Women In Wellness: Dr. Arianne Missimer on the Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Be aware of your thoughts, inner voice, and most importantly the language that you are speaking to yourself. If you continue to say, “I’m never really going to get strong,” then you will not get strong. You will not work out like you’re supposed to in order to get strong. So, you want to make sure that you’re in tune with the language that you’re speaking and shift it to a productive language. “I am going to work out so that I am strong.”
As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Arianne Missimer.
Dr. Arianne Missimer is an award-winning health expert with more than 20 years of experience in the health industry. She is the owner and founder of the Movement Paradigm, an integrative health center in the Philadelphia area, author, doctor of physical therapy, registered dietitian, yoga teacher, and mindfulness educator. Dr. Missimer is dedicated to helping individuals heal their bodies, move well, alleviate inflammation, and live with vitality.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?
Sadly when I was 17, like so many other young women, I was a victim of sexual assault. I felt lost and couldn’t find my way. Then, less than a year later, I found the gym and it literally changed my life. When I was learning how to weight train, I found my power again; I was not only physically stronger, but also emotionally and mentally. A few years later, my brother passed away at the age of 29. I watched him lose function of his arm and leg due to cancer that had spread to his brain. I also observed his unbelievable tenacity and courage while he was fighting for his life. Losing him taught me how much to appreciate the gift of movement, health, and life. I opened up my first personal training studio at 22 years old and I have been dedicated to helping individuals take ownership of their health and be the best versions of themselves ever since.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Two months before I was getting married in 2015, I was running my personal training business and I was a clinic director of a physical therapy clinic. Everything seemed to be going great personally and professionally and then I was diagnosed with stage 3 liposarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer. I had to make some tough decisions; I sold my business for starters. Then, I began to have even more clarity on my purpose. I used the same three-pillar approach of mindset, nutrition, and movement during my journey as I had shared with so many patients and clients over the years. I even trained for and competed on American Ninja Warrior four months after my cancer treatment ended. From then on, I knew whole-heartedly that I wanted to follow my dream of opening up an integrative health center. Less than three years later, the doors to the Movement Paradigm opened and I am truly fulfilling my purpose and changing the way we look at health.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
When I first started working as a physical therapist, I remember I saw a patient for neck pain. She came into the office content and pleasant, but just wanted to feel a little better. Fresh out of school, including radiology class, I decided to look at her X-ray of her neck on the light board. I had never seen a neck look so bad and I was afraid to even touch her; I was afraid I may paralyze her. In the middle of the evaluation, I got so nervous and walked out to one of my supervisors and said in a panic-stricken voice, “I’m not sure I should even treat he. I could really hurt her.” My supervisor quickly responded, “Oh my God, did she even walk in here?” Sure enough, she did. She was smiling and laughing, too. We laughed about that for years after. Now I know better; in most cases imaging does not correlate with symptoms.
Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
My personal and professional experiences have afforded me the opportunity to have a unique and integrative perspective to health. I have always believed in treating the human being in front of me, rather than a set of symptoms or a protocol. My goal is to blend eastern and western philosophies together to treat the whole person and the underlying causes of why someone is suffering, rather than simply treating the symptoms. As a doctor of physical therapy, registered dietitian, mindfulness educator, cancer survivor, and mover, I am dedicated to helping individuals heal their bodies, alleviate inflammation, move better, and live with vitality.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My mother’s sole purpose was to provide love and support to my brother and me during our fight against cancer and she has been there for me through every challenge that life threw my way. Grace is defined as how you accept winning and losing, good and bad luck, and darkness and light. My beautiful mother is the true definition of grace. I am so blessed to have her as my best friend, confidant, and travel-the-world partner.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
To put it simply, we are humans, and we all have emotion. With that said, we are naturally going to gravitate towards pleasure and away from pain. Say for example, Friday night rolls around, and your spouse or significant other wants to order pizza. You’ve had a long week so even though you’re planning to have a salad, you go for the pizza. Who wants a salad after a long, stressful week, right?
Your subconscious mind is 99% of your mind. This is the house of all your past experiences. This includes your memories, beliefs, and unresolved emotions and it is the domain of your habits. Our conscious mind, however, is 1% of our mind and is responsible for your thoughts, goals, and awareness of self. For us to be able to set a goal and be able to succeed at it, we have to align the subconscious mind with the conscious mind. Even though we know what we should do, i.e. our conscious mind, our subconscious mind is a million times faster and much more powerful. If those two are not aligned, then unfortunately we will not be able to meet our goals or set out to do what we said we were going to do.
We actually run our day on approximately 45% to 95% habits and our thoughts are part of our habits. We have about 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day. You can hopefully appreciate that if these conscious thoughts are overpowering our conscious mind, then we are going to default to whatever is easier.
Lastly, when we get out of our comfort zone, for example setting a goal to exercise every day, this signals fear to the body. Immediately we have chemicals released that are signaling fear and danger. So, guess what happens? We also want to move towards what’s easy, comfortable, and pleasurable.
Here are three ways that you can begin to align your subconscious mind with your conscious mind and begin to make your goals a reality.
1) Healthful habits. You want to develop healthful habits (small, incremental, consistent changes) so that when your conscious mind gets tired from all those thoughts that are racing through your head your subconscious mind decides to take over and do the right thing. Think of the first time that you were told you had to brush your teeth. Since you were a young child, you’ve been brushing your teeth every single day; at least we hope so. That’s a perfect example of how habits start.
2) Be aware. Be aware of your thoughts, inner voice, and most importantly the language that you are speaking to yourself. If you continue to say, “I’m never really going to get strong,” then you will not get strong. You will not work out like you’re supposed to in order to get strong. So, you want to make sure that you’re in tune with the language that you’re speaking and shift it to a productive language. “I am going to work out so that I am strong.”
3) Celebrate. Celebrate your successes! This is where we can have serotonin and dopamine responses that can improve that feeling of happiness, as well as reward and motivation. It keeps you motivated to keep doing what you’re doing and to keep this habit going to make sure that it’s truly part of your life.
Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)
1 . Breathing — Breathing is your superpower! It can impact your movement, core function, lymphatic system, nervous system, hormonal system, sleep, and more. Diaphragmatic breathing involves fully expanding your abdomen 360 degrees, like a balloon, as you inhale. The key is to take slow breaths with long exhales. With deep slow breathing, the vagus nerve releases a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine that catalyzes increased focus and calmness. You could start with a tempo of three seconds in and three out, but you’ll want to lengthen that over time. The slower the exhale, the more the vagus nerve is stimulated. The most benefits are achieved with 5 to 6 breaths per minutes and can be especially helpful in times of stress and anxiety. Ten minutes a day of dedicated breath practice is recommended and can be broken up in smaller increments.
2 . Vagus nerve hack: The basic exercise — Not only can you consciously tap into the power of your vagus nerve; you should.
- Healthy vagal activity is associated with better physical and mental well-being. Otherwise, it can cause issues such as inflammation, heart disease, and strokes.
- Known as the “wandering nerve” in Latin, it begins in the brainstem and innervates the muscles of the throat, circulation, respiration, digestion and elimination tracks. It accounts for 80 percent of our parasympathetic, or “rest and digest,” nervous system.
— There are numerous ways to stimulate the vagus nerve, but this is one of my favorites. Stanley Rosenberg’s basic exercise is a simple way of bringing blood flow to the brain stem, where the vagus nerve originates, and realigning the first two vertebrae. It brings you into a state of social engagement, where you can be joyful, mindful, and grounded. To perform this:
- Lie on your back
- Interlace your fingers and bring them behind your head right at the base of your skull
- Move just your eyes to the right until you sigh, swallow, or yawn (typically within 30–60 seconds) and repeat on the other side.
- For the record, blinking is allowed. You will likely feel calm and relaxed afterwards.
3. Go barefoot! We have 104 different mechanoreceptors, sensory receptors, on the bottom of the feet. They respond to different stimuli such as texture, deep pressure, skin stretch and vibration. Eighty percent of the receptors on the bottom of the feet are sensitive to vibration. This is actually how we detect impact forces coming into our bodies. Guess what shoes and socks do? They block this powerful information from coming into the body. The info is, therefore, delayed or inaccurate.
Why is this important? We need to intentionally stimulate the skin on the bottom of the feet where all this powerful information lies. You can start by taking off your shoes and socks at home, walk on different surfaces, make a rock mat to stand on, and use a massage ball to do a daily foot release. You can also ground for 10 to 15 min daily by simply having your bare feet in contact with grass or natural terrain to get the anti-inflammatory benefits among many others.
4. Daily lymph drainage. The lymphatic system is one of the most powerful and most neglected systems in the body. It is a critical part of the immune system and is vital for protecting us from illness and chronic disease. How do we get rid of inflammation? Primarily through our lymphatic system or other detoxification systems or organs.
We are made up of 80 percent water. Let’s compare the lymphatic system to an aquarium. We can appreciate that if the aquarium has clean, filtered water everything in it (fish, algae, etc) are going to not only survive, but thrive. However, if that tank is unfiltered, becomes toxic and infected, everything in the tank is also going to become toxic and have a lack of oxygen and nutrients. Therefore, it cannot survive, let alone thrive in that toxic environment. “You cannot get well in the environment that you got ill in.” If you have things like morning stiffness, chronic pain or fatigue or stiffness, bloating in your face in your abdomen, varicose veins, brain fog, poor sleep, acne, bad breath, poor capillary refill, and painful lymph nodes, then most likely you are dealing with some kind of lymphatic issue. A daily lymph drainage can be a simple and powerful technique to keep you healthy!
5. Explore Inflammatory foods. Ninety percent of all chronic health conditions are associated with excessive or persistent inflammation. Assessing potentially inflammatory foods is one of the easiest, and most eye-opening might I add, thing you could do for your health. I have helped hundreds of people get to the root cause of their health issues such as eczema, anxiety, chronic pain, digestive issues and so much more.
To perform a modified elimination diet, you could eliminate one or more foods for three weeks. Let’s use gluten and dairy for our example. This means not even having a bite. After three weeks, you would perform the reintroduction, the most important part. You’ll have dairy twice in one day. For three days after, track all of your symptoms from sleep to digestion and everything in between. Then repeat the same process with gluten. You should know if these foods are an issue for you following the reintroduction process.
As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?
- Motion is emotion. Movement is such a powerful way to improve your vagal tone, become more connected, and enhance happiness. The vagus nerve is the main pathway for conveying information about the internal condition of the body to the brain. Movement stimulates the myofascial structures, the glue that holds us together, which are rich in interoceptors. These are sensory receptors that are able to stimulate the areas of the brain that control the emotional state. Adding exercise and movement you enjoy into your daily life can make a major difference by improving your interoceptive awareness, simply put your body’s internal awareness of self. It allows you to feel and express emotion.
- Movement moves lymph. The two things that move lymph are movement and breath. Movement acts as a pump for the lymphatic system and can greatly affect how you feel. Sedentary lifestyles contribute to a toxic aquarium. To feel your best, move regularly to keep your tank clean!
- Movement increases muscle. Muscle is the organ of longevity. One of the key benefits of strength training specifically is maintaining your lean body mass. Skeletal muscle mass and muscle strength exhibit a steady decline after the fourth decade of life and it accelerates with aging. Loss of skeletal muscle mass influences body composition, osteoporosis, falls and fractures, impaired function, and mortality. Adipose tissue, i.e. fat tissue, is an organ of inflammation. The less muscle mass we have, the greater fat mass we have. The best way to build and preserve muscle mass is progressive resistance training (PRT); gradually increasing your weight, frequency, and/or number of repetitions in your strength training routine.
For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?
This is difficult to narrow down because there are so many movements to explore, however I would recommend the following:
- Deadlift: This can be done with dumbbells, kettlebells, or barbells. It reinforces one of your key movement patterns, a hip hinge.
- Lunges: This should be done in various planes, side to side, front to back, and rotations. This focuses on dynamic single leg stability and strength which is foundational for life.
- Push-Up: This can be performed at various heights from the wall to the floor. This emphasizes proper bodyweight control and is one of your foundational upper body push exercises.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
One book that I continually come back to is Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat Zin. This was a required reading during my graduate work in Applied Mindfulness. It has had a profound impact on my life, personally and professionally. Although I have never suffered from anxiety, I have experienced significant challenges. This book, along with my education and ongoing mediation practice, has helped me to explore my emotions, thoughts, and body and shift my perspective. Mindfulness is a way of being, a way of living your life. This book continues to shed light on my own journey as well as the people I am fortunate enough to work with.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I hope to inspire a movement for wellness by helping people rise up over their challenges through mindset, nutrition, and movement. My goal of my recent book, Rise Up, is about my personal journey of healing and I wrote it in hopes of inspiring individuals to take ownership of their health by tapping into their personal power.
No one is promised tomorrow. What some people take for granted, others are fighting for.
Each day is a gift. Treasure it. Treasure yourself. Eat to nourish your body, move well and often, and fill your mind with hope, happiness, and gratitude. Let’s rise up together. When we do, we never know what truly amazing things can happen.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” I have spent my whole life and professional career disrupting the norms, in a positive way, of course. Whether it was fitness, nutrition, or physical therapy, I have always questioned what has been done and then followed my own path. I want to change our current reactive healthcare culture to a proactive one. For example, I will never be the physical therapist that wastes 30 minutes of a session with heat, ice, and electrical stimulation. I’d rather use that time to empower someone to take ownership of their health and move with purpose and intention.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
Without a doubt, I would love to meet Michael Jordan. As a youth basketball player, he was my idol. I admired his unbelievable tenacity, focus, and drive. I had a life-sized poster of him in my room and I remembered reading his book, “I can’t accept not trying.” He really inspired me at a young age to be the best version of myself; to play hard in life and sport. After watching his recent documentary, I realized even more why he had such a tremendous impact on me.
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Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!