Building Foundations to Survive the Stressful Seasons of Life

Through all the seasons of life it is important to nurture our emotional and physical health. It is natural to become reactive or default to bad habits during a busy or trying time. Staying healthy does not need to be complicated. When life gets difficult with work stress, a family member not being well or overwhelming deadlines to meet, use these four foundations as a blueprint to enable you to build resilience or to help get you back on track.

1. Nutrition  When we are busy it is easy to grab processed foods or fast foods that lack the nutrients that we need to thrive. It is important to eat real food. Food is information for our body, and we need to fuel our body and mind so that we can accomplish more. Make sure most of your diet includes nutrient-dense foods that let you accomplish more with less.  Make sure each meal and snack packs as much benefit as possible. It is very important to stay hydrated. To keep it simple, always have a bottle of water with you and aim for 8 glasses of water per day.

Unhealthy convenience foods contribute to additional stress. Unstable blood sugar levels caused by processed, high carbohydrate foods increase stress hormones in our body and can also cause changes in our mood. It is important to incorporate healthy fats and lean protein into each meal and snack to keep our blood sugar in balance.  Aim for five different vegetables per day. Try to incorporate the different colors of the rainbow into your fruit and vegetable choices.

One of the best things you can do is prepare snacks and meals for the day. Grocery shop wisely and focus on the whole, natural foods in the outer sections of the store. Have healthy snacks available such as berries and walnuts, celery and almond butter or baby carrots and hummus. Purchase snack size packets of nuts and seeds. There are also many companies that deliver home-cooked meal kits or meals ready to eat. When only fast-food or restaurant food will do choose healthy options. To play it safe, stick to grilled instead of fried food and choose side dishes such as fruits, soups and salads. Whether you are dining out or eating in, it is important to maintain a balanced diet. Make sure you are getting a good mix of lean protein, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains.

2. Stress Management  Stress has been proven to have serious effects on our bodies and minds. Some seasons of life bring us more stress than others. It is important to practice self-care regularly. If you take care of your mind and body, you’ll find you are more productive and have more energy throughout the day. We can’t always change our commutes, deadlines, and pressures but there are actionable strategies that we can put into practice.

  • We can turn on the stress response and create the hormones of stress just by thinking about our problems. Trade emotions like fear, worry, or overwhelm for elevated, heart-centered emotions like gratitude, appreciation, or joy to create a cascade of healing hormones.  
  • Keep a gratitude journal or start your day with a mental list of five things you are grateful for. If you can only think of one thing to be thankful for – begin with that – and repeat.
  • Incorporate a daily practice of stillness. Calm your mind and body and reconnect with the present moment with focused breathing. Focus on a soothing image, a positive word or prayer. Find even five minutes a day to meditate or to listen to your favorite music.
  • Carve out 15 minutes of “me time” each day. No phones, emails, or deadlines. This time is just for you.
  • Learn to say ‘no’. Having too much to do and too little time is a common cause of stress. Are there things that can be delegated to others or completed at a later date?
  • Spend time with friends and family. If you want to be happy and healthy, relationships are very important.

3. Sleep  Actively prioritize sleep. There are too many distractions and things competing for our attention that keep us awake. When we do not sleep well, we crave comfort foods and lack the energy to exercise. When we are sleep deprived our mood is affected and we are more reactive. Incorporating a relaxing bedtime routine can be transformative. Dim the lights and quiet your mood. Turn off all technology and the television at least 30-minutes (90-minutes would be best) before sleep. The blue-light emitted from these devises can suppress your melatonin production and affect your sleep and health. Try to maintain a consistent bed-time schedule.

4. Movement  Build movement into your everyday life. Rather than let stress build up, incorporate 10-minute or 15-minute walks into your day to buffer the effects of stress. Physical activity will increase your energy levels, improve your health and boost your mood.  If a trip to the gym doesn’t work with your schedule, fit stretches and muscle-building exercises into 5 or 10-minute intervals during your day. You can fit in a “kitchen workout” while your dinner is baking or an “office workout” for the first few minutes of your lunch break.  Make a habit of doing little things throughout the day that build up to 30 minutes of exercise. Keep your body strong and build resilience so that you will have the reserve to handle unexpected challenges and they will not deplete you.

Finding balance in these four foundational areas can make a huge difference for your mood, energy, outlook on life and how well you can handle stress. Develop good habits and when you lose your focus just get back on track. When you start to feel drained, irritable and less focused, it’s time to listen to yourself and your body. Maybe you need to go to bed an hour earlier next week and that will do it. Maybe you need more protein in your breakfast meal for sustained energy in your day. Perhaps you will find that a one-hour yoga class per week could restore and rejuvenate you. It’s the little things you do in your life day by day that can make a master change in your health and happiness.

-Diane Duvall, Life Coach and Certified Health Coach for the Lifestyle Medicine Practice of Dr. Geni Abraham, Board Certified, American Board of Internal Medicine.  Our Internal Medicine Practice is an integrated medical practice with a focus on Lifestyle Medicine. We offer health coaching sessions to help you reach your personal goals. Dr. Geni Abraham, Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, Inc., 205 JFK Drive, Suite A, Atlantis FL 33462. Phone: (561) 432-8935, Visit and Follow us on Facebook                                                     

Why Should You Work with a Health Coach?

Living a healthy life can be challenging at times. A state of optimal health and well-being means more than just the absence of disease.  To pursue good health we need to make individual lifestyle choices that support our physical, mental, spiritual and emotional well-being. Lifestyle habits in the area of diet, physical activity, sleep and stress management can greatly impact the quality of our life and ultimately impact our long-term health.

A Need for Change

Over 75% of chronic disease is preventable. We know that most chronic disease can be prevented by eating well, being physically active, and avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption.  According to the World Health Organization chronic diseases including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease, are collectively responsible for almost 70% of all deaths worldwide.

Most of us want the benefits of being healthy. We want to avoid disease and have energy and stamina to thrive in our lives. Many people know that getting proper exercise, eating well and managing stress are healthy behaviors but do not practice these things. Many people have tried to improve their fitness levels, manage their weight, improve their sleep or reduce the negative effects of stress… only to find that behavior change is hard. Whether you have failed to make your health a priority, have found it difficult to implement long-term change, or you are not sure where to begin, a health coach may be able to help you on your journey to well-being.     

A health coach is a supportive mentor and wellness authority that can help you create personalized, lasting mental and physical changes. Your doctor may have advised you on healthy changes you need to make. A health coach can act as your partner to support you and help you in developing the skills needed to embrace new behaviors.

Doctors and Coaches Working Together

In her internal medicine practice, Dr. Geni Abraham recognized that patients weren’t feeling better just because she gave them medications and treatment protocols. So, she explored what else she could do. In that process her office transformed into a wellness focused office and she added a health coach. As her health coach, I help patients develop healthy nutritional habits with a “food is medicine” focus, encourage exercise that they enjoy, and work on stress management and sleep hygiene.  It turns out that these measures are going to promote health and wellness and prevent disease.  This integrated approach helps patients feel healthier, more energetic and they are able to meet the challenges of today’s stressful society.  It is also what is going to reduce our overall healthcare costs in the future.

We offer lifestyle and stress management programs to our patients and members of our community.  I spend a lot of time with each person, often regularly scheduled 30 or 60-minute appointments to help them stay motivated and accountable as they make positive changes to reach their health goals.

How will a health coach help you to make lasting lifestyle changes, from weight management to overall wellness?

  • Goal Setting: Your coach will challenge you to focus on your ultimate outcome. What is your long-term wellness vision? Perhaps you want to change your diet and lifestyle to have more energy and vitality, and to make sure you can be around for your children or grandchildren. This long-term vision will help you to break through the obstacles you may face when embarking on behavioral changes such as a new way of eating or exercising. With an understanding of your personal interests and your readiness to change your coach will help you to establish SMART goals which are: specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely.  You will establish both short and long-term goals that you will continually revisit as you transform them into reality.
  • Maintaining a Positive Focus: You can retrain the way you think and establish positive self-talk. A health coach can help you shift to a more accurate and positive way of thinking. The focus will be on your strengths rather than your weaknesses to make behavior changes. Do you feel that you’re not motivated enough? Do you feel you lack time or discipline? Does the weather, an injury or financial constraints hold you back? A health coach can help you break down and overcome these barriers so that you can get back on the path to better overall health.
  • Implementing Small Changes: Have you found that making drastic changes all at once were unsustainable and didn’t last in the long-term? Have you discovered a lot of contradictory advice in the overwhelming amount of information on the internet and in the media? A health coach can help you implement small changes at a pace that is comfortable for you so that you can meet all of your health goals.
  • Creating New Habits: To find success in realizing your health goals it is important to develop healthy habits and stick with them. These new habits will turn into automatic behaviors. Start by committing to something easy and practice this new habit regularly.  It is not hard to form a new habit when you relate it to an important goal. Your health coach can support you in forming new healthy habits and reversing unhealthy ones.

Working with a personal health coach could change your life. Take the next step on your health journey and let a health coach provide you with the guidance, expertise and support you need on your path to achieve optimal wellness.

-Diane Duvall, CLC, CHHC, CPT     Diane Duvall is a Life Coach and Certified Health Coach for the Lifestyle Medicine Practice of Dr. Geni Abraham, Board Certified, American Board of Internal Medicine.   We offer health coaching sessions to help you reach your personal goals.

Dr. Geni Abraham, Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, Inc., 205 JFK Drive, Suite A, Atlantis FL 33462.  Phone: (561) 432-8935, Visit and Follow us on Facebook           

Taking Care of Your Heart

February is American Heart Month. This is a great time to focus on steps we can take to keep our heart healthy and prevent heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, but a heart-healthy lifestyle can go a long way to prevent heart disease. Medical conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes can increase your risk of heart disease. Make sure you are working with your doctor and incorporating healthy lifestyle practices to treat these conditions.  Our day to day lifestyle choices directly impact our heart’s health. Research shows that making healthy lifestyle changes, even later in life, may stop and actually reverse heart damage.

A healthy diet is one of the best weapons you have to fight heart disease.  The food you eat (and the amount) can affect other risk factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and being overweight. Choose nutrient-rich foods instead of nutrient-poor foods. The Mediterranean diet is a heart-healthy eating plan that is high in fresh fruits and vegetables (variety of color), lean protein, healthy oils (Extra virgin olive oil), whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds.  Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease.

This healthy diet includes:

  • Eating fish and poultry at least twice per week and limiting red meat to no more than a few times per month.
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods.
  • Avoiding hydrogenated oils (trans fats) which are found in fried foods and processed foods such as pies, cookies, pastries, donuts and frozen food.
  • Limiting refined sugars and carbohydrates such as white bread and white rice.
  • Sticking with water as your beverage of choice is best, as there is no benefit to adding sugary drinks.
  • Focusing on whole, natural foods and eating lots of vegetables.
  • For dessert, eating fresh fruit and saving sweets for a special treat or celebration.
  • Taking time to savor your food and enjoy your meals with family and friends.  

Regular exercise is one of the most effective tools to strengthen the heart muscle and reduce the risk of heart disease. Your heart will get stronger and healthier if you lead an active life. Regular exercise has many benefits including: burning calories, lowering blood pressure, reducing “bad” cholesterol and boosting “good” cholesterol. Aim to do aerobic exercise (“cardio”) for thirty minutes, five to six times per week.  Some examples include walking, jogging, biking, swimming or dancing. To check your intensity and make sure you are not pushing too hard, you should be able to talk but you shouldn’t be able to sing a full song. Find activities that you enjoy and start small. You can even break up your exercise sessions into 10-minute intervals. In addition, you should include strength training twice per week to build muscle and reduce body fat. To maintain flexibility, be sure to include stretching exercises (such as yoga) weekly as well. For ongoing encouragement, use an app on your phone or a wrist band that provides input on how many daily steps you have taken. Talk with your doctor before making any changes to your current exercise routine.

Focus on rest and relaxation. The effects of stress can have a direct impact on your body and can harm your heart. It’s important to have healthy habits in place to help in preventing and managing stress. When we feel stressed, we often reach for unhealthy habits to find relief, such as drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes or overeating. These unhealthy habits lead to other factors that may contribute to damaging your heart by increasing blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar.  Find hobbies and activities you enjoy, stay social and engage with friends and family. Stay positive and ponder uplifting thoughts about the future, as optimism is good for your heart. Dedicate a certain time each day to focus on your body and relaxing. Practice stress reduction techniques and exercises such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga and tai chi. Getting a good night’s sleep is important for a healthy heart. Aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep per night. Create a nightly routine to unwind and relax before bed and stick with the same sleep schedule, even on the weekends.

Working with your doctor is essential to managing your health effectively. Staying proactive with your lifestyle choices will have a positive impact on your heart and overall health.

-Diane Duvall, CLC, CHHC, CPT

Diane Duvall is a Life Coach and Certified Health Coach for the Lifestyle Medicine Practice of Dr. Geni Abraham, Board Certified, American Board of Internal Medicine.  Our Internal Medicine Practice is an integrated medical practice with a focus on Lifestyle Medicine to prevent chronic disease and promote health and wellness. We offer health coaching sessions to help you reach your personal goals. Dr. Geni Abraham, Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, Inc., 205 JFK Drive, Suite A, Atlantis FL 33462.  Phone: (561) 432-8935 Visit and Follow us on Facebook

Finding Freedom from Emotional Eating

Stress and a hectic lifestyle can affect our eating patterns and food choices.  The stress hormone cortisol increases appetite and may ramp up the motivation to eat. This can make you crave “bad” carbohydrates which will give you an energy boost followed by a crash. This will leave you hungry for more foods like sweets and fatty, salty foods. This vicious cycle can lead to mindlessly overeating and eating when you are not even hungry.  

Try these suggestions to break the stress eating cycle:

Break the cycle, don’t feed emotions with junk food. High-carb, high-fat foods trigger the brain’s feel good response, so over time we start to rely on these foods to find emotional relief.  Unfortunately, the long-term result of this habit of eating leads to more emotional distress and chronic health issues. 

It may be time to replace your current eating rituals.  If a certain time of day or certain emotions such as overwhelm, sadness, frustration or boredom trigger food cravings, try to replace that automatic response with something else.  Practice deep breathing, enjoy a cup of green or herbal tea, or recharge your body with a brisk walk or some relaxing stretches.  Take a pause and become mindful of your true needs. Automatic urges will subside when you take a minute to focus on your true desires.  Take a breath and focus on your future.  If your true goal is peace, a smaller waist, a healthy heart, or just looking and feeling your best everyday…  what is a better choice to get you there?

Find ways to relieve stress and balance your emotions without overeating.  The practice of meditation reduces stress and helps you become more aware of everything you do.  The practice can be as simple as taking just a few minutes each day to sit comfortably, tune into your breath, and let tension go with each exhalation. When you notice your mind wandering just return to your breath. Through mindfulness practices such as meditation we become more aware of internal messages and listening to our body. We can then understand when we are truly hungry and the foods that will nourish our body rather than eating on autopilot or because we feel anxious, sad, lonely or bored.

Exercise is meditation in motion. Regular exercise can reduce depression and anxiety, increase self-confidence, and relax you.  Even one session of exercise can improve your mood. Consider adding yoga or tai chi which directly combines the elements of exercise and meditation.

Make sure you are getting adequate sleep.  Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.  Lack of sleep affects appetite regulation and increases stress on your mind and body. Allow time to unwind before bed with a bedtime ritual that could include things such as reading a good novel, relaxing with a cup of chamomile tea, or enjoying a lavender and Epsom salt bath or foot soak.

Through practicing mindfulness, we will have improved health and sleep.  Mindfulness is about calmly accepting the present moment, and it leads to a state of balance. It means maintaining a moment by moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and our surrounding environment through a gentle, nurturing lens.

Nourish your body with whole foods. Consume adequate amounts of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates during each meal and snack.  This ensures you stay satiated and balances blood sugar levels.  Generally, this means choosing whole foods such as nuts, whole grains, raw vegetables and fruits. Avoid foods that are packaged, high in sugar, or fried.  One of the fastest ways to calm unhealthy food cravings is by eating protein.  Protein helps curb your hunger longer and won’t give you the crash that sweetened and refined foods do.

Find new comfort foods. Do not stock your kitchen with your favorite indulgence foods, the unhealthy foods you crave in times of stress. Discover healthier versions of the foods you crave and keep them on hand. If you have a craving for soda, replace this with fruit-infused mineral water.  If you crave cookies or ice cream replace this with berries and cream or an apple with nut butter.  Your taste buds will adapt, and these new comfort foods will leave you feeling satisfied and energized.

Be kind to yourself. Find ways to incorporate mindfulness practices and relaxation into your daily routine. Learn to recognize true hunger and satisfy yourself with whole, nourishing foods. These suggestions will not only help you manage stress better but will also reduce your risk for chronic disease.

-Diane Duvall, CLC, CHHC, CPT

Diane Duvall is a Life Coach and Certified Health Coach for the Lifestyle Medicine Practice of Dr. Geni Abraham, Board Certified, American Board of Internal Medicine.  Our Internal Medicine Practices an integrated medical practice with a focus on Lifestyle Medicine to prevent chronic disease and promote health and wellness. We offer health coaching sessions to help you reach your personal goals. Dr. Geni Abraham, Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, Inc., 205 JFK Drive,Suite A, Atlantis FL 33462.  Phone: 561) 432-8935 Visit and Follow us on Facebook

A High Fiber Diet is Essential for Health

Are you getting enough fiber each day? With so many fast foods and processed foods in America, most adult Americans don’t get the fiber they need each day (25 to 35 grams).  Fiber is a type of carbohydrate and is a part of plant-based foods that the body can’t digest.  The fiber passes through our body keeping our digestive system healthy, keeping bowel movements regular and flushing toxins from our system.

A low-fiber diet can lead to fatigue, high blood-sugar levels, digestive disorders and unhealthy food cravings. A diet high in fiber reduces the risk of chronic health conditions including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, hemorrhoids and gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).     Adequate fiber can aid in weight-loss because it adds bulk to your diet and helps you to feel full sooner.  Also, adding high fiber foods such as fruits and vegetables, which tend to be low in calories, make it easier to consume less calories.

It is important to eat plant foods in their whole form because refined or processed foods are lower in fiber content. Fresh fruit and vegetable juices contain nutrients but lack the beneficial fiber of the whole fruit or vegetable. Choose whole grains, flax seeds, chia seeds, legumes, and nuts and seeds.

There are two types of fiber:  Soluble and Insoluble.

Soluble fiber:  dissolves in water and can lower blood sugar levels and reduce cholesterol.  Good food sources include apples, avocados, artichokes, asparagus, bananas, barley, beans, berries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, dark leafy greens, legumes, lentils, nuts, oats, pears, peppers and squash.

Insoluble fiber: absorbs water but does not dissolve in water. This bulky fiber helps prevent constipation. Good food sources include whole grains, carrots, celery, tomatoes, cucumbers, legumes, nuts and seeds.

A quick search on the internet will reveal how many grams of fiber are in particular foods we eat.  If you are not currently eating high-fiber foods, start to add fiber to your daily diet gradually and increase your water intake.  While meeting the daily recommendation for fiber intake may seem overwhelming at first, here are some tips from the Institute for Functional Medicine to increase your intake of fiber:

  • Aim to consume 5-10 servings of fresh vegetables per day.
  • Incorporate fresh, whole fruits and vegetables into every meal and snack.
  • Choose whole grain rice, breads, and pastas over products made with refined or white flour.
  • Get creative. If a recipe calls for animal protein, try making the dish with beans or legumes instead. This works well with chili, soups and stews.
  • Swap juices for smoothies, using the same ingredients. The taste will be similar, and the fiber lost during the juicing process will be blended into the smoothie.


-Diane Duvall, CLC, CHHC, CPT

Diane Duvall is a Life Coach and Certified Health Coach for the Lifestyle Medicine Practice of Dr. Geni Abraham, Board Certified, American Board of Internal Medicine.  Our Internal Medicine Practice is an integrated medical practice with a focus on Lifestyle Medicine to prevent chronic disease and promote health and wellness.

Dr. Geni Abraham, Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, Inc., 205 JFK Drive, Suite A, Atlantis FL 33462.  Phone: (561) 432-8935 Visit and Follow us on Facebook