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Staying the Course

Moving forward in self-nourishing ways

This èBella èXtra chapter focuses on “staying the course” and moving forward intellectually, psychologically, spiritually and physically in these persistantly uncertain times.

Naples’ own psychoanalyst, coach, writer, webinar host and artist, Judith Belmont, whose 10th book was released last week, shares why self-esteem is the cornerstone of personal resilience.

You’ll find expert data and scientific proof of the efficacy of practicing meditation; helping young people build resilience; and the relationship between hormones and gut health.

We lend insight on four acclaimed female scientists presenting at the Imagine Solutions Conference March 7. Equally astounding to their backgrounds are their forward-moving science and technology initiatives.

It’s our hope that we all move forward and stay the course in healthy ways.

 
 
 

CHAPTER 69

 
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FEATURE

Surviving and Thriving

Naples-based therapist explores the teachable art of resilience

by Kathy Grey 

When we first reached out to Judith Belmont, M.S., we had no idea the psychotherapist/speaker/author’s latest book, “The 5-minute Self-care Journal for Women: Prompts, Practices, and Affirmations to Prioritize You” was about to be released. But as of Jan. 12, Belmont is the author of 10 mental health/self-help books and two self-help card decks. For more than 40 years, the psychotherapist, now retired, has been a speaker on workplace wellness and mental health topics. Today, she is an author, mental health online coach and webinar trainer on emotional and workplace wellness topics ... and an artist/teacher.

The Naples resident is the mother of three grown men and four grandchildren, but our interview led to asking advice on how people can emotionally surf the COVID waves.

“The most difficult aspect of all this is the isolation,” Belmont says about being relatively isolated from other human beings, social creatures, who are now expected not to touch or embrace. “It has worn us very thin over time. Zoom and Skype are great tools, but it doesn’t replace in-person contact. Life has been upended, and we’ve had to reinvent ourselves.

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Belmont holds one of her glass art creations.

“We’ve all been traumatized. I see is as a collective post-traumatic syndrome (PTS). For example, I couldn’t see my grandchildren for over a year,” she says. “But not having those things we once took for granted makes them even more special, especially for resilient people.”

Resiliency comes naturally to some people, but not to others. Belmont shares that resiliency and positive mindset stem from self-esteem, which, she emphasizes, is a teachable skill.

“If you talk negatively to yourself, if you’re self-critical, you’re likely to be less resilient. The better we love ourselves, the better we are able to weather this pandemic.”

“What’s most important is to nurture yourself and suspend your self-judgement,” Belmont advises. “Try to do your best, but realize that you are a work in progress. Some of the greatest successes in history had the biggest failures: Steve Jobs…Thomas Edison...” To paraphrase the adage, “If you’ve never failed, you’ve never tried something new.”

“We have the choice about how we respond to adversity … seeing the whole instead of the holes in your life.” Belmont says. “Optimism isn’t ‘everything turns out for the best,’ but knowing you can turn out OK no matter what. You have the power to respond to any adverse happening.”

This points to having a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset of all-or-nothing thinking.

Belmont is moving forward with her passions of lecturing, webinars and writing as well as finding love in glass art. She was invited to work in a Naples studio and will soon move into her own space, Naples Glassworks, in the Art District.

“I teach fun afternoon and evening classes in fused glass and mosaics: pick a project and do it under supervision.

“This was something I could do during the pandemic, and it became more of a part of my life because of the pandemic. Maybe it has something to do with my coaching. People who say, ‘I don’t have any talent,’ are thrilled to see the beautiful creations they’ve made. They’re developing confidence through the power of creativity. It’s very rewarding, and it’s been an evolution for me.”

 

Journaling, self-help workbooks and coping cards (positive messages of affirmation) can help eliminate cognitive distortions — as can art.

As with her therapy practice, Belmont’s art reinforces what she teaches, both in therapy and in glass: I know I can do this. I will forgive myself for not knowing then what I know now. I am a work in progress.

“How we talk to ourselves,” Belmont concludes, “determines our level of resilience.”

Resiliency Boosters during COVID

by Judith Belmont

 

1. Self-Care is essential to being resilient

Being the best “you” is not only good for you, it will benefit those around you. After all, you can’t give to others what you can’t even give to yourself. Take time for yourself, nurture yourself and set limits on your time and energy.

2. Mind and body

Developing good self-care habits physically and mentally will improve resilience. Find an exercise you enjoy, eat nutritiously and in moderation, and address your spiritual and emotional needs.

3. Make sure your self-esteem is unconditional

Love yourself as a work in progress and know you are just as worthy now as on the day you were born. You do not have to reach your goal to be worthy of love. You are just as valuable on the journey as you are at your destination. 

4. Be self-compassionate

Self-compassion is the cornerstone to self-esteem and self-care. Talking kindly to yourself, like you would to a dear friend, is the key to feeling good about yourself.

5. Reach out to others

Ask for help. Don't go it alone. These times of COVID can be isolating. Find outdoor activities where you can feel safe connecting with others. Reach out virtually to friends and family. We grow through our relationships with others. 

6. Growth mindset versus fixed mindset

Appreciate the importance of perseverance, effort and work instead of evaluating yourself based on your innate abilities, past successes and failures. 

7. Learn from the past, don’t live in it

Refuse to be a collector of injustices that weigh you down in negativity. Forgive others for not being as healthy as you would have liked in the past, and forgive yourself for not having the foresight to know what is now so obvious in hindsight.  

8. Be optimistic 

Optimism does not mean everything turns out OK. Some things turn out terribly wrong. Optimism means that we can be OK no matter what by having a mindset that makes us deeper instead of weaker.

9. Keep moving forward

It's never too late to begin again, learn something new, and create a beautiful life for yourself. We have the power of choice. We cannot always control what happens to us, but we can choose how we respond to it. 

 

To learn more, visit https://belmontwellness.com.

PERSONAL GROWTH IN CHILDREN

Kids Living in a Crisis-Prone World

Nine resilience-building tips for young people

by Michele Borba, Ed.D.

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Uncertainty comes from all directions these days — from shootings to fires and hurricanes to the ongoing pandemic. Emergency situations like these are tough for adults to handle, so it’s no wonder the anxiety and depression levels of children are skyrocketing.

 

Parents can’t protect or rescue kids from the bad things in the world, but they can teach their children skills to help them stay calm, work through frightening situations, build resilience and become “thrivers” — mentally tough children who have a sense of control in a changing, uncertain world.

 

Children have to be taught the character strengths that will safeguard them for the future and then practice resilience-building strategies until they become second nature.

 

They will fare better when they can counteract helplessness. These are teachable moments for parents, and there is no better time to help them deepen their empathy, an essential strength of thrivers.

 

Here are some tips to build resilience and help children thrive, no matter what comes their way.

 

1. Conversation 

Give them plenty of room to express their fears, taking care not to dismiss their concerns. Younger children may not be able to verbalize their feelings, but you might tell them it’s OK and normal to feel sad, nervous or confused. This will help them recognize and name their emotions.

 

2. Breathing 

Fear is sometimes a blessing that keeps us alert, but you don’t want fear to paralyze your child. Thrivers stay cool in a crisis and their inner strengths allow them to think straight, self-regulate and make split-second decisions so they are more likely to rebound.

 

A simple way to help kids master fear is to teach them to take deep breaths when they are feeling frightened or anxious. The second they feel stress kick in, they should take a deep breath from their abdomen. Hold the breath, then slowly exhale twice as long as they inhaled.   

 

3. Brainstorming

Thrivers have learned that there is no problem that can’t be solved. Brainstorming is a tool they can use to think of alternatives to problems. There may be dozens of ways to solve the problem, but unless kids have the courage to think of them, they may never know all the possibilities for making their troubles better. Remember, you can’t “rescue” your kids by coming up with solutions for them. Let them brainstorm their own solutions.

4. Being prepared

Kids do better in emergencies if they know what to do “just in case.” So, if they’re going hiking, remind them to bring water and a whistle. If they’re going boating, remind them to wear a life preserver. If they’re camping, say, “Bring a flashlight.” The goal isn’t to scare them, but to entrust them with age-appropriate information about a situation so they are prepared.

 

5. Utilizing 911

Describe to your young child what an emergency is (such as a fire, a person who is hurt and can’t wake up or a stranger in your home) and show them how to dial 911 to get help. Explain that the operator on the other end is there to help and send someone to assist. Remind them to tell the operator their name, who needs help, what happened and where they live. Be sure to emphasize, “You should never call 911 unless it is a real emergency.”  

 

6. Speaking up 

Stress to your children that if someone is treating them disrespectfully, speak up right away. Explain that simple, direct commands work best, such as “No,” “Cut it out,” “Stop” or “Back off.” A big part of success is the ability to deliver comebacks assertively with a strong determined voice.

 

7. Champions 

Thrivers always have people in their lives that they can count on. Ask your child: “If you had a problem at school or when I’m not home, what adult could you call?” Once you identify that adult, make sure they know that they are the designee and that your child has their phone number and might call them for help at some point.

 

8. Empathy

Empathy is one of the strengths thrivers possess. Show compassion to your kids so they understand what it feels like to be on the receiving end.

 

If you have noticed that they are having more frequent meltdowns or other problems due to pandemic stress, recognize that they are suffering and give them plenty of extra nurturing, love and patience.

 

Help them understand the perspective of others going through a crisis, such as storm victims or people who have contracted COVID. When kids are able to imagine how others feel, it increases their empathy.

 

Ask them to brainstorm ideas about how they can help others who are also suffering. Maybe they can collect food for hungry community members, order a pizza lunch to be delivered to those working in the COVID unit at your local hospital or put together a care package for someone recovering from illness.

 

9. Don’t give up! 

Above all, tell your child that if they are ever in a tough situation, don’t give up. Remind them that you and many others are there to help them.        

 

Your child can be a thriver. As you work on these exercises, you will begin to see positive changes emerging, and they will be ready to handle whatever life throws at them.

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Michele Borba, Ed.D., is the author of Thrivers: The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine and “UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World.” Borba is a renowned educational psychologist and an expert in parenting, bullying and character development. To learn more, visit https://micheleborba.com.

SPIRITUAL NUTRITION

Eight Powerful Benefits of Meditation

Science and data reveal specific ways meditation supports your well-being

by Michele Kambolis, Ph.D.

Meditation may seem mystical, since it was born from spiritual tradition, but the practice is accessible, its effectiveness proven by rigorous scientific studies.

The science and data on meditation are starting to reveal what works for who, and why. Many neuroscientists, physicists and psychologists have committed their professional lives to this understanding, and they are just now discovering the payoffs meditation brings to our physical health, mental well-being and social connections. Best of all, meditation is available to everyone, anywhere, any time.

Here are just some of the ways that meditation has been shown to support well-being.

1. Meditation helps to reduce symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Meditation helps us focus, but we now know that it actually helps adults and adolescents with ADHD. In a 2008 study published in the Journal of Attention Disorders, 78% of participants reported a reduction in their symptoms after meditation.

2. In patients with heart disease, meditation reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke. Patients who meditated 20 minutes a day were less stressed and experienced a reduced risk of “endpoint cardiovascular events,” as compared to a control group that did not meditate.

3. Meditation increases social connection and emotional intelligence. A study showed that, by increasing positive emotions, meditation produced feelings of increased purpose in life and social support, which led to an increase in life satisfaction and reduced depressive symptoms.

4. Even a brief meditation session helps to improve our working memory and reduces fatigue. It’s well established that meditating for longer periods of time produces cognitive benefits. But we now know that as few as four brief meditation sessions can improve mood and working memory.

5. Meditation can improve analytical and problem-solving abilities. A 2015 study published in Frontiers of Psychology showed that mindful participants performed better when instructed to solve problems analytically than a control group made up of less mindful participants.

 

6. Meditation enhances creativity. Even for beginners, studies show that meditation techniques improve creative-thinking abilities and have lasting cognitive benefits.

7. Meditation can improve your sex life. In a 2011 study, women who meditated were more able to register and attend to their own physiological responses to sexual stimuli, improving their libido and reducing symptoms of sexual dysfunction.

8. Meditation may make our brain bigger and mitigate the effects of aging. In one study, the brain scans of long-term meditators showed thicker gray matter, even in older individuals, compared with non-meditators. The study’s findings suggest that meditation improves cortical thickening and plasticity in the areas of the brain related to cognitive and emotional processing and well-being.

To pause and become aware takes but a moment. We practice on the mat what we’d like to embody in everyday life, but it’s possible to experience full awareness in every moment, no matter what we’re doing.

In Conclusion

When we pause, we can pay attention — without judgment — to whatever exists in the moment. This is meditation.

Tying the pause to a specific time or event makes it easier to remember. You might pause after each Zoom meeting, after you go to the bathroom or between conversations or activities to mark the transition.

Take a moment now. Pause, become aware, notice your breathing and let go of the doing self. Relax the need to be anywhere else but here and reconnect with the mystery of this moment.

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Michele Kambolis, Ph.D., a mind-body health specialist, registered therapist, meditation teacher, author and speaker who has been practicing for more than 20 years. To learn more, visit www.michelekambolis.com.

This article is excerpted from “When Women Rise: Everyday Practices to Strengthen Your Mind, Body, and Soul.” Very minor edits were made to the original publication for this article’s clarity.

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FYI: FOR YOUR INSPIRATION

Mindful Musing

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“Life changes so quickly, and like a sailboat, you either wait for whatever crosswind comes your way to move you on your journey or you can actually decide where you want to go and use the ship’s engine to stay on course.”Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning, but a going on — with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.”

 

— Wes Adamson, author

 

JUST IMAGINE

Women in Science

Female experts in science and technology to be featured in Imagine Solutions Conference 2022

by Kathy Grey

According to the National Science Foundation, women comprise 43 percent of the U.S. workforce of scientists and engineers under the age of 75.

The March 7 Imagine Solutions Conference 2022 will feature a multi-speaker session on Science and Technology and its major impact on society.

Of the six session experts presenting, four are women — about 67%. That’s 67%, versus the national average of 43% women in the field.

Here are snapshots of the four female experts who will address “The Importance of Science” at the conference.

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Marcia McNutt

Since 2016, geophysicist Marcia McNutt, Ph.D., has served as president of the National Academy of Sciences, a society of distinguished scholars and Nobel laureates advising the nation on public policy decisions in science and technology.

She was the director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) from 2009 to 2013, in which time the USGS responded to a number of major disasters, including the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. McNutt led a team of government scientists and engineers who helped contain the oil and cap the well. For her contributions, she was awarded the U.S. Coast Guard Meritorious Service Medal.

Before joining USGS, McNutt served as president and CEO of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, when the institution became a leader in developing biological and chemical sensors for remote ocean deployment, installed the first deep-sea cabled observatory in U.S. waters and advanced the integration of artificial intelligence into autonomous underwater vehicles for complex undersea missions.

McNutt began her academic career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she was the E.A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics and directed the Joint Program in Oceanography/Applied Ocean Science & Engineering, jointly offered by MIT and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

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Ellen Stofan

Ellen Stofan, Ph.D., is the first female director of the National Air and Space Museum and undersecretary for Science and Research at the Smithsonian Institution. There, she focuses on scientific initiatives, biodiversity, global health, climate change species conservation, astrophysics and search for life outside Earth’s solar system.

Stofan is the former chief scientist of NASA’s New Millennium program and deputy project scientist for the Magellan Mission to Venus. She also served as principal advisor to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the agency’s science programs. She is an honorary professor in the earth sciences department at University College London.

Stofan’s research has focused on the geology of Venus; Mars; Saturn’s moon, Titan; and Earth. She is an associate member of the Cassini mission to Saturn Radar Team and a co-investigator on the Mars Express Mission’s MARSIS sounder. She was also the principal investigator on the Titan Mare Explorer, a proposed mission for a floating lander to be sent to Titan.

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France A. Córdova

France A. Córdova, Ph.D., is president of the Science Philanthropy Alliance, a community of funders who collaborate to inspire philanthropists to dedicate financial support to basic science. Its members act as champions and advisors to other philanthropists to ensure private funding for research initiatives that have led to today’s scientific, technological and medical breakthroughs.

An American astrophysicist and leader in science, engineering and education for more than three decades, Córdova was the first woman and youngest person to serve as NASA’s chief scientist. She was awarded the agency’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Medal.

Córdova was the 14th director of the National Science Foundation and the 11th and only female president of Purdue University. She also served as chair of regents of the Smithsonian Institution.

Córdova is chancellor emerita of the University of California, Riverside, where she was a distinguished professor of physics and astronomy and laid the foundation for a new medical school focused on student diversity and inclusion. 

Having served in five presidential administrations — both Democrat and Republican — Córdova is an internationally recognized astrophysicist for her contributions in space research and instrumentation.

A nunatak in Antarctica, a recreational sports center at Purdue and a cocktail in Las Vegas have been named for her.

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Laura Lott

With a mission to inspire and motivate students to learn science through great explorers and events, Laura Lott served as CFO and COO of The JASON Project, an international nonprofit education program at the National Geographic Society.

Lott joined the American Alliance of Museums in 2010 as COO, and was appointed president and CEO in 2015, a post she holds today. The Alliance stands for the broad scope of the museum community and represents more than 35,000 museum professionals and volunteers, institutions and corporate partners serving the museum field. In 2012, she led the relaunch of the Alliance and a nearly 70% increase in museum membership and the organization’s first three profitable years in nearly a decade.

Prior to National Geographic, Lott helped launch the Marco Polo: Internet Content for the Classroom program at the former MCI Foundation and managed its partnerships with 50 state departments of education.

About the Conference

The annual Imagine Solutions Conference is in its 12th year, presenting guest speakers who reveal forward-thinking practices.

The 2022 conference focuses on seven critical issues, covered by 19 world-class thought leaders during the day-long event. These include the importance of science; breakthroughs in technology and science; the history of innovation; cyberwarfare; the arts; education; and game changers, including Gitanjali Rao, 16, Time magazine’s 2020 “Kid of the Year.”

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If You Go

What: Imagine Solutions 2022 Conference: “A Whitewater World” 

Where: Arthrex Global Headquarters, 1370 Creekside Blvd., Naples

When: 8:30 a.m.-5:15 p.m. Monday, March 7

Cost: $700 per person (75% tax deductible)

Info: www.imaginesolutionsconference.com

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TO YOUR HEALTH

Healthy Gut, Healthy Hormones

Six practices to keep your system in balance

by Lacey Dunn, MS, RD, LD, CPT

You can’t have healthy hormones without a healthy gut. Your gut microorganisms (microbiota) and the health of your intestinal lining communicate directly to your brain via the gut-brain axis. This connection influences the creation and metabolism of almost every hormone in your body, including estrogen, thyroid hormone, melatonin and cortisol. If you want a healthy body, you need a healthy gut.

What determines the health of your gut?​
​Your digestive tract is home to trillions of microbes, both good and bad, that help you digest foods, balance mood, synthesize vitamins, support immunity and create and balance your hormones.

While there will always be some bad bacteria in your digestive tract, it’s essential to maintain the right balance. An overgrowth of bad bacteria or imbalance in the gut flora can lead to a variety of digestive symptoms (gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and/or acid reflux), indicating health havoc.

Low microbial diversity, largely due to overuse of antibiotics, a low-fiber diet or chronic use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, shunts the production of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which directly influence the health of your intestinal lining as well as the production of vitamins, neurotransmitters and hormones.

Butyric acid, one of the main SCFAs, influences the secretion of progesterone and estrogen in your body. Imbalance of these hormones can lead to disrupted menstrual cycles, mood disorders, fatigue, cravings and weight issues. Lack of SCFAs also can increase intestinal permeability, contributing to the development of food intolerances, increased risk of illness and infections, hypothyroidism and autoimmune disease.

On the flip side, too much of a bacterial, viral, fungal or parasitic pathogen can be a recipe for hormonal disaster, too. Overgrowths and infections can lead to inflammation in the body, malnutrition, damage to your intestinal health and suppression of your hormones. Sensing the stress of an invader, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode, causing excess cortisol output in your body, which, over time, further disrupts your microbiota.

Excess cortisol also causes a lower production rate of thyroid hormones. This can cause crippling hypothyroid symptoms, such as hair loss, weight gain and anxiety as well as imbalances of your estrogen and progesterone levels.

Finally, you can have a healthy microbiome, but experience intestinal permeability, also known as leaky gut, when the cells that line the gut start to separate and break down. This results in good and bad bacteria entering your bloodstream, which triggers an immune response that communicates to your body and hormones that you are not in a “safe space.” Your body reacts by increasing cortisol, ultimately suppressing your thyroid output to conserve energy — in response, your hormones become imbalanced.

 

How do you heal your gut to help your hormones? 

​It’s abundantly clear that maintaining and promoting a healthy gut is essential to having healthy hormones. These six lifestyle changes can help.

1. Healthy Diet. The standard American diet, loaded with added sugars, refined carbohydrates and inflammatory oils, has been shown to be extremely harmful to the gut’s microorganisms and lining. For gut health, an anti-inflammatory approach is best. Include these foods in your diet: 

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  • Healthy fats, such as avocados, olives, nuts and seeds will help normalize inflammation in your gut and support hormone creation.

  • Fiber-rich foods like legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables help support a healthy microbiome, maintain your gut lining, aid in natural detoxification. Aim for 25-45 grams per day.

  • Fermented foods, like yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut and miso, contain microbes that help balance your gut flora. But more is not better. Stick to one serving a day.

  • Prebiotic fibers found in foods such as garlic, onions, asparagus, apples, bananas and chicory root feed beneficial gut flora. Prebiotics serve as fuel to your gut lining and help produce those important SCFAs for your hormones.

2. Active lifestyle. Exercising is a part of maintaining a healthy gut. Not only does exercise aid in motility (movement through the digestive tract) to prevent bloating and gas, it also helps keep a healthy microbiota composition. Thirty minutes of activity each day can be an easy way to keep your gut and body healthy.

3. Prioritize self-care. Stress increases intestinal permeability, slows down digestion (increasing risk of constipation and overgrowths) and negatively impacts your hormones. Implementing stress reduction strategies, like journaling, yoga, meditation and nature walks, help support your emotional and mental health.

4. Get enough quality sleep. Lack of sleep can reduce microbiome diversity, increase insulin resistance, slow down digestive motility and make you tired and moody. Aim to get at least 7-8 hours a night.

5. Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption directly damage your gut ecosystem and the lining of your gut. Avoid these as much as you can and stick to one to two drinks per week.

6. Take antibiotics only when necessary. Overuse of antibiotics can deplete your microbial diversity, lead to dysbiosis and increase antibiotic resistance. Unless necessary, avoid taking antibiotics.

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Lacey Dunn is a functional medicine dietitian specializing in weight management, thyroid disorders, adrenal dysfunction and metabolic resistance. Her best-selling book, “The Women’s Guide to Hormonal Harmony,” gives women the knowledge to rebalance hormones and master metabolism. Learn more at https://upliftfitnutrition.com.