Category: Health and Fitness

Mindblowing: Could Good People Skills Be The Next Professional Field And Subject?

We teach our children how to brush their teeth, tie their shoes, and button their jackets.

One summer long ago, I got a call at work.

“Come pick up your daughter. She is being expelled …”

People together by Hurca! licensed from Adobe Stock

Yes, my daughter was expelled from the YWCA preschool at age 4 because, and I quote, “She pinched Bob with her scissors.”

Bob, age 5, was not injured.

“Honey, why did you pinch Bob with your scissors?” I asked my miscreant, delinquent, expelled child —

“He tore up my collage.”

I forgot: her other expulsion-worthy offense? She had licked another child’s shoe.

“Well, honey,” I said. “I would have pinched him too.” Thanks to my child being declared an anti — social delinquent before 5 years of age, I got to spend the best six weeks of my life at home with my little girl before she entered Kindergarten at Redlands Christian School and I started attending Chapman University full-time.

Meredith wasn’t the only kid who got expelled. Four of her little girlfriends and two little boys were also kicked out within a week or two.

The person with the problem with social skills wasn’t my daughter or the other little kids.

It was the new preschool director — unable to coach and lead teachers and with little to no knowledge of appropriate activities and structure for young children — she eliminated daily conflicts among toddlers and preschoolers with a flurry of expulsions and suspensions.

Of normal three, four, and five-year-olds.

By the next year, the entire program had shut down.

So, what’s the takeaway?

In my opinion, many centuries ago, somebody invented “math.” The first engineer is said to be Imhotep, the builder of the “Step Pyramid” in Egypt. No one knows who “invented” art, and Hippocrates is said to be the “inventor” of “modern medicine.”

Of course, these are just today’s versions of origin stories. Does it matter who “invented” anything? It matters more that people right now, do things to make their own lives, and the lives of others … better.

Most human activities are about making our own lives … better. Or, they’re about making the lives of those we love and care for better.

Some people are very concerned about artificial intelligence (AI) being dangerous to humans. They are also concerned about programs like ChatGPT or AI art programs taking over human jobs and eliminating professions like mine (writing) or like my friend John Picacio’s (illustration and art).

Yet I can think of one area of interest, and it involves creativity, intuition, persistence, and lifelong practice — where there aren’t many, if any devoted academic researchers — and no professional jobs in the area that I know of, as the jobs or roles we see are more like ripoff artists than actual professionals with defined duties and measurable results —

People Skills: AKA What Carl Rogers Knew And Taught

From the moment I first read the Rogerian Argument chapter in the college textbook I used for almost two decades, I was fascinated by Dr. Carl Rogers and always made sure to include assignments using his communication techniques.

I know we have “communications” departments and degrees. These skills are typically put to work in fields like advertising, marketing, and work “training.” Many people with communications degrees go to work for networks, streaming services, and government agencies. Communications and PR go hand-in-hand.

Those are one-way streets and one-way degrees. “Domination” or “Deception” might be better monikers than “Communications.”

The Machiavellian among us have a text written by their namesake which tells you everything you need to know about lying, cheating, doing others dirty, and maintaining a good public reputation with the ignorant and gullible rabble.

The people in our world who have the best soft people skills can sometimes be great salespeople. They can also be our favorite teacher, favorite counselor, and often, favorite friend. Good moms have excellent people skills. So do — sometimes — good dads. I was fortunate to have been raised by my grandfather, who is, to this day, one of the best with people I ever knew or saw.

Learning how to get along together and accomplish things together is the biggest challenge of the 21st century, and it’s going to continue to be the biggest challenge and hardest job as long as humans are around.

According to a 2020 article from the New York Times by Eric Ravenscroft, “Unlike topics like math or science, social skills are more of a ‘learn on the job’ kind of skill.”

Today’s social media is anything but “social skills.”

Social media was invented by, and it is owned and controlled by, people who have minimal social skills. Many workplaces are owned by people who have negative social skills.

Anyone who has been a server in any upscale restaurant, or a flight attendant, or a nurse, can describe the behavior of poorly-socialized people. All of those people know how to handle the poorly-socialized.

I am not going to be the “inventor” of the official field of “social skills” or “empathy.” But I am someone who recognizes that for everyone’s lives to maintain their present comfort and for our country to move forward into the future with a good life for our children and grandchildren, these skills can’t be taken for granted any longer.

We don’t rely on parents to exclusively teach their children trigonometry, computer programming, or brain surgery.

Formally Teach and Learn Social Skills in School

It’s about time that we formalize the teaching and learning of social skills in the U.S. There are many precedents in other countries: in Singapore, high-priced international schools emphasize social skills and give direct instruction and practice in “how to get along” and work with others.

In Denmark, students meet for an hour each week and share a “Class Hour cake.”

During Class Hour in Danish schools, the entire class comes together, eats their simple cake, and relaxes. If a student has a concern or problem, they say what it is, and the whole class talks about a solution together.

Because I live in today’s America, I know what the reaction of many people will be to this.

And it will be negative because the reactors are unhappy, miserable, isolated people who lack the ability to even shake someone’s hand or greet them appropriately while passing on the street.

The majority, of course, aren’t like that.

The majority of us suffer daily because unfortunately — there are too many unsocialized, low-social-skill, unhappy, miserable, angry, self-entitled, greedy, mean, selfish others out there —

So, we do not expect kids to learn how to do trigonometry or brain surgery because their parents taught them how to make change at the store or do the dishes.

And — I’m about done with the angry, mean, dumb, tone-deaf others out there: the men’s rights advocates, the diehard political adherents of any politician, the backstabbers and the gossipers, and the garden variety liars and cheats.

The only way any of this will get better is if those of us who aren’t this way and who recognize that our own health and happiness comes from our own strength, wellness, and well-being —

Work on these skills ourselves, and support these skills being formally developed and taught in our schools.

My friends, there is a reason why ultra-conservatives want to eliminate public schools.

It’s because they are greedy, evil, dishonest, and bigoted (at best) and want society to return to the angry, dangerous, risky, genocidal and murderous days of the “Wild West.” Most people did get along back then: if they didn’t, we wouldn’t be here today.

But I doubt the majority of people would like their neighbors to be like John Wesley Hardin, a serial killer who shot a man in the head in the hotel room next door …

because the guy was snoring.

Social skills. It’s a thing. It’s like math. Thousands of years ago: no math. Then somebody started marking lines on a stick.

Like it or not — that’s the low level in this field of endeavor — we are at.


Alexander, Jessica. “Teaching kids empathy: In Danish schools, it’s … well, it’s a piece of cake,” Salon, 9 August 2016, url:

Ravenscraft, Eric. “An Adult’s Guide to Social Skills, for Those Who Were Never Taught,” New York Times, 23 January 2020, url:

Can Getting Outside Save Your Life And Make It 2 Times As Happy?

Research shows: yes, 120 minutes a week in nature benefits many aspects of health

Gasparilla Island, SW Florida — photo by author

Cognitive Function and Brain Activity

Have you heard of the term “executive functioning?” In psychology, executive functioning refers to the ability of our brain to manage the things we need to handle: setting goals, planning, and getting things done.

Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Health

Nature is so good for our blood pressure and heart health that some psychologists are even using the term “Forest Therapy” to describe its relaxing effects. A 2018 study of patients at a Louisville, Kentucky heart clinic showed that out of hundreds of patients, the ones who lived in greener areas healed more quickly and had lower blood pressure than the patients who lived in more urban areas lacking trees and grass.

Mental Health

In 2019, researchers from the University of Exeter in the UK studied 20,000 people from throughout Great Britain and Europe. The study showed that if people spent 120 minutes in nature or more each week, they had better psychological health, were happier, and had less anxiety than those who spent less than 120 minutes. The two-hour amount of nature time was a real boundary, according to the research. If people spent less than two hours, they didn’t share the mental health boost the people who spent more time outdoors received.


Scientists now recognize that our gut microbiome is an organ like our heart, kidneys or liver. The microbiome plays such an important, complex role to benefit (or harm) our bodies, minds, and even spirit.

Other Ways to Strengthen Health

The many benefits of being in nature made me think of other ways we can benefit our health. I recently took a fun stretch limo trip with about 50 of my friends. Traveling with a friendly, happy group is more relaxing and enjoyable than traveling alone.

I Just Burned 320 Calories Walking — Can I Please Eat a Donut Now?

Food quality is more important than calories for health and wellness

I just got back from a brisk one-hour morning walk with my 16-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, Gambit.

Here’s where we went and how fast we went (this accounts for pee and sniff stops) —

Map of our 1 hour walk
Speed, distance, estimated calories “burned”

I was happy with this pace, because Gambit likes to stop and sniff and I don’t want to deny him this pleasure, but I also want to get a little bit of cardio in as well. This was our typical Tuesday walk at one of our nearby Environmental Parks.

So, I burned 312 calories according to my brand-new Garmin Vivoactive 4S.

All right! I can have a donut now!


Not so fast.

That’s the way I was thinking during all that time I was eating Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups every night. I was not only not losing weight despite calorie counting and eating relatively decent meals — I was slowly gaining weight.

How is this possible? Had I slowed my metabolism so much that I could be advancing my cardiovascular health and doing over 11,000 steps a day, every day — and over 300 minutes of weekly cardio exercise as well as strength training —

How on earth?

Check this out: here are my last 12 month totals from Garmin. Yet only in the past three months have I begun to lean out.

All of my recorded fitness activities (I record about 90% of them) last 12 months
As you can see, my daily goal is 11,000 steps and I average significantly more steps

I eat approximately 1,600 calories a day. I log nearly everything I eat and drink, and have been for over a year.

Here are my calories burned: it averages a little over 1,850 calories a day

I was eating fewer calories than my fitness tracker told (and tells) me I was burning and still gaining weight —

I’ve already written about the metabolic harm that strict, short-term dieting does to the metabolism. When scientists studied people who had been on the television show “The Biggest Loser,” they discovered that their metabolisms had slowed to adjust to the low-calorie, high activity weight loss program. This phenomenon is called metabolic adaptation.

I think that my Garmin fitness tracker is accurate: these are close totals for the calories I am actually burning.

Many women may be shocked by how few calories they burn, even if they are quite active. But I don’t think I had “metabolic adaptation.” I wasn’t dieting strenuously, and I’ve only done that a few times in my life.

I have, however, counted calories nearly my whole life.

What was I doing wrong?

Eating highly processed foods every day: notably, my evening Reese’s Peanut Butter “Big Cup.” I was so fond of this treat that I’d work out harder so I could eat not just one, but two Big Cups. Bruce loves me so much he was buying them for me.

Thanks to the way our bodies handle highly-processed foods, especially ones as sugar-laden as a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, I was “magnifying” and increasing the effect of these sugar-filled, highly-processed calories on my body, my digestive system, my microbiome, and inflammatory responses.

I can work out 20% more each week, and my fitness tracker shows me a measly 1 or 2% increase in calories burned.

This is because fitness and weight are two different things.

I was pretty fit all those times I worked out. I had good cardiovascular health and low blood pressure.

But I was moving toward prediabetes and also scoring high triglycerides.

This is due to the way our bodies digest highly-processed foods. The older we get, the more difficult it is for our bodies to handle these foods without developing insulin resistance and all of the other related problems that come from chronic inflammation.

Part of this phenomenon is certainly due to our microbiome and its composition. There are sugar-loving microbes that predominate in the microbiomes of most people in the U.S., especially those with obesity and metabolic illness.

So, I might have been loving that Reese’s and my gut microbes were too.

Today, I did enough cardio exercise to be able to eat a donut.

But I’d rather eat an apple instead. Followed by a handful of nuts, and maybe a few carrots.

That way I know I’ll continue to feel energetic and well.

And I won’t be training my body to crave sugar and processed foods and be slowly, inexorably, turning into a human Weeble. I’d rather not wobble, and at my age, the last thing I want to do is fall down.


Pugle, Michelle. “How Your Body Tries to Prevent You from Losing Too Much Weight,” Healthline, 28 January 2022, url:

Good Things to do to Stay Fit After 50

At least for me, it’s hard to eat right, exercise enough, and feel good about myself if my feelings aren’t in the right place. I had an unpleasant experience recently. Years ago, events like these would have set me back for months, and maybe even years. I can still remember bad things that happened to me when I was young. These seem laughably trivial in hindsight. For example, my grandparents liked to go to Solvang, a small Danish tourist town north of Santa Barbara. There’s lots of pictures of four- or five-year-old me riding in the front of the “Danish Days” parade wearing an elaborate Danish outfit and sitting between two white-bearded elders. So, there’s not a Danish bone in my body but as a little blonde, blue-eyed girl dressed perfectly, they apparently thought I was the right kid to put in the front of the parade. Mostly I remember the beautiful horses.

That’s a good memory. But when I was about 12, I wore Danish clogs from Solvang to school and I got teased on the bus for the way my feet looked. Apparently the problem was the pale skin on the arches of my feet, and maybe their bony look or veins. Still not sure. But it made me want to wear thick socks and sneakers or boots for years. No – not socks and sandals – but it made me horribly self-conscious about my feet. I’ve got chigger bite scars persisting on my right instep right now … I was teased about my fat rear … didn’t wear a certain kind of pants for years … I was called “Blueberry” for wearing a loose dress with a belt that rode up over my stomach when I was 6 months pregnant with my daughter …

As we grow older, I think this type of incident — and we all have plenty of them to draw upon — gets less bothersome. But a couple of weeks ago, Bruce and I were on Venice Beach (FL) and he was playing his guitar. I started singing with him and this older guy sitting a few yards away gets up and moves his beach chair closer.

“Play louder,” he tells Bruce. I immediately stopped singing.

Then he says, pointing at a young family farther down the beach, “Ha ha, you know what they say, nobody’s interested in women once they get past 30.”

I turned around and looked at this joker. “Yes, I’ve heard that many times,” I said. “It’s total bullshit. My experience is the exact opposite.”

I would never use foul language under ordinary circumstances. This guy barely missed a beat. He continued with offensive comments about the young mom and started yammering at Bruce.

I know I shouldn’t let this type of thing bother me, but I was not at all patient with this situation. Afterward, I thought, why does this verbal violence continue? What would persuade a man to come up and issue a nonstop stream of verbal abuse to total strangers? Bruce told me that after I left, he began yelling at another couple, demanding they carry his cooler to his AMG Mercedes.

I estimate this unpleasant, abusive man was in his early 60s. Though he bragged about weighing himself every day at Publix, he seemed average weight, height, and fitness for his age. He was not only not a “prize,” he had no call to be commenting on anyone else’s appearance.

Didn’t stop him for a moment. And he’s far from alone — we can look at Incel message boards and see how horribly these young men who desperately want a date speak about women and other men. Despite all the body positivity out there, people continue to verbally abuse celebrities, usually women, for any and all aspects of their appearance. Lizzo makes workout videos and is immediately attacked.

From individuals we might encounter, to family members (not mine!), to what we hear in media to this day, there are a lot of mixed messages. We’re told we can continue to be active and enjoy our lives into retirement. We see messages that women can continue to be fit, active, and attractive at any age.

We see messages that wealthy and powerful older men select extremely young women as partners. Less often, we see the alternative, wealthy and powerful older women selecting younger men as partners. Or, a similar dynamic with same-sex couples. Growing older, we’re told, should be perfect, easy, and natural, with just a little help from aesthetics, cosmetic surgery, medispas, and other anti-aging treatments.

So early in 2019, I wrote about what a great thing my Fitbit was for health. Then just a few months later …

That’s right: a 10 BPM increase in my resting heart rate over 8-9 months. I was working 10-12 hour days and we were struggling to make ends meet and have a decent life in South Orange County. After 20 years of teaching at Saddleback College, it was my last semester. I was also driving down to Palomar College to teach in a supportive and positive environment, but that job was also not going to continue. Both schools were impacted by declining enrollments and state laws that were supposedly intended to help students — but in reality were cutting down available classes and reducing their opportunities for higher education. Although I’d built my writing income up a lot, it still wasn’t all I wanted it to be. And, I lacked the time to work out the way I really wanted to.

All I needed was for my hair to fall out and my spare tire to get bigger, right? Nose to the grindstone, keep going, well you didn’t really need to look and feel good, did you? Just get through to retirement and then you’ll have a blast out on that shuffleboard court.

What the heck is shuffleboard, anyway?

In December, I had an awful upper respiratory illness I contracted at school — an illness that it’s politically incorrect to indicate could potentially have been COVID-19 — but recovered.

In January, we went to Sanibel Island, and our lives changed. We decided to move to Southwest Florida. At the end of March, we did move. Six months later, everything is completely different. As has been exhaustively documented, COVID has changed everything about not just our lives, but everyone’s lives. No matter what our situation was before, it isn’t the same now. My heart goes out to those who are out of work or whose businesses are struggling, as well as to the essential workers who’ve been on the front lines during the pandemic.

I’d already learned a lot about the U.S. healthcare system, insurance system, and pharma businesses before we moved. I knew that toxic corporate food was making us fat, sick, and nearly dead. I knew that the U.S. used 80% of the opioids produced in the world as pain relief because of how easily they developed physical dependence, requiring ever-higher doses to achieve the same or even less-effective relief. What better business model for profits than selling something people have to take to get by, in ever increasing doses? What worse model for people’s health could be imagined?

So what’s the takeaway? For me? I no longer trust advertisements of any type, and I know that traditional medicine’s approach to health and weight management doesn’t work for the majority of people. People go to their checkup, the doctor tells them to lose weight, and hands them a printed diet sheet. “Don’t eat too much fat. Avoid red meat. Eat the Mediterranean diet.” On and on it goes …

And the older we get, the harder it is to stay fit, stay healthy, and stay active.

So for me, the biggest two factors in my health and lifestyle improvement have been my Fitbit (“Fitty”) and moving to Florida. Because I work at home 100% of the time and no longer teach, I can focus completely on my business consulting and writing. I can arrange my schedule to fit an hour of workouts in most days. Fruits and vegetables here are super sweet and delicious, making healthy dishes easy. There’s so much seafood that it’s also easy to eat fish often.

I’m a survivor of an eating disorder — it runs in my family. My dad told me my mom had anorexia — growing up with Nana there’s no wonder why. My grandmother’s critical nature hurt my self-esteem, but she also gave me a lifelong foundation of nutritional knowledge. It’s not hard for me to follow healthy eating habits because they were enforced on me growing up. And eating a good diet and being active while growing up also helped me build a lifelong foundation of good health and a strong interest in diet, nutrition, and food as medicine.

So, no matter where you’re starting out, if you’re 50 or over, you can totally get in shape and stay in shape. Will it be as quick or easy for you to lose weight as when you were younger? Will it be easy to build or keep muscle mass? No, it won’t. But it is possible and the alternative is not appealing. Not only does excess weight and loss of muscle as we age look unattractive, aging joints and bones don’t like it, either. The less mobile we are as we grow older, the less our potential for improving health and getting mobile again.

So, what have I been doing that has helped me out health-wise?

Since we moved to Florida, we’ve been eating almost 100% fresh, local fruits, vegetables, and protein (chicken, fish, shellfish, beef). I’ve found that if I cut out an entire food group (at one point I was dairy free, wheat free, and additive free) I can control portions and calories much better. I also do intermittent fasting and I realized that — I’ve done it my whole life. I never wanted to eat three square meals a day and most of my life, I’ve eaten only one meal a day: late lunch or dinner. I’m okay with eating breakfast only, too. I don’t drink carbonated drinks (seldom have — with the rare exception of endlessly searching for the “sweetest Coke in Redlands” when I was pregnant with Meredith) and drink only black coffee, unsweetened iced tea, and water.

Even if you’re not trying to lose weight, I recommend that everybody stop eating processed foods and consider which of the “problem” foods they most have trouble digesting or which add the least nutritional value to their meals. For me, that’s wheat-based products. I don’t eat bread or anything wheat-based. That cuts out cakes, pies, rolls, cookies, crackers, and wheat tortillas. I do eat corn tortillas but no more than once a week. I don’t use them as a bread substitute. I eat rice maybe once a week. A lot of the diets, like Paleo and Keto, eliminate processed grains and that’s a good thing. The key to having a good diet is finding a mix of whole, basic foods that works for you and planning your meals around them. Diet is about nutrition, maintaining healthy energy, and keeping your immune system strong.

Ever since the COVID crisis struck, I’ve been doing my best to keep up my immune system, so I also take supplements. Right now we are taking Vitamin A, C, D, and zinc. I also take biotin, Vitamin B, and digestive enzymes and probiotics. I have had IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) for a long time and eating the way I just described and the probiotics helps to ward off any IBS problems. An IBS attack can be extremely painful and last for several days, so it’s a good idea to develop an anti-IBS attack plan.

Getting enough sleep is also crucial to maintain health, energy levels, and to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. And finally, it’s imperative to get sufficient cardio exercise and strength training in.

Where does Fitbit come in? OK, I’m not the fastest learner, but I think I’ve learned a lot about Fitbit and how it can benefit health. I know there’s a dizzying array of weight loss, fitness, and diet apps, along with unlimited options for exercise at home or, when they’re open, gyms and fitness centers. As an outdoor enthusiast, I’ll always choose the outdoor option if I can.

You never know who you’ll see while you’re out and about.

So, Fitbit is continuously improving its app and the information it provides. I always advise people when they start using it to focus on one thing first. So, if you’re not getting enough sleep, focus on that. Start by going to sleep at a regular time, and do as much as you can to get a quality night’s sleep. Fitbit will show you if there are any problems with your sleep. After a few nights doing your best with regular sleep and wake times, and avoiding caffeine late in the day, you can move on to another goal. In my case, I decided I’d go for the recommended “10,000 steps a day” for good health. Even though I was somewhat active back in Laguna Woods, I found 10,000 steps to be a significant goal. I felt badly when I lagged behind and fell back down to 7,000 or even 6,000 steps a day — the level I’d started with when I got my first Fitbit in December 2018.

And guess what? I started to notice that the fewer steps I had, the lower quality my sleep was. These two were interlinked. If I wanted to improve my sleep quality and restoration, I’d have to move more. After my 26,000 step day — our moving day in March — I realized it wasn’t that hard to get over 10,000 steps. I just had to devote sufficient time to it.

Sometimes my work makes it difficult for me to get up and move — I could be on the phone with a client, then need to finish written work, so I will sit in place over a whole hour when the ideal is to get up and move every hour throughout the day (at least 250 steps an hour). But no matter what, I need to get those 10,000+ steps in every day. The low step day was a day I had a dental infection treated.

I’ve been watching viral running videos and running along when I can’t get outside due to extreme weather or work requirements. There’s this guy from New Zealand who posts constant, endlessly updated videos of running through the most amazing scenery imaginable. Now I want to go to New Zealand so badly. I’ve seen so many places up close by using these virtual city or trail running videos, from Venice, Italy to Sicily, Paris, London, Angkor Wat — you name it!

You can also do online video workouts. Some of them only require a small space to move in, and give you a good 20 to 30 minute or longer workout. I realized that “Zumba” is merely the jazz dance class I used to teach years and years ago. None of it is terribly difficult and all of it is good for you. If you find a movement difficult just substitute an alternate, easier or modified version and keep going. Don’t torture yourself trying to be as perfect as the instructors. Your goal is to start moving and keep moving.

If music helps you, invest in a pair of ear buds and link to your favorite music. Start out a little more slowly, but over time you’ll want to get up to 170 or more beats per minute for running or workouts. Invest in good shoes for outside running, and in comfortable, dri-weave, loose-fitting exercise clothing. Nobody wears clothing here in SW Florida (just kidding). But it’s a much more carefree, cool, easy lifestyle and clothing than even in California.

As things begin to ease with the COVID crisis, get out and see things and do things. Staying inside for months is awful for our physical and mental health. I just took Gambit to the Farmer’s Market here in Punta Gorda and bought a new pair of earrings from a glass artist. It turns out she’s from Englewood where we’re moving, and she learned how to make her beautiful glass objects in Oregon and Hawaii before moving here.

In the past few days, I’ve met two former California natives here, after weeks and months of meeting nobody from back home. I think it’s basically, generally, healthier here in SW Florida. The food is better quality (fruits, vegetables, seafood, meats) and the environment is cleaner and healthier. It isn’t so crowded and the pace of life is much more liveable. People are also nicer. All of those things add up to a great place to get healthy and stay healthy. I think our environment and homes and neighborhoods are the biggest contribution to our health of all.

Can you get fit and stay fit after 50? 92 year old Harriette Thompson was the oldest woman to finish a marathon back in 2015, and in 2013, Fauja Singh completed the Hong Kong marathon at age 101.

Maybe I’ll write more about the benefits of Florida humidity on skin and (well if you don’t mind curly hair — hair) another time.







Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén