Marisa Harris

Coach. Inspiration. Leader

A turning point in Marisa’s life came in 1998 when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer and given at most 9 months to live. In her quest to heal from cancer, she became certified in Mind-Body Medicine and as a Cancer Guide and Coach.

"Harris tapped the power within herself, as well as chemotherapy, to become a long-term survivor. Now she’s committed to motivating and supporting individuals in finding and using their power to heal their bodies, minds, and souls. Over the last 15 years, she has focused on helping thousands of cancer patients to flourish and succeed during adversity," wrote the WAMC Northeast Public Radio.

Marisa says she realized that recovering from cancer can be easier than recovering from sabotaging qualities of self-judgment and low self-esteem.

She uses skills from her 20-year experience as Vice President of Human Resources and Organizational & Performance Management at a Fortune 500 Company, and her graduate studies in Counseling Psychology at Columbia University.

Read more here. 


What You Need to Know About Healthy Fats

Fat-free and sugar-free diet fads are losing steam as more and more people wake up to the importance and benefits of integrating healthy fats into their diets.

While a fat-free diet was once thought to be an effective weight-loss method, diets such as the Mediterranean diet and the Keto diet have grown in popularity.

"We actually need fats -- can't live without them, in fact," reads WebMD.

"They provide essential fatty acids, keep our skin soft, deliver fat-soluble vitamins, and are a great source of energizing fuel. But it's easy to get confused about good fats vs. bad fats, how much fat we should eat, how to avoid artery-clogging trans fats and the role omega-3 fatty acids play in heart health.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommends that adults get 20%-35% of their calories from fats. At a minimum, we need at least 10% of our calories to come from fat," reads the article.

In a recent interview with Mind Body Green, Cate Shanahan, M.D., shared what she views as the easiest way to know if something is a "healthy fat."

"If we're talking about fat that's a whole food, that's good," she explained. "That's natural fat, and human beings have been consuming it since there were human beings."

So the real key? Whole-food-based fats. Yep, when it comes to healthy fats, it's not that different from defining healthy foods: The closer something is to its natural form, the healthier it is, wrote Mind Body Green.

Read more about the different types of fats, which to avoid, and which to add to your diet, here.

 


Meditation Linked to Fewer Mistakes

If the prospect of a more peaceful, less reactive, and clearer state of being doesn’t get you to take a break and meditate, new research from Michigan State University linking mindfulness with fewer mistakes might persuade you.

A recent CNBC article outlined the recent study in which 212 undergraduate college students with no prior meditation experience listened to a guided meditation by Steven Hickman, a licensed clinical psychologist and the founding director of the University of California San Diego Center for Mindfulness.

Here’s a segment of the report: “The meditation instructed participants to notice the feelings, thoughts and physical sensations that arose in the moment and take note of them without judgment.

After meditating, participants completed a quiz on a computer that was intended to distract them and test their concentration. Throughout the experiment, participants were wearing electroencephalography (EEG) sensors, so researchers could measure their brain waves.

Researchers were looking for a specific neural signal that fires a half-second after you make a mistake, called ‘error positivity.’ They found that the strength of the ‘mistake’ signal was stronger in people who had meditated, meaning they were able to recognize and correct their slip-ups.

‘It makes us feel more confident in what mindfulness meditation might really be capable of for performance and daily functioning right there in the moment,’ Jason Moser, the co-study author said in a press release.”

What made the meditation in this study unique is that instead of focusing on the breath, research participants were instructed to pay close to attention to the thoughts, feelings and physical sensations that came up during the session.

“The goal is to sit quietly and pay close attention to where the mind travels without getting too caught up in the scenery,” said Jeff Lin, the co-author of the study.

Listen to the 20 minute seated meditation here.


One Powerhouse Veggie for Brain Health

Looking for an easy, tasty, and nutrient-packed green to add to anything from a smoothie, salad, sandwich, or pasta dish? With all the craze around superfoods and greens like kale and spinach, broccoli sprouts have been overlooked by most.

The immature broccoli plants, which resemble alfalfa or bean sprouts, have higher concentrations of the good-for-you compounds that have anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and potentially cancer-fighting effects. They have a stronger, spicier taste that differs greatly from the grown-up version.

A recent MindBodyGreen article outlined the benefits of the small greens. “What makes them different and packs their power is a higher concentration of the necessary components to boost the production of sulforaphane.

In studies, sulforaphane has been linked to fighting against certain carcinogens, and it may support heart health and brain recovery as well. Researchers have also found it can support gut health, rounding out a pretty solid set of benefits that you may be able to attribute to these little sprouts.”

Dr. Jessica Cooperstone, Ph.D., assistant professor of Horticulture and Crop Science and Food Science and Technology at Ohio State University has focused on researching broccoli sprouts. She says that as a cruciferous plant, broccoli sprouts “contain compounds called glucosinolate, which convert into isothiocyanates when eaten and chewed,” per Refinery29. “All cruciferous veggies contain glucosinolates, but broccoli sprouts have an insane amount — about 10 to 100 times more than most cruciferous vegetables.”

She also speaks to the sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts, which are especially potent, adding that “there's evidence to suggest that sulforaphane can prevent DNA damage that leads to cancer, and in studies on mice, sulforaphane seems to prevent inflammation that can lead to neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer's and Huntington's disease.”

To reap the full health benefits of broccoli sprouts, it’s best to eat them raw, as cooking them will deactivate the enzyme that converts glucosinolates to isothiocyanates.

While you can find broccoli sprouts at many health stores, they are also easy to grow at home. This way, your grocery store run turns into a mini science experiment, as you can sprout them yourself in a little sprouting jar.

Lastly, neurologist David Perlmutter, M.D., reminds us to chew our food well for the best outcomes. "The trick here is chewing," he explained. "You've got to chew the broccoli sprouts in order to release the enzyme that then liberates, or activates, if you will, the sulforaphane."


Cardio Vs. Strength Training: Which Is Ideal for Your Fitness Goals?

While it’s important to incorporate both cardio and strength training into your exercise routine, we typically tend to focus on one or the other. Depending on your unique fitness goals, narrowing your focus may help you succeed quicker.

A recent LiveStrong article took into account insight from fitness experts to help you decide which movement is optimal to support your health and fitness goals.

Cardio, or aerobic exercise, is any movement or activity that increases your heart and breathing rate. This includes running, cycling, kickboxing, and dance classes like Zumba. Known for its ability to aid in weight loss, due to the high number of calories burned, cardio also helps improve brain health, supports healthy blood sugar levels and overall mobility, and promotes longevity -- among countless other benefits.

While resistance training, also known as strength training, was once thought to be reserved for those seeking to build muscle mass, more and more people are learning how vital it is for overall health.

"As we age, growth hormones in the body decrease, which contributes to muscle loss," says Amanda Murdock, CPT, director of fitness for Daily Burn. "Strength training helps us maintain and build muscle tissue."

Some overlooked benefits of strength training include better overall cardiovascular health, weight management, improved bone health and better quality of life as you age.

To reiterate, both cardio and strength training are important for optimal health, yet individuals with specific fitness goals and limited time may want to focus on one or the other.

For example, if you are training for a race, go with cardio, focusing on whatever form of cardio you’ll be doing come race day so that you can train the right muscles and avoid injury.

If you want to burn more body fat, pick up the weights. According to Bret Contreras, Ph.D., CSCS, author of Glute Lab: The Art and Science of Strength and Physique Training, strength training is the best workout for fat-loss in the long-term. Strength training builds muscle and increases your metabolism to help you stay leaner in the long-term, while cardio burns calories and helps with short-term weight loss.

A more obvious choice for building muscle and getting stronger would be strength training, as it builds muscle mass the fastest.

"If you want to get stronger, there's only so much stress you can put on your body just using your body weight." When you strength train, you can progressively overload your body to continue making gains,” says Contreras.

If your goal is simply to become more active, try a combination of the two. Balance is key, especially for beginners, who would benefit from full-body strength training sessions a couple of times a week, and a few cardiovascular sessions per week.

For strong bones, go strength-training, while for stress management, most find light cardio optimal. However, it’s important that each individual listens to their body and their emotional needs, and chooses based on that intake.

In order to reduce the risk of chronic disease, both cardio and strength training have been proven to offer notable benefits that protect long-term health.


New Study: Mindfulness Reduces Fearful and Anxious Emotions

With the prevalence and continued rise of anxiety and trauma-related disorders, it’s become more and more important to develop effective treatment strategies. This need is what sparked new research from the University of Southern Denmark exploring the effect of mindfulness training on participants’ ability to rid the body of negative emotions.

A recent report from MindBodyGreen outlined the study: “Researchers recruited 26 participants and placed them into either an experimental or control group. While the experimental group went through a four-week mindfulness training consisting of daily practices of short breathwork or meditation through a smartphone app, the control group did not. After the month-long training period, participants were brought into a lab to complete an experiment in emotions.

Researchers were able to condition-specific fear reactions linked to certain images by subjecting participants to a small shock after showing them the images. The association of the shock with the images created a physiological response of fear within the body. Typically, these learned fear reactions are acquired through any sort of trauma or psychological disorders and can be very difficult to forget.

The following day, participants were brought back to test their reactions to the same images. The researchers discovered that subjects who had been trained in mindfulness were able to completely extinguish the fear reactions from the previous day, showing no response when faced with the images. The results, therefore, established the link between mindfulness and eliminating fearful and anxious emotions, which is the first time a study has proved this with direct physical evidence.”

While most of us have a basic understanding of the power of mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation to alleviate stress and anxiety in the present and future, this particular research experiment shows how these practices can help those suffering from fear and anxiety due to past trauma. The research implies that things like guided meditation may be used in place of a typical psychological treatment to help alleviate trigger responses.

“We can show that mindfulness does not only have an effect on subjective experiences of negative emotions, as has been shown previously but that you can actually see clear effects on autonomic arousal responses, even with a limited amount of training,” said lead author Johannes Björkstrand. He added that the team hopes to replicate the study on a larger scale and learn more about what processes in the brain are involved.


Skylar Weinstein

Softball Coach. Role Model. Fighter. 

Skylar Weinstein is an example for young athletes and all of us alike, teaching us all about grit, strength and perseverance, even amid the toughest of times.

Last year, Skylar went into the doctor to have hernia surgery, and found a lump in her neck. Her biopsy led to her cancer diagnosis. 

Immediately, Weinstien committed to fight so that she could return to coach her teams and be with the girls that look up to her. 

"I'm going through all these tests, and going to the doctor's office, and I'm just like, 'I have to get back out to my girls.' That is what my mind kept telling me. 'I have to get back out to my girls,'" Skylar told Good Morning Arizona. 

Skylar’s players range from age nine to 13. 

After pitching in high school in Scottsdale, Weinstein went on to play division one softball in Illinois. Her fastball reached elite-level speeds. 

"You're waking up at 5:00 in the morning. You're lifting weights, then you're going to softball practice in the morning, going to class, then you have some tutoring hours you have to get in," explains Weinstein, reflecting on what it's like to be a college athlete. "You have to figure out how to get food in your belly during the day. Then you go back to practice. You have conditioning, do your homework, and then you go to bed. You do it every single day. So it's very intense."

Now, Skylar is taking the skills she learned to help the next generation of players. 

Not long after surgery and throughout radiation, Weinstein would show up to practice and give her girls all that she had. According to Skylar, this was an integral part of her healing process, and essential for the health of her body and soul. 

Skylar is now cancer-free, and continues to pour herself into her coaching work.


Matthew Glaetzer

Olympic Athlete. Track Cyclist. Go-Getter.

Earlier this month, Matthew Glaetzer was one of 15 athletes to be named on Australia’s track cycling team for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

In October, Australia’s best male track sprinter was diagnosed with thyroid cancer after feeling a “twinge” in his neck during a gym session. The 27-year-old, with two world championship titles and three Commonwealth Games gold medals to his name, said the diagnosis “rocked him.”

“When you hear the ‘C’ word – you always think it won’t happen to you, but suddenly you have to deal with it yourself,” he tells Guardian Australia.

From a young age, Glaetzer has dreamed of Olympic glory. As a teenager, he became the poster boy for Cycling Australia after winning world championships. Once at London 2012 and twice at Rio 2016, Glaetzer received the fourth place bronze medal.

“I was feeling confident I could get the job done in Tokyo,” he says. “I believed I could finally clinch a medal at the Olympics.”

Thankfully, the South Australian rider caught his cancer early, and after a short recovery period, returned to training at Cycling Australia’s high-performance center. Immediately after back-to-back races including the UCI Track World Cups in New Zealand and Brisbane in December, Glaetzer had another round of treatment, before preparing for Tokyo.

“I do not want this stopping me from doing what I love,” he says. “This has been a setback, but as athletes we are always working with an injury here or there. I am just treating this like a little injury. If all goes well, it won’t hold me back.”

Glaetzer is a devout Christian who has used his faith as a means to get him through this tough time. While initially, the Australian athlete kept the news quiet, he has now gone public in hopes to encourage others to take their medical concerns seriously.

Medal or no medal, and Olympics or no Olympics, Glaetzer’s perspective as a cancer survivor has improved his outlook on life. “I just want to live life and have a positive impact on those around me,” he says.


Why It's a Great Idea To Add Walnuts to Your Diet

You might be surprised to learn that for the past half-century, scientists and industry experts from around the world have gathered at the University of California, Davis, for a conference to discuss nothing other than walnuts.

Walnuts are packed with healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and researchers are continuing to learn about other ways they support health.

An article by Healthline discusses at least 13 benefits of eating walnuts, including its concentration of antioxidants, the most of any common nut. “A preliminary, small study in healthy adults showed that eating a walnut-rich meal prevented oxidative damage of 'bad' LDL cholesterol after eating, whereas a refined-fat meal didn’t,” read the report.

For those looking for omega-3 fats, which may help reduce heart disease risk, walnuts are a great plant-based source. They also may decrease inflammation, the root of many chronic diseases. Other studies indicate that the polyphenols in walnuts may reduce your risk of certain cancers such as breast, prostate and colorectal. However, more human studies are needed to confirm this. These nuts shaped like a tiny brain conveniently help support good brain function.

New research also shows that walnuts promote a healthy gut. Here’s an excerpt from a recent MindBodyGreen article covering a recent report published in the Journal of Nutrition which found positive changes in gut bacteria when people ate walnuts.

“The study included 42 participants, between 30 and 65 years old, who were overweight or obese. Participants were assigned to three different diets, which they followed for six weeks. One diet included whole walnuts and the other two excluded them but maintained the same level of nutritional value from different sources. Each diet used walnuts or vegetable oil to replace saturated fats.

After analyzing stool samples at the end of six weeks, Kristina Petersen, Ph.D., said, 'the walnut diet enriched a number of gut bacteria that have been associated with health benefits in the past.'

As one specific strain of bacteria (Eubacterium eligens) increased, blood pressure levels decreased. Another strain (Lachnospiraceae) reduced blood pressure and cholesterol. The other two diets had no effect on heart disease risk factors.”

Researchers indicated that replacing your snack with just two to three ounces of walnuts per day, or about a half cup of walnuts, could be a good way to improve gut health and reduce the risk of heart disease.


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