Blog Posts by Brett Blumenthal - Sheer Balance

  • Angelina Jolie, Breast Cancer and Prevention: How Much Do We Control?

    Angelina JolieIf you were told you had an 87% risk for breast cancer, would you undergo a double mastectomy as a preventative measure to eliminate or drastically reduce your risk? Essentially, this is what actress Angelina Jolie did. Just this week, she announced in a New York Times article that she underwent the double mastectomy after learning she carries a mutation of the BRCA1 gene, which is a marker for increased risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

    What a difficult decision. Brave, some might say. While others: over reactive. Personally, I believe it is an extremely personal decision. If it gives Angelina Jolie peace of mind, and makes her feel safer, then so be it. She did what was right for her. And, when the stakes are as high as they seem to have been for her, it sounds like she made a sound decision.

    Her decision, however, raises the question: How much of a role do our genes play in our risk for disease?

    Many individuals in the medical profession chalk disease up to

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  • Moving Past the Fear from the Boston Marathon

    Today's Boston Marathon was scarred by two explosions and a mysterious fireThe bombings from the Boston Marathon have me reeling. Living and working in Boston makes it feel like déjà vu: it was nearly 12 years ago when I lived and worked in New York City during the Twin Tower attacks on September 11th, 2001. Although these events are scary for anyone, they seem even more so when they happen in your backyard.

    The bombings caused a whole host of memories to come flooding back: the confusion, the concern, the sadness, and of course, the fear. Yet, this time they took on a whole new level of meaning and significance: I'm 37 weeks pregnant.

    12 years ago, as a single woman in her late 20s, my mind jumped to my parents', my friends', and of course, my own safety. But today, only three weeks away from my due date, it is difficult not to ask: What will this mean for my child? What will this mean for the future of my family? Is it irresponsible to bring an innocent life into the chaos and craziness of the world today? What if my child, one day, has the

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  • Pregnancy: I Entered Whalehood

    A Humpback whale, shot from underwater.I've been blessed. Throughout my pregnancy, I've received countless compliments -- "You're glowing!" "You are so tiny!" "You are carrying beautifully!" All of these compliments usually resulted in a guess that my husband and I were expecting a boy. The jury is still out on that, but we'll see.

    Before our recent "babymoon," family and friends expressed a huge interest in seeing pictures of me pregnant. To be honest, passing around photos of my expanding belly was never my thing. Although I've been taking pictures for our own private consumption, curious to see how my body is transforming over time from an "artistic perspective," I never realized my growing belly was something in which the world had any interest. Apparently, I am wrong. The pregnant picture is indeed a thing.

    When my husband and I arrived at our Babymoon destination, I was thrilled to have a week to enjoy some much-needed sunshine. After all, the Northeast winter has been relatively unbearable, and warmth was what I

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  • Are You Deceived into Thinking You're Happy?

    ComplacencyLast week, my friend Janice and I had lunch. For as long as I've known her, she has been bubbly and energetic, talking about three or four projects with which she was involved and passionate. Over the last few months, however, Janice hadn't seemed herself. In short, she seemed as she was on auto-pilot, going through the motions of life.

    Although I had waited for her to say something about it on her own, I was starting to grow concerned. That day, I asked Janice, "Is everything okay? You haven't seemed yourself." She responded with a flat "yes." I looked at her, and could see something wasn't right. So, I took a deep breath and asked, "Janice, are you happy?" Her response - a short three words - said a mouthful: "I'm not unhappy."

    Janice's lack of unhappiness is one of the main symptoms of complacency. We deceive ourselves into thinking we are satisfied when we aren't, unaware of or unwilling to admit to problems, concerns, or deficiencies. When we become complacent, we are likely to

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  • If the World Ends, Will You Be Satisfied with How Your Life Turned Out?

    Mayan CalendarAs an architecture student, I chose to do my thesis on creating a mobile health care facility that could reach the indigenous people of Copan, Honduras - descendents of the ancient Maya. I've always found mesoamerican cultures - the Inca, Aztecs and Maya - to be intriguing and mystical, and the ever-looming "end of the world" proposed by the Mayan calendar, is no different. I imagine the ancient Maya would be busy right now with celebrations and ceremonies, waiting for their impending world to end.

    As we wait for midnight to pass in our applicable time zone on December 21st, some of us might be contemplating what the end of the world might look like. What will it bring? What will happen? Will we all vanish with some odd flash of light or will we just see a major change in how our world works? Time will tell, but this ceremonious event does beg the question, "If the world were to end today, would I be content with my life as it stands?"

    We never really know what our future holds, and

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  • 5 Tips to Reduce Holiday Stress

    Tips for Holiday StressHoliday season is in full swing and as beautiful and magical as the holiday season should be, it can also be very stressful. The constant activity and commitments, not to mention shopping, entertaining, and celebrating, causes us to need a vacation by the time January 2nd rolls around.

    To minimize the impact holiday stress can have, consider some of the following tips:

    1. Prioritize Appropriately: We are more likely to say "yes" now as compared to the rest of the year. Before you raise your hand for the next volunteer opportunity, evaluate if it is something you really can afford to do. Does your schedule allow for the time commitment? Will the activity cause you more stress? Is it something you really enjoy or are you doing it out of guilt or other negative reasons? Say "no" when you need to, and don't beat up on yourself for doing so. Prioritizing your choices around your own needs will allow you to get done what you need to and allow you to take care of others when it is really
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  • 6 Date Ideas for Spring that Won't Break the Bank

    life's beautiful moments, dispite it's downfalls.When spring is in the air, it often seems that is love too. It makes sense: During the winter, we have less daylight, tend to bundle up, and opt to stay indoors or at home. During the spring, however, days are longer, we show more skin and are eager to get outside and be social. This spring, enjoy the season of romance with some of these fantastic date ideas that won't cost you a fortune:

    1. Wine Tasting: It turns out that all 50 United States are in wine production. So, more likely than not, you can find a winery nearby. (Check here for a state-by-state locator.) Most wineries offer wine tastings for free and allow you to taste a good number of their wines. If you don't live near or don't have access to transportation to get to wineries, check listings in your local paper for restaurants and wine shops that offer wine tastings.
    2. Concerts in the Park: Many towns and cities offer free outdoor concerts in their parks during the warmer weather. Depending on where you live, these
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  • 7 Ways to Improve Your Mindset for Change

    ChangeIt isn't easy making change. But there are definite factors that can contribute to your success. In short, if you are going to go into things with the wrong attitude, you just as well shouldn't have bothered. Taking on any challenge - whether it be changing your habits...a change in your career...improving your relationship or anything else - requires a positive and rational mindset. Your head is just as big a part of your ability to succeed as are your actions.

    Keep your head in the right place with some of these key mindsets:

    1. Own Your Decision. Your quest for change is a choice. Yet, it should appeal to your emotional side. Something inside you caused you to want it. Erase phrases such as "I have to," "I should," and "I'm supposed to" from your thinking, and instead, focus on "I WANT TO."
    2. Embrace Change as a Lifestyle. Understand that your pursuit for change isn't just about the here and now, but something to be embraced for the long term.
    3. Understand
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  • 4 Ways to Make Your Workout More Effective

    Mindless ExercisingOver the last year or so, mindful eating has become a topic amongst many wellness professionals. For those of you who aren't familiar with the term, mindful eating refers to eating with purpose and awareness. In short, pay attention to what, how much, and how you feel mentally and physically when you eat. Even in Get Real and Stop Dieting! I discuss the importance of mindful eating. What we haven't seen very much of, however, is discussion around the idea of mindful exercising.
    As an AFAA certified wellness professional, I've spent years witnessing mindlessness around fitness. Many people go to the gym with the philosophy that if they spend time in a place that has weights and cardio equipment, then they've exercised. Unfortunately, this couldn't be further from the truth. Is a matter of fact, mindless exercising equates to a waste of your time: You put the time in, but don't reap the benefits. If you exercise on a regular basis and are unsure if you fall into this category, here are

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  • Cyber-Bullying: Also an Adult Problem

    Bullying Happens at Every AgeI've talked about how the anonymity of the internet brings out the worst in people. Given my choice of profession, however, I've been forced to deal with it more and more. Having been lucky enough to be featured on Yahoo!, I've had thousands of people read or view my posts, and as a result, I've been privy to cyber-bullying, "mean girl" (and especially guy) tactics, and character assassinations. It comes with the territory and it definitely has taken some getting used to. That said, it still hurts.

    Last October, I was lucky to be a guest on actress Judy Greer's (E.g., Mad Love, 13 Going on 30 and Arrested Development) "Reluctantly Healthy" web-television show (Thank You Yahoo!). After a 5am wake-up call and a 4 hour train ride, I arrived for the taping in New York. I did my hair and my makeup as best as I could (I do not have entourage status), and was ready to go. While taping, the lighting was so strong, that my eyes hurt, and as much as I tried not to, I was squinting through

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