Lifestyle

female measures weight loss with measuring tape

10 Weight Loss Tips

Stepping on the scale, counting calories, and exercising more are old school tools for weight loss. If you’re feeling stuck, try these more effective measures for trimming down your body weight.

Measure fat loss, not weight loss

Since your body fluctuates 2 to 3 pounds daily, and loses weight in fits & starts, it seems futile to be constantly monitoring the scale. The scale isn’t a measure of health, anyway. A person can be very muscular and actually weigh more than someone who is “over-fat.” Therefore, it’s better to assess your progress in terms of fat loss. Use an article of clothing that your try on once every couple of weeks. If you are truly in better shape, your clothing will fit differently, even if can’t measure weight loss in pounds.

Eat fat to lose fat

Fats are necessary for life, so a fat-restricted diet will stress the body. Bodies under stress tend to hold onto their weight as a survival mechanism. Only when your body is convinced there is no threat, will it begin to release its reserves.

However, not all fats are created equal. Avoid chemically-extracted vegetable oils (soy, cottonseed, canola, safflower, and corn); they loose their antioxidant protection during processing and become oxidized. Oxidized oils are one of the top contributors to free radical damage to your body tissues. And damage = inflammation = stress. Also stay away from trans-fats; they make your cell membranes stiff and less able to take in nutrients and excrete wastes.

Good sources of fats include unprocessed raw nuts and seeds, butter from grass-fed cows, and virgin fats that are cold-pressed and unrefined.

Track sugars, not calories

Counting calories is not a natural or intuitive way of life. In fact, it seems a bit obsessive. It certainly isn’t something I would want to do for the next 25 or 30 years.  In my opinion, any weight loss plan needs to be sustainable in order to head off yo-yo dieting.

Additionally, calorie restriction suppresses thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism is a fast-track to weight gain, not weight loss. So, eat plenty of protein and fat to increase satiety, stimulate fat-burning, and provide amino acids and fat-soluble vitamins to the thyroid.

The root barrier to weight loss, in many cases, is high insulin hormone. Unfortunately, you can still have insulin-driven fat storage on a restricted diet. So, if you’re going to monitor anything, let it be sugar. Your fat-free yogurt that seems such a healthy breakfast alternative may have the same amount of sugar as a Red Bull energy drink. Some smoothies have more sugar than Coke, and a medium Jamba Chocolate Moo’d  has more sugar than a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Butter Pecan ice cream.

Differentiate between carbs

With all the media about ketogenic diets, it’s easy to think that carbohydrates are bad. However, they are not bad any more than a knife is. It can be very useful; or it can be very harmful, depending on how it is used. Obviously, a diet of high-sugar, low-nutrient carbs isn’t going to be very health-promoting. Too much bread, pasta, and cereal is going to lead to imbalance. But did you ever stop to think that fruits, vegetables, and legumes are carbohydrates, too?

A helpful way to think about carbohydrates is in terms of their calorie content and their potential to be absorbed into your bloodstream quickly. A food that is calorie-dense and quick-absorbing (such as a grain or a sweetener) is going to signal your body to store all that extra energy for a rainy day. Of course, energy storage is the antithesis of weight loss.

But calorie-light and slow-absorbing foods (such as vegetables) can be very beneficial. Medium-calorie carbohydrates, as long as they are slow-absorbing (whole fruit, legumes, nuts, and seeds), can also be helpful for a weight loss plan.

Be mindful of when you eat

Think of your car. After you gas it up, you can drive a long distance, or you can park it and keep the fuel in reserve for another time. The same principle applies for your body. If you want to burn the fuel, you can’t park yourself in a bed or chair for a great length of time and expect your meals to not become reserves. So, it’s best to front-load your meals. That is, eat bulk of your food when your are going to be most active. That’s because anything you don’t burn within 3 hours of eating is stored as fat. It doesn’t make sense to eat your heaviest meal just before bedtime. It’s a good idea to eat 3/4 of your food by mid-afternoon.

Remember, you’re not the boss

We have been conditioned to believe in the simple equation Energy In – Energy Out = Weight. Therefore, more energy expenditure will equal greater weight loss. But this equation neglects the fact that your hormones are in control. Thyroid hormone is king of metabolism. Cortisol reigns over your state of relative stress or relaxation. Insulin dictates how much fuel gets stored.

No matter how much you exercise, you will not lose weight if thyroid hormone is low, or if cortisol or insulin are chronically high. Exercising under these conditions just creates more stress for the body. Then, it switches to survival mode, and hoards fuel to help you fight or flee.

Ultimately, you have to balance hormones first. A functional practitioner can help you with this process.  Engage in “movement,” as opposed to “exercise” to promote stress-relief.

Address “food on the wrong side of the tracks”

Inflammation prevents weight loss; it’s a physical stress, so your body conserves until it is “safe” to let go of those pounds. Guts can be damaged by antibiotics, stress, chemicals, and sugar. Then, when the gut lining is thin and worn, food gets “on the wrong side of the tracks” and causes inflammation. We then say you are sensitive to those food proteins that are causing the inflammation.

If you’re serious about weight loss, you may have to remove triggering foods and heal your gut for a minimum of 3 months before your weight begins to drop, because it takes a while for inflammation to subside.

Support your liver before weight loss

Your liver is responsible for detoxifying everything that needs to be eliminated from your body. But if that organ is overburdened, it will send toxins to fat tissue to be stored where they cannot damage other tissues in your body. Naturally, weight loss frees those toxins from your fat tissue. If your liver is already overtaxed by medications, chemicals, or hormonal and blood sugar imbalances, your body will not release those toxins and you will continue to retain the fat.

The bottom line is that you need to support your liver first! This includes drinking ample water and eating abundant cruciferous vegetables to help your liver with the “rinse cycle” of laundering out your toxins. Potassium-rich fruits and vegetables are also important to help your body flush its wastes. Be sure to eat enough protein, for detoxification requires ample amino acids.

“Find your happy” at your current weight

It’s easy to think you will be happy when you lose those pounds. But your body follows your mind. Stated another way, your mind decides whether life is good and you can release your garbage, or whether your are unsatisfied and need to hold onto things that protect you (such as body fat). So, if you are genuinely grateful and joyful with who you are, your body can let go of those things that no longer serve it.

Don’t moisten your food with beverages

As mentioned above, healthy weight loss requires plenty of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals to support detoxification. Breaking down and absorbing those nutrients from your food requires good digestion with plenty of strong stomach acid. Although hydration is critically important, it’s best to sip your water between meals. After all, high liquid intake at meal times will dilute stomach acid. Hence, it will impair digestion. If your food seems dry or tasteless, chew it more. Your saliva will moisten it and sweeten it the longer you massage it in your mouth.

 

 

 

antioxidant berries for inflammation

Antioxidants for Inflammation

You need antioxidants for inflammation. Simply put, inflammation flares when free radicals outnumber antioxidants in your body. While this is a good thing because of surgery or an acute trauma, it’s trouble if it continues chronically. Inflammation is the sign of tissue damage. You want to stop that damage and quench the fire. That’s why you need to eat antioxidant foods AND make antioxidants within your body.

Common Triggers for Chronic Inflammation

You’ve probably heard it before. However, the textbook answers are still true. Here’s a short list of lifestyle factors that contribute to inflammation.

  • Sleep deprivation (Anything less than a consistent 8 hours per night is considered inadequate.)
  • Extreme exercise
  • Sustained elevated blood sugars
  • Eating oxidized or rancid fats (Hint: this includes transfats and vegetable oils such as canola, cottonseed, soy, safflower, and corn.)
  • Toxicity from heavy metals, chemicals, or pathogens
  • Chronic simmering infection
  • High levels of emotional or physical stress

What are Antioxidants?

If your body were a car, the antioxidants would be the steel brushes that removed the rust from your parts. While you don’t actually rust like metal, you still have natural processes at work that can damage your tissues. Without antioxidant molecules, you wouldn’t be able to reverse this damage.

Antioxidant Foods for Inflammation

Look for rich, deep natural colors in whole foods to signal high antioxidant content. For example, dark, leafy greens and bright, red berries are great choices. Interestingly, spices are among the foods highest in antoxidant content. Use both warming spices and cooling herbs in your cooking! In particular, include cumin, ginger, turmeric, parsley, mint, and cilantro.

Another category of antoxidants for inflammation is dark-fleshed fish, such as sardines, salmon, herring, and mackerel. Undoubtedly, these are high in antioxidant omega-3 fatty acids.

How to Synthesize Antioxidants for Inflammation

As important as antioxidant-rich whole foods in your diet are, it’s even more critical that your body be able to make its master antioxidant, glutathione. Indeed, your ability to quell inflammation hinges on this molecule, made from three amino acids, glutamine, glycine, and cysteine. The latter requires methionine for its synthesis. Therefore, getting the essential amino acid, methionine, in your diet is imperative. Eggs, meat, fish, nuts, and seeds are the best sources of methionine.  Legumes, though protein-dense, have very little methionine. Most fruits and vegetables have almost none.

Two other substances necessary to create glutathione are sulfur compounds and vitamin B-6. When you use onions & garlic in your cooking, your are adding sulphur compounds. Also, cruciferous vegetables contain high amounts of sulfurs. This class of vegetables includes broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, turnips, spinach, Brussels sprouts, horseradish, and wasabi!

While prominent in many foods, Vitamin B-6 serves several essential functions besides making glutathione. If your diet and lifestyle are putting heavy demands on your body, it’s easy to be short-changed on this lifestyle. Some conditions that make it likely you have insufficient B-6 include smoking, diabetes, alcoholism, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease.

The key to vitamin B-6 sufficiency is being able to convert it to its active form. Eating more foods high in this vitamin is not helpful if you can’t convert pyridoxine to pyroxidol 5-phosphate. You can work with a functional practitioner to remedy this problem.

 

 

Need to end bloat from too many cookies?

End Holiday Gas, Bloat, and Heartburn

Is binge-eating synonymous with Christmas?  Too often, merry turns into miserable when gas, indigestion, and heartburn strike after a night of gorging on goodies! Functional Nutrition can help you digest and absorb your food better in order to end holiday bloat.

Use these five tips to keep your holidays happy:

  • Eat real. Focus on foods that don’t come with a nutrition label. You are more likely to be satisfied with less when you eat whole foods. Consider which of these offerings is likely to give your body what it needs so it will turn off the hunger signals. They are both fish: Atlantic salmon, and Swedish Fish candies.

salmon dinnerSwedish Fish ingredient list

  • Sip herbal tea: Used for centuries, peppermint and chamomile are two pleasant herbs that can power up digestion, relieve gas, reduce bloat, and end indigestion. Additionally, sipping the hot water can soothe your stomach. As the water moves through your your system, it hydrates your organs so they are better able to eliminate waste.
  • Nibble bitter food. Fennel seeds and ginger root are classified as digestive bitters. A little at the end of your meal will promote gall bladder contractions and intestinal movement to prevent stagnant stomach. You can toast fennel seeds in a dry skillet until golden brown for enhanced flavor and performance. Ginger can be shaved to be eaten in thin curls.
  • Stretch into some yoga poses. Marichyasana improves digestion by twisting and massaging the abdominal organs. Pavana muktasana releases trapped gas and cures indigestion by stimulating peristalsis, the wavelike motion of the intestines.
  • Go for a walk. Rather than slumping onto the couch, which accentuates lethargic digestion, get up and move! Even just a slow stroll will stimulate your organs to work better.

Now, on the list of don’ts: avoid reaching for Tums or Zantac. We believe in functional nutrition that what you absorb is just as important as what you eat. To rev up sluggish digestion, you need MORE stomach acid, not less. So, enjoy good food and good company, don’t rush your meals, chew thoroughly, and implement the strategies above to prevent and end holiday bloat, gas, and indigestion.

 

 

 

teddy bears sick with colds and flu

4 Ways to Fight Colds and Flu

You know washing your hands helps prevent the spread of germs, but there are 4 more action tools you can use to fight colds and flu.

1. Deeply Nourish Your Body

Your immune system is a nutrient hog. It uses more nutrients than any other system or organ – even your brain. To work optimally, it needs vitamins A, C, E, D, K, B6, B9, and B12. In addition, it requires the minerals zinc, selenium, iron, iodine, magnesium, and copper. Also, your immune system needs antioxidants and essential fatty acids.

So while it might be easy to gulp an “Emergen-C” tablet with a glass of water when you feel a sore throat coming on, you need a lot of nutrients all the time to fight colds and flu. It’s smart to regularly eat foods that are nutrient dense. These include dark leafy greens, brightly-colored produce, omega 3-rich fatty fish, and organ meats. I posted about how these foods are also anti-inflammatory. It’s as if nature is showing us their benefit by displaying such rich, vibrant colors.

2. Relax a Lot!

We know that stress raises inflammation. Did you know it raises your blood sugars, too? That’s bad news if you’re under chronic stress. Why? Chronically high blood sugars lead to insulin resistance and even more inflammation.

But that’s not all. Scientists think they have found a link between insulin resistance and decreased immunity. Insulin appears to boost immune T-cells. When mice were genetically engineered with missing insulin receptors in their T-cells (to mimic insulin resistance), they were unable to fight certain infections, including the H1N1 flu virus.

So the bottom line is that to fight colds and flu, you need to guard against inflammation and insulin resistance that can impair immunity. In order to do that, you need to manage your stress effectively. Take time every day to unwind. It only takes a few minutes to employ one or two of the 50 stress hacks I have compiled.

3. Feed the Right Bugs

Since as much as 80% of your immune system lies within your digestive tract, it makes sense that the micro-organisms that live there should be healthy. If you feed the symbiotic bacteria that lie in your GI tract, you can boost your immunity. These helpful bacteria serve as “bouncers” against pathogenic strains of microbes that cause illness.

Your “good” bacteria like to eat fiber! They especially like to feast on cruciferous vegetables, the onion family, and asparagus! But they don’t digest simple sugars. In fact, white sugar and white flour are fodder for pathogens.

Cutting out refined carbohydrates from your diet does not guarantee you can fight off all colds and flu. But your odds are much higher if you do get sick, that you’ll bounce back quicker if you cut down on the sugar.

4. Sleep More

When you sleep, your body “cleans house.” It repairs what is broken, sweeps up what is dirty, and takes out the trash. This is the time when your immune system is most effective at fending off invaders and reducing inflammation. So, reason says that if you are sleep deprived, you are less able to fight cold and flu viruses.

But there’s more. When you are chronically sleep-deprived, your body actually initiates a stress response, raising blood sugars and creating inflammation. You can become insulin resistant with just 36 hours of sleep deprivation.

Ultimately, you end up with an impaired immune system. That means greater susceptibility to illness.

Here are some suggestions for better sleep:

  • Create a bedtime that allows for 7-9 hours of sleep.
  • Eat a nutrient dense diet (see #1).
  • Exercise, but do it at least 4 hours before bedtime.
  • Stick to the same sleep schedule every day.
  • Get sunlight in the morning.
  • Cool your room.
  • Avoid blue light before bed.
  • Engage in evening meditation.

Fight Colds and Flu

No one can avoid all illness forever. But taking care of your health by eating well, relaxing frequently, sleeping enough, and nourishing your microbiome will keep you strong so that if you do get sick, you can recover rapidly.

 

 

Teal Halloween pumpkin & toys

Teal Halloween

I’m ditching orange and going teal this Halloween! The Teal Pumpkin Project is a movement to create a safer Halloween for all trick-or-treaters by avoiding treats that contain food allergens. Since 1 in 13 kids has food allergies, we need more houses where they can get allergy-free treats. You let kids know your house is allergy-safe when you put a teal pumpkin on your doorstep.

I’m making my Halloween teal by purchasing non-food treats to give to trick-or-treaters. Glow sticks, bouncy balls, stickers, and spooky toys are always a hit in our neighborhood! You can add your house to the Teal Pumpkin Project map here.

I’m also making sure that for parties, I offer treats that don’t contain common allergens, such as wheat, soy, eggs, corn, nuts, or fish. Here are some ideas you can use:

Apricot Pumpkins and Banana Ghosts

All you need is a little melted chocolate and some fruit! Using a toothpick, drop dots of melted chocolate onto fresh, frozen or dried apricots and onto halved, peeled bananas to make faces of jack-o-lanterns and ghouls.

Monster Mouths

You will need:

  • red apple slices
  • pumpkin seeds
  • sliced strawberries
  • toothpicks

Each apple slice will become a top or bottom jaw. Press ends of pumpkins seeds into fleshly part of apple slices to make teeth. Join two apple slices together with toothpicks, keeping the red skin facing out to resemble lips. Lay a strawberry slice over the pumpkin seeds on the bottom apple to look like a tongue.

Black Cat Fudge

This Teal Halloween-friendly recipe is chock-full of anti-inflammatory ingredients to help offset high-sugar treats that are almost inevitable for trick-or-treaters. Combine the following:

  • 2 avocados, mashed
  • 1/4 c. each melted virgin coconut oil, and melted cocoa butter
  • 1 tsp. each vanilla, cinnamon, and salt
  • 1/4 c. each carob powder and honey
  • 2 Tb. coconut cream, optional (use if you want a milkier taste. Omit for that dark chocolate taste)

Mix until smooth, press into an oiled loaf pan. Freeze, then cut into squares. Alternately, you could press onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Then, after freezing, you can use Halloween-themed cookie cutters to cut shapes of bats, cats, and spiders.

fruit treats

Teal Halloween Caramel Apples

These caramel apples use no butter or milk to make them allergy-safe. Also, they use no refined sugar or corn syrup, making them healthier for all children.

  • 14 oz. can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2  granny smith apples
  • tongue depressors or skewers, stuck into the apples for handles

Simmer coconut milk and maple syrup over low heat for 30 minutes or more, stirring frequently, until very thick and light brown-colored . Remove from heat and stir in oil and vanilla. Pour into two round cake pans coated with cooking spray. Refrigerate until set. Using a spatula, release the caramel from each pan and lay it on a piece of parchment or wax paper. Set an apple in the center of each caramel disc. Fold the caramel up and around the apple, pressing firmly so that the caramel stays in place. Keep refrigerated.

Witches Fingers

Hauntingly good! You won’t miss the gluten, eggs, nuts, or the sugar, either!

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, softened
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup honey, warmed
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • 1 teaspoons each ginger powder & cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon each sea salt & baking soda
  • 6 Tb. water
  • 2 Tb. unflavored gelatin
  • Pumpkin seeds

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl whisk together the coconut oil, honey, molasses, and vanilla extract. In a small bowl, measure 2 Tb. of cold water. Sprinkle the gelatin into the water. When the gelatin has absorbed all the water, heat the remaining 4 Tb. of water to boiling and pour over the gelatin mixture. Stir well until all of gelatin has dissolved. Whisk the gelatin mixture into the wet ingredients.

In another small bowl, mix the coconut flour, spices, salt, and baking soda. Add these dry ingredients to your large bowl, mixing until creamy. Shape dough into finger-length “snakes.” Score knuckle lines with a knife. Press a pumpkin seed “fingernail” onto each finger. Set fingers on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Bake for 17-20 minutes, until edges are browned and cookies are firm to the touch.

Food sensitivity test

Test for Food Sensitivities

The whole idea of a Teal Halloween may seem foreign to you if you do not have known food allergies in your family. However, the chance of having food sensitivities is much higher than the probability of having food allergies. What’s the difference?

Food allergies

  • Manifest within seconds of ingestion.
  • Impact skin, airways and eyes with classical allergy symptoms (hives, restricted throat, mucous, watery eyes).
  • Require only a few molecules of the allergen to trigger a response.

On the other hand, food sensitivities

  • May take up to 3 days to manifest
  • Can impact any system of the body, causing joint pain, mood changes, headaches, digestive distress, and many other symptoms
  • Are dose dependent, meaning they may not trigger a response at all unless a certain threshold is passed. So, you may be able to eat a tablespoon, but not a cup.

You may order a home blood test kit that detects your response to 132 different foods. Results are confidential and are color-coded to give you a range of tolerance. For example, you may have no response, indicated by a green bar. You may have a minor or moderate response, indicated by a yellow or orange bar. Finally, you may have a dramatic response, indicated by a red bar.

Let’s make Halloween safe for everyone by identifying and avoiding food triggers.

 

 

2 women nurture good health with sunshine & laughter

5 Essentials of Good Health

Being well is a deliberate pursuit. You choose to nurture your good health by the actions you take every hour of every day. No, you don’t maintain wellness by accident or by luck. But you do focus on diet and lifestyle keys. I use the acronym NURSE to remember the vital components of a healthy lifestyle: Nourishment, Unwinding from Stress, Restorative Sleep, Sunshine, and Exercise.

Nourish Good Health

There’s a difference between eating and nourishing. The term Hidden Hunger refers to individuals who are starving with their stomachs full. In other words, they are putting nutrient-poor foods into their mouths and missing essential nutrients meal after meal. Although they appear to be eating plenty of food, they can not achieve optimal function. Brain fog, cravings, fatigue, and anxiety are just a few symptoms of Hidden Hunger.

Good health absolutely must incorporate nutrient-dense foods. You should be eating at least 6 cups of vegetables per day, have no fewer than 15-18 grams of protein in a meal, and include natural essential fatty acids in every meal.  You can only attribute about 25% of your chronic symptoms to your genes. The rest result from diet and lifestyle.

Unwind Frequently and Consistently

Aside from diet, stress is the greatest contributor to chronic inflammation in the body. Since inflammation is at the root of all chronic disease, we can infer that stress is making you sick! However, you are not likely to remove all stress from your life. The key is to defuse it by conscientious daily – even hourly – exercises. Breathing and stretching are just the beginning. You can employ techniques such as reframing, acupressure, laughter, and journaling. If you need some help knowing how to unwind, or if you want some quick tips that you can employ in just 1 or 2 minutes, check out my Stress Hacks Course.

Restore Good Health Through Sleep

Did you know that sleep deprivation is linked with depression, obesity, and increased risk for substance abuse and suicide? One-third of Americans do not get even the recommended 7 hours of sleep per night, although even that amount is skimpy. A century ago, our forefathers averaged 9 hours a night. But lying in bed for a certain number of hours isn’t the complete requirement. You must arise refreshed, without having had interruptions or poor quality sleep.

Although you can search out many recommendations for better sleep on the internet, one often over-looked remedy for disrupted sleep rhythms is to rebalance blood sugars. Insulin surges throughout the day can contribute to blood sugar crashes at night. When your blood sugar dips, cortisol kicks in to save your brain and vital organs from fuel deprivation. But cortisol is a “wake-up” hormone. You can work with me to normalize your blood sugar patterns.

Soak Up Some Sunshine

Just 15 minutes a day of direct sunlight on your skin can boost immunity, strengthen bones, improve mood, and augment a good night’s rest. Chances are that if you live north of the 42nd parallel, you’re not getting enough sunshine to maintain adequate Vitamin D levels, which impacts heart health as well as gut and immune health. Try these tips to get more sunlight.

Exercise Your Way to Good Health

Movement is essential. You can adapt your plan to your circumstances. An individual with autoimmunity may choose a walk in nature daily, while someone with insulin resistance may opt for interval training. The point is to challenge yourself to do just a little more and a little better each day. Sitting is actually dangerous to your health. Take frequent breaks to get up and move around, and find ways to incorporate movement into your daily routine.

You might find a local gym where you have a variety of choices, such as yoga classes, weight machines, and cross-fit training.

Demographics Don’t Matter

Everyone can and should implement these strategies. You don’t need to be privileged. All cultures, economic backgrounds, personalities, and special needs still need to NURSE their health. We are all created equal in our need for wellness and in our ability to choose nourishing foods and healthy lifestyles.

 

A walk in the park with the dog

Not Just A Walk in the Park

Trying to get up off the floor alone by crawling to a chair and then slowly grasping and pulling upward was the greatest athletic feat  I could accomplish then. Arthritic pain inflamed every joint. Now here I am, taking a walk in the park with the dog. Differently: straight, strong, and enjoying the exertion.

The following is a guest post from Lisa Jorgensen, a counselor who has lived with Lupus for more than 15 years. This is a glimpse of her return to health through diet and lifestyle.

Hitting Rock Bottom

At age 30, trying to get up off the floor alone by crawling to a chair and then slowly grasping and pulling upward was the greatest athletic feat as I could accomplish. Inflammation in every single joint in my body made any movement miserable.  Not moving was, of course, out of the question.  I was the mother of a 5-year-old and one-year-old twins. It was an excruciating time for all of us as we struggled to adjust. I kept asking why this was happening to me.

I didn’t know at the time that Lupus was rearing its ugly head. The next 15 years of my life would be extremely challenging.

Getting Ready to Walk

My healing journey began a few years ago when I started treating the actual disease and not just the symptoms. With the help of my doctor and a new medication, I tapered off of Prednisone. As the pain in my joints lessened, I realized I had at least a modest amount of control over my symptoms.

I was so overjoyed to be able to move without pain!  For months during this period, I would make a discovery and shout, “Look!  I can ______________!” (raise my arm overhead, or bend down onto one knee, or some other ordinary movement). Riding the wave of better health, I sought out nutritional, stress management, and exercise therapies that worked for me. Today I depend on them to help me feel my best. I have so much more control over my physical symptoms as well as my outlook and mental state. Although I still have Lupus, I am miles ahead in terms of coping with this difficult disease.  

A Walk in the Park

It is July 30, 1016. Here I am, walking the dog.  Differently: straight, strong, and enjoying the exertion. Yes, the exertion it takes to keep my body upright and lifted. I’m aware of these challenges in my body. But now I experience them in a new way. My spine is relaxed but striving to lengthen. Oh WOW! That feels good! The crown of my head reaches up to the sky. I am reaching heavenward in body and spirit.

A year ago, and more than 100 pounds ago, I led with my head, my back rounded downward. I bent forward at the waist with my bottom sticking out—I hated it but couldn’t move forward any other way.  I felt doomed to that state for the rest of my life, so I actually quit making plans to travel or to see and experience new things. Yet, I persisted.

“I will not give up on myself. Whatever sorry state I may be in, I will find some small thing to improve each day. One small success leads to another.  I will find I can set my sights higher as I start to feel better.”

So today I am walking in the park. “This walking is hard, I’m not used to it, I feel so weak,” says my other self.

“You’re okay. Just be in the moment,” I answer.

Being in the Moment

Honestly I have to give some credit to the dog here.  He teaches me mindfulness.  He is so attuned to his environment that there is hardly an ant on the sidewalk that he misses.  His ears perk up at the slightest sound and his eyes intently scan the surroundings as he trots along. Do I even need to mention the keenness of that nose of his? All his senses are working. He is loving his existence on this walk; he’s not thinking about the past or about the future.

“The prize is in the process,” I tell myself.  “There is freedom in the NOW.”  I no longer watch my feet as they plod along.  I stop thinking, “I’m almost home and then I can check this off the list and hurry to the next task.”

Instead, I take in. I absorb. I acknowledge. From here I can even look forward. Not just seeing what is up ahead of me, but actually hoping, dreaming, imagining. In yoga practice, I learned, “Your body will follow your gaze.” I dare to look up.

Skipping Ahead

I know that thoughts, feelings, and behaviors influence each other. Change one, and it changes the others. So, I invite change by simply behaving differently. I keep walking, even though it’s hard.

“I am going to skip,” I say to myself as I bring my enlightening walk to a close.

“What!?,” says my rational mind.  “You don’t know how anymore. And besides, what if someone is watching??”

“Aw, shut up. My body wants to skip, and I am shaking off the shackles!

So I skip the last 20 or 30 yards to home. Entering the house with a rush of endorphins, I let loose with a happy cry. Not a yell, or a cheer, but an actual cry, with tears.  It’s kind of a prayer…“THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!” Feelings of freedom, of renewed hope and confidence fill me. My sobs clear out storage units of despair, anger and fear.

I have turned a corner, and with acceptance and empowerment, I find the capacity to heal.

Vegetables are vital to an addition diet

Addition Diet

Dieters and health-seekers talk freely about food elimination diets. They report leaving grains, or dairy, or meats out of their diets. Then, they debate which foods should be removed from your menu. But have you ever considered a food addition diet? The focus of our conversations should be on how we can broaden our food plans to include more nutrition, not less.

Whether you are concerned about blood sugars, inflammation, or immune function, loading your body with nutrients will be healing. While no diet is perfect and each person is unique in his needs, food scientists agree that you can increase your consumption of vegetables, high quality protein, minerals, healthful fats, and prebiotic foods.

Adding Vegetables to Your Diet

Antioxidant, mineral-rich, anti-inflammatory, high-vitamin vegetables are the basis of an optimal diet. Up to 2/3 of your plate can be vegetables. How many servings of vegetables do you eat per day?

Regardless of where you are, you can do a little better each day, adding more quantity, quality, or diversity. If you eat mostly salads, you can add cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage and cauliflower. On the other hand, if you eat a lot of steamed vegetables, try more dark leafy greens, including kale, spinach, and chard. Consider also brightly-colored vegetables, which rich plant pigments of red, purple, and orange that lend powerful nutrients to your body. Examples of colored vegetables are eggplant, beets, and pumpkin. As a base for all meals, remember sulphur-rich vegetables that help the liver detoxify your body. These include mushrooms and plants in the onion family.

Not sure you can prepare anything more than corn and peas? This post contains recipes for 70 distinctive vegetables. Challenge yourself to try a new one each week!

Protein on an Addition Diet

The human body cannot live without protein. It forms the building blocks that create blood cells, hormones, enzyme, and antibodies. Protein shapes bones, muscles, skin, hair, and organs. Meat, fish, poultry, dairy, eggs, and even tempeh (traditionally-fermented soy) contribute to a well-rounded diet, as long as they are raised on their natural diet.

Already eating a Goldilocks portion of protein that is just right? Then you could replace some of your muscle meats with offal, which is much higher in nutrients. Concerned that you’re getting too much protein? Switch some of your sources for amino-acid rich broths, made from the bones of animals. The proteins in bone broth are more bio-available, meaning your body absorbs and uses them more easily than proteins it must break down from meat sources.

Boosting Your Mineral Intake

Would you drive your car on a cross-country trip with 50% of the spark plugs not working? Minerals are the spark plugs of your body, setting off almost all the the chemical reactions that have to occur each second for you to function. If you are eating a rainbow diet by including lots of produce on your plate, and if you are incorporating bone broths and organ meats into your meal plans, then you are already augmenting your mineral stores.

But there are always ways to do even better. One way is to use an unrefined sea salt or Himalayan salt to season your food. Another way is to drink herbal teas throughout the day. Plants grown in mineral-rich soils take these minerals into their roots and leaves. Nettle, alfalfa, and horsetail are famously strong in mineral content, with nettle boasting four times the amount of calcium as kale.

Incorporating Healthful Fats

No addition diet is complete without the inclusion of both unsaturated and saturated fats. Your brain is largely made up of saturated fat. But your cell membranes require unsaturated fat. So, both plant and animal fats are beneficial. But, stay away from man-made fats.

For generations, Americans have eaten a low-fat diet. The results have been rather disappointing. Instead of reducing heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity, low-fat diets seemed to have contributed even more to the epidemic. While going to extremes in fat consumption is not necessarily desirable, you can saute, grill, fry, and dress with the kinds of fats that occur in nature. Additionally, snacking on olives, avocados, whole-fat dairy products, raw nuts, and seeds definitely trumps eating potato chips, cookies, and other commercial snack foods.

You can learn more about which fats to use in this post.

Increasing Prebiotics

Maybe you’ve been adding vegetables to your diet. Perhaps you’re conscientious about getting adequate protein. You might even be using adequate fats to maintain your health. The next step, then, is to add foods to feed your microbiome. That’s the trillions of beneficial bacteria inside your gut that help manufacture vitamins, break down fiber, signal the immune system, and a thousand other jobs for your health.

It’s not enough to take probiotic supplements. Your microbes need food everyday for them to grow and multiply. They need the insoluble fibers that you do not digest well. They break these down, making butyric acid to feel your colon cells. Foods that support your healthy gut bacterial colonies include onions, asparagus, and artichokes. Beans and legumes are important, too.

Not only that, but food containing live cultures can augment your microbial populations. Fermented vegetables, miso, natto, kefir, and kombucha are just a few to choose from. I found that I could add a tablespoon of sauerkraut or sauerkraut juice to just about any dish to enhance its nutrition without affecting taste. This book has some great ideas.

Add Before You Subtract

It may be discouraging to think about removing sugar or processed foods from your diet. Yet, by the time you add the bounty of options nature has provided, you will not have room for artificial and refined products! Truly, an addition diet is an abundant way to eat!

An American Refrigerator

American Refrigerator

What’s in your refrigerator? Is it full of real food or just food-like substances? I got a glimpse of a typical American refrigerator the other day. Unfortunately, I couldn’t have made a satisfying meal with its contents.

Is This Your Refrigerator?

When I opened the door, incredulity overtook me.  I found beverages, condiments, trans-fats, leftover fast food, and refined white flour products. In short, man-made products filled the shelves. I saw beer, wine, pop, flavored water, and Coffee Mate. Moreover, margarine, bread, buns, tortillas, leftover pizza, and a single lemon shared the compartments.

But, were the vegetables? Well, yes, if potatoes count! But, where was there protein? I suppose I could name the flavored, sweetened yogurt, and the processed cheese.

Is this the sum of an American refrigerator? Next, I opened the freezer. My dismay remained: ice cream, popsicles, waffles, and a box of chicken nuggets stood frosty and ready.

Cupboards to Rival This American Refrigerator

Maybe I would find real food in the cupboards.

I didn’t.

Similar to the refrigerator, there were substances to satisfy one’s cravings: popcorn, crackers, chips, chocolate chips, and Swedish Fish. If I intended to cook, I could have used the white flour, sugar, shortening, and vegetable oil. Then, I could pour imitation syrup on top. In summary, I discovered only three “meals” – instant oatmeal, canned soup, and canned chili. (Peanut butter is not a meal!)

Why is the American Refrigerator Problematic?

A steady stream of empty-calorie foods degrade your health. Unquestionably, food-like substances have been linked to fatigue, depression and diabetes. These non-foods negatively impact the function of your heart, your liver, and your brain. Furthermore, they can damage your memory and cause dangerous swings in your blood sugars. Not to mention increasing your risk of cancer. Lastly, they impair your digestion.

Refrigerator Makeover

So, how do you create a super-stocked refrigerator?

  • Start with produce. No health practitioner will argue that you need fewer plant foods. Fruits and vegetables are critical to optimal wellness. Your body needs the fresh leafy greens, brightly- colored tree and vine fruits, and cruciferous vegetables you store in the refrigerator. Strive for variety and include as many colors as possible.
  • Visit the butcher block and the fishmonger. While you don’t need an excess of protein, you should include good quality animal products in your diet. Regardless of your chosen diet, eat no less than 20 grams of protein per meal. Seafood and pastured animals provide building blocks for your red blood cells, hormones, immune cells, organs, bones and muscles.
  • Add some natural fats. Grass-fed butter, coconut products, olive oil, nuts, and avocados create health on a cellar level. They support brain health and contribute to beautiful skin, hair, and nails. Also, natural fats make vegetables taste good and are helpful in preparing meats.
  • Stick to whole grains. Steel-cut oats are a better choice than boxed cereal, and quinoa trumps pasta. Choose 100% whole wheat over products from refined flour.

No one can give you health. You create it from day to day by the choices you make. So, decide to fill your refrigerator with nutrient-dense food.

Woman can't stop carb-loading

Stop Carb Loading

Whether you just love breads and pastas,  or whether you’re unaware how skewed your diet is, you have to stop carb- loading if you want to balance your blood sugars.

Americans typically get 60-80% of their calories from carbohydrates. A healthier amount would be closer to 40%. That means filling the gap with wisely-chosen proteins and natural fats.

Choose Protein at Every Meal

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • Swap cottage cheese for yogurt some mornings, or add cottage cheese to salad at lunch time. (Low-fat cottage cheese is 73% protein, substantially higher than yogurt, and definitely higher than nut butters, or beans).
  • Drink bone broth and substitute bone broth for water in cooking (for grains, legumes, sauces, simmered veggies). I even mix bone broth with tomato paste whenever I need tomato sauce. Most brands average about 8 grams of protein per cup. It’s easy to make your own!
  • Slip in an extra egg white! Yolks are mostly fat, but whites are almost all protein. (You can save the yolk for a moisturizing treatment for dry hair.)
  • Snack on grass-fed jerky. This helps offset the tendency to grab chips, crackers, cookies, and other empty carbs between meals.
  • Top salads with canned crab, shrimp, tuna or salmon. If your budget is tight, these seafood options are much more affordable than fresh fish, poultry, or meat.
  • Focus on breakfast. Adding a little more meat to lunch and dinner may be easy, but it’s trickier to get enough protein in the morning. If you want to avoid heavy, high-fat choices, you might consider a sausage alternative that goes well with breakfast foods.
  • Whisk some collagen powder into salad dressings, meat sauces, or even your oatmeal!
  • Sub sprouted grain bread for your regular loaf.

Ways to Stop Carb-loading

  • Limit yourself to 1/2 cup fruit at breakfast. If you are a smoothie lover, it may be easy to overdo it here. And if you eat oatmeal, remember that your bowl is all carbohydrate even before you start topping it with honey and fruit.
  • Choose grain OR potato for a meal, but not both. If your curry contains potato cubes, you don’t need rice, too. If you’re eating mashed potatoes, skip the dinner roll.
  • Reduce rice and pasta to 1/2 cup per meal.
  • Try Thin Slice bread for 15-17 grams carbohydrate instead of the 28-35 grams of a normal slice. Seeded breads tend to be lower in net carbs because the high fiber is subtracted from the carb count. A great one is Dave’s Killer Bread Power Seed.
  • When you eat out, skip the dinner roll.
  • Make breakfast count! Experiment with some low-carb breakfasts, such as egg & avocado, or cottage cheese pancakes, topped with honey butter (2/3 butter, 1/3 honey).

Stop Carb-loading to Restart Your Energy

High levels of refined carbohydrate intake have been associated with chronic fatigue, cravings, hormone imbalances, obesity, insulin resistance, depression, anxiety, high cholesterol levels, and even autoimmunity. If you want to regain your health, it’s best to stop carb–loading as your first step.