THE BLOG
03/11/2013 02:43 pm ET Updated May 11, 2013

A Caregiver Needs Body Care Too

Last week in yoga class, my Zen card said "body care." I wondered if it was trying to tell me something. Am I not listening to the signs of stress that are all around me? As a member of the sandwich generation, worrying about my adult kids (I'm a mom and I have to worry about my kids even if they are all grown up) and worrying about my elderly mom (who has been ill since the New Year), I often forget to give my own body the "body care" it needs.

Not sleeping enough, not eating the right foods, not taking time to slow down and relax. Running, running, running. "Must squeeze all my exercise into the weekend," I told my body last Saturday. "Think I will do it all -- yoga, bicycling, walking, running, lifting weights." My body did not react well -- it fought back with aches and pains.

This week, I listened to an online chat with Dr. John Whyte, author of AARP New American Diet: Lose Weight, Live Longer. Dr. Whyte provided some helpful tips on ways busy caregivers can take better care of themselves. Here's some of Dr. Whyte's advice:

- Dr. Whyte says that "people who walk more throughout life have greater brain volume than those who walk less." He says that "there are approximately 2,000 steps in one mile and that most active people average about 2,000 steps a day." (I consider myself an active person, but I don't know if I am walking a mile a day. Ooh, ooh, ooh, I think I will take that old pedometer out of my junk drawer tomorrow and see if I am walking 2,000 steps.)

- Dr. Whyte says that "our basal metabolic rate (BMR), basically our internal furnace, slows down as we age." That's why we can gain weight more easily. He says that to balance our BMR we either need to eat less or exercise more. (I vote for the exercise -- but I must stop being a weekend athlete and improve my fitness management.)

- Dr. Whyte says that "foods from the Mediterranean diet are some of the best foods to eat such as: fish for heart health" (yep, I eat fish at least 2-3 times a week); blueberries -- Dr. Whyte says that "these berries are packed with powerful antioxidants to keep the blood vessels in our heart and brain healthy" (yep, I eat organic blueberries every day for lunch with my yogurt); "nuts in moderation" (yep, I sprinkle walnuts on my salad); and "drink more water" (yep, I carry my water bottle to work each day).

- Dr, Whyte says that "it is not surprising that added stress can cause weight gain." He says that "It is often related to the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that usually can be very helpful. It provides glucose to the body for energy when there is a stressful situation that requires you to have more energy or to be more alert. However, chronic stress will cause cortisol levels to be high chronically and this is not a good thing for your body."

Dr. Whyte says that "In this situation, the elevated cortisol levels cause high blood sugar which will cause a series of other reactions which will cause you to store fat as well as hold onto it, making it very difficult to shed the pounds."

My cortisol levels are definitely elevated of late -- juggling full-time work events and readying my second career as a writer and blogger post retirement, refinancing my "condo on the corner at the shore," managing my mom's health concerns and caregiving from afar -- she is in Flo-ree-da and my sister N and I are in NJ and NY... and how can I forget all the paperwork involved with preparing my 2012 taxes for the accountant this month.

I must take heed and listen to my Zen card. If I don't take my "body care" seriously no one else will... and I want my body to stay healthy during my life after 50.

So, tonight, I am going to enjoy a nutrient-rich dinner with my boyfriend, L. What's on the menu? Glad you asked. We'll start with a nice green salad with a few Greek black olives and a sprinkling of walnuts, followed by baked salmon topped with hickory barbecue sauce and accompanied by a beta-carotene rich sweet potato. If we have dessert it will surely be dark chocolate.

Then I am going to relax and listen to the wonderful music of Deva Premal and Miten as their spiritual chants lull me to sleep.

As a member of AARP's Kitchen Cabinet on Caregiving, note that all opinions are my own. I encourage all those who are caregivers to check out the AARP Caregiving Resource Center for more helpful tips. It truly is a wonderful resource, especially for those who are new to caregiving.