Thursday, June 27, 2013

4 Vegetarian Diet Mistakes

Have you recently switched to a vegetarian diet? Well good for you! There are many studies that show that the vegetarian and vegan lifestyles are a great way to lower your risk of diabetes, stroke, obesity and early death. A vegetarian diet, though, is only healthy if you know how to go about it. If you follow a vegetarian diet that is traditional in some culture somewhere in the world, you’re probably safe since traditional diets are usually well-planned to include all the essentials. If a regular omnivorous western diet is all you've ever known and you are simply cobbling a plant-based diet together, though, you face a whole range of health risks. That said; make sure you avoid making the following mistakes

Simply eliminating the meat from your diet doesn't guarantee that you will be healthier. You need to replace the meat with vegetable-based foods that are rich in all the nutrition types that you need. You also need to be careful about unhealthy vegetarian foods – like too much fat. The key term to pay attention to in any switch to a vegetarian diet is staying balanced. Lose the balance, and your vegetarian diet could be just as unhealthy as any omnivorous diet.

You eat too many vegetarian snacks
Many vegetarian converts do very little homework on how to fill out their meals. They know of little other than salads and steamed rice. They are so hungry the rest of the time that they gorge on cookies and chips – foods that are laced with sugar, salt and fat. If you find yourself snacking more than necessary, you should pay attention to building a diet that leaves you feeling filled at the end of each meal. If you do need to snack, choose foods that are healthy and natural – whole-grain crackers, roasted nuts and so on.

You have a very restricted diet
Traditional vegetarian cuisine has a vast range of recipes to help keep adherents interested. When you only know a couple of vegetarian recipes, chances are that you will miss out on many of the vitamins, fats and minerals that you need to stay healthy and curb sugar cravings. You need a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, legumes, cereals, nuts, seeds and spices in your diet. If you shortchange yourself on variety, you can quickly fall ill.

You obsess over your protein intake
When you bring up switching to a vegetarian diet with most people, usually, their first reaction is to worry about what you are supposed to do about your proteins. New vegetarians buy into this fear and begin packing their diet with every manner of vegetarian protein source – beans, peanuts, soy and so on.

While keeping yourself supplied with enough proteins is important, you do need to make sure that you don’t overdo it. The average person needs around 70 g of protein each day. Filling up on protein-rich foods can mean having no room for the other nutrients that you need.

You become careless about food-borne diseases
Many people who switch to vegetarian food are somehow of the impression that vegetarian foods grant them immunity from food-borne diseases.

While it is certainly is true that fruits and vegetables are far less contaminated with disease-causing organisms than meat, they aren't completely immune. Almost every week, the CDC releases a warning about a serious outbreak from stocks of contaminated fruits or vegetables somewhere.

The bottom line is that you should always practice food hygiene, choose from a variety of food options, and maintain your protein – whether you eat meat or not.

As always – enjoy your life.

John Aaron Villarreal


Bio: I am a Houston based, male massage therapist and wellness coach specializing in pain management and health programs for individuals over the age of forty. I laugh - a lot. I'm quirky but sincere. And, while I'm not a counselor, I do listen and I do care: Except for the times that I don't. That’s a joke - Did I mention that I like to laugh? Anyway, visit my website, call or email me and let's get together to talk about you, and the many ways to live life better!

The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Happiness is a Verb: Forward Momentum

“The tragedy of life doesn't lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach. It isn't a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled, but it is a calamity not to dream.” ~ Benjamin Elijah Mays

I remember hearing that goals without action were merely dreams that would never come true. After all, when you survey all the leaders and successful people on this planet that have made their dreams come true, you would find that goal setting, in conjunction with action, is what all these people have in common. What you might not realize is that failure in reaching those goals is also an important trait that these people share, too. And, there is nothing wrong with having to struggle a little in order to make your dreams come true.

The truth is that just because you have to revise and redirect the path to the kind of life you want to live does not signify failure. Failure is only guaranteed if you should decide never to try. In this case, failure arises in not taking steps toward the goals you wish to pursue.

Let’s think about this for a bit. Recent studies regarding the psychology of happiness and positive thinking reveals that the most happy and fulfilled individuals are those that are constantly setting goals and challenges for themselves. They cite that once a goal is attained, the happiness factor diminishes until a new goal is set in place and the striving begins anew. I call this forward momentum.

Are you achieving forward momentum or are you set in “park” mode wondering why happiness and a sense of fulfillment have eluded you? If so, get your tail in gear and decide today to make sure you not only have a dream but are regularly setting goals and taking action steps that will insure your forward momentum, thus "living" that life of your dreams. Remember; people who have the passion and drive to accomplish small steps find it easier to make larger ones as they move along toward their goal, their dream, and so will you.

As always – enjoy your life.

John Aaron Villarreal


Bio: I am a Houston based, male massage therapist and wellness coach specializing in pain management and health programs for individuals over the age of forty. I laugh - a lot. I'm quirky but sincere. And, while I'm not a counselor, I do listen and I do care: Except for the times that I don't. That’s a joke - Did I mention that I like to laugh? Anyway, visit my website, call or email me and let's get together to talk about you, and the many ways to live life better!

The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer. The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Lower Back Pain: Is It in Your Genes?

Even with all the advances in modern medicine and the sophisticated techniques available to diagnose what's causing low back pain, many times doctors find it incredibly difficult to identify the reason for a patient's pain. Although too much strain may be part of the equation, it isn't always entirely to blame for lower back pain.

However, one interesting explanation as to why one person develops low back pain and another doesn't may lie in their genes. A study published by the journal Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, revealed how for the first time researchers have identified a gene linked to a common cause of lower back pain: a condition known as lumbar disc degeneration (LDD).  A prime example would be if you were to examine identical twins -- one who is doing heavy physical work and the other being a "desk jockey" – you would assume the physical labor to cause significant wear compared to the white-collar sibling. Yet, if you could compare their MRI exams, they would be virtually identical. This tells you that genetic factors are at work.

If you have chronic low back pain, consider the likelihood that you inherited the tendency and if so, you're probably hardwired for it. The lower back contains sensitive receptors called nociceptive fibers, which send pain signals to the brain. Unfortunately for some people, they have a lot of nociceptive fibers -- for example, in their discs -- while others have relatively few. That simple variation could be the discerning factor as to why one person can lift heavy weights many times and never experience low back pain, while another who barely lifts anything is in constant agony.

Whatever the cause or source of your back pain, it is important to seek professional help and to actively maintain a healthy back regimen. Part of this arsenal should include exercise, stretching, proper diet, medical treatment (if warranted), and the use of alternative medical care such as meditation, acupuncture and massage therapy.

I am always curious as to what caused my client’s pain in the first place and what they had been doing to remedy it. I would love to hear what your experience been and if you ever thought your back pain could be genetically inherited. Please let me know by leaving your comment below. I look forward to hearing your story.

As always – enjoy your life.

John Aaron Villarreal


Bio: I am a Houston based, male massage therapist and wellness coach specializing in pain management and health programs for individuals over the age of forty. I laugh - a lot. I'm quirky but sincere. And, while I'm not a counselor, I do listen and I do care: Except for the times that I don't. That’s a joke - Did I mention that I like to laugh? Anyway, visit my website, call or email me and let's get together to talk about you, and the many ways to live life better!

The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer. The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Now I've heard that there is a similar recipe within the Paleo Diet books, but this recipe I have adapted from the kitchens of The Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, New York.

Normally I would've never thought that these ingredients could come together to make such a wonderfully delicious dessert. So, when I began to experiment with this recipe I was prepared for less than stellar results. However, I was not prepared to absolutely fall in love with this recipe! The avocado in this recipe provides a smooth and fluffy texture that reminded me of my childhood days when I first tasted homemade chocolate pudding. Those were the days when homemakers would consider the use of processed “instant” puddings a sacrilege. Back then, puddings were actually cooked.

Aside from the texture, the avocado also provides an abundance of healthy fats and the amino acid tyrosine, which I understand to be rather important for proper hormone regulation, body metabolism and your brain’s memory.

Since this recipe is so rich, I enjoy serving it over sliced, organic strawberries. You may eat it as is; perhaps garnished with a sprig of mint, or you can even experiment with it, like I have, by adding freshly ground cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne pepper (for the sake of personal preference, this is the basic recipe).

If you are a true chocolate lover, there is absolutely no way to go wrong with this basic recipe. I hope you enjoy it.

Serves 4

Ingredients:
One well ripened avocado
6 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
5 tablespoons of honey or agave syrup. (for texture, I prefer the honey)
5 to 6 tablespoons of coconut milk or almond milk (more or less depending on the consistency you are after)
Pinch of salt
Fresh mint sprigs, fruit or berries of choice.

While you can choose to mash the ingredients together by hand, use a blender, or a hand held mixer, I believe a food processor works best in delivering the smoothest, creamiest texture.

That said, place the flesh of your ripe avocado and all the ingredients (except for the berries, mint or fruit) into a food processor and process until smooth and creamy. You may need to pause to scrape the sides from time to time. Using a rubber spatula, scoop the pudding into a sealable container and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour prior to serving.

If you're planning to serve this desert to guests, you may consider the following idea:

Arrange a variety of fresh berries and fruits (try fresh bananas, apricots or orange wedges) on a tray along with fresh mint, ground cinnamon and serve the pudding in individual cups. Then allow your guests to experiment with adding their own choice of fruits, herbs or seasonings, or eating it "as is."

Don’t forget, chocolate always pairs nicely with wine, too.

As always – enjoy your life.

John Aaron Villarreal


Bio: I am a Houston based, male massage therapist and wellness coach specializing in pain management and health programs for individuals over the age of forty. I laugh - a lot. I'm quirky but sincere. And, while I'm not a counselor, I do listen and I do care: Except for the times that I don't. That’s a joke - Did I mention that I like to laugh? Anyway, visit my website, call or email me and let's get together to talk about you, and the many ways to live life better!

The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Want a Friend, Be a Friend.

If you have ever paid attention to the people you most hang around with in life, you would note that it’s only our really great friends that help us celebrate our victories. To them it makes no difference how large or small the milestone may be. You are worth their efforts. The question is, are you a friend who reciprocates this effort?

Take a moment to evaluate yourself. Are you someone who can give other people the credit, love and support they are due or are you someone that constantly needs the center stage? Worse, are you one to sabotage another’s efforts for your own gain?

We are all in this game of life together, so lighten up! Nobody gets out of it alive. That is why it falls upon us to not only make our lives an enjoyable event for ourselves, but to help those in need; especially those who have never tasted a bit of joy in their own lives. Always evaluate your friendships and acquaintances and while you try spending time with people who can help affirm your own life’s dreams, be sure to be a person who can help others discover and live theirs, too.

As always – enjoy your life.

John Aaron Villarreal


Bio: I am a Houston based, male massage therapist and wellness coach specializing in pain management and health programs for individuals over the age of forty. I laugh - a lot. I'm quirky but sincere. And, while I'm not a counselor, I do listen and I do care: Except for the times that I don't. That’s a joke - Did I mention that I like to laugh? Anyway, visit my website, call or email me and let's get together to talk about you, and the many ways to live life better!

The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer. The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Causes of Low Back Pain

Every day it seems I get a call or see a client regarding back pain or an achy back. They turn to me for relief and often times they don’t even know how or why their back hurts.

Although my scope of practice allows me to only work on muscles and soft connective tissue, I have come to learn that many factors can contribute to low back pain. Some may include strained muscles, others strained "nerves."  For example, think about any time you injured yourself while lifting and twisting a heavy load. From experience, you know this most definitely can lead to low back pain.

Even the regular course of aging can cause degenerative spinal changes and I’m not talking about “grandma” age, either. These degenerative processes can start as early as your 30’s! So to familiarize you on the most likely causes of low back pain, here's a quick list:

1. Overuse of muscles and ligaments, caused by a competitive or repetitive movements and commonly called a "strained" or "pulled" muscle. Think an overzealous tennis match or an ambitious day in the garden.

2. Disk injury, tears or other damage to the "shock absorbers" between the spinal bones (vertebrae).

3. Disk degeneration, the wear and tear, shrinking, and collapse of disks that can be more common with age.

4. Degenerative spondylolisthesis, changes to spinal structures, which allows a vertebra to slip out of alignment with the next vertebra.

5. Spinal stenosis, narrowing of the space around the spinal cord, which puts pressure on nerve roots.

6. Scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine that may cause pain for some people.

In all of the above cases, massage therapy can help in managing the symptoms of pain, but first check with your doctor on medical treatment and other options for reducing low back pain and maintaining mobility. You may be surprised at all the options available to you and the techniques you can learn about how to live pain free.

As always – enjoy your life.

John Aaron Villarreal


Bio: I am a Houston based, male massage therapist and wellness coach specializing in pain management and health programs for individuals over the age of forty. I laugh - a lot. I'm quirky but sincere. And, while I'm not a counselor, I do listen and I do care: Except for the times that I don't. That’s a joke - Did I mention that I like to laugh? Anyway, visit my website, call or email me and let's get together to talk about you, and the many ways to live life better!

The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

10 Home Remedies to Manage Low Back Pain

Perhaps you “slept wrong” or lifted something heavy and awkward using poor form. Maybe you're experiencing pain from a degenerative condition like arthritis. Whatever the cause, once you have low back pain, I for one know that it can be hard to endure. They say about 25% of all Americans have some type of chronic low back pain. And for those lucky ones that don’t, they can expect to experience back pain at some point in their lives.

Sometimes it’s clearly serious: You were injured, or you feel numbness, weakness, or tingling in the legs. Call the doctor, of course. But for routine and mild low back pain, here are a few simple tips to try at home.

Chill it. Ice is best in the first 24 to 48 hours after an injury because it reduces inflammation, and excessive inflammation will always cause pain. I know the first tendency to go for the heating pad or hot tub because the warmth “feels good” by covering up the pain. While it does help relax the muscles, the heat can actually encourage more inflammation. The best bet for heat is to wait 48 hours. After that, you can switch from cold therapy to heat if you prefer. Whether you use heat or ice – remember to remove it after about 20 minutes to give your skin a rest. You can repeat as necessary. If pain persists, talk with a doctor.

Keep moving. Although you must “respect" your pain, the spine is meant to move. Pain permitting, you should keep doing your daily activities. Make the bed, go to work, walk the dog. Once you're feeling better, you can return to more advanced exercises like swimming, bicycling, and walking. Doing so can keep you -- and your back -- more nimble and mobile. Just don't overdo it with the macho “walk it off” thing. There's no need to run a marathon when your back is sore, but there’s not need to “baby” it either.

Stay strong. Once your low back pain has receded, you can help avert future episodes of back pain by working the muscles that support your lower back, including the back extensor muscles. These muscles help you maintain the proper posture and alignment of your spine. Don’t forget that having strong hip, pelvic, and abdominal muscles can also give you more back support. However, you may want to avoid abdominal “sit-ups,” because they can actually put more strain on your back. Try a “plank” exercise instead.

Stretch. Don't sit slumped in your desk chair all day. Plan to get up every 20 minutes or so and stretch the opposite way. Since our jobs tend to place us in a position that requires a lot of time bending forward, it's important to stand up and stretch backward periodically throughout the day. While you’re up, you may even want to stretch your legs. You can augment your spinal health by adding a regular stretching routine to your workout or including yoga classes.

Think ergonomically. Consider re-designing your workspace so you don't have to hunch forward to see your computer monitor or reach way out for your mouse. Use a desk chair that supports your lower back and allows you to keep your feet planted firmly on the floor.

Watch your posture. Slumping makes it harder for your back to support your weight. Be especially careful of your posture when lifting heavy objects. Never bend over from the waist. Instead, bend and straighten from the knees.

Wear comfortable shoes. And, if you wear heels, Exchange your four-inch pumps for flats or low heels (less than 1 inch). High heels and ill fitting shoes create a more unstable posture, and increase pressure on your lower spine. According to research, nearly 60% of women who consistently wear high-heeled shoes also complain of low back pain.

Kick the habit. Smoking can increase your risk for osteoporosis of the spine and other bone problems. Osteoporosis can lead to compression fractures of the spine. One study found that smokers are about a third more likely to have low back pain compared with nonsmokers.

Watch your weight. Use diet and exercise to keep your weight within a healthy range for your height. Being overweight puts excess stress on your spine.

Try an over-the-counter pain reliever. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin), and naproxen sodium (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprosyn) can help reduce back pain. Acetaminophen  (Actamin, Panadol, Tylenol) is another over-the-counter option for pain management. Be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist about any interactions over-the-counter pain relievers may have with other medications you are taking. People with a history of certain medical conditions (such as ulcers, kidney disease, and liver disease) should avoid some medicines.

Remember to Call your doctor if:
Your low back pain doesn't go away after a few days, and it hurts even when you're at rest or lying down. You have weakness or numbness in your legs, or you have trouble standing or walking, or you lose control over your bowels or bladder. These could be signs that you have a nerve problem or another underlying medical condition that needs to be treated.

As always – enjoy your life.

John Aaron Villarreal


Bio: I am a Houston based, male massage therapist and wellness coach specializing in pain management and health programs for individuals over the age of forty. I laugh - a lot. I'm quirky but sincere. And, while I'm not a counselor, I do listen and I do care: Except for the times that I don't. That’s a joke - Did I mention that I like to laugh? Anyway, visit my website, call or email me and let's get together to talk about you, and the many ways to live life better!

The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

How You Can Be Happier Starting Today!

There’s an old saying that goes, “you reap what you sow.” Do you feel happiness is hard to find?  Just when things are going well, does it seem something happens to zap your joy?  Do you wonder if true happiness is something that can ever be grasped? Then, perhaps it’s time to look at planting the seeds of happiness in your life.

Studies show that the ability to feel happy is related to a person’s state of mind.  The good news is that you can choose your state of mind.  Happiness can be yours simply by re-framing your responses to life and its circumstances.

Consider the difference between a positive mindset and a negative mindset:

• Positive-minded people appear happier.  They tend to look for the good in situations and other people.  They choose not to be overcome by trials, knowing a solution is around the corner.

• Problems present opportunities to the positive-minded. When a solution is found, they gain a feeling of accomplishment resulting in feelings of happiness.

• Negative-minded individuals tend to focus on the negative in people and the down-side of situations. Problems can become larger-than-life and seemingly unmanageable.

• Negative-minded people fear problems.  Problems present frustration which leads to anger, hostility and unhappiness.

Some negative-minded people are the way they are because they have never been shown another way to process life’s challenges.  If happiness is largely dependent on your frame of mind, and being positive-minded is apt to increase your ability to be happier, it makes sense to attempt to become more positive-minded.  With skills and practice, you can break out of a negative mind-set.

The following five keys, can start you on that quest:  

1. Keep on top of fitness and health concerns.   You will be happiest and better able to cope with life when you feel good physically.

2. Look for the good in others and treat them as you would have them treat you.

3. Set daily goals.  You will feel happier at day’s end if you've accomplished a goal—large or small.

4. Learn to think in “grey”.  Black and white thinking means you believe something is either right or wrong with no in-between.  Black and white thinkers are often perfectionists.  The world and the people in it are not perfect, nor will they ever be.   Learning to live in “grey” means to allow imperfection.  Doing so will lessen your stress and raise your happiness level.

5. It’s hard to get validation from others.  If you live your life dependent on what others think, you are sure to be unhappy.  It’s up to you to love yourself and find joy in life.

Happiness really isn't about having possessions, money or status.  They are nice things to have mind you, but real happiness is about having healthy thinking patterns.  Being thankful, maintaining good health and accepting imperfections in yourself and others will bring you greater joy.

Happiness can be yours right now.  Change your thinking, and change your life. And if you ever need help creating a step by step plan to reach your happiness, health and wellness goals; contact me. Let’s talk and see what we can do to get you there now.

As always – enjoy your life.

John Aaron Villarreal


Bio: I am a Houston based, male massage therapist and wellness coach specializing in pain management and health programs for individuals over the age of forty. I laugh - a lot. I'm quirky but sincere. And, while I'm not a counselor, I do listen and I do care: Except for the times that I don't. That’s a joke - Did I mention that I like to laugh? Anyway, visit my website, call or email me and let's get together to talk about you, and the many ways to live life better!

The Legal Stuff: I write to inform, inspire and encourage my readers to enjoy all that life has to offer.
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease.
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise, diet or wellness program.