Taking Care of Yourself, Both Mind and Body

Tree pose

Most of us tend to view our physical and emotional/mental health as very separate things. The truth is, our physical and mental health are very intimately connected. One way I find helpful in remembering this basic truth is to consider infants’ behavior. If a baby is crying, what’s wrong? Is the baby hungry, tired, sick? Every infant’s emotional distress is linked in some way to not getting a basic physical need met. Although we don’t always think about things this way, the same is true for adults! When our basic needs haven’t been met, we are much more vulnerable to emotional distress and difficulty coping with daily stressors.

One helpful device to remember is “PLEASE MASTER”, this comes from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, an evidence-based therapeutic treatment modality created by Marsha Linehan. If we follow the guidelines below, paying attention and attending to our basic needs, we are much more likely to cope well with challenges and feel more emotionally resilient.


Treat Physical Illness: If you aren’t feeling well, take some time to rest! If we don’t take care of ourselves when we’re sick, we’re likely to be more sad, anxious and overwhelmed.


Balance Eating: Have you ever heard the term “hangry”? This is how I (and many others) get when they haven’t had enough to eat. Not getting enough carbs, fats, protein, etc can also have an effect on our moods, and we are generally the most emotionally stable when we are well nourished.


Avoid mood altering substances: Drugs like alcohol and marijuana are called mood altering substances for a reason. If you’ve ever noticed feeling more sad or anxious after a night of drinking alcohol, it’s likely that the alcohol is having a negative impact on your mood. It is, after all, a depressant. 


Balance Sleep: Many studies have shown that our brains do not function as highly when we are sleep deprived. We are also less resilient to emotional stressors that may come our way when we haven’t gotten enough sleep (ie. Bursting into tears when there’s miscommunication at work or when we lose our keys). We can also be emotionally compromised by getting too much sleep, feeling low energy, sluggish and sad. To be best prepared for the day-to-day challenges life throws at us, most of us need 8-9 hours of sleep. 


Get Exercise: Getting regular exercise tends to boost our energy and keep us emotionally stable. Many studies have shown that regular moderate exercise can even have the equivalent mental health benefits of a low dose anti-depressant.


Build MASTER-y: The idea of building mastery means doing one thing every day that helps you to feel competent and in control. For me, this is cooking and having a regular yoga practice. For others it might be learning how to knit or how to play guitar. It can even be as simple as sending that email you’ve been avoiding or flossing your teeth every morning.

serenity rocks Written by: Caitlin Liddle. Read more about Caitlin here!


Living now.

After spending a week on “river time” I let my life become too busy to reflect. Instead of using my experience of pure mindfulness for a week to enhance my self-awareness upon returning to the city, I jumped right back into hectic. Scheduling appointments, checking my phone impulsively, worrying about finances, planning out my days to the half hour, waiting last minute to catch a bus and rushing, procrastinating on busy administrative work, worrying about things I can’t control, looking far ahead, straying away from self-reflection and losing sleep. Then I revisited some pictures…

I spent seven days in the Grand Canyon in early June with a diverse clan of people from all different parts of the country, in different careers, with an array of experience in life. We rafted 90 miles down the Colorado River before hiking out on the Bright Angel Trail. The whole trip consisted of waking up at sunrise, having coffee and breakfast, packing up camp, rafting a few miles, stopping to hike or lunch, rafting some more, hiking and exploring some more, and stopping for the night for dinner, stories, jokes, and sleeping under the stars to wake at sunrise again. There was no cell phone service, and no one had to know what time it was. We woke when the sun woke us, we ate when our stomachs wanted food and our body needed energy, we rode the rapids as they came and we soaked up history, culture, and each others’ company. It was the first time I experienced true mindfulness. There was no use for thinking about the past or future, and when it did creep in, it only took the action of opening up your eyes to the old rock walls around you.

Grand Canyon hike Grand Canyon Rafting and Fishing

Being back in the city it is all too easy to be consumed by the “what if”. We tend to focus on things that might happen, what people might think or how to please them. We get wrapped up in what others are doing on our instagram feeds, facebook, and twitter. All in fun of course but when do we take the time to unplug and be in the moment, soaking up the now?

Unplugging is beneficial for your health. I am able to unplug during exercise when physical effort is felt and my mind is quiet, however what I had in the canyon was peace of mind at rest as well. Stress can wreck more than havoc on your sleeping schedule- it can cause weight gain, skin irritations, high blood pressure, relationship tension,immune deficiency, and procrastination. A busy mind is not always a productive mind. Healthy living requires being active and eating well, but also being present and managing stress to be at ease and productive. One of CBM’s favorite blogs has an array of techniques and skills to enhance mindfulness for healthy living. Its always a nice refresher to visit Mind Body Green  . Check them out for some tips on stress management.

Night Sky on the Colorado

A night under the stars

The Student-Athlete

Hello followers of Chicago CBM! My name is Molly Hulseman and I have recently joined the CBM staff. I will be helping out with the media outlets for CBM. Currently I am a junior biology/psychology major at Loyola University Maryland, and I play on their division I lacrosse team.

I have played sports my entire life, but it has only been in the past three or four years where I realized how mental sports can truly be. My mental game was a large part of my high school success.  As a current college athlete for a program that plays at the highest level, it is most important for me to mentally control my game. My goal for every time I go out onto the practice field is to be at my peak performance.

As a student athlete, I strive to perform in the classroom and on the field to the best of my abilities.  I have a desire to be mentally and physically ready for any challenge that crosses my path. This summer going into my junior year marks the halfway point to this incredible journey that is college as an athlete. As I start the summer workout packet I think about my mental state of the game. For my friends, summer is their time to have fun away from school, but for me it is time for me to focus on what I want to achieve in these next two years of lacrosse. My freshmen year marked a focused state of mind, while my sophomore year was all about distractions. I could not mentally prepare myself for the work that needed to be done. I want to be able to leave my work from the past years and focus on the present. The work starts now physically and mentally. I want to go back to the focus I had freshman year in hopes of contributing to a championship team.


Everything is better under the lights, even conditioning! This shot was taken during our 2013 spring pre-season. I look at this picture when I need motivation in my workouts. It reminds me to work for my team. We are all in this together.

A coach once told me that proper nutrition is 50% of the battle of getting to my peak performance. It is crucial to remember that sport and health go hand-in-hand. Certain “barriers” hold us back from reaching our top performance when it comes to health. Weight, stress, and injury management are common areas of improvement. This is where CBM can help. I want to be able to help people reach their maximum potential, and I know CBM can help them do it. CBM can help you as an athlete reach your full potential on the field as well as off the field.

I look forward to working with Chicago CBM because their ideals coincide with my ideals as an athlete. CBM helps to create a foundation from which to live. Sports psychology goes deeper than the sport. It goes into the soul of the individual. CBM has already taught me new ways I can go about my lacrosse workouts. I rethink my goals and motivations in order to be the best that I can be. How can CBM help you?


Beach Body or Healthy Body


As the weather starts to warm up, the side walks become more crowded and plans of boating, beaching, and vacationing are added to the calender, a small sense of anxiety creeps in about putting on a bathing suit. Its the season of last minute dieting and crunch time (no pun intended) for getting “fit”. As health is our primary mission as practitioners for our clients and ourselves, we too can get caught in the madness of what our real goal is. Health has a different definition for each individual but things that can make it blurry are numbers on the scale, how clothes you love look on others, what we see in the mirror, “health” tips…from pintrest, facebook, twitter etc. Why is it so hard to aim for healthy and so easy to set our sights and expectations for slim, skinny, and the unreachable perfect?

We propose a challenge. This summer, lets set our focus towards action, socially responsible causes that make us feel good, engaging in fun social events, becoming mindful about nutrition and fitness. Overall lets respect our bodies and find comfort, meditation, and enjoyment in our emotional, physical and mental health.

Here is what is on our TO DO list:

  1. Volunteer
  2. Participate in an organized charitable event (races, obstacle courses, walks, city initiatives)
  3. Get at least 30 minutes of activity in a day
  4. Eat for fuel and nutritional value (no crazy restrictions or pills needed, just food from mother earth!)
  5. Soak up some Vitamin D
  6. Take time to breathe, relax, and meditate 
  7. Constantly evaluate and set short and long term goals ( and write them down, or tell a friend!)
  8. Ask for help
  9. Reflect on the positive
  10. Find comfort in uncomfort- take risks and seek the reward (sometimes a sense of accomplishment can feel like a million bucks).

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We want to feel good about ourselves; we want to be our ideal size, weight, have healthy relationships, eat right, and sleep right. Unfortunately there is not one way. Life can be lived focused on a beach body or your beach body can come from enjoying an active, healthy and fulfilled lifestyle.

One size cannot fit all.

I have spent the last ten years of my life physically training, mentally preparing, and exploring the world of nutrition for races, competitions, games, professional and personal development. In my “research” the most difficult challenge is seeking truth and the right program leading to the best results for my goals. I also constantly wonder when the “health craze” will no longer be a craze but a way of life for a majority of the world.

I find myself eaves dropping on the latest “best paleo meal”, “super foods” discussions, “the best burn, barre workout ever”, a “quick trick”, fast “fix”, “best results”, “juice cleanse”, that “actually works”! How many times do we have to put ourselves through misery before we find happiness with ourselves amongst all the chaos and chatter of what works?

News on health cartoon

As we battle through the headlines and celebrity answers there are certified professionals claiming they know what is best. More likely than not it is the professionals with the credentials that will persuade us their way is the only way to be healthy.

At a recent health promotion event the objective of raising awareness for disease prevention and spreading the word on healthy living was masked by professionals gloating about their products and programs, but more so themselves. Humans are constantly changing and growing, its not possible to have a definitive end to all means. New disease is found everyday. Records are broken all the time, and there is always a heroic underdog story, so how can we say one way is the right way

    It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.

Charles Darwin

One size does not fit all. As humans, there is not one body that is exactly similar to the other. Even identical twins carry out different thought processes, flock to different interests, and have relationships with different people. Today the words fix, trick, and diet can grab the attention of anyone looking for quick results. Credentials and degrees can easily persuade us even when we have no idea what they mean. The world of marketing is impressive and as we become more aware of our health, the market for health products, activities, and promotions has started to become overwhelmingly confusing. It is important to look out for yourself

(Disclaimer: Even this blog post is written from one perspective).

  1. Be open to other ideas, but do not take them as exclusive solutions
  2. Continue to work on self-awareness. Know thyself and be confident with your goals in order to find the lifestyle the fits for you
  3. Consult with a doctor you trust and are comfortable with.
  4. Make sure you are seeking credible research

Tips for assessing the credibility of online information

  • Does the Web site provide references for research that can be independently verified?
  • Are authors identified? Are their affiliations, credentials, and contact information provided?
  • Who owns or is responsible for the Web site? Is a physical address and complete contact information provided?
  • Does the site describe its mission? Are staff members identified?
  • Does the site carry advertising? If it is run by a not-for-profit organization, are its sources of funding identified?
  • Is the site professional in appearance and quality? How recently has it been updated? Is it free from typographical and grammatical errors?
  • Based on  Stanford Guidelines for Web Credibility

In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.

Charles Darwin


As a practice specializing in sport and health, at CBM wee to keep our minds and eyes open for new research, we must remain adaptable and accepting to new findings and experience. It would be ignorant to have one method to apply to everyone’s challenges. We work to understand each of our clients individually through their unique experiences, perspectives, developments, challenges, and skill sets. And at the end of the day we grow more aware of the overwhelming health market that could turn anyone’s tail in between their legs.


Its important to remember that we are an ever changing culture. Through growth and new discoveries we find more risk but also breakthroughs leading us to develop further hypotheses. Health is a constant priority, not a trend or craze to focus on and then forget. There are infinite ways to address health, thanks to the complex brain we have developed. We must be capable of collaborating for most efficient and effective terms of creating solutions for each other to promote our ideal healthy world.

The missing link?

We are driven by the unique interaction of our personal experiences, emotions, thoughts, with which we then act. In our ever-lasting hunger for self-satisfaction, it seems we as a human race continually get knocked down from what feels like a failure to lose weight, be healthy, stay fit, and live actively. There must be at least five headlines everyday devoted to heath and weight. We have driven ourselves into debilitating disease in which our loved ones and ourselves are suffering from obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, extreme physical, mental and emotional stress that leaks into all realms of lifestyle.

We are entertained by reality series on weight loss, spend money on diets, and fitness plans, yet it is all too easy to get back into the “old way”; the easy way to eat, purchase or save money, not exercise, stay in bed longer, “take a load off” with drinking or staying out too late, and losing track of our intake. The common missing link in this pattern is management, support, and continual self-awareness. Behavioral Counseling for sustainable change is the essential piece to achieving that over-used, over-heard term “wellness”.


In a recent study on the work-place it was found that employees in a worksite-based weight loss intervention lost weight and maintained with behavioral counseling (Tufts University, 2013). The participants in the experimental group had a counselor with training in both nutrition and behavior modification with whom they met with one to two times a week. Education on strategies for planning, portions, hunger, and stress were discussed along with weekly email support. They followed a reduced calorie diet (low-glycemic, high fiber) in which they were responsible for purchasing their own food. The participants were also offered to enroll in a six-months structured maintenance program. Results showed obese and overweight participants of the intervention lost three pounds compared to control site employees who gained two pounds.


What a refreshing research intervention demonstrating the necessity of behavior management in order to achieve sustainable lifestyle change. We are habitual creatures and comfort is difficult to escape. When it comes to diet and fitness, things get uncomfortable first. The time and energy needed for lifestyle change is unique to the individual’s goals and current state. With support and guidance in the approach to changing behaviors toward health the positive result is almost inevitable. Setting the goal along with continued self-awareness and regulation can be obtained with proper behavioral counseling.

Not oddly enough, the Chicago Sunday news featured another effort to combat obesity. The Healthy Initiative is putting on a “Celebrate Yourself Healthy” event March 9th. The Healthy Initiative in Chicago is led by Shea Vaughn to educate and raise awareness in disease prevention for building healthy lives. The number one take-away from this presentation was Shea Vaughn’s comment on the missing mental and emotional piece to accomplishing a sustainable healthy lifestyle.

Getting “our ducks in order” may require reaching out for counseling; stepping out of our comfort zone is an inevitable piece for change. However, when support (behavioral counseling) is there, the transition can be smoother, the result positive and sustainable, and the journey well worth the discomfort. A longer life is worth the healthy lifestyle change.

So the missing link… behavioral counseling.

Tufts University (2013, February 20). Employees shed pounds in worksite-based weight loss intervention with behavioral counseling. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 24, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2013/02/130220163557.htm

An inspiring evening with Girls in the Game

Celebrate yourself and others will follow.

Girls in the Game

Last night we attended Girls in the Game’s annual Field of Dreams Gala. We are so grateful to have been among so many influential role models, giving girls the opportunity to follow their dreams. Girls in the Game is a nonprofit organization, which provides and strongly promotes sports, leadership, fitness, health, and nutrition for girls in the Chicago area. There is so much attrition in graduation rates in Chicago as well as an increase in childhood obesity and inactivity in the country as a whole. Girls are continuously placed in the back seat due to funding, stereotypes, and lack of positive attention. Girls in the Game is devoted to making a positive impact for the developing generation of girls who don’t have access to the resources to help them strive in a system that seems to be working against our countries youth.

We were reminded about the importance of sport and health in a girls life as we listened to the graduating girls (among the small 55% of Chicago Public School graduation rate) tell their stories of teamwork, leadership, commitment, discipline, and growth, which they learned in their experience with Girls in the Game. We were star struck by Brandi Chastain, the keynote speaker, and emotionally moved by her stories about celebration. Brandi told a story about sharing the emotional drive of celebrating yourself and the impact believing in girls has on their future growth in the world. Her story about teaching a soccer camp of girls the power of celebration moved the room. “Thank you for believing in me”, a girl influenced by Brandi’s passion for soccer and celebration told her.

The other Girls in the Game  2013 Champion’s included, Alison Felix, USA Track All-star and Health Champion, Swin Cash, WNBA Sky All-star and Teamwork champion, Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board President and Leadership Champion, and Sarah Spain, ESPN Anchor and Life Champion. It was a night filled with compassion and energy towards making a difference in girls’ lives. We hope to pay it forward as we continue to spread lessons of sport, fitness and health as they apply to life’s challenges, commitments, and achievements.




Human Instincts – Possible Causes of Obesity and Other Problems

According to Deirdre Barrett, a clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, our primal urges have contributed to creating the obesity epidemic, social isolation, poor risk-assessment tendencies and sex addiction. She discusses the link between our impulses and how it relates to living in the modern world.


APRIL 4, 2010 12:02 PM

The evolutionary impulses that allowed our ancestors to survive on the Savannah are sabotaging us in the modern world, finds groundbreaking new research.

According to Deirdre Barrett, a clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, our lingering primal urges have helped give rise to the obesity epidemic, social isolation, poor risk-assessment tendencies and sex addiction, among countless other things. All because our biology hasn’t caught up to the way we live.

“We still have Stone-Age brains inside contemporarily clothed bodies,” says Barrett, author of the new book Supernormal Stimuli. “So we can’t really trust our instincts; we need to trust our intellects.”

The problem, of course, is that most of us don’t. And according to Barrett’s studies, it’s because we’re governed by the same knee-jerk behaviour as so-called “dumb animals.”

Just as a songbird has been shown to prefer fake eggs over its own real ones, simply because the phonies offer an exaggerated version of reality — brighter colours, embellished markings, larger in size — so, too, are humans duped by their own instincts.

“When we see animals trying to mate with a little cardboard cylinder just because it has the right stripes on the side, it looks really silly to us,” says Barrett. “But magazine pornography isn’t any less unrealistic a depiction of a real woman.”

Because most big genetic changes take 10,000 years or more to pass, she says humans are still coded to respond to their environment in very primitive ways. Once-scarce fat, salt and sugar, for instance, is still pursued today, to the point of excess, despite the fact it’s become widely available.

“Our genes haven’t had time to stop craving those things and start craving green, leafy vegetables, which were around us all the time on the Savannah and didn’t need to be prioritized,” says Barrett.

Our social instincts are as easily fooled — and again, to our detriment — by TV’s exaggerated versions of things we naturally seek out.

“We have very attractive actors smiling at us, and laugh tracks playing, and funny quips coming faster than they ever could in real life,” says Barrett. “All the things that are meant to pull us into a social interaction but, in fact, are pulling us toward a television set.”

Even our ability to detect threats is affected, with Barrett noting people are likelier to gasp at a horror movie or picture of a giant gorilla than news of global warming, which wasn’t an obvious danger to our ancestors.

Because evolution won’t ever catch up to our changing times, she says the best we can do is to recognize what’s happening and try to behave logically.

“We have the tools to handle this, with our superior intellect and brain power,” says Barrett. “The problem is that we act reflexively most of the time.”

Fighting the ‘Fatso Gene’ by Exercising for an Hour a Day

It is not news that exercise and eating healthy can help to combat obesity. Additonally, according to lead author Jonatan Ruiz of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, in a new European Study, one hour of moderate to vigorous exercise a day can help teenagers beat the effects of a common obesity related gene. The study appears in the April edition of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. According to another study’s lead author, Evadnie Rampersaud of the University of Miami, and co-author, Dr. Alan Shuldiner of the University of Maryland, who studied Amish adults said the new findings are “very interesting” because they suggest one hour daily spent exercising can be enough for teenagers at risk. University of Miami researchers now are studying adults in an employee wellness program to see what it takes for them to overcome the fatso gene, Rampersaud said.

The Associated Press
Monday, April 5, 2010; 4:33 PM

CHICAGO — One hour of moderate to vigorous exercise a day can help teens beat the effects of a common obesity-related gene with the nickname “fatso,” according to a new European study.

The message for adolescents is to get moving, said lead author Jonatan Ruiz of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

“Be active in your way,” Ruiz said. “Activities such as playing sports are just fine and enough.”

The study, released Monday, appears in the April edition of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

The research supports U.S. guidelines that tell children and teenagers to get an hour or more of physical activity daily, most of it aerobic activity such as running, jumping rope, swimming, dancing and bicycling.

Scientists are finding evidence that both lifestyle and genes cause obesity and they’re just learning how much diet and exercise can offset the inherited risk.

One gene involved with obesity, the FTO gene, packs on the pounds when it shows up in a variant form. Adults who carry two copies of the gene variant – about 1 in 6 people – weigh on average 7 pounds more than people who don’t.

In the new study, 752 teenagers, who had their blood tested for the gene variant, wore monitoring devices for a week during waking hours to measure their physical activity.

Exercising an hour or more daily made a big difference for the teens who were genetically predisposed to obesity. Their waist measurements, body mass index scores and body fat were the same, on average, as the other teenagers with regular genes.

But the teens with the gene variant had more body fat, bigger waists and higher BMI if they got less than an hour of exercise daily. The results were similar for boys and girls.

The teens lived in Greece, Germany, Belgium, France, Hungary, Italy, Sweden, Austria and Spain. The study was funded by the Spanish and Swedish governments and the European Union.

The new study found that most of the teenagers had at least one copy of the variant gene. Only 37 percent had regular genes. The rest had either one of two copies of the pesky fatso gene.

An earlier study in Amish adults in Lancaster County, Pa., found they needed three to four hours of moderate activity daily to beat the gene. The adults in that study did things like brisk walking, housecleaning and gardening.

The teens in the new study may have exercised more vigorously than the Amish adults, Ruiz said. The new analysis was designed to see whether the current U.S. guidelines – which specify a moderate to vigorous level of exercise for an hour a day – made a difference for kids.

The lead author of the Amish study, Evadnie Rampersaud of the University of Miami, said the new findings are “very interesting” because they suggest one hour daily spent exercising can be enough for teenagers at risk.

University of Miami researchers now are studying adults in an employee wellness program to see what it takes for them to overcome the fatso gene, Rampersaud said.

“The message is clear: genes are not destiny,” said Dr. Alan Shuldiner of the University of Maryland, a co-author of the Amish study. “Those with obesity susceptibility genes should be especially motivated to engage in a physically active lifestyle.”

A Different Obesity Timeline

It would appear that everyone is aware of the obesity epidemic by this point. It is portrayed as a recent occurrence, but this is not the case. John Komlos and Marek Brabec find that obesity rates began rising a long time ago and explain factors that may have contributed to this precursor to today’s obesity epidemic.


New York Times

The obesity epidemic is generally portrayed as a relatively recent phenomenon, but new research paints a different picture.  John Komlos and Marek Brabec find that obesity rates actually began rising in the early 20th century, with significant upsurges after the two World Wars.  The authors point out that “the ‘creeping’ nature of the epidemic, as well as its persistence, does suggest that its roots have been embedded deep in the social fabric and are nourished by a network of disparate sources…”  Komlos and Brabec point to factors like the industrialization of food production, the spread of automobiles, the spread of the media, the IT revolution, and the growing culture of consumption in America to explain the trend.

HERE is the source from the National Bureau of Economic Research:

The Trend of Mean BMI Values of US Adults, Birth Cohorts 1882-1986 Indicates that the Obesity Epidemic Began Earlier than Hitherto

John KomlosMarek Brabec

NBER Working Paper No. 15862*
Issued in April 2010 NBER Program(s):   HE

The trend in the BMI values of the US population has not been estimated accurately because time series data are unavailable and because the focus has been on calculating period effects. In contrast to the prevailing strategies, we estimate the trend and rate of change of BMI values by birth cohorts stratified by gender and ethnicity born 1882-1986. We use loess additive regression models to estimate age and trend effects of BMI values of US-born black and white adults measured between 1959 and 2006. We use all the NHES and NHANES survey data and find that the increase in BMI was already underway among the birth cohorts of the early 20th century. The rate of increase was fastest among black females; for the three other groups under consideration, the rates of increase were similar. The generally persistent upward trend was punctuated by upsurges, particularly after each of the two World Wars. That the estimated rate of change of BMI values increased by 71% among black females between the birth cohorts 1955 and those of 1965 is indicative of the rapid increases in their weight. We infer that transition to post-industrial weights was a gradual process and began considerably earlier than hitherto supposed.