How to Feed Your Brain

If there was ever a call for "digestive health," this is it!

Yes, it's true. Your gut is considered your "second brain."

There is definitely a gut/brain connection.

And because of the new scientific discoveries about the vagus nerve, the enteric nervous system, and the amazing influence your gut microbes can have, it's no wonder what you eat feeds not only your body but can directly affect your brain.

I find it amazing (but not too surprising).

What exactly is the "gut-brain connection."

Well, it’s very complex, and to be honest, we’re still learning lots about it!

There seem to be multiple things working together.  Things like:

  • The vagus nerve that links the gut directly to the brain;
  • The “enteric nervous system” (A.K.A. “second brain) that helps the complex intricacies of digestion flow with little to no involvement from the actual brain; 
  • The massive amount of neurotransmitters produced by the gut;
  • The huge part of the immune system that is in the gut, but can travel throughout the body; and,
  • The interactions and messages sent by the gut microbes.  

This is complex. And amazing, if you ask me.

I’ll briefly touch on these areas, and end off with a delicious recipe (of course!)

Vagus nerve

There is a nerve that runs directly from the gut to the brain.

And after reading this so far, you’ll probably get a sense of which direction 90% of the transmission is…

Not from your brain to your gut (which is what we used to think), but from your gut up to your brain!

The enteric nervous system and neurotransmitters

Would you believe me if I told you that the gut has more nerves than your spinal cord?

I knew you would!

And that's why it's referred to as the "second brain."

And, if you think about it, controlling the complex process of digestion (i.e. digestive enzymes, absorption of nutrients, the flow of food, etc.) should probably be done pretty "smartly"...don't you think?

And guess how these nerves speak to each other, and to other cells? By chemical messengers called "neurotransmitters."

 In fact, many of the neurotransmitters that have a strong effect on our mood are made in the gut! e.g. a whopping 95% of serotonin is made in your gut, not in your brain!

The immune system of the gut

Because eating and drinking is a huge portal where disease-causing critters can get into your body, it makes total sense that much of our defense system would be located there too, right? Seventy-five percent of our immune system is in our gut!

And you know that the immune cells can move throughout the entire body and cause inflammation just about anywhere, right?

Well, if they’re “activated” by something in the gut, they can potentially wreak havoc anywhere in the body. Including the potential to cause inflammation in the brain.

Gut microbes

Your friendly neighborhood gut residents. You have billions of those little guys happily living in your gut. And they do amazing things like help you digest certain foods, make certain vitamins, and even help regulate inflammation!

But more and more evidence is showing that changes in your gut microbiota can impact your mood, and even other, more serious, mental health issues.

How do these all work together for brain health?

The honest answer to how these things all work together is that we really don't know just yet. More and more studies are being done to learn more.

But one thing is becoming clear. A healthy gut goes hand-in-hand with a healthy brain!

So, how do you feed your brain?

Of course, a variety of minimally-processed, nutrient-dense foods is required, because no nutrients work alone.

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But two things that you many consider eating more of are fiber and omega-3 fats. Fiber (in fruits, veggies, nuts & seeds) help to feed your awesome gut microbes. And omega-3 fats (in fatty fish, walnuts, algae, and seeds like flax, chia, and hemp) are well-know inflammation-lowering brain boosters.

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I bet you haven't tried my gut-loving, brain-boosting overnight oats. It has fiber for your gut microbes and omega-3s for your brain;  this is a great way to start your day! 

 


Common Weight Loss Myths Busted

Weight loss advice is so common (and contentious) now. There are competing opinions everywhere.

I say, forget about "who's right" and let's focus on "what's right." Because what gets results is what I'm focusing on in this post.

I respect you too much to make empty promises and try to sell you on something that doesn’t work.

There are too many weight loss myths out there. I’m going to tackle the top ones I come across in my practice.


Myth 1
Calories cause weight gain, and fewer calories are the path to weight loss

Calories are important for weight loss. If you eat and absorb a ton more than you use, then your body’s wisdom will store some for later. Calories matter.

But, they are not the “be-all and end-all" of weight loss; they're important, but they're the symptom, not the cause. Let's think about the reasons people eat more calories. Let's focus on the causes.

People eat too many calories, not because they're hungry, but because they feel sad, lonely, or bored. Or maybe because they're tired or stressed. Or maybe even because they're happy and celebrating.  And all these feelings interact with our gastrointestinal, nervous and hormonal systems; all of which influence our calorie intake.


Myth 2
“Eat less move more” is good advice

Well, then we're all in tip-top shape, right? Because people have been doling out this advice (myth) for years.

The premise of this is based on the above myth that calories in minus calories out equals your weight. So, eat fewer calories, and burn off more calories (because human physiology is a simple math equation, right?).

Even if people can happily and sustainably follow this advice (which they can’t!); it completely negates other factors that contribute to weight problems. Things like the causes of overeating we mentioned above. Not to mention our genetics, health conditions we're dealing with or our exposure to compounds that are "obesogenic.”


Myth 3
A calorie is a calorie

Can we please put this one to bed already?

Science has confirmed several caloric components of food differ from others. For example, the “thermic effect of food” (TEF) is that some nutrients require calories to be metabolized. They can slightly increase your metabolism, just by eating them.

For example, when you metabolize protein you burn more calories than when you metabolize carbohydrates. Proteins and carbohydrates both have 4 calories/gram; but, the TEF of protein = 15–30%; and the TEF for carbohydrates = 5–10%.

Here’s another example of a calorie not being a calorie. Different fats are metabolized differently. Medium chain triglycerides (fats) (MCTs) have the same 9 calories/gram that other fats do; but, they're metabolized by the liver before getting into the bloodstream and therefore aren't utilized or stored the same way as other fats.

#acalorieisnotacalorie


Myth 4
Buy this supplement/tea/food/magic potion to lose weight

There is no magic pill for weight loss. No supplement, tea, food, or other potion will do the trick.

There are products that make these claims, and they're full of garbage (or shall I say "marketing gold?"). The only thing you will lose is your money (and possibly your hope). So, please don’t believe this myth. There is a reason most people who lose weight can’t keep it off. The real magic is in adopting a sustainable holistic and healthy approach to living your life. What you need is a long-term lifestyle makeover, not a product.


Conclusion

Weight loss is hard! There are too many people out there trying to make it sound like they have the simple solution (or the latest and greatest!).

Don’t fall for the myths that say:

  • Calories cause weight gain, and fewer calories are the path to weight loss.
  • “Eat less move more” is good advice.
  • A calorie is a calorie.
  • Buy this supplement/tea/food/magic potion to lose weight.

Now check out my magical “weight loss salad” recipe below (just kidding!)

This is a myth-free salad that is filling and nutritious.


Everything You Think You Know About Eating Healthy is Wrong and It's Making You Fat and Tired

Oh my gosh – nutrition and diet info is everywhere!

And each expert and association tries to lead you in their direction because they know best and their advice is going to help you.  Right?

Well, maybe…

Everyone has heard (and maybe lived through) the intense focus on how much you eat.  This has gotten way too much attention because while this does affect your weight and energy level, it's certainly not the “holy grail” of health. 

Let's focus a bit more on the often overlooked (and proven) benefits of what you eat and drink and how you eat and drink it.

What you eat and drink

The “calories in, calories out” philosophy (i.e. how much you eat) is being drowned out with research on other factors that may be just as important.  Don't get me wrong limiting calories, carbs or fat can certainly help you lose weight but that's simply not the only factor for long-term weight loss and maximum energy for everyone. 

When the intense focus on how much we ate didn't work in the long-run it wasn’t really a surprise. We kinda knew that already, didn't we?

You can certainly still continue to count your calories, carbs, and fat but don't forget to also pay attention to what you eat. 

Ideally, you need a varied diet full of minimally-processed foods (i.e. fewer “packaged” “ready-to-eat” foods).  This simple concept is paramount for weight loss, energy, and overall health and wellness.

Every day this is what you should aim for:

  • A colourful array of fruits and veggies at almost every meal and snack.  You need the fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. 
  • Enough protein.  Making sure you get all of those essential amino acids (bonus: eating protein can increase your metabolism).
  • Healthy fats and oils (never “hydrogenated” ones).  There is a reason some fatty acids are called “essential” - you need them as building blocks for your hormones and brain as well as to be able to absorb essential fat-soluble vitamins from your uber-healthy salads.  Use extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, eat your organic egg yolks, and get grass-fed meats when possible.  You don't need to overdo it here.  Just make sure you're getting some high-quality fats.

How you eat and drink

Also pay attention to how you eat and drink.

Studies are definitely showing that this has more of an impact than we previously thought.

Are you rushed, not properly chewing your food, and possibly suffering from gastrointestinal issues? Do you drink your food?

When it comes to how you eat let's first look at “mindful eating”.

Mindful eating means to take smaller bites, eat slowly, chew thoroughly, and savour every bite.  Notice and appreciate the smell, taste and texture.  Breathe.

This gives your digestive system the hint to prepare for digestion and to secrete necessary enzymes.

This can also help with weight loss because eating slower often means eating less.  Did you know that it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full?

Thought so!

We also know that more thoroughly chewed food is easier to digest and it makes it easier to absorb all of those essential nutrients.

And don't forget about drinking your food. 

Yes, smoothies can be healthy and a fabulously easy and tasty way to get in some fruits and veggies (hello leafy greens!) but drinking too much food can contribute to a weight problem and feelings of sluggishness. 

Don't get me wrong a green smoothie can make an amazingly nutrient-dense meal and is way better than stopping for convenient junk food – just consider a large smoothie to be a full meal not a snack.  And don't gulp it down too fast.

If your smoothies don't fill you up like a full meal does try adding in a spoon of fiber like ground flax or chia seeds.

Summary

Consider not only how much you eat but also what and how you eat it.

Here's an awesome recipe for a delicious (and filling) green smoothie meal. 



How Stress Messes with Your Health

We all have some level of stress, right?

It may be temporary (acute), or long-term (chronic).

Acute stress usually won’t mess with your health too much. It is your body’s natural reaction to circumstances, and can even be life-saving.

Then, when the “threat” (a.k.a. “stressor”) is gone, the reaction subsides, and all is well.

It's the chronic stress that's a problem. You see, your body has specific stress reactions. If these stress reactions are triggered every day or many times a day that can mess with your health.

Stress (and stress hormones) can have a huge impact on your health.

Let's dive into the "stress mess."

Mess #1 - Increased risk of heart disease and diabetes

Why save the best for last? Anything that increases the risk for heart disease and diabetes (both serious, chronic conditions) needs to be discussed.

Stress increased the risk for heart disease and diabetes by promoting chronic inflammation, affecting your blood "thickness," as well as how well your cells respond to insulin.

Mess #2 - Immunity

Did you notice that you get sick more often when you're stressed? Maybe you get colds, cold sores, or even the flu more frequently when you are stressed?

Well, that's because stress hormones affect the chemical messengers (cytokines) secreted by immune cells consequently, they are less able to do their jobs effectively.

Mess #3 - "Leaky Gut."

Stress can contribute to leaky gut, otherwise known as "intestinal permeability." These "leaks" can then allow partially digested food, bacteria or other things to be absorbed into your body.

The stress hormone cortisol can open up tiny holes by loosening the grip your digestive cells have to each other.

Picture this: Have you ever played "red rover?" It's where a row of children hold hands while one runs at them to try to break through. Think of those hands as the junctions between cells. When they get loose, they allow things to get in that should be passing right though.  Cortisol (produced in excess in chronic stress) is a strong player in red rover!

Mess #4 - Sleep Disruption

Stress and sleep go hand-in-hand, wouldn’t you agree? It’s often difficult to sleep when you have very important (and stressful) things on your mind.

And when you don't get enough sleep, it affects your energy level, memory, ability to think, and mood.

More and more research is showing just how important sleep is for your health.  Not enough sleep (and too much stress) aren't doing you any favours.

Stress-Busting Tips

Reducing stressors in your life is an obvious first step.

Can you:

●     Put less pressure on yourself?
●     Ask for help?
●     Say "no"?
●     Delegate to someone else?
●     Finally, make that decision?

No matter how hard you try, you won’t eliminate stress altogether. So, here are a few things you can try to help reduce its effect on you:

●     Deep breathing
●     Meditation
●     Walk in nature
●     Unplug (read a book, take a bath)
●     Exercise (yoga, tai chi, etc.)
●     Connect with loved ones

Conclusion

Stress is a huge and often underappreciated factor in our health. It can impact your physical body much more than you might realize.

Stress has been shown to increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes, affect your immune system, digestion and sleep.

There are things you can do to both reduce stressors and also to improve your response to it.

You can ditch that stress mess!

Love the relaxing effect of chamomile tea? You'll LOVE this super simple recipe!



Hold Off on the Antacids

Look at this photo, it looks like a bottle full of candy, doesn't it?

Are you popping antacids like candy?

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This is the most common thing that almost every one does when feeling acidic without thinking about the cause.

But...you might want to rethink that!

Contrary to common belief, acid reflux or heartburn is not a symptom of too much acid in the stomach, but too little.

The stomach digests the food you eat with the help of hydrochloric acid (HCl) that it naturally secretes. When the HCl acid in the stomach is insufficient, the stomach wall may get damaged, giving rise to various gastrointestinal symptoms such as stomach pain and heartburn. 

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Taking an antacid can provide temporary relief, but it will decrease an already low amount of stomach acid, making the issue worse. In addition, any time the acid level of the stomach is reduced, you run the risk of not digesting food properly (causing more digestive problems) and of nutrients from the food not being absorbed by the body.

In addition, many commercial antacids have toxic ingredients such as aluminum and artificial colors and sweeteners. These chemicals not only disrupt digestion, but they also alter the structure and function of stomach lining cells and may cause side effects like headaches, diarrhea and abdominal pain. 

There are a few other potential issues associated with frequent use of antacids, including: 

  1. Poor digestion leading to allergies, bloating and gas.

  2. Diarrhea, loose/watery stools and abdominal bloating form when large partially digested food particles ferment and draw extra fluid into the large intestine creating gas and watery stools.

  3. Decreased absorption of a variety of nutrients such as folic acid, vitamin C, beta carotene, iron, calcium magnesium and zinc.

  4. Increased risk of food allergies.

  5. Reduced effectiveness of the antacids with long term use.

  6. Increased risk of gastrointestinal infections.  The natural acid levels in the stomach kill off the bacteria, viruses and germs that we ingest everyday. Low levels of stomach acid can lead to increased infections.

  7. Bloating: Antacids containing sodium bicarbonate and calcium bicarbonate release carbon dioxide as they neutralize stomach acid. This may cause bloating in the stomach as well as cause an increased production of stomach acid.

  8. Electrolyte imbalance: Some antacids that are absorbed may cause acid base and electrolyte disturbances—like baking soda and bicarbonates.

  9. Impaired kidney function and the formation of kidney stones because the kidneys have to keep up with processing the mineral components of the antacids. Chronic use of antacids contributes to a phosphate depletion syndrome (Hypophosphatemia) and kidney stones.

  10. Increased risk of rickets (Osteomalacia) which is thinning of the bones.

In the end, the problem is that antacids simply suppress the condition and don’t get to the root cause of the digestive problems. In some instances with overuse, antacids can exacerbate the problem!

How to Deal with It

If you want to get to the core cause of the problem, you may want to address some of the following:

  • Decrease dairy products except fermented (Keifer and plain yogurt)
  • Don’t eat sugar with other foods since the combination can ferment in the digestive system and form toxins and gas. Yes, this means no dessert!
  • Drink as little as possible with meals (water or anything else dilutes stomach acid. Drink between meals instead or take small sips with meals.)
  • Eat more pineapple, papaya, kiwi and apples (all these foods are high in certain digestive enzyme)
  • Take digestive enzymes such as Papain, Bromelain to help you digest your food and prevent fermentation in your gut, as well as excess acid or gases. 
  • Take prebiotics
  • Eat mindfully, chew slowly and avoid eating under stress as high cortisol levels make you more acidic. 
  • Eat and drink food and beverages at room temperature. Food that is too cold or too hot, can irritate your stomach.
  • Track what triggers your heartburn by keeping note of what you ate, and if/when it caused the heartburn.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Unnecessary pounds will put pressure on your lower esophageal sphincter increasing your risk of suffering from regular heartburn. 

Natural Solutions to Keep the Acid at Bay

1.   More Acid

It might seem quite counter intuitive when acid is burning your esophagus, to ingest even more acid. However, as mentioned above, acid reflux is often caused by having not enough acid in your stomach, rather than having too much. Try drinking some pure, raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to see if this helps your reflux, or cuts it off.

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All you will need to do is mix 3 teaspoons or up to 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in 6-8 ounces of fresh water and drink. This can be done before a meal or before bedtime. If you feel it worsens the issue, do not continue. Too much can also contribute to the problem. 

2.   Eat a banana or an apple

Eating a ripe banana as the perfect antidote for some relief.

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Bananas are a rich source of potassium and help keep the level of acid production in your stomach in check. Certain components in bananas can help increase the production of mucous in your stomach, which helps protect it from the harmful effects of excessive acid production. They are also high in fibre, which will help speed up digestion and prevent the reoccurrence of acidity.

Another option is to try an apple a day. Slice one up and eat it a couple of hours before bedtime to relieve or prevent discomfort.

3.   Sip a Cup of Ginger Tea

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Make yourself a cup of ginger tea to help ease tummy issues. Sipping a cup of fresh ginger root tea about half hour before a meal can help calm your stomach and act as an acid buffer.

Simply, slice 3-quarter-sized pieces of ginger root and simmer in 2 cups of water, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the ginger pieces, pour into a glass and drink all of it about half hour before your meal. 

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Heartburn and reflux can be more than a simple annoyance. Next time you are going to reach for those antacids, re-evaluate what you can do to minimize your risks. Ask yourself...are you really having full-fledged indigestion, or are you just taking the antacids out of habit?

Relying less on those antacids may be what ultimately makes it go away in the end. 

Something to think about!

What Symptoms to Expect When You Improve Your Diet

[ This blog post is excerpted and adapted from an article written by Dr. Stanley Bass, ND, DC. Dr. Bass is a trained naturopathic, chiropractic and natural hygiene doctor and the author of eight books on health. Now in his 90’s, he has over 70 years of experience helping 30,000 patients to detoxify and reverse disease through drug-free approaches. ]

If I were asked the area of greatest misunderstanding and confusion in the field of nutrition, I would immediately reply it is the failure to properly understand and interpret the symptoms and changes which follow the beginning of a better nutritional program.

What is meant by a better nutritional program? It is the introduction of foods of higher quality in place of lower quality ones. Take proteins for example. Raw nuts and seeds are superior to cooked legumes, but lima beans, lentils or chick peas are superior to flesh proteins like beef and pork. The closer the food comes to the natural state in which it occurs, and the closer to its raw, uncooked form, the higher its quality is. In this condition, all the enzymes are found intact, the amino acids are in their finest form, and the minerals, vitamins, trace elements, carbohydrates and life forces are present. This, in turn, is capable of reproducing tissue which is full of life and long lasting. The quality of a nutritional program is also improved by omitting toxic substances such as coffee, tobacco, alcohol, sugar, salt, etc.

What is the relation of quality of foods to recovery from illness? It is this in a nutshell: The higher the quality of food we eat, the quicker we recover from disease – provided we are able to properly digest and assimilate that food. When the quality of food coming into the body is of higher quality than the tissues which the body is made of, the body begins to discard the lower-grade materials to make room for the superior materials it needs to make new and healthier tissue. This is the plan of Nature. The body ALWAYS aims for improvement and tries to produce better health -- unless our interference is too great. Only then do we fail to recover and degenerate further into disease. The self-curing nature of many conditions such as colds, fevers, cuts, bruises and injuries furnishes endless examples of how the body ALWAYS tends towards health – unless we do something to stop the process.

How the Body Responds to an Improved Diet

As we gradually raise our food quality, interesting cleansing symptoms begin to appear. The cellular intelligence reasons like this: “Oh! Look at all those fine materials coming in. How wonderful! Now we have a chance to get rid of this old garbage and build a beautiful new house. Let’s get started immediately. Let’s get this excess bile out of the liver and gallbladder and send it to the intestines for elimination. Let’s get this sludge moving out of the arteries, veins and capillaries. These smelly, gassy, brain-stupefying wastes have been here too long – out with them! These arthritic deposits in the joints need cleaning up. Let’s get these irritating food preservatives, sleeping pills and prescription drugs out of the way. Let’s clear out these masses of fat which have made life so burdensome for so long.”

Stages of Detoxification and Regeneration

In the first phase called catabolism, the accent is on elimination, or breaking down of tissue, as the body begins to clean house and remove the garbage deposited in all the tissues. Wastes are discarded more rapidly than new tissue is made from the new food. This becomes evident as weight loss. This first stage persists for awhile and is then followed by a second phase called stabilization.

In this phase, the weight remains more or less stable, because the amount of waste material being discarded daily is equal to the amount of tissue which is being formed and replaced by the newer, more vital food. This persists for awhile and is then followed by a third phase – a building up period known as anabolism.

In the anabolic stage, weight starts to go up because new tissues are being formed faster. This is due to improved assimilation and efficiency made possible by the healthier diet. The body’s need for the usual amounts of food decreases, and it is able to maintain weight and increase energy with less food. Many persons are able to function very efficiently on two healthful meals or even one meal per day.

In addition to weight changes, other symptoms can occur with a superior nutrition program:

Skin rashes – Some people, especially those who have had tendencies in the past to recurring skin rashes or eruptions, will frequently tend to eliminate poisons and harmful drug residues through the skin again. If they go to a doctor who is not familiar with this aspect of nutrition, he will diagnose it as an allergy. The patients ask, “How come I’m eating better now than I ever did before, and instead I’m getting worse?” They don’t understand that the skin is getting more alive and active. It is throwing out more poisons more rapidly and that these discarded toxins are saving them from more serious disease if they remain in the body – possibly hepatitis, kidney disorders, blood disease, heart disease, arthritis or even cancer.

Colds or fevers – With some people, colds which haven’t appeared for a long time may recur, or even fevers. This is nature’s way of housecleaning. Understand that these actions are constructive, even though unpleasant at the moment. DON’T try to suppress these symptoms by the use of drugs. These symptoms are part of a curing process – don’t try to cure a cure! These are NOT disease conditions if you’re eating properly. Here is where experienced guidance is of great value.

Other symptoms – Headaches, bowel sluggishness, occasional diarrhea, frequent urination, feelings of fatigue or weakness, disinclination to exercise, irritability, and even depression may be temporary reactions to an improved dietary regime. The great majority of people who understand what is going on (and thus eliminate the fear component) find these transient reactions tolerable.

The symptoms will vary according to the materials being discarded, the condition of the eliminatory organs, and the amount of energy reserve you have available. The more you rest and sleep when detoxification symptoms are present, the milder they will be and the more quickly they will pass. The severity of your symptoms will certainly depend on how poor your diet was in the past. Those who have poisoned themselves through toxic food choices will experience more severe symptoms if their liver, kidneys, or other important eliminatory organs have been damaged. When these have been renovated, they will no longer produce symptoms.

Cyclical cleansing – Don’t expect that improving your diet will make you feel better and better each day until you reach perfection. The body is cyclical in nature, and health returns in a series of gradually-diminishing cycles. Take hepatitis for example: You start a better diet, and for awhile you feel much better. After some time, a symptom occurs like diarrhea or nausea for a few days. Then all goes fine for awhile until you suddenly develop a cold and lose your appetite. After two to three days (assuming you don’t take drugs to treat it), you suddenly recover and feel better than you did for years. This well-being continues for two months, when you suddenly develop an itch or a rash, which flares up and gets worse for a few days, and suddenly subsides. Immediately after this you find your hepatitis is gone and your energy is better than ever before.

This is how recovery happens. You feel better, a reaction occurs and you don’t feel as well for a short while, then you recover and go higher for awhile. Then another reaction occurs, milder than the last. You recover and go even higher. And so it goes – each reaction generally milder than the last and shorter in duration, followed by a longer and longer period of feeling better than ever before, until you reach a level plateau of vibrant health. If you learn to obey the laws of Nature, if you learn to eat simple, pure and natural foods that are properly prepared, your body in return will efficiently cast off all the destructive ways of eating you have taken in during your life.

8 Tips on How to Cope After Tragedy

Redefining Home After the Fire

  Photo Courtesy: Greg Southam / Postmedia

Photo Courtesy: Greg Southam / Postmedia

It was five months ago on the May long weekend that my family stood on the street watching in disbelief and shock as our house burned. 

Our little family was safe, but our beloved cat was lost, as were most of our possessions.

With the blank slate presented to us, we’ve gradually moved forward together to rebuild our lives over the past few months.

Now, I know what you are thinking…. “what does this have to do with nutrition and a healthy lifestyle?”

This week, as we watched a demolition crew tear down our home, I realized how important it is to consider how we respond to tragedy and sadness in our lives – not only from an emotional and spiritual perspective, but from the perspective of being able to continue with a healthy lifestyle. Tragedy isn’t easy, no matter what form it is in.

There have been some significant things learned from our misfortune and I wanted to share with you (from a wellness perspective) what has helped us persevere.

Although I hope you never need to use this advice, remembering these tips can help you gather your strength to navigate through this difficult time with a clear mind.

1.     Let yourself get closure.

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In the days following the fire, I put on a hazmat suit and roamed through the areas of our home that were safe to do so.  I needed closure.  I needed to see with my own eyes that everything I had was lost. I needed to say goodbye to my beautiful kitten Sasha. (Her body was still lying under our bed. She passed away there from smoke inhalation as she was hiding and scared from all the commotion of the firemen running through our home that day). I needed to see the damage and to accept the fact that what was ruined could not be recovered. My husband and ten-year-old daughter did the same. Finding closure was important to help us complete acceptance of what just happened.

It’s hard to recover until you mourn what you lost – whether it’s a loved one, a pet, the loss of your sense of safety, the loss of your worldly possessions. This is a major life change, and it will take time to heal. Closure allows you to transition away from what’s finished and helps you to move forward unencumbered and optimistic.

2.     Resilience is about how you recharge. Not how you endure.

In the middle of a crisis, it can become difficult to take care of yourself with so many other worries preoccupying your mind. Through this experience, I discovered that this is a good time to think about personal resiliency, healing and a sense of normality. I found that mindfulness and self-care were crucial.

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When disaster strikes and we are brought to our knees, I believe we come to know who we are and what we are made of. Often, we take a “tough” approach to resilience. We believe that the longer we tough it out, the tougher we are. However, the very lack of a rest and recovery period is dramatically holding us back from our ability to be resilient.

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It is crucial to stop and take care of YOU! Stay grounded and centred with activities that you enjoy that will help you recharge. Practice proven stress-reduction techniques, such as regular exercise, journaling, yoga, meditation, deep breathing, or listening to music as a way to positively channel anxious energy. Get plenty of rest when possible and maintain a normal sleep/wake cycle.

3.     Get yourself and your family to feel safe.

Home is a place to feel safe and protected with your family.  I was surprised that we didn’t mourn our stuff so much as the loss of “safety” and “comfort” we had felt in the home we loved.

In the days following the fire, we stayed at my husband’s parents house and found we needed very little. A few clothes, a pair of shoes, some toiletries…very few other things seemed as necessary as feeling safe and together as a family.

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Instead of focusing on replacing all that is lost, concentrate on getting back a sense of security for you and your family by communicating and spending time together. You will realize that the big things don’t matter so much.

We realized early in our ordeal that our daughter’s ability to cope was highly influenced by how we, as parents, dealt with our crisis. Because children often look to adults for guidance, support and information, it is important to work toward coping successfully so that you may serve as a positive role model for your children. You are likely their main source of security during this time. Be open to children sharing their thoughts, concerns and ideas. Encourage them to return to their normal routines, including playtime. Be careful not to use your children as a way of venting your fears and worries.

4.     Let others help you.

One of the most amazing things that happened after the fire was the outpouring of love and support from family and friends, even strangers. Neighbours dropped off clothes, put together toiletries for us. We were given small kitchen appliances, furniture was loaned to us, even home décor, and home-cooked meals were dropped off. We were and still are so grateful for these items – they are buying us time before we need to replace them. These outpourings of love lifted us while we struggled with our loss, and we never felt more humbled and loved in all our life. Learning how to accept help was life-altering for us.

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For whatever reason, it seems to be a natural inclination to turn down an offer of assistance. Maybe we don’t want to inconvenience or burden anyone and we tend to answer those offers with “oh thank you, but I’m fine,” even when we aren’t fine. I have now been on both sides of helping – and I will attest that it IS a tremendous gift, both to be helped and to provide help.

Be open to receiving and accept what is given with a grateful heart. When we can learn how to accept help from others, we are giving not only a gift to ourselves, but also a gift to those around us who want to show us love in a tangible and meaningful way.

5.     Be honest about your feelings and emotions.

As a family, we faced many emotions after that fire…sadness, frustration, fear, worry, helplessness. In the end, a lot of these feelings disappeared quicker once we shared them with people and once we allowed ourselves to acknowledge the sense of loss and uncertainty we were feeling.

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When one is faced with traumatic events, it’s not uncommon to react with an avalanche of varied emotions and a sense of vulnerability and uncertainty. The best thing to do is notice that you are feeling that way. Allow yourself to feel bad, cry and release negative emotions in a healthy manner. Give yourself permission to feel good. You can have periods of joy even when coping with loss.

Talk about your ordeal with trusted friends or a professional.

Feelings are part of being alive and making sense of our world. Strong feelings like fear and sadness tell us that things aren’t right. But, these feelings will pass. It is important to realize that, while things may seem off-balance for a while, your life will return to normal.

This is a confusing and emotionally charged time and the sooner you acknowledge these feelings and move forward, the sooner you can rebuild your life and return to normalcy.

6.     Making lemonade out of lemons.

This is an adage I’m sure you’ve heard of all your life. Until I was faced with what looked like the worst nightmare of my life, it really had no meaning for me. But, for some reason, that old adage that I had to make lemonade out of lemons came to me.

I didn’t want this tragedy to defeat me or my family and keep us down. This phrase and the attitude it exudes helped me and my family persevere through the chaos. We stayed focused on the good and the abundant as best we could.

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I cannot tell you when is the right time or what is the right way to “make lemonade out of your lemons”, but I want to plant the seed because the perspective invoked by this saying will help you and your loved ones resolve your grief in the most positive of ways.

 

 

7.  Eat a healthy diet.

You wouldn’t think that I’d go through all these tips and neglect some helpful advice on nutrition, would you?

For the first few weeks after the fire, the task of cooking a homemade meal again was discouraging. All of my favorite kitchen tools that I had gathered over the years were lost. My spacious kitchen that I adored was gone.  The last thing I wanted to do was organize a meal for my family.  But, I felt like I needed to feed my soul with food.

We spent a couple of weeks dining out and I instantly noticed my anxiety and irritability levels increase. I wasn't getting the nutrients I needed. That’s when I forced myself to get back into preparing healthier meals for me and my family. This helped us immensely to relieve traumatic stress, boost our energy and improved our outlook.

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The food you eat can improve or worsen your mood and affect your ability to cope with traumatic stress. Eating a diet full of processed and convenience food, refined carbohydrates, and sugary snacks can worsen symptoms of traumatic stress. Conversely, eating a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, high-quality protein, and healthy fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, can help you better cope with the ups and downs that follow a tragic event.

Staying away from mood-altering substances, such as alcohol and other drugs is also important.

8.     Cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

I never actually realized the importance of gratitude until that May long weekend we lost everything. Everyday, I am grateful that our outcome wasn’t worse and for me, gratitude has transformed my common days into thanksgivings.

There are many reasons why gratitude is so important. Gratitude shifts your focus from the bad things to the good. And, whatever you focus on, you move towards. With gratitude, you can move from living in a state of lack, to living in a state of sheer abundance in every possible way. The basic behavior of gratitude can help you overcome fear. When we are utterly grateful for everything we have, including our challenges, fear has little place to live in our minds.

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Losing a lifetime of possessions is a devastating experience. However, despite what we went through, life is pretty good. For us, this adversity brought a forced simplification of life and an unexpected clarity about what’s really important.

Now that we are somewhat stabilized, the focus has shifted to the future. We’ve slowly and mindfully started to replace some of the items we lost. In the next few months, we will begin to build our new home on the foundation that remains.

We’ve regained a sense of safety, security and comfort and life is moving forward once again.

 In Loving Memory of Sasha

In Loving Memory of Sasha

We are grateful to have been given a new start and through all of this we’ve realized that as long as we are together, no matter where we are, it will always feel like home.

Why Your Waist Circumference Matters 100x More Than What You Weigh

It can be too easy to think (or worry) about your weight.

But you know what?  There is something else that may be more important when it comes to real health.  That is your waist circumference.

Ahh, just a minute!  It's not just about the “pinchable” fat under the skin (you know, that “muffin top”), it's about the internal fat around your abdominal organs that can be the real issue.

That internal fat (AKA “visceral fat”) is known to release a bunch of hormones and inflammatory compounds that can mess with your blood sugar, blood fats (i.e triglycerides), and blood pressure.

You totally want to ditch your scale, don't you?

What you weigh can matter but only to a certain extent.

Let's look at your waist circumference (well...you look at yours and I'll look at mine).

Waist Circumference (AKA “Belly Fat”):

Do you remember the fruity body shape descriptions being like an “apple” or a “pear”?  The apple is kinda round around the middle (you know – belly fat-ish, kinda beer belly-ish) and the pear is rounder around the hips/thighs.

THAT is what we're talking about here.

Do you know which shape is associated with a higher risk of sleep apnea, blood sugar issues (e.g. insulin resistance and diabetes) and heart issues (high blood pressure, blood fat, and arterial diseases).

Yup – that apple!

And it's not because of the subcutaneous (under the skin) fat that you may refer to as a “muffin top”.  The health risk is actually due to the fat inside the abdomen covering the liver, intestines and other organs there.

This internal fat is called “visceral fat” and that's where a lot of the problem actually is.  It's this “un-pinchable” fat. 

The reason the visceral fat can be a health issue is because it releases fatty acids, inflammatory compounds, and hormones that can negatively affect your blood fats, blood sugars, and blood pressure.

And the apple-shaped people tend to have a lot more of this hidden visceral fat than the pear-shaped people do.

So as you can see where your fat is stored is more important that how much you weigh.

Am I an apple or a pear?

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It's pretty simple to find out if you're in the higher risk category or not. The easiest way is to just measure your waist circumference with a measuring tape.  You can do it right now.

Women, if your waist is 35” or more you could be considered to have “abdominal obesity” and be in the higher risk category.  Pregnant ladies are exempt, of course.

For men the number is 40”.

Of course this isn't a diagnostic tool.  There are lots of risk factors for chronic diseases.  Waist circumference is just one of them.

If you have concerns definitely see your doctor.

Tips for helping reduce some belly fat:

  • Eat more fiber.  Fiber can help reduce belly fat in a few ways.  First of all it helps you feel full and also helps to reduce the amount of calories you absorb from your food.  Some examples of high-fiber foods are Brussels sprouts, flax and chia seeds, avocado, and blackberries.
     
  • Add more protein to your day.  Protein reduces your appetite and makes you feel fuller longer.  It also has a high TEF (thermic effect of food) compared with fats and carbs and ensures you have enough of the amino acid building blocks for your muscles.
     
  • Nix added sugars.  This means ditch the processed sweetened foods especially those sweet drinks (even 100% pure juice).
     
  • Move more.  Get some aerobic exercise.  Lift some weights.  Walk and take the stairs.  It all adds up.
     
  • Stress less.  Seriously!  Elevated levels in the stress hormone cortisol have been shown to increase appetite and drive abdominal fat.
     
  • Get more sleep.  Try making this a priority and seeing how much better you feel (and look).

Here's a great recipe for a high-fibre side dish.

Did you know that brussels sprouts contain the fat-soluble bone-loving vitamin K. You may want to eat them more often.

Try this super easy recipe for tasty Garlic Lemon Roasted Brussels Sprouts .

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Food and Hormones

Having balanced hormones is an integral part of enjoying a healthy life.  When our hormones are functioning properly, our bodies can operate at optimum levels and to our greatest benefit.  When we struggle with out-of-whack hormones, it can indeed throw our health and lives for a loop. Luckily, there are simple things we can do on a daily basis to help our hormones stay on track. But before we begin getting into different foods that are helpful for balanced hormones, we'll dive into the importance of hormones to our health.  Let's get started! 


3 Ways Hormones Affect Your Body

What exactly do hormones do in the body? Why are they so important?

So What Do They Do?

Hormones are tiny molecules that function as chemical messengers and trigger all sorts of responses in different parts of the body. There are various types of hormones, but here are three important types of hormones to understand.

  • First, we have cortisol, the stress hormone. When you’re in a stressful situation, this hormone raises your heart rate, provides your brain with extra oxygen and releases energy from fat and glucose. Many of us have constant high levels of cortisol due to stress. 
     
  • Secondly is testosterone, a hormone that we commonly know as a male hormone, but women have it too. Testosterone influences your sex drive, muscle mass, and brain function.
     
  • Lastly, melatonin -- this hormone regulates your sleep cycle.  Melatonin is activated by the pineal gland in the brain later in the day when the sun begins to set. 


Foods that Help Balance Hormones Naturally

Healthy Fats

Healthy fats are the building blocks of many different types of hormones.

Some sources of these important healthy fats include coconut oil, avocado, eggs, and certain kinds of fish such as salmon and tuna. Consuming these healthy fat sources allows you to fuel the healthy hormone production you need. 

Nuts

Then there are walnuts, which are high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 is a building block of hormones, and it also helps reduce inflammation in the body. Additionally, Omega-3's are excellent at promoting cell-to-cell communication. 

Other nuts and seeds high in Omega-3's include pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, and beechnuts.  

Probiotics

Probiotics are good bacteria that encourage a healthy gut. The link between probiotics and a healthy gut is that these two balance important hormone levels in the body. 

Several foods provide probiotics naturally.  Fermented foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut have live probiotics.  Liquids such as kombucha and bone broth are also filled with essential probiotics.  

Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice that's extremely beneficial to you.  This spice helps to balance your hormones naturally, and luckily, it is very versatile for how it can be used!   

Turmeric is also an incredible anti-inflammatory that can assist you with having healthy digestion.  You can use this spice in your meals, take it in capsule form, or even create a turmeric latte and enjoy it as a hot beverage. 


Green Veggies

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How many times have you heard it's important to eat your greens?  This isn't new information, for sure -- but it certainly is ever so true.   

Green veggies including things like Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, broccoli and asparagus help metabolize estrogen and balance hormones.  So try to find a place for green veggies on your plate as often as possible.


What to Avoid?

Now that we know some foods will help you balance your hormone levels, it’s also important to know which foods you can avoid so they do not interfere with your hormone levels.

  • If you consume caffeine, be mindful not to overdo it.  When you do consume too much caffeine, to the point that it interferes with your sleep, this can cause your cortisol levels to increase and your hormones to fluctuate as a result.  
     
  • Alcohol can be a deal-breaker too.  Besides the fact that consuming high levels of alcohol can damage your organs, it can also interfere with your testosterone and estrogen levels. 
     
  • Sugar is typically a good thing to avoid anyway -- but indulging in processed sugar is another way to throw your hormones into a tailspin potentially.  Sugar can be tough to kick, but lowering your intake over time is better than nothing at all.  You can do it! 

Overall, add in more hormone balancing foods into your daily routine and begin reducing the "avoid" list.  It's okay to make this change over time to make it last, so start one step at a time.

If you would like some personal support in becoming the best version of yourself, check out my Metabolic Balance program.

It's an all-natural nutrition program that brings balance to hormones, optimizes health, and leads to a new invigorating lifestyle, resulting in successful long term weight management. 

I'd love to chat with you about your health goals! 

 

 

6 Ways to Handle Stress and Become the Calm Eye in the Storm

There are all sorts of occasions in life when our nerves can get the better of us. Feelings of anxiety – a rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, sweating, and light-headedness – are normal in these situations.

Fortunately, with a little practice, we can turn this nervous energy into positive concentration by centering ourselves.

Being “centered” or “present” isn’t a trait that is accomplished by “doing” as most of us busy professionals are accustomed to. It requires more of an “undoing” to be present or centered. The ability to quickly become the calm eye in the storm requires practice, time and focus.

The eye in the storm refers to the calm area found at the center of a strong tropical cyclone called the “eye”. When you are in the eye of the storm, you are often not aware of the whiplash around you.

Just like the eye of the storm, no matter what is going on around you, you are able to connect with that part of you that is always calm, cool and collected.

A great health practice is to focus on spending more time in the parasympathetic state of your body’s central nervous system. Every aspect of your health will benefit from it.

The Anatomy of the Human Nervous System

Your body’s nervous system has two states – sympathetic and parasympathetic.

The sympathetic nervous system is activated by threat or struggling. It prepares us for ‘fight or flight’ to survive a threat to life. Non-essential systems (digestion, rejuvenation, detoxification) close down, and the body reacts by:

  • releasing a shot of adrenaline into the bloodstream, causing the heart to race,
  • speeding up breathing, which becomes a gasping in the upper chest and shoulders,
  • blood rushes to the head, the brain becomes very alert, they eyes become hyper-attentive
  • muscles of movement tense up in readiness, muscles of the digestive system stop working.
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The parasympathetic state is opposite – breathing and heart rate slow, and we enter a state of comfort and ease where digestion and other metabolic processes resume.  The energy is calm and located lower in the abdomen. Each breath is like a sigh (emphasis on out-breath) rather than a gasp (emphasis on in-breath). A healthy person will be always ready to jump into the fight-or-flight sympathetic response, but will not spend much time there, because it is to exhausting for the body to stay on red-alert. But some people habitually stay in this red-alert state for long periods. So they feel constantly anxious, exhausted from being vigilant (but unable to relax or sleep well), and unable to digest food property – leading to food sensitivity and nutrition issues. Keeping the central nervous system in this sympathetic alert state is an unhealthy habit leading to chronic diseases.

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We all have those crazy things happening around us…but how do you stay zen in those moments?

Here’s a few of my favorite tips:


Tip #1:  Focus on Your Breathing

Concentrate on breathing deeply, using your diaphragm to draw air all the way down into your lungs.

If you're not familiar with deep breathing, try this exercise:

Lie on the floor or somewhere comfortable but supported. Place one hand on your stomach, and take a deep breath in through your nose. Use the air you breathe in to push against your hand. Your chest and shoulders shouldn't move – only your stomach. Exhale slowly and deliberately through your mouth.

Spend a while completely focusing on your breathing.

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You really can become the "Eye of the Storm" when you know how to use your breathing to re-center in a place that is deeper and wider than all the busy-ness that surrounds you these days.


Tip #2: Boost Your Magnesium Intake

Most people's magnesium levels are critically deficient.

I could easily write a book on magnesium and its very powerful benefits. Here’s just a few:

  • Magnesium relaxes the nervous system. Serotonin, which relaxes the nervous system and elevates mood, is dependent on magnesium.
  • When magnesium is deficient, the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin is disturbed. Magnesium can bring balance and control stress hormones. Stress and tension are often reasons why people suffer from insomnia in the first place.
  • Magnesium loosens tight muscles. Without it, muscles do not relax properly and cramps occur.

To get your levels up quickly, eat magnesium-rich foods such as: kelp, almonds, cashews, molasses, buckwheat, Brazil nuts, Dulse, Filberts, Millet, Pecans.

You can also take a top quality oral magnesium supplement such as the Natural Calm Magnesium Citrate Powder.


Tip #3: Live on Purpose

If being busy is your goal, re-think that. Are you living on purpose or are you doing a lot of things that take you off purpose? Is your activity supporting your intentions or purpose?

Most people are so busy reacting to the needs of daily life that they’re happy just to be getting through the day. It’s hard to live on purpose when life revolves around daily crises and you’re always feeling overwhelmed. By taking the time to define your purpose, you’ll open up more time and space, have more energy, and be more focused.


Tip #4: Skip the Joe

Your morning espresso can bring back wonderful memories of a trip spent in Italy, which up to a point can be very centering.  However, less is more in regards to your caffeine intake.

Caffeine is absorbed into the blood and tissues within about 45 minutes of being consumed. But it takes much longer than that for your body to break it down and clear it from your system.

Caffeine is a stimulant that speeds up your central nervous system. It can exaggerate the effects of stress. It directly affects not only the way your body responds to stress but also the mind by magnifying your perception of stress.

It’s really difficult to notice caffeine’s effect until you back off. Cutting back gradually on caffeine over the course of a week may help to avoid any withdrawal symptoms.


Tip #5: Let Food be thy Medicine

I am very aware the affect food has on me and sometimes I am not sure if it is a blessing or a curse. If my food intake is off or not nourishing my body, it gets in the way of my centering.

Avoid foods that maximize the amount of time and energy your nervous system spends in catabolic mode, which tears down the body (sugar, processed foods). Instead, consume foods that maximize the amount of time and energy your nervous system spends in anabolic mode, which nourishes, heals, and regenerates the body.

Some examples of powerful foods that can help calm your nervous system naturally include:

B-vitamins: These help the brain transmit information by assisting with production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. Best food sources: calf's liver, spinach, leafy greens, chicken, lentils, halibut, eggs.

Vitamin E: Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant and therefore helps prevent nerve cells from becoming damaged. It also can slow the process of cognitive decline. Best food sources: raw sunflower seeds, almonds, olives, spinach, leafy greens.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Since the brain is composed of mostly fat, omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for preventing brain degeneration and keeping the brain healthy. Best food sources: flaxseeds, walnuts, salmon, sardines, halibut, shrimp, scallops.

Acetyl-L-Carnitine: This is a supplement that is derived from plants and may help slow the aging of the brain. It also is known to increase memory and clarity of thought. Sources: high quality meats and dairy; also can be taken as a supplement.

Antioxidants: These powerful nutrients help to protect cells in the nervous tissue and keep them functioning properly. Best food sources: blueberries, blackberries, walnuts, pomegranate juice, fresh vegetables and fruits.

Magnesium & Potassium: These two nutrients work together to help keep our nerves healthy and under control. They relax nerves and muscles, which allows for proper circulation and blood flow. Best food sources of magnesium: raw pumpkin seeds, spinach, salmon, raw sunflower seeds, halibut, sesame seeds, black beans. Best food sources of potassium: swiss chard, lima beans, yams, winter squash, soybeans, avocado, spinach, lentils.


Tip #6: Find Your Center and Redirect Your Energy

Find your “physical center of gravity” which is visualized as being about two inches below your navel. You will feel grounded and stabilized by focusing your mind on this part of your body.

When you start to feel stressed, turn your attention to your center to remind yourself that you have balance and control. Once you’ve found it, breathe in and out deeply and feel the sensation of being stabilized on the ground then redirect your energy.

Imagine all of the energy in your body flowing into your center. Picture this energy as a glowing ball that you will throw far into the distance or perhaps a balloon that you will let float away above your head. Visualize putting all of your negative thoughts into the balloon or ball and then releasing it. Let go of everything that is causing you to feel stressed. As you inhale, say ‘I let…” and as you exhale, say “…go.” 

Then, imagine your center filled with calm.

On your next inhalation, channel your energy. Think about what you want to achieve, use affirmations and focus on thinking positively. Redirect your energy there! Redirect your energy there! Make your vision so clear that your fears become irrelevant.

 

By following these tips and with calm breath and an open heart, you can conquer the world!


References:  The Breathing Book, Donna Farhi.  Simon & Schuster, 2001

 

Dirty Dozen + Clean Fifteen

The benefits of eating fruits and vegetables at every single meal is endless! It is important that we nourish our body with the highest quality food possible with the lowest pesticide residue. Buying organic is one of the ways that you can ensure you are eating clean, non-genetically-modified, nutrient dense food. 

Every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases their annual Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 list. The Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 refers respectively to the fruits and vegetables that are the most and the least likely to harbor pesticide residues, according to the EWG.

The Dirty Dozen have the highest level of toxic organophosphate insecticides. The Clean 15 are the lowest level of pesticides.

This list should in no way deter you from eating fruits and vegetables. However, it should make you more aware that the chemicals used to fumigate soil and kill weeds, microbes and bugs has some unwanted side effects, including killing soil health and beneficial microbes. Also, pesticides are linked to dozens of health problems, including certain cancers, symptoms of ADHD, autism, Parkinson’s and a whole host of other issues.

Again, always eat your veggies! But make informed choices in the produce aisle to help minimize your pesticide consumption especially when it comes to the Dirty Dozen items.


How to Tell if Produce is Genetically Modified, Organic or Conventionally Grown

Conventionally grown produce will have a 4-digit code sticker starting with the number 4.
 

Organic produce will be labelled with 5 digits and will begin with the number 9. However, sometimes a product is labelled as organic and it may not be fully organic. 100% organic label is the ideal label when it comes to searching for quality organic food products. 

Genetically modified produce will start with the number 8 and often assigned with 5 digits. Products labelled "Non-GMO" or "GMO-free" are statements that indicate the absence of genetically modified ingredients.


Produce Wash

Systemic pesticides are inside the produce and we can't wash and/or peel our way out of the problem. However, we can clean our produce with a homemade natural apple cider vinegar produce wash to remove some residents. 

Here's the recipe:

Print Recipe

Apple Cider Vinegar Produce Wash

Directions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, place produce in the bottom and fill with water until covered.
  2. Add a generous splash of apple cider vinegar (about 1/4 cup) and let sit for 15 minutes, turning the produce frequently to get all the outside produce immersed in the solution.
  3. After thoroughly soaked, simply drain the bowl and rinse produce with plain water.
  4. Dry produce and eat or store in your refrigerator.


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Anxiety -- How to Eat Your Way Calm

Are you a huge fan of the TV series "This is Us"?

Since watching the last episode, have you been driving with all your windows rolled down?

What a beautiful and moving episode!

It hit me right in the feels!

My favorite part of the episode was when William gives Randall his final advice: “Roll all your windows down, Randall. Crank up the music. Grow out that fro. Let someone else make your bed.”

What William was addressing was Randall’s struggles with anxiety.  

Anxiety can be scary and debilitating. There is a strong link between mental health, emotions, and what we eat. Studies have shown that some foods make us feel calmer while other foods can act as stimulants -- at least temporarily. If you experience stress and anxiety or panic attacks, making some modifications to your diet may help alleviate your symptoms.

The marriage of food and health is what I am truly passionate about.  Over the years, I have learned to  manage my own anxiety symptoms. So, I'm sharing with you a few foods and suggestions you may want to add to your diet and lifestyle and a few you may want to avoid to help alleviate those symptoms.

Common Anxiety Triggers You CAN Control


Don't Skip Meals

Skipping meals may result in drops in blood sugar levels that will cause you to feel jittery and irritable, which may worsen underlying anxiety. Eat frequent meals throughout the day to keep your blood sugar level relatively steady.

Avoid Caffeine

The same properties of caffeine that keep our brains running fast also contribute to putting anxiety into overdrive, so it's best to try and avoid it or wean yourself off. Try reaching for herbal teas (chamomile, ginger or rooibos tea are great nerve-soothing alternatives).  

Limit Wheat

Wheat contains high levels of phytic acid which stops the absorption of important minerals like zinc that help your mood. It is particularly important for people with anxiety to have high levels of zinc, so cutting down on wheat is necessary to get the best of all those zinc-rich foods like poultry, legumes, and seeds. You can avoid the phytic acid in wheat by cutting down on rice, oats, and bread in general and soaking your beans and grains before cooking. 

Avoid Candy

Sweets can make us feel better, but are only a temporary lift. Sugar is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream and the absorption causes an initial high or surge of energy. But when that surge wears off, the body increases its insulin production to remove the sugar from your bloodstream. This results in feeling low and fatigued.

Avoid Fruit Juice

Fresh fruit isn't so bad. But packaged fruit juices are generally packed with manufactured fructose and lack the fibre that makes fruit healthy. As a result, juices will give you a quick-burning burst of adrenaline and blood sugar that heighten feelings of nervousness and anxiety before leaving you in an energy slump that makes you feel blue. You're better off reaching for a glass of water and a piece of actual fresh fruit instead.

Limit Alcohol

Anyone who has over-indulged on a night out knows that alongside the headache you'll generally be left with a terrible mood the next morning. Drinking, and particularly excessive drinking, induces feelings that mimic the symptoms of anxiety which will make you feel awful if you were anxious before you cracked open the bottle of wine. These feelings are further triggered the next day when your body is desperately trying to remove the alcohol from your system. A drink every now and again might be worth it, but avoid heavy drinking and lay off alcohol altogether when you're feeling particularly anxious.

Avoid Processed Foods

Ready meals, canned soups, and fast food generally contain massive amounts of sodium which are terrible for anxiety - not to mention your health in general! Sodium can actually blunt your anxiety in the short-term which might be why we often reach for takeout when we're feeling low, but they will leave you with a spike of anxiety once the food is digested. This cycle can be terrible for your anxiety in the long run. Try cooking your own 'healthified' versions of processed meals so that you can control the sodium level and maybe even take your mind off stresses in the meantime.
 

Food for Thought


Eat Turkey and Tryptophan-Rich Foods

Tryptophan helps your brain produce feel-good chemicals. It is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps you feel calm. You will find tryptophan in a variety of foods including turkey, chicken, bananas, oats, cheese, nuts, peanut butter and sesame seeds. 

Eat Beef and Foods Rich in Vitamin B

A deficiency in B vitamins such as folic acid and B12 can trigger depression in some people. You can take a B-complex vitamin supplement or your can eat foods that are rich in B vitamins to manage anxiety such as beef, pork, chicken, leafy greens, legumes, avocados, almonds, oranges and other citrus fruits, rice, nuts, eggs.

Eat Salmon

Consuming omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) found in fatty fish like wild Alaskan salmon, tuna, lake trout, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines can enhance mood. Inflammation in the body is one factor when it comes to brain health and anxiety. Omega-rich foods can help decrease inflammation and help cortisol and adrenaline from spiking.

Eat Leafy Greens

Increasing plant foods like Swiss chard, spinach and all other leafy greens help regulate the brain-adrenal axis and are rich in magnesium, the natural "chill pill". Other food sources of magnesium include pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

Eat Protein

Protein helps stimulate the production of the brain chemicals norepinephrine and dopamine which are neurotransmitters like serotonin. The carry impulses between nerve cells and have been shown to improve alertness and mental energy. Good sources of protein include Greek yogurt, fish, meats, cheese, eggs, nuts, beans, and lentils. Best is to combine complex carbohydrates and protein, and to spread your meals throughout the day. Complex carbs are metabolized more slowly and therefore help maintain a more even blood sugar level, which creates a calmer feeling.

Eat More Probiotic Foods

The gut is considered the "second brain" and your guts health is essential to manage anxiety. Bacterial imbalances in your gut can alter brain chemistry, and probiotic foods such as: full-fat kefir or yogurt, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, are all important for brain health. 

Eat Turmeric

The antioxidants in turmeric called curcuminoids have a neuroprotective quality and help enhance your mood. Research into turmeric’s antidepressant effects are still relatively new, but it appears to work by increasing the production of serotonin and dopamine.

Eat Avocados

Avocados contain potassium which helps naturally lower blood pressure and are great for brain health and anxiety. Avocados also contain beneficial B vitamins and monounsaturated fats that are needed for neurotransmitter and brain health.

Drink More Water

Alcohol, caffeine, processed, sugary foods and a general lack of sufficient hydration lead to dehydration. Dehydration interferes with proper brain and body functioning, which can be a trigger for anxiety and depression. Aim to consume half of your body weight in ounces of water per day.

Add Antioxidants for Anti-Anxiety

Enhancing your diet with foods rich in antioxidants may help ease your symptoms. Foods high in antioxidants include beans, fruits (apples, prunes, cherries, plums), berries, nuts (walnuts, pecans), vegetables (artichokes, kale, spinach, beets, broccoli, asparagus). Also, foods high in vitamin C are powerful antioxidants that play a pivotal role in the proper functioning of brain chemistry and adrenal glands.  Vitamin C rich foods include oranges, papaya, strawberries, cantaloupe, kiwi fruit, bell peppers, parsley, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale.


Natural Ways to Ease Anxiety

You Must Sleep

Lack of sleep can make you more vulnerable to anxiety by making you edgy, unfocused, and hormonally imbalanced. Seven to eight hours of sleep a night is recommended for your body to renew, restore, and replenish. 

You Must Exercise

Exercise is safe, good for the brain, and a powerful antidote to depression and anxiety, both immediately and in the long term. It floods your bloodstream with feel-good hormones and fosters a deeper sleep.

Many people find that yoga and meditation are also effective in lowering stress and anxiety. This is the perfect hybrid, giving you physical activity AND meditation.

You Must Get Hot

We often associate feeling warm with a sense of relaxation and well-being. For instance, curling up by a fire with a cozy cup of tea or lying on a beach in the midday sun on a Caribbean island can improve your mood. Sensations of warmth alter neural circuits that control mood and affect serotonin. So, heating up your body in a sauna or a steam room reduces muscle tension and anxiety.

You Must Breathe

Deep breathing slows the body’s rhythms and restores calm, relaxation and being present. Inhaling essential oils while breathing can help alter brain activity. Look for essential oil scents that induce calm, such as lavender, jasmine, rose, and sandalwood. Click the following link to order some wonderful pure essential oil scents here from my shop: www.mydoterra.com/ivanalocke

A nice calming ritual to try is taking a warm bath with lavender oil and Epsom salts before bed just before drinking a cup of chamomile tea.


Give Yourself Credit

Remember to give yourself credit for being aware of your anxiety. That awareness is the first step in reducing it. Intervening with various strategies including healthy nutrition habits can alleviate your symptoms and help you feel a little lighter every day.

Someday it may even feel like a day at the beach.

Top 10 Foods for Vibrant Skin

Anti-aging secrets are an extremely hot topic.  We all want to learn the best tricks of aging slowly, gracefully, and most of all… naturally.   With the skin being the largest organ of your body, the daily bombardment of all we come into contact with is a constant battle we must be proactive about fighting. 

Pollution in the air, the products we use on our skin – it’s all going straight into our bloodstream.  Needless to say, the skin most unquestionably needs some attention when it comes to detoxification and keeping it healthy. 

There are slew of expensive creams, lotions, and potions to choose from to allegedly combat wrinkles and keep your skin looking radiant.  But, you’re in luck – you don’t necessarily need those pricey potions to keep your healthy glow.  There are simple, everyday things you can do to work towards a healthier body and incredibly vibrant skin naturally. 

Staying hydrated enhances your skin and detoxifies the body, so drinking half of your body weight in ounces throughout the day is a fantastic way to assist your body in functioning optimally and help your skin to look great.

You can also accomplish glowing, vibrant skin by adding certain foods to your plate more often -- healthy fats and protein are among some of the top ones to consider for great skin.  

If you’d like to know my favorite top seven foods I eat regularly for great skin, I’d love to share some of my tricks with you.  These are likely already in your refrigerator, which is great news – so take note, and eat up.

My Top 10 Favorites are…

Adding these organic foods to your plate often, combined with other healthy, whole foods will put you well on your way to beautiful, healthy skin. Like this great recipe for Sunflower Seed Spread on Cucumber Slices that I've added to my Recipe Blog here: http://www.ivanalocke.com/blog/sunflowerseedspread

 

What are your favorites on the list?  I’d love to hear from you! Let me know your favorite recipe that includes one of the Top 10. I’m always looking for more inspiration for the kitchen.     

5 Simple Sweet Treats You Don't Have to Feel Guilty About

If you find it difficult to ditch the sweets, or you're still on your sweet kick from the holidays -- this month is a good time to get some healthy tricks under your belt.

With February and Valentine's day, chocolate abounds this month -- whether you're getting some as a gift, or chowing down on some to dodge the whole Valentine ordeal... I have a few healthy sweets that can and will satisfy your sweet tooth without the chemicals and processed sugar.

These are great to have year-round, so listen up!

  • Guess what? Organic dark chocolate is a-okay! So you don't have to dodge the chocolate this month (or ever). Dip some strawberries in melted organic dark chocolate, and you'll wonder why you've never done it before. Yum!
  • Apple slices with your favorite nut butter or baked apples with cinnamon and nutmeg. One of my favorites is Apple Nachos! Super easy to make...simply drizzle some honey and almond butter on apple slices and sprinkle with chopped almonds. Yum!
     
  • Frozen grapes. Easy and delicious. Frozen grapes have a satisfying texture and almost creamy or sorbet-like. They are sweet, nutritious, low-calorie and take time to eat, therefore, it is nearly impossible to down handful after handful of frozen grapes.
     
  • Homemade trail mix with cranberries, your favorite nuts, dark chocolate nibs. Build a healthy portable trail mix with any combination of dried fruits and nuts. For long-lasting freshness, store your healthy homemade trail mix in a vacuum-packed mason jar.
  • Banana "nice cream" -- an alternative to dairy ice cream. Cut up & freeze banana, and puree it in blender when you're ready to enjoy a bowl of Nice-cream. Seriously simple, inexpensive and delicious. For a creamier texture, add coconut milk. Even better, add your favorite mix-ins such as nuts, other fruits, honey, spices or your favorite nut butter.

What are your favorite healthy sweet recipes that keep you away from the junk foods?

Ways to Rev Up Your Metabolism

Have you ever struggled to lose weight when you feel like you’re doing everything right, but the scale is not budging?  I have been right where you are and felt this same frustration.  Sometimes we can seemingly do all of the things we think we should be doing to reach our health goals, but our metabolism is working against us.  Having a healthy, functioning metabolism to regulate our bodies is a crucial piece of the puzzle.  

There are things that can cause a sluggish metabolism and a slew of things we can do to rev it up, as well.  I’m sure you’re familiar with some of those tried-and-true ways to kick your metabolism into gear, which do in fact work very well.  Some of these popular tricks include…

Getting enough sleep.  Sleep is when our bodies rejuvenate and replenish, so getting healthy amounts of sleep on a regular basis will help to keep a healthy metabolism. 

 


Staying hydrated.  Drinking enough water affects your metabolism, so drink up!  Drink approximately half of your body weight in ounces throughout the day.  Proper hydration lends far more benefits to your health than a healthy metabolism, so this one is very important.

 

Don’t skip breakfast.  A large percentage of the population skips breakfast.  Mornings can be rushed and busy, but starting your day with a healthy protein packed breakfast is very helpful for cultivating a healthy metabolism. 

 

And of course, exercise!  Specifically, High Intensity Interval Trainings (HIIT) are excellent for hitting the metabolism reset button. 

Here are 2 more ways to jump start your metabolism that you may not have heard of before…

 

Eating enough.  There’s a common misconception that eating less helps you lose weight, which is not entirely accurate.  Eating enough calories spread throughout your day will keep your metabolism constant.  Overeating is never a good idea, but don’t be afraid to eat healthy, whole foods! 

Get spicy.  Adding some hot peppers into your meals may give a pop to your metabolism, so if you enjoy a little spice in your meals, remember this trick. 

With my Metabolic Balance® nutritional plan, you can discover first-hand how a balanced metabolism manages your weight, maintains it perfectly and makes you feel great.

This is not your standard diet program. It is a customized nutritional plan that establishes the correct parameters needed for proper metabolic and hormonal function. 

Metabolic Balance® focuses on the improvement and maintenance of health. A positive side effect of healthy nutrition is often weight loss. 

Take the first step in rejuvenating your health and your life today!

5 Quick, Easy, Healthy Breakfasts to Enjoy in a Time Pinch

Does breakfast slip through the cracks in your morning routine?  

You’re buzzing around trying to get ready for your day and to work on time — and if you are a parent, you have a thousand other things to do, as well! 

It can be quite difficult to fit in a healthy breakfast in the morning.  Starting off your day with a quick, healthy meal is absolutely possible, and I’m going to share five of my favorite quick, healthy breakfasts with you.  Enjoy! 

Avocado Toast

It really is that simple.  A slice of Ezekiel bread (or a gluten-free option) with smashed avocado can be ready in 2 minutes or less.  When I’m feeling like an extra dose of flavor, I like to use guacamole instead.  If you’re an egg eater, adding an egg to your toast can be a great addition, as well.  

 

Smoothie Bowl

Craving something cool in the mornings?  A green smoothie bowl (or a simple green smoothie) can quench your craving and add a punch of energy to your morning.  Start off with a cup or two of leafy greens and add in a fruit or two.  Using coconut water as the liquid adds even more flavor.  For a creamy texture, you can throw in some avocado, as well.  Play with your recipes and find one that works for you.  To enjoy as a bowl, toss some cut up fruit, nuts, or seeds on top.  

Overnight Oats

Overnight oats are made the night before and are ready to enjoy right out of the fridge.  Using a small mason jar, add 1/2 cup of almond or coconut milk, 2 tablespoons of nut butter of your choice, 1 tablespoon of chia seeds and 1/2 cup of rolled oats (gluten-free preferred) last.  Add in any other toppings of your choice — banana is a great option. Mix together in jar, cover with lid and leave in refrigerator overnight.   

Breakfast Salad

You may not think of having a salad first thing in the morning, but it can make for a fabulous & quick breakfast. With a base of leafy greens, a couple of veggie toppings such as tomato, cucumber, or onion — and a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice — you could have breakfast whipped up in 5 minutes or less.  Add an egg or breakfast potatoes atop your salad for a more ‘breakfast’ feel.    

Apple + Nut Butter

Quick, easy and delicious!  Cut up an apple and enjoy with your favorite nut butter.  You can also get creative and use other fruits and add in raisins or granola.  

If you would like some personal support in becoming the best version of yourself, I'd be more than happy to chat with you about your health goals. Contact me today!

4 Tricks to Beat Your Sugar Cravings

Sugar cravings can really put a wrench in your health goals. You just can’t resist those donuts in the break room.  You know you are going to regret it, but you do it anyway.  This leaves you feeling guilty, like a failure, and like you’ll never be able to say no to those tantalizing sweets.  I feel you, I’ve been there far too many times myself.  

But, good news.  Once we understand what’s going on, have some helpful tips up our sleeves to overcome cravings, and put them in action… you will feel much more in control of your cravings! 

1.     Keep Your Stress Levels in Check

Stress has such a powerful effect on your body.  When you are in a constant state of stress, your body releases hormones to go to combat for you.  This disrupts many of your body’s processes, causing chaos and imbalances that lead to weight gain, cravings, poor sleep, and a slew of other health issues.  

These high-stress situations can cause your body to produce an abundance of cortisol, the stress hormone, which can produce those sugar cravings you’re battling.  Luckily, there are many things that you can proactively do to lower your stress levels and keep them balanced.  

I know it may sound like a far-fetched dream, in today’s society, where stress is simply a part of life… but keeping your stress levels balanced is a powerful way to ditch those sugar cravings.

Some natural ways to lower your stress levels include exercising regularly, acupuncture or massage, breathing exercises, practicing yoga, spending time outside regularly and keeping a gratitude journal.

2.     Make it Hard to Get Your Hands On It

Keep your kitchen free of temptation. If your cupboards aren’t filled to the brim with sugary treats, you will be much less likely to indulge in them. Once you rid your kitchen of junk foods that aren’t aligned with your health goals, you’ll have to put forth an effort to cave into your cravings.  For example — when a craving strikes and your kitchen is junk-food-free — you’ll need to leave your house, travel to the nearest store, shop, drive back home, and partake in your box of cookies.  Needing to put forth this effort will hopefully deter you from giving into your cravings (if that is your goal!).  

Therefore, keep your kitchen junk-food free and packed with healthy foods, and you will be leaving temptation out of the picture.  Better yet, find healthy alternatives to dessert that will satisfy your sweet tooth!  

Start going through your pantry, fridge and kitchen to begin the "de-junking" process. It doesn't have to be all at once, as that may be incredibly overwhelming. Life changes take time, so set a goal for yourself and being the steps to achieve a junk-free kitchen.

3.     Keep Your Kitchen Stocked with Healthy Foods

Make healthy foods convenient. One of the main reasons people eat junk food is because it is convenient at the moment — not that it’s the tastiest or best option.  It’s already prepared, and all you have to do is dig right in.  Therefore, making sure you are prepared for when cravings hit is a huge success determiner.   

If you’re well prepped with clean, healthy snacks that you can dig into whenever the urge strikes, you will be much more likely to choose these healthier options in the moment.  Find some staples that you can enjoy as healthy snacks and have them prepared at all times.  Make this a part of your weekly grocery/food prep routine so that it becomes second nature for you.

Pick a few favorite clean eating snack recipes to keep around, and try making one this week.  

You can google “Clean Eating Snacks” or check out my favorite recipe blogs for ideas. These can be as simple as cut up apple with almond butter or baked apples with cinnamon.  Simple and delicious!

4.     Start Your Day Off Right

One especially essential way to banish your sugar cravings is to start your day with a healthy, balanced breakfast.  When you start your day with a big bowl (or three) of sugary, processed cereal — you are jump-starting your sugar cravings right off the bat and will continue to desire sugar throughout the day.  Therefore, it is terribly important to have a healthy, protein-packed breakfast that will fuel you throughout your day in a healthy, sustainable way.

Another imperative factor to keeping your cravings at bay is keeping yourself hydrated. Dehydration can cause cravings of many kinds, especially sugar, so being proactive about keeping yourself hydrated will give you one leg up on kicking those sugar cravings.  Also, being hydrated feels so great and impacts so much more than just cravings!

Start your day off with a healthy, protein-packed breakfast.  

Brainstorm some new recipes and ideas for healthy, clean breakfasts that will keep you fueled up and sustained until lunch.  

If you would like some personal support in becoming the best version of yourself, I'd be more than happy to chat with you about your health goals. 

 

10 Healthy Eating Tips for Surviving Holiday Parties

The holidays are here – a magical time of year filled with sparkling lights, homemade treats, loved ones and holiday feasts.  Although there is much more to this season than these large meals, the festivities most certainly can become centered around the dinner table.  

Many give up on their health goals during this time of year, planning on picking back up where they left off in the new year.  It can sometimes feel like a lost cause even attempting, but I have some good news for you!  You do not have to compromise your health goals this season, and better yet, you also don’t have to compromise missing out on your favorite holiday meals. Focus on a healthy balance of food, activity and fun by implementing a few of my simple tips to help you stay healthy through the holiday season and beyond.  

Don't Go Out with an Empty Tank

Before setting out for a party, eat a light snack so you don't arrive famished. Excellent pre-party snacks combine complex carbohydrates with protein and unsaturated fat, like apple slices with peanut or almond butter, raw vegetables with hummus. You will be less tempted to over-indulge.

Ditch and Switch  

Ditch the refined foods and switch them with healthier options.  For example, instead of using refined white flour and/or sugar, use almond flour or coconut sugar instead.  There are many alternatives to choose from, and you can most definitely find one that you will love – and I bet you nobody will even notice!  Aside from the sweets, you can also trade out white rice or mashed potatoes with creating cauliflower rice or mashed “potatoes” out of cauliflower.  

Fresh Herbs and Spices

You can really dress up a meal by adding fresh herbs and spices to it – I personally use them every time I cook.  It’s incredibly affordable and simple to keep a small, fresh herb garden growing in your kitchen window, and you will always have direct access to fresh herbs.  Even better, there are incredible health properties in many of the herbs and spices we use and love.  Many of our favorite holiday spices are greatly beneficial for our health and a strong immune system, which is certainly helpful during cold and flu season.  Cinnamon, turmeric, cloves, and nutmeg are a few of these popular holiday spices that you will reap healthy benefits from, so find a place for them in your recipes anywhere you can!   

Survey Party Buffets before Filling Your Plate

Choose your favorite foods and skip your least favorite. Include a ton of vegetables to keep your plate balanced.

Distance Helps the Heart Stay Healthy

Don't stand next to the food table at a party. That makes it harder to mindlessly reach for food as you talk. 

Use Different Plateware

One of my favorite, most powerful tools to stay on track with my health goals is getting creative with portion control.  Instead of using dinner-sized plates, which we tend to fill, use smaller plates.  Use a mid-sized saucer or salad plate for your dinner plate, and then go back for seconds if needed.  A lot of the overeating that we do is mindless, habitual eating because it’s in front of us and we were taught to clean our plates.  Taking this temptation away helps tremendously, and you’ll very quickly learn how much you actually need to feel satisfied – I guarantee it is less than you are used to!  

Chew 30 Times and Put Down Your Utensil

Try to get 30 chews out of each bite. (30 is a rough guide, as it might be difficult to get even 10 chews out of a mouthful of oatmeal or mashed food)! Take time to enjoy the flavors and textures in your mouth before you swallow. This may also help prevent overeating by giving your gut time to send messages to the brain to say your're full.

Often we are already preparing the next morsel with our fork and knife while we are still on our previous bite. Try putting down your utensils after each bite, and don't pick them back up until you have enjoyed and swallowed what you already have in your mouth.

Take 10 Before Taking Seconds

It takes a few minutes for your stomach’s “I’m getting full” signal to get to your brain. After finishing your first helping, take a 10-minute break. Make conversation. Drink some water. Then recheck your appetite. You might realize you are full, or want only a small portion of seconds.

Be Careful with Beverages

Alcohol can lessen inhibitions and induce overeating; non-alcoholic beverages can be full of calories and sugar. Alcohol should be avoided on an empty stomach as it will increase your appetite. If you drink alcohol, have a glass of water in between drinks.

Plan Time for Exercise

Plan time for exercise. Exercise helps relieve holiday stress and prevent weight gain. A moderate and daily increase in exercise can help partially offset increased holiday eating. Try 10- or 15-minute brisk walks twice a day. If you are at a family gathering, suggest a walk before the feast or even between dinner and dessert.

With these simple tips, you’ll be well on your way to not entering January feeling bloated, discouraged and off track. Although food is an integral part of the holidays, put the focus on family and friends, laughter and cheer. If balance and moderation are your usual guides, it's okay to indulge. A truly healthy life revolves around balance – and finding your own personal balance will take trial and error.  

Healthy Eating on the Go

One of the biggest struggles that most people face today is a hectic schedule.

We’re so busy that it makes eating healthy a real challenge. Quick and convenient foods end up taking the place of healthy, nourishing food when we’re on the go, go, go all the time.

These less-than-ideal food choices put us on the hamster wheel of experiencing low energy, weight gain, and potential health problems.  

What if I told you it didn’t have to be this way? You don’t have to be a slave to your schedule and resort to fast food or processed foods on a regular basis. It’s possible to eat healthy foods, even with a jam-packed schedule. It just requires a little bit of pre-planning to ensure success. You’ll feel better, have more energy, and your waistline will thank you too. 

When you start fueling your body with healthier choices, you’ll probably also find that you don’t have that 3 PM slump or need that afternoon caffeine boost. (These are a couple of added benefits many of my clients experience, and they’re always pleasantly surprised).  I’ve included a list of healthy snack ideas to get you started, so keep reading.  

Eating Healthy When You're Not Home

There are plenty of circumstances that will take you away from home, and make it more challenging to eat healthy food. Take the time to plan ahead and you can relax knowing that you won’t be derailing your healthy living efforts by consuming empty calories that only make you hungry again a short time later.  

Daily Errands and/or Kid’s Activities

Most of us spend several hours in our vehicles every week running errands, stuck in traffic or shuttling kids back and forth between activities. If we don’t plan ahead, it is easy to fall into the trap of swinging through the closest drive through when you (or your family) are hungry. Don’t wait until the point that you’re starving to make food choices, as this will almost always lead to bad decisions. Instead, plan ahead, so you don’t have to rely on your willpower alone to keep you on track. Pack easy to carry healthy snacks, and keep them in either your purse or your vehicle. This way you always have healthy choices right at your fingertips.

Road Trips

Just because you’re on vacation, doesn’t mean you should take a total hiatus from your health goals. You can still live a healthy lifestyle on road trips by packing healthy foods to eat in the car. You can pack a cooler to keep handy so you have easy access to snacks while on the road. If you’re planning on stopping at rest areas along the way, pack a nutritious picnic lunch to eat before you head back out on the next leg of your trip.

Airports

Even though you can’t pack liquids in your carry-on bag, there are still plenty of options for what you can bring. You can pack wrapped whole food snack bars, nuts, seeds or even pieces of fruit in your personal items bag. With a little creative planning, you can keep your nutrition on track, and save yourself a bundle of money you would have otherwise spent on pricey (and often unhealthy) airport food and snacks.

Foods That Are Easy to Pack

The following items are all easy to prepare, and convenient to take on the go. Feel free to experiment, and find out which snacks best fit your preference and lifestyle. Mix and match options to see what works for you. Be sure to keep any perishable foods in a cooler or use an ice pack.

  • Baby carrots and cucumber slices with hummus
  • Sliced or whole apples with nut butter
  • Clementine or mandarin oranges
  • Grapes
  • Sliced or whole pears
  • Smoothie (if you plan to drink it within 30 minutes or so)
  • Nuts and raisins (you can make your own trail mix)
  • Pumpkin seeds (pepitas) and/or sunflower seeds
  • Whole food snack bars (such as Larabar)
  • Sandwiches or wraps
  • String cheese or cheese cubes
  • High quality beef/turkey jerky
  • Cut-up rotisserie chicken (keep cool in an ice pack)
  • Hard boiled eggs

One of my favorite items that I personally use to pack snacks and meals while I'm on the go is the Sachi Speedy Insulated Lunch Tote that you can find in My Favorite Things Shop. I often get compliments on my nice purse but it's really my lunch tote! 

 

Make the Most of Technology

Almost everyone has a smartphone with them at any given time. You can use this readily available technology to your advantage. Keep your food choices healthy when you’re on the go by utilizing apps that make healthy living easier. “Healthy Out” is a handy app to keep your nutrition on track when eating out. You can search by tags like meals under 500 calories, paleo, heart healthy, and more. Download the app for iOS or Android to find restaurant meals that fit your needs. If anyone in your family is gluten intolerant, it may be a challenge to find restaurants that serve gluten-free meals. You can use the app called “Find Me Gluten Free” to help find restaurants with gluten free offerings in your vicinity.

Make Midweek Meals Easy

Just because you have had a busy day doesn’t mean you have to resort to fast food or processed foods for dinner. With a little forethought, you can make sure your family has healthy meals ready to go when you walk in the door. 

With the advent of Pinterest, you now have thousands of healthy crockpot meal ideas available for free. Do a quick search and see what recipes may interest you and your family. If you prep everything the night before, or even earlier in the morning, you can come home to a delicious home-cooked meal that is ready to serve. Other helpful website for crockpot recipe ideas is Allrecipes.com and Myrecipes.com

TIME SAVER TIP:  Batch cook and plan for leftovers. When you do have time to cook, simply double the recipe and set the extras aside to use later in the week on a particularly busy day. It takes very little extra effort to double the recipe, and you will reap the benefits of time savings later in the week. 

You can also buy download my Salad in A Jar Program. The program is specifically designed to fuel your body for better health and more energy even when you have a crazy busy schedule.

Make Healthy Eating Strategies Work for You

Even with a busy schedule, you can still make sure that you are eating healthy, nutritious meals. By putting in a little bit planning, you can ensure that you and your family enjoy healthy foods that support your lifestyle and your goals.  You can do this!  Let me know if I can help.

10 Ways to Live a Dynamic Life

A dynamic life is a life lived with awareness of your self and body that enables you to feel energized and motivated on a daily basis. Key ingredients of a dynamic life are health, nutrition, fitness, and overall wellness. I believe a healthy and prosperous life begins with a healthy and active body. People who live a dynamic life don’t sit still and wait for the world to come to them – they actively pursue their goals and continually strive to better themselves. But how do you achieve this if you are feeling run down and exhausted? What if you don't have the energy you need to do the fun things in life, spend quality time with loved ones, or just do the simple things that you know would be beneficial to your health.

I'm here to help you get back on track. These 10 simple steps can help you feel more energized so you can start living the dynamic vibrant life you deserve.


DRINK THE MOST NOURISHING CHOICES OF LIQUIDS

When it comes to nourishing our bodies with the proper hydration, it is vital to choose liquids that serve our body well. I regularly make sure that I drink at least 8-8oz glasses of water (good old h20) daily.

In addition to drinking my water first, I then add organic smoothies and raw juices to my daily routine. I typically juice more veggies than fruit – juicing is an excellent way to sneak those hard to taste vegetables in your diet. A typical smoothie for me consists of ½ banana, 1 handful of rich greens like baby spinach or kale, 1 tsp Chia seeds, ½ cup berries, and 1 cup of pure water or other liquid like almond or coconut milk (nondairy milk).

I also love – love – love drinking infused water as well. When drinking infused water, you simply add fruit to pure water and have it ferment in the fridge for a couple hours until the nutrients penetrate the liquid and are ready for use.

 

NOURISH YOUR BODY WITH NUTRIENTS

It’s time we ask ourselves every time we eat if what we are about to consume will nourish our body or not. To choose foods that nourish our body and are designed to support it, we simply need to choose foods in their most natural form. I choose foods that are mostly raw, not packaged, not fried, not “fast” served, and foods that if labeled – are completely and totally understandable when it comes to the ingredients.

I choose to stay on the outer aisles when I shop for groceries because most of the products down the aisles contain harsh preservatives. I prefer mostly organic foods for both my veggies, fruits, and my meat. I prefer food items that are free from pesticides, herbicides, hormones, and antibiotics. I prefer meat that is free-range from farms where the animals were cared for and loved. As the old saying goes “Eat your fruits and veggies”. It truly cannot be simpler than that. If you don’t like to eat vegetables, try juicing them.

A nourished body creates a nourished balanced mood.

 

RELAX & DREAM

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Relaxing and allowing the body to sleep and refuel is so important. Imagine driving your vehicle around non-stop for a week – at some point, the engine will let you know it has had enough. The same goes for our bodies, they are our vehicles. Our bodies need sleep of at least 8+hrs, and our body needs time to relax and just let go of all that is confining our mind.

I say “relax and dream” because even if we are getting the right amount of nighttime shut-eye – we also need to take the time to truly let the energies within our body calm and find center throughout the day as well.

Think about what relaxes your body and how you can include those relaxation techniques in your daily routine?

 

DANCE LIKE NOBODY’S WATCHING

This step sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? But, when was the last time you let your body freely flow in the form of thoughtless movement and pure joy? Too often, we create a workout routine which involves timed movement and scheduled routines. Having a workout routine is absolutely excellent for your health and for your mood because you are moving those needed endorphins to boost your mood.

But- I really want you to freely move, freely dance, as if nobody else is around. Not only will you be releasing tension, but you will be having a good time! I love to dance around when I’m by myself because it releases tension, it isn’t timed, and I get to jam out to awesome music that by the end of my jam out session leaves me feeling fabulous and stress-free.

 

INDULGE IN KEY FOUNDATIONAL SUPPLEMENTS

Our body runs on required vitamins and nutrients. Our digestive system runs on required “good bacteria” to function properly. I always take a good multivitamin, 1000mg of Vitamin D especially during the months when the sun is barely showing face, omega 3’s, and, of course, a multi-strand 5 billion CFU probiotic.

You want quality over quantity with everything in life, including supplements.

 

FEARLESSLY DREAM

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Now, we get to the “good stuff”. These steps fuel our mood by nourishing our soul as we take a holistic approach to our life and happiness.

Fearlessly dream. This step is vital for mood boosting. Too often, we stop dreaming especially when we become an adult and our responsibilities get in the way of our child-like free thinking mind.

I want you to write down your top 3 dreams – without fear, and without any thoughts of objects or circumstances that you think may get in the way.

 

PLAN YOUR DREAMS WITH EASY TO TAKE STEPS

So, now that you’ve fearlessly written down your top three dreams without worry or care. You are actually going to implement them. That’s right – forget the routines, the schedules, the responsibilities, and PLAN to make your dreams come true. You can plan for 1 year, 2 years, 3 years or more – but whatever you do…

DO NOT GIVE UP.

IT IS NEVER TOO LATE.

DREAMS DO COME TRUE.

This is your chance in life to live fearlessly and dream. This is your time to stop putting your dreams that fuel your soul on the back burner – and start fighting for the life you want.

 

FIND TIME TO EXPLORE AND PLAY

When was the last time you played? If you tell me it was when you were 10 years old - we need to make a change. Playing doesn’t end as we get older. We just need to create a balance between work and play.

Find time to explore life and play with it.

Here are 4 tips that you can take to play a little bit more:

1.     Make dinner reservations at the new local restaurant.

2.     Make plans to enjoy the hit movie that just hit theatres.

3.     Take a walk through a nature park and observe the beauty.

4.     Be crazy adventurous and just get in the car and GO somewhere.

Life is too short to stop playing, too vast to stop exploring, and too beautiful to let it pass us by.

 

CREATE TIME FOR YOU AND SELF-CARE

Self- care!!!!! I can’t even begin to tell you about how this could seriously be the most important step we take to enhancing our mood to a more desirable state.

Enjoy some self-care with a new pedicure, a shopping spree, an hour alone to sit in quiet and read, time to enjoy a cozy bubble bath, time to meditate, and time to just be you and care for YOU.

 

LAUGH -- IT'S THE BEST MEDICINE

Sometimes we can’t take life too seriously. We just need to laugh whether it’s for fun or through tears. We need to surround ourselves with people who lift our spirits and help us enjoy life. Sometimes you just need to laugh and live.

Laughter is a known healer as it produces “happy” chemicals in our body. It’s been known to be the best medicine.

Do something good for yourself today...and for tomorrow. Take action and get started (or restart) on your path to better health.