Category Archives: health


Building healthy habits with food journaling

5 Key Benefits Of Keeping A Food Journal

If you’re trying to lose weight, improve your health, or prevent disease, you must to take a closer look what you’re eating (and what you’re not). And there is no better way than keeping a food journal.

In fact, I require all of my clients to keep food journal. And here are my top 5 reasons why:

Compares Perceptions to Reality

Keeping a food journal is truly the only way to determine whether or not your perceptions match reality. Many people think they’re eating healthy, but often find it eye opening when they see their food intake on paper. Because it’s not just about what you eat. It’s also about your eating habits.

Helps to Improve Your Diet

When you keep track of what you eat, you get a more detailed picture regarding your nutritional intake. For instance, are you eating enough protein? Are you eating too much sugar? Is your diet lacking sources of healthy fats?

Thus, you can use your food journal to help create a more balanced and nutrient-rich meal plan. And this will help you look and feel your best.

Helps Break Unhealthy Eating Habits

A good food journal keeps tracks of what you eat, but also how much you eat and when you eat.

You might learn that you eat more when you’re dining with others than solo. Or, maybe you’ll notice you always reach for sugar in the mid-afternoon. Seeing these patterns will help you make the necessary changes to break any bad habits.

For example, maybe you need to be more mindful when eating out with friends. Or, maybe you need a more balanced lunch to ward off your 3:00 PM sugar craving.

Identifies Potential Food Allergies, Sensitivities, & Intolerances

Even the healthiest foods can wreak havoc on some. Thus, for weight loss and optimal health, it’s really important to learn what foods work for you and what foods don’t.

Food allergies involve the immune system and reactions typically occur within two hours. On the other hand, non-immune related food sensitivities and intolerances are much more common and their reactions are usually delayed (up to 48 hours). Thus, they’re much more difficult to detect.  

However, using a food journal allows you to look back at your food intake should you start experiencing unexplained symptoms.

In some cases a food journal might help you realize that cheese causes you to bloat, which may be a sign of a dairy sensitivity or lactose intolerance.

Common symptoms of food sensitivities and intolerances include:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Excess mucus
  • Nervousness
  • Hyperactivity
  • Mood swings
  • Itchy or dry skin
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Dark circles under eyes
  • Night sweats
  • Food cravings
  • Acne
  • Brain fog

Connects the Dots Between Food and Your Health

What we eat affects every aspect of our physical and mental health. We can’t expect to eat poorly and feel great. Some foods may energize you, while others drain you. And some foods may lift your spirits, while others weigh you down.

Thus, by examining your food journal, you can learn a lot about how food affects YOUR body and mind. And once you connect these dots, I guarantee reaching your health goals will be much easier.

Food Journaling Tips

Food journaling may seem time consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. While you certainly can carry your journal around with you, you can also take a picture of your meals and snacks with your phone and send them to your self with notes about your energy level and mood before and you ate. Then, each night before bed you can use your photos and notes to complete the food journal.

In Conclusion…

Keeping a food journal is one of the best strategies you can implement to help improve your diet, break bad eating habits, prevent disease, and successfully achieve all your health and wellness goals.

So what are you waiting for? Download a free copy of the food journal I use with my clients are start tracking your progress today!

 

 

The Gratitude Issue

“To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude.” -Albert Schweitzer

I thought I would write about gratitude.  Mostly because that’s what’s on my mind right now.  We’re at that annual cusp from old year to new.  That time when so many people make resolutions, often unrealistic and undefined.  And by doing so set themselves up to feel bad about themselves later.  There are a number of studies that show how beneficial a gratitude practice can be, mentally, emotionally, and physically, to support our overall health and wellness.  

The gratitude jar

I believe anytime is a perfect time to think about gratitude.  But I especially love this ritual that I’ve built up over time around creating an abundance of gratitude in my life.

For the past few years I’ve had a jar sitting next to my desk in my office.  When I have a moment of gratitude (and it can be for anything, not specifically for work, personal, others in my life) I write it down on a little scrap of paper and throw it in the jar.  I confess that I try to find colorful scraps of paper because it’s more fun that way.  I don’t go back through the jar throughout the year, I just keep filling it up.

Come New Year’s Eve while I’m waiting for the countdown, I open the jar and empty it out.  I unfold all those pieces of paper and savor reading them one by one.  I do this by myself, but you may choose to do it with friends or family members too.  It can be fun if it’s a group jar or if several people bring their jars and go through them together.

I find I do remember many of them, but what always strikes me is the number of things that I forgot about.  Every. Single. Year.  These are moments I was grateful for when they happened, but in the hustle and bustle of everyday life they slipped into the back of my memory and got buried there.   In opening this jar and going through them, I am grateful for those moments again.  

Some people write all of their gratitudes down in a book that they keep from year to year.  I have another friend who glues down all her little scraps into a composition book of gratitude.  I don’t do any of those things, mine go into the compost bin.  But I truly love this ritual look back over the year.  This ability in spite of any challenges or low moments we may have faced to see so many wonderful things.  So many reasons to be grateful.  

Once the jar is empty it almost seems to sparkle as I set it next to my desk to begin again.  And it brings hope and a cheerful spirit as I anticipate the year ahead.  

Cultivating a habit of gratitude

Being grateful doesn’t always come easy.  For some reason we are surrounded by a culture (and a news media) that brings out the worst in us.  Often we get so overwhelmed that we allow the negative things to strongly influence how we percieve what is happening around us.  Amidst the explosions of stress, worry, and overwhelming circumstance, the little sparks of gratitude can sometimes get lost.  Just as we learn to read and write and do any of the other things we’ve learned to do in life, so too we need to learn to cultivate the habit of gratitude.  

Below are some of my favorite resources and  articles on the topic.  I am not going to lie and tell you that I live in that blissed out place that is continual gratitude.  I don’t.  I sometimes struggle to get there, to get anywhere close to being grateful.  And yet I know I have to very much to be grateful for.

Yes we can get overwhelmed, sometimes we get lost.  But I have come to believe that by remembering that concept of gratitude and by trying to pay attention to it I am happier overall.  And so I’ve collected these resources and I have my ritual of the gratitude jar.  I’m excited and looking forward to what this new year will bring.

As we transition to another year I hope that whatever the year ahead holds for you it also brings happiness, health, contentment, and peace.

Gratitude resources

How To Be Grateful To People We Don’t Like – Learning to look at negative situations and focus on the good things we have can help us achieve a transformational shift. Admittedly this is not always easy to do, but sometimes having a resource we can turn to the guide us toward this can be helpful.

Gratefulness.org – A wonderful website offering videos, audios, articles, a virtual labyrinth, and virtual candles you can light. This is one of my favorite resources.

How Gratitude Can Change Your Life – A good article about gratitude with some information about how studies showing how it can improve your life.

Why Living a Life of Gratitude Can Make You Happy – A few suggestions for ways to add a gratitude practice to your life.

Stumbling Toward Gratitude – The end of this article sums it up well, ” There are no miracles. … There are no long-term quick fixes for happiness, so if you become a more grateful person and you add [these] exercises to your repertoire, you’ll be different six months or a year from now.”

9 Ways To Cultivate Gratitude – Nine suggestions for ways to cultivate gratitude (and avoid focusing on criticism or complaints)

A Serving of Gratitude May Save The Day – This New York Times article has some great suggestions and offers gentle ways to get started

And here’s a video on gratitude that I found moving.  Thanks to my Aunt for sharing it just when I needed it.

How Gratitude Affects the Human Body

From Visually.

Avoid Sugar If You Have A Cold

 

I just spoke with a friend, Sarah, who is feeling a little under the weather.  She’s got a bad cold and is generally not feeling well.  She wanted to know if there was anything she could take in addition to orange juice and tea to help her feel better.

Where to get your vitamin C

Most people reach for orange juice when they’ve got a cold.  They’re thinking they need vitamin C and this is their best source.  It’s been shown that vitamin C can prove beneficial in lessening the duration of a cold.  One particular study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that cold and flu symptoms could be reduced by as much as 85% with the administration of megadoses of vitamin C.
 
But orange juice is actually not your best choice.  Yes, vitamin C boosts the immune system, but sugar suppresses it and there’s a lot of sugar in orange juice (approximately 22g per 8 ounces). Even eating fruit is not necessarily recommended as the fruit sugars will still work to suppress your immune system.  If taking vitamin C in supplemental form you’ll need to take several doses through out the day as our bodies don’t tend to absorb more than 1,000 mg at a time.
 
Good non-fruit food sources of vitamin C (not in order of nutrient density) include Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, swiss chard, collard greens, spinach, winter squash and green peas.  There are others but these tend to be the highest.

Cold remedies

Other good choices for supporting the system are zinc lozenges and elderberry syrup.  Long considered to be folk remedies, these are being studied for their effectiveness in supporting cold symptoms.
 
According to one study published in the journal BioMed Central:
 
Zinc acetate lozenges shortened the duration of nasal discharge by 34% (95% CI: 17% to 51%), nasal congestion by 37% (15% to 58%), sneezing by 22% (−1% to 45%), scratchy throat by 33% (8% to 59%), sore throat by 18% (−10% to 46%), hoarseness by 43% (3% to 83%), and cough by 46% (28% to 64%). Zinc lozenges shortened the duration of muscle ache by 54% (18% to 89%), but there was no difference in the duration of headache and fever.
 
Another study published in Nutrients which looked at air travelers and cold symptoms, cold duration, and symptoms found:
 
Placebo group participants had a significantly longer duration of cold episode days (117 vs. 57, p = 0.02) and the average symptom score over these days was also significantly higher (583 vs. 247, p = 0.05). These data suggest a significant reduction of cold duration and severity in air travelers.

Traditional hygiene and wellness strategies

These still apply.  We know them but sometimes we get a little lazy.  During cold and flu season be sure to protect your health by incorporating the following:

  • Wash hands, especially after shaking hands or touching door knobs, elevator buttons or stair rails. 
  • Get enough sleep.  Lack of sleep can contribute significantly to reduced immune function
  • Go outdoors.  Fresh air and sunshine are an important part of wellness.  Although we do not get as much vitamin D from the sun in the winter, we’re still making serotonin which can help with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
  • Drink up.  Include soups, fresh juices, and herbal teas to stay hydrated and keep your system functioning well.
  • Eating a colorful diet.  In the winter we have a need for certain nutrients found in the seasonal vegetables.  These would include dark leafy greens and winter squashes.  

Ingesting Essential Oils

Benefits of essential oils

As we grow and learn we come across new information.  Sometimes this information contradicts what we learned before. I want to take a moment and share my revised thinking on the use of essential oils.  I believe this update is important and want to not only share what it is, but my research and thinking on the matter.
 
Essential oils are amazing.  These volatile aromatic plant elements, distilled from seeds, stems, bark, root, leaves, or flowers, are a form of aromatherapy.  Growing in usage and popularity it’s becoming more common to hear of people using the oils for a wide variety of applications.  I use them personally and have enjoyed the benefits of their supportive properties.  
 
  1. For calming and stress relieving benefits
  2. To soothe and warm muscles after a workout
  3. For an aromatic and invigorating lift
  4. To maintain clear airways and support breathing
  5. To soothe occasional skin irritations
  6. To use for a restful night’s sleep
  7. To reduce the appearance of blemishes
  8. To reduce bloating or occasional indigestion
We have incorporated them into our home, take small travel kits with us when we are on the road, and feel that we have personally benefitted from their use.  Additionally, I help others learn how to use essential oils and the feedback I get from them is that they enjoy using them and also find them to be helpful.  
 
This post is not a discussion of which brand of essential oils is better (and believe me there are a lot of them out there).  It’s also not a sales post, I’m not asking you to buy oils from me or from any supplier.  I’m also not endorsing any particular brand, seller, or distribution method.  I do, however, want to share what I believe to be very important information with you.  

In the beginning when I first began to use essential oils I learned that it was okay to use them internally.  So I did; I also suggested that others do the same thing.  Fortunately no one was hurt by this.  However the more I learned about essential oils the more I began to understand how potent they really are.  In response I limited which ones I was open to taking internally, severely reducing the number of oils that I was comfortable with using in this manner.  I was vocal with my family and others about not indiscriminately taking a wide range of oils internally.

At this point I’ve learned more information.  Therefore the reason I’ve written this post is that I have changed my mind completely and no longer suggest or support taking any oils internally.  I have come to this viewpoint from several different sources:

Conversations about essential oils

Conversations with two friends and colleagues, Heather Kaminsky and Sarah Bearden, both of whom are licensed aromatherapists and who have cautioned against taking oils internally.  Essential oils are extremely potent extracts.  For example, it takes one pound of peppermint plant matter to make one half ounce (15 ml) of essential oil.  Taking one drop internally is equivalent to drinking 28 cups of peppermint tea.  That can be very overwhelming for your system.

Both Heather and Sarah referenced the works of Robert Tisserand (recognized as one of the leading authorities on aromatherapy and essential oils). This prompted me to learn more about him and his work. I bought a number of his books and began reading them.   The more I read the more I realized that internal consumption of essential oils is not a good thing.  Many essential oils are highly antibacterial.  Taking them internally can impact your intestinal eco-system which is never a good idea.  The oils are potent enough that aromatic use and/or diluted external use (applied to the affected area or the bottoms of the feet for systemic absorption) are still highly effective.  Taking essential oils neat or undiluted should be done with caution because they are so potent.  Neat application can potentially eventually lead to overexposure and may cause you to develop a sensitivity.

Science and essential oils

Plain science.  Oil and water do not mix.  I know this.  I’m going to confess that I’m embarrassed that this never occurred to me.  I was following the advice and support of those I considered to be far more knowledgeable than I was and did not ever stop to think about or consider this for myself.  Oil and water do not mix.  Therefore adding essential oil to water and tossing it down doesn’t dilute it in any way.  It’s just a delivery system.  However essential oils by their very nature adhere to mucosal membranes.  This is part of why they are not good for your gut.  They’re also not good for your mouth or any other sensitive mucosal membranes. 

In going back through many of the scientific studies I frequently refer to regarding using essential oils (and there are quite a few of them) the most common use, by far, is aromatically, topically is next.  I find very few that suggest oral usage.  Here are just a couple of studies, two for aromatic use and one for topical:

  1. Ambient odors of orange and lavender reduce anxiety and improve mood in a dental office 
  2. The effects of lavender and rosemary essential oils on test-taking anxiety among graduate nursing students
  3. Application of orange essential oil as an antistaphylococcal agent in a dressing model

In doing my research I also looked at a couple of different aromatherapy organizations and their recommendations:

  • International Federation of Aromatherapists, “No Aromatherapist shall use essential oils for internal ingestion or internal application, nor shall any Aromatherapist advocate or promote such use of essential oils.
  • Alliance of International Aromatherapists, “AIA does not endorse internal therapeutic use (oral, vaginal or rectal) of essential oils unless recommended by a health care practitioner trained at an appropriate clinical level. An appropriate level of training must include chemistry, anatomy, diagnostics, physiology, formulation guidelines and safety issues regarding each specific internal route (oral, vaginal or rectal). Please refer to the AIA Safety Guidelines for essential oil use.”  

Furthermore it turns out that some oils are hepatotoxic, toxic for the liver; even external application is not suggested for their use.  Those oils have been banned and are not common nor easy to find.  Other oils can be dangerous when ingested.  The following essential oils should never be taken internally: Aniseed, Basil, Bay, Cassia, Cinnamon, Clove, Fennel, and Tarragon.  

In one case there is a report of “A near fatal case of high dose peppermint oil ingestion.”  

mint-1549247_1920

Although peppermint can be a supportive essential oil, when taken to excess (especially internally) it can be harmful.  It’s important to note that too much of anything can be bad for you.  If a little bit is helpful it doesn’t mean that a lot is better.  In some cases, as shown by the study listed above, too much can indeed be very harmful.  

Because I don’t want you to be concerned about the idea that peppermint oil may kill you I’d like to share the following beneficial uses:

– easing stomach aches
– easing headaches
– soothing respiratory tract function
– soothing sore muscles
– stimulating the scalp
– boosting energy and wakefulness
– cooling and supportive for reducing fever

Drink this not that

If you want the benefit of herbs and plants and want to be able to take them internally the best possible way to do this is through the use of herbal teas.  These provide far less potency than essential oils but they are no less effective.  For example, while mint essential oil may help relieve some of the pressure and discomfort related to a headache, that’s when it’s applied externally to the temples or the base of the neck.  

For internal support mint tea can also be effective as noted in this article:  Spearmint: A New Natural Antimigraine Remedy – A Personal Anecdote with Spearmint (Mentha spicata) as Migraine Prophylaxis.

Screenshot 2016-09-06 13.02.43

Other herbal teas that can be highly supportive for a variety of health needs include:

  • ginger tea – helpful to prevent or reduce the discomfort of nausea, also supportive for bloating or digestive distress
  • roiboos tea – highly antioxidant, drinking this tea may be helpful for those with eczema
  • dandelion tea – a natural support for the liver, dandelion tea is also believed to help support bile production and digestion
  • chamomile tea – well known as a calmative, this tea can be supportive for reducing stress and many people find it helpful for sleep
  • raspberry leaf tea – considered beneficial for oral health including soothing canker sores and gingivitis, it’s also believed to be supportive for anemia and leg cramps

I want to offer a caution as well.  In all cases you need to realize that just because these are plants does not mean that they are harmless.  Herbs (and other plants) and their distillations can be highly potent and may have significant impact on the body.  They cannot be taken indiscriminately.  Having said that I don’t believe that having multiple cups of herbal tea are bad for you (unless you are sensitive to any of the ingredients).  I also know, and have benefitted, from using both herbal concoctions and essential oils.  They can be used effectively but it must be done with caution.

In conclusion, I like essential oils, I have personally found them to be useful.  However I strongly advise against taking them internally. If you want to make use of the beneficial support of plants on an internal basis I would suggest you consider drinking herbal teas instead. 

Hormel’s Vital Cuisine — Ingredient Review

Food niches

Food producers like to target niche markets where they believe they can capitalize on the desire of the consumer in that group to eat according to their needs.  Categories may include diet or weight loss products, items aimed at athletes, or those who follow a particular dietary protocol such as Atkins, South Beach, Gluten Free, etc.  

The latest target niche is cancer.  Hormel Foods, in partnership with the Cancer Nutrition Consortium, has developed a line of Ready To Eat (RTE) foods aimed at those undergoing cancer treatment.  Often people in this situation experience a wide range of issues when it comes to their food.  These can include lack of appetite or a change in tastes and eating sensations.  Coupled with a lack of energy, plus the physiological changes of treatment this often leads many people undergoing cancer treatment to be undernourished.  They frequently do better with nutrient dense, higher protein meals.

What’s in the box?

Unfortunately the choices developed by Hormel Foods do not represent the best options for nutrition as many of the ingredients are less than desirable.  Some are even known to cause cancer.  This is a rather upsetting thought when one considers that the item is aimed at those going through treatment for cancer who are presumably have a weaker immune system.  Below is a slideshow highlighting examples from the Vital Cuisine line.

 

I find it astounding and rather appalling that a company would put ingredients known to cause cancer into a food product designed for those going through this very condition.  

What to eat?

As mentioned above, the best food choices for those who are undergoing treatment for cancer are real, nourishing, nutrient dense foods. I always encourage people to read the label.  When dealing with a health-care crisis this becomes even more important.  While it may be overwhelming to learn how to understand the body’s nutritional needs when dealing with cancer, there are resources out there.  A couple of my favorite books are:

Screenshot 2016-05-09 18.35.54

The Cancer Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery by Rebecca Katz

 

 

 

Screenshot 2016-05-09 18.52.18 The Whole Food Guide for Breast Cancer Survivors: A Nutritional Approach for Preventing Recurrance by Edward Bauman and Helayne Waldman

 

 

 

The idea of niche marketing for specific health conditions is quite probably a new category of foods.  Who knows, we may find ourselves seeing foods designed to support those with arthritis, gout, or ulcerative colitis on the shelf next. As always it is important to look past the hype and the labeling.  Be informed, read the label, and eat well.

Bone Broth And The Rest Of The Story

Screenshot 2016-01-10 22.10.37Many years ago I used to list to a Paul Harvey program called “The Rest Of The Story.”  In his radio show Paul Harvey would lead with some sort of a story.  But it always turned out that there was something we didn’t know.  As I recall, usually after a commercial break he would come back on air with the statement, “And now, for the rest of the story” and proceed to fill in something we didn’t know or perhaps had forgotten.  He’d end with, “And now you know the rest of the story.”

Ingredients matter

I was reminded of this the other day when an article about the benefits of broth came across my desk.  Entitled Broth Is Back the article was talking about bone broth and how wonderful it is.  It went on to give three recipes for broth, beef, chicken, and vegetable.  A quick look showed the use of apple cider vinegar in the beef broth but not in the chicken broth.  This is unfortunate because the vinegar helps to draw minerals from the bones making the broth richer and more nutritious.  The article did not specifically mention it, but it’s best if the vinegar used is raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar which has enzymes.

Then I looked more closely at the recipes and was frustrated to see that they were recommending the use of canola oil.  Canola is not a good choice as far as oils go.  Highly genetically modified (it’s one of the most modified crops we have) it’s not a great fatty acid profile.  If you want to add fat to your broth a better choice would be some of the fat from the meat, ghee, or olive oil.

Recipes

Broth is back.  It’s delicious, nutritious and so easy to make.  Adding collagen, glutamine, and a host of nutrients it’s easy to incorporate into your diet either drinking it plain or using it as the base for risottos, sauces, soups, and more.

One of my favorite ways to serve bone broth is as a miso style soup.  It’s a perfect afternoon treat.

Nourishing Broth Miso

1 cup nourishing broth – heat on stovetop
while broth is heating shred ½ a carrot
dice 1 spring onion
thinly slice 1 mushroom
add veggies to broth
add generous pinch of sea salt
add generous pinch of freshly minced parsley if desired

And if you’re looking for a variety of bone broth recipes both to make and to use the broth there’s a new book, Nourishing Broth: An Old-Fashioned Remedy for the Modern World by Sally Fallon Morell and Kaayla T. Daniel.   Starting with chapters that provide a deeper understanding of collagen, cartilage, bone and marrow, the book discusses why the addition of this nourishing food is so supportive for our system. If you’re looking for more information about broth and some creative ideas on how to incorporate it into your diet, this book would be a good addition to the bookshelf.

This is one of the delicious recipes from the book:

Breakfast Meat and Veggie Scramble

serves 2

2 tablespoons lard, duck fat, suet, butter, or ghee, or a combination, plus more if needed
8 ounces meat (i.e., shredded chicken, ground meat, sausage)
2 ups shredded or finely ied vegetables
up to ½ cup homemade broth
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Toppings:  butter, grated raw cheese, sour cream, avocado, or raw sauerkraut

Melt the fat in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat.  Add the meat and cook it until browned, about 5 minutes.  Remove the meat with a slotted spoon to a bowl.  Add additional fat to the pan if necessary.

Add the vegetables to the fat in the pan and cook until tender.  Start with onions, mushrooms, and more fibrous vegetables, and add the more tender vegetables at the end.  Add up to ½ cup bone broth, bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the meat to the vegetable mixture and cook until warmed through.  Serve with your choice of toppings.

*****

So yes, bone broth is back.  It’s not new but it’s perhaps newly rediscovered.  It’s delicious, it’s good for you, and it’s best made with a healthy fat and even chicken broth can benefit from the addition of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar.

Now you know the rest of the story.

 

Kim Kardashian Baby Weight Loss Plan

Kim Kardashian recently had her second child. A new child is such a treasure and I’m sincerely happy for her; I wish her and her family all the best.

I was dismayed however to read, just a short while after all of the announcements about the baby, headlines about her plans to lose ’60 pounds of baby weight fast’. I do not know what diet and exercise plan Kim Kardashian plans to use, nor do I know if she plans to breastfeed. She’s just the latest celebrity example of the race for post-natal thinness that seems to be populating the social media waves. I’m saddened by the thought that simply because a celebrity or media personality posts something like this it will leave other women feeling that perhaps they should be that thin that quickly or that they are somehow less than because they don’t.  That’s simply not true.  While I certainly understand the desire to want to be back at your pre-pregnancy weight I believe that rapid post-natal weight loss is not a good idea. It’s more important to take care of yourself and be kind to yourself in the midst of all the changes that are happening.

Kim Kardashian is by no means the only one to want to rapidly lose weight after having a baby. There are a growing number of social media posts practically glorifying women who have rapidly lost weight after having a baby. Unfortunately this is not a healthy idea for mom or baby.

One big reason against rapid weight loss is that we tend to store toxins in fat. Then when we lose weight rapidly we experience a toxin dump. In fact one study found that weight loss increased the level of toxins in the blood with some of the toxins then being reabsorbed into the remaining fat cells. Weight loss can be, in effect, a form of detoxing. (Truthfully our body is always detoxing, it’s continually working to clear toxins and keep metabolic processes running to the best of it’s ability.) But rapid weight-loss can accelerate some of the symptoms of detoxing. Dumping toxins through rapid weight loss can cause cardiac stress, gout-type symptoms, gall bladder flare-ups, and lightheadedness.  It also doesn’t help you form healthy eating habits for maintaining the weight loss. This can be one reason why many people lose weight quickly and then gain it back sometimes with a few pounds extra.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is very important and provides a perfect balance of nutrition. Sometimes there are issues with nursing either because the mother cannot produce enough milk, baby has issues that make it challenging, or there may be some other reason why it is physically not possible. If there is a problem with breastfeeding it’s best to refer to a lactation consultant or connect with your local La Leche League.

For those who are breast feeding it’s important to note that breastmilk is between 3-5% fat. This means that “detoxing” via weight loss may cause the breastmilk to have significantly higher levels of toxins. That, in turn, gets passed on through the milk to the baby.  Rather than focusing on weight-loss, look at ways to nourish yourself, and baby, through eating well.

The following foods and beverages are very supportive post-partum and during breastfeeding:

  • Nourishing broth
  • Cod liver oil to provide vitamin D and essential omega 3 fatty acids
  • Red raspberry leaf to help with postpartum recovery
  • Nettles also help with postpartum recovery
  • Coconut oil is a healthy medium chain triglyceride
  • Leafy greens – kale, spinach, swiss chard, dandelion,
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Fermented foods – lacto-fermented kraut or other vegetables, kombucha, kefir
  • Eggs
  • Protein
  • Porridge – made from soaked oats, buckwheat, brown rice, or quinoa
  • Legumes, lentils, chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Sea vegetables – dulse, wakame, nori, hijiki, kombu

Avoid the following foods which are anti-lactogenic and can impair breastfeeding:

  • high consumption of the following herbs: basil, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, and any mints
  • Soft drinks and carbonated beverages
  • Caffeine – coffee, black tea, green tea, hot cocoa, chocolate

Food Intolerance Issues

Colic can be an issue with some newborns. It is possible that the mother’s diet can impact the digestive status of the baby when breastfeeding. Therefore it would be best for mother to avoid: spicy food, onions, garlic, legumes/beans, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.

There may also be a food intolerance issue, wheat and dairy and two of the biggest offenders in this category. Mother can try eliminating the seven most common allergenic foods from her diet to see if this makes a difference: wheat/gluten, corn, soy, eggs, dairy, seafood, and nuts.

Self Care

Taking care of ourselves is important all the time but these few self-care tips are especially important after giving birth:

  • Stay hydrated – breastfeeding takes a lot of hydration.  Even if you’re not breastfeeding you still need to make sure that you are getting enough fluids to keep your system working properly
  • Skin brushing – this helps to keep your lymph system flowing properly.  Bonus, it’s also really good for your skin
  • Get sleep – the temptation after having a baby is to “get things done” while the baby is napping.  After decades of raising kids I’m here to tell you there’s always stuff that needs to be done.  One of the biggest single self-care things you can do for yourself is to rest when you can
  • Set aside some me time – when we have a baby we tend to forget how to take care of ourselves because we are so wrapped up in taking care of that precious little person.  But we still have wants and needs that have to be taken care of.  As my friend Dr. Vicki Bradley (of the Self-Care Reminder Project) says, when we take care of ourselves we are better able to care for others

Take the time to love yourself and your body. Remember, it took nine months of work to produce that little bundle. On average it takes three months to a year to get back to where you were before you had the baby. To try to erase all of the physical symptoms and expressions of that in just a few days or weeks is not the best, healthiest option. And some of them (like stretchmarks) don’t ever really go away.  And check out a great photo series called A Beautiful Body which highlights the beauty of a mother’s body.

Good, Better, Best

Good better bestI recently had the absolute delight of being invited to cook in the fabulous kitchen at Three Goats Farm.  Designed and operated by the amazing Primitive Diva, Melissa Humphries, this is a fun place to hang out and you couldn’t ask for better company to hang out with.

Getting ready for the launch of Primitive Diva TV, PDTV, she invited me to film an episode while we chatted about the concept of good, better, best, when it comes to food and nourishing your body.  I love helping people move up the nutrition ladder so to speak.  It’s difficult to go from a highly processed food plan to one that truly nourishes your body.  I certainly know, from personal experience  and from working with clients, that it’s a step-by-step process which takes time and effort to achieve.  I don’t know anyone who has made a huge jump overnight and managed to stick with it.  You start where you are, decide what you’re going to focus on, and begin to make changes.  Just as in the fable of the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady wins the race.  Small measurable changes, mindfully made over time are most often the ones that are sustainable and lead to long-term, healthier change.  Extravagant changes and massive numbers of them, all at the same time, are overwhelming.

One way to manage this change is to focus on shifting food, recipes, ingredients up the ladder from good to better to best.

Here’s an example that we used in the filming.  [In case you’re interested we made the polenta and Tuscan Stew recipes from The Pantry Principle on pages 124 and 145 respectively]  In the example below I’m going to talk about upgrading your polenta.

Good is when you decide to shift from a heavy processed food and/or restaurant/take-away diet to making more foods at home.  There is often less chemicals, less sugar, salt, and fat.  The serving sizes are more reasonable.  In the case of polenta this may mean purchasing a chub of polenta and heating it up at home as part of your recipe.

Better is realizing that corn is one of the most highly genetically modified crops on the face of the planet.  You don’t want to eat conventional corn anymore because you want to avoid the GMOs and probable heavy pesticide residue.  So you choose organic corn.  Possibly still in a chub.  Or maybe you decide to make it from scratch and you use organic ground cornmeal plus other clean ingredients.

Best means you’ve decided to really focus on eating well and are buying organically grown, sprouted cornmeal.  The sprouting adds extra nutrition, better digestibility, and reduces phytic acids and enzyme inhibitors which can interfere with nutrition.

One step at a time we work our way up the ladder to better digestion, better nourishment, better food sourcing.

We had a great time chatting in the kitchen.  As you can see from the picture above the food was so enticing that the aromas got us and we didn’t get a picture until after we’d dug in and started devouring it.  Mr. Diva came in at the end and polished off a plate of his own.  I promise, this recipe is a winner.  And so is Three Goats Farm.  I’m so excited for the launch of PDTV and I’ll be sure to post a link to share once this episode goes live.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about food, nutrition, holistic health, or how to take your recipes from good to better to best, don’t forget to take advantage of my AskMira January special.  Purchase two hours of my time, which you can use any time during the year, and get a half an hour free.  That’s a $50 value.  This offer is only available for the month of January but you can use the time in 15 minute increments anytime you like during 2015.

And in the meantime, let’s eat well to be well.

Word Of The Year — Balance

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Last year with the encouragement of my friend Sue Painter I  chose a word to focus on for the upcoming year.  It was the word inspire.  And last year was definitely a year of inspiration, change, and huge personal growth.

I enjoyed the process so much that I decided to do it again.  Oddly enough it’s not that easy to pick a word.  When you stop to consider that this word is a guiding focus for the year ahead, to think about how to condense all of your goals and hopes into one single word, it can be a bit overwhelming.

After much careful consideration I’ve chosen the word balance.  The dictionary defines it as:

bal·ance
ˈbaləns/Submit
noun
1.  an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.
synonyms: stability, equilibrium, steadiness, footing

stability of one’s mind or feelings.
“the way to some kind of peace and personal balance”

SAILING
the ability of a boat to stay on course without adjustment of the rudder
2.  a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.
synonyms: fairness, justice, impartiality, evenhandedness, egalitarianism, equal opportunity

ART
harmony of design and proportion, the relative volume of various sources of sound.

3.  an apparatus for weighing, especially one with a central pivot, beam, and a pair of scales
synonyms: scale(s), weighing machine

the zodiacal sign or constellation Libra

4.  a counteracting weight or force
synonyms: counterbalance, counterweight, stabilizer, compensation

the regulating device in a mechanical clock or watch.

5.  a predominating weight or amount; the majority.

6.  a figure representing the difference between credits and debits in an account; the amount of money held in an account.
the difference between an amount due and an amount paid
synonyms: remainder, outstanding amount, rest, residue, difference, remaining part, an amount left over
verb

verb: balance; 3rd person present: balances; past tense: balanced; past participle: balanced; gerund or present participle: balancing

1.  keep or put (something) in a steady position so that it does not fall
synonyms: steady, stabilize, poise, level

remain in a steady position without falling

2.  offset or compare the value of (one thing) with another
synonyms: weigh, weigh up, compare, evaluate, consider, assess, appraise, judge

As a word nerd I love the fact that it’s both a noun and a verb.  But even more, I like what it stands for and how my focus in the year ahead, my intention, is to seek balance, find balance, be balanced, and to provide balance for others.  As part of how I practice I assist people with their health goals, that brings them into balance with their bodies.  As a holistic health practitioner I support them in looking at all aspects of their current state of being, that brings them into balance in many different areas of their life, a “way to some kind of peace and personal balance.”  That really resonates with me; I hope to be the rudder that helps others find the balance they need.

On a more personal note is the idea of balancing so that “different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.”  As I focus on the year ahead I need to be mindful of balancing my own healing journey with my food sensitivities, my personal commitments, my clients, time with friends, spiritual growth, focus on family, and personal development.  That balancing act is never easy, but I believe it’s worth focusing on.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, peaceful year ahead!

image:   ImageChef

Dieting Mindful Strategies

The holiday season has come and gone.  For many people that time of year means parties, social gatherings, buffet dinners, sweets, treats, and desserts.  All of this can contribute to weight gain. By the time the New Year rolls around some people have gained five to seven pounds or more. This means the feasting is followed by “holiday remorse” which leads them to consider going on a diet. Unfortunately where dieting is concerned, many people set themselves up for failure. Because they dread dieting they create reasons to postpone or they self-sabotage by planning a dietary blowout as a last hurrah.

Sadly there is a somewhat popular notion that encourages binging on “comfort” foods and treats enjoyed before starting a diet. As if denial and deprivation are required in order to lose weight. Moderation and clean eating are often somewhat foreign concepts.  Then add in the fact that many of these “comfort” foods are highly addictive and contain negative ingredients which can be harmful for your health. This makes giving them up more challenging. To avoid getting stuck in the comfort food trap it’s necessary to retrain your brain and your palate.  It is important to reframe your way of thinking about food in order for any diet you embrace to be successful. Food isn’t the enemy, even the ‘tasty’ foods aren’t the enemy.  And that’s something not enough people really understand.

Our bodies need the nutrients in order to be healthy.  This includes proper nutrition that supports our overall physical health and mental wellbeing.  According to Trudy Scott, author of the The Antianxiety Food Solution, when we are in balance we don’t struggle with food cravings.  Energy dense foods, those that are high in fats and sugars, don’t provide much nutritional support.   When we consume higher levels of energy dense foods we often may not be eating more nutritionally dense foods, those which provide a lot of nutrition for not a lot of calories.  Nutritionally dense foods include good quality protein, raw nuts and seeds, vegetables without pesticides or genetic modification, and healthy fats.  Unfortunately energy dense foods have the added challenge of being highly addictive.  Many of the additives set up a cycle of craving; these include sugar, salt, fat, monosodium glutamate, and casein.  When we consume these it can overwhelm our neurotransmitters, the brain chemicals, and lead to increased desire for more and more of these foods.  Fast food manufacturers further support this addictive consumption by upselling or super sizing the menu.

I truly dislike the term diet.  We have let it become a negative connotation, “I’m on a diet.” “Oh man, I really need to go on a diet.”  “I can’t enjoy that, I’m dieting.”  Instead of feeding yourself negative messages and creating a goal plan for when you are “off the diet,”  embrace the process of building a healthier you. Think of your health goals as a positive direction in your life to make changes for the better.   It’s important to be mindful but not to go overboard.  Don’t get so caught up in what you eat that you develop an overwhelming need to control everything you eat and cannot enjoy a meal over a friend’s house or eat anything you have not prepared yourself according to strict rules.  It is important to note that if there are specifics that need to be followed (you are sensitive to gluten, you have diabetes and need to cut back on sugars, you have an issue with nightshade vegetables) these do need to be followed with compliance.

Changing your mindset is also important.  Don’t beat yourself up.  Don’t feed yourself negative messages.  These are self sabotaging.  Instead remember why you are working toward these changes to your nutritional plan.  To feel better, to achieve better health.  Love and nourish yourself physically and emotionally, you’ll feel so much better when you do.

Remember, the overall goal is to find and achieve balance. To create a new nutritional plan that you can maintain successfully without having to “diet” on a regular basis.  You don’t need to feel deprived, you don’t need to self sabotage with negative messaging.  Make small, mindful, focused changes and you’ll find yourself much calmer and happier.  You can eat well to be well.