How to stay healthy, happy and active when winter is just… awful.

Dec 21st. Winter Solstice. The shortest lonely trees in winterday of the year.

Here in Fargo, North Dakota, where I live, we’ll have about 8 hours and 30 minutes of daylight on that day.

Which means… 15 hours and 30 minutes of darkness.

Good grief. And we won’t even mention the temperature!

Even people who love the winter season, like me, often struggle to stay healthy, happy and active during these long, dark, icy, snowy, cold, blustery wintery months.

It takes some planning (and a fair amount of willpower) but it can be done.

I’ve survived many a long, grim winters having been born in Minnesota and raised in North Dakota. I remember many mornings waiting for the school bus shivering! Here are my tips on how to take care of your body and mind when it’s frightful outside:

Get outside. I know. The last thing you want to do when it’s bitterly cold is pop outside! All those clothes, the layers… ugh. It’s exhausting, just getting dressed!

But your body requires a daily dose of fresh air in order to function properly.
Breathing in some fresh air — even just for a few minutes — can help to deliver more oxygen to your brain, stimulate your metabolism, and possibly stimulate the production of serotonin — a neurotransmitter than promotes feelings of happiness and well-being.

So, bundle up. Put on a snow-suit that makes you look like the Michelin Tire Man if you have to! But try to get outside at least once, every day. Maybe it’s just on your walk to the car. Before the wind blows you away, take some deep breaths of the cold, crisp air.

Hydrate. We still need to drink plenty of water, even though we don’t have the summer sun to heat us up.

If the air in your home is dry, put a humidifier in your bedroom. It’s good for your skin, and can help prevent nosebleeds.

Moisturize right after your bath or shower to prevent dry, itchy skin.

Move your body. Every little bit helps, even shoveling snow from your driveway!

Or, if you want to pump up your heart rate without getting frostbite, try a video class that you can do in your living room.

Check out Erin Stutland’s Shrink Sessions (positive affirmations to boost your mood, plus gentle aerobics to get your heart pumping!)

I also love YogaGlo (yoga videos, on demand, with options for all different levels.)

And for yogis with curvier bodies… Anna Guest-Jelley’s Curvy Yoga programs are fantastic! She provides modifications for bodies of all shapes and sizes. Check out her Freebies for a no-cost introduction. (She’s absolutely adorable. You’ll love her!)

For the little people in our lives, take a cue from my friend Dr Hope Yongsmith. She turned the basement into a playroom/dance floor, complete with disco ball. Kidz Bop tunes blare, and the kids get down and boogie. My son aspires to be a break dancing king….but for now he looks like an awkward cricket!

Try a light box. Light boxes (also called: bright light therapy boxes and phototherapy boxes) are special lamps that mimic the natural light from the sun.

Your light box won’t give you a tan, but for many people, these boxes create a feeling of alertness and energy, just like waking up to a bright, sunny morning. They help combat Seasonal Affective Disorder, appropriately called SAD.

We put one of these inside my medical center, and several team members swear that it has changed their lives!

Most cost less than $150, and they’re well worth the investment. (Here’s a guide to choosing a light box that’s ideal for you.)

Connect with people you love. Winter tends to make people hole up and hibernate. That’s fine, in moderation. But if it has been weeks since you’ve shared a meal or a big, belly laugh with your friends… that’s a problem.

It may sound dramatic, but social isolation is considered a serious health risk — just as dangerous as obesity or smoking.

So, try not to isolate yourself. Make an effort to connect.

Throw a potluck. Meet friends for hot cocoa. Write an email to five people you miss, and say, “Let’s have a phone date. I’d love to hear your voice.”

I recommend blocking out at least two hours a week for social connection and friend-time.

Circle the time on your calendar in advance, and protect it, so that it doesn’t get swallowed up by work or other obligations.

Treat your “friend-time” as a non-negotiable health commitment, just as important as brushing your teeth, or keeping a doctor’s appointment.

Spending time with friends could, very literally, save your life.






There you have it:

My recipe for a happy, healthy winter season.

Your challenge, right now?

Close your web browser.

Set aside your computer, tablet or phone.

Then, go give your body some air, sweat, light, social connection… or all of the above.

I know it’s dark and cold, and it might be difficult to find the motivation to get going…

But once you do?

You’ll feel so amazing.


Dr. Sue

P.S. How do you beat the wintertime blues?

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Everything you ever wanted to know about… gluten.

A few days ago, I popped onto Facebookgrains in jars and asked a few friends:

“What’s something you’d love to see me write about?”

Someone said:


That’s not surprising. I am asked about it often in my office. And at cocktail parties, in the grocery store, and in the hallway at school!

“Gluten” has exploded into our consciousness over the past couple of years.

Just about everything at the grocery store — from corn chips to specialty baking mixes to bottled water to fresh apples — now proudly bears the label:


But what do all of these new labels and buzzwords actually mean?

Here’s the real dirt on gluten — straight from an MD.

. . .

Gluten: what is it, anyway?

There are four types of protein found in grains:

1. Albumin

2. Globulin

3. Gliadin

4. Gluten

But, not every grain contains all four proteins!

Certain grains contain gluten. Certain grains don’t.

. . .

Which grains contain gluten, and which don’t?

Grains like durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, rye and barley do contain gluten.

(Here’s a complete list of grains that contain gluten.)

Grains like rice, corn, quinoa, yucca and millet do not contain gluten.

(Here’s a complete list of grains that do not contain gluten.)

. . .

Celiac disease vs. wheat allergy vs. gluten sensitivity: what’s the difference?

Celiac disease is a serious condition that affects about 1 in 100 people, worldwide.

If you have Celiac disease, it means that your body cannot process gluten at all — not even a tiny crumb.

If you have Celiac disease, and you eat gluten, your immune system will try to “attack” it. This leads to small intestine damage… which is not a good thing.

If left undetected or unmanaged, Celiac disease can lead to other health problems including diabetes, anemia, neurological conditions like epilepsy and migraines, and even intestinal cancer.

You must be eating gluten for the damage to be recognized. The gold-standard for diagnosis is a small bowel biopsy taken via an endoscope.

The only way to deal with Celiac disease is to avoid gluten, completely.

Wheat allergies are not the same as Celiac disease.

If you have a wheat allergy, you might be allergic to gluten… and/or, you might be allergic to one of the other proteins found in certain grains (albumin, globulin or gliadin).

If you have a wheat allergy, eating wheat products can cause hives, swelling, itching, rashes, and in some cases, tightness of the throat and difficulty breathing.

Your small intestine isn’t being singled-out for attack, but your entire body can get seriously upset, even to the point of deadly anaphylaxis.

The only way to deal with a wheat allergy is to avoid wheat products, completely.

Gluten sensitivity is not the same as Celiac disease or a wheat allergy.

It can be uncomfortable and unpleasant.

If you are sensitive to gluten, it means that eating gluten can make you feel foggy, tired, give you a headache, or make you feel bloated or constipated. Not life-threatening, but definitely not much fun!

However, many people who think they are sensitive to gluten are actually sensitive to something else. Some people feel better gluten-free for a few weeks, then their symptoms return.
Which brings us to…

. . .

The big 8.

90% of food sensitivities are connected to 1 of the following 8 foods:

1. Milk

2. Eggs

3. Fish

4. Shellfish

5. Tree nuts

6. Peanuts

7. Wheat/Grains [all 4 types of protein, not just gluten]

8. Soybean

If you feel chronically foggy, icky, bloated, or just “not good,” it’s a good idea to rule out all of the possible culprits, one by one, before immediately leaping to the conclusion that gluten is the problem. This is called an elimination-challenge diet.

To do this, you’ll need to remove all of the “big 8” from your diet, completely, for at least three weeks. You’ll need to closely track your body to see how you feel once all of the potential culprits have been removed.

Then, one by one, add each food back into your diet.

Here’s a sample plan:

Week 1 – 3: Remove all of the “big 8” from your diet, completely.

Week 4: Remove all of the “big 8” from your diet, completely… except, add Milk back in.

Week 5: Remove all of the “big 8” from your diet, completely… except, add Milk and Eggs back in.

Week 6: Remove all of the “big 8” from your diet, completely… except, add Milk, Eggs and Fish back in.

Week 7: Remove all of the “big 8” from your diet, completely… except, add Milk, Eggs, Fish and Shellfish back in.


Keep going until you reach a week where, suddenly, you feel “not so good” again.

Which food did you re-introduce into your diet, that week? Bingo! That’s probably the culprit.

Identifying your food sensitivities can require a considerable amount of time, patience and experimentation.

And realize there’s controversy in the medical community about food sensitivities, especially gluten. We don’t have an absolute test that can say yes or no regarding sensitivities.

But if you’re really feeling unwell, it’s worth the effort to see which foods support your body and which ones seem to create problems.

. . .

Gluten-free mania: the final word.

There are people who absolutely cannot, and should not, eat gluten because of celiac disease or allergy.

There are people who should avoid gluten as much as possible, for comfort’s sake.

There are people who can happily enjoy as much gluten as they please.

Everybody is different, and we all have unique dietary needs.

That being said…

It’s important to look at all facets of health — not just food.

It’s tempting to villainize a particular food (“fat is the devil!” “carbs make people fat!” “gluten is ruining my life!”), but creating a lifetime of good health requires more than just removing one particular food group from your diet.

Food is certainly important, but you might (also) need better quality sleep… more water… more exercise… less noise pollution in your home… more time with friends… more laughter (it lowers stress hormones!)… or something else… or all of the above!

Bottom line?

Celiac disease, wheat allergies and gluten sensitivities are all very real things.

If you’ve got one of those conditions, it’s important to know about it and make the necessary adjustments to your diet.

But it’s equally important to remember that “health” isn’t just what you put in your mouth.

It’s how you feel about yourself.

It’s how to talk to yourself.

It’s how you live your life.

~ Dr. Sue

P.S. Here are some resources to explore…

For more information on Celiac disease, check out:

The Celiac Disease Foundation:

For fun recipes & tips for families who need to avoid certain foods, check out:

Food Allergy Mama:

If you’d like to read a book:

Check out Wheat Belly and Grain Brain, both recent publications by MD’s. Realize that both are considered controversial in the traditional medical world, but you might gain some insights into your diet.

If you’re thinking about going “gluten-free” just for kicks, or to lose weight…

Experts say: “don’t.”

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My holiday intention: Simplicity. (What’s yours?)

Tsimplicityhere’s a book sitting on my bedside table, right now.

It’s called Less.

A friend gave it to me, months ago.

“It’s a beautiful book about the power of doing less — and focusing your energy where it counts,” she told me.

The minute I got the book, I thought to myself, “I really need to read this book. Accomplishing more by doing less… that sounds great!”

But… I have not read the book.

I’ve been too busy to read the book about why it’s not a good idea to be so busy.

This pretty much sums up “the story of my life.”  At least, until I decide to change the story.

So, how does this work when we’re in the throes of THE HOLIDAYS? …the most wonderful time of the year!

I glanced at my calendar this morning and realized how few “shopping days” we have left. Sometimes the action-packed season becomes more of a stressful burden than a blessing.

I felt a moment of panic (“not enough time!”) followed by a gentle realization. Maybe I can do less.

So here’s my intention for this holiday season: Simplicity.

Which means…

1.    More white space on the calendar.  I can choose a small number of holiday traditions to enjoy — rather than forcing myself to do absolutely everything.

2.    I will focus on creating meaningful experiences — like truly enjoying the Advent calendar each day, or baking cookies with my son — rather than stockpiling the world’s tallest mountain of gifts.

3.     I will try to set limits for my son. We’ve discussed “Something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read.” We’ve also talked about families that give three gifts, because Jesus got three: gold, frankincense and myrrh. He told me he didn’t want any gold, but a Nintendo DS would be nice. He also reminded me that Santa would be bringing gifts, and that he hoped that wouldn’t count in the total.

4.    I will use white butcher paper for all my wrapping, and a gold sharpie will be all I’ll need for gift tag and decoration. Thank you Pinterest!

5.    I am grateful for family that knows how to potluck holiday meals.

6.    I dream of a heartfelt brunch for a small number of friends to express my gratitude — in January.

By choosing to do less, I can connect more deeply with the people I love most.

By choosing to do less, I can live more and everyone gets gifts that money can’t buy: patience, love, kindness, generosity, and quiet self-reflection.

Maybe I don’t need to read that book, Less, after all.

Because I already know what to do next.

It’s pretty simple.


~ Dr. Sue

P.S. What is your intention for the holiday season? Can you express it in a single word? (Simplicity, Abundance, Play, Generosity, Inspiration, Sweetness, Style, Wonder…?)

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Growing Up Grateful: Thank Goodness for November

November seems to be lacking identity, Thank Youjust a build-up for the ultimate holiday of the year, Christmas. The days get shorter and we started talking about the dreaded windchill, brrrr. Sure, we have Thanksgiving, but now that seems less sacred as Black Friday shopping mania encroaches further every year.

Our kids are not immune to the frenzy…. Gift catalogs have been arriving daily. My seven year old son will circle items he wants, sometimes multiple things on each page. He also has a new passion, Pokemon cards, and he seems to NEED more of these every day. We are working to understand wants versus needs.

I am all for abundance, but as I get older, I find that abundance is virtually the opposite of material excess. I find that I want very little except for a balance of quiet time and joyful experiences with friends and family.

Thanksgiving started as a holiday to celebrate abundance of spirit. After great suffering in their journey to the New World, the Pilgrims’ needs for nourishment and community were met as they dined with their new Native American friends. They were profoundly grateful.

Most of us have our basic needs met, yet our world can be fraught with disappointment, as we and our kids are bombarded by messages that we always need to be smarter, faster and richer. And of course, there are plenty of products to get us there. What if we looked inside for worthiness, and felt grateful just to be here?

Oprah’s friend Iyanla Vanzant says, “We think we have to do something to be grateful or something has to be done to be grateful, when gratitude is a state of being.”

Bishop James Walker of Nashville, Tennessee suggests: “The solution to many of our earthly problems is gratefulness. Once we move from sporadic gratefulness to being grateful, our lives will change. When gratefulness is a state of being, we remove pessimistic notions that things happen to us and that we are victims of situations and circumstances. As a result of this change, we will become more optimistic and dare to do and be more. We will view some of our darkest moments under a different lens; we will be able to handle and maneuver through life’s pits and failures because we have become grateful in all things. The chance to take control of your life and the opportunity to allow things to serve their purpose is by being grateful.”

Even if you aren’t naturally sunny-side up with rose-colored glasses, feeling grateful is a skill we can practice and develop.

As we walk our own path with gratitude, how can we teach our kids to be present for all there is to be thankful for in life, even if it’s not on the shelves at Toys”R”Us? Research shows that grateful kids are happier and healthier.

Intentional habits, family rituals and even art activities can make a difference. Here are some ideas:

1. Start a gratitude journal. Think about people and experiences, as well as material things, we are thankful for. Write it down. Draw pictures.

2. Be more intentional about helping others. It is thrilling to see the entry way at Nativity School filled with food and supplies to be donated for Fill the Dome. My son’s class got to go to the Great Plains Food Bank last Friday and help unpack the food at the FargoDome the following Monday. I think it’s great that they get to see where the food goes and what an impact it makes.

Think about things you can do throughout the year, like donate toys, help with a Lend A Hand benefit or buy backpacks and supplies for the United Way Back to School project in August.

3. Have them imagine life without some of their favorite things.

4. Savor the beauty and the senses. I remember long family car trips. My dad would constantly chime… “Look over there! Pretty, isn’t it?” He was trying to get us to appreciate and notice. Usually my nose was in a book. My siblings still tease my dad about his landscape appreciation, but we now understand that what he was trying to do.

5. Write an alphabet of blessings…. From A-Z, there are lots of things to be grateful for. Have the kids write their list.

6. Set expectations when shopping. Author Hova Tamangar shared the useful approach of one of her readers, Melanie Etamad. She declared look days and buy days early on with her young daughter. “Like going to the museum, we enjoy the beautiful things, but we aren’t planning to buy anything. … We also tried to ensure that there were more ‘look’ days than ‘buy’ days, specifically to inoculate against the idea of always buying things, knowing that it breeds discontent.”

7. Make a gratitude jar. Choose a beautiful glass jar and throughout the year, add slips of paper with thoughts of gratitude. You could shape these like leaves or feathers. Read the slips out loud on Thanksgiving or another special day, and then use the paper to make a garland, wreath, tree, turkey or framed art project.

8. Search Pinterest for amazing arts and craft projects that kids can make to remind them of blessings or to give as gifts. What was life like before Pinterest? I know, I can’t remember either.

9. Write thank you notes. After Grant’s October birthday, we had to get the thank you notes organized before he could play with any new toys. I will always treasure his phonetic spelling of friend’s names (Geonu for Gianna and Ke Le for Keelie.)

10. Every night after prayers, we think of one special thing or experience that we are grateful for that day.

11. Remember the simple act and meaning of saying “thank you.” Say it often.

Thank you, November, in your quiet ways, for reminding us of the power of gratitude and the joy of thankfulness. And thanks for helping us help our kids grow up grateful.

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Your DNA: Life by Destiny and Design

Ever since the Human Genome Project DNA illustrationpublished findings in 2001, I’ve been wondering where this roadmap will lead us. The project was an international, collaborative program with a big goal of complete mapping and understanding of all the genes of human beings. All of our genes together are called our “genome.”

The group found that we have 20,500 genes and which mapped out detailed instructions for the development and function of a human being.

Dr. Frances Collins, the director of the project, noted that the genome could be thought of in terms of a book with multiple uses: “It’s a history book – a narrative of the journey of our species through time. It’s a shop manual, with an incredibly detailed blueprint for building every human cell. And it’s a transformative textbook of medicine, with insights that will give health care providers immense new powers to treat, prevent and cure disease.”

Over the past dozen years, more and more clinical uses of the information are being discovered. A few examples:

We’ve gone from chromosomal analysis to genetic and genomic testing that will help families more fully understand and nurture their special needs children.

We can analyze whether certain medications will provide the necessary protection for cardiac patients.

Last year, Angelina Jolie underwent a prophylactic double mastectomy since she was a carrier of BRAC1. Her mother died from breast cancer. This particular gene that conferred a 69% risk of Angelina developing breast cancer and a 25% chance for ovarian cancer.

Knowing more about our DNA can help us make decisions. It can provide an approach to disease that is tailored for the individual rather that “one-size-fits-all.”

Some call this “personalized medicine.” Dr. Lee Hood of Seattle, Washington, takes this definition further, calling it P4 Medicine: predictive, preventive, personalized and participatory.

He states “The convergence of systems biology, the digital revolution and consumer-driven healthcare is transforming medicine from its current reactive mode, which is focused on treating disease, to a P4 Medicine mode.”

“P4 Medicine will improve the quality of care delivered to patients through better diagnoses and targeted therapies. These advances facilitate new forms of active participation by patients and consumers in the collection of personal health data that will accelerate discovery science. Soon a virtual data cloud of billions of health-relevant data points will surround each individual. Through P4 Medicine, we will be able to reduce this complex data to simple hypotheses about how to optimize wellness and minimize disease for each individual.”

While all of this fascinates me, I think we can take participatory to a whole new level. While DNA is an instruction manual, the story is far from black and white when we take into account epigenetics.

Epigenetics literally means “above” or “on top of” genetics. It refers to external modifications to DNA that turn genes “on” or “off.” These modifications do not change the DNA sequence, but instead, they affect how cells “read” genes and how proteins are expressed.

Some scientists feel that what we eat, how we move and what we think exerts between 50-80% of the influence of over which genes and how genes are expressed. Wow… we have lots of responsibility for directing our DNA and designing our best destiny, and living our ideal life!

~ Dr. Sue

P.S. How do you optimize your destiny by designing your ideal lifestyle?

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Acne? Rosacea? Wrinkles? How to eat your way… to better skin!

November is barely halfway over, and it’sbeautiful, green salad already been an exciting month for so many reasons. 

One of my major thrills: we added a dietician and lifestyle medicine coach to the Catalyst Medical Center team. I’ve long been talking about the impact of food allergies, food sensitivities and food triggers for a number of conditions including sinusitis, eczema and migraines. It will be great to have a provider who can spend even more time teaching about these issues.

As health care providers, we are finally realizing the importance of nutrition, that food is medicine, for better or worse.

There is a huge connection between what you eat, overall health, and how your skin looks and feels. But unfortunately, there is a ton of misinformation floating around about what “eating your way to better skin” actually entails.

Your skin is the largest organ of your body, and like any other organ, it needs to be hydrated, nourished and treated with care.

After meeting our fabulous new dietician, I felt inspired to write a few simple guidelines on how to eat your way to clearer, smoother skin.

I hope what I’m about to share helps to clear up a few myths… and hopefully, clear up your complexion, as well!


When you were a teenager, I’ll bet somebody told you that “chocolate causes acne.” Well, not exactly! It depends on the quality of the chocolate (is it organic raw cacao or hyper-processed junk?), how much you’re eating, the way your body produces insulin, and a lot of other factors.

There is evidence, however, to show a connection between excessive sugar consumption and acne. When you eat lots of sugary foods, “Your body responds by cranking out more insulin, which increases the production of skin oils and contributes to the clogging of follicles,” according to Dr. Valori Treloar of WebMD.

But don’t swap your sugary treats for a big block of cheese! Dr. Treloar also says that dairy products can be an issue. “More research is needed, but it may be that the growth hormones naturally found in milk somehow act as acne triggers,” Dr. Treloar reports.

TRY: I ask patients to try organic milk and avoid sugar for a few weeks. If they are still struggling, I suggest they go off dairy completely for 30-60 days to see if they notice a change in their skin quality.

It certainly can’t hurt, and there are so many low-sugar and dairy-free recipes that you can try! A quick web search will give you hundreds of blogs and recipe sites. We have a magazine at the office called Living Without that has great photos and recipes.


Rosacea is a frustrating condition caused by over-dilated blood vessels in the skin. It makes some people look like they are “blushing” constantly. In other people, the symptoms are more dramatic — burst blood vessels that give a spiderweb-like appearance, and even burning or tingling sensations.

Alcohol, caffeinated beverages and spicy foods and seasonings can make Rosacea worse. Some people with Rosacea get “triggered” by foods that are high in Vitamin B3 (niacin)— foods like tuna, chicken, turkey, liver, peanuts, mushrooms and (no! say it ain’t so!) avocado. This vitamin stimulates blood flow to skin, which can be helpful for certain people, but not rosacea patients!

In some instances, simply drinking beverages or eating soup that’s too hot can cause an uncomfortable flare-up. Good rule of thumb: stay away from food that makes you break out into a sweat, either because it’s too spicy, too hot, or both.

TRY: Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet — then experiment with cutting out sources of Vitamin B3, or just eating less of the foods that you suspect might be triggering flare-ups. Kris Carr’s bestselling vegan cookbook, Crazy Sexy Kitchen, is filled with over 150 anti-inflammatory recipes… and as the title suggests, it’s a seriously fun, spunky read!


Good news for people who want to minimize wrinkles, dark spots and other signs of aging: all of those avocados that Rosacea-sufferers might have to abstain from eating? They’re for you!

Healthy fats, like those found in almonds, avocados and salmon, are terrific for moisturizing your skin from the inside out.

Foods that are high in antioxidants — like berries and green tea — are a great choice, too, because antioxidant-rich foods promote cell regeneration. New, fresh, healthy skin cells equals a smoother appearance and fewer wrinkles!

TRY: Experimenting with an antioxidant-rich diet. Check out Feed Your Face by Harvard to Hollywood dermatologist Jessica Wu with lots of age- and disease-fighting recipes to play with. Another favorite of mine, the Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon. And stock up on “good fat” snacks like almonds, walnuts, olives… or make your own flaxseed crackers. Check out recipes on Pinterest!


Every body is different, and we all have slightly different caloric and nutritional needs.

There are a lot of myths floating around about what a “good diet” looks like — and it’s easy to get overwhelmed and confused about what’s really going to work for you. (Consider this your personal invitation to book a consult with our new dietician… or a nutritional expert near you!)

But regardless of what kinds of skin and health conditions you’re dealing with, I believe author and food researcher Michael Pollack put it best:

“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

My friend SueAnn Gleason of Conscious Bites Nutrition calls it “Flexitarian” with a focus on eating lots of healthy veggies, but allowing for good quality fish and meat, and a bit of dark chocolate too.

Start with a baseline of simple, unprocessed whole foods…and then experiment by removing potential triggers from your diet to see if you have any special sensitivities that you need to be cautious about.

Keep it simple… and have fun in the kitchen!

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Never stop dreaming about your ideal life.

“Sometimes, we feel like dreaming betrays our kids playing and learning the rulesreality. As if to wish for more makes us ungrateful for what we have. That’s not the case. There is always more. You are capable of holding two states of consciousness at once: presence and longing.”

Danielle LaPorte

For my son Grant’s 7th birthday, I took him and a group of his friends and cousins to TNT Kid’s Fitness, a gigantic indoor playground.

There was a kiddie-friendly rock-climbing wall. A foam pit that you could catapult into, safely. Tons of games and places to run amok, screaming and shouting with glee. The ultimate fantasy-world for little humans!

During the party, a fellow parent pulled me aside to tell me an adorable story.

Apparently her son had bolted out of bed that morning at 6am. His very first words, upon waking, were:


Kids know exactly what makes them happy. They know what they want. There is no such thing as “faking it” in kid-world. They haven’t learned how to lie to themselves.

This is what makes children so gosh-darn frustrating, at times. They know what they want, fervently.

But it is also what makes them so miraculous — and such wonderful teachers.

My son Grant, for example, knows exactly what his “ideal life” would look & feel like.

His “ideal life” would include a daily trip to the playground. Delicious food whenever he is hungry. Playdates with friends. Lots of crayons, pens and empty journals to write in (even though “writing” is still something he’s working on.) Story time. Sponge Bob. Infinite orange smoothies. Hugs. Tickling that always leads to belly laughs for both of us. Oh, and… an army of puppies and kittens.

If Grant had the power — and resources — to create his “ideal life,” exactly to his specifications, I have no doubt that he would! Nothing would stop him from making his dreams a reality. Grant’s “ideal life” might be slightly inappropriate, but I’m inspired by his vision, nonetheless.

He dreams with boldness and unabashed delight. In his mind, there are no restrictions. He is still living in the age of “I course I can!” and “Why not?”

Can the same be said for most grown-ups? For me?

Sadly, I think not.

Most of us stop dreaming about our ideal life, at some point in adulthood.

As Danielle LaPorte describes in the quote at the top of this post, we start feeling “guilty” for wanting something more, something different. Or we get so accustomed to pleasing others that we forget want we actually want. Or we get jaded and cynical. Or we just lose our sense of imagination. We get so busy with the day-to-day that we miss the moments of joy and beauty.

For all of these reasons and many more… we stop dreaming.

But after watching Grant and his fellow dreamers play together at his birthday party, I feel inspired to keep dreaming. Maybe even… dream bigger.

I will remind myself that dreaming for “an even better life” or “an even happier kind of day” doesn’t make me “ungrateful.”

It makes for a playful, creative genius. And each of us

Just like a child.


~ Dr. Sue

P.S. How would a day in your “ideal life”… begin?

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Gold stars. Big hugs. Playdates. What motivated you as a kid? And what motivates you now?

My 7-year-old son, Grant, gets very excited what motivates youabout charts.

Well, one chart in particular — the chart where we record when he has done his chores, finished his homework, or has chosen a smart option (like reading a book instead of watching TV).

Actually he’s really excited about the check marks. The more “checks” on the chart, the sooner he can receive a reward. Sometimes he adds a few checks on his own. For now, I can tell the difference between his and mine.

And Grant is VERY motivated by the possibility of rewards and incentives. I know there are some pros and cons from the parenting perspective, but this seemed a lot better than being ignored.

Watching Grant get outrageously excited about his rapidly-filling-up chart makes me chuckle and think to myself, “If only it were that easy to motivate grown-ups to stay on their best behavior!”

Then again, maybe it is!

The science, technology & productivity website Lifehack has outlined 6 major types of motivation.

Incentives. Money. Vacation time. Luxury treats. Desserts. Special experiences.
Fear. Consequences. Punishment. Late fees. Fines.
Achievement. Competency, then Mastery. Recognition. Praise.
Growth. A yearning for positive change. Upgrades. Refinement. Improvement.
Power. A desire for control, influence, or feeling like you “matter.”
Social. Wanting to “belong.” Wanting to “serve.” Not wanting to be ostracized, left out or shamed.

As the Lifehack journalist writes, “None of these styles of motivation are inherently good or bad.” Just different.

Most of us experience all six types of motivation at various points in our lives, or even throughout the course of a single day… but many of us have one primary type of motivation that is particularly strong and consistent.

Once you know what your primary motivator is, you can tap into it more directly, and make it easier for yourself to stick to new habits.

For example, if you are motivated by Incentives, then saying…

“If I work out five times a week, for one month, I can reward myself with a day at the spa!” … would be a powerful motivator. Sign me up for this one!

But if you’re motivated by Power, saying that particular phrase to yourself probably wouldn’t work. Instead, you might say:

“If I work out five times a week, for one month, I will have so much more energy and confidence. I’ll be more likely to inspire and influence people at work, or even get a raise and a promotion.”

And if you’re motivated by Achievement, you might want to say:

“If I work out five times a week, for one month, I will be able to seriously consider training for a marathon. Completing that marathon would be the ultimate rush.”

Same goal.

Different forms of motivation.

So, what motivated you as a child?

Is it the same type of motivation that drives you, today? I need to ask my team at Catalyst this question too.

By looking at your patterns — the promises you keep, the resolutions you break — stretching all the way back to childhood, you can learn a great deal about how to motivate yourself in the future.

As for me? I’m seeing myself motivated by several of these, and it’s hard to pick my main one. As a kid, I remember earning points in second grade by learning about the Sahara desert, but not wanting to “spend” them on rewards. I wish I could be as careful about my bank account now!


~ Dr. Sue

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Start Now: Why thinking about the New Year in October is a really smart move.

Most of us wait until New Year’s Eve — New years evewhen we’re one or two glasses of champagne deep into the night — to make our New Year’s Resolutions.

In the harsh light of day, the next morning, those big resolutions can feel pretty tough to keep. Football and chili may overtake the first day of the New Year, and it’s hard to be mindful of new intentions.

I love thinking about the future and dreaming about what’s next in life, but I’ve found that when it comes to making resolutions that actually stick, it’s all about…

-    Quiet reflection
-    Advance planning
-    Sane expectations
-    and Tiny habits

With that in mind, I’ve decided to start mapping out my goals for 2015… now! Fall seems to have a focused and productive energy that seems to encourage big questions like “What matters most to me? And how do I want to feel?”

Long before the hectic rush of the holidays is upon us, it time to reflect and plan for success, and to define what that means for you.

Grab a notebook or journal. Mark some recurring dates with yourself in Google calendar. I’m a paper planner fan, and there are some beauties available. My personal favorite, Danielle Laporte’s Desire Map Day Planner .

Want to join me?

Here’s a few goals to ponder — based on the most commonly-broken New Year’s Resolutions — plus my tips on how to get started, sooner, and really stick with it:

GOAL: Make Health a Priority.

Weightlifter James Clear puts it best: “Focus on lifestyle, not life-changing.”

As James writes in this brilliant article:

“Losing 50 pounds would be life-changing, drinking 8 glasses of water per day is a new type of lifestyle.

Running a marathon would be life-changing, running 3 days per week is a new type of lifestyle.

Squatting 100 more pounds would be life-changing, squatting 3 days per week is a new type of lifestyle.”

Instead of focusing on the gigantic end-goal — “losing 50 pounds” — try focusing on the tiny habits that will get you there — “drinking 8 glasses of water per day.”

Start now, with the tiniest habit imaginable. Then another. And another.

Just imagine beginning the New Year feeling like you’re already in the best shape of your life!

GOAL: Learn Something New.

As a total information and inspiration junkie, I can relate to this desire, big time.
But don’t procrastinate until January 1st to start thinking about what you’d like to learn.

Start now, by signing up for a course at a local college (many colleges have adult education programs for people who just want to stretch their brains, but not necessarily pursue a degree. Don’t wait until your dream class has already filled up!)

Or take a free online class (here’s a list of 1,000 of them!).

Or check out this massive directory of workshops, conferences and festivals, choose one that looks intriguing and sign up… now! You’ll have something special to look forward to, for months and months to come!

GOAL: Travel to New Places.

I always fantasize about taking lots of fun summer trips every year, but I tend to wait until it’s the tail-end of spring to start planning. No longer!

Start now, by blocking out a couple of weeks (or weekends) on your calendar for next year and label them “travel days.”

Even if you don’t make specific plans right now, make a promise to yourself that you won’t fill up those days with work or any other commitments. They are ONLY for travel.

Seeing those clear labels on your calendar will make you less likely to “forget” to travel… and less likely to overcrowd your calendar and run out of time.

GOAL: Get to the Next Level of My Career.

If you want to upgrade your career (or business) next year, start by assembling your dream team, now.

Need a new website? Reach out to a designer that you like and get on their calendar, soon. (The good ones tend to get booked up — fast!).

Need a coach or strategist to help you? Set up consults with a couple people that you like, now. Start early so that you can find the right match.

Need to revamp your resume? Start the process now, so that you’re confident and ready to send it out at the beginning of the New Year (historically, a great season for job-hunting!) instead of procrastinating and then rushing to get your ducks in a row.

GOAL: Spend More Time With Family.

Like traveling, this one is all about blocking out chunks of time — sacred, untouchable time — and making a solemn oath that you won’t fill it up with non-family obligations.

Why not block out one night a week for a home-cooked family dinner? …starting now, not January 1st.

Why not designate every Sunday afternoon as “technology-free time” so that cuddling and conversation and board games can happen, instead.

Instead of trying to pack an uncomfortable amount of “family time” into a hectic holiday season, or postponing quality time until January, you can start… now.

As Tony Robbins says:

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”

The sooner you set your goals & resolutions, the sooner you can start taking tiny steps to make them real.

Waiting until New Years Eve won’t make things any easier.

Give yourself a fresh start & a head start… today!

~ Dr. Sue

P.S. What’s one tiny, positive “upgrade” that you’re ready to make, today?

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“Why do I want to be healthy?” How to get “emotional” about your wellness goals — and truly commit.

In his groundbreaking book, Start Apple computersWith Why, Simon Sinek urges business owners to uncover their “why” — the mission, the belief system, the deeper motivation — that drives them to do business. If you want the 18-minute version, watch his talk.

When a business has a clear “why” — and expresses that “why” consistently — then people feel invigorated and inspired.

People are no longer just customers, purchasing products & services with a sense of detachment — they become loyal, devoted fans.

They are emotionally invested in THIS particular business, and THIS business alone. They are part of a movement. Part of something that matters.

Apple Computers, for example, has a very clear “why.”

Apple believes that technology should be accessible to everyone, even non-geeks, and that machines should be aesthetically beautiful, not clunky.

Apple believes that with the right laptop and enough creativity, you can do anything. Launch a business. Create a recording studio in your bedroom. Change the world.

Apple customers are loyal, devoted and often fanatical about the company’s products. Not because the products are “the best” in the world (one could argue that they’re not). But because of what the company stands for.

Customers get emotionally invested… not because of “what” Apple makes, but because of “why” Apple exists.

So what does all of this business & technology talk have to do with your health & wellness goals?  A lot.

As a physician — and as a human being who is always striving to get a little healthier — I have learned that the secret to sticking with healthy habits is to get “emotionally invested” in your goals. In other words, you’ve got to “find your why.”

You can begin by asking yourself one question:

“Why do I want to be healthy?”

What’s your “why” when it comes to the way that you eat, sleep, hydrate and take care of your mind, body and spirit? What drives you?

When it comes to my patients, many people think that their “why” is to “look more attractive” or “have better skin.” This is often true, and perfectly reasonable, too.

But there’s often a deeper “why” that they’re not acknowledging… yet.

You’ve got a deeper “why,” too.

For example…

You might want to be healthy because:

1.    You want the energy to be able to play with your kids, instead of saying, “Not today. Mommy is tired.” When you eat poorly, you can’t be the kind of parent you want to be.

2.    You want the mental clarity that’s necessary to serve clients through your business. When you skimp on sleep, you can’t be the kind of service provider you want to be.

3.    You have a cause that you’re trying to promote in the community. You need funding. You need traction. You need others to say “Yes!” to your propositions. When you neglect your health, your light shines less brightly. People are less likely to be inspired by you — and less likely to be inspired by your cause.

4.    You want to live a long, happy, pain-free and positive life. Good health sets you up for more fun and joy and movement as you age.

5.    You want to look great. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting aesthetic results — shiny hair, bright skin, a slimmer body, or smooth, toned legs. But it’s important to dig a bit deeper to discover a “why” that goes beyond the surface level. How does it make you feel?

If you ask yourself, “Why do I want to be healthy?”…and come up with a “why” that’s so powerful, it practically brings you to tears… that’s the one you want to focus on.

Why do YOU want to be healthy?

Ask yourself. Do some reflection. Write down your “why” or list of “why’s.”

Is there a “why” that makes you feel inspired, energized, excited… or even makes you cry?

Circle it. Pin it to your vision board. Repeat it to yourself every day.

That’s the “why” that you need to remember in order to get “emotional” about your wellness goals — and truly commit.

~ Dr. Sue


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