OakPark.com welcomes new health blogger, Lisa Browdy

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Lisa Browdy joins OakPark.com as the new health blogger in the hopes of showing readers that there are plenty of ways we can improve our wellness. Lisa is currently a student at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to become a certified holistic health counselor, and plans to share what she is learning in her blog. We sit down with Lisa for a Q&A and find out what she has in store for the new health blog. You can read Lisa's health blog at OakPark.com/Health.

What are two of your favorite places/activities in Oak Park and River Forest?

There's something for everyone at the Oak Park Farmers market – wonderful fresh produce and artisanal cheeses and preserves, music, flowers, donuts, and people – that and the patio at Maya del Sol are my favorite things about our area in the summer and fall. I love my Yoga and Nia classes year 'round!

How do you strive to maintain a healthy lifestyle?

It falls in three spheres: eat, move, connect. I've tried to increase my intake of vegetables, whole grains and fish to make it easier to cut down on sweets and processed food. I have never been a gym person, so I experiment with different forms of movement – walking and biking in nice weather, Yoga and fitness DVDs in winter – so I'm not getting bored. Finally, it's great for my mental health to stay connected to others, and so being active in my synagogue and community has been a priority. I am glad to be a healthy 48-year-old but it didn't happen overnight! This has been a journey taken with a lot of baby steps. And I still have a long way to go.

What inspired you to become a health and wellness blogger on OakPark.com?

My background is in Journalism (I earned a masters at Northwestern), but my passion is for prevention. Through a course of study at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I have opened a health coaching business, Health WithInsight, to help others make small, lasting, enjoyable changes for lifetime health and happiness. Blogging on Health at OakPark.com gives me a chance to combine my interests in writing and health, and will give me the opportunity to learn from other wellness practitioners in our area.

What are two major issues you see emerging in the health and wellness community today?

If we spent more of our limited health resources on health education and prevention, we could save a lot of money in the long run. I once read that 80% of our health care dollars are spent on diseases and conditions like heart disease, and diabetes, which can be prevented and even reversed with serious lifestyle changes. It is not only up to the individual – if business and government have created the perfect storm of low-priced, low-quality food and few safe places to exercise in many communities.

Mental health, stress and addictions are another issue that could use some serious attention. You can eat brown rice and broccoli all day, but it won't make you healthy if your mental health is lacking.

What common misconception have you come across regarding health and wellness in Oak Park and River Forest? How do you plan to address this in your blog?

We're lucky to have a plethora of self-care treatments available in our area, but it is easy to be mystified by them. I am not sure what Reiki does or how Reflexology works, or what kind of ailments Aromatherapy would help. I would like to explain what these practitioners do, how they do it, and why. They may seem like a load of hooey at first, but some of the options are very effective.

While I have nothing against Western medicine (indeed, I would never miss my yearly checkup), it is more a system of disease care than health care. Most MDs simply aren't trained to help patients with nutrition, stress, sleep and exercise, and they wouldn't have time for it even if they were. We need to take responsibility for our health, and not depend so much on operations and medications to fix us up.

In what ways have Oak Park and River Forest embraced healthier living? In what areas could we use some improvement?

I see so many hopeful signs! There is always a crowd at the Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings, and Whole Foods is doing well in spite of the poor economy and its nickname, "Whole Paycheck." I love that we finally have a healthy vegetarian restaurant, Munch, and that most of the other restaurants in town have healthier options on their menus.

Since I moved to Oak Park in 1993 I have seen area fitness options expand from the Park District and one or two small fitness centers to a panoply of options that include Yoga, Pilates, Fitness Formula Clubs, and more. The new track at OPRF that is open to all when not in use by students is another great boon for local runners and walkers (especially when the sidewalks and streets are snowy).

While things are pretty rosy for adults who want to eat well and keep fit, I am concerned about our students. School lunches, controlled as they are by USDA guidelines (which protect agribusiness more than health), have a long way to go. I wish the middle schools had included some climbing and playing equipment outdoors for the kids to use before school and at lunch hour. On the plus side, I like how their P.E. classes now stress learning lifetime sports like fitness and bowling rather than whapping each other with dodgeballs and choosing the nerdy bespectacled kids last for kickball teams. Can you tell I'm still traumatized?

To learn more about Lisa Browdy's health coaching practice, visit www.healthwithinsight.com.

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