That Touchy Subject…

Food has always been a very, VERY, important topic back at home. “What’s for ___” was a ubiquitous question. Particular family members were extremely picky eaters, and seemed to favor high saturated fat, high trans fat, and highly sugared foods, which led to health problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, diabetes, and high visceral fat, which in collection is called Metabolic Syndrome. Although this family member “knew” poor food choices were harming his body, he figured his 12+ pills, and shots of insulin, would reverse the effects of the unhealthy foods. Any attempt to suggest eating healthier would end with returned sarcasm and an awkwardly quiet and tense dinner table.

As part as a holistic occupational therapist, it is part of my job to educate clients on  nutrition and the damaging effects of poor food choices on our physical and mental selves.

Oh, and FYI, I am not supportive of diets. Growing up, I struggled with my weight and body image which led me to live a life of restrictive diets, binges, and eating disorders. But now that I’ve begun working at TherapySolutions, and can make my own food choices since I am only cooking for myself, my approach to food has changed. Rather than worrying about choosing only low calorie, low-fat foods–which ended up being high in sugar–I now focus on eating anti-inflammatory foods, even the ones high in fat…the good ones though! Think monosaturated or polysaturated fats.

It’s still uncomfortable to talk about food with clients, in fear that I’ll hit a vulnerable spot, or they’ll perceive me as judging them. But it would be a disservice to them, and failure on my part as an occupational therapist, if I didn’t educate clients on the role of food on our bodies, and the consequences of eating inflammatory foods.

In my last post, I discussed an article that came out by the NY times on the causes of arthritis. It was suggested that arthritis is more than a “wear and tear” condition. Rather, it’s a combination of “wear and tear” as well as exposure to chronic, low-grade inflammation from food sources such as sugar, trans fat, saturated fat, alcohol, and processed foods. In follow up, I want to discuss about what you can and should be eating to avoid conditions like arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and chronic swelling…the ANTI-INFLAMMATORY FOODS.

I am a strong supporter of Dr.  Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid. Here he lists anti-inflammatory foods, as well as their nutrition description. You can check out his website at


Rather than talk about each anti-inflammatory food listed, I just want you to take away the message that food does contribute to swelling, inflammation, pain, “foggy brain”, and the like! I’ve personally experienced it myself, but see it in the clinic all the time!

Dr. Weil’s site also has a list of recipes which look pretty quick and simple to make. I’ll be making this Bento Box Soup this week since the fall weather has been settling in!

Comment if you were able to try any of his recipes, or have ones to share yourselves. Eat well my friends!




Keep Osteoarthritis at Bay!

“There are few things more pathetic than those who have lost their curiosity and sense of adventure, and who no longer care to learn.” -Gordon B. Hinckley

In everything, there will always be that “first.” First job, car, house, boyfriend/girlfriend, pet, time trying out ___, time seeing ___, etc.

How exciting/scary was it when you experienced that first?  Yesterday, one of my close friends from grad school called me in distress regarding her first three weeks at her job outside of school. She graduated a year later than me in order to obtain her doctorate of occupational therapy rather than just her masters, and although she had a higher degree than me, she began venting about the same struggles I experienced when I began working…

  • I don’t know everything!!!
  • My boss, colleagues, and clients think I’m incompetent!
  • People think I’m younger than I actually am!
  • School didn’t prepare me for this!
  • My clients would receive much better treatment from the other therapists!

All these thoughts I lived through and occasionally come across now.

My words of advice to her: “Not going to lie, there will be A LOT of moments when you feel like you don’t know anything. It’s going to be tough these next few months, but it will get better. Ask a lot of questions.”

Thank goodness that we are capable of learning something new each day! Both of my mentors, Sara and Nancy, remind me that one can never know everything. As a therapist, it’s not a matter of knowing how to treat every diagnosis, but to learn about the person–their postural tendencies, activity involvement, past medical histories, readiness for change, etc.–as well as to integrate compassion, curiosity, and skill into the development and application of the treatment plan. I absolutely love that opening quote: “There are few things more pathetic than those who have lost their curiosity and sense of adventure, and who no longer care to learn.” What are your feelings on it?

Now on to our hands!

As a younger practitioner, I’m still learning to correct my body mechanics in the clinic and at home in order to prevent my hands from becoming sore! I’ve learned some joint protection principles, but this NY times article on osteoarthritis (OA) does a fine job of outlining the causes of OA and some lifestyle modifications we can make to prevent OA or decrease the symptoms of it.

What causes OA?

School and textbooks have taught me that OA is a “wear and tear” condition–we wear down the cartilage between our joints which then causes the bones to grind against one another, causing pain. However, recent evidence shows that OAmay be promoted, and perhaps initially caused, by chronic low-grade inflammation that is now also linked to major chronic ills, including heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease, in which diet and exercise may play a protective role.”

The following also increases your risk of developing OA:

  • Those who undergo surgery develop arthritis at a rate of 5-10x greater than people who don’t undergo the knife
  • Body-wide inflammation, caused by poor diet, may explain why some people get arthritis in the joints that are not weight-bearing, like the fingers
  • Foods that causes inflammation:
    • Sugar, saturated and trans fats, refined carbohydrates, and alcohol

What can help decrease/prevent arthritic pain?

  • Assisted devices (jar openers, keys with levers, button hook, built-up handles) can help to prevent further joint damage
  • Tai chi improves balance and helps relieve arthritic pain and stiffness
  • Strength training (cycling, floor-based exercises) can support compromised joints
And some insight from the clinic, a hand therapist could:
  1. Teach you joint protection techniques for your daily activities
  2. Guide you through stretches/exercises for the hands
  3. Recommend and/or create an appropriate splint to rest the joint
  4. Treat the hand pain with modalities in the clinic
  5. Apply manual therapy techniques to decrease swelling and tension in the hand

I highly recommend you read through this article if you or a loved one has arthritis, or if you use your hands often (which I would like to know who doesn’t?!) The link wouldn’t copy onto this page for some reason, so you can Google “Don’t Take Osteoarthritis Lying Down” and it will pop up.

Again, if you have any questions, please comment below, or email me at

Keep on learning!