Psychotherapist, Author, Speaker

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Robin D. Stone is a New York City based psychotherapist, coach and consultant who works to help you achieve your most optimal self. 

Posts tagged self-care
Ready to Declare Your Independence?
 
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We’re now in the thick of summer, but the 4th of July is still on my mind. As we remember family reunions, picnics and barbecues, let’s consider the significance of the 4th – the national holiday celebrating this country’s adoption of The Declaration of Independence from the Empire of Great Britain.  Sometimes, especially since it’s been more than 200 years, we get so caught up in the celebrations that it’s easy to forget the meaning of the day.  Did freedom cross your mind when the fireworks lit the sky on the 4th? Did you celebrate that freedom?

I’d like to suggest a challenge for the rest of the summer – and beyond.

Let's make a personal declaration of independence – to be awake and aware enough to say:

I ______________________________, do solemnly declare:
I’m the one who determines my daily habits. I will take responsibility for seeing that I get the food and exercise that I deserve. I won’t blame my schedule or my mate or my kids or lack of knowledge for the choices I make.
I will pay closer attention to how I eat and what I eat, and how I treat my body. If it’s not good for me, I won’t do it.
I will be more aware of the people I let into my life. I’ll push haters, naysayers and negativity to the outer circle of the sphere that influences me.
I will explore what I believe about things – from the quality of my food and relationships to the work I do to the way I cultivate my spirituality. I’ll determine what works and what doesn’t.
I will celebrate my independence every day.

At its core, Freedom is the ability to choose. But as Eleanor Roosevelt once wrote, "Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility." As a health coach, I am here to help you choose a lifestyle that leads to your best health so that you can get the most out of life. I'm also here to hold you to your promise to yourself to do just that. The best way to start is to become more aware of your habits, to keep the ones that work for you and to toss those that don’t. 

So let’s declare our independence from manufacturers, marketers and agribusiness, from peer pressure and those who don’t have our interests at heart. Let’s be responsible, independent thinkers and choose options that lead to only the best of health. Now that’s a Freedom worth celebrating.

How will you exercise your Freedom?

Healthy eating,
Robin 

 
13 for 13: Weight-Loss Resolutions You Can Live With
 

If each year around this time you’ve resolved to lose weight … again … only to rebound within a month or a few, try this approach instead:

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1. Resolve NOT to "diet."  Most people think of dieting as something they do temporarily to lose weight quickly. Most who lose weight this way re-gain it once they stop dieting. This "cycling," or yo-yo dieting, can put you at greater risk for heart disease, among other health risks. Think of changing the way you eat not as a temporary fix but as your new approach to taking better care of yourself. So consider these other resolutions:

2. Resolve to eat more real food. Most packaged foods are full of additives and preservatives that you don’t need and that force your body to work overtime to process them. Stick with whole fruits and veggies, meats, grains, nuts and legumes.

3. Resolve to figure out why you turn to ice cream (or candy bars or potato chips or … ) when you’re feeling challenged or stressed. We all do it. Mindful eating can help you understand how to see food more for nourishment and enjoyment, and less for stress-relief.

4. Resolve to drink more water.  Aim for at least 8 cups a day. Water helps our bodies function, flushing toxins, fueling cells, nourishing tissues. We are made up of 60 percent water, and what we lose through perspiring, breathing and eliminating, we need to replace.

5. Resolve to cleanse your life of toxic relationships. They can lead to stress … which leads to … see No. 3.

6. Resolve to move your body till you work up a sweat for at least 30 minutes at least three times a week. Who says you have to spend hours at the gym? That 30 minutes can be as effective as 60.  

7. Resolve to prepare your own meals one day more a week. Eating in can save you money, give you control of the ingredients, increase family time (enlist the help of others) support the environment and provide other benefits to you, those you love and society at large. After a month, resolve to cook two days more a week, and then more, until you’re eating homemade food at least 4 out of 7 days.

8. Resolve to not eat for 12 hours overnight. Let’s say 7:30 p.m. is your cutoff. That means nothing but water till 7:30 a.m. This mini fast gives your body a chance to process what’s already there and take a break before it’s time to start up again. And it helps you steer clear of calorie-laden late-night snacks. A good helping of protein for dinner will keep you feeling full.

9. Resolve to track your habits. Hold a mirror up so you can see where your trouble spots are. There are several programs available, many of them free. I use My Fitness Pal because it’s quick and easy.  It shows me that I eat way too much sugar. So I’m much more mindful of that.

10. Resolve to track your steps. Use a pedometer and aim for 10,000 steps (about 5 miles) per day.

11. Resolve not to go back to what you were doing that got you into whatever size you’re in. The longer you keep the weight off, the easier it gets to do so.

12. Resolve to take the long view. Safe, lasting weight loss doesn’t happen in an instant and it’s not dramatic, but when it’s gone -- and when you stick with your new habits -- it’s gone.

13. Resolve to start now.

Trying to figure out where to start? Contact me at robin@healthjones.com

 
My New Film Highlights Black Women's Stories about Stress & Self-Care
 

I was honored to premiere my mini-documentary "THICK: Black Women Weigh In on Body Awareness, Food, Stress and Self-Care"  recently at the Black Women’s Life Balance and Wellness conference at Spelman College in Atlanta. Featuring the stories of nearly 20 Black women nationwide – myself included – the film asks how can we take care of ourselves in the face of stressors like job demands, relationship issues, family drama. 

    Black Women's Life Balance and Wellness conference, Sept. 19, 2015.   

 

Black Women's Life Balance and Wellness conference, Sept. 19, 2015.
 

THICK centers on healthy weight, as Black women contend with weight-related health concerns like heart disease, diabetes and fertility problems in disproportionate numbers. This project was a part of my master's thesis, which focused on using narrative techniques like storytelling and writing to promote healing among Black women.

Joining us were two of the sisters featured in the film who are from Atlanta. They loved seeing their stories on the big screen. One, Elizabeth Montgomery, shared that she was thrilled to go from "homeless" -- a reference to her tenuous life as a young adult -- "to Hollywood!"

We followed the film with a powerful writing workshop focused on the body and self-care. The women gathered, wrote and witnessed, and some shared from deep within their hearts. 

I now incorporate narrative techniques in my coaching work. A beautiful thing about writing for healing is that it is a way to get your “stuff” down on the page. Sometimes you don’t even know what you’re struggling with until it’s there in front of you, talking to you, telling you about itself. And once you name it, whatever it is, you can begin to deal with it. 

I look forward to showing "THICK," to writing and sharing our stories, and to continuing conversations about what it takes to be healthy and whole.

Click here for a preview of "THICK," and let me know what you think at robin@robinstone.com.

 
Take 2 Doses of "Go Outside & Play"
 

'Language, for traditionally oral peoples, is not a specific human possession,
but is a property of the animate earth, in which we humans participate.'  
David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology

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On a bright, sunny Sunday, the crisper, cooler weather enticed my fiancé, Rodney, and me outside to play.

Last weekend we took to the trails at the Celery Farm nature preserve, a 107-acre freshwater wetland in Allendale, N.J. (he’s a New Jerseyan by way of Brooklyn, and the outing was his idea). We walked for an hour or so in the late summer sun, climbing observation towers and checking out the chipmunks and butterflies scurrying here and there, and the turtles, herons, and mallards hanging out on Lake Appert. We also took more than a few self-ies (or us-ies, depending on your perspective). And we stopped to listen

When was the last time you actually listened to a forest, or a meadow or a field? Listened to the trees shhh-shhhing? The crickets sceeting? The hawks cawing? The earth breathing? You have to be still to hear, and it’s worth being still because they have so much to say.

Yes, we boosted our vitamin D from time in the sun, we upped our heart rate by ambling over roots, twigs and stones; and we spent good time enjoying each other’s company.

We also connected with the universe. Being outside, surrounded by nature, makes me feel grateful to be alive, and humbled to be a small part of this never-ending cycle of birth, life, and death. It reminds me of how we humans are but bit players on this broad stage of species; in our absence the show definitely will go on. I appreciate my time here, my place in this space, and my fellow inhabitants, and I leave de-stressed, and with my head cleared of cobwebs of less important things.  

As a city girl, I don’t venture outdoors enough. My idea of getting out usually is a walk along the Hudson River and a jog around my Harlem neighborhood track. That’s good, but it's not exactly connecting with the universe.

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If doctors prescribed an escape to the park, to a trail, or even to a community garden, we’d all be better off for having stopped to listen and cultivate a closer, more meaningful relationship with nature, with the universe and with ourselves. Of the three, we humans stand to benefit most of all.

On our way back to his home, Rodney and I stopped at a farmer’s market to pick up ingredients for that night’s dinner (grilled chicken legs and thighs, summer corn saladGreek salad and garlicky guacamole). As we headed to my home in the city later that night, I wondered what the herons and mallards were saying, and looked forward to returning to hear them again. 

 
A 7 Minute Workout that Works?
 

Have you heard of interval training? It’s at the core of trainer Shaun T’s crazy workout sensation known as Insanity. If you can get through Insanity – even halfway through – high-five to you. If you’re like the rest of us, then you may need to set your sights a little – OK maybe a lot – lower than that hour-long high-intensity drill.

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Good news: New research backs up the theory behind interval training – where you exercise in intense bursts at maximum capacity with short breaks in between – and suggests that a little goes a long way.

“There’s very good evidence” that high-intensity interval training provides “many of the fitness benefits of prolonged endurance training but in much less time,” Chris Jordan, the director of exercise physiology at the Human Performance Institute in Orlando, Fla., and one of the study’s authors, told The New York Times.

The researchers studied the effects of a seven-minute routine of 30-second bursts of intense activity intermingled with 10-second rest periods. This workout ain’t easy, but researchers likened results to taking a long run and a visit to the weight room. Hmm. Seven minutes of Insanity …

Check out the research and the moves.

 
How to Make a Break Today
 

As we prepare for the hustle and bustle and busier schedules of fall, let’s hear it for vacations!  “Why now?” you might ask.  With Labor Day behind us, it’s the unofficial end of summer (and aren’t we all a little horrified about that thought?). But as we stare at an Outlook calendar that’s peppered with meetings and must-dos, maybe we need to re-think the notion and the importance of TAKING. A. BREAK.

I don’t mean taking another week off to go to Mom’s or even Miami.  Some of us may not have even had a week off or the luxury of travel.  Still, you can push back against the demands of the job, kids’ homework and extracurriculars, church, and volunteer events as they circle around you and start closing in.
 

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How? Build yourself a force-field that includes time and space for you.

Studies show that even a 5- or 10-minute break can help you alleviate stress and ward off anxiety and depression. If hitting your emotional and physical “reset” buttons - even for a minuscule amount of time - can tap your well of strength and stamina to finish a grueling Tuesday, imagine what a half-day off can do for the rest of your week.  Imagine what a whole week can do for the rest of your life!

It’s time to re-invent our ideas about vacation, to mix freedom and play into our daily routines. That said, here are four ways to claim your space and restore your sanity – in whatever time you need: 

5-10 Minutes

When you wake up, try sitting up in meditation - simply breathing for a few minutes - before you start the rest of your day.

At work, try a five-minute neck and wrist stretch between emails. If you’ve been sitting, get up and take a walk. Contrary to what you might think, slogging through a project can slow you down and breaks really can help you be productive. If you’ve got a cubicle, post a sign: “Mental Health Break.”  If you’re lucky enough to have an office, close the door for a few.

Hour

Your body deserves just as much attention as you give your cell phone, so go to your nearest masseuse and get that 10-minute foot massage, or even an hour-long body massage - the ultimate one-hour vacation!  If you want something a little more active, look for nearby yoga classes.  Yoga not only relaxes but also rejuvenates. 

If you’d rather not spend any money though, nothing beats a good half-hour of peace.  Find somewhere quiet and just sit and breathe deeply in and out. Put some nice ambient music on in the background if that helps. 

Day

For a half-day, ignore emails and turn your cell phone “OFF.”  Feel the power of that.  Go catch a movie, take a nap or set up a date night with friends.  This is your time.

If you can get a full day off, sleep in a little bit.  Then, as soon as you can, get up and do the things you miss.  Write, draw, go for a jog, play with your children, enjoy your pets. Remember the things that make you smile and make time for them - make time for you.

A Week

Consider a “stay-cation” that’s both work and play. Tackle those “must-do’s” that have been vying for your attention and stressing you out. Maybe it’s cleaning out your overstuffed basement or that forgotten storage space you pay for. Maybe it’s “shopping” your closet for fall, instead of going to the mall to spend money you don’t really have. 

But this week’s not all about work. Make time for play as well:  Be a tourist in your own town. Visit a shop you’ve never been in, like you do when you’re traveling. Go to a park and experience the wonders of nature.  Take a tour or just wander on your own. See what new, fun and interesting experiences you can discover right where you live.

What will your new take on vacations be? 

 
Essence Fest Highlights
 
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So they still know how to let the good times roll in New Orleans!

I had an amazing experience there recently, as well as the honor to share the stage with some phenomenal women to discuss smart, simple ways that we can take better care of ourselves.

The panel, "Health Journeys and Transformations," was part of ESSENCE magazine's spectacular ESSENCE Fest, a 4th of July weekend jam-packed with great music, empowering, uplifting dialogues, rich, flavorful food and parties all night long!  

The panel covered a wide range of topics, from how to eat more healthfully to the importance of getting in regular exercise to thriving in spite of health challenges such as diabetes, digestive problems or severe alopecia (hair loss). 

One of the delights of the Fest was meeting the talented and suave actor Blair Underwood and his lovely wife and children. They all look to be the epitome of health!

Here are some of the highlights from my whirlwind weekend:

For video: Panelists included Denise Warren, far right, founder of Body by Denise fitness center in New York City, and Laschaunda Cogburn and Michele Bercy, two of her clients who, combined, have lost hundreds of pounds!

Talking "Health Journeys and Transformations" before more than 3,000 people. Dr. Aletha Maybank, left, myself, interior designer and author Sheila Bridges and moderator Sharon Boone, ESSENCE's health editor. 

Talking "Health Journeys and Transformations" before more than 3,000 people. Dr. Aletha Maybank, left, myself, interior designer and author Sheila Bridges and moderator Sharon Boone, ESSENCE's health editor. 

The one and only fine and friendly Blair Underwood! So great to connect with him and his fam. Catch him in "Ironside" on NBC this fall!

The one and only fine and friendly Blair Underwood! So great to connect with him and his fam. Catch him in "Ironside" on NBC this fall!

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Greeting guests at the book-signing for my book  No Secrets No Lies . During that power hour, I also had the pleasure to get to know the gorgeous and talented interior designer Sheila Bridges, whose searing new memoir,  The Bald Mermaid , explores her experience of losing her hair to alopecia.

Greeting guests at the book-signing for my book No Secrets No Lies. During that power hour, I also had the pleasure to get to know the gorgeous and talented interior designer Sheila Bridges, whose searing new memoir, The Bald Mermaid, explores her experience of losing her hair to alopecia.

My all-access Talent pass.

My all-access Talent pass.

Panel's done-- now time to play!

Panel's done-- now time to play!

Caught Les Nubians schooling folks on their Afropean soul in one of the intimate superlounges.

Caught Les Nubians schooling folks on their Afropean soul in one of the intimate superlounges.

Did I mention the crowds? More than 500k -- a record for ESSENCE in New Orleans! 

Did I mention the crowds? More than 500k -- a record for ESSENCE in New Orleans! 

 
On Love & Weight Loss
 
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Author Alice Randall has no trouble calling folks out. The writer of four books, including The Wind Done Gone, a provocative take on the “classic” novel ­­Gone With the Wind, does it again through Ada’s Rules: A Sexy Skinny Novel  (Bloomsbury, $15), a charming novel that’s part love story, part diet guide, now in paperback.

Eyes rolled big time when Randall opined last year in The New York Times that “Black women are fat because they want to be.” If you could get past the offense, you could hear her urgent cry that Black people – women in particular, who have a higher obesity rate than men or women of other races – need an attitude adjustment on eating and living more healthfully. 

The larger point, she says: “What we need is a body-culture revolution in Black America.”

She tries to make that point through Ada Howard, the feisty yet vulnerable protagonist in Ada’s Rules. In the course of a year, Ada changes her diet, adds more exercise, spends less time taking care of husband, ailing parents, and everybody else so she can take better care of herself, and encourages her family and friends to improve their health too.  And all the while, Ada’s trying to determine whether her preoccupied hubby, pastor of Nashville’s Full Love Baptist Tabernacle, is transgressing with one of the flock. In the end, if you follow even some of Ada’s 53 rules, you will be on your way toward positive changes that you might see reflected on the scale.

Why a Black woman’s weight-loss story when it seems everybody else is struggling with weight? It’s personal, says Randall, who’s dropped 40 lbs. “I’ve said I want to be the last fat Black woman in my family, and that struck a chord in people’s heart. At the rate we’re going, frankly there will be no old Black ladies in the next generation.”

Here’s what else she had to say:

HealthJones: You share your own struggle with weight loss. How did that influence Ada’s Rules?

Randall: I decided to go on a weight loss journey to get under 200 pounds or have the [weight-loss] surgery. I was reading and getting advice and decided that if I wrote a book at the same time, that would help me stay focused on my goals. I wouldn’t do anything a poor woman couldn’t do. No personal trainer, no one to cook in the house. I wanted to identify low-cost and no-cost ways. The rules came to me as I figured out what worked. I consider myself to be an Ada.

I lost about 40 plus pounds. That’s important because losing just 10 percent of your weight leads to major health improvements. I started at over 225, so just 22.5 pounds equals 10 percent of your body weight – you see a reduction in diabetes risk and cancer risk. I want to empower women to aim for that 10 percent in weight loss. For me, I focused on just getting to 200 pounds. That was a good goal – it got me past 10 percent.

HealthJones: You said black women are fat because they want to be. Why do you say this?

Randall: It’s not just about are you overweight because this is what your husband likes. Many Black men and women appreciate larger Black women. It’s not just a sexual or romantic connection. Think about our grandmothers – my grandmother was big as two houses. I say that admiringly. No one can convince me that she wasn’t the most beautiful woman in the world.

Being larger can be the embodiment of political disobedience when your family’s labor has been commodified. Labor and fitness are no longer a simple thing when your fitness has been used for the benefit of others. So the choice can not to be fit can be a political choice.

I grew up in Detroit. My grandmother came up from Selma, Ala. She was born in 1900s. In 1900 Selma, Black women went to the fields to pick cotton from day they were children. If you were a sharecropper working somebody’s land you didn’t get fat. That a Black woman could sit on the porch and get fat was a cultural revolution. We need a new cultural revolution.

HealthJones: In the book, Ada struggles with issues that many may find familiar. What did you want to explore though Ada?

Randall: Low self-esteem; I was was speaking to that. Stress. There are strong relationships between stress, overwork, a history of sexual abuse, workplace trauma and lack of respect.  That’s why one of Ada’s rules is massage your own feet. So much is not in our control. You may not be able to control what causes stress but you can control the processing of stress.

HealthJones: How do you address that cultural change in your own home, say when your sweetie thinks you’re fine just the way you are?

Randall: I had to tell my husband [David] if he did not get out of my way … and I really like him! He liked to encourage me to eat something or figure out some reason to not get on the treadmill. He was benefitting when I was overweight – all the decadent meals. But I introduced him to high-protein Greek yogurt, to scrambled egg whites with spinach. He’s now benefitting with a wife who’s healthier and happier and more peaceful.

HealthJones: What do you want readers to take away from Ada’s Rules?

Randall: I want women know they can enjoy their bodies and their lives more if they take care of their health. Even if they don’t lose one pound, just moving, drinking water and sleeping more has emotional benefits, spiritual benefits. And everybody needs to do it her own way. I want them to put themselves on their own to-do list – it’s a way of showing self-respect.