Saturday, December 22, 2007

6 Tips for a Healthy Holiday

6 Tips for a Healthy Holiday

Ah, yes, the butter tarts, shortbread, stuffing and my sisters amazing chocolate martinis are just around the corner! I am almost drooling on my keyboard as I type this!

So how do you control your holiday eating and maintain your exercise routine (because we all have one, right?)

Here are 6 simple ways to keep your waistlines in check and your energy abundant through the holidays.

1. Before your big feast, have an apple and a glass of water. This way you won’t be starving, and can avoid binging on appies before dinner is even served! And please, do not go for that second helping. If you can’t fit it on the first plate then you can’t fit it in your belly either.

2. Spend some special time with family EVERY DAY by going for a neighborhood walk, have a snowball fight, or just put some Christmas tunes on and dance together. Get everyone up and involved – go ahead – get ‘em up!

3. Eat a green smoothie for breakfast every day. You stock up on lots of vitamins and minerals, and can save the fat and carb calories for later. Start all of your other meals with fruit or vegetables as well. This will fill up your tummy a bit on the good stuff so that you don’t eat quite as much of the bad stuff! For some great green smoothie recipes go to

4. You just know that I have to talk about those chocolate martinis! Please be kind to your bodies and drink responsibly. If you drink alcohol, really savor it. No gulping allowed! Take your time and enjoy every sip. Let it sit in your mouth for a few seconds before swallowing it, and really experience the flavor and sensation it provides. Once you are done, move on to a glass of sparkling water with a splash of lemon. Drink it in a fancy glass, and know you are giving your body a special gift – health!

5. Speaking of chocolate, lets talk about sweets. The holidays just aren’t the same without all those yummy, gooey, and decadent treats. Be picky about your treats. If your favorite thing is shortbread, then enjoy a piece of shortbread. The same goes here as for alcohol – really enjoy it. Don’t eat it quickly in one bite because you feel guilty about it. You won’t have time to really savor it and then you will need another (and maybe another). Set a limit for yourself per day, and stick to it. Butter tarts might look great on the plate, but they aren’t so pretty on the hips!

6. Let yourself sit back and enjoy the season. Watch the kids playing with their new toys, chat with your friends or family. Stop doing and just be for a little while. Sit and watch the fire, or the lights on the tree. No one is really going to care if two napkins don’t match (or if you use paper towel for that matter,) so let a few chores slide this season and spend that time doing something that makes you happy!

I hope these suggestions help you have the healthiest holidays ever! Enjoy the season, just savor every treat, and take advantage of your days off to add in some exercise. Give yourself the gift of health this year – you deserve it!

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Self Massage for Tension Headaches

There is nothing worse than trying to get through your work day with pain at the base of the skull, shooting up the back of your head and maybe even behind your eye. This is a text book referral pattern for an upper trapezius trigger point, and is the most common type of headache I treat every day.

So lets discuss how you deal with this and get on with your day! The first thing you should do, if at all possible, it to take a quick break from whatever it is you are doing. Take a couple of deep breaths, and mobilize your head and neck (turn your head side to side, ear to shoulder, and front and back.) Repeat this a few times, and always stay in pain free range – ie – if it hurts, make your movements smaller, or stop.

Next, you need to massage the area – in the case of an upper trapezius trigger point, you want to kneed the bulk of muscle between the neck and shoulder – you might even feel the headache intensify briefly while you work this area, that’s OK – it means you are on the right spot! You want to apply just enough pressure to feel slight discomfort (it kind of hurts and feels good all at the same time), but not so much that you are cringing in pain. You can pinch the muscle between your thumb and fingers and roll it, or use flat fingers and apply direct pressure, or a rubbing motion.

Follow the muscle from the shoulder area all the way up the back of the neck to the base of the skull. You want to work between the spinous processes at the very back of the neck (you can feel the bumps they make) and the transverse processes at the sides (in line with the ears). Be sure not to apply direct pressure over these areas, but work in between them.

Because the upper trapezius attatches to the base of the skull, it is important to work this area as well. You can use your fingers along the ridge, working back and forth and up and down in small “frictioning” movements, or you can also use an eraser to help if your fingers get tired. Again, be sure to use moderate pressure.

After massaging the area, it is important to stretch the muscle out. If you want to stretch the right upper trapezius muscle, you need to sit nice and tall, looking straight ahead, and bend your neck to the left, dropping your left ear to left shoulder. You should feel a gentle pulling sensation along the right side of your neck and shoulder. Hold here, taking a couple of deep breaths. If you don’t feel anything, you can use your left hand on your head to gently guide the stretch further.

Heat can also be applied to the muscles, either before you start your self-massage, or in lieu of massage, and in conjunction with the stretch just described.

This should be enough to alleviate the average tension headache. If your symptoms do not improve, it might be time to seek some professional help!

I hope this helps you with your tension headaches!

Important Note:

The above information is for tension headache, and may not be appropriate for cluster, migraine or other types of headaches. If your headache symptoms seem unusual or more severe than normal, please contact your M.D.

Do you want to use this article on your website, blog or e-zine? You can, as long as you include this blurb with it: “Denise Mackinnon is a registered massage therapist and health and wellness advocate. You can learn more by going to

The material in this article is intended for information purposes only and should not be used in place of consultation with your medical doctor or other health care professional. Denise Mackinnon RMT is not responsible for errors, omissions, or inconsistencies with respect ot the information contained in this article and does not accept any liability whatsoever for reliance by the reader on the information contained herein.