Healthy All Around
A Danville author offers practical ways to take control of your health: mind, body, relationships, and environment included.
In the late ’90s, Dina Colman was making a handsome living in the corporate world when her sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. Colman watched her only sibling deteriorate, losing her hair and her ability to walk.
Doctors told Colman she had an 87 percent chance of getting the disease herself and recommended drastic preventative measures, including surgery.
“I worried about my sister not making it, and I worried, ‘Is this my destiny?’ ” Colman says.
But Colman declined doctors’ orders. Instead, she left her job to study holistic health at JFK University in Pleasant Hill. There, she developed a philosophy she calls “four quadrant living,” to address not just physical health, but also the mind, relationships, and environment.
Today, Colman remains cancer free, perhaps due in part to her change in lifestyle. She writes about her strategy in a new book, Four Quadrant Living: Making Healthy Living Your New Way of Life. Diablo caught up with Colman to talk about her philosophy and how it works.
Q: You worked in the corporate world for several years. What inspired you to leave?
A: It started out personal—going back to the idea that breast cancer is my destiny. My dad also has heart disease in his family, and he would say, “It’s in the genes.” But how we live our life can impact our health, and it was so empowering to learn that I do have control.
Q: What do you mean by “four quadrant living”?
A: In this country, when it comes to health, we focus on one quadrant: the body quadrant. Surgery, medication—on a good day, diet and exercise—are all in the body quadrant. When I learned about holistic health, it was helpful for me to see it visually: four quadrants consisting of body, mind, relationships, and environment. My goal is to reach the mainstream, and since the four quadrant concept worked in my mind, I hoped it would make sense to others, too.
Q: You practice as a health coach in Danville. What do your clients struggle with most?
A: It’s across the board, but they come in most for the body, with a physical issue, or wanting to lose weight. But the discussion often moves quickly to mind and relationships.
If you’re overweight, there’s a reason for it. Are you stressed at work? Is there stress in your relationship? People aren’t as mindful about how their relationships impact their health.
Q: The East Bay is full of high achievers. What’s your advice for managing stress?
A: I was just talking to a client this week who is a perfectionist and has a high-stress job, and she was saying she wants to achieve more balance. I said to her, “What if you think about balance as perfection?” It’s not about changing your personality; it’s about setting a different goal. Change your mind-set, and say, “Balance—that’s perfection.”
Q: Can CEOs embrace four quadrant living?
A: I think you have to want to, but you can do it. The suggestions I make in the book are easy little changes: Take five minutes in the morning to be mindful, or wear your birthday hat on your birthday and have fun. There is also an example of doing exercises at work, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
I have a client who has a really stressful customer service job where she deals with a lot of angry people. I tell her, “Every time you get off a phone call that made you feel bad,
take a little walk.”
Q: What do you want readers to learn from your book?
A: You don’t have to have a health concern, but if you do have a health concern, the book empowers you to take control of your health. There are ways to do that, even when you’re sick. If you’re sick physically, you can be healthy in your relationships, for example.
One chapter is on a client who had a lot of chronic pain, and you can’t blame her for being sad or unhappy. But the pain would affect her whole being. She would call herself an invalid, and she didn’t want to go outside. There are little steps she could have taken to say, “Physically, I am not well, but I can be well in other ways.”
Q: What is Western medicine’s role in all this?
A: I think there are some times when it’s essential, in acute situations. And I would say it’s a complement to [four quadrant living]. Do Western medicine with your own mind-set. Do the research; recognize what the side effects might be.
Q: Do you think you avoided cancer?
A: That’s a really hard question. I am just trying to give myself the best chance for health. I have this information that my sister didn’t have; I have the benefit of that. I don’t believe we can control everything, but I do know that we can control some things, like our environment, our relationships, what we eat.
There are things that we can have an influence over. And I feel like I’m empowering myself by giving myself the best chance, and encouraging others to do the same.
Q: You talk about a “nocebo effect,” or the idea that people who stress about getting a familial disease are more likely to end up sick.
A: It’s the same concept as the placebo effect, in reverse. The Framingham Heart Study found that women who were afraid of getting heart disease were more likely to get heart disease. That’s why it’s so powerful that I was told I had an 87 percent chance of getting cancer. If I let that impact my thinking, that’s not going to serve me well.
There’s a lot of research out there that says that you can prevent diseases.
Q: And how is your sister?
A: She is doing great! Fifteen years cancer free.