The National Institute of Whole Health (NIWH) | Pioneers of Whole Health Education® and Whole Person Care
November 8, 2016

Why Is Nonverbal Communication Important?

By Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD

Arms Crossed. Taken by Forest Runner. September 19, 2004.

Albert Merhabien, the famed communication researcher, stated that nonverbal communication constitutes almost 93 percent of all the “messages” we receive. Others suggest that it is actually more like 60 percent to 70 percent of nonverbal communication that lets us know what others are really feeling.

What we know about how the brain and body work is that all thoughts and feelings are ways that we cope with our world. For many of us, not revealing our feelings and instead holding them back may be the “safe” way to cope with others at work, at home, and in general.

Neurological Expressions

What is also understood is that there are “tells,” or neurological expressions of these withheld, nonverbal communications happening inside our brains. Even though we may not consciously or intentionally express verbally or physically how we feel, our brain/body connection does express these thoughts and feelings in nonverbal ways. These nonverbal ways are the “tells” that police and other professionals use to decide if someone is withholding information.

Many studies have been done on the subject of body language and nonverbal communication. It is important for all of us to become aware of how our physical and verbal or nonverbal behavior impacts others, especially those who spend the most time in our environment.

Nonverbal communication can often cause one individual in a relationship to become upset if he feels he is seeing or interpreting nonverbal actions by his partner as rejection or disinterest. Often, before a relationship ends, one partner suspects the relationship is in trouble because of a lack of eye contact or verbal communication or because of hostile body language, such as the crossing of arms or legs in response to communication attempts.

Scientific Interpretation

There is a science to nonverbal communication interpretation, as well as a science to understanding the best way to express our feelings. The way we do that can result in a positive or negative outcome. The science is directly related to neurological and neurotransmitter connections between thoughts and feelings in the brain and their communication to the muscles and nerves in the rest of our body.

It is important to be mindful of the nonverbal communication we are sharing in both our professional and personal lives. These cues can also offer hints to the real struggles lying beneath the surface.

Published in Whole Person Health Care | Comments (0)

November 1, 2016

The Passion Diet

By Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD


One of the frustrating aspects of health that I hear from patients, in my role as a patient educator and nutritionist, is that just when they think they have a handle on what they are supposed to do to be healthy – the information changes.

For example, up until a recent study was published (1), those of us who were over 50 were assured that if we moderately cut back our portions, decreasing our calories, and exercised for a half hour 4-5 times a week, we could keep at bay the extra body fat that creeps in after menopause (2).

Countless women dutifully reduced their calories and did their half hour routine daily only to feel that there was “something wrong with them.” While the “experts” said it was the right way to control weight after 50, the formula did not work for their body and they did not maintain their desired weight level. Recent research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (3), has now thrown out the half hour a day exercise formula.

Here’s the rub: No longer is a half hour of exercise deemed adequate to increase the metabolic furnace that is slowed down by the loss of estrogen. We now have to exercise a minimum of one hour per day and really watch every calorie we put in our mouths, especially carbohydrates, which we may want more than ever for the serotonin surge they provide.(4)

This new information comes from the Harvard study (5) on physical activity and weight gain in women over 50. This throws out the previous recommendations, and as it is stated in the Harvard study and experienced by many of us who are post-menopausal, that women over 50 years old generally do not lose the weight they want with just a half hour a day of exercise. This is yet another example of information frustration in an information saturated culture.

Estrogen, as every female is aware, is that amazing hormone that is a metabolic calorie burner as well as a reproductive hormone. It keeps us heart healthy, keeps our skin healthy, and produces “pheromones” for attraction– among other body functions.

What is an important, non-researched but logical factor, regarding losing weight and keeping it off after 50, is what our individual body tells us is right for our unique metabolism and body type. We need to ask ourselves what do we know about our own weight loss and weight gain pattern that could be more important than the “weight loss expert’s” advice.

The big question is: Now that we are past the age of procreation and our body is no longer protecting us against many of the maladies that can accompany the loss of reproductive hormones, what do we know about our own metabolic profile and how food and exercise affects our body weight — and what do we know also about what it is in our lives that makes us feel our optimal, best self?

Some important questions to ask ourselves:

1-      What do I know about how I gain weight?
2-      What do I know about how I lose weight?
3-      Do I eat when I’m stressed?
4-      Do I lose weight when I’m stressed?
5-      Do I use food for emotional soothing?
6-      Does eating play a dominant role in my daily routine?
7-      Is losing weight more important than eating what I like when I like it?
8-      What am I willing to give up, to get the body weight I want?
9-      Do I feel my food choices need to improve?
10-   What is my personal experience with exercise?
11-   What works best for me, what kind of exercise do I enjoy?
12-   What do I know how my body responds to exercise?
13-   Am I willing to make the time to take care of myself?
14-   What are my health priorities?
15-   What are my ego priorities?
16-   What keeps me from being the weight I want to be- REALLY?
17-   What helps me feel my best and makes me happy or passionate about life?

The issue of weight loss, from a general observation of ourselves, our peers and friends, appears to be connected to a number of factors in our lives above and beyond how much exercise we do daily. Rarely do we see an energetic, productive, organized individual (man or woman) who struggles with weight issues, even after 50, because they are often focused on their external interests and passions. Often these folks spend less time eating and getting pleasure from food and more time enjoying their hobbies or activities and getting pleasure out of the active, fulfilling lives they live.

One of the weight loss “secrets” I have learned over the years in my practice as a clinical nutritionist is that when individuals are excited, creative, interested and passionate about their work, their relationships, learning, doing or being, the issue of a naturally right body weigh solves itself.

We are often over focused on the sensory experience and enjoyment of food as a mainstay for satisfaction and pleasure, and just as often when something else catches our attention and we focus our creative, passionate energies into things we love, the issue of fulfillment comes from creativity or service to other rather than our food intake.

(1)  (3) (5) ^ Physical Activity and Weight Gain Prevention in Women Over 50 JAMA 1.I-Min Lee; Luc Djousse; Howard D. Sesso; Lu Wang; Julie E. Buring


Please note this excerpt“A large Harvard study1 shows than women over age 50 who average 60 minutes a day of moderate-intensity activity (such as walking) were able to maintain a healthy weight over a 13 year period.

Exercise alone was not enough for women who started the study already overweight, indicating that dietary changes and other metabolic enhancement would be needed in addition to exercise to effect weight loss or prevent weight gain.

This is significantly higher than the 150 minutes per week recommended by the federal government. The study has been met with chagrin by many women wondering where they will find time for even more exercise. Prioritizing consistent exercise is difficult for many. However, our bodies are made to be used. This is clearly a case of use it or lose it.”

(4) – Serotonin and carbohydrates

“Abstract – Serotonin-releasing brain neurons are unique in that the amount of neurotransmitter they release is normally controlled by food intake: Carbohydrate consumption–acting via insulin secretion and the “plasma tryptophan ratio”–increases serotonin release; protein intake lacks this effect.”

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Published in Holistic Health, Holistic Nutrition, Integrative Nutrition, Whole Health Nutrition | Comments (0)

October 25, 2016

A New Breed of Humans?

By Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD

From advanced, minimally invasive surgical techniques to mapping the human genome, medical advancements that would have been unthinkable a mere 50 years ago are shuttling us toward a ripe old age — but at what cost?  While no one can argue that medicine and technology have changed our lives in many ways for the better, there is still a significant trade-off between the years left in our lives compared with the life left in our years.

Advancements And Implications

At the core of this debate is the fact that advancements have been made so quickly, and have had such a significant impact on the human body, that in the last century the shape and size of the body itself has changed in an attempt to adapt to this unprecedented onslaught of physiological impact.  This is according to a new paper published by Robert W. Fogel and Nathaniel Grotte, at the National Bureau of Economic Research.  Spanning 300 years of height and nutrition data, the authors have poured their findings into what has culminated as a new and modern form of evolution, known as “technophysio-evolution.”

Their research shows that, as humans, our ability to control our environment has reshaped how we grow, how much we eat, and much more.  These factors, in turn, affect future generations, as the previous branch of the family tree works hard to give their children what they didn’t have, in terms of better nutrition, better medical care, and a better quality of life.

Strength And Stature

They note that, “the average adult man in 1850 in America stood about 5 feet 7 inches and weighed about 146 pounds; someone born then was expected to live until about 45. In the 1980s the typical man in his early 30s was about 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighed about 174 pounds and was likely to pass his 75th birthday.”

Granted, huge gains in sanitation, disease control and population were also factors.  Fogel notes that “Before the 19th century, most people were caught in an endless cycle of subsistence farming.  A colonial-era farmer, for example, worked about 78 hours during a five-and-a-half-day week. People needed more food to grow and gain strength, but they were unable to produce more food without being stronger.”

Today the pendulum has swung to the opposite end of the spectrum; we no longer have to fear cholera and smallpox. Instead, an over-abundance of nutrient-deficient foods has led to other life-threatening concerns, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. And, it’s not just our bodies that are changing.

Neuroscientist Susan Greenfield, author of ID: The Quest for Identity in the 21st Century, claims that the “gadget-filled, pharmaceutically-enhanced 21st century” is changing our perceptions of ourselves.  Greenfield notes that, “increasing numbers of people already take Prozac for depression, Paxil as an antidote for shyness, and give Ritalin to children to improve their concentration.”  She continues, “But what if there were still more pills to enhance or “correct” a range of other specific mental [and personality related] functions?”

A Digital Influence

Our brains are already changing in response to electronic stimuli.  Whereas our ancestors may have feared being a saber-toothed tiger’s lunch, today’s young people try to understand and make sense of the world through a Facebook wall post or a YouTube video. Their world is perceived and experienced through the magic of the touchpad.  So much of their personal information is shared and stored online that it is literally affecting them at the neurological base.

Studies on today’s teenagers have already started to show that communication skills suffer, abstract thinking is weakened and they have a significant decrease in attention span capacity. Perhaps the of modern day mom’s harping that “too many video games will damage your brain” was closer to the truth than we realized.

What The Future Holds

With all these changes in modern medicine, technology and our bodies’ ability to adapt and change along with it, are we in essence creating a new breed of humans?  Will our children and grandchildren reach centurion status, fueled by requisite cocktails of medication, implants and bionic parts, in “assisted living facilities” where their quality of life leaves them home-bound and bed-ridden?

While it remains to be seen whether or not future generations will wholly embrace technology at any cost, it is worth remembering that there is no gene, pill or pluggable apparatus that can create the will to live. Do humans want longevity at all costs, or are there matters of the heart, mind and spirit that dictate beyond the physical matter of whether we thrive and survive. Can we become a new breed of bionic humans, with replaceable parts that keep us breathing for the sake of doings so? Or, is there some other drive within us that makes us uniquely human?

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Published in Integrative Health, Whole Health | Comments (0)

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