, perhaps we never would’ve gotten around to finding out these things. So there really is a blessing in everything.

MB: And I think it starts with believing that there must be a better way, and I’m going to find out how to feel better when I walk and sit at a computer, and everything else I do.

GM: Right. And if I can help people know that you don’t have to keep hurting in the same way, then, boy, that really makes me feel like I’ve been here for a purpose.

MB: Thank you so much for being with us. You’ve been listening to America’s Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr, Michael Brickey, with the Ageless Lifestyles Radio, your source for cutting-edge thinking on being youthful at every age. Today’s expert guest is holistic movement expert Gini Maddocks. Her website is HolisticMatters.net – make sure you get .net. Her site has lots of tips and information about her blog and newsletter and videos and her fabulous book. Her email is Gini@holisticmatters.net. Information on Anti-Aging Psychology and my free Defy Aging Newsletter is at DrBrickey.com, or you can just go to NotAging.com. I’d love to get your feedback and comments. You can send them to radio@drbrickey.com.

 

Dr. James FairfieldAnti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael Brickey

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

Host: Anti-Aging Psychologist Dr. Michael Brickey

Expert Guest: Dermatologist Dr. James Fairfield

Broadcast: 1-28-08 on webtalkradio.net where the latest shows are broadcast and posted as podcasts

 Dr. Fairfield is author of Erase the Years: How Today’s Cosmetic Procedures are a Fountain of Youth. He leads a thriving dermatology practice in Philadelphia. He has a weekly radio program, Erase the Years. He certifies physicians around the country in the use of cosmetic lasers and works closely with the University of Pennsylvania in the treatment of malignant melanoma. The Consumer’s Research Council recognized him as one of the nation’s top physicians. His website is http://www.cmderm.com/

TRANSCRIPT ©Michael Brickey–excerpts permitted with attribution

MB: This is Dr. Michael Brickey with Ageless Lifestyle Radio, cutting-edge thinking for being youthful at every age. On each program I interview experts on what it takes to live longer, healthier, and happier. Our program takes a holistic approach in addressing anti-aging psychology, medicine, alternative medicine, fitness, nutrition, and wellness. Our emphasis is on innovative thinking and practices that have solid data and results. Today’s expert guest is Dr. James Fairfield. Dr. Fairfield is author of Erase the Years: How Today’s Cosmetic Procedures are a Fountain of Youth. He leads a thriving dermatology practice in the Philadelphia area, has a weekly radio program, “Erase the Years,” and he certifies physicians around the country in use of cosmetic lasers. The Consumer’s Research Council recognized him as one of the nation’s top physicians. Dr. Fairfield, let’s start with a huge breakthrough treatment in dermatology – Fraxel laser treatment. What is Fraxel treatment?

JF: Fraxel laser actually pioneered what is known also as fractionating laser treatments, in which little spikules or spikes of laser energy penetrate the skin – very, very much like the gardening shows you’ve seen that aerate your lawn with like spikes in them – go through the skin. The breakthrough is that the technology is the laser light is attracted to water. So these microthermal zones, microscopic little treatment zones, leave the surface skin alone because there is no water there. And the damage to the skin is in fact a coagulation of the collagen in the epidermis and the epidermal and dermal junction, and in the dermis itself. The treatment is done via computer so the energy is laid down in a computerized array, much like pixels in a photograph. It’s done in a series, so in any particular treatment, the operator might choose 17 to 23% of coverage, allowing then about 80% of the normal skin to do the exchange. Within two to three days, the coagulated spikule of collagen is replaced by brand new collagen. You take a 61-year-old and he then, at this site, has brand new dermis and epidermis. A series of treatments then, of course, get you towards 100%. The effect is a transformation underneath that affects the surface by getting rid of brown spots, breaking up blood vessels on the surface of the skin, and ultimately an amazing tightening of the skin, so that the skin is lifted and tightened.

MB: I understand that it can even get the color back in the scar area?

JF: To a certain extent. The color cell is called the melanocyte. Melanocytes are mobile cells. If you picture these microthermal zones targeting the scar tissue itself and coagulating it, the neighboring melanocytes are capable of migrating across the defect and populating that area. The scar itself also is softened, and the in the course of months that follow, the elastic tissue is laid down and the scar is elevated. This thing is now the gold standard for the treatment of acne scars.

MB: So somebody with severe pock marks from acne or smallpox or something could actually have those pretty well erased?

JF: The depressions are the best kind of scars to eradicate, of course – the shallow hollows, the depressions of chicken pox or of acne itself. The – what we call ice pick scars – those are treated differently. We basically remove them with a very tiny circular scalpel called a punch. The body fills it right in. So the ice pick scars are modified that way, but all of the other shallow scars and rather deep scars are actually elevated by the Fraxel laser.

MB: Is this pretty painless? Are people getting an anesthesia shot?

JF: The computer generates the energy based on the square inches of each person’s different face, and the measurements taken by the machine prior to the treatment onset, so the entire face then, for an hour prior to the procedure, we coat it with an ointment that is a very potent topical anesthetic. It is a heat reaction, so the sensation is that of heat, little spikes of heat that are just momentary, only when the laser fires. The person then holds a vacuum hose – well, it’s actually not a vacuum hose; it’s a blower hose – that blows refrigerated air. Whenever it gets a little too warm, you simply point it at the spot and eradicate the heat sensation. I myself have had six of these. I am 61. And three or four months later, my clients who have not seen me before-

MB: They didn’t recognize you?

JF: They – well, if they’ve never seen me before, will place my age between 48 and 54.

MB: Wow.

JF: That’s how much significant tightening there is, eradication of the brown spots, tightening of the pores – it is rather amazing. And the condition women get called melasma, the mask of pregnancy – this breaks all of that up, the resident cells that are manufacturing the color are broken up and the skin returns to a normal color.

MB: Is this replacing what we used to call facelifts?

JF: It is an adjunct. I have had clients come in who were troubled by sagging jowls and they had such terrible skin quality due to smoking and excessive sun and whatnot, and they recommended to them that we improve their skin first and see what happens, and we’d undergo a Fraxel series. And sure enough, at the end of the Fraxel series, they really didn’t need a facelift.

MB: Wow.

JF: This is useful also for what we crepiness of the neck, the décolleté area with all of the brown spots and very thin skin that one sees in the sunnier climates, and of course where you see a lot of aging changes, the back of the hands and forearms – the Fraxel’s fair game for all of that. We also use it for stretch marks, because it can thicken those up again, and for surgical scars.

MB: With a facelift, you’ve got swelling and weeks of recovery. With this, there’s practically no recovery, just a bit of redness the next day, or…?

JF: From personal experience, I would have a treatment in the morning, see clients in the afternoon, and be accused of being out in the sun and not listening to my own advice. So yes, there is puffiness, but it’s not true swelling. By that night, my face would feel warm. I’ve break up a pack of peas, frozen peas, and hold them on my face, sleep elevated for the next three nights to keep the puffiness to a minimum. But I’d be back in action the next day. We treat models who have a photo shoot within three days and they’re fine.

MB: Is there anything else that would be helpful for us to know about Fraxel treatments?

JF: Very much so. The Fraxel is the gold standard, the Reliance Fraxel machine. One of the best – I’ve been doing lasers for 26 years. I was trained by Leon Goldman, who was the father of medical lasers, the very crude, old CO2 lasers of the 1980’s – I’ve never seen technology like this. And one of the best indicators that you have a winner is that imitators pop up all over the place. And if the other laser companies, especially the ones that have what we call multi-platform boxes in which the purchaser buys a single unit and then gets different hand pieces that ostensibly perform different functions – and rapidly there were appearing fractionating hand pieces on these things, which wavelengths didn’t approach the wavelength necessary to do what the true Fraxel does. I would recommend, having a lot of laser experience, that you stick with the actual original Fraxel. They have gone to an upgraded version called the Fraxel SR1500, better known as the Fraxel Refresh or something like that, and they’re now coming out with a new one that is a combination of fractionating laser and resurfacing. And the catchword of the day nowadays is nonablative. Nobody has the time to be down from work, so nonablative – that’s what the Fraxel is. When they introduced this newest version, they did introduce some ablation. But it’s so scattered and so minor that it triggers tremendous skin tightening with very, very little downtime. Not much more than the original Fraxel. So it’s a good, good product.

MB: So it’s like a brand new then?

JF: Fraxel is a brand name.

MB: How would a patient know if his dermatologist was really experienced, or whether you were his first laser patient, and better to go with someone with a little more experience?

JF: Ask for referrals. Ask for names of clients who would be willing to talk to them about their procedure. The experienced physician has plenty of those who are just back-flip happy to give their testimonials. I have clients here who are at the ready to speak to anybody. That’s a wonderful sign that you have a physician that really knows what he’s doing or she’s doing. It’s a great way to get some assurance that you’re in the right place.

MB: So physicians are allowed to do testimonials?

JF: Oh, absolutely. I use them constantly, because what others say about you is far more powerful than anything you could say about yourself. We use those in all of our marketing pieces, on our website. We rarely send anything out that does not contain at least one testimonial.

MB: Now, one of the things fascinating about you, Dr. Fairfield, is that you’ve tried virtually all of the treatments on yourself-

JF: I have.

MB: Including recently doing liposuction on yourself?

JF: I sure did. There’s a reason for that. Number one, I – you know, at 61 I need some help. I’m a fly fisherman. I’ve been a pilot in the past. I’ve been exposed to a lot of ultraviolet damage, and especially the most damaging ray, which is ultraviolet A light. People are unaware of that. It’s present year-round and it does most of the deeper damage to the skin. So I actually needed some help. And as far as the liposuction I did, it was done in conjunction with four of my expert laser staff. This was done with the newest device on the market, even newer than the Fraxel, called SmartLipo – laser-assisted liposuction. SmartLipo is also a trade name. And in this case, what one does is inflate the fat layer with lidocaine, epinephrine, and a buffered solution, basically a bag of numbing medicine that is introduced under the skin through a previously numbed-up spot. There’s a larger cannula introduced and you blow up the fat. You basically make it tumescent. That’s the word – tumescent. And it makes the fat easier to extract. But the magic of lipo is that this very thin cannula is introduced. The cannula is no more than 2 mm wide. It might be 15 inches long, but it’s very tiny. You put it through a tiny 2-mm punch hole and it’s a YAG laser that then vaporizes and liquefies the fat, the fat cells, so the fat never comes back. But the most important difference is that it treats the underside of the dermis, the underside of the skin at the dermal fat layer. This triggers a consequent contraction of the skin over a period of weeks so that when you are done, your skin is not hanging in loose folks, as one sees after traditional liposuction. Now, this occurs whether or not you – say you have a small area, like under the next or in the jowl area, that’s all you do. You just do the SmartLipo and then aspirate the liquid. But if, as in my case, I had significant love handles – of course, nobody loves love handles. The love handles had some substantial fat underneath, so we did the SmartLipo treatment to treat the underside of the skin and vaporize the top 10 mm or so of fat, and then introduced a larger cannula to vacuum out the rest of the fat, down to the muscle layer. The nurses were a bit, shall we say, tentative in their approach to that part. So I said, “Hey, give me that thing,” and I put on a pair of sterile gloves and had at it!

MB: Wow.

JF: And they said, “How can you do that?” And I said, “It doesn’t hurt. I’m as numb as they can be.” And I showed them what kind of power is necessary is go after serious fat removal. And one by one, they got the idea, and then they finished me off. They did my flanks and all the way to my spine. And today – oh, I had a full schedule the next day, by the way.

MB: Wow.

JF: You wear a compressive garment, and I swear there was no discomfort. The feeling is one of having had a good workout at the gym. That’s about it.

MB: So the SmartLipo compared to the lipo that we see on the TV makeover programs – we’ve got a smaller wand, we’ve got less folds of skin afterwards. Are there other differences?

JF: Well, it’s done in an outpatient setting. This is serious, because in the news, of course, we’ve had far too many deaths reported from liposuction, and the deaths uniformly are done in the hospital under general anesthesia, usually done with multiple procedures, such as liposuction, breast reduction or augmentation, and perhaps even an eyebrow lift or something – it’s far too long under anesthesia. And with liposuction, there’s a significant exchange of fluids. You put a bunch in and then you suck it all out. The electrolytes get out of whack. Young people – people in their 30s – have died on the table from this. They couldn’t get it back. The safety of SmartLipo, laser-assisted liposuction, is that you’re not tempted to go and treat multiple areas. It takes too long. So you pick – we segmented into areas such as the upper abdomen and the lower abdomen, plus the love handles, upper inner thighs, knees, saddlebags, and a new term I learned from my staff called “bra fat.” I had no idea what that was. But they object to the indentation create by their bras. And it is due to fat that is between the skin and the back. And of course, you take out a wide swatch gently of just a centimeter or two of fat, and then the bra does not indent, of course, so much. And it’s very popular. And it’s a wonderful way to tighten up that turkey-wattle neck. You introduce the cannula of the SmartLipo just under the chin through a tiny hole and vaporize the fat right under the jaw line and up into the jowls. And then take and just run it underneath all that loose, flappy skin, put on a compressive garment that goes up over the head for a couple of weeks, and that neck skin tightens right up beautifully and you look just tremendously younger.

MB: So the SmartLipo is infinitely safer, much quicker recovery, and you don’t have the folds of skin hanging down.

JF: The folds of skin obviate the need for a tummy tuck. You don’t need it.

MB: Wonderful. So now you can look your patients in the face – look them in the eye, rather – and say, “It doesn’t hurt.” Is there anything else you learned from doing these procedures on yourself?

JF: Yes. Safety, efficacy, and proof. We’re big on absolutely being our best advertisements for what we do. And when I tell a client in a consultation – when they ask me, “Well, what does that feel like? What do clients say?” I say, “Well, I’ve had it done. This is what it’s all about.” And I tell them my story. And the credibility from that alone – now, as an aside, prior to doing the SmartLipo, we did a fair amount of what is called mesotherapy. Mesotherapy is an injection series of fat-dissolving natural products – one’s a soy product and the other’s a bile salt – that dissolves fat, and it’s very effective. The problem is it’s done in a series, and not all clients really respond very well to it. So for years, I had one side done. I had my left side of my abdomen and love handles treated with mesotherapy, and that was quite flat. The other side hung over the belt. And so when a client was interested in mesotherapy and wondered if it worked, I’d just pull my coat aside and say, “See?” And there’s no better testimonial than that. It was obvious it worked. Similarly with Fraxel, I’ve had one of my staff Fraxel my right hand. The left hand has – really, years ago – lost all of its elastic tissue. I can pull the skin up and make a pup tent that stays.

MB: Entertain the grandkids, huh?

JF: The skin is thin enough you can see through it. You can see the tendons. On my right hand, the skin is thicker, you cannot see the tendons, and when I pick that skin up, it snaps back like a 17-year-old’s. There’s nothing more effective than showing somebody something like that to convince them that, yeah, wow, this thing really works.

MB: The meso you’re talking about is spelled M-E-S-O?

JF: Mesotherapy, yes. The French originated this years and years ago and it’s really – a lot of homeopathic remedies are injected in the face, for instance, for rejuvenating the face. And then the science morphed over to removing fat. And the solution for fat removal became sodium deoxycholate, which is a bile salt, and phosphatidyl choline, which is an emulsifier, really – it’s a soy product. Sort of like throwing dish detergent on a place with some grease on it – you’ve seen it sort of bead up and go away? Well, that’s how that works. And when the fat would be dissolved, the lymphatics then would pick up the fat, and of course the cells would be destroyed. It was quite effective. But this SmartLipo, of course, it’s a one-shot deal. You do not need the series of treatments. You know, you wear your garment. You are done, and it’s just wonderful.

MB: Do you still do mesotherapy, then?

JF: We offer it. Some people are really skittish about lasers or injections – they don’t like the idea of having a numbing medicine put in them, but they’ll tolerate the fire ants of the little tiny-tiny needles of mesotherapy. So we still offer it, but we do recommend the SmartLipo as a quicker alternative.

MB: Any other reasons that some patients might prefer more traditional surgeries or treatments?

JF: Well, of course, somebody who’s in their 70s or 80s who has had significant sun damage – for instance, who has lived at the shore or who has a long history of smoking -may have wrinkles and sagging to the extent that none of our lasers could really do justice to the skin. They’d really need a standard facelift. They need tissue removed. So that’s a more traditional approach. The unfortunate thing about traditional facelifts is that it’s actually in the wrong direction. It’s in the direction toward the ear, and almost in parallel to the ground, which gives that wind-tunnel look to those you’ve seen with facelifts, or at least to those you’ve seen who’ve had too many facelifts. I won’t mention names of any celebrities because we happen to know that they – a couple are clients of ours and they really do regret having had the traditional facelift. But it is the option for somebody with really too much baggy skin, if you will. The other areas where traditional approaches are still done, although new ways of doing it, are breast augmentation – anything involving hospitalization – breast reduction, tummy tucks, those things. Those are pretty much standard bread and butter for the plastic surgery folks, although the breast augmentation science has really taken a turn to being able to be done without any evidence of scarring whatsoever. It’s a far neater procedure.

MB: For most people – are we no longer talking about facelifts, but rather the treatments, the Fraxel laser treatments, too?

JF: Now, Fraxel will tighten the skin. Those are new treatments. Botox, Restylane, you know, the fillers – those are the old standards. They’re still extremely popular and have a definite daily place in our practice.

MB: So you still sometimes recommend to people to get facelifts?

JF: Yes. Somebody might come in and want my mini-facelift, which we call the Aesthetic Quick Lift. The Aesthetic Quick Lift is my modification of the – if you were to Google “S-lift,” you would see a certain kind of facelift, and that’s at a more natural angle. It’s more of a 45-degree angle vertically. After all, when we lose our collagen and we lose our elastic tissue due to aging and sun damage, the direction is down, not toward the nose. So obviously, the direction to reverse the look is to go back up. And the S-lift is – it’s called S-lift because of the shape of the tiny little scar that circles the ear, comes from behind the ear, follows along directly in front of the ear, disappears under and behind the earlobe. But in that procedure, what we do is do a circular, elevating suture under the skin – not putting tension on the skin, but putting tension on the fascia, which is the tough, saran wrap-like membrane over the fat. It’s a circular suture directed toward the chin and directed upward in an angle of about 45 degrees toward the top of the ear. Now, when that’s pulled tight and knotted, it elevated the jowls, elevates and sharpens the jaw line itself. And then a subsequent U-shaped loop is taken down under the skin and sewn in to – in a circular fashion – to the platysma muscle of the neck. Now we’re getting kind of medical here, but the platysma muscle is what you – if you were to grimace your neck, is what pulls the skin up tight. And it lies just under the fat of the skin of the neck. And if you put that little loop of skin into the fascia of that muscle and pull it up, again, toward the front of the ear on both sides, it tightens up the turkey neck. So now you have somebody who had jowls and a loose neck, walking out two hours later with an elevated mid-face, sharp jaw line, and no turkey neck – the neck looks absolutely normal.

MB: Wow.

JF: Now, of course, this results in redundant skin. We’ve moved the deeper tissues, and now the skin where the incision was made in front of the ear is now laying on top of the ear. And we simply trim that away and use tiny little sutures to reattach it right along that little fold right in front of the ear. And that scar disappears within weeks to months. You’d never know it happened. And these people go back to work in a day or two.

MB: So only your doctor knows, huh?

JF: Yeah, how about that?

MB: Let me take a break here. This is America’s Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael Brickey, with Ageless Lifestyles Radio, your source for cutting-edge thinking on being youthful at every age. Today’s expert guest is Erase the Years dermatologist, Dr. James Fairfield. His website is http://www.cmderm.com/. The CM is for Central Montgomery, referring to Montgomery County, a suburb of Philadelphia, and the Derm, of course, for Dermatology. His website has lots of information, free reports, his blog, and the media section has a link to his fascinating radio podcast that I highly recommend. Information on Anti-Aging Psychology and my free Defy Aging Newsletter is at DrBrickey.com, or you can just go to NotAging.com and it’ll take you to DrBrickey.com. Dr. Fairfield, is treating cellulite different from treating fat deposits?

JF: Absolutely. Cellulite is not excessive fat. It has the appearance of it because there are bumps, but what we’re really looking at is an optical illusion. Our skin is suspended on our muscles by fibrous tissue called myocutaneous fiber and cellulite or cellulite, however it’s pronounced – and it varies across the country – is a process of shortening of these little fibrils due to inflammation which nobody understands. It is poorly worked out. There have been no solutions as to what – no information about what causes the inflammation or what one can do to treat it. So the problem is really retraction, much like a guide wire would pull down on a tent, rather than excessive fat. And we have been experimenting with the SmartLipo. Think of it this way. If you just take the SmartLipo laser and traverse along, just under the skin, the area of cellulite bumps – it looks like bubble wrap – and break up those little shortened myocutaneous filaments, the skin pops right up, absolutely pops right up. And then it looks nice and smooth and normal. Now, the only issue is only a certain percentage of myocutaneous fibrils are affected. And the question is, is over the long term, will the process continue? Will the client develop more shortened fibrils and need the procedure again? That has not – you know, the machine hasn’t been out that long; we have not had the chance to really evaluate it over the long term.

MB: Fascinating. Have there been advances in treating varicose veins?

JF: Varicose veins are interesting because there are a complex of veins called feeder veins or reticular veins. Those are the bigger, bluer ones. They respond extremely well to sclerotherapy. They’re a variety of sclerosis – those are the chemicals used to inject into the vein to make it collapse. I prefer saline, normal saline – not normal saline, it’s 23.4% hypertonic saline, and it basically – it’s a very physical reaction. It buns the interior of the vessel, the vessel swells itself shut, and the little PacMan cells called macrophages come along and chew up the dead vein and cart it off – very effective. However, most women and men don’t have just blue veins. They have these starbursts and arcades of red veins – little tiny, tiny, less than a millimeter red devils, that really people hate the most, typically appearing on a woman’s thigh in an arc or combined with blue and red. They’re very picturesque. Breakthrough now is the YAG laser, which will target the red in the blood, in the vessel. Laser lights divide it up into different wavelengths – that’s what makes laser a laser and not just a light bulb. A light bulb has multiple wavelengths; a laser has a singular wavelength. It’s colonnaded to come out in a parallel fashion and then focused, much the way we as kids used to focus our magnifying glass and fry ants on the sidewalk – except that the sunlight was not a singular wavelength. The laser is much more powerful than is a singular wavelength. Well, each wavelength has what is called a chromophore, that to which it’s attracted. So you’ll have a green light laser that’s attracted to red, and we use green light lasers then for the red in the vessels on the face. The 1064 or YAG laser, we use to target the red in the hemoglobin, in the blood, inside the vessel. And all that one has to do is pass that wand over normal skin and nothing happens, but the second it hits a vein, all that energy is absorbed because it’s red inside and it’s a heat reaction instantly and it cooks the vein, bakes it. And then again, the same process of healing. The macrophages, or the little cells that clean up debris, come along and clean up the mess, and you are vein-free. Now, I say “mess” – postoperatively you don’t see much, because all of this is happening microscopically.

MB: Sounds like it would make a great video game, too.

JF: You know, that sounds like a fun game.

MB: Are there any other cosmetic advances you can tell us about?

JF: There are some substantial changes in the area of holistic wellness. And I really liked your opener to your show where you talked about your holistic approach, talking about wellness itself. And that’s how we have structured our practice. We call our consult, for instance, a “skin wellness evaluation.” We got away from the old consult word because it’s all about wellness of the skin, and there’s so many variables affecting the skin. There are free radicals that one gets from the outside and free radicals one gets from your diet. And all of these set up inflammation, and we happen to believe that inflammation is the cornerstone of most skin disorders or skin diseases. And so the breakthroughs have been in the area of – now these are two words that are new to your listeners, probably – cosmeceuticals and nutraceuticals. And a cosmeceutical is nothing more than a product that you apply to your face, much like, say, Eucerin from the drugstore. It’s a cream. The difference being, these companies that sell them to us, these are medical grade bioactive products that actually produce results, and they produce results rather rapidly. There is a DNA repair cream that will actually produce discernable results in repairing sun-damaged skin within four months. That’s without any other treatment – just the person putting it on twice a day. There’s Vitamin C products that actually do work. The problem with over-the-counter Vitamin C creams is that Vitamin C is extremely unstable and is usually useless by the time it gets to your skin, or if that doesn’t happen, your skin takes care of it. So the cosmeceuticals are tremendous advances in products that actually work, available only, again, in physicians’ offices that have the knowledge to use them and use them properly.

MB: Those are literally prescriptions, then?

JF: Well, one could not – like I could not prescribe, say, Citrix, and have the person go down to the drugstore and get it. We have to obtain it from the company and sell it ourselves. And so what we have done is we’ve decided what we want to accomplish with our topical products, and typically we will formulate them to accompany, augment and prepare the skin for laser procedures, and also have a whole group for those who really would prefer not having procedures at all and still want results. Well, fortunately we can with these cosmeceuticals. Now, the newest kid on the block are the nutraceuticals. These are vitamin combinations, essential minerals and other products, coenzymes and all of these things, specifically designed to assist the skin in eradication of free radicals and in promotion of healthy oxygenation, healthy blood flow, and restoration of normal skin function, all from within by a pill you take just like any other vitamin pill. So these are very strong advances in the field. And fortunately, doctors are starting to pay attention to it.

MB: Wonderful.

JF: I mean, you’ve probably been ahead of the curve on that one.

MB: Trying to be, yeah. Any predictions about where dermatology will be in the next ten to twenty years?

JF: I believe that there’ll be a trending away from insurance-based practices for general dermatology. I think the influence of the insurance companies in mandating what you can and cannot do, arbitrarily changing your prescriptions without your knowledge, frustrating your results that way – dermatologists are just dropping insurance companies and going to a fee-for-service practice model, which is a better business model anyway, and let the market decide. I see increased research and development in heritable skin disorders. Dermatology has always been big at the NIH and in other research centers; all the tertiary medical schools that have dermatology program are very big into skin research, and especially in the area of heritable skin disorders. These are terrible things and very much in need of solving. And then in the cosmetic realm, I see more further inroads developing into more targeted responses to specific problems – for instance, like the Fraxel targets specific problems, the SmartLipo targets specific problems – all with minimal downside, minimal discomfort, minimal marks or bruising, minimal downtime. Those are the things I see. Obviously there’s a huge market. I’m one of the boomers, I’m leading the wave. Hot behind me for the next ten to fifteen years, there’s going to be a lot of people interested. So the market’s there and you can bet industry’s going to be paying attention.

MB: It’s an exciting time to be a dermatologist.

JF: I think so, yeah.

MB: I know from listening to some of your radio programs that you have a very sophisticated assessment process. Who’s inappropriate for cosmetic surgery?

JF: That’s a great question. We bump into this on occasion, and it’s primarily those with inappropriate expectations. And I can expand on that. Usually you can reframe the expectations. I have a phrase I actually use with clients. “You know, my job is to lower your expectations until I can meet them.” And if they’re with it, they’ll appreciate that. And then we actually break down what it is that bugs them the most, and then I tell them if we could wave a magic wand, make that go away suddenly, what would be the next thing that would bother you? And we develop a list, and it’s a realistic list. And then we, of course, ‘fess up to the limitations of what we can do and what we can’t do. And then it comes out that, you know, all they want is improvement. Well, that’s a good client. However, those who have imaginary ugliness – those are dangerous people. And I don’t mean dangerous to us; I mean dangerous to themselves. There’s nothing you can do for them that will help them appreciate a change. They think of themselves psychologically as ugly, no matter what you say to them or what you do. I don’t operate on them. I won’t touch them, because they need help from a different direction. And then, of course, the absolute worst client would be those who have a serious, real body dysmorphic disorder. And those are dangerous not only to themselves, but to anybody who operates on them – because they get hostile. You could move their nose over to the left side of their cheek and they wouldn’t notice it. And those are people you really have to watch out for, and they’re rare, fortunately. Most people are reasonable. You can usually talk them into understanding, you know, we are not faith healers. We are helpers. We are their most trusted advisors. We can improve their skin, we can improve their perception of themselves, make a huge difference in how they look, and actually roll the clock ten to fifteen years. But you know, in terms of turning them into something that they’ve never been – forget it. It doesn’t happen.

MB: So it’s a process of identifying the rare cases of people who would never be happy, and otherwise adjusting expectations and developing a good relationship.

JF: Relationship and trust, absolutely. It’s all about that.

MB: Except for injuries and cancers and birth defects – and even then, only some of those – cosmetic surgery is an out-of-pocket expense. How much does it cost?

JF: Oh, somewhere between – I mean, products, you could buy some products for $50 to $200, and you can end up having a SmartLipo of a large area for $6,000. You could have a series of laser hair removal, if it was a large enough area that might take eight treatments in eight months, might get you up towards $8,000. But not much more than that.

MB: So a series of half a dozen Fraxel treatments…?

JF: A series of Fraxel comes in around – actually, Fraxel runs between – it depends on where you are in the country – between $1,200 and $1,500 a treatment, in that range. What we do is for control of what they’re using on their face, we give them about $400 worth of our products to use during the Fraxel treatment, and a full set of material to use after their treatments, so that we can optimize their results. We like that control over what they’re putting on, and frequently asking them, “Bring in the bag of stuff you’ve gotten from Macy’s and Penney’s and the CVS and the thrift store,” and they’ll come in with this horrendous bag of stuff that is absolutely useless. And you know, we hearken to that when – after we, one day, we’re telling a person, you know, “Now, you put this on in the morning, put this on in the evening, and your sunscreen, and you’re good to go.” And they said, “That’s all? And when do I put on my…?” And they name five more things. And that’s when we went, uh-oh, we better put a lid on this or we’re going to get conflicting results. So we make them stop everything they use at home.

MB: But you want to make sure they have every chance of getting great results.

JF: Absolutely! I mean, they’re laying down the big bucks. We don’t want to be dumb about it and not know what it is they’re putting on at home – because that’s our bad if we don’t find that out.

MB: Now an awful lot of people shower every day, and I noticed you advised northerners not to shower every day in the winter. Why is that?

JF: The dead skin layer plus your natural oils form a film. If you want to remove your dead skin layer, just take a piece of scotch tape, lay it on your skin gently, and pull it off. You just pulled the dead skin layer right off. Now, in the northern climates, we have no humidity right now. And for a period of time, the ambient air gets its water from the drywall, from the furniture, the carpets and whatnot, but come January through March, it comes out of people. Unfortunately, people, when they start to get itchy from dry skin, think of course, “Gosh, I’ve got something.” And so what do they do? They wash more. The use of wash clothes, loofah sponges, scrubbing mitts, and abrasive cleansers is an absolute no-no. You need your dead skin layer. In the winter time, you’re not out there grubbing in the garden. You’re not dirty. And I quite frankly, I tell them, you know, whatever runs past your back and your legs from when you shampoo and you wash the odor areas – the rest of it’s just water washing. That’s plenty. And then you pat dry – no chafing. You don’t want to remove that dead skin layer. And then slop on a good quality moisturizer. And in this case, it doesn’t have to be medical grade. You can buy the cheapest thing on the market. None of them work in the bottle. They only work on your skin. So I tell them, “Get it on.” And then the other time where this infernal itch hits is when they take their clothes off at night – the back of the hips, the back of the arms, the ankles and the legs. You sit there on the edge of the bed, scratching and scratching and scratching. I tell them to hold off, put more moisturizer on – whatever you like, whatever’s cheapest from Costco or Sam’s Club or whatever. Put it on and let it evaporate. It’ll cool your skin. Your skin will thank you. And you will have helped repair your dead skin layer. Because if you shower and shower aggressively, absolutely your skin will microscopically look like the Utah mud flats, all cracked and fissured, and you’re asking for trouble. That saran-wrapped layer of skin and oil is your best barrier against evaporation, penetration by bacteria and all sorts of other toxins.

MB: So it’s going to keep you healthier as well and fight off diseases.

JF: Absolutely.

MB: There’s so many skin care products. How does a person sort through all the hype and find the products that are best for them and appropriate for their budget?

JF: It all depends on what they’re after. As I just mentioned, moisturizers in the wintertime – pick the one you like. Try a few. Now the creams – if you have skin that’s already itching and burning, even to the point where water even burns a little, a cream is going to really annoy you, because they have alcohols in them. So you may want to move over to an ointment which is more petrolatum-based. I’ve even had people just put some water on their skin, take a thin film of Vaseline and just smear it around. Makes a mess out of their clothes but the skin likes it. But moving on up, if somebody wants something that will change the biology of the skin, then they have to go to the medical grade products available in a physician’s office. Barring that, it’s pretty much potluck on the shelves of department stores and the drugstores. And I would really counsel people to be careful there, because the hype is huge. Wrinkle creams are the rage. You can’t open a web browser without being hit by, you know, all these Botox alternatives, these creams that are supposed to work as well. Well, as an experiment, I went ahead and bought one. Turned out it was the Book of the Month Club. Not really, but it was a Cream of the Month Club – because I bought one, got a little bottle. Next month, another little bottle arrived, my credit card got whacked again. It was a marketing scheme. So I stopped with the program but I used the product on my face. And what it did was it tightened it. It was like putting shellac on, and of course the wrinkles disappeared. By the end of the day, it had worn off; the wrinkles were back. So it’s pretty much hype.

MB: And there you are, trying the products on yourself again.

JF: I had to know. I absolutely had to know.

MB: What would you say are the biggest myths or scams in skincare treatments and products?

JF: That’s a tough one because what I – the position I take is one that comes more from experience. The position a newbie might take would come from a representative from a laser company or from a product company. I would say the biggest scam being pushed on the clients today are the anti-wrinkle creams. When they ask me about it, I say, “You want no wrinkles on your face for tonight? Just give it a good smack. It’ll swell up and there won’t be a wrinkle on the site.” Because it’s edema – swelling produces no wrinkles. I know it comes across as a bit smart, but these are clients that are kind of used to me. They get the point not to fall for these things. There are lasers out there that are just some of the greatest cons perpetrated on people completely. For instance, years ago the IPL machine was very popular for hair removal. Well, it doesn’t work. It does remove hair but it’s like a long wax job. Your hair will come back, because it’s a light bulb with a filter on it – the intense pulse light, IPL. So they’re now fading into the past, like the CO laser faded into the past because it left people scarred and red and messy for months. No more belt sanders on the surface – everything’s done from inside out. There are other typing lasers that I call GP machines. There are a lot of doctors getting into the cosmetic business, simply because it’s a lucrative market. If you check the credentials of a lot of the doctors, you’ll find out they’re just GPs. And I can say this because I’m board-certified in both dermatology and family practice. And what I knew as a family practitioner about skin was zero. But they’re getting into it. I know an anesthesiologist, absolutely hasn’t seen an awake patient in his entire career, has been passing gas all his life-

MB: Oh.

JF: Sorry about that one. And he has opened a mini-spa and puts himself out as a cosmetic doctor. How can that be? You know, the listening public has to be very prudent in who they choose. Plastic surgeons love to be in the OR, but they will have an office full of machines and lasers and highly-trained people doing a lot of good things, so they, by and large, are safe people. Cosmetic dermatologists have taken the time to actually study the skin and they understand the skin biology. Chances are, if they’ve got a decent bedside manner, they’ll be fine. But you have to watch out for the other ones. Now, there is a disclaimer to that. I graduated from medical school in 1975. None of this was in vogue, very little of it was known. So everything I’ve learned in the cosmetic field has come through postgraduate education. And I’ve made sure to make sure I have been educated and trained by the best. I’ve flown to Canada, I’ve flown all over the place to get the perfect training for various types of procedures I want to perform. And I get certified, and now I’m certifying others. But there’s an argument to be said that if you have a local family doctor who’s really sharp and has done his homework and gone and gotten all that training, he is an MD or a DO and is arguably okay for the average cosmetic stuff, like Botox and the fillers and some laser work. So I don’t mean to diss people. I just mean to tell listeners to be very, very careful.

MB: Well, you can certainly look for the board certifications.

JF: Absolutely.

MB: But what exactly is the difference between plastic surgery and dermatology?

JF: It’s pure training. Dermatology is the science of the skin itself. We’re the only ones who know anything at all about the biology, function, and histopathology of the skin. We know – in our training, we actually read our own biopsies. So when we look at the skin, we can actually visualize what it looks like inside. And so when we pick a laser or pick a procedure and when we operate on the skin, we’re finessing it. I use plastic surgery closure techniques. I can close an ear that is completely split in half by an earring and you cannot see the scar. That is what dermatology is. Dermatology focuses on that huge organ, the biggest organ on the body, called the skin, and of course, the subcutaneous tissue is part of it. A plastic surgeon – his training takes him through general surgery first, so they’re taking out appendixes, gallbladders, colons, and doing all the regular stuff. Then they get additional training, typically in the movement of large, bulky masses of tissue. That’s what is required in burn centers. That’s what required in reconstruction of birth defects. These people are the artists that will restore terrible, terrible deformities and give somebody their looks back, reattach a hand. There are subspecialties within plastic surgery – but they are surgeons and they do prefer to be in the operating room. Do they understand skin? Not any better than any other doctor. Only the dermatologist really, really understands skin. But I’m not going to do the breast augmentation. I’m not a general surgeon trained as a plastic surgeon. So have at it, guys. You know, they can do it.

MB: So they’re better at the big sculptures.

JF: Yeah, and I’m after the finessing.

MB: Well, Dr. Fairfield, I think you’ve frustrated a lot of our listeners because they would love to have you as their dermatologist and may not be ready to fly to Philadelphia to see you. I really appreciate you being on the program and sharing your depth of knowledge with us. Well done. People often ask me if I think cosmetic surgery is a good idea. I have several takes on that. First, if you are passionate, if you are enthusiastic, if you are a caring person, most people aren’t going to care very much how many wrinkles you have. I think good examples of that are Ruth Gordon and George Burns. Most of us, however, don’t have such winning personalities, and it’s true that people do judge a book by its cover. So it behooves us to look as good as we possibly can. There are a lot of ways to look our best without lasers and without surgery, and we certainly want to pursue those first. And if we’re still not happy with the results, it’s worth considering cosmetic surgeries or lasers. The facelifts of the past, particularly multiple facelifts, often looked very unnatural, giving that wind-tunnel effect. The good news that we heard today is that the treatments are not only looking much more natural, but also less invasive and safer. And for those who don’t want to pursue lasers or surgery, there’s cosmeceuticals and nutraceuticals, the more effective skin lotions and creams, to help people’s skin look as natural as possible. Finally, there’s the caveat that not all doctors are Dr. Fairfields, with his experience and knowledge and thoroughness, so you do have to do your homework. There are risks. But the bottom line is that this is an exciting time. We have new developments every few years and a lot more resources and choices on how to take good care of ourselves and help us look our best. This is America’s Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael Brickey, with Ageless Lifestyles Radio, your source for cutting-edge thinking on being youthful at every age. Today’s expert guest is Erase the Years dermatologist, Dr. James Fairfield. His website is http://www.cmderm.com/. The CM is for Central Montgomery, referring to Montgomery County, a suburb of Philadelphia, and the Derm, of course, for Dermatology. His website has lots of information, free reports, his blog, and the media section has a link to his fascinating radio podcast that I highly recommend. Information on Anti-Aging Psychology and my free Defy Aging Newsletter is at DrBrickey.com, or you can just go to NotAging.com and it’ll take you to DrBrickey.com. I’d love to get your feedback and comments. Send them to radio@drbrickey.com.

 

Stay Young with Humor

February 25, 2008

Humorist Kay FrancesAnti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael Brickey

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

Host: Anti-Aging Psychologist Dr. Michael Brickey

Expert Guest: Motivational Humorist Kay Frances

Broadcast: 1-26-08 on webtalkradio.net where the latest shows are broadcast and posted as podcasts

Kay Frances is a professional speaker and professional emcee who loves to give a healthy dose of humor. She has a keen interest in health and staying youthful. In her career as a top standup comedienne, she performed in 38 states and even performed for the all male inmates at Riker’s Island prison. She is the host the TV program, Happy Hour with Kay Frances: Health, Humor, and Healing. Her website is http://www.KayFrances.com  

TRANSCRIPT ©Michael Brickey–excerpts permitted with attribution

MB: This is America’s Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael Brickey, with Ageless Lifestyles Radio, your source for cutting-edge thinking on being youthful at every age. On each program I interview experts on what it takes to live longer, healthier, and happier. Our program takes a holistic approach in addressing anti-aging psychology, medicine, alternative medicine, fitness, nutrition, and wellness. Our emphasis is on innovative thinking and practices that have solid data and results. Today’s expert is Kay Frances. Kay Frances is a motivational humorist, professional speaker, and professional emcee who loves to give a healthy dose of humor. She has a keen interest in health and staying youthful. In her previous life as a top standup comedienne, she performed in 38 states and even the all-male institution at Rikers Island Prison. She is host of the TV program, “Happy Hour with Kay Frances: Health, Humor and Healing.” Kay, before I met you a few years ago at the National Speakers Association Meeting, I heard you at the Funnybone Comedy Club. And I remember I was so impressed, I bought your tape in the back of the room. I remember it well. It was “You Don’t Mess with a Woman with PMS.”

KF: Well, I’ve since graduated to menopause, but you know, the principles are the same. And I always say that PMS is just dress rehearsal for the Big M, so…

MB: Okay. Well, how in the world did you get from being a top standup comedienne to being a motivational humorist?

KF: My whole life’s career and path would appear checkered to anyone else but me, and luckily it now sort of all makes sense. And then without boring you with my entire life story, I did start off with a degree in physical education, so I actually have been sort of a fan of wellness, but I decided I didn’t want to teach. So I went into the corporate world for a while and ended up in standup comedy – again, kind of a long story in and of itself. But I’ve done standup for a number of years and, as you mentioned, lived in New York City. And I came back to Ohio, where I’m from, when my Dad passed away, and I just intended to stay about six months and just sort of regroup and help Mom out. And as it turned out, Mom had been taking care of my Dad and was actually a little sicker than we thought, and so six months turned into a year, which turned into two years, which turned into seven years I actually ended up taking care of my Mom. And during that time, I actually – that’s when I really, really began to see the value of humor, you know, dealing with terminal illness and so forth. And after she passed away, I just tried to go back to standup and just felt like I had a little more to say. And by then, I had really become a health and wellness advocate. And speaking of this aging thing, one of the reasons I’m such an advocate of taking care of ourselves is because I did lose my mother – she was only 77, and from where I’m standing at 52, that doesn’t seem very old. And my Dad was barely 70. And all of my grandparents were gone before they were 60. So I’ve had to really take a look at this and determine, well, gosh – I have a really bad genetic hand. If it’s genetics, I mean, I have like five minutes left to live. I’m not even going to make it through this interview, the way it’s looking.

MB: So you looked at this and said, “This is a real wake-up call.” You tell me that you’re actually healthier now than you were 20 years. How’d you do that?

KF: Yes, it’s crazy! Well, I told you I started off with health and wellness, with the physical education, and then it all kind of went south for awhile. I was a smoker, I drank heavily. I was never overweight – yet – but I was not very healthy. Of course, you can get away with that when you’re in your 20s and 30s, and then your body becomes less forgiving. And so it was in my 40s, and really during the time with Mom, I needed my energy. I really did. So I gave up smoking and I started exercising. Well, I did gain some weight.

MB: How did you quit the smoking?

KF: I had tried about everything, and I started smoking in high school, so I’d smoked 25 years. And my friends said I would never quit. My roommate in college said, “Here, Kay – the alarm clock goes off, Kay lights a cigarette and turns off the alarm.” And people were telling me, “Oh, you’ll never quit.” I just – it was just time. I was 41 years old. I always said I don’t want to be smoking when I’m 40. And what happened to work this time was that I had everything else in place. I had already quit drinking, I had already started exercising, drinking water, everything they say you’re supposed to do. And I just decided it was time. And the only thing that was different between this time and all the other times that I tried to quit is that I did use the patch, because I do think we need a little help getting over the physical part of it, because I had dealt with the mental and the social and I had, you know – oh, I understood my addiction inside and out. So I used the patch for about eight weeks and it really did help wean me off of the physical part.

MB: So you did a lot of stage-setting before you really made the all-out effort, including the patch.

KF: I did. And I also had one slight mental shift, in that I decided to take it one day at a time. And you know, this will sound so strange, but I have been off of the cigarettes for 11 years now and I still occasionally will get an urge. And I’ll say to myself, “Well, maybe I will tomorrow, but for today I’m not going to. Today I’m going to choose not to.” So it was different than saying, “I have to give this up forever and ever.” I just felt like I had an inner rebel that would say, “Oh, no, I’m not!” and would fight it. Whereas I – I mean, that sounds so crazy, but I’d say, “You’re an adult, you can do what you want.” And I’d start my self-talk and sort of try to talk myself off the ledge, you know. I’d say, “Fine, you can smoke. But remember, you probably won’t be able to have the workouts that you have.” My skin looks better, I feel better, I have more energy that I did in my 30s, and I’m 52. So that’s part of why I feel better today than I did when I was younger as a smoker – and also, just eating bad and, you know, not taking care of myself overall. And now I do much, much better. I’m not perfect. I believe in progress, not perfection. I’ve had cake as recent as yesterday. But moderation – I think the key is balance and moderation, and of course that ever-ever-important mental attitude.

MB: Now, Kay, I know you’re not really a moderate person. I mean getting healthier wasn’t enough – you went and got a third degree Black Belt?

KF: That’s true. You know, you are right. The moderation page seems to have been ripped out of my dictionary. But at least now when I’m obsessive, it’s over something a little healthier than what I used to do. But as I got into karate, those were the years when I was taking care of Mom and I really needed somewhere to release my stress. And what a great thing to do, to not only get to pound on bags, but other people. I mean, it’s great! So I started studying, and I never set out to get a Black Belt, but you know, it was just taking it one day at a time. And after three and a half years, my instructor, who was 28 years old at the time, said, “You know, it’s about time to start talking about getting your Black Belt.” Well, I couldn’t have been more surprised. And I said, “Really?” He said, “Yes! You’re very good and you know your requirements.” And he never said, “…for your age.” It was just, I was good! And I appreciated that he wasn’t into ages; he just saw me as one of his students and he was as hard on me as he was-

MB: Well, maybe you were so good, he was afraid you’d beat him up. I mean-

KF: Well, there’s that, too, yes. I was at the peak of my training and he was getting a little pooch on him there, you know.

MB: Has the Black Belt helped your humor, as well?

KF: Well, everything’s tied together. You know, life is life. Humor is just one way that – it’s in my toolbox. It used to be, when my life was a lot more out of balance, when I did standup comedy, it was too much. Everything was humor. I would sometimes use it as an escape. And I would say it’s more in balance now, if that makes sense. I still think it’s very, very important – and one of the reasons I am a humorist is I still think it’s important to encourage people to keep a light heart and a positive attitude, because I think that’s lacking. I think in other people’s toolboxes, it gets sort of ignored, especially in really important matters like serious illness, death – you know, there are all the stages of grief which, of course, we can’t ignore them. We have to go through all of them. We have to feel our feelings. We can’t stuff them and hide behind laughter, but we certainly have to give ourselves permission. And it’s just so backwards in our society. It’s viewed as silly, frivolous and unnecessary. We’re told growing up, “Straighten up, get serious. What’s that messing around?” It’s sort of synonymous with horseplay, and it’s not.

MB: Oh, I’m a big believer that humor is one of the most complicated, intellectually stimulating things we can do. The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, the IQ test, one of the 11 subtests is arranging cartoon pictures to tell a story. For immigrants, humor is one of the last things they get, because you have to have a good understanding of the culture, you have to have a good understanding of the language, and that’s just to get the joke. To tell the joke, you have to be able to remember it, you have to have timing, and you have to be able to read the audience. Getting some humor in your life every day is one of the best things that you can do for your mind and your spirit.

KF: Oh, I absolutely agree. Well, this is my life’s work. I’m really glad to hear that there’s a lot of research to back it up, because I’ve known it sort of organically. And all those years of standup – I mean, you meet people and they tell you, “Oh, my gosh, I needed to laugh. I just don’t laugh enough.” I heard this constantly for years, and that was one of the reasons I decided that I wanted to delve more into this therapeutic humor, because there’s really a need for it. And it’s important. It’s not just, “Oh, it makes you feel good.” I mean, there’s a lot of physiological benefits to humor and laughter. I mean, even it works your cardiovascular system, your muscles, helps fight disease and infection. I mean, stress management – stress sends us to the doctor for anywhere from 70 to 90% of our diseases and illnesses.

MB: And our immune system doesn’t even have a pump like our heart, so if you don’t laugh to get the movement going or doing some exercise, you’re not going to get full benefit from your immune system. Kay, one thing I was curious about – you know, I occasionally have fantasies of “Wouldn’t it be fun to be a standup comedian?” And then I look at these guys and it seems to me like it’s a terribly unhealthy lifestyle, being on the road. And I picture, frankly, excesses of drinking and maybe even drugs, to boot. Is it an unhealthy lifestyle?

KF: It certainly can be. You know, idle hands are the devil’s workshop, and when you’re doing standup comedy on the road, you have a lot of free time. A lot – I mean, yes and no. I mean, we’d say we work an hour a day. It’s not like we’re quite that slovenly, but kind of. And you know, it can really take a toll on your emotionally. Sometimes it takes hours and hours to even come down from a show, to be able to sleep. And the next day you could be really tired. So it’s – yeah, it’s maybe not the same as an hour spent behind the computer. It’s a little different when you’re up there and you have the responsibility of an entire group of strangers. Their good time is in your hands. And you can’t turn around and blame the band or the manager or the economy – I mean, it’s just you up there and the audience. And it sort of does – and I think with a lot of comedians – and there, again, having known literally hundreds of them, and it was an interesting study in human behavior to live and work with comedians – it did seem that we all were somewhat dysfunctional to get into it. There were often a need for a lot of affirmation and validation. Because it’s different than actors, because actors – like, say you’re doing a stage play – you may not get any real validation until the very end and then you’re sharing it with other people, and then you may have to wait for the reviews to come out. Well, look at a movie – it takes months to make a movie. And with standup, the validation is immediate. Immediately you’re getting that affection and love, because they agree with you, and they’re showing their agreement with their laughter. And it’s apparent and it’s public. The downside of that, of course, is when they don’t agree with you and they hate you, and then that’s public, as well. And so it’s a form of public humiliation, basically. So you have to be a little masochistic to go into this to start with, because everybody has bad shows. Even Jerry Seinfeld, after his TV show, with all his fame and all this fortune, he did that standup tour to make that movie – he had bad shows. And we’re talking Jerry Seinfeld!

MB: He’s almost as good as you are, isn’t he?

KF: Yeah, I could only hope to ever be as good as Jerry Seinfeld. And he’s so wise. I always enjoy hearing interviews. He just had an interview in Oprah Magazine with Oprah, and it was just – he always has such an interesting take on standup and just life in general, and I just have a tremendous admiration for him. Met him one time – namedrop, namedrop – when I lived in New York. He’s quite short. I think people would be surprised to know that. Well, he’s not – well, compared to me, everybody’s short. But he’s about 5’7″, 5’8″, something like that.

MB: One of the things that concerns me about humor is that so much of the aging humor is negative stuff about geezers and over-the-hills and granny that’s sex-starved or something. And one of the things that you do is try to put a healthy spin on humor about aging and about health.

KF: Well, I do. And I will say this. If there is humor, there’s a grain of truth somewhere. But we are redefining aging. And that’s not just because we Baby Boomers are too stubborn to get old. There may be an element of that, because our generation is certainly kicking and screaming. We don’t want to be our parents and grandparents, particularly in terms of the disease and illness, which is not inevitable – and we have so many advances in our knowledge now and our medicine and our – like you say, the whole holistic approach to health and wellness and aging that we’ve come to see where a lot of it is a choice. And so the thing is, those jokes really don’t hold – they’re losing their truth. So they’re not funny because there’s not truth to them, so-

MB: I love the idea that they’re outdated.

KF: They’re outdated! That’s just it. Oh, gosh, I’m getting a lot of funnier ones now. I got one with the older people on the treadmill singing the parody to “Get Your Motor Running.” Did you ever – it was all over the internet.

MB: No, I haven’t heard that.

KF: It’s very funny. And it’s just a whole different take. It had the grandparents up there on the treadmill running and talking about their motorcycle and their this and their that – because people are living longer and they’re living much more vibrant lives. But you know, the interesting part of that – and I wanted to bring this up and have you talk to me a little bit about this, because we had discussed this one other time – is about that aging is very much a choice. And you had told me one time about the study, I believe, done on twins. And you had said that something like 30% of our diseases, illness, aging was genetic, that there’s little we can do about it. But something like 70% was within our control?

MB: It was Scandinavian research where they took identical twins and fraternal twins, studied them over a lifetime, crunched the numbers, and came up with 30% of their longevity was due to genetics. I think in our country, it’s probably even less than that, because the Scandinavian countries are pretty homogeneous in terms of social class and lifestyle, where we have a lot more variety here. So rule of thumb here is only 25% is genetic, which means that 75% is going to be your thinking and the lifestyle that you choose. That’s pretty good odds.

KF: Well, see, I find that very freeing. I think a lot of people want to look to genetics first, because it can be a handy excuse.

MB: And on top of that, genetics is going to become less and important as we get into genetic engineering and correct genetic weaknesses. And we’re getting so many other medical advances that more and more of it is what you do with your mind and your lifestyle.

KF: Oh, I couldn’t agree more. And well, I had to come to this conclusion, without even a scientific basis or like that – I’ve got like five minutes left to live. But I had to really take a good look at my grandparents and parents and realize that I lot of it was lifestyle choices. I know that. Type 2 adult-onset diabetes is a great percent – I don’t know the exact percentage – but it has a lot to do with obesity and lack of exercise and all those things. It’s not inevitable. So because my grandfather and my mother had diabetes does not mean that it is a shoe-in for me. And same with high blood pressure.

MB: Kay, you talked earlier about how the Karate helped you cope with being a caretaker. How did humor come into play in dealing with the stresses of being a caretaker with your mother?

KF: Oh, my gosh! Well, I learned from her. She had such a wonderful sense of humor. I’m not kidding you, Dr. Brickey. She was in the hospice facility with five days left to live – no one, of course, really knew it was five days – you never know – but I don’t think they believed that she’d stay there. I mean, I don’t think anyone believed – even though you could read her chart and her numbers and it was horrendous, the sort of diseases and illnesses she was carrying, but she still had this fantastic attitude. And she lived much longer than anyone ever expected her to with the sorts of things she was dealing with. But she had such a sunny attitude. The first time we went there – one of my sisters was very worried about her going to hospice. She was, “Oh, she’s just going off to die,” and all this. Well, you know, she was completely out of options at that point and we just wanted her to be comfortable. And again, we didn’t know – she could’ve lived for several months – nobody really knows. But we checked in the facility and she looked around and she said, “You tell your sister I’m in a beautiful place and I am completely happy.” I mean, this is a woman that couldn’t get out of bed.

MB: She was taking care of you guys.

KF: Yes! Yes, exactly. And I’ll never forget that. And it still just brings almost tears to my eyes, is that – I mean, she got to where she was pretty much confined only to her room, her bedroom, you know, before she went into the hospital and then went into hospice and so forth. But one time I had a bad cold, and I lived two rooms away – I lived in the house with her – and had a bad, bad cold. And she barely left her room, and she had her walker and a cane – you know, it was very, very difficult for her to walk. And I heard her milling around in the kitchen, and usually she would ask me if she needed something. I’m telling you, it took everything she had just to get up and walk across the room. I heard her milling around in the kitchen and I just felt like death warmed over – but you know, still getting my job done with her and so forth. But I was in bed and just -oh, you know. Here she comes with her walker and this cup of hot chocolate sloshing out of this cup, when she – I mean, I’m telling you, she just wanted to help me. She wanted me to feel better. So she had taken everything she had to make that hot chocolate in the microwave. And then here she came, you know, one inch at a time, bringing it in to give to me.

MB: Wow.

KF: But you know, I never thought of her as old. But there again, 77 – that isn’t old. She had an illness – now there’s a difference.

MB: Well, she probably never thought of herself as old.

KF: She did not. And I got that from her. She always said age is a frame of mind, and she always talked about aging gracefully and, you know, that sort of thing – which I’m not sure if I agree with that. I’m not even sure what that means.

MB: Oh, I don’t want to be graceful about it.

KF: I know, I’m kicking and screaming.

MB: I’m kicking and screaming.

KF: I know. Well, she did, too, to a degree. I mean, she was going to the YMCA up until a year before she died and she was on a walker then, and she would walk all the way back to the back to the swimming pool and get in the lift chair and it would lift her into the water, and she would take the arthritis swim class. So she did the best she could as long as she could.

MB: Just wouldn’t quit.

KF: No, no. She was – she made some poor choices, and you know what? She stood by her choices, though. She stood by the poor choices that she made. She never blamed anyone else and she took responsibility for it.

MB: Let me take a brief break here. This is America’s Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael Brickey, with the Ageless Lifestyle Radio, your source for cutting edge thinking on being youthful at every age. Today’s guest is motivational humorist Kay Frances. Her website is http://www.kayfrances.com/. And her email is OhioFunnyLady@yahoo.com. And of course, for a comedian, it has to be yahoo.com.

KF: It’s got to be yahoo, of course.

MB: Information on anti-aging psychology is at DrBrickey.com, or you can just go to NotAging.com and it’ll take you to DrBrickey.com. I’d love to get your feedback and comments. Just send them to radio@drbrickey.com. Kay, one of the things you talk about is aging inappropriately. What do you mean by that?

KF: I think we should be happy with wherever we are in our age. I think we spend a lot of our lives wanting to be older or younger than we are, and we pay so much attention to that number. And was it Satchel Paige that said, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?”

MB: Exactly.

KF: And I believe that’s true. You know, when you’re young, you’re, “I’m three and a half!” I mean, you want to add the halves on. And we do that for a while. Then we can’t wait to become a teenager. Then we want to be 16. Then we want to be 18. Then we want to be 21. Then we start dreading 30, and it starts going backwards from there. And then we hit about 80 and we start bragging about our age again. And then we hit 90 and it’s “90 and a half,” “91 and a half.”

MB: Exactly. I had a woman in a seminar once who raised her hand and she said, “I’m 97…and a half.”

KF: Well, yeah. But that – I’m concerned about that middle part. You know, when you’re young, you don’t know better. You don’t know to quit wishing you were other than where you are. I think by the time you get to be 30, let’s say, you should begin to realize that you should embrace the moment and the present and where you are and be happy with it. I don’t understand not telling your age. Now, there are differing people with different points of view, and maybe when I’m 60 or 70 or 80, I’ll feel differently about that. But at 52, I just – I want to stop that. You know, we say, “Society says…” and “Society’s youth-obsessed.” You know what? We are society.

MB: I think you’ve already decided to not buy in to what society says.

KF: No, I’m not. And I could just be a good example. And I’d like younger people to go, “Well, gosh. 52’s not so bad. Look at her! She’s having a great time,” you know.

MB: One of the things that you do so well is story-telling. That’s really what makes the humor so memorable. I especially love the story about when your father died.

KF: Oh, yeah. You know, when someone passes away – good gosh, my Mom lost her mate of almost 50 years. She was not yucking it up. It’s inappropriate – no, I don’t want to use that word “inappropriate.” I don’t mean inappropriate. It’s not natural to necessarily want to laugh when something horrendous has happened in your life. However, that said, I think that it is such a wonderful tool to have as part of your grief toolbox, that when the gifts of laughter come up, you just have to take them and run with them. And it may be that day, it might be a month later, it might be two months later. Well, the particular story – I know the one you’re talking about – it was a couple of month after my Dad passed away. And Mom and I were talking, and I knew the story. She had gone in to get him up – it was early in the morning, it was about 7:00 in the morning, and the phone had rang and my Dad had gotten a phone call. Well, she went to go wake him and had discovered that he was gone. He had passed away in his sleep. And so that’s the story. Well, a couple of months later, of course, I get to thinking about it and I said, “Mom, what did you tell the person on the phone?” And she goes, “I told them that he can’t come to the phone right now.” “Did you take a…?” She took a message! I mean, we started laughing. And I’m telling you, we must’ve laughed for 30 minutes. And it was just – you know, she was laughing at herself, at how silly she was. And you know, she was able to have enough distance from the situation where she could put it in perspective and have a good, hearty laugh. And I’m telling you, it made her feel fantastic. She’d been, you know, grief-stricken for two months. And to be able to enjoy a good, hearty laugh was invaluable. I mean, it made her feel terrific.

MB: I think that would’ve been a real long-distance call.

KF: Yeah, exactly. But she went – and that just shows you how you go into shock, and she’s such a responsible person, too – that’s part of what you’d have to know. She’s just so ultra-dependable and responsible, you know. And that would be her, to go and take a – she would never leave the person just hanging. She would go and take a message.

MB: You also had a centenarian neighbor, Pearl?

KF: Oh, Pearl – yeah. Oh, my gosh. Pearl – this is another person that just inspires so much. You know, Dr. Brickey, I always said I want to be a cool old lady. And these women – obviously not an old man, that’s not going to happen in this life, but I love cool old men, too. But I want to be a cool old lady. I want to be Pearl. I want to be Pearl. Pearl lived to be 103 years old and she was my neighbor until she was 101, and she lived in her own home until she was 101 years old. You would see Pearl out in her yard, doing her yard with a manual push mower – not a gas-powered one. 101 years old, doing her flowers – well, the joke around the neighborhood, you get a couple of inches of snow and you go, “Oh, man, my back kind of hurts. Let’s go see if Pearl’s busy. See if she can come shovel us out.” Because she just was so vibrant, had so much energy. But the thing about Pearl, it wasn’t until you really stopped to think about her age that you realized how incredible it was, the things she was doing, because you would just think she was a lady out there working in her yard. She was ageless. There was an ageless quality about her. But she had a fantastic sense of humor. And she was so fun and so funny that literally you had to call and get an appointment to go visit with her, because she was so busy. She had so many friends and so many people – it wasn’t like the obligatory “go visit the old person and make you feel good about yourself” type of stereotype. No, you went to visit Pearl because Pearl was a lot of fun. So Mom and I went to visit her. We walked in and Pearl helps us take our coats off, all right, and we sat down to enjoy a nice visit. Well, Pearl and my mother had been schoolteachers together years before. And so Pearl starts telling this story – she always had fantastic stories. She said, “Eleanor” – that was my Mom’s name – she said, “Do you remember the time we were driving to school. I was driving” – and I’m doing my Pearl voice, because she was very proper. She always wore dresses around the house, and hose – very proper lady. She said, “Do you remember the time we were driving to school. I was driving and Mary Lou Berger was in the passenger seat and you were in the backseat. Do you remember that, Eleanor?” And Mom said, “Well, yes, Pearl. But which time? We rode together for years.” She goes, “Well, on this particular morning, we drove past this house and there was a naked man standing in the picture window. Do you remember that now, Eleanor?” And my Mom was kind of blushing, and I go, “Mom, you never told me this story.” I said, “Well, what happened, Pearl?” She goes, “Well, your mother missed it, so we had to drive back by!” I mean, she threw her head back and just cackled. She was laughing at my Mom’s red face, she was laughing at the story, she was laughing at me because I was laughing. And I mean, we just enjoyed the biggest, heartiest laugh. And it occurred to me right there in that moment – and this was years ago – I thought, “Wow, this is why this lady is sitting across from me and I’m here visiting her, and why she’s 101 years old, living here by herself in her car – in her house.”

MB: Wow.

KF: Living in her car – I was thinking about her car as I was telling that story. She also told us that she stopped driving at 100. She didn’t have to. She said she just missed one little light on the side of the vision test. With a twinkle in her eye, she said, “You know, you can retake the test at another county.” She thought, “Well, you know” – she said, “I suppose maybe it’s time.” But you know, 100 years old is not too shabby to keep driving.

MB: That’s impressive.

KF: But the thing was, Dr. Brickey, her funeral was sad. It was sad. Wouldn’t it be nice to go out at 103 or 110 or 115 and have your funeral be said? Instead of, “Oh, well, my gosh, they had a full, happy life.” No, no, no – we were going to miss her. Her son was 82.

MB: Wow.

KF: He was crying! It was his mamma. He’d had her 82 years.

MB: Geez.

KF: I always said the only people that weren’t upset was the State Teacher Retirement System.

MB: How can humor help us cope with death and dying?

KF: It’s sort of as I was saying – I just think it needs to be part of your grief toolbox. And I think we have to allow ourselves permission to have a light heart. And one thing that humor does – I’m not just talking about laugher, I’m talking about lightheartedness – it helps give you perspective. And you know what they say at a funeral that will bring people together and lighten your heart faster than anything? It’s a child or a baby. I was talking to a funeral director and he said that that’s the one unifying factor that will lighten everyone’s heart. There’s something life-affirming about it, and then their antics, of course. But he said you can have a funeral where of course there’s warring factions – you’ve got divorced parties and exes and this and that, and you can feel the tension in the air, or you know, problems with the will, or fighting brothers and sisters. And you bring a baby or a toddler in the room and everybody’s heart goes warm.

MB: Yeah, but I think that rent-a-baby for a funeral business is tacky.

KF: Hey, but there’s my first million! I’m not above it. And I just think humor helps us to reframe and to gain perspective. And prolonged grief does not benefit anyone. They say it’s not even good for the person that left – and there again, any of these kind of theories are just theories, because I don’t think any of us really know until we slide over the slippery log, as my Dad used to say. But prolonged grief can be selfish, too.

MB: I’ve had a lot of people get unstuck just by asking them what the person would have wanted them to do, and would they want you stuck in grief like this, or would they want you going on and passing the love and other lessons that they taught you? And it’s amazing how that can get people going again.

KF: Right, right. That’s excellent.

MB: Optimism is one of the key traits for people who live well into their hundreds and are still healthy and sharp. Does humor play a role in optimism, as well?

KF: I think humor and optimism go hand-in-hand. They’re not quite synonymous, but very, very close. They’re part of the same energy, which is joy and happiness and laughter and optimism – that’s all part of that. It’s all part of that energy that uplifts us rather than pulls us down. Anytime we’re in that energy that pulls us down – anger, frustration – it’s very difficult on our body. It’s hard on our organs, it squeezes our capillaries. Stress and tension, that fight-or-flight syndrome that we tend to like to live in, it wears out our adrenals – I mean, everything – it’s horrible on your body and your health. Whereas when you’re openhearted, you are allowing your blood to flow, your oxygen goes to your muscles. Now, I do make the point, laughter – it’s not all you can do. I mean, obviously, we see the people that are 400 pounds and they’re quite jolly. But that’s not going to mean they’re going to live to be 100. We’ve got to embrace everything. But I think if you have – well, everything, in terms of your fitness and you’re eating right and drinking water and all of that. But the attitude thing – I think if you have that, the other things will sort of fall into place, because if you have a good light heart, then you’re going to manage your addictive behaviors.

MB: Very true. Any suggestions on how people can add some humor to their daily life?

KF: I think it’s the same as drinking your daily water or taking your daily shower. It needs to be definitely part of your day. Sometimes you can keep a light heart or keep your balance just be choosing your input and now allowing negativity to come in. In other words, decide and choose a good frame of mind, hearken back to something that makes you laugh. I keep a file in my computer called “Keepers.” And it’s funny videos or even pictures of animals that are real cute or children or anything that kind of makes you smile or laugh or – and just go open up that file and look at things that make you smile and laugh.

MB: Oh, I love that idea. That’s wonderful.

KF: Yeah, and some days, like when I read the newspaper – I think the morning newspaper can really set the tone for our day. And if I wake up feeling kind of negative – maybe I’ve got a crick in my neck, a little headache, didn’t sleep so well – the last thing I need to do is pick up the newspaper and read the Op-Ed page and get all aggravated at what’s going on in the world.

MB: Oh, I think they ought to put the comics on the front page and the news on the back page.

KF: Yeah, you’re right! I think you’re right. And I think the evening news is a very dangerous thing to watch right before you go to bed.

MB: To watch news on TV is very unhealthy, because you see an image like, say, the World Trade Center collapsing, and that gets planted in your brain. And worse than that, they show it over and over again, and then they switch to some crime feature for three minutes, and before you get the chance to catch your breath from that, you get another bad news and another bad news, and you get all this stuff stuffed in your brain with pictures of it, and you can’t do much about it.

KF: And it’s when we’re most vulnerable. We’re tired, our defenses are down – it’s right before we go to bed.

MB: I encourage people to get their news in print or from the radio, not from watching the traditional TV program. If you want to watch the talking heads, okay, but not all the crime and tragedy stuff on the 6:00 news.

KF: Well, even the talking heads, sometimes – you know, and we can get ourselves so worked up over things going on. Now, take for example this presidential election – I just don’t want to get so wrapped up in it that I’m so involved that I’m irritated and aggravated every minute of every day, but I want to be informed and involved.

MB: Yeah, unless you don’t take it any more seriously than big-time wrestling that they’re putting on a good show for us.

KF: That’s pretty much what it is. That’s a great analogy!

MB: Any tips on how to use humor to deal with stress?

KF: Well, I think that we have to realize this is just life and none of us gets out of here alive. And no matter how important the things are in our lives, really, stressing about them, worrying – my Mom used to say that 90% of what we worry about never happens. So sometimes we like to worry, so then when it doesn’t happen we get that little feeling of relief that it didn’t happen. So with the humor, with the keeping a positive attitude and lightening up, that doesn’t mean that you’re not serious about what you’re doing. It doesn’t mean that you’re not going to get anything done. As a matter of fact, studies have shown that the more lighthearted and positive your attitude is, the more you get done. When you are uptight, tense, nervous, and scared, you get less done. So it’s the exact opposite of what a lot of businesses think. They think that people should have their nose to the grindstone and be worried and nervous and anxious. Well, all you’re doing is wearing yourself out because you’re not getting any more done. And again, when I say humor, I mean keeping a light heart and laughing when it’s appropriate. I, for one, really enjoy when I go into a store and the clerk makes a few comments or cracks a little joke and smiles, or makes nice conversation. I don’t think, “Hey, just put your head done and be scanning my stuff, lady!” I don’t think that. It brightens my day. It brings me up a little bit. So I just think we just need to give ourselves permission. If a joke comes up, make the joke. Now, again, that doesn’t mean hide behind it. It doesn’t mean not getting your work done. But I think people would be surprised at how much more they actually get done if they allow themselves to keep a sense of humor. Now, one other point I make – I call it the art of laughing on the inside. We don’t always have to laughing to where people can see us. There’s often times that I’ll be looking at something that somebody’s saying and inside I’m going, “I cannot believe they’re saying this to me,” and I’m laughing about it, but I’m not going to let them know – maybe I don’t want to hurt their feelings or maybe I don’t want a confrontation, but I’m keeping myself centered. I don’t have to be drawn into their stuff. So I might be laughing on the inside with a poker face on the outside, and I’m keeping myself balanced. And you know what? Our own mind, our own heart is the last vestige of freedom, and we can think and feel anything we want and no one has to know.

MB: And then we can go home and put it in our computer file as one of those things that make you crack up.

KF: That’s right! And the same with TiVo. There’s a couple of TV shows that just crack me up, and I TiVo them. There’s a show called “Just for Laughs.” It’s ridiculous. It’s really corny. It’s practical jokes – it’s like “Candid Camera” and it’s so silly. I just – well, one of them was they had an outhouse that looked like it was rooted but it was actually – it was next to a pond and it floated. So the person would go in the outhouse and then they would release it, and when they came out, they’d be in the middle of the lake. Well, that was just hysterical to me, because I have a – my inner nine-year-old still thinks that kind of stuff is funny. So, see, my humor is all over the place. I can go from esoteric humor that nobody but me gets – and we all have that because our sense of humor is almost as individual as our thumbprint – to humor that a nine-year-old enjoys, because that nine-year-old is still in me.

MB: And most humor is really about things that there were painful at one time and – you kept using the word perspective – getting a perspective on it and seeing the funny side of it.

KF: That’s exactly right. Well, there’s a saying that says, “Tragedy plus time equals comedy.” It does take time. You couldn’t make jokes about 9/11 on 9/12. You still can’t make jokes about 9/11 because it was a horrific, horrific event. But it’s not that you’re laughing at the event. What you find to laugh at is the politicians and how they reacted and this sort of thing, the media – there are other targets that you can find around the event that can still help you have a perspective of the event that does not diminish the importance of it. Does that make sense?

MB: Completely. Kay, you said you wanted to be Pearl, but to me you’re just a real jewel, and I really appreciate you sharing your wisdom and unique perspective on things. This is America’s Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael Brickey, with Ageless Lifestyle Radio, your source for cutting-edge thinking on being youthful at every age. Today’s guest has been motivational humorist Kay Frances. Her website is http://www.kayfrances.com/. Her email is OhioFunnyLady@yahoo.com. Information on Anti-Aging Psychology is at DrBrickey.com, or you can just go to NotAging.com and it’ll take you to DrBrickey.com. I’d love to get your feedback and comments. Send them to radio@drbricky.com.

 

Lose Weight Without Dieting

February 24, 2008

Michelle May, MDAnti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael Brickey

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

Host: Anti-Aging Psychologist Dr. Michael Brickey

Expert Guest:  Michelle May, MD

Broadcast: 1-19-08 on webtalkradio.net where the latest shows are broadcast and posted as podcasts

Dr. May knows how to get people off the yoyo diet treadmill and losing weight for good. She is a Board Certified Family Physician and author of Am I Hungry? What to Do When Diets Don’t Work, and the CD Stop Dieting, Start Living.  Her website is http://www.amihungry.com/  

TRANSCRIPT ©Michael Brickey–excerpts permitted with attribution

MB: This is Dr. Michael Brickey with the Ageless Lifestyles Program, cutting edge thinking on being youthful at every age. Today’s show: Lose Weight Without Dieting, with the Am I Hungry? physician, Dr. Michelle May. Dr. May knows how to get people off the yo-yo diet treadmill and lose weight for good. She is a board-certified family physician and author of Am I Hungry? and What to Do When Diets Don’t Work. So Dr. May, how do diets often end up making us fat?

MM: Well, it’s ironic. But you know, if diets were the answer, we would not have an obesity problem in America, because almost everybody that I know who’s overweight has been on at least one, if not dozens, of diets. The thing is that we know that diets aren’t just doomed to fail, they’re doomed to backfire, because what happens is we have these primitive survival mechanisms in place, and so when our body is chronically under-fueled, it begins to set up adaptive mechanisms that will prevent it from starving to death. It somehow doesn’t realize we’re doing it on purpose. So when people lose weight, they begin to lose hopefully a little bit of fat. They certainly lose a lot of water, especially at the beginning of a diet, and they also lose muscle. Unfortunately, when people gain their weight back, they get back just their water and their fat. They don’t get the muscle back that they lost. So a lot of people, after many years of dieting off and on, will actually have a higher body fat percentage and a lower metabolism because they’ve given up some of their muscle mass over the years. So that, on one physical level, causes diets to fail. And I think you’ve probably seen this with people you’ve talked to. But diets also fail psychologically and socially. It’s very difficult for people to maintain the level of energy and time that it takes to weigh and measure and count and write everything down. And when we deprive ourselves of certain foods, we actually begin to crave those foods, we think about them more, we give them special value, so we want them more than we did even before the diet. And then when we give in and have them, it’s hard for us to stop because we feel like, “Gosh, I’ve already blown it. I might as well just keep eating it. I’ll get rid of it and then I won’t have to deal with it tomorrow and I’ll start over again.” So ultimately this yo-yo thing that we see so often is really an expected outcome of deprivation, restriction, and under-fueling our bodies.

MB: So we both have a physiological program that says, “Hey, this is an emergency,” and compensates for it, and psychologically we have a tough time with diets.

MM: Absolutely.

MB: One of the things that you emphasize is how oftentimes we eat for emotional reasons. How does that play into dieting and weight loss?

MM: The thing is, is that most of us have learned to use food to cope or to distract ourselves or to feel better. In fact, food actually has some physical chemical properties that make us feel a little better temporarily. Now, of course, the operative word there is temporarily, because when we use food to, for example, entertain us when we’re bored or comfort us when we’re sad or keep us company when we’re lonely, we do feel better for a short period of time. And that’s what drives us back to it again and again. But food really doesn’t meet those needs very well, so those triggers, those stressors, those emotional reasons that we eat come back again and again and again, so people begin to feel somewhat powerless around food. Now, it is important to say, though, that not everybody who struggles with their weight or struggles with their eating has deep, dark psychological issues. Most of us don’t. I mean, I personally had a lot of emotional type links to eating, but it was really more about trying to deal with stress, trying to deal with being very busy – you know, maybe some perfectionism, some of those kinds of things that are very common. And really, all I needed was some new skills, some new ways of taking care of myself.

MB: How much would you say the emotional needs are dealing with stress, and how much of it is “I’m depressed,” “I’m lonely,” “I’m anxious,” and those kinds of emotional needs?

MM: Well, it’s different for different people, and that’s one of the keys to solving weight issues is to really start to figure out what it is for you specifically. So those of us who work in this area, our job is really to help give you the realm of possibilities and some ideas and some tools and some skills to help you deal with those, once you establish exactly what it is for you. And in fact it’s interesting because, for some of the people I work with, it’s really not so much emotional but it’s environmental – it’s a lot of this “learned” behavior. So for example, in our culture, we’re fortunate – we live in an abundant food culture. We have more than we need. And so consequently, people who sell food – restaurants and packaged goods, and even sometimes grandmothers and mothers – try to sell it to us by promoting it as something that will make us feel better or something that we deserve or something that’s interesting or that it’s a good value. And so a lot of people that I work with, they’re not just emotionally attached to food, but they’ve learned to use food in a way that it really gets to excess, where they eat much more than they need because that’s what they’ve been taught.

MB: So you’ve gone from being a physician to being a detective and you teach other people how to be a detective, as well?

MM: Yes. I like the way that you put that, Dr. Brickey. In fact, it’s really about teaching people to become their own expert. A lot of the diets that are out there now, some expert or some diet or some guideline tells you what you should and shouldn’t do. But the truth is that we were all born experts in our own bodies. When we’re born, we’re born with the ability to indicate to our parents when we need to be fed. We cry, we fuss, and then when they feed us, we stop eating, even if there’s food left in the bottle. When we’re done, we’re done. But over time, we unlearn that ability. So a lot of the process that I teach is about helping people recognize their own inner expert, their own ability to recognize when they need food and when they don’t, and to use those other triggers, that so-called head hunger or emotional hunger, to help them figure out what else they need, so that they can take care of those needs better.

MB: Are there are a lot of people that are just so out of touch that that’s really not a good way to try to lose weight again?

MM: You know, that’s a great question. I think a lot of people are very disconnected from their bodies. I think that this is true not just in terms of weight, but in all sorts of ways we’re very disconnected from ourselves. And so this process is amazing because it not only helps people manage their weight more effectively, but it helps them recognize their other true needs. So definitely people who struggle with their weight are likely to say things like, “But Dr. May, I’m hungry all the time!” Well, a person that’s very overweight probably isn’t truly hungry all the time, but they’re confusing physical hunger with other reasons that they feel like eating. I’ll sometimes have people that’ll say, “But Dr. May, I’m never hungry!” And what they’re telling me is that they’re eating for so many other reasons that their body never needs to give them the cue to eat. So I don’t think that there’s anybody that’s so disconnected that they can’t relearn this. In fact, in my work – we teach workshops, and by the second week people are coming back, just amazed at how easy it is to reestablish those hunger cues and to really get in touch with their body again. The harder part, of course, is not eating even though you know you’re not hungry. That’s really the hard part for most of us.

MB: When you work with people, is it more getting them to take their own histories and figure it out for themselves? Or is it more clipboard and the doctor’s taking the history and coming up with the diagnosis?

MM: No, it’s very much about skill-building. It’s much more of what I would call a coaching model. So I am only the expert in asking the right questions. The real expert is the patient or the participant in the workshop. And so what I do is I teach them how to ask themselves a series of questions so that they’ll come up with the right answer. Unfortunately, a lot of people that struggle with their weight, they are moving through their lives on autopilot. They feel like eating; they put food in their mouth. They see something that looks yummy; they’re eating it before they realize it. They sit down to dinner, flip on the TV, the plate is clean before the first commercial, and they don’t realize it. So what I really want to do is help people become conscious or mindful or wake them up to the decisions that they’re making. So it’s not about being bad or good. It’s about being aware of what it is that you’re doing and why.

MB: Are you pairing this with relaxation training or some kind of meditation or something that slows them down in getting them living in the here and now? Or is it more focusing on just understanding their eating patterns better?

MM: No, those are great skills. For example, one of the tools that we use is called a mind/body scan. And you would probably recognize it from mindfulness training or maybe meditation training. But in essence, we’ll – one of the very first steps that we take is to help people learn to slow themselves down, take a couple of really deep breaths to reconnect with their body, close their eyes, shut out the external environment, and then scan their body from head to toe: “Do I feel discomfort? Do I feel hunger? Am I tired? Is there pain? Is there a concern, a medical concern that my attention is drawn to?” And then to begin to scan their thoughts and feelings: “What am I thinking about? What am I feeling?” Not with judgment, not with the idea of, “Oh, I shouldn’t eat this,” or “Oh, I’m terrible for wanting to eat this.” But really just seeking to understand and see what’s there. So this mindfulness, this slowing down, this relaxation is a very important part of it. And it serves double-duty because, as you’re well aware, a lot of the triggers for many different problems – medical problems, psychological problems – really are this inability to slow down and relax and relieve stress effectively. So it sort of serves those to help connect people so they understand why they want to eat. And at the same time it also serves as a way of calming themselves to maybe deal with some of those triggers in the first place.

MB: Is there an ideal diet or an ideal way to eat, or is it very individualized?

MM: We use an all foods fit approach, and in fact that’s the approach that the American Dietetic Association takes, as well. So I’m very adamant that there are no good foods or bad foods. In the context of an overall diet, even something as empty as a Twinkie may have a place, you know-

MB: Even a dry Twinkie?

MM: Exactly. As long as people are practicing the basic principles of balance, variety, and moderation. So we want to balance our macronutrients. We want to balance our eating for pleasure with eating for health. We want to eat a variety of foods, across the food groups and even within a single food group. And we want to practice moderation in all things, not just those things like saturated fats and sugary foods, but also moderation in our exercise, in the way that we approach any food that we eat, because ultimately we can undo any specific decision by how we balance and moderate the remainder of the food that we eat that day or the next couple of days.

MB: Yeah, kind of the flipside of moderation is any time you take something to an extreme, you tend to get into problems with it.

MM: That’s right, that’s right. And I think that’s kind of what I’ve been seeing going on in our culture over the last several decades. We have one extreme of overeating, eating mindlessly, eating too much, valuing quantity over quality. And then we have the supposed answer for that, which is the other extreme, which is counting and weighing and obsessing and depriving and feeling guilty. Those two extremes don’t work for people. And people naturally seek balance and they seek moderation. So the moderation part will cause them to – or the balance part will cause them to swing from one direction to the other. And really, all I’m offering people is a way to find that middle ground, a way to balance eating for health with eating for pleasure, a way to understand your hunger cues so you eat what you want, but you eat it in order to meet your physiologic needs, a way to recognize what your emotional needs are, so that you have an opportunity to really meet them, instead of trying to stuff them down with chocolate cake.

MB: You talk about a lot of myths of dieting. One of them is it’s a good idea to eat every three or four hours.

MM: Well, here’s the thing. That myth is a myth because it’s based on observation that people who don’t struggle with their weight tend to eat frequent small meals. But they don’t do it by checking their watch. They do it by eating when they’re hungry and stopping when they’re satisfied. Well, it turns out that your stomach is really only about the size of your fist, so it comfortably holds about a handful of food. So if you eat when you’re hungry, when your stomach is empty, and you fill it with just about a handful of food, that’s not going to last very long. So a person will get hungry again in maybe two hours, four hours, six hours, depending on how much they ate, what they ate, and how active they are. So when we take an observation about something that people do naturally and we make a rule out of it – “You have to eat every three hours” – we’re not teaching people to reconnect with their own ability to do that. So what’ll happen is people will come in to me, to a workshop, for example, and they’ll say, “Well, I heard that I’m supposed to eat every three hours. But should I do, because I’m just not hungry at 3:00 in the afternoon? Should I eat?” Well, no. And then the flipside of that is people will say – on these diets, they’ll say, “Well, whatever you do, don’t let yourself get hungry.” And I think what they’re talking about is this problem that some people get into where they don’t eat for way too long and then they’re too hungry. That’s not a good place to be because when we’re too hungry, we’re not likely to think through our choices. We’re likely to eat too fast. We’re not likely to feel satisfied right away and so we’ll polish off more food than we really need and then we’ll feel stuffed. So I think really a better rule of thumb would be to check your watch, and if it’s been three hours since you’ve eaten, stop what you’re doing for a minute and look for hunger signals. See if you’re hungry. If you’re not, remind yourself to check in again in a half-hour or so. But don’t automatically eat just because the clock says to.

MB: Well, it’s fascinating the way you’re teaching people to learn to trust their bodies. What about the advice to never eat after dinner or after 7:00 pm?

MM: That’s another really good one, and very, very common. And I think that that rule, that “Don’t eat after 7:00” is, again, based on a logical observation. What we know is that a lot of people who struggle with their weight tend to eat late in the evening. But they’re not doing it because they’re hungry. They’re doing it because they’re sitting in front of the TV or they’re bored or they’re lonely or they’re stressed, or this is maybe the first time all day that they’ve had to reward themselves – they’ve finally got the kids in bed, the ironing done. And so people eat after 7:00 for reasons that have nothing to do with hunger. But your metabolism doesn’t shut off at 7:01, so if you were hungry at 9:00 because you ate your dinner at 4:30 or 5:00, then there would be no reason that you couldn’t have a little snack. On the other hand, if you feel like eating at 9:00 and you’re not hungry at all and you know you just ate dinner a couple of hours ago, then there’s a pretty good chance that that desire to eat is coming from something else, and that’s the kind of eating that causes the problem. So I just encourage people, rather than setting these arbitrary rules, try to figure out what your triggers are. What is it that’s causing you to feel like eating, even though you know you don’t really need the food right then?

MB: So if somebody found that one of their triggers is automatically eating while they’re watching television, would you set up a rule that – no eating while watching TV?

MM: Well, now, that’s a really great question. I would never personally tell somebody they shouldn’t eat after 7:00 or you should never eat in front of the TV. But certainly people can set guidelines for themselves that work for them. So let’s say that a person was consistently asking themselves if they were hungry in order to try to resolve their weight problem, and they realized that whenever they sat down in front of the TV at 8:00 to watch their show, they want to have that bag of chips right next to them, because that’s what they’ve always done. They’ve created a habit. They’ve built a trigger for themselves. So they might say, “You know what? This habit isn’t serving me very well, and instead of trying to fight it, let me see if I can change into a new habit.” So, for example, I had one patient; he said that he had sat in the same place on his couch for so many years that he actually had a butt-shaped divot in the cushion. So he said he moved from that couch, where he always used to have plenty of space to lay out all of his goodies and snacks, into a recliner chair next to the couch, and he said immediately he created a new habit. There was no trigger associated with that particular new chair; in fact, for him it was symbolic of moving on and moving to a new place. So again, if a person felt that there was a particular problem for them and they wanted to create some structure or some guidelines that would help them manage that, that’s perfectly appropriate. But it’s not appropriate for me to tell them what to do, because then it’s my rule, not theirs, and they don’t own it.

MB: My math teacher would be thrilled with all the calorie-counting and point systems and how that’s helping people’s math skills. What do you think of it in terms of weight loss?

MM: Well, I think you’ve hit on a good point. A lot of us don’t love math that much, and we don’t have that much energy to be counting and weighing and measuring anyway. Calorie counting is an artificial external means of controlling intake. Now, don’t get me wrong – weight loss is about calories in and calories out. There’s no question about it. But most of us don’t need to count calories. Again, we were given the gift of a natural ability to know how much our bodies need. Babies don’t count calories, toddlers don’t count calories, children don’t count calories. And many of the thin people that you know – spouses or friends who’ve never struggled with their weight – don’t count calories. If we can tap in again to our intuitive or instinctive ability to know how much we need, we don’t need artificial means like that.

MB: What about the people that just say, “Hey, weight loss is a matter of willpower. I just need more willpower.”

MM: Don’t we all? And you know what? You do need a lot of willpower to follow a diet. It takes a lot of energy. It takes a lot of time. In fact, many people say it’s really about “won’t power” – what I won’t do. And here’s the thing. I want to make changes that are going to last forever. I want to help people learn to do something because it feels good, not because they’re being good. So let me give you an example of this. A lot of people struggle with overeating. Whether they’re hungry or not, when they sit down to eat, they eat more food than they need. And one of the things that we do, and one of the things that the book talks about, is helping people recognize that when you eat that much food, you feel very uncomfortable. So I’ll have people visualize a balloon. So as you’re thinking about this, visualize yourself blowing up a balloon. And as you first blow it up, it’s very easy to blow up. You get to sort of a little stage where it kind of reaches that little tension. That’s how full your stomach is when you’ve eaten about the right amount of food. But in order to blow it up big, you have to take a big deep breath and force that air in. That’s what happens when you fill your stomach with more food than it needs. The walls of your stomach begin to stretch, so you being to feel uncomfortable. And then visualize that full balloon pressing on your belt buckle, pressing up on your diaphragm, pressing on your intestines, making you uncomfortable, maybe hard to breathe, maybe a little bit of heartburn. Well, what about any of that sounds good? Not very much of it. Most of us would say, “Oh, my goodness! That’s not a very comfortable feeling.” I remember that old antacid commercial: “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!” Well, that’s a miserable way to feel. So what I teach people is, rather than trying to be good, try to feel good. Stop eating when you’re totally comfortable still, when you’re energetic, when you don’t feel drowsy and like you need a nap, when you don’t have to unbuckle your belt, when you don’t feel regretful. And then remember – remind yourself that you’ll eat again when you’re hungry. So if the food’s tasting good and you really want to have a few more biters, put it away in a container, and in a few hours when you’re hungry again, pull it back out, because it’s going to taste great. It doesn’t taste that great at the end of eating it. At that point, you’re really just eating the memory of what it tasted like at the beginning.

MB: So, noticing how you’re stomach feels is just one more aspect of listening to your body and heeding what your body is telling you.

MM: Exactly.

MB: I hear a lot of people say, “Well, if I just exercise enough, the problem would be solved. I can just continue eating the way I’m eating.”

MM: Well, and you know, the problem with that is that a lot of people have learned to associate exercise with punishment for eating. So they eat and then they punish themselves with the treadmill. Or they overeat, and so now they have to pay penance by going to the gym. And here it is, is this negative relationship with exercise: “I do it because I was bad.” Well, nobody likes to do anything because they were bad. We want exercise to be something that makes you feel good, that you do because it gives you more energy, it helps you sleep better, it makes sex better. You certainly are more fit and more active and more vibrant and more flexible and stronger and more functioning in your life. It’s not about weight. It’s about how you feel. And so I really urge people to ignore those calorie-counting charts. I want people to really focus on how great it feels when I move my body, how great I feel when I eat the right amount of food, and not use exercise as a way to earn the right to eat.

MB: Is part of that having an image of what you look like and feel like when you are the weight that you want to be?

MM: I think that’s true, but again, when you talk about – earlier you mentioned this idea of mindfulness and being in the present. When we are always striving for what we looked like in high school or on our wedding day, or when we’re putting off living our life until we lose that 10 or 20 pounds, or 50 pounds, or 100 pounds, we’re not living in the moment. And you know, honestly, this moment that we have right now is the only moment we have guarantee of. The rest of it’s gone and we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. So when people live in the past or postpone living their life until the future, it’s going to actually make it harder for them to manage their weight. I think when people really go out and live their full live that they deserve and they’re intended to, then ultimately food becomes a way of fueling that life. It doesn’t become the whole reason for living that life.

MB: That’s a fascinating distinction, because so much of the achievement and success literature is about, “Well, set your goal and imagine how great you’re going to feel when you’re a millionaire” or whatever the goal is. And this is a very different philosophy of being in the present and being very aware of what’s happening. In case readers are tempted to think that, “Well, it’s easy for Dr. May to say this stuff. She doesn’t know what it feels like.”

MM: You know, any time somebody is really passionate about something – and I hope that you’re hearing my passion in my voice-

MB: Yes.

MM: When somebody is really passionate about something, it usually is because they have some personal connection, and that’s certainly true for me. I struggled with yo-yo dieting from really about age 11 or 12 into my early 30s. I really – I even remember during medical school – I had just finished medical school, I was in the first all-night call of my residency at the hospital. And I remember standing in the salad bar line, filling up my plate, debating everything I was putting on there: “Should I have cheese? Dressing on the side, no sunflower seeds. Okay, more tomatoes, more cucumbers, more lettuce.” And then I remember seeing the malted milk balls over in the corner. And I remember, for the first time, realizing that I could actually hear them calling my name. And at that moment I thought, you know, I am connected to food in a way that I didn’t realize that other people felt. And I continued to struggle with that food. I continued to struggle with overeating and dieting and all of that for many, many years. And in my practice, I saw people over and over again, people with very serious diseases – heart disease and diabetes and cancers and other things – who really wanted to make changes in the way that they ate, but they would swing back and forth from that overeating to dieting to overeating to dieting. And I just knew that it wasn’t just me that was struggling with this. The whole paradigm doesn’t make sense. And in fact, there’s very few things in medicine that we recommend, even though we know that they’re going to fail most of the time, and there’s hardly anything that we recommend that we know it’s going to fail and then we blame the patient when it does. Diets don’t work. We know they don’t work. And it’s about time for people to say, “Well, what does?” What does is learning how to use food appropriately, learning that it can be enjoyable, it should be enjoyable – we should love the food that we eat, we should love eating with other people. But we shouldn’t have to obsess and think about it every hour of every day in between. So ultimately, the reason I’m so passionate about this is because it gave me a sense of freedom. It gave me an ability to enjoy food. I didn’t mention this earlier, but my husband is a professional chef. My parents own restaurants. I love to eat, and I don’t like having to weigh and measure and count and punish myself for it. But I also don’t like overeating – I don’t like how I feel. And I want to have the energy to live my life and do the other things that I enjoy in addition to eating.

MB: So it was your triumph and joy over your own eating problems that motivated you to specialize in helping others with these problems?

MM: Absolutely, absolutely. It’s been such amazing work, because when people learn to slow down and listen to themselves, and when they learn that food cannot take care of all their needs, but there are other things that can, they begin to just blossom right before your very eyes. Now all the sudden food isn’t controlling them. In fact, I say to people, “It’s not really about being in control at all. It’s about being in charge, which means making choices.” And sometimes the choice is to have a couple of chocolate chip cookies – done, it’s wonderful. Sometimes the choice is to say, “You know what? I need to call a friend.” And whatever that choice you make, it’s not about being perfect; it’s about choosing to be intentional about taking care of yourself.

MB: Let me take a break here. This is America’s Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael Brickey, with the Ageless Lifestyles Radio Program. Today’s guest is Lose Weight Without Dieting physician, Dr. Michelle May. You can learn about her books, workshops, and coaching programs at http://www.amihungry.com/. And her flag ship book, not surprisingly, is Am I Hungry? Information about Anti-Aging Psychology is at DrBrickey.com, or you can just go to NotAging.com and that will transfer you to DrBrickey.com. Dr. May, there are a lot of diet experts that advocate to just keep your blood sugar levels stable and everything else will fall into place. How important are blood sugar levels?

MM: Well, blood sugars are really important, because we’ve been talking – we’ve been kind of talking around this concept of hunger, so maybe this is a good time to stop for a minute and talk about what hunger really is. Hunger is your body’s physical way of telling you that you need fuel, and predominantly caused by two things. It’s caused by an empty stomach, so when your stomach is empty it might grumble or growl or you might get hunger pangs or it might feel empty. I almost get like a hollow feeling right in the center of my belly. On the other hand, a falling blood sugar will also give signals of hunger. And when your blood sugar is dropping, you don’t have blood glucose molecules or sugar molecules for your brain and your muscles and your red blood cells to function properly, so you might begin to feel a little foggy-headed. It might be hard to make decisions. A lot of us feel irritable and kind of cranky. It might be hard at that point to think of anything but eating. In addition, people might feel a little shaky or low energy because their red blood cells are running out of glucose. So this idea that we need to keep our glucose level is right on the mark. But we can’t do that unless we’re connected with the symptoms that our body gives us to tell us that we need to add more fuel to our system. So just like on our car, we have this little fuel gauge, and if we’re smart, we keep on eye on it so we don’t run out of gas. Same thing with your body. You’ve got to check in with your fuel gauge periodically and see how you’re feeling. When it starts to get low, you want to tank up a little bit before it hits empty. What people are doing right now, Dr. Brickey, is they’re driving down the road and stopping at every gas station they see, regardless of whether their body actually needs fuel or not. So we just have to think about how we really function our best.

MB: You know, one of my pet peeves is you go to a restaurant and they bring out the bread, and they do that because it distracts them and people don’t get so irritable waiting for their meal to arrive, and because you eat the bread and it gives you a spike in blood sugar and it feels good. When we’re talking about blood sugar levels – I know you normally don’t like rules, but do you encourage people to eat the proteins or fats first, or…?

MM: I don’t – I really don’t like rules and I don’t like to teach people things like that. However, you’re pointing out something that’s really important. And you know, we often hear that people should write down everything that they eat. Well, I don’t like to do that from a counting-weighing-measuring perspective, but I think it can be really helpful for somebody who’s trying to figure out what’s going on and how their body functions best. So let’s say, for example, that I’ve decided that I want to take charge of my eating. I don’t like the way that I feel, I don’t like the way that my clothes are fitting, and I want to have more energy and I want to be healthier and improve my blood sugars. So if I decide that and I begin to log what I eat – not every calorie, not weighing and measuring, but just generally: “Okay, I ate a handful of crackers, I ate an apple, I ate a couple of pieces of hard candy” – whatever, just keep writing it down. And then I happen to notice that on that day that I went out to lunch with my friends and I ate that big, huge platter of pasta that they brought out, and then by 2:00 I was nodding off at the bridge table – very embarrassing. And I note this to my self and I realize that when I overeat these refined carbohydrates like pasta, I feel sleepy. I get this big spike. If I happen to have diabetes and I’m logging my blood sugars, too, I notice my blood sugar went way up and out of control during that time. Well, now I can say, “Look what happened when I did this.” I wasn’t bad. I just have now a little bit of new information that I can use to help me make decisions in the future. So the next time I go to that restaurant, I’m going to order maybe some whole wheat pasta in a half-serving, or I’m going to share it with somebody, or maybe I’m going to choose the chicken breast with the veggies and just a little side order of pasta instead. And then when I do that and I notice that I was more energetic and I felt better and my blood sugar was more level, now I say, “Ah, that worked better for me, and in the future I’m going to choose that.” So again, it’s not about me telling a person what to do; it’s about helping them figure out what works best for them so that they can make those decisions long-term. Because, you know, I’m not going to be with you on your cruise or at your daughter’s wedding, and so ultimately you have to be able to make those decisions on your own, without having to think of what I would say.

MB: So you want the primary information coming from our bodies, but it doesn’t hurt to get a second opinion from sometimes logging what you eat or taking a look at some of the rules.

MM: Well, exactly. And nutrition information, and so many of us have resources and sources available to people to help educate them about the effects of food. But nutrition information should be a tool, not a weapon. We want to ultimately use that information to help us make decisions, but we don’t want to beat ourselves over the head. We don’t want to tell ourselves that “I can’t have this,” and “I can’t have that,” and “This is bad,” and “If I eat that, I’m bad,” because ultimately that only results in rebellion. These feelings of deprivation are so powerful that they will actually begin to create cravings that drive us back to eating the very thing that we didn’t want to eat in the first place. So again, it’s not so much about controlling ourselves around certain foods, but it’s about being in charge of how we feel and how we want to feel.

MB: Being in charge is a great feeling. You say that eating right can be fun, and that’s probably for a lot of people to believe. How can it be fun?

MM: It’s true. People have such a love/hate relationship with food. But one of the things that I love to do – I do a lot of speaking at professional organizations and associations and corporations – and one of the things I love to do with them if I have the opportunity is a mindful eating meal. And essentially I teach them about just some of the things that we’ve talked about here and a lot more. And I sit down with them and we eat together, and I show them when they aren’t distracted by the television or reading the newspaper, when they really smell their food and see their food and give thanks for their food, and when they choose their every single bite and they chew it carefully and notice every taste, every aroma, every seasoning as it’s going down, and then choose the next bite just as carefully, noticing how their body is feeling, noticing when they’re becoming satisfied and when the food isn’t as flavorful anymore, which is a signal that they’re not hungry, those kinds of little things will bring such an amazing sense of pleasure. One of the ways that I compare it is if you have a young grandchild and that grandchild came over to visit you and you were working on the internet and you had your back to that child and you said, “How was your day? So good to see you,” and you kept typing along and not paying any attention to that child, that child wouldn’t feel very loved, and you certainly wouldn’t feel very connected and wouldn’t enjoy that relationship. Well, food is very much the same. We need to pay full attention to get every morsel of enjoyment out of it, instead of shoveling it down while we’re driving or talking on the phone or watching TV. So ultimately this idea that food can be joyful and wonderful and we can have fun and cook with other people and eat with our fingers and talk and enjoy it – that’s really that healthy relationship with food. We don’t want to be sitting our dinner talking about how many calories are in it or how bad we’re being or how many minutes we’re going to have to spend on the treadmill tomorrow, which just takes all the joy out of it, doesn’t it?

MB: So you’re into getting people to be very sensual about their food.

MM: That’s a great word. I love that word. Maybe I’ll call my next book Sensual Eating.

MB: I like it.

MM: It’s a good feeling and I think food should be that way. It’s intended that way, and I think it’s really our current culture that has turned it into such a battle. I don’t think it needs to be that way.

MB: When people are clearly obese and they say to you, “It’s got to be genetic. My body just doesn’t work the way everybody else’s body works,” what do you say to them?

MM: Well, I think there is genetic variation. Even before we had McDonald’s and such readily available food and so much automation and mechanical society, there still were overweight people way back in history. So I think there is genetic variation that makes some people more prone to that. But we’ve seen such an epidemic that we know that there’s no way that there’s been a genetic drift in the last 20 or 30 years, and that’s just not possible. And so clearly what’s happening is we’ve taken people who might have a propensity for gaining weight and put them in a really abundant food environment, and then allowed them or taught them or helped them become disconnected from their eating. So I think that, rather than saying, “This is just the way I am, it’s never going to change,” I think a person can be in charge and say, “I might be heavier than the average person, and in fact, for now, I’m not even going to focus on my weight as the issue. I’m going to focus on eating in a way that feels better to me. I’m going to focus on eating in a way where I can really enjoy my food. I want to eat in a way that doesn’t leave me feeling stuffed and uncomfortable and regretful. And I want to move my body in a way that I can function fully in my life and run with my grandchildren and go get into an airplane seat if I want to.” Those are very real, tangible, exciting, fun things to think about. It’s not about a number on the scale. It’s about how I’m living my life right now and how I’m feeling with every decision that I make.

MB: I’m sure you have a lot of pet peeves about some of the popular diets. Which ones would you say are the worst?

MM: I’m reluctant to point fingers because, in fact, any time anybody teaches you “This is the way you must eat,” it has a tendency to backfire. So even for example, what I’ve been talking about with hunger, some people that are listening to this are saying, “Okay, so the rule is I can only eat when I’m hungry.” Well, as soon as they make that the rule, they’re going to rebel against what I’m saying, too. I never said that. What I said was: Ask yourself if you’re hungry when you feel like eating. Connect with your body and then make a choice. So ultimately, any time some outside expert tells you what you should do, it’s very likely that there will eventually come a time when you stop doing that. So I often tell people, if what you’re considering doing isn’t something that you can imagine doing every single day for the rest of your life, no matter what else is going on, then don’t bother doing it for a day, because as soon as you go back to what you were doing before, you will gain the weight back. That’s what we’ve been seeing. And unfortunately, a lot of people gain back more. So I don’t think one diet is worse than another one. Some of the worst ones medically or physiologically, they’re so hard for people to stay on, they can’t really be on them long enough to injure themselves, you know. They just can’t stick to it because it’s so hard, so…

MB: The “Am I Hungry?” Program is certainly one of the most comprehensive. Are there prices of some of the popular diets that get it right?

MM: Yeah, I think you’re starting to see more people talking about hunger as a cue. I think a lot of even popular diets – for example, I’ve noticed that Weight Watchers, their big New Years push this year has been, “Stop dieting, start living.” And I just have to laugh because that’s actually the tagline on my website and on all my materials. So it’s funny that even some of the very popular diets are using phrases about not dieting. The truth of the matter is that even Weight Watchers is a way of weighing and measuring and counting in order to come up with a point value. So I don’t think that just because we call it a lifestyle change means that it’s not restrictive in nature. But a lot of people can learn really good information about nutrition. A lot of the people that I’ve worked with, including myself, who’ve been on Weight Watchers lots of times, we have a lot of information about nutrition. And so I think there’s something to be gained from that. It’s the restriction part of it that gets people into trouble. It’s the, you know, “Okay, so this food has a lot of sugar in it, therefore you have to exercise X-amount more minutes if you want to eat it,” or “If you eat it, you have to eat less of something else.” I mean, those kinds of things, in the long run, tend to backfire.

MB: For people that want to use physical fitness to help them become healthier and lose weight, are there some physical activities that are more helpful than others?

MM: I think really, for most of us, where we see the most benefit is when we increase from where we are to that next level. So what I mean by that is that if a person is very sedentary and not doing anything at all, and now they choose to get up and go get their own mail, maybe walk their dog around one single block, they’re going to see remarkable improvements in their energy level and how they feel. So I often tell people that the place to start is exactly where you are. Instead of, again, focusing off into the future of, “Oh, I should exercise 30 to 60 minutes every day, like the government says,” how about, “Look, I’m doing nothing right now. I’m going to exercise for five minutes every day this week.” Well, you know what, that may not seem like very much, but it’s huge. It’s a 500% increase over what you were doing before. And that little door opener helps you see that it is possible to be more active. And then next week it might be seven minutes, and the week after that it might be ten. And who knows, by the end of the year maybe it is realistic to do 30 minutes. So I encourage people to start wherever they are. Now if they’re really physically active and they’re enjoying it and all they’re doing is walking, they’re going to get huge benefits by adding strength training. If people are doing walking and strength training and they’re not taking the time to stretch afterwards, they’re going to notice a huge improvement when they begin to take a yoga class or a stretching class. So there’s always more that we can do, but the point is that you start exactly where you are and not avoid it because it’s too hard or the goal is too far off in the future.

MB: I love the way your philosophy just all fits together and it’s so consistent. There is a rule I want to ask you about – the business about drinking eight glasses of water a day. I’ve also had some very bright physicians tell me that that’s not necessarily so. Is that important?

MM: You know, that’s a great question, too. When we wrote Am I Hungry? I also had a dietician and a psychologist that worked on the book with me, and we didn’t put anything in that book that we couldn’t find researched evidence for. We looked everywhere for data and studies that showed that that was the right amount of water, and we couldn’t find it. And so the truth is, is that that’s been some dogma that’s been passed down from year to year to year, diet to diet to diet. There really is no apparent physiologic reason to drink eight exact glasses of day. And in fact, what we know is that people who are overweight actually need more water. I live in Arizona; people who live out here need more water. People who are exercising or ill need more water, or on certain medications. So here’s what I tell people. Instead of following an arbitrarily rule about how much water you should drink – any more than following an arbitrary rule about how many calories you should eat – try to connect with your body. And here’s how you do it with water. Whenever you pee, stand up and look into the bowl and see what the urine looks like. If it’s very dark, that usually means that your body is concentrating the fluids in your body. It means it’s not getting enough fluid. When you start increasing the amount of water you drink, your urine will look lighter and more dilute. Now, the exception to that, of course, is certain medications and certain vitamins. But for people who aren’t on those vitamins, that’s a really handy cue for how well they’re doing water-wise.

MB: So again, it’s listening to your body and noticing your body instead of following arbitrary rules.

MM: Exactly.

MB: People who go on your program or other programs – I’m sure even your people sometimes blow the – what they were supposed to do, and maybe are embarrassed and just want to give up on the whole thing. What do you say to them at that point?

MM: You know, I think that every mistake that we make is a learning opportunity. Every time I screw something up – and I do it myself and I’ve been eating this way for a dozen years now – every time I screw something up, I learn something about myself. I learn a little bit more about what would work better for me. What got in the way? What happened today that I ate so much more than I meant to? And when I approach any situation, particularly around learning to eat healthier and be more physically active, with a sense not of judgment and failure, but a sense of learning and openness to this journey, then I can improve, I can get better. That’s why earlier when we were talking about how much people eat, you didn’t hear me say that I would feel guilty when I ate too much. I said you would feel regretful. Because guilt means you were bad; you did something that you shouldn’t have. But regret means that you did something that you wish you hadn’t. And because of that, you can take that information and learn from it and choose a different path next time. That’s how we learn. That’s how children learn. If children felt guilty and gave up every time they fell down as they were learning to walk, we’d all still be crawling on all fours. But we get back up, we learn from our mistakes, we brush ourselves off, and we try it again until we get it right.

MB: I like that. Now, you have CDs, you have books, you have workshops. How does a person know what is the best fit for them, or whether a book or CD would sufficient, or whether they need the whole treatment of a workshop?

MM: Oh, that’s a great question. You know, we have lots of formats because, as you know, people learn differently. They learn at different paces. So somebody who’s just trying to get an idea whether this is right for them might not want to spend a single dime. On our website we have a little quiz that they can take. They can actually download the first chapter of the book for free, just clicking on the links in our shopping cart. So, you know, we want people to have the information. And so I would first encourage anybody who’s thinking to themselves, “You know, this makes sense for me. I’ve done a lot of dieting. It hasn’t worked. I’ve always believed there could be another way.” I would encourage them to just roam around on AmIHungry.com, read a few articles, download the first free chapter – don’t spend a penny, just spend a little bit of your time. And if it feels right, pick up the book or maybe click on one of our workshop links. We have facilitators all over the country and we have facilitators that teach by telephone for people that don’t have a facilitator near them or don’t like to travel or don’t like to go out of their house. And so they can take a workshop by telephone if they wanted to. So I ultimately think, just like the approach of managing your weight, just as different things work for different people, so can we learn this approach in different ways – listening, talking, reading, whatever works for you.

MB: You are so individualized about everything you do. Is there any last piece of advice or comments you’d like to share with us?

MM: Yes. I would say that you are never too old to take care of what’s happening in your life. If something hasn’t been working for decades and decades, that’s all the more reason to try something different. Don’t try the same old thing over and over again, expecting it to turn out different. It’s time to really say, “Is it possible that I could go back to learning how to eat instinctively again? Can I learn how to take care of my body and listen to my body and trust what it’s telling me? And can I restore a joyful relationship with food and physical activity that serves me well?” I think it’s possible. I’ve seen it happen hundreds and hundreds of times. And I hope that your listeners are learners and people that want to make changes, because ultimately it’s only when we do the same thing over and over again that we get stuck.

MB: Dr. Michelle May, you are a jewel. The program you developed is just so beautifully consistent and common sense and is just such a great philosophy – as a matter of fact, a philosophy that could spill over into a lot of other aspects of life.

MM: Oh, I agree with you completely. That’s the joy of it. You see it showing up all over the place.

MB: This is America’s Anti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael Brickey, with the Ageless Lifestyles Radio Program, and today’s guest is Am I Hungry? doctor, Dr. Michelle May, and you can learn about her books, workshops, and coaching programs at http://www.amihungry.com/. Her flagship book is Am I Hungry? And information on Anti-Aging Psychology is at DrBricky.com, or you can just go to www.NotAging.com.

Publicist/Stylist Anne HavelockAnti-Aging Psychologist, Dr. Michael Brickey

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

Host: Anti-Aging Psychologist Dr. Michael Brickey

Expert Guest: ATLAST Publisher Anne Havelock

Broadcast: 1-11-08 on webtalkradio.net where the latest shows are broadcast and posted as podcasts

Ann Havelock knows a lot of the secrets for how to look great at every age and have sex appeal to boot. A hair stylist and salon owner, she found herself showing older clients how to look fabulous at 50 and sexy at 60. She is the publisher of ATLAST magazine, a hairstyle/personal image magazine for men and women over 45. She also is a professional speaker. Her website is http://www.atlast.org

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