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When Panic Attacks
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Sound Mind: Surviving the Modern World

Break Free From Fatigue: Get the Energy Edge

By Joseph Hayes

We sacrifice energy at the altar of being successful, and it doesn't have to be that way.

Pamela Smith is taking a moment to talk about energy.

Obviously, she has it in spades. Today, she's hosting two culinary demonstrations, rushing off to tape segments for her syndicated Tips for Living Well radio show, then dashing back to the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival for a dinner created by some of the finest chefs in the world.

How does she do it? According to Smith, we all can.

The author of the best-selling book, The Energy Edge, Smith is championing the body's own ability to create energy in order to break free from the effects of fatigue - weariness, poor health and lack of concentration - that we accept as normal.

"We have all the energy we need," Smith explains. "It's scripted into every cell. What we need to do is remove the logjams that prevent that power plant production of energy."

Taking control

Smith speaks of the "corporate athlete" and the "life-athlete"(read: you and me) in the same tone that she uses when talking about her experiences as a food coach for Shaquille O'Neal and The Orlando Magic. Just like those professional athletes, most of us operate under extreme stress without understanding its affects on our bodies or how to compensate for them.

Smith says the first step is to look in the mirror and refuse to think of fatigue as acceptable.

"It may be common, but it's not normal," Smith emphasizes.

But isn't the exhaustion that comes after a long day dealing with family and/or work, just part of modern living?

"Not at all," she says. "We sacrifice energy at the altar of being successful, and it doesn't have to be that way. We need to get our bodies working for us rather than against us."

And with over 25 years experience as a "wellness coach" to high-profile athletes and professionals, Smith has refined her technique. Her strategy: make fitness more a change of eating and living habits than a set of grueling routines.

"Simple changes in your lifestyle can open the floodgates in terms of performance, alertness and creativity."

Step one: Breathe

Smith's prescription for energy is reminiscent of a Zen koan.

"Just breathe."

She pauses, taking a deep breath as an example.

"When we're under stress, we gasp for air in short shallow breaths - and we literally suffocate ourselves."

Smith teaches the art of diaphragmatic breathing which involves breathing from your stomach and filling the lungs from top to bottom.

"Gasping produces more stress hormones," she says, "which only robs more energy. "

Deep, slow breathing oxygenates the blood and sends an "all is well" signal to the brain and stops the production of the stress hormones.

Step two: Drink

"Drink water. Dehydration is the number one factor in running out of energy, causing - along with fatigue - nausea, and headaches."

But be warned. If you're thirsty, it's already too late. And to make things worse, your new regimen of "just breathing" is actually robbing more moisture from your system.

"All that breathing blows about two cups of water out of your body," Smith says.

She recommends the old, time-tested adage: eight to 10 eight-ounce glasses of water a day.

"People drink everything but water. Drinking coffee, colas or tea actually removes more water from the body than the beverage contains," says Smith.

There's simply no substitute for water when it comes to carrying nutrients to the brain and blood, flushing out poisons and hydrating overstressed muscles.

This, then, is the Pam Smith mantra: just breathe; just drink.

Step three: Eat

Her third motto is just as simple.

"Eat early and eat often," says Smith.

So, it seems, mom was right - breakfast really is important.

"A breakfast of whole grain carbohydrates gives you magnesium, vitamin B6 and chromium to carry fuel to the brain."

Once you're fueled up, says Smith, keep stoking the fire.

"Eat lots of small snacks," she advises. "Every two to three hours."

But mindlessly grazing at the salad bar isn't the answer. Smith recommends whole-grain crackers with low-fat cheese, fresh fruit, yogurt, and baked tortilla chips with fat-free bean dip as good, energy sustaining power-snacks.

"Carbs to burn, protein to build," she says. "And forget about the fads like this current frenzy of nostalgia for 70's diets. It's not like putting on bellbottoms - we're going to end up looking like beached whales."

The rewards

"It's simple, really," Smith says. "Embrace the notion that how you live today has [an] ultimate impact on how you're going to live the rest of your life."

"You have all the energy you need," she offers before heading back to a very busy, and very energetic, day.

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