Self-Care in Troubling Times

A lot of us are feeling uneasy. We are being surrounded by a lot of negative noise right now.  Our stress is on the increase: Our country’s political climate, our jobs, our family relationships, our financial situation, or all the above may be taking a toll on your health, both mentally and physically. Typically, when faced with all this negative energy, self-care takes a back seat. We start to ignore our own needs – not looking inward, and put all the focus on what is happening around us – only looking outward. Learning how to redirect and take care of your own needs will help you function better. The result will be replenishment of your energy reserves that stress and anger deplete.

I personally have had a lot of ups and downs in the last 12 months. Our family was hit with trauma, loss, and health issues, but there was some good stuff too. Unfortunately, I was having a hard time focusing on the good and found myself in a dark place. My sleep was disrupted, I wasn’t eating, I had a very short temper, and my entire body hurt. Our bodies are just not designed to live in constant despair without it taking its toll. We also may fall into the trap of becoming so numb to the negative around us that we start to accept it as normal. When my own health started to head downhill, I had to take a step back and evaluate how I was handling the negative around me.

I am a health coach, I help others navigate these ups and downs in their lives. I know better, but I am human, I am not perfect. I had to re-frame my thinking and divert the energy I was investing in being miserable, and redirect it towards positive change, looking inward and implementing the actions I list below. I know the benefits of taking time to sit and breath and that of meditation, but sometimes when you are in deep despair, those things just don’t come naturally. If breathing exercises and meditation are just not for you right now, here is a list of other things that might be easier for you to do to replenish those energy reserves or regain a more positive outlook:

  1. If world events are causing you the most stress; take a break from the internet, Facebook, and watching the news. Maybe it is a day, a few hours, a few days, whatever feels right for you. This doesn’t mean to stick your head in the sand and ignore it all, but just to step back for a bit. Give yourself a break from the 24-hour news cycle.
  2. Do something you enjoy. Something that gives you pleasure. Maybe that is cooking, reading, or crafts.
  3. Listen to calming music.
  4. Soak in a tub. Adding Epson salt and lavender will help you relax. Not a tub person? Try a hot shower with a few drops of lavender oil on the shower floor.
  5. Get together with a friend, but make sure it is someone positive, and not someone that will bring you down further.
  6. Take a walk, do some yoga, go for a run, lift some weights. Exercise can lower stress hormones.
  7. Watch a silly comedy. Laughter truly is medicine.
  8. Focus on your senses. Sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Pick two senses, sit back and focus. What can you hear right now, what do you see, etc. This will help redirect your mind and get you grounded again.
  9. Make sure you are getting enough sleep. When you are stressed or anxious, sleep suffers. I have a few apps on my iPad that help. Timeless Wisdom, for anger and stress management, Insight Timer, Breathe, Yoga Nidra, OMG I can Meditate are good options. They can guide you to quiet your mind to fall asleep.
  10. Sign up to do some volunteer work in your community. This will help you find gratitude in your own life.
  11. Put down the sugar and refined carbohydrates which increases inflammation and add more whole foods into your diet. An inflamed brain is a depressed brain.
  12. Drink more water. A basic rule of thumb, half your body weight in ounces of water per day.

When we take care of ourselves and make it a priority, we become more present for our family and our community. We gain a deeper understanding of ourselves, others, and the world. We can then gather the strength we need to handle the unpleasant things life throws our way, thus giving us the ability for growth and learning.

 

Is my food making me crazy?

foodintolerancesThe average American household consumes about 70% of their diet from processed foods. The majority of our food is coming out of a box or a package rather than whole foods found in nature. Our bodies are being pumped full of artificial additives on a daily basis. If you look back to your childhood, (if you are in your late 40’s early 50’s like myself) what % of the food you ate came from a box? We typically had cereal for breakfast, maybe packaged cookies or chips, but for the most part our meals were made at home. We didn’t get take-out, eat fast-food in the car, and going to a restaurant was the exception rather than the norm.

Now we are faced with our children growing up on pre-packaged convenience foods. It is no coincidence that our children are seeing a higher incidence of behavioral problems, chronic illnesses, and obesity.

In my own family, before I understood what was in our food, my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD at a young age. I was told on several occasions by the doctors we trusted that there was no correlation between what she ate and her behavior. I believed this for several years, and in those years her behavior got worse and I got sick from the stress caused by dealing with an out-of-control child.  That is when I knew something needed to change. I did a lot of reading and then ultimately went back to school to study integrative nutrition. The more I studied the more I found that what my daughter was eating, as well as myself, did have an effect on her behavior and my chronic pain.

The main culprits for imbalance for most of us are sugar, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors and MSG. Did you realize that Europe bans many of these additives in their food but the US does not? Here is just one example. Compare the ingredient list for Haribo gummy bears from Germany vs those here in the US. The US version is made in Turkey.FullSizeRender (21)

Artificial colors are banned  in the UK because studies found them to cause behavior problems in children. Some food dyes were even found to cause as much damage to children’s brains as lead in gasoline. I hope the US will do the same at some point.

In our house we found artificial colors and MSG (monosodium glutamate) to be the main triggers for behavior issues. Artificial colors are easy to eliminate, they are obvious, but when we think of MSG we usually think of Chinese take-out. Unfortunately, MSG is hidden in almost all processed foods in various forms. Sometimes just listed as “flavoring”. MSG and it’s other names are an excitotoxin, meaning your cells get over excited and damage occurs. Some people get headaches, stomach issues, skin rashes, heart palpitations, or even asthma from MSG, as well as, neurological issues like mood swings and irritability.

Here is a short list of other names for MSG:

  • Any combination of words with glutamate – monosodium, calcium, monopotassium, magnesium, etc
  • Yeast Extract
  • Anything Hydrolyzed
  • Calcium caseinate, sodium caseinate
  • Autolyzed yeast
  • Gelatin
  • Textured protein
  • Soy protein concentrate, isolate
  • Whey protein concentrate, isolate

Here is a partial list of ingredients that often contain the same chemical in MSG that may cause the same side effects

  • Carrageenan
  • Bouillon
  • “Flavoring”
  • Maltodextrin
  • Malt extract
  • Barley malt
  • Citric acid

As you can see this is quite a list. I challenge you to look in your pantry right now and see how many of the items in there contain these ingredients.

If you or someone in your house is prone to migraines, digestive issues, heart irregularities, asthma, irritability, hyperactivity, or mood swings experiment with eliminating or cutting way back on these ingredients from the diet. I understand we live in the real world and removing processed food completely from your home is not realistic but cutting back is.

My daughter understands her triggers and is good at reading labels now. She knows the physical consequences if she chooses to eat something she should not. Did this happen overnight? No, but by slowly removing most of what were her favorite snacks and replacing them with a better option has improved her behavior tremendously. She sees the difference in how she feels and wants to continue on that path.

If you want to start on this path too but just don’t know where to start, I am here to help get your family on the road to wellness.

 

Bone Broth

With winter here our bodies crave warmer foods. Stews and soups warm up our cold bones. Making your own bone broth is very easy and a healthier option than store bought stock to use as a base for your winter dishes.

You may have heard about bone broth. It seems to be the new health “thing” being talked about right now but people have been making it for many years. Bone broth is different from stock. The bones are cooked a lot longer to get all the beneficial nutrients out of the bones. Bone broth is rich in anti-inflammatory nutrients, minerals, and collagen so it is good for gastrointestinal issues, bones, and joint health. Bone broth is thicker than stock too. Some people heat and drink bone broth by itself, I prefer to use it in my soups and stews.beef bones, carrots, celery and onions in a pot

Use only the bones from grass-fed/free range animals who are not given hormones or antibiotics. It is best to make large batches to freeze and use later. I also save and freeze bones to make my broth at a later time. It is also okay to mix different types of bones together.

After I make a large batch I fill large freezer bags with broth, removing as much air as possible. I then lay them flat on a cookie sheet to freeze, this makes the bags easy to stack and saves room in the freezer. You can also pour broth to freeze in ice cube trays to be used in quick stir frys or vegetable dishes.

Here is my simple recipe for bone broth:

Cook time – Poultry / fish bones 24 hours – Beef, lamb, pork bones 48 hours

You can either cook your broth in a crock pot or on the stove. A crock pot might be better if you are doing meat bones that need to cook 48 hours. I don’t feel comfortable leaving something cooking on the stove that long but that is up to you.

Place the bones in the pot and cover the bones with water and 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (this will help to draw the minerals and collagen from the bones) add sea salt, carrots, onions, celery and various herbs, I like parsley and thyme. Simmer for the time listed above.

After the time is up, remove bones and let broth cool. Strain with a fine mesh strainer into containers. Put what you will be using within 4-5 days in an air tight container in the refrigerator. Freeze the rest. Simple, healthy, and will save you money.  Enjoy

 

How Will You Be Remembered?

What will be said at your memorial?

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Is a quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin

We will all be faced with death at some point. Some people fear it, some embrace it. There are many beliefs on what happens to us after death, but we need to put our focus on living instead.

I have unfortunately been faced with two sudden and untimely deaths in the last month. While spending time with my family and sitting through the funeral and memorial for one of my beloved uncles, I started to wonder, “What would people say about me at my memorial?”

At my uncle’s service the same character traits were mentioned time and time again. He was a

Health Work Career Friends Signpost Shows Life And Lifestyle Balance

loving and giving man. He devoted his life to caring for family. He took care of his aging parents and raised several great-nieces and nephews. Nothing was mentioned of how successful he was at his job, how much money he made, or what kind of car he drove. Things we put so much importance on, but truly in the scheme of things, don’t mean much at all.

My memories of my uncle involved the time he spent with me and my other cousins. He was only 13 years older than me so when I was young he was in his late teens early 20’s. When we came to visit he spent time with us. He took us horseback riding, participated in Easter egg hunts, even took us out when he had errands to run, we had fun, even if it was just a drive to the dump. We didn’t sit around and watch TV, we all spent time together, we ate together, we laughed together. As I look at our current teens and 20 something year olds, time is spent staring at screens. There is no conversation, no being out in nature, very little family time that doesn’t involve a screen of some sort.

Both of these men that were taken from this world too soon put their loved ones first. This is the memory left for the family. Time and laughter are free.

We live in a world that puts “things” above people. We work long hours, we have other people raising our children, and we don’t eat meals together. Our children have a long list of afterschool activities and are used to eating many of their meals in the car. We are all running on adrenaline, exhausted, and stressed. Is this really living? What are we modeling for our children? What is the cost to our health?

It is ok to work hard and be successful, but don’t let it consume you. Be there for your friends and family when they need you. Don’t make your partner or children feel they are second to your career. Make those memories now. We don’t know how much time we have with the ones we love, don’t take time for granted. Leave your friends and loved ones with wonderful things to say about you when you are gone. My wish for you is that it is later rather than sooner.

 

There is how much sugar in that???

There are definitely times when having a health coach for a mom isn’t too much fun for my tween daughter. She has however, become very aware of what she puts into her body and is an avid label reader. I am very proud of how far she has come and has embraced eliminating so many harmful chemicals from her diet. Right now she is on a Brussels sprouts kick. We have to have them every night! Her sugar consumption has been cut way down. We all know cutting sugar completely from a diet, especially for a kid, is next to impossible. She is still a kid and is still swayed by colorful advertising at times.

Our biggest challenges rise when we go out to eat. There are no nutrition labels to read, so the awareness she has at the grocery store is lost at a restaurant. I am sure you can relate to this in your own restaurant habits.

During a recent shopping trip my daughter wanted to stop at the conveniently located Starbucks inside our local Target. She has seen all the latest advertising on the new flavors of Frappuccinos that just came out. It was hot outside, she was probably a little hungry, and most likely dehydrated from not drinking enough water that day. The perfect storm for a poor eating choice. Does this scenario sound familiar? That pretty pink Cotton Candy flavor was calling her name. Me, being the health coach mom that I am, decided to pull up the Starbucks website to look at the nutrition label of that pretty pink frosty beverage. I knew it wouldn’t be good but was shocked at how bad it was. Inside that 16 oz of pink coldness was 430 calories, 16 g of fat, 250 mg of sodium, and 66 g of sugar! That is over 16 1/2 teaspoons of sugar. Would you willingly pour out over 16 teaspoons of sugar and place it in a bowl in front of your child and tell them to eat it? Would you knowingly sit and eat that much sugar in one sitting, spoonful after spoonful? I am not even mentioning all the artificial colors, flavors and other various chemicals that they don’t tell you are inside. Needless to say, this mom said no to the plastic cup full of pink sugar.

So for fun I decided to look up the other flavors that kids and adults might be attracted to:

Cupcake Creme – 16 oz

420 calories, 16 g fat, 240 mg sodium, 63 g of sugar or about 16 teaspoons

Red Velvet Cake – 16 oz

480 calories, 18 g fat, 260 mg sodium, 70 g of sugar or about 17 1/2 teaspoons

And the winning flavor of almost making me drop my phone in horror was………..

Cinnamon Roll – 16 oz

510 calories, 16 g fat, 250 mg sodium, and a whopping 85 g of sugar!!!  That is a little more than 21 teaspoons of sugar or almost 1/2 cup!!! My stomach hurts just thinking about it.

According to the World Health Organization, the daily recommended intake of sugar for an adult is 25 grams or 6 teaspoons. So that one drink, that you might buy without even a second thought, contains about 1/4 of your recommended daily calorie intake, and more than 3 times the amount of sugar you should eat for an entire day! What if you bought one of these drinks each week all summer long? You would be adding an extra pound of sugar to your diet each month. That is just one drink a week. You do the math for each additional drink a week. It should scare you! Combine this with all the other sugar you are consuming in things like soda, yogurt, candy, breakfast cereal, cookies, plus the sugar that is hidden in things like tomato sauce, energy bars, and salad dressing to name a few, and you can just imagine how many pounds of sugar you and your family are consuming on a weekly basis. It is not surprising that we are faced with an obesity and diabetes crisis in this country. Our children are fighting chronic diseases that were unheard of several years ago. When I was in elementary school, you could count on one hand the number of obese kids in our school. Visit any school in the US now and you would lose count.

Pile Of Sugar Cubes Rotated

Bottom line – When you are eating in a restaurant ask questions, ask to see nutrition information or use the power of Google before you order anything.

If you truly need a pick-me-up, order an iced coffee so you can control what goes inside. If your child is bugging you for something cold and sweet then try a frozen yogurt. Limit the portion size to about 1/2 cup or less and say no to toppings. The sugar content would roughly be around 17 g.

I understand fully how hard it is to say no to your kids. My daughter would get mad at me all the time when I put my foot down on certain food items. Now it has become a way of life. She has noticed the change in how she feels without being pumped full of chemicals and sugar. She is not completely deprived of “junk” food, we are just very selective on what gets bought. Yes, there is ice cream in our house, but it is one with very limited ingredients and the portion size is limited too. Learn to set limits for yourself and your family. You need to set the example for your children. Remember, it is okay to say no to your children.

 

 

“Skinny Bitch”

 

Whoever coined the phrase “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” was wrong. Has anyone ever said something to you that stuck with you for years?

Growing up I was painfully “skinny” a word I hate. People would point out the obvious to me all the time. Yes, I know I look like a skeleton, gee thanks. I would love to “put some meat on my bones” if I could. It was constant. I hated how I looked and I was reminded of everything I hated about myself all the time. People didn’t equate calling me a skeleton to calling an overweight person a beached whale. One was okay to say to someone’s face, the other behind the person’s back.

For whatever reason the one incident that sticks out in my memory the most came from an angry stranger in a department store. I was in my early 20’s and a girl about the same age walked past me with a look of hatred in her face, looked me in the eyes and said “skinny bitch” and walked away. Why did my boney body cause her so much anger? I wondered if she ever felt regret for those words. Does she even remember saying them? Does she now have a daughter who hates herself so much she tries to hurt others with her words? Well it is 27 or so years later and I can still see her angry face and the face of her friend that laughed at me. Words do hurt.

As I got older I made peace with my body. I also finally did manage to put some meat on my bones. For several years it was a little too much meat around the middle. If someone walked by and called me a skinny bitch today I would turn to them and say “Why thank you for noticing, not bad for 49 right!” Smile and walk away.

Now I have a beautiful 12 year old daughter. I choose my words very carefully about her appearance. I try to put more emphasis on her character than on her looks. What we say to our children will shape their feelings about themselves for years to come. Make sure you are teaching your kids to be healthy, happy, grown-ups who love themselves.reflections

Our girls today are comparing themselves to photoshopped ideals of beauty. I was made fun of for being a size 0, now it is the unrealistic goal. Our girls need to be taught that not everyone can be a size 0. They may have a body type that will never be society’s idea of thin or maybe like me, they feel they are too thin. Bottom line, if they are healthy and active, the number on the scale or their dress size isn’t as important as how they feel about themselves. Our children should never have to feel shame for how they look. Yes, childhood obesity is on the rise and we as parents and those of us in the health field need to address it, but we need to do it with support and compassion. Making your child feel guilt or shame for what they put into their mouth could lead to an eating disorder later in life.

Constant deprivation diets don’t teach them how to eat. They are all about what not to eat. What do you think will likely happen when they are on their own? They will rebel, they will want to take back that control that was taken from them. They may binge eat or use food to soothe the hurt they felt as a child.

A few years ago my daughter had a friend who lived in a house where no sugar of any kind was allowed. (I didn’t know this at the time) The first time she came to our house she went sugar crazy. She drank a whole container of apple juice, grabbed anything she could find with sugar and gorged herself. She rebelled. She had an unhealthy relationship with sugar. Can you relate?

This is why deprivation diets do not work. You may lose weight quickly but 9 times out of 10 the weight will come back and then some. You then feel like a failure, beat yourself up, and your self-esteem drops further. Then you repeat the process over and over.

As parents we need to teach our children to love themselves, heavy or thin. Don’t point out the negatives, they know those already. Dwell on the positive. We need to lead by example. Watch what you say about yourself in front of your child. If you self-deprecate yourself in front of your child, she will take notice. The media is fixated on the looks of those in the public eye. Who got fat, who is too thin, who looks old, and who had work done to not look old. The focus is always on the physical. Your child needs to not see you do the same thing.loveyourself

If you do have a child that is overweight and wants to make a change, work together without guilt or shame to evaluate what changes can be made. Small changes can make a big difference. Maybe it is just removing soda from everyone’s diet, or if you find yourself at the drive-thru several times a week, cut your visits in half. Go for a walk after dinner as a family. Talk to each other rather than stare at screens all night. Ask about each other’s day. Maybe an upcoming test at school or project at work is causing stress. Talk it through, support each other, and make time for one another. Healthy happy relationships with those around you will do wonders for your individual health and how you feel about yourself. Genuinely complement each other. Slip an encouraging note into a lunch box or brief case.

Make it a point to send a different person an encouraging message each week. We don’t complement each other’s character enough. It is easy to say nice shoes, or love your hair, but it takes more time and thought to tell someone what makes them a great friend or person. That type of complement carries more meaning and will guarantee to make their day, week, or maybe even their month! Your words may be just what they needed to get out of a dark place in their life.

I was privileged to get two such messages last week. I stood a little straighter and had more confidence as a result. It was a great feeling. One message came from a woman I only spent a few hours with at dinner. A stranger I had never met prior to that night. How special that she took the time to email me after we met with such a positive uplifting message about my inner beauty.

We need to live our lives not as a competition with one another but let’s lift each other up – love one another. Don’t call each other names. Let’s teach our children to not bring someone else down to lift themselves up. We are only on this earth for a short time, let’s make a positive impact on those around us.

 

Help for Your Junk Food Loving Kid

We all want our kids to grow up happy and healthy. We give them tons of love and attention and try to make happy memories for them to reflect on later in life. We take them on fabulous vacations, buy them the latest new electronics, or the tennis shoes all the other kids have, and clothing from the “it” store of the moment. All to make them “happy.”

Are you putting the same amount of energy into what they eat? Are you helping them to create the healthy habits they need for optimal health later in life that will also be passed down to future generations? What you feed your kids and the eating habits they form now will impact their own children’s genes. We have all heard “You are what you eat,” well your future kids and grandkids are also what you eat. What you feed your children will set them up for either a wonderful happy healthy life or one that results in chronic illness and health concerns later. With the increases in childhood obesity and diabetes, as well as behavior related issues, we need to really look at what we are putting into our children’s bodies.

That meal you just picked up at the drive-thru may have saved you some time but at what cost for your child? The same is true with that box of macaroni and cheese or that frozen kid dinner. If these are the eating patterns for your family on a consistent basis you need to take the initiative now to change.

Bambina golosa dei dolci

Everywhere we turn we are being exposed to advertising for fast food, processed foods, and unhealthy restaurants. Our kids are easy swayed by these bright ads with cartoon characters and of course these same foods are right at children’s eye level in grocery stores. Now your little one is begging you for that sugary cereal loaded with artificial colorings and preservatives she saw a commercial for while watching Nick Jr. You are faced with a choice, give in, (the label does claim to be a source of whole grains, that can’t be all bad, right?) or say no and wait for the tantrum. I am a mom, I have been there. I have given in and have been swayed by the false claims of items being “all natural” “a good source of vitamins and minerals” and countless of other empty claims we find on product labels. Convincing myself I was giving my daughter something kind of healthy.

So what is a parent to do?

First is to make changing how you feed your family a priority and you lead by example. The do as I say, not as I do approach will not work. Neither will going in like a drill sergeant and throwing out all the food in your house and declaring that from this day forward nobody in your house will ever eat sugar again. This will not work and you will fail. In my own home this was a slow process and had to be based on how my daughter deals with change. Your child may not resist change as much as mine and you can remove most of the chemically laden food from their diet all at once, if so go for it.  I made her a partner in what was happening. We started small and worked up to a diet with a high percentage of whole foods. Ideally you would stop buying all refined processed foods, but if your family’s diet is made up of a large percentage of processed packaged foods you will probably need to ease into the transition as we did.  Our first step was getting rid of that blue box of macaroni and cheese that is pretty much in every family’s pantry. (I will go into more detail of food additives and what they are doing to our children’s generation in another post, but bottom line, get that out of your house ASAP) With my daughter as a partner we bought the Annie’s brand in the organic food aisle. It is still a processed food and ideally you will be removing most of that from your house but this was a decent first step for her. As my daughter became more product label savvy she made the decision on her own to remove macaroni and cheese from a box from her diet. I gave her the power and she eventually came to the proper conclusion.

Find your first steps that will work for your family. My recommendation is to first find alternatives to any brightly colored processed foods. If the color is listed on the product label as a number and not a natural food source stop buying it. There are many good organic alternatives out there if they just have to eat those cheese puffs.  You can also try making cheesy kale chips, my picky daughter loves them.  Another first step I recommend is to stop buying soda. If you or your child is drinking just one can of soda a day that is an additional 39lbs of sugar you are adding to your diets in a year. Your child may not even weigh 39lbs! Remember, you are what you eat. Drinking diet soda is not a better option. It has chemicals far worse for you than sugar. Get rid of all soda. Water is obviously the best option. If they want it a little sweeter add some fruit, if they like carbonation use sparkling water. Which brings me to fruit juices, sports drinks and flavored water. Read the labels and look at the sugar content per serving. These are not healthier alternatives to soda. My daughter asked me to buy her a Vitamin Water. Judging by the marketing on the outside it seemed like a good to choice in her mind, then we looked at the label together. It had more grams of sugar than a soda. Come up with alternatives together. You can make your own lemonade with fresh lemon juice, water, and honey. Avoid using refined white sugar. I use coconut crystals, turbinado sugar (washed raw sugar), honey, or pure maple syrup as a sweetener in place of white sugar in our house.

Small changes like these, and having the conversation with you child on why it is important to make some changes, will get you on the way to bigger changes down the road. Being mindful of what you are buying is key. If you kids love hot dogs and just won’t give them up, switch to organic turkey dogs without nitrates or fillers, if they have to have cereal in the morning look at options in the organic aisle. I recommend Envirokids made by Natures Path. They have replacements to the usual cereals kids ask for. Natures Path also makes an alternative to PopTarts.

These recommendations are for processed foods to processed food exchanges. The goal is to start eliminating as much processed food as you possibly can from everyone in your home’s diet. Making a lifestyle change is what will accomplish this. Are you a take-out kind of family? Then set a goal of cooking 3 nights a week then increase it from there. Get the kids involved with meal prep, make it fun, and they will more likely eat what they cook. Make smoothies for everyone for breakfast. Throw frozen fruit, coconut water, a plant based vanilla protein powder, maybe some spinach or kale, some plain Greek yogurt and a little orange juice in a blender. Breakfast can be done for the whole family in just minutes.  Have cut up fruit, cheese, and veggies on hand for quick snacks. Stop buying potato chips and pop real popcorn in a pan and put real melted butter on top. Kids love the experience and you are avoiding the chemicals found in microwave popcorn. Get everyone out of the habit of mindless eating and into the habit of mindful eating. Mindless eating is sitting in front of the TV with a bag of chips not realizing how much you are eating or eating out of boredom. Another thing to address is eating when upset, this will lead to other problems with food down the line. Mindful eating is eating when you are hungry, sitting at a table with a portion poured in a bowl or on a plate, it is having dinner as a family, being thankful for the food in front of you, and taking your time to eat and enjoy your food.

We have a “try a new food each week” policy at our house. Some are hits and some are misses but the key word is try. Get creative and put vegetables in old favorites. Add broccoli or cauliflower to mashed potatoes, throw some spinach in your pasta, you get the idea. The key is getting your kids involved in the process, make it fun. When I work with families I have games for the kids. These games are there to expose them to new foods, to open their awareness to life beyond pizza, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and macaroni and cheese.

As always I am here to help. If you need assistance getting your family on the road to health or just need a tour of the grocery store to teach you how to read labels and make better choices please contact me.

 

 

Lessons From a Dog

We have three dogs in our house. With the progression of time, all three are getting to be seniors. Makara, one of our two Rhodesian Ridgebacks, is our oldest.  She will be turning 10 this year.

Back in early November, we noticed an open wound on her back leg knee joint, when she came in from playing outside. We immediately took her to the emergency vet hospital. They cleaned it and did x rays. Little did we know that day would start a long journey of conflicting medical information, and a long road to recovery that is still going on almost 4 months later.

The flesh in the wound on her leg started to grow outwards, and became a large mass that kept growing, preventing the skin around the would from healing. We were referred to a specialist who did a biopsy that came back inconclusive. They didn’t know what was happening, but assuming the worst, and that it would never heal, they recommended amputating her leg. She did not seem to be in pain, walked without issue, and was even laying on the leg without concern – but they wanted to cut it off.

We went for a second opinion from a veterinary oncologist. They did more tests, but found no clear evidence of cancer or tumorous tissue.  The oncologist was conflicted, and got additional opinions from his colleagues, but in the end they also recommended amputation. From their perspective, with their traditional training and experience, it was the only sure action that would make the wound go away.

My gut was telling me this was not the right thing to do. Why should we jump straight to such a drastic action and remove a working leg? I did more research and found a vet who specialized in holistic medicine, as well as traditional veterinary medicine. She examined her, reviewed all the previous tests, and came to the conclusion it was not a tumor and could possibly be just a foreign body embedded deep in her leg, causing a tissue reaction. She recommended surgery to remove the mass, and some alternate therapies to promote healing. She saw no reason to amputate her leg.

Makara had her surgery. It has been a long healing process. Unfortunately her wound is right on the leg joint, and with constant movement, the stitches would not hold. We have been wrapping it very thickly, like a cast, to limit the movement. I have been using manuka honey and adding turmeric and medicinal mushroom supplements to her food. We are finally seeing the healing begin! We probably still have a few more weeks to go but for the first time in several months we see progress. mick2

Why am I telling this story? I have had a similar experience with medical doctors and I am sure you have too. They spend 5 minutes with you, ask a limited number of questions, and do most of the talking. In the end, rather than trying to figure out the cause of your symptoms, they prescribe a pill to mask them, or a drastic surgery. Several years ago I had several chronic symptoms and was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I was given various medications that either didn’t help or made me sicker with the side effects. My quality of life was terrible.

I finally decided as a last resort to seek out a holistic practitioner. He got to the cause of the symptoms. The horrible pain and exhaustion I was experiencing were all related to stress and my diet. With a few lifestyle changes, I was back to normal relatively quickly. I am not telling you not to see a doctor, but you need to be your own advocate. It is ok to ask questions, demand answers, or get a second or third opinion. I recommend seeking out a doctor that practices functional or integrative medicine. They are focused on figuring out the root cause of your illness not just giving you a pill and send you on your way. A functional doctor will actually spend time talking to you to learn more about your lifestyle, diet, career, things that could help give them clues to help find what may be the underlying cause of your illness. They also might suggest meeting with a health coach like myself to help you make the lifestyle changes you need to make to facilitate your healing process. A health coach will spend an hour with you a few times a month asking you the right questions, and really listening to what you have to say to develop a personalized plan to get you on the road to health. The benefit of hiring a health coach is becoming more widely accepted by the medical community. Insurance companies and large corporations are also seeing the benefit of this service. Below is a video explaining Functional Medicine in more detail.

If you are interested in learning more about what I do, or how I could help you reach your health goals, send me a message. We can set up a free 50 minute initial consultation.

 

 

Healthy Eating on a Budget

There is a preconceived idea that in order to change your diet to a healthy diet, your grocery bill will increase. This doesn’t have to be the case. If your idea of a healthy diet is changing from prepackaged convenience food to organic prepackaged convenience food, then yes your grocery bill will increase.  But that is not the only option.

So let’s start with defining what a “healthy diet” is. What to eat doesn’t have to be overwhelming. We are bombarded with dietary information, most of it conflicting and confusing. Michael Pollan pretty much sums it up when he says “Eat food, not too much. Mostly plants.” And “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” My basic definition of a healthy diet is to eat real food. You will learn to fine tune what to eat based on your own body’s individuality.

Next, add up your current food costs. Not just your grocery bill, but your family’s daily trips to the local coffee house, vending machines, take-out orders, and restaurant meals. You may be surprised how much you are actually spending. You may be spending over $60 a month on just your morning coffee stop, not to mention the days those overpriced muffins or pastries caught you in a weak moment. If you bought fair trade organic coffee and brewed your own each day you could save over $40 a month. That is just changing one behavior, imagine how much you could save in a month changing three! Now you have some extra $ to buy the organic pasture-raised eggs, vegetables, grass-fed meat, etc. and you will still come out ahead.

Other ways to trim your food bill while still buying organic responsibly grown and raised food:

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  • Cut back on the prepackaged convenience food. Buy loose greens not the prewashed ones in the bag. Cut up your own vegetables, don’t buy the precut ones. Shred your own cheese.
  • You do not have to eat meat every day. Make dishes a few days a week using quinoa, lentils, or beans for protein.  Throw in various vegetables and add avocado or nuts for healthy fats. Experiment and have fun trying new things. Lentils are great because they don’t need to be presoaked and they cook fairly quickly.
  • Buy the whole chicken. You can get several meals out of one roasted chicken plus make your own stock to be used for soups and other dishes later. Make sure you purchase organic free range chicken. I plan to write a whole post on factory farmed meat vs organic at a later date.
  • Buy frozen fruits and vegetables when on sale and stock up. Then there isn’t an excuse for not having a vegetable with your meal.
  • Buy locally grown produce and buy what is in season. It is better for you and the environment. If you are lucky enough to live in an area where you can join a CSA do so, or better yet grow your own. It is a fun activity for the whole family. Your kids will be more inclined to eat the vegetables if they planted them.
  • Eating foods high in fiber will help you to eat less because you will feel full faster, plus it will balance your blood sugar.
  • Get familiar with EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen for a list of produce you should always buy organic, and which ones you can buy conventionally grown. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php
  • Prepare meals ahead of time. If you plan ahead then you are less likely to grab take-out after a long day.

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Planning ahead is probably the hardest thing for most families to do. It is for me. Make it a goal to eat more meals at home. Pick a night you know you will have time to prepare several meals for the week ahead. Make it a priority. Plan menus so you can get several meals out of only cooking once. You will benefit by having a less stressful eating experience and the ability to spend time enjoying your family.

  • Make a large pot of brown rice or quinoa to have on hand to add various proteins and vegetables to during the week.
  • Hard boil some organic eggs and keep in the refrigerator for a quick snack or add to a salad.
  • Keep healthy snack options in the house, natural peanut butter and apples, nuts, carrots, hummus, yogurt etc. These are more filling healthier options than eating a bag of chips.
  • If you don’t own a slow cooker, buy one. If you own one, use it! The slow cooker is your friend. You can throw a handful of ingredients in and walk away, and if your family is small you just made dinner for two nights.

Bottom line, cooking real and healthy food doesn’t have to be complicated and expensive. It doesn’t require exotic ingredients you can’t find in your local grocery store. It just takes some planning and a commitment from you to do it for yourself and your family.

If you need help with meal planning, or just feel lost in the grocery store and don’t know what to buy to make healthy meals, please contact me. I would love to help you out.