Introduction: Trying to Do It All on Your Own Can Cost You Everything
If you ask the average person, “What is the deadliest disease for women?” most people will reply, “Breast cancer” without even missing a beat. While it’s great that we have raised our collective awareness of breast cancer, this average response fails to address the elephant in the room: breast cancer isn’t even close to being the number one killer of women. That distinction belongs to heart disease. Heart disease is responsible for one out of every three deaths in women. In fact, heart disease kills more women than all other cancers combined. It also kills significantly more women than it does men. And yet, as a woman, you hardly hear about heart disease in the news or even at the doctor’s office. Which is a devastating shame, because not being aware of your own heart health can cost you everything.
Why? Why are women so prone to heart problems?
Many people will point to the typical American diet of salty, fatty, processed foods. And yes, nutrition absolutely plays an important role. But in my twenty years of counseling, and in my own struggles with heart disease, I have a deeper view of the problem.
If you think about it, a woman is a lot like a heart: she never stops. You can depend on her to keep going no matter what. She is consistently, without fail, pumping out the love, compassion, and energy that her loved ones—and the world—need to keep going.
As women, we have such loving, giving hearts. Our heart is definitely the source of our super powers. Driven by the generosity of our hearts, we often take on so much: having kids, volunteering, pursuing a career, and being the emotional rock for our partners, families, and friends. Truly, our capacity to take care of business and of others is a force of nature! And yet, trying to do it all without feeling like you have the same love and support coming back to you that you send out to others, can overtax your heart.
In my holistic therapy practice, I sit across from women every day who are struggling. A full 90 percent of them are so stressed it’s taking a toll on their heart health. Whether it’s their physical heart, and they now require blood pressure medication and/or a daily aspirin, or it’s their metaphorical heart and they’re feeling overwhelmed, unsupported, and completely emotionally exhausted. Many of them are on antidepressants instead of, or in addition to, their heart medications. And yet, whatever medication they’ve been given, they don’t feel any better.
It’s no wonder they’re feeling so worn out. The women I work with are doing it all; they are the hub of their family’s wheel, attending to everyone’s needs before their own. They often work in high-stress jobs. Perhaps one of their children has special needs. Or maybe one is in a relationship that doesn’t feel as supportive as they’d like; it may even be dysfunctional. Whatever their particular circumstances are, these women often feel like there’s no chance for rest, no time when they don’t need to be getting things done. They are worn out emotionally and physically. Typically, there is some troubling symptom that is starting to clamor for their attention. It could be a racing heartbeat or high blood pressure. Maybe it’s dizziness or the inability to sleep because they can’t turn down their whizzing thoughts.
They are desperate for relief, for some sensation of peace, no matter how fleeting. The fact that their heart is starting to show signs of strain is only heightening their urgent need for relief, and thus making their stress, the source of the problem, worse.
A simple truth underlies our desire to help others and the state of depletion so many of us find ourselves in, and it’s that you can’t give from an empty cup. For so many of us women, our cups are bone dry.
If you can identify, I want you to know that no matter who you are, what you’re dealing with, or how sick you may feel, you can heal your heart and your life. I know this because I have been the one at the doctor’s office with a stress-related heart condition (in my case, a dangerously high heart rate). I went down the path of traditional medicine to find a cure, but in the end I healed myself. I did it by learning powerful, scientifically-proven tools that promote heart health: nutrition, exercise, relaxation, and psychological tools that support the body and the mind, and create all the conditions our bodies need to function their best. Over the course of twenty years in my clinical counseling practice, I’ve helped thousands of others do it, too. Now it’s your turn.
Two Surgeries, Ten Days in the ICU, and Twenty Years Ago
I know exactly how these women feel, and how you are likely feeling, too; no matter hard you work or fast you go, you are still barely keeping it together.
Early in my career, I was working in a high-stakes job with a two-hour commute each way. I was pouring everything into my work, fueling myself with coffee to compensate for my exhaustion. On the weekends, I was drinking too much wine and not eating enough food in general. I was definitely not eating enough healthy foods to provide the nutrients necessary to empower my body to prevent disease and manage stress. I figured I was young and resilient enough to muddle through, but my body had other ideas.
I developed ventricular tachycardia, a heart rhythm disorder characterized by an irregular and rapid heart rate caused by abnormal electrical signals in the ventricles, which are the lower chambers of the heart. If not treated, the disorder can increase the risk of stroke, sudden cardiac arrest, and possibly death. My heart rate would periodically surge as high as 300 beats per minute for 45 minutes at a time, which is astoundingly high when you consider that a typical at-rest heart rate is closer to 70. I was losing consciousness and fainting regularly, ending up in the emergency room most weekends and calling in sick to work. With a heart rate that high, I could have had a heart attack or stroke and died at any given moment.
I spent so much time in the doctor’s office. Their best suggestion was to perform an ablation on my heart. They inserted a catheter into an artery in my groin, and a device then stimulated my heart muscle in the specific area they thought was causing the abnormal heart rhythm. The chief of cardiology at Rhode Island Hospital performed this procedure twice to find the areas of my heart where he felt the electrical current was going awry. After the first ablation didn’t work, he tried a second one. My stress levels were dangerously high from my job, long commute, and generally being in a transitional place in my life, so the ablations failed to fix the problem. I continued to end up in the ER most weekends, and even spent ten days in the intensive care unit. Nothing seemed to be helping my heart stay in a normal range.
Finally, I had to admit that traditional doctors and hospitals weren’t helping. I went off my meds, told my doctor I wasn’t going to come back, and started booking acupuncture appointments. After my third appointment with the acupuncturist, I saw a significant difference in my stress levels. I went home after that appointment and slept for a day and a half. My fiancé was so worried about me, but I needed the rest. My parasympathetic nervous system (which you’ll learn more about in Chapter 2) got stimulated, which triggered a healing response in my body. That was the turning point for me.
I kept going to acupuncture, got back into doing yoga, started meditating, and cleaned up my diet. Through my meditation practice, I reconnected to a power greater than myself. I started benefiting from inspirational insights and a general feeling of support from life itself. I stopped feeling like I had to figure everything out on my own.
I quit my job and never looked back. Even more importantly, I recalibrated who I was. I decided to go back to school to get my PhD in holistic counseling so that I could help others learn the techniques that saved my life. I became a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) in the state of Massachusetts and eventually opened the Holistic Counseling Center in Raynham, Massachusetts. In other words, I started following my heart.
And you know what? It worked. My condition evaporated. I went back to my cardiologist a year later, just to tell him how well I was doing. He told me he had been concerned about my choices back then, but he could now see how well I was doing. He also said that I could help a lot of people by sharing my story. Even to this day, I haven’t needed to go back to see him. I had to get to the point where I decided that I wasn’t going to wait anymore for medicine and doctors to fix my problem. I was going to put together a treatment plan and course of action that spoke to my heart. And in doing so, I gave my body what it needed to heal itself.
Through my personal experience, my years of training, and my decades of counseling women, I have put together a guide comprising all the tools I used to help myself, and the tools that have helped countless others heal their hearts as well. The result is what you’re holding in your hands right now.
This book is for you if:
- You give, and you give, and you give, but you don’t seem to have the time to do the things that you know replenish you, whether that’s taking a walk with a girlfriend, pursuing a hobby, crawling into bed early with a great book, having down time with your partner, or even getting to the gym.
- You run on caffeine to keep yourself going, and on processed foods that require little preparation so you can feed yourself with minimal time. Perhaps you perk yourself up in the afternoon with some chocolate, a pastry, or a Frappuccino.
- You’ve gone to see your primary care physician to tell him or her how tired you feel, how overwhelmed you are, or how you feel stressed all the time. And you’ve left with a prescription for Lexapro, hoping that will help. When that doesn’t work, you tried another medication. Then another. When none of those made you feel much better, your hopes got dashed.
- Your body has developed some troubling symptoms that are negatively impacting how you feel, and perhaps even scaring you.
- You know there’s got to be a better way, but darned if you know what it is.
This book is that better way. What you’re holding can show you exactly what you need to do to give yourself a palpable sense of relief and help you give yourself the support you’re craving. It will help you see the patterns passed down through your family that have been contributing to how hard your life has been feeling. You’ll learn how to give yourself space to feel your feelings so that you can unburden your heart. You’ll see the simple nutritional shifts you can make and exercises you can do to support your body and give it what it needs to be able to heal the particular health challenges you are facing. And it will help you develop a plan you enjoy and can commit to that will help you create the physiological state of relaxation needed for your body to be able to heal itself.
The Ambassador of Aloha
by Laird Hamilton
I have found there are two kinds of people: competitive people and creative people. Competitive people are fulfilled by beating others, and creative people are fulfilled by accomplishing things.
Fred Haywood and I both grew up in Hawaii, influenced by the tropical environment of the Hawaiian Islands–at times nur- turing and at other times fierce. The formidable ocean drew us irresistibly to her to challenge our abilities at riding her magnifi- cent power. At the same time, the gentle nature of the Hawaiian culture infused us both with the spirit of aloha.
Aloha is a creative, collaborative philosophy. Hawaiians have always favored creativity over competition, curiosity over judgment. They aren’t very concerned with keeping a secret that might give them an edge over the other guy. They are more curious about how they can partner with others, working in a community to offer input, listen, and come up with ideas in the interest of the whole. Success is greater among people who work with each other rather than against each other.
When you live in Hawaii for most of your life as I have, em- bodying the spirit of aloha, you value collaboration and camara- derie over competition. And that is the essence of Fred Haywood. That is what Fred and I have in common: we enjoy connecting with and helping people. In fact, I may have learned this from Fred one day in 1983 on a challenging windsurfing run on Kauai.
The sport was becoming popular, and I was new to it compared to Fred. The run from Tunnels to Hanalei Bay was challenging, winds were maybe fifty knots, and we were climbing twenty-foot whitewater waves—impossible on a surfboard, but not on a wind- surfer. I’ve always been a bit of an adventurer on the water, and this day was no different. I was dancing maybe just a little too high on the waves (some thirty feet in the air?) when Fred summoned me down. If I had broken down, Fred would never have been able to find me in the whitewater. This day was another lesson in my ocean life about functioning within the limits of your skillset and your equipment. My career has been a series of trying to work within and yet push the limits with respect and calculation. It is truly the only way to operate year after year.
The next day I tried the same trick in calmer waters, and I broke the fin off my board. That accident could have been life-threaten- ing the day before. I was young and full of testosterone. Fred knew exactly when to rein me in, and he only did it when he knew it would help me be better on the water.
The Ambassador of Aloha
That run to Hanalei was the beginning of many adventures between Fred and myself, building a lifelong bond of love and respect.
Three years later, at a windsurfing contest in France, Fred challenged me to outrace the French champion, Pascal Maka. The French were crazy about windsurfing, and they were even crazier for Pascal. Fred and Pascal had tossed records back and forth for a few years in what Fred considered a friendly rivalry. It did feel a bit more serious for Pascal.
On the last day of the competition, I was in third place when the winds died. Pascal was in first, and it looked like the contest was over. Suddenly, the weather changed. The officials, in typi- cal French style, spontaneously decided to open the course again. Everybody scrambled to the start line to get some runs in. I don’t know if I had a problem with my rig or if Fred knew his would be a little faster.
“Here, try my rig,” he said. “Go out there and beat Pascal!” Fortunately, on this day, I did.
After my third run, I broke a European speed record. I was surprised and thrilled! Not to mention it may have been made a little sweeter by beating Pascal on his home turf. Best of all—I earned my first sponsorship with Neil Pryde Sails, the largest sail builder in the world. It was a Cinderella story, and Fred made it happen for me. He was willing to give up the chance to beat his perennial adversary, and he gave me his equipment to attempt it myself.
That experience was one of many pivotal points in my career as a waterman. Winning that event and getting sponsorship con- tributed to my going on and with a crew to pioneering tow-in surfing at Jaws on Maui. This way of approaching water sports contributed to how I would approach riding waves and a lot of other innovations I have been fortunate to be a part of.
I have Fred to thank—for the gear that day, for the encourage- ment, for introducing me to Neil Pryde, and for his willingness to step back and let me have a shot at the win.
That is the spirit of aloha. Fred has always been an ambassador of aloha. I’ve traveled with him all over the world, and I have seen him share it with everyone, from young kids like me, filled with testosterone, to experienced water athletes. They never threatened his essential nature or competitive urge. “Sometimes you’ll be fast- er; sometimes I will be,” Fred says. He doesn’t hold back on helping people.
Because when you listen, when you live in Hawaii, when you are immersed in the ocean’s enormous power, you realize no one’s a threat. That most of the time, we all need each other to get through life with grace. This understanding is what Fred has mas- tered and has modeled. And this is what you will read in Racing with Aloha.
I’m glad Fred is sharing his story. This book entertains, in- forms, and inspires. There are heroes amongst us, and Fred is one of mine.
had just set the windsurfing world speed record in 1983, breaking the thirty-knot barrier in Weymouth, England, but that’s not how I made my name in the sport. My fame came on a day when
I was surfing alone, thanks to an eccentric and very wealthy fellow windsurfer and cover photographer for such magazines as Vogue and Life, who showed up to watch me after everyone else had left the beach for the day.
One morning, I was driving along Hana Highway on Maui when I could see Arnaud de Rosnay cruising toward me in his convertible.
“Hey, Fred!” he called.
Waving wildly, he stopped me on the road, and we chatted while our cars idled. In those days on the island, traffic was light, and we could sit there for several minutes without worrying about blocking traffic.
Arnaud was dressed all in white, his long hair blowing in the breeze. Before the end of the year, the dashing and wealthy French baron would disappear, attempting to windsurf across the South China Sea’s one-hundred-mile Taiwan Strait. But on this particu- lar blustery spring day in 1984, Arnaud was eager to photograph what he claimed would be the best day to surf the north shore of Maui.
“The biggest waves in the world will be coming in at Ho’okipa today. I’ll be there at noon with a helicopter to shoot it. Come sail at noon!”
“Yeah, I know,” I said to him. “But I’ll be there at three. I’m going to sail a really big wave at around four o’clock, maybe four-thirty.”
“But I’ll have the helicopter there at noon!” Arnaud insisted. “I’ve been sailing every day,” I told him, “and every day, the
big waves have been coming late. The biggest set of the day will come around four. I don’t want to sail until it’s going to get really big. I think someone is going to ride the biggest wave in the world, and I want to be the one.”
It was an exciting time to be surfing on Maui. Matt Schweitzer, Mike Waltze, Pete Cabrinha, Malte and Klaus Simmer, Dave Ka- lama, Laird Hamilton, Craig Masonville, Robbie Naish, Greg and Alex Aguera, Vince Hogan and I were experimenting and innovat- ing with our boards on the water. We weren’t the first to do any- thing, but we convinced those who were that Maui was the place to push their limits. They came. They pushed. And windsurfing took off, followed by big wave tow-in and paddle-in, stand-up paddling, kite sailing, and foil-boarding. Maui offered the stage that showcased the stars.
I have lived on Maui my whole life. I know the water. I know the waves. I knew Ho’okipa, a beach that offers some of the big- gest challenges for board surfing in the world but was pretty much a secret in the early eighties.
I showed up at three o’clock to find David Ezzy, Malte Sim- mer, Mike Eskimo, and Craig Maisonville there, and so was the helicopter. I stood on the beach to watch Malte Simmer going up to face a wave, making a turn at the top, and coming back down.
Ho’okipa | 3
The waves were huge, indeed. The faces were maybe forty or fifty feet—the hugest I had ever seen at Ho’okipa. I started to second-guess myself. I wondered if I had misjudged the best time to be on the water. I rigged up to sail out on a 5.9-square-meter sail with a seventeen-foot mast—a big rig for my windsurf board, which was a can-opener style.
I tried to sail out, but I had to push over whitewater twice as high as my mast, and a few threw me back. It took me thirty minutes to cover what should have taken me thirty seconds—if I hadn’t kept getting blasted by the waves. When I finally got out- side, the wind suddenly dropped. It was late. I looked left and right, and I saw nobody. The helicopter was gone. Everyone had gone in.
“Okay. Oh, well,” I said to myself. I hadn’t come for the heli- copter. I just wanted to surf the world’s biggest wave that day.
And then I did.
I waited for what seemed like forever for that wave. It wouldn’t come through. I took a few, but the waves weren’t that big. I kicked out to look for it.
And then I saw out in the distance, a mile or two away, a wave that was standing some twenty feet above the others. That was it. This was the tide change. By the time the wave caught me, I was hydroplaning. The wind was turning more offshore now, and I was going almost straight upwind. To drop in, I had to veer off to the right and slide across the wave.
I got to the top and looked down—I must have been six sto- ries high. I took the power in my hands, and I zipped down the face. I ran out on the flat, trying to get in front of it. I didn’t know when it would break.
All of a sudden, the lip of that wave came over and crashed right on my tail block. I almost ditched my rig, but I held on by
my fingertips. It didn’t hit me. There was whitewater all around me. I hung on my boom. A moment later, I caught a blast of wind from the collapsing wave and started sailing. It took me back to land and pushed me right up to the dirt bank at the back of the beach.
I lay there, taking it all in.
I did it, I thought. And then, as if I had spoken out loud… “You did it!” I heard someone holler. “Fred! YOU DID IT!
You surfed the biggest wave in the world!”
It was Arnaud. I looked up to see him running toward me through the sand with a camera bouncing around his neck. Every- one else had left. But not Arnaud. Arnaud was a real pro, both on the water and behind the lens. He would never miss the wave—or the shot.
“I got it!” he exclaimed. “I shot a whole roll of film on one wave. You are going to be famous! These pictures will make you even more famous than breaking the world record!”
Arnaud was right. I made all the top trade magazines. But the one that put me on the map was Life magazine. In 1984, Life was widely admired by a broad general audience for its photojournal- ism.
Arnaud’s photos won me a windsurfing sponsorship, launch- ing my professional career in speed sailing and earning me spon- sorships for nearly a decade. Not bad for a boy who grew up on the beaches of Maui and went to grade school barefoot.
My love of the water started when I was baptized, figuratively speaking, in Kahului Harbor at the age of seven.