In the first installment of this healthy lifestyle series from Susan Smith Jones, Ph.D., we will learn what led her down the path of healthy living and how it influenced her career.
You can accomplish anything if you do not accept limitations … whatever you make up your mind to do, you can do.—Paramahansa Yogananda
At 17 years old, my grandmother Fritzie taught me to live a sacred balanced life and to invite joy as my daily default position. At that time, my diet was deplorable. Meat, sweets, and white refined-flour breads were my daily pleasures, and my health suffered greatly as a result. I was rarely without allergies, and I carried lots of tissues with me everywhere to take care of my runny nose, my sneezing, and all the extra mucus that I was coughing up. It was not a pretty picture, and my physician apprised me that I would have to live with this condition forever.
One day when I was visiting with my grandmother, sharing what the doctor had said, Fritzie told me that if I followed her healthful guidance and suggestions 100 percent, she could guarantee that not only would my allergies and sinus problems clear up within 30 days, my entire life would also profoundly change for the better: my acne could clear up, my energy would soar, the extra weight I was carrying would fall away, and my attitude would change from negative to positive. She had my attention, and I began learning a variety of health practices that—even though they sounded weird and strange—still touched a responsive chord in my heart. That well-known adage, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear,” was true for me. I was ready and my entire life would change for the better because of that wonderful, memorable day with Fritzie, and my initiation into healthy living
Along with comprehensive guidance on the healing power of natural, organic, colorful foods, time spent in nature, deep breathing, visualization, and meditation, she taught me other specifics of taking great care of my body (heat therapy from saunas, hydration, dry skin brushing, detoxification, natural remedies using foods, herbs and spices, etc.), so that my body would be better equipped to take great care of me. In other words, she taught me how to live a sacred, balanced, vibrantly healthy life.
Where I had previously viewed my grandmother as strange and weird for her “health nut” proclivities, she became my greatest mentor and the one who changed my life for the better. In those few years before her passing, she taught me some of the greatest blessings and life lessons that I still embrace and teach to this day. My career grew out of her loving guidance; my passion for alternative and holistic health was born. Because of her teachings, I have never taken prescription medication. Instead, I choose to live close to Nature and listen to my body's whisperings.
Healthful Lifestyle Choices Create the Health We Desire
One of the lessons she taught me continuously was that we all had the power to influence our genes and heal our bodies, no matter what health challenge we might be facing. She never believed that old saying that “it's all in your genes.” She knew that we could heal anything with enough faith, the right diet, and the other essential lifestyle choices I write about in my books.
Dr. Dean Ornish would agree, based on one of his latest studies regarding the effect of lifestyle changes on gene activity. Children whose parents are obese have a tenfold increased risk of obesity. However, obesity is caused by a combination of food choices, inactivity, and genetic tendencies.
Can we blame genetics for the problem? On June 16, 2008, Reuters News published an article titled “Healthy Lifestyle Triggers Genetic Changes,” describing a three-month, groundbreaking study led by Dr. Ornish. The study showed that there were demonstrable changes in the activity of about 500 genes—including 48 that were turned on and 453 genes that were turned off—as a result of eating more healthful foods, keeping stress levels down, practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation, and exercising regularly. As Dr. Ornish stated:
“It's an exciting finding because so often people say, 'Oh, it's all in my genes, what can I do?' Well, it turns out you may be able to do a lot. In just three months, I can change hundreds of my genes simply by changing what I eat and how I live. That's pretty exciting.”
Fritzie would have loved this study and she would have said to me, “See, this is what I taught you right from the beginning, and how glorious that it is now backed by this study.”
The integral foundation of all her teachings centered on stress, what it does to the body, and how I could minimize my stress level when I was feeling overwhelmed by life. Fritzie taught me that one of the best ways to bring high-level wellness into my body and life was to decrease the level of stress I experienced daily. To this day, I honor the wisdom of her teachings—especially when stress seems to be closing in. Since this may be something you're NOT familiar with, in the next installment in this series, I'd like to share with you my favorite stress-busters.