5 Ways to Keep Cool & Safe When Exercising Outside

5 Ways to Keep Cool & Safe When Exercising Outside

It’s hot out there, but summer weather shouldn’t stop you from exercising, gardening or enjoying other activities outside – in fact, getting out in nature helps with stress levels! But it’s important to be prepared and proactive to avoid heat-related problems.

The more physically fit you are you, the better you’ll be able to adapt. If you have medical conditions, please check with your health care provider before you begin exercising in the heat. Then, use these guidelines to help ensure that when you do go out, you’re being smart and safe.

Hot Weather Guidelines

Take It Easy at First

If you’re used to working out at the gym or are not used to hot temps, decrease your usual intensity, frequency and/or duration to allow yourself to acclimate. Monitor your heart rate and your feeling of exertion. For example, if you normally walk for 60 minutes, start with 30 minutes, at a slower pace than you’re used to. It can take up to two weeks of repeated activity in the heat to acclimate.

I know, it’s hard! I have known many athletes over the years and even those who are quite fit are surprised at what heat will do to a workout! Be aware of the “feels like” temperature as opposed to the actual temperature; humidity levels also make a difference.

Drink Plenty of Fluids, Preferably Water

At a minimum, drink 12 ounces before exercise, 12 ounces every 30 minutes during exercise, and 12-16 ounces after exercise. Drink more if you feel that you have lost a lot of fluid due to sweating during your exercise. It’s also helpful to monitor your urine output. If it’s dark yellow and/or low in volume you need to rehydrate.

But Don’t Drink Too Much!

Drinking too much water, called over-hydration, can lead to low blood sodium. To stay hydrated but not overly so, here is a general rule: Drink before, during and after exercise and other physical activities. At other times of the day, drink when thirsty.

Wear Loose, Light Clothing in Fabrics That Evaporate and Wick Sweat Away

Try clothes such as DryMax, CoolMax and others. Avoid dark colors, because they absorb heat (darker colors also attract mosquitoes). Wear a light-colored hat to help limit direct sun exposure.

Use Sunscreen, and Try To Reapply at Two-Hour Intervals Even if the Labels Have Sweatproof and Waterproof Claims

Sunburn increases the risk of premature skin aging and skin cancer. Another good way to decrease sun exposure is to a wear wide-brimmed hat, avoid the midday sun and heat (10 a.m.-2 p.m.), rise early, or make sure your route/trail for exercise is shaded. Or, consider a swim!

What If You Start to Feel Sick?

Pay attention to the heat. Listen to your body. If you start to feel faint and/or sick, stop immediately. Sit down in the shade and drink water. If possible, it’s also a good idea to have a healthy, hydrating snack, such as fruit. Energy bars or crackers are not ideal as they slow hydration.

Here are some of the most common heat-related illnesses and how to handle them:


If you get heat cramps, usually occurring in your legs, stop the activity, move to a cool spot, place a chilled cloth around your neck, and sip water or a sports drink – water is usually better. Since sweat helps your body cool itself, if possible sit in a breeze or in front of a fan.

Heat Exhaustion

Signs include heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, nausea, a fast and weak pulse and possibly fainting. Seek medical help if symptoms are extreme or if they last longer than an hour.\

Heat Stroke

This is the most serious, potentially fatal, heat-related condition. Symptoms include high body temperature (104 F or higher), absence of sweating with hot, flushed or red/dry skin, rapid pulse, difficulty breathing, hallucinations, confusion, agitation, seizure, coma, and if untreated, death.

Sometimes these things come on quickly with little warning. If you suspect that you or others are suffering heat stroke, call 911 immediately. If possible, move to a shady area, drink and spray cool water on the person, avoid alcohol or caffeine (in tea and soft drinks), apply ice packs under the armpits and groin, and fan until the body temperature cools to 101 F.

Any Amount of Exercise You Get Has Health Benefits

Having said all of this, always remember that even a 20-minute workout has positive health benefits! Don’t sweat it (no pun intended!) when the weather is not giving you your best day out. It’s the number of days you exercise that matters most, not the length of time of any given exercise session.

Cindy Kugler, MS, Bryan LifePointe

Cindy Kugler, MS, Bryan LifePointe

Cindy is a certified exercise physiologist and certified strength and conditioning coach.

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Renovations 17 Years in the Making

Renovations 17 Years in the Making

My husband had to talk me into purchasing our home 17 years ago because I didn’t want to have to do any remodeling. All I could see was update after update that would need to be completed. However, I really wanted to live in a house rather than an apartment, so I began to imagine what our home could look like after these updates. The good news was my husband taught industrial technology, had a construction job in high school and had the tools to make these imaginary images in my mind come true.

Renovation Prep May Not Involve Everyone

My husband tells me I’m unrealistic when it comes to home renovation ideas. He tells me to quit watching the home improvement shows. He often reminds me to quit looking through Pinterest for ideas. For 17 years, I’ve wanted to renovate our kitchen. Actually, I only want to demo a wall and replace it. The wall only houses the oven and stove top, so it’s not too big of a deal. I not-so-patiently wait for the day we decide to tackle the yellow and brown kitchen wall. But during the meantime, my husband has tackled many projects on the infamous “honey-do renovation spreadsheet.”

We’ve held onto the old wood for seven years in hopes of creating a shiplap wall in our kitchen. Two weeks ago, my husband started refurbishing the wood. My excitement was building. After much debating, planning and finding consecutive free days, we started the demo of the kitchen wall. But when I say “we,” I actually mean my husband. I quickly learned in the first hour of prepping that this was not going to be a task that involved both of us.

Putting His Skills to the Test

Two not-so-brilliant suggestions and a handful of tears later, I was off to wash and fold laundry. I left the renovation to my husband. This I know to be true about my husband: he does not like doing any home renovations because of my unrealistic timeline expectations. Still, I found myself standing outside of the plastic watching my husband as he demolished the wall and strategically planned how to rebuild it.

And, no matter how frustrated I was, I could not help but be amazed as I watched my husband in his element. He meticulously cut the drywall to save the adjacent walls. He was careful to collect all of the nails, so they would not be left on the floor. He intensely studied the measurements to ensure my ideas would work. And he even prepared me for a longer renovation timeline due to unforeseen issues.

17 Years of Waiting Will Be Worth It

There are days I struggle with patience because I’ve waited years for this one renovation project to start. I will definitely have to adjust my expectations of how fast this project will take to complete. However, as I continue to wait for the moment my husband will holler to help make a decision or to sweep the floor, I realize I’m lucky that my husband has pretty amazing craftsmanship.

We’ll have to live in chaos longer than I would like, and we’ll have to make meals without our oven or stove for the next month. We’ll have more renovation frustration ahead of us, yet at the end of it, our home will have another project completed by my husband’s hands.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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School’s Out, But the Learning Continues

School’s Out, But the Learning Continues

During my morning walk, I caught myself reminiscing about being in the school building with students and missing everything about it. Not only do I miss teaching, but my kids miss school, their friends and the activities. And, all I can do is plan for and hope that we will be back in school buildings this fall. Without thinking too far in advance, we must experience summer first.

Goodbye School, Hello Summer

The last two months of remote learning is complete, and summer has officially begun. Now our family must conquer summer with three things at the forefront: grace, patience and understanding.

Just the other day, I presented our children with a daily summer to-do list, or as our youngest put it, “a summer contract.” I needed a tremendous amount of grace and patience then, while our kids needed a gigantic dose of understanding. In those moments, each of us wanted to reply without listening or understanding.

At the start of every summer, we always have great intentions to focus on learning something new and traveling, but this summer will end up being different. We do not have any specific plans for the summer, so my husband and I want to spend summer days being more intentional about mental wellness, physical wellness and teaching our kids about our passions.

Finding Our Passions

This summer, my hope is that we are intentional in spending more time as a family and understanding what each of us is truly passionate about. For example, our son is passionate about golf. Our family spends time with him on the golf course encouraging him, yet also trying to learn the sport.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, my husband is passionate about photography and wants to teach our kids about pinhole photography. I would like to stretch our kids’ skills in creative writing or podcasting. Once the kids determine their topics, we will jump into the creative process.

Remembering to Set Boundaries

Even more important than learning, we are going to be diligent in supporting mental wellness through physical wellness. We are encouraging a daily running, strength training and yoga. Going beyond the physical wellness, we need to continue to set healthy boundaries with social media.

As our kids will say, we are the only parents in the world that set time limits to encourage unplugging and stepping away from technology. I believe focusing on these areas will continue to foster healthy relationships with our children as we enter a new phase in our household with a college student, a freshman in high school and a sixth grader. This will definitely take grace and patience from all of our family, but this is part of growing and developing these characteristics before they leave our home for the next stage of life.

Our middle daughter put it the best, “Why is it that my parents who are teachers still make us learn throughout the summer?” We encourage our family to spend the summer together, so we all have a deeper understanding of each other’s passions and enhance our patience and grace with each other. School’s out, but our family will continue learning.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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Your Ankle Pain: Could It Be Arthritis?

Your Ankle Pain: Could It Be Arthritis?

How many times have you stepped off the curb or out of your car the wrong way, and twisted your ankle? Probably more than you’d like to admit! Ankle injuries are pretty common. It’s easy to make a misstep and give yourself a strain or sprain. But as an ankle surgeon, many of my patients are surprised when they learn that arthritis can also be the source of their ankle pain.

So What Causes Arthritis in Our Ankles?

The most common form of ankle arthritis is actually caused by a previous trauma or injury. Perhaps you were in a car accident, or had a sports injury and had surgery for it. Then this injury, in a way “re-awakens.” This is different than when you get arthritis in your hip or knee, as these cases are usually caused by overuse or general wear and tear over time. With trauma, we can see deformities of the ankle caused by the injury.

Symptoms of Ankle Arthritis

There are several grades of arthritis, and your symptoms and treatment largely depend on these.

Grade 1

This is a very mild form of arthritis. You may only feel pain when you exercise or perform certain work duties or chores. Your pain might be in a specific area of your ankle joint. Pain will come and go; you’ll have good days and bad days.

Grade 2

This is a more moderate form where a significant portion of your cartilage may be lost. You’ll have more pain, and more limited range of motion and function. You might feel the changes in weather because your ankle might swell and be painful.

Grade 3

This is what we often consider end-stage arthritis, where we see bone-on-bone in the joint. This means the two bones now grind together because there is no cartilage to provide a nice gliding surface and lubricating joint fluid. Think of an engine trying to run without motor oil. This friction causes inflammation, and the ankle further deteriorates and starts to deform. When you reach this stage, ligaments and tendons can become compromised as your ankles are now weakened and unstable. At this stage, your pain is persistent.

Treatments for Aching Ankles

For those with milder symptoms, there are several things we recommend. Anti-inflammatory medications, using a brace or wrap, and shoe modifications such as orthotics are great first steps. As podiatrists we may recommend specific types of rocker bottom shoes or modifying certain activities. We also prescribe physical therapy to strengthen muscles around the ankle. There are also some injections that may help.

Some patients benefit from minor arthroscopic procedures that enable us to go in and clean up scar tissue or remove bone or cartilage fragments that may be the cause of pain. These are the types of treatments we consider for those with both grades 1 and 2. Again, frequency and intensity of these treatments depend on the each person’s case. If you’re at grade 3, surgery may benefit you. Two types of surgery are ankle replacement and ankle fusion.

Who Needs Surgery and What Kind of Surgery?

Ankle fusion

This is the tried and true method of treating end-stage ankle arthritis. It’s been described in the medical literature since the 1850s believe it or not! This is where arthritic bone is removed, the joints are “welded” shut, and held in place at a 90 degree angle with plates and screws. This eliminates grinding and eases inflammation and pain. It does a great job of relieving pain, but the ankle does become quite stiff. This is good for those who perform high-impact activities or whose job entails heavy labor, because it’s sturdier than ankle replacement.

Ankle replacement

With ankle replacement, we take out the arthritic joint and replace it with two metal surfaces with a plastic liner in the middle. This allows patients to have some flexibility and range of motion. The goal is to ease or eliminate pain while preserving range of motion as much as possible. You will have a more normal walk compared to joint fusion, but not as complete as before surgery. This is a great option if you prefer low-impact activities, such as walking, playing golf, swimming, etc. It’s also a very good option if you are in your 50s or older.

What to Expect After Ankle Replacement Surgery

After your ankle replacement surgery, you probably won’t do any weight bearing activities for 2-6 weeks. This timeframe really depends on your surgeon and your situation. When your surgeon thinks it’s appropriate, you’ll ease into exercises for range of motion, strength and balance. After that, you can expect several months of physical therapy. You’ll likely stay in touch with your surgeon periodically for months or even years to ensure your joint is still in its proper place and your pain is still relieved.

In the final analysis, we want to make sure that you get the right treatment for your lifestyle and life stage so that you can live as pain-free as possible.

Dr. Eric So

Dr. Eric So


Dr. Eric So, DPM, is a fellowship-trained foot and ankle surgeon with Capital Foot and Ankle, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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Can’t Tap My Way Out of This

Can’t Tap My Way Out of This

The world feels like it has stood still. Am I in Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day asking the questions, What day is it? What time is it? What’s to eat? Do I shower today or is that tomorrow?

As I’m sitting down to write my May blog, I’m trying to remember what I wrote about for April’s post. I have no clue. I worry if I’ll be writing the same exact words. Then I remembered I can reread April’s blog. Duh!

So much has changed in one month. Every time I leave our house, I wear a face mask. I wash my hands so much my fingers are wrinkly. OK, they were wrinkly before, but they are really wrinkly now. My hair color makes me look like a skunk with a big white streak running down my scalp. My fingernails are a mess. What I’ve realized is that this is the new normal.

Trying to Meet Goals

One of my goals last month was to Zoom with the grandkids once a week. We’ve only chatted on Zoom twice. The first time, it was just to connect together and it was perfect. The second time was when we all decorated Easter cookies.

It’s no one’s fault this hasn’t worked out more often. There seems to be virtual school still going on. Also, all of the grandkids work and their schedules frequently conflict. My only schedule is getting to bed at my normal time, which is sometimes when they’re just getting home from work. In spite of missing the mark with this goal, I continue my quest to touch base with them once a day.

The adjusted goal for this grandma is to learn something new each week. I give my grandkids the opportunity to suggest what the goal is, but I get to make the final decision. They don’t always know my physical limitations or my physical abilities. Heck, I may or may not know my own abilities or limitations.

Setting New Goals

This past week, I was challenged to tap dance. Our daughters took lessons, and the three granddaughters took lessons. I always loved the sounds, the rhythm, and of course, the recital costumes. I tap danced 65 years ago, so I knew it would come back to me quickly. I think they call it muscle memory. I decided to take tap dancing on as a goal.

The grandkids chuckled and were excited to see what I could accomplish. Actually, I don’t think that statement is true. That’s what they lead me to believe.

I quickly found a YouTube tap dance lesson online. I couldn’t find a lesson that was very long and involved, which was a blessing to me! You have to pay for those lessons. Here I go. Front toe taps, side toe taps, heel taps, ball change. These were all steps I recalled from my own lessons many years ago. What could go wrong other than the grandkids nagging me for my video?

Tapping My Way Through It

I danced in my Mary Jane shoes with a 1.5-inch heel as running shoes would not have been appropriate. Toe taps went well. Heel taps were good. Putting them together with a shuffle was not as good. It’s called balance.

What the heck was I thinking when I decided to wear heeled shoes when I haven’t worn anything but running shoes since the beginning of March? Yes, the balance was a bit off, and the video I made showed a tad bit of hesitation, but I did it and I’ll continue to shuffle ball changing once a week.

My tap dancing may bring humorous relief and take my grandkids’ minds off COVID-19 for a couple of minutes, but it won’t tap our way out of the pandemic. As long as the tap dancing video brings a smile to their faces, I’ve achieved my goal.

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

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Why It’s Difficult to Watch My Grandkids Play Sports

Why It’s Difficult to Watch My Grandkids Play Sports

I’m getting older, that’s a fact. I try to follow the “aging” suggestions my doctor gives me and while I’m not worried about an injury, I do notice I think about it more now than in the past. The injuries I’ve endured are a few bruised fingers and a twisted ankle from playing pickleball. I’ve been fortunate to avoid anything which required an ER visit, casts or crutches, but it’s my grandkids who worry me.

As grandparents, we’ve become permanent bleacher bums for the past 15+ years. From those early years, it was significantly painful to watch Y team soccer, baseball, softball, basketball, tennis and volleyball games. My husband and I have been faithful attendees at hundreds of sporting events. I use the term sporting events loosely, as in many games we watched a granddaughter spend more time picking dandelions than she did chasing the ball.

As Intensity Increases, So Does Caution

As the grandkids grew and learned the various sports, the action got more heated. Fortunately, our grandkids didn’t get hurt when they were young, but some of their friends experienced injuries. I saw the tears and agony in the faces of the child, their parents and even their grandparents.

I recognized I was becoming more and more anxious. I’m sure there is some scientific formula where, mass (speed) + the number of practices + games = the higher probability of an injury. I may have missed that chapter in my high school textbook, so don’t quote me. With two grandkids in college and one in high school still competing, watching their events brings me a thrill, much joy and pride, but with a tinge of wincing and cringing. I don’t tell them this, but it’s true.

Even Safe Sports Can Be Scary

Our oldest grandchild rows crew in college. Sounds like a safe sport, right? Have you ever read any headlines about an accident in a crew race? The boats go in a straight line for heavens sake. However, one look at her calloused and blistered hands make me weak. Then there was the concussion she received while practicing, which was beyond my comprehension. I wonder if the crew team rows with itty bitty life vests in those skinny boats?

Our second grandchild is also a college athlete and plays volleyball. She entered college recovering from ACL surgery she received playing high school basketball. This recovery was very painful for me to watch, and I developed a sympathetic limp watching as she recuperated. By fall, her recovery was great, but the vision of seeing her dive on the court to dig a 45 mph spike delivered by a giant opponent took my breath away. I know I missed some great plays because I had my eyes shut!

The Fear from the Bleachers Is Unrelenting

This winter we have watched our grandson play high school varsity basketball. At 6’3” I’m sure he can take care of himself. I watched him break his pinky finger and I immediately wished the injury would bench him for the rest of the season, but no such luck. He was back in a week with lots of tape on his hand. Two weeks later he was fouled while airborne making a lay up. I watched as he lay crumpled on the court and I feared the worse. Thankfully, it was not a knee, but a sprained ankle. He was out for only one game—hallelujah!

As spring approaches, I remind myself we now have baseball games to watch. I love watching baseball. What could possibly go wrong when your grandson stands in the batters box and the pitcher throws a ball at him from 60 feet away at a speed only cars should be allowed to travel? I won’t tell any of them about my fears. I only tell them I love them and will cheer them on at every event I have an opportunity to attend. Eyes open or eyes closed? I’ll decide that at the time.

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

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Thank You, Basketball

Thank You, Basketball

The thrill of the jump ball. The adrenaline rush running onto the court to be the first sub into the game. The final buzzer sounded and the tears of frustration flooded down her face. As I hugged my daughter, encouraging her there was still hope in playing another game, I was flooded with emotions. Basketball, you have taught our daughter many lessons that will go well beyond the court.

You Helped My Daughter Grow

Let me just say this first: basketball you are not my daughter’s favorite sport, but she poured her heart into playing your game. Our daughter with her tiny stature and frame could have quit long ago, but you didn’t let her give up on basketball. You gave her a mental challenge, you showed her she had something to prove, you gave her adversity, and finally you gave her a lesson in learning the importance of individual roles.

Basketball, time-and-time again you stretched our daughter’s mental focus. Yes, there were days she needed to work on her shooting or dribbling, but the games of staring frustration in the face because things didn’t go well taught her to persevere. She would need this skill when you gave her adversity through a knee injury.

You Taught My Daughter Invaluable Lessons

She needed perseverance to rehab her knee, she needed to persevere when she hit the valleys and she also had to overcome her fear of returning to the court. Basketball, our daughter did not step down from this adversity and she became mentally stronger. She wanted to prove to you she would be back on the court. She wanted to prove to you, you did not take away the sport she loves—softball.

Basketball, from the mother’s perspective, the greatest lesson you taught our daughter was how to handle a role. You taught her that every game, every situation and on every team there are roles. You taught her to first understand what her role was and how to embrace this role. There were games where her bench minutes far outweighed court minutes.

She embraced those bench minutes by focusing on encouraging her teammates. There were games she started—she embraced those starts. There were games where her role was to give the starters a one-minute break, and she embraced those minutes. Basketball, you do not realize how important a lesson you taught our daughter. What she learned from you will carry with her in every group project, every student she will teach and every athlete she will coach.

You Helped Me Grow with Her

Basketball, it broke my heart watching my daughter sit on the bench. I hated you when she was injured, but I loved watching her play. I loved watching her encourage her teammates. I loved seeing the smiles the coaches exchanged when our daughter embraced whatever role they had for her.

While I sit here and reflect upon what you have taught our daughter, my heart swells with pride. Basketball, thank you for impacting our daughter’s life. Basketball, it truly does take a village to raise a child and I am forever grateful.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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New Year’s Resolutions with Kids

New Year’s Resolutions with Kids

Eat healthy, lose weight, exercise—these are some of the things I think about when it comes to New Year Resolutions. But this year, I not only wanted to do these resolutions for me, but I wanted to include my family in some as well.

Resolutions for the Family

When it comes to individual resolutions, for me, they’re easy to give up on because they’re all about me in a world where I’m focused on taking care of everyone else. This year, I wanted to try making resolutions as a group. They can be fun, painless and are sure to benefit my entire household.
While making a family resolution may seem as sensible as herding cats, it’s worth the effort. But setting family resolutions will only work if each member of the family feels invested. And for everyone to feel invested, shared goals need to be recognized and treated equally within the family.

If everyone feels they have a stake, then you have created the foundation for achieving your shared goals. Making goals public to your family and working together to achieve them provides the outside encouragement we all need to keep resolutions.

Focus On Your Health

But if you are the only one in your family that is actively working towards a goal, constantly removing yourself from your other family members’ habits —like eating a salad during family pizza night—will eventually erode your desire to keep your resolutions.

You might stick with eating salads for a while, but that pepperoni pizza will be more tempting when everyone else is enjoying it. We limited our pizza night to once a month. Instead of just eating salads for dinner, we are including a side salad with dinner.

We also decided to go on more family walks—the dog needs exercise too! The children have been joining me at the gym and hopefully we can get outside on the “nicer” winter days. Not only watching their mom get fit, but joining in when they can as well.

Before, I would weekly meal prep for myself, but now we are also planning our meals instead of driving through the fast food lane. We also included the children in the meal planning and prep. We are trying to find healthy ways to eat chicken strips and mac n’ cheese. The kids are excited and willing to try what they made!

Remember to Be Thankful

Lastly, we started a thankful jar. Each week we place a slip of paper in a jar saying what we were thankful for. At the end of each month, we will read these aloud. As part of the thankful jar, we also started sharing more. I feel that it is important to listen to each other.

We were stuck in a rut as soon as we got home—it was homework, dinner, electronics/tv, bath and bed. We rarely talked to each other. It was, “how was your day…fine…” and we’d move on. Now we are really trying to listen and ask questions.

I didn’t want to force my family to do New Year Resolutions, but it didn’t hurt to ask. Everyone was really excited to try, and it was easy to find ways for us to work together and achieve some common goals. Plus, it allows us more time together.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Is Weight Loss Surgery Right for You?

Is Weight Loss Surgery Right for You?

My passion for weight loss management started when I worked in a family practice doctor’s office. There was a definite correlation with obesity and an increase in chronic diseases and decrease in quality of life. Now that my main focus is helping patients reach their weight loss and long-term health goals, I realize how absolutely life changing it can be.

I will admit most patients come in feeling defeated and have given up hope. Patients feel like they have tried everything from fad diets, extreme exercise and basically starving themselves. And, nothing was working. Some of these approaches led to temporary weight loss. But, they were simply unable to maintain the weight loss and often gained back more weight than they lost. When I see these patients, we talk about the benefits of surgery and a structured weight loss program for long-term weight loss. And, after the first visit they are already starting to feel a flicker of hope.

Benefits of Weight Loss Surgery

Where do I begin? There are so many! One thing I hear over and over is, ‘why didn’t I do this sooner’. Patients feel they have more energy, confidence and overall a better quality of life.

Losing Weight Improves Your Health

Weight loss surgery can help improve or even diminish major health conditions associated with obesity. Body Mass Index (BMI) is the ratio of a person’s weight to height. It is used to determine if a person is at a healthy weight, overweight, obese or morbidly obese. BMI calculators provide an easy way for you to find out your body mass index.

Here are some of the many conditions that can improve with weight loss.


Weight loss surgery is an effective treatment option for obesity-related diabetes, especially Type 2. If you have a BMI (body mass index) of over 35, this type of surgery may be the right choice for you. After your weight loss surgery, your sensitivity to insulin will increase which means you should respond better to oral medication and any requirement for insulin injections will be reduced. Patients generally achieve a lower A1C after weight loss surgery.

Heart Disease

Losing weight makes a world of difference in helping to protect and maintain your heart health. Current research shows a significant drop in cardiovascular risk for those who have had bariatric surgery compared to those who have not. After surgery, losing weight takes a bit of strain off the heart and lowers the risk of heart failure.

High Cholesterol

We all know too much cholesterol can cause potentially serious problems. Conditions associated with high cholesterol levels include heart disease, stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure. After gastric bypass surgery, patients often achieve near normal cholesterol and triglyceride levels within just a few months. Lowering cholesterol levels helps to clear plaque and also reduces risks associated with cholesterol build-up in the arteries.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is when a person stops breathing while asleep. This can cause many health problems. Bariatric surgery is proven to reduce the effects of sleep apnea, and in some cases, cures sleep apnea.


There seems to be a link between some cancers and obesity. However, according to several recent clinical studies, weight loss surgery reduced cancer mortality rate in patients from 29-89% when compared to a group of individuals with morbid obesity who have not had weight loss surgery.


Research shows depression and obesity are closely related. One is known to lead to the other, and vice versa. After bariatric surgery and lifestyle changes, self-esteem is known to increase. As a result, this type of surgery most definitely can help those with depression and low self-esteem related to their appearance.

Acid Reflux

Many studies have proven that gastric bypass surgery can give those with obesity excellent control of issues associated with acid reflux. In fact, weight loss surgery may be an even better option for acid reflux because patients will also benefit from significant weight loss.


There’s a known link between obesity and osteoarthritis of the knee and hips. For those with obesity, knee or hip surgery to treat osteoarthritis may not be an option due to their weight. Weight loss after bariatric surgery can help improve osteoarthritis. This weight loss may also make a person eligible for knee or hip surgery, if it is still needed.

Qualifications for Weight Loss Surgery

You may qualify for bariatric surgery if:

  • You are 100 pounds overweight or more, with a BMI of 40 or greater, or
  • You have a BMI of 35 or greater with one or more serious health conditions linked to being obese, such as diabetes, high blood pressure or sleep apnea, and
  • You have not been able to lose weight in other ways, such as diet, exercise or medications

Other Considerations

There are several things to consider when contemplating weight loss surgery. You can look at it from two different angles both personally and financially. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help answer this question:

Are you looking to surgery for the right reasons? Bariatric surgery is meant to improve your overall health, it is not done for cosmetic reasons. Looking better is a “side effect”; feeling better is the goal.

Does your insurance plan cover weight loss (bariatric) surgery? Many insurance plans include bariatric surgery coverage. However, if you don’t have this coverage, we have other options available.

Do you have the emotional support you need? It is crucial that you have a strong support network of family and friends that will be there to help you through the process. We recommend close friends and family become educated about the lifestyle changes, risks and benefits of weight loss surgery so they can support you.

Ways the Bryan Bariatric Program Can Help You

At Bryan Bariatric Advantage, we have a specialized team to help you through your weight loss journey. This team includes a nurse practitioner, dietitian and surgeons. We also collaborate with mental health and exercise experts, as well as other specialty services as needed to ensure your success.

As the Bariatric Nurse Navigator, I can guide you through the entire process. Together, we can decide if surgery is right for you. We can also look at weight loss medication, if and when appropriate.

Our dietitian uses her weight loss nutrition expertise to prepare you for surgery and the life-long diet changes after surgery to achieve your goals. If surgery is not for you, she will help you to address your personal barriers with weight management and set goals to break through those barriers for good!

We’re here for you – to support and help you with compassion and expertise, and help you determine and navigate your best course to the ultimate goal of a long, happy and healthy life.

Learn More About Bryan Bariatric Advantage

Tara Wenta

Tara Wenta


Tara Wenta, APRN, works with Bryan Bariatric Advantage

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Planning a Disney Family Vacation

Planning a Disney Family Vacation

It’s a family vacation to remember. I can already picture it: Me, lounging poolside with a fruity cocktail as my carefree husband applies sunscreen to my back. We laugh, charge another round to the room, and bask in the sight of our happy kids splashing responsibly in the shallow end of the hotel pool. Hey, a mom can dream, right?

If you’re considering a trip to the Most Magical Place On Earth, it’s likely you’re feeling a little stressed and maybe even confused on where to start. With four theme parks, two water parks and a giant shopping district, it’s easy to see why. This was our first big family vacation and the planning felt more in-depth than planning my own wedding.

Where to Start When Planning a Disney Family Vacation

The first step you’ll want to take when you plan a Disney World trip is getting prepared. I started with reaching out to friends and family who’ve recently gone to Disney World. I also reached out to a co-worker who used to work at Disney—she helped out tremendously.

If you are staying at a Disney Resort, which I highly recommend if you have the budget, you’ll have an account created on Disney World’s website. This is where you’ll be able to access the My Disney Experience that holds your reservations and links your dining reservations and FastPass+ selections. The preplanning took my co-worker and I a couple of dinners to select and plan. So make sure you decide early on selecting your FastPasses and dining reservations! When you’re at the parks, you’ll be able to use the app to view maps, restaurant menus, your plans and more. It’s a must for any Disney World vacation!

How to Properly Pack for the Family

The next step is packing. Here, it’s all about packing smart from the start—remember, less is more!

I went above and beyond on the Disney clothes beforehand and planned out a new outfit every day we were at the parks. This was not necessary, but it made it feel more special for the kids. I figured that we are probably only going to offer Disney once, so why not! Also, don’t forget to pack ponchos as it rains almost every day in Florida.

While packing don’t forget that snacks, games and movies are a traveling must! Both kids had a backpack full of these items to help with boredom on the plane. Luckily, this was their first airplane experience, so the newness of flying helped a lot! After the major things are complete, try to enjoy your time as a family.

Expectation vs Reality

Without going into every little detail about the trip here were my expectations vs. realty.

  • Expectation: We’ll get an early start first thing in the morning! Let’s do this vacation thing!
  • Reality: Why can’t we sleep in; we are on vacation?
  • Expectation: Let’s go to all four parks starting from when they open and stay until the fireworks at night.
  • Reality: “Mooooooom, can’t we just swim in the pool?”
  • Expectation: Let’s take hundreds of pictures at every location. Everyone is very posed, smiling big and happy.
  • Reality: Nobody really wants to take a picture; they just want to have fun! The smiles are only half smiles and everyone’s thoughts are, “Fine, let’s get this over with.” And of course, there’s always that one person, my five-year-old daughter that just doesn’t want to cooperate, making everyone else annoyed.
  • Expectation: Even if the lines are long, we’ll enjoy the family time together.
  • Reality: “Mooooom, can I have your phone!”
  • Expectation: This is the “Happiest Place on Earth,” my children will act perfectly and be happy.
  • Reality: “Mom, my feet hurt, why is this line so long?” And then there was at least one melt down a day!

One Last Piece of Advice

My one big piece of advice when planning a trip to Disney is plan down time. I wanted to visit as much as possible, but my daughter wanted pool time every day. We did see all four theme parks and visited the shopping district, but in reality, we could have spent several days at just one park.

We crammed a lot into a short time. However, Disney World exceeded my expectations. Even though the trip wasn’t always what I had planned, we created memories that will last a lifetime. And it is safe to say, we are all ready to go back!

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Darting Memories

Darting Memories

Being a retired educator, our poor grandkids have learned I always have a lot of questions about school. I tend to ask what classes they are taking, who their teachers are and what topic they are studying in a particular class. I also ask about tests, their projects and grades. I guess my questions come with the territory of my professional life.

All of the grandkids have used me as a topic or reference in one class or another, and they love asking me questions. Heck, they have probably also used me as a class project I’m not even aware of like “Things not to do when you get older” or “Why do older adults not understand their phones?”

Finding Out More

I knew our grandson was taking a literature class this semester. He’s not a huge reader, so I wanted to know how he was doing. I couldn’t remember if he was taking a Holocaust Literature class or the Sci-fi Literature class, since both are great opportunities to get students involved. He responded by saying he was taking the Sci-fi Lit class. Next question, “Who’s your teacher?” As my retirement years keep growing, I know fewer and fewer teachers. I have found my influence with the kids or their teachers is waning. Probably a good thing on everyone’s behalf. Next question, “Do you like it?” He said it was OK for an English class. I thought to myself, “BONUS!” I know he won’t read “War and Peace” soon, but a positive response was a thrill to hear.

Next question, “What are you reading?” I could tell he was deep in thought for a second. In my mind I’m thinking, the kid has no idea what he’s reading? Doesn’t he go to class every day? Is he not participating in any class discussion because he’s not reading the book? Why the hesitancy? Following the sci-fi theme, is this kid really an alien who has been taken the body over my grandson?

Memories Come Darting Back

Two seconds passed and my grandson looks at me with a twinkle in his eye and he hit his chest four times and made some whistling sounds. What the heck was this? Are they teaching sound effects in sci-fi class? I thought for two seconds. I then asked if the novel he was reading was “Frankenstein” written by Mary Shelley. He smiled at me. Telepathically, we recalled the time all four grandkids watched the movie “Young Frankenstein” at our house.

We watched the movie during one of our movie dates at our house. “Young Frankenstein” has always been one of my favorite movies, so of course I wanted to share this unique experience with them. Both my grandson and I started slapping our chests making the whistling sound. This is the scene when the police chief pretends to throw the darts at the dart board. The chief actually puts the darts into his wooden arm. The chief made a whistling sound with his mouth imitating the darts going through the air and striking the dart board.

Reliving Memories Together

Soon, the other grandkids caught on and joined in the charade. The five of us had a great time sharing our experience with their parents and grandpa. It was a fun reminder of how we’ve enjoyed connecting in the past. One of our granddaughters then commented they liked the “Young Frankenstein” movie, however, she was really freaked out by the movie, “The Crows.” The Crows?? The rest of us looked at each other in a confused state of not being able to recall the movie. She talked about the scene which really scared her. It was when the crows were in the school yard attacking the kids running down the street. I quickly realized she was talking about the movie, “The Birds.” What a hoot, and I laughed till I cried.

The grandkids haven’t been over to see a movie in a couple of years, so to have them recall some of those memories was a thrill for me and, hopefully, for them. It was a reminder to me that the memories I hope to create may or may not have a long term connection with my grandkids, but when it does, it sure is great.

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

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On the Road to a Healthy Heart: Dr. Keith Miller Takes His Own Advice

On the Road to a Healthy Heart: Dr. Keith Miller Takes His Own Advice

I started thinking a lot about my heart health because, at 52 years old (holy crap!), I have come to terms with the reality that I am not immune to the disease that I attempt to PREVENT and TREAT every day as a cardiologist. In short, I have been confronted with my own vulnerability.

So far, thank goodness, I haven’t had any health issues, but I want to be honest with myself and deal with my own future risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular death.

Plus, there are a lot of people like me out there who are getting a little “middle-age-ish,” who may not fully appreciate their risk of cardiovascular disease.

So I thought it would be interesting, educational and perhaps inspirational to share my own personal experience of going through a risk assessment and trying to reduce my risk of heart and vascular disease. I’m focusing on lifestyle changes, but also evaluating whether I am a candidate for prescription medications (such as statins) to reduce my risk.

I had lab work done to find out my cholesterol levels and a coronary calcium scan to help define my risk. And, I have calculated my 10-year risk.

I also signed up for the Good Life Halfsy because I needed a goal to motivate me to exercise!

Identifying Your (and My) Risk for Heart Attack or Stroke

Using only a few, easily obtained pieces of information about your health, you can find out whether you’re on the right track or need some serious lifestyle intervention. You can determine if a little improvement in your diet and exercise program is enough, or whether you may benefit from a medication to lower your blood pressure or your cholesterol level.

If you are in your:

  • 50s or 60s – Age alone becomes a very important risk factor for heart disease. Even if you’re seemingly healthy you may be at risk. Let’s face it, cardiovascular diseases like heart attack, stroke and heart failure are extremely common and we are all at risk to one degree or another.
  • 40s – You aren’t off the hook, and depending on other risk factors, blood pressure or cholesterol lowering medications may help you.

Taking a Dose of My Own Medicine

I recently did my own cardiovascular health assessment.

Here are my stats:

  • 52-year-old white male
  • Total cholesterol – 255 mg/dL
  • HDL cholesterol – 71 mg/dL
  • LDL cholesterol – 168 mg/dL
  • Systolic blood pressure – 110 mmHg
  • Non-smoker
  • Non-diabetic without hypertension

My 10-year risk of having a heart attack or stroke was 3.2%. Not too bad!

I was a little disappointed that my LDL cholesterol was 168 mg/dL, which is definitely higher than I would like. A little improvement in my diet and exercise should do the trick to fix this.

If that 10-year risk number had been 5% or more, with other risk factors like family history, I might have considered going on a cholesterol medicine.

What Can Be Measured Can Be Managed

The point is, heart attack and stroke risk can be measured. And what can be measured can be managed. Lifestyle changes and blood pressure or cholesterol treatment have been shown to reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and death from cardiovascular disease in people with elevated risk.

The question is, are you one of those people? Don’t wait to find out!

Find Out Your Risk & Take Action if Needed

If you don’t know your cholesterol numbers or you haven’t had your blood pressure checked in a while, talk to your doctor or consider taking part in a health screening offered by Bryan Health.

Find out if you’re at risk with our helpful cardiovascular risk estimator!

The next health screening where you can find out your cholesterol levels, A1c and other important health information is:

Thursday, Nov. 21, 7-9 a.m.

Bryan LifePointe Campus, 7501 S. 27th St.

To learn more and register, click below!

Other Free Risk Assessments


Offered by Bryan Health

Find out your heart age, risk for heart disease and steps you can take to improve your heart health.

If you are at risk, you can choose to have a free consultation with a nurse to discuss ways to improve your heart health.

My Life Check

Offered by the American Heart Association

Get a heart health score with recommendations to make improvements and track your progress.

Remember to Exercise!

Staying active is important for all of us, and any amount you do is helpful to your heart health. It doesn’t have to be a half-marathon! If you’re wondering how my training is going, here’s a photo of me after finishing this year’s Good Life Halfsy. I’m getting there!!

dr miller at the good life halfsy finish line

Let’s Improve our Heart Health Together

I hope you’ll join me so we can improve our heart health together. Take the screenings to find out your risk. Look for ways to improve your daily lifestyle. And, if you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it!

I invite you to follow me and see more videos and blogs to inspire you to better health.

Dr. Keith Miller, MD

Dr. Keith Miller, MD

Health Expert

Dr. Keith Miller, MD, is a cardiologist with Bryan Heart.

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