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'A Happy Healthy You' advises women to put their health first

Dallas Morning News

Women, Mary Jo McCurley says, should pay attention to the oxygen-mask advice given on an airplane.

"If you have a child with you, you secure your mask first before you do it for the child," says McCurley, a Dallas attorney and life coach. Similarly, "if you're not healthy, you can't be a good caretaker to other people."

To help women figure out how to slap that virtual mask on their own faces and breathe deeply, she recruited four other professionals – two physicians, an exercise physiologist, a forensic psychologist – to co-write a book with her. In A Happy Healthy You ($15, self-published via Booksurge and sold at, they share expertise and insight, showing how what seem to be the smallest of steps can lead to positive and major changes.

The impetus came from a comment made by a speaker McCurley and her husband, Mike, heard: People who have reached age 60 have a 50 percent chance of reaching 100.

"I thought, 'Oh, my gosh, I'm not sure we're prepared to be that old.' It's not necessarily good being 100 if you're not in good health. I don't think people really understand that they can make minor corrections and improve their lives."

One reason, at least for women, is that tendency to put themselves last.

"I understand they have obligations," says Lu Jurcova Phillips, the exercise physiologist and McCurley's personal trainer. "But they don't look at their well-being as the No. 1 priority. My grandmother used to say you can't be any good for anybody if you don't take care of yourself."

Phillips believes that starts with just moving around. You don't have to go to the gym or exercise hours on end. Just take a walk. Climb the stairs. For added benefits, recruit a friend.

"Things like this matter," she says. "It's not like we're all on our own in this world. To feel good and have a happy life, we need strong relationships."

The book stresses the importance of attitude, nutrition, exercise, relationships and spirituality to have a fulfilling life.

"This is more of a holistic approach: body, mind, spirit," McCurley says. "If you're baking a cake and leave out one ingredient, the cake doesn't rise. It's the same with your health."

So how to go about it? In the section on joy, psychologist Jan DeLipsey offers a one-word step: Decide.

"Visualize it," she writes. "If you need time to contemplate and talk to others about this decision, take it. Take an hour, take a day, take a week, take a nap, take a trip. Take what you need in order to know that you can be unshakable and unfaltering in your decision."

McCurley says: "You may have a lot of things you start thinking you'd like to do, but just start with two or three. If you do more, you'll get overwhelmed, and if you don't accomplish them, you'll feel like a failure. After you've accomplished two, do two more.

"Write them down. Tell somebody so you have an action plan."

"A Happy, Healthy You" is available for sale online at and other channels.  To learn more about "A Happy Healthy You or to purchase a copy, click here.

© 2010, The Dallas Morning News, Inc.

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