Lifestyle

toddler taking tiny steps up a staircase

Tiny Steps to Decrease Your Stress

You only need to take tiny steps to decrease your stress! So, don’t stress about de-stressing! Dissipating a build-up of frustration and pressure doesn’t take an hour of yoga, or a vacation to the Bahamas. It only takes 30 to 90 seconds when you use rituals that you can ingrain into your routines every day.

Pick behaviors that you can do in the time it takes you to sing the alphabet song. Make them actions that you can easily do on the spur of the moment. Then attach them to something that is already part of your daily life, such as eating, grooming, or driving.

Decrease your stress with tiny steps, literally

You might typically blow off some pressure by going for a run or hitting the gym. But what if you could take small exercise snacks throughout the day, each being less than 100 steps? The opportunity to expand your lungs and walk away from a demanding situation could be all you need to re-set your nervous system. Here are some suggestions:

  • Do push-ups during TV commercials.
  • Run a flight of stairs or two before a meal.
  • Rebound for two minutes at the top of each hour.
  • Squat while you brush your teeth or use the toilet.
  • Walk around the block when you collect your mail.
  • Race a family member to the corner.
  • Do press-ups against the counter while you wait for the kettle to boil or the microwave to beep.

Tiny bites to decrease your stress

Eating on the run is physiologically stressful. You keep your body in fight-or-flight, and don’t allow it to switch into rest-and-digest when you grab and dash with your meals. But you can take tiny steps in your eating hygiene that will change your stress, at least at mealtimes. Try these ideas:

  • Use toddler utensils to remind yourself to take smaller bites and chew more thoroughly.
  • Deeply inhale the fragrances of the meals before you take a bite, then breathe out through a straw to encourage a slow exhale.
  • Set the table and spread a napkin in your lap to encourage yourself to sit at a table. This distracts you from eating mindlessly in front of the TV or snarfing snacks while you drive.
  • Use a small mug for your beverage so that you don’t dilute your meal and add unnecessary calories.
  • Verbalize appreciation or reflect on your good fortune every time you sip your beverage.

Practice instant stress hacks throughout your day

Stress hacks either change your breathing to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, stimulate your vagus nerve, release oxytocin, or downregulate stress hormones. If you do them consistently, you can proactively keep your stress level from rising out of control.

Scribble post-it notes to remind you to engage in one or several of these hacks regularly:

  • Stretch into 2 or 3 sun salutations when your feet hit the floor in the morning.
  • Listen to binaural beats while you get ready for the day.
  • Sing in the shower.
  • Blow your breath out fully every time your wash your face or your hands.
  • Hum while your drive.
  • Gargle long and loud every time you take a bathroom break.
  • Take 3 deep breaths every time you reach for your water bottle.
  • Massage your occipital ridge when you face conflict.
  • Give a 20-second hug when you meet a cherished friend or companion.
  • Suck on an l-theanine lozenge while you work on reports or presentations.
  • Practice a 1-minute meditation at the end of your workday.
  • Snuggle with a pet after dinner.
  • Write a 2-minute “gratitude dump” in your journal after your put on your pajamas.

If the idea of tiny steps to decrease your stress resonates with you, check out my post, Change Your Diet with Micro Habits. To learn more about small changes guaranteed to improve your lifestyle, read Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg.

 

apple & banana to change your diet

Change Your Diet with Micro Habits

To change your diet may seem intimidating. Perhaps you know you need to eat better, but you don’t have time to cook. Or maybe you have food sensitivities and crave the foods you react to. It’s possible you believe that the whole idea of planning, shopping, and controlling intake is utterly overwhelming.

No problem! Micro habits are attainable because they are easy, usually something you can do in the next 30 seconds. Not only that, but micro-habits help you change your diet because your motivation to accomplish them is going to be much higher than it would be for something that’s causing you stress. Micro habits fit into your schedule seamlessly. You can remember to accomplish them because you attach them to something you are already doing.

Start with hydration

You probably read that heading and had a nagging feeling of guilt. You know you are supposed to drink more water. It doesn’t taste good, or you forget, or you’re simply addicted to your caffeine. That’s okay! Keep your routine for now and add some micro habits.  Here are six suggestions you can implement immediately to galvanize your ability to change your diet.

  • Drink a glass of lemon water first thing in the morning while your coffee brews. You can even set it out on your nightstand or your kitchen counter the night before, so you don’t forget.
  • Fill several water bottles to carry with you throughout your day. Do this when you feed the dogs/cats/kids in the morning. You can even drop in an herbal tea bag to cold infuse so that your water has some flavor.
  • Supercharge your water glass or water bottle with a sugar-free powdered electrolyte mix, such as Ultima Replenisher or LMNT.
  • Sip from your water bottle every time you enter or exit a building.
  • Grab a drink every time you use the restroom.
  • Request herbal tea or water instead of soda or coffee at restaurant and convenience stores.

Change your beverages before your change your diet

I believe that before the industrial age, people mostly drank water, except for a morning coffee or an afternoon tea. To the detriment of our health, many of us now only drink soda, or rely on multiple cups – or even pots – of coffee to keep going throughout the day. Then we need a nightcap in order to calm down at night. Micro-habits to the rescue! You can frontload your diet changes by taking tiny steps that keep the ritual but change the nutrition of your beverages.

Downregulate your coffee intake with any of these swaps:

  • Swiss water process de-caffeinated coffee. Also called the Water-Only process, this method uses water no chemicals to remove the caffeine from coffee beans. As a result, you don’t get harmful chemical residues for your body to detoxify, and the product tastes better.
  • Organic matcha. Much less caffeinated that straight coffee, a matcha latte with milk, stevia, vanilla & cinnamon might be satisfying to you in the morning.
  • Green tea. Served with honey, this serves as an afternoon pick-me-up that contains a small amount of caffeine along with l-theanine to increase focus and calm your nervous system.
  • Sip a coffee alternative. Many brands have been developed to support the coffee habit without the caffeine. A few of these are Dandy Blend, MUD/WTR, Rasa, Four Sigmatic, and Harmonic Arts Elixirs.

You can wean yourself from soda by switching to Zevia first. Later, you can try kombucha or mineral water before graduating to plain water.

To reduce your alcohol intake, search the internet for mocktail recipes to enjoy, or try virgin Wilderton, distilled from botanicals and 100% alcohol free.

Change your dietary habits with substitutions

Unfortunately, many of us want results yesterday. So, we try to make big changes all at once. When we don’t implement them perfectly, we get frustrated, lose our motivation and give up.

The beauty of a micro habit is that it allows you to make a small movement that doesn’t disrupt your rhythm. Soon, you are able to take on even more healthy changes to your diet. Like the tortoise who beat the hare, you reach your goal by slow and steady progress rather than intermittent spurts.

Below are some trades you can make to increase the nutrient density of your food.

  • Olive oil or coconut oil for vegetable oil (canola, corn, soy, safflower, cottonseed).
  • Rutabaga for potato (try it mashed or air-fried).
  • Cassava crackers for potato chips
  • Organ-based seaasoning for table salt
  • Zoodles (zucchini spirals) or Miracle Noodles for pasta
  • Grilled chicken for fried chicken

Additionally, you can boost your meals by slipping in extra protein, natural fat, or vegetables. Sneak in some of these:

  • Avocado, coconut milk, or flax seeds in your smoothie
  • Collagen in your yogurt, juice, oatmeal, salad dressing, or tea
  • Bits of frozen spinach or kale in your soup, marinara, pizza, scrambled egg, or rice
  • Simple sauces on your vegetables to make them taste better.

If you like the idea of micro habits, check out my post on Tiny Steps to Decrease Your Stress. To learn more about small changes guaranteed to improve your lifestyle, read Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg.

 

 

Tidings of comfort and joy

Comfort and Joy

Comfort and joy may be hard to find amid the stress of holiday shopping, wrapping, and baking. So, that’s the very reason you should engage this Christmas in behaviors that bring satisfaction and happiness. There are dozens of brief actions – besides gorging on seasonal treats – that can make you happy without turning to destructive eating habits.

Comfort and Joy are Vital

Feeling comfort and joy isn’t just a good idea. It’s health promoting! Surely, you recognize that a build-up of stress can cause disease. Additionally, health practitioners accept that negative emotion causes imbalance and dysregulation. So, of course, the opposite is veritable: stress-reduction can instigate healing. Calming behaviors bring harmony & balance.  Likewise, joy brings healing, connection and a sense of well-being.

But how do you grasp this sense of well-being in the hectic flurry of Christmas preparations? By using your senses. Of course, you know that tasting can bring comfort and joy. That can be a problem during the holiday season when so many rich dishes and treats abound. However, the other four senses can be just as beneficial in helping your feel satisfied and happy.

Seeing Can Dissipate Stress

It only takes a moment to look – really look – for gifts around us that generate gratitude and pleasure. Take time for some of these habits that engender comfort and joy:

  • stargazing
  • watching the clouds
  • immersing yourself in the forest
  • surrounding yourself with the sights in a meadow
  • staring at pond ripples & reflections
  • birdwatching
  • fire-gazing
  • watching a sunrise
  • admiring a sunset
  • sunbathing
  • looking at your favorite photos
  • remembering good images in your mind
  • watching the rain
  • gazing at the ocean or mountains
  • looking at Christmas lights

Listen for Sounds of Comfort and Joy

Just as looking helps you bust through stress and appreciate the goodness of life, hearing also brings you to gratitude in the present moment. Here is my list of aural actions for comfort and joy. What favorites can you add to the list?

  • playing baby laughter sound bites
  • listening to bird songs
  • hearing ocean or creek sounds
  • turning on your favorite music
  • listening to the breeze
  • singing
  • laughing
  • giving compliments
  • hearing the rain on the roof
  • talking to people
  • praying
  • humming
  • following a guided meditation
  • listening to binaural beats
  • hearing crickets chirping

Smell Your Way Out of Stress

Christmas just might be your favorite time of year to enjoy your favorite scents, such as fresh-cut pines or cookies baking. Truly, smells that you experience in childhood during happy events become forever imprinted on your mind. You only need catch a whiff of a certain scent to be transported back to a joyous time. So, why not intentionally put your nose into something delicious. It’s sure you relieve your stress for a moment. Here are some ideas:

  • smelling autumn leaves
  • smelling the roses
  • diffusing aromatherapy oils
  • breathing in conifer scents
  • smelling rain
  • smelling wet earth
  • drinking lemon-infused water
  • enjoying a cup of herbal tea
  • inhaling the smell of dark chocolate shavings
  • enjoying scents in a candle shop
  • simmering potpourri

Find Comfort and Joy Through Touch

Whether you are feeling the plush of a new shirt or blanket around your arms, or tiptoeing across the carpet on Christmas morning, touch is comforting! When you make yourself aware of the sensations you are feeling, you can experience joy. Take these suggestions as starters and add your own!

  • dancing
  • strolling
  • bending and stretching with yoga
  • playing with clay
  • ice skating
  • roller skating
  • biking
  • rebounding
  • box breathing
  • getting some massage therapy
  • having acupuncture
  • tumbling
  • soaking in an epsom salt bath
  • walking barefoot on the grass
  • snuggling with a pet
  • writing a thank you note
  • smiling
  • forgiving
  • volunteering
  • hugging
  • gardening
  • nurturing friendships
  • drawing a picture of your favorite junk food – it can be just as satisfying as eating it!
  • finger painting
  • engaging in random acts of kindness
  • putting together a puzzle

Enjoy the Season!

Now you have 65 ways to find comfort and joy this Christmas! May you connect with loved ones, feel peace, and thrive in health!

 

 

January Lecture: Help! I'm Hangry!

Stop Being Hangry 5 Ways

Want to stop being hangry? Do you feel like a dragon when you get hungry. Help is here for the snarky creature you become. Your irritability happens because your blood sugars drop too far. But that doesn’t mean you should grab a candy bar or eat every 2-3 hours. On the contrary, fueling yourself with well-spaced traditional meals may be more effective to help you stop being hangry.

Eat a Balanced Breakfast

When you break your fast is not as important as how your break your fast. It is true that eating sooner than later definitely brings relief if you want to stop being hangry. But having a balance of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for your first meal of the day weighs in more heavily to maintain your blood sugar balance. Your mocha and muffin actually exacerbate your grouchy crankiness. They drive your blood sugars abnormally high and set you up for an even greater crash. This starts of cycle of alternating highs and lows for the day.

So, for breakfast, consider a combination carbs, fats, and proteins to keep you running smoothing for hours. For example, you might try one of these combinations:

  • Oats, protein powder, and chia seeds, with (nut) butter, cream, or coconut milk
  • Whole grain sprouted toast with ham, swiss, and poached egg
  • Cottage cheese, strawberries, hemp seed & pistachios on whole grain toast
  • Scrambled egg, black beans, cheese and salsa in a corn tortilla
  • Fried egg, smoked salmon & avocado on a sweet potato half
  • Greek yogurt, ricotta, lemon zest, almonds, berries, and chia seeds
  • Sausage patty, pineapple ring, and cheese in a lettuce wrap

Stop Being Hangry with Smart Snacking

When the hunger dragon strikes, your urge might be to snarf a bag of cookies or chips. However, combining an unrefined fat (such as nuts or seeds) with a slow-burning carbohydrate (such as a vegetable) will stabilize your blood sugars and keep you fueled longer. Therefore, wise combinations of whole foods stop you from being hangry. Here are some suggestions:

  • Strawberries & pistachios
  • Pico de gallo & boiled egg
  • Baby carrots & hummus
  • Celery & sunflower seed butter
  • Snap peas & tahini
  • Mandarin oranges & guacamole
  • Cherry tomatoes & olives
  • Banana & walnuts
  • Whole grain cracker & smoked salmon
  • Blueberries & Greek yogurt (Fage Total)
  • Dates & goat cheese

Count Quality as Much as Quantity

Many people think they must eat a low-carbohydrate diet in order to stop being hangry. Rather than reducing your carbohydrates, consider changing the type of carbohydrates you eat. Grab a handful of berries instead of a glass of juice in the morning. Build your pasta with squash or sweet potato instead of noodles. Choose a whole fruit instead of pastries when you want something sweet. Maximize your vegetable intake. Avoid sugary, sweetened beverages, products made with refined flour, and commercial snack foods. Instead, choose plant foods in their natural form that don’t come with a nutrition label: whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, and especially vegetables.

Don’t Skimp on Natural Fats

You may have been taught to eat a low-fat diet. Unfortunately, to satiate your hunger, you have tried to fill up on crackers, chips, sodas, and other processed foods. These are like kindling on your metabolic fire. They flare up in a burst of energy, then fade away quickly into ashes. On the other hand, fats are like logs. They burn long and slow. That doesn’t mean you should eat fries and fry sauce to stop being hangry. Nature’s foods are naturally balanced with fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Milk, eggs, meat, nuts, and seeds all have fats that work in harmony with your body. So capitalize on foods such as olives, avocados, butter, pastured and wild-caught meats, and other traditional foods to keep your blood sugars balanced.

Lower Your Stress to Stop Being Hangry

Did you know that stress can wreak more havoc on blood sugars than a poor diet? When you are under pressure, you need a ready source of energy to fight your dragons. Of course, this sets up cravings for fast fuel: empty carbohydrates. So, if you want to stop being hangry, you might need to take a few deep breaths and get back in control of your stress.

Fruity low-sugar lemonade as a thirst quencher

Thirst Quenchers For Sweat and Sun

Thirst quenchers are what you need when the heat’s on! We have some easy, refreshing thirst quenchers free of added sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or artificial flavors and colors. They will help you hydrate for sunny and sweaty days.

Why Not Drink Soda and Sports Drinks as Thirst Quenchers?

We all love soda. It’s sweet, cheap, and convenient. But Irina Todorov, a Wellness and Preventative Medicine Physician with the Cleveland Clinic, points out that our number one killer, heart disease, is highly associated with sugary beverages. “The more regular soda cans per day we drink, the more likely we are to die from heart disease,” says Dr. Todorov.

So, what about diet soda as a thirst quencher? Truthfully, it’s just as bad. Penn Medicine reports that zero-calorie sodas actually cause more weight gain than regular soda, and increase your risk for diabetes and stroke by as much as 50%.

As for electrolyte-containing sports drinks, their sugar concentration can actually block your efforts to hydrate, according to this study. 

What’s a Thirsty Soul to Do?

Tomato and cucumber can be hydrating

Since your body is primarily made up of water, the obvious way to slake your thirst is to drink water. US News reports that if you are resting, you need to drink half your body weight in ounces. But exercise and extra weight can increase that baseline requirement, as explained in this article. Therefore, you may need 12 glasses or more per day, instead of the 6-8 you’re consuming.

However, plain water is just not as tasty or exciting as other thirst quenchers on the market, right? Don’t worry, there are many ways to get water without actually drinking it!

  • Puree a seedless watermelon, and pour the liquid into popsicle molds to freeze. Then you can suck your hydration!
  • Drink cucumber juice, spiked with fresh, crushed mint leaves. Cucumbers are 90% water and have a much lower sugar content than fruits. (As stated above, sugar can inhibit hydration.) The mint increases flavor appeal and has a cooling quality.
  • Slurp a broth-based soup, such as this tasty summer gazpacho. Bone broth is high in electrolytes. Therefore you are less likely to urinate off its water content. Electrolytes help you retain water for cellular hydration.
  • Swap out some of your carbs for vegetables. Since highly processed foods are less than 10% water, and yet vegetables are upwards of 80% water, you can hydrate by making some simple sustitutions. Snack on carrots, not crackers. Use spiralized vegetables, such as squash or zucchini, in place of pasta. Satisfy your cravings with sweet, juicy grapes instead of cookies. Crunch on celery instead of chips.
  • Eat more salads. Lettuce, spinach, and cabbage are among the top water-containing vegetables.
  • Sip coconut water. High in electrolytes, coconut water also has higher water content than fruit juices. It is healthier than most sports drinks, because it contains no added sugars and no artificial flavors or colors.

But I Want Fizzy Thirst Quenchers!

Mineral water as a thirst quencher

That’s easy, too! Flavor a bottle of sparkling mineral water, such as Gerolsteiner or Pellegrino, with a splash of citrus juice for a Hollywood spritzer. Or try my favorite technique: drop a fruit-flavored herbal tea bag into the mineral water and let it cold-infuse. If your beverage is not sweet enough, you can add powdered glycine, a sweet-tasting amino acid.

Even simpler, just buy a bottle of kombucha. It’s not only a good thirst quencher, it’s probiotic profile is good for your gut, too.

But if you’re still craving a true soda, you can drink stevia-sweetened Zevia, then dilute it over time with sparkling water.

Celebration Beverages

special occasion watermelon lemonade

For that evening social, the birthday party, the family reunion, or the date at the pool, you can still hydrate in a healthy way.

Strawberry Milkshake for 2

Romantic and refreshing

  • 1/2 pound strawberries
  • 1 c. coconut milk
  • 2 Tb. coconut butter
  • 2 Tb. collagen power or plant-based protein powder
  • 8 ice cubes

Blend until creamy. Pour into glasses and serve with straws.

Pink Lemonade

Low-sugar and appealing

  • 1/2 c. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 1 3/4 c. water, divided
  • 1 1/2 c. frozen fruit, such as watermelon or raspberries

Combine the lemon juice, honey, and 1/4 cup of the water in a small saucepan and warm slightly until honey dissolves. Blend with remaining water (ice cold) and frozen fruit. Strain if desired. Makes 1 quart.

 

Lemon and ginger are cold and flu remedies that work

Cold and Flu Remedies that Work

During cold and flu season, you need remedies that work – that actually cure your symptoms, rather than just mask them. Here are my personal favorites.

Cold and Flu Prevention

The most important step you can take during the winter months is to protect yourself before the sick days come. Common sense applies here. Sleep long and deep (about 8 hours) every night, stay hydrated, eat your vegetables, and get plenty of sunshine, fresh air, and vitamin J (joy).

But is there more you can do? I believe so. Like maidens with garlic to ward off vampires, fire cider seems to nip viruses before they can get established. The principle of fire cider is to preserve the anti-microbial qualities of several plants in a vinegar base, then take a spoonful every day.

Fire cider recipes abound on the internet. They all include garlic, onion, ginger, horseradish, and apple cider vinegar. Some use lemon, cayenne, turmeric, rosemary, thyme, or other ingredients from your pantry. I have used recipes from Mommypotamus, Wellness Mama, and Mountain Rose Herbs.

My favorite way to use this cold and flu remedy is to incorporate it into an oil and vinegar salad dressing, using the fire cider in place of the vinegar in the recipe.

Immune Support that Works

When you feel that scratchy throat just beginning, or the chills setting in, you need nutrients to switch your immune system into high gear. Keep a cold and flu remedy box in your medicine cabinet that contains vitamin A (retinol form), vitamin D3, vitamin C, and zinc picolinate. At the first sign of illness, take the following doses each day for 7 days:

  • 10,000 IU of vitamin A
  • 5,000 IU of vitamin D3
  • 2,000 mg. of vitamin C
  • 45 m.g of zinc picolinate in 15 mg. doses spaced 4-6 hours apart

As a bonus, you can take an astralgus supplement twice a day for two days.

Fever Remedies

There is a difference between gently drawing down a fever and suppressing it. When you suppress a fever with aspirin, ibuprofen or Tylenol, you hamper your body’s ability to fight the virus inside. So when the pill wears off, you experience a more virulent fever than if you had just let it run it’s course. Alex Pinchot, ND, says, “When we get in the way of our bodies innate ability to fight an infection we end up prolonging the illness and are more uncomfortable for longer.”

It is wonderfully soothing to lay a vinegar-soaked washcloth on a hot forehead, or to put vinegar-soaked stockings on your burning feet. You’ll keep your fever low-grade while still allowing it to work against your cold or flu virus. Here’s how to do it: dilute 1 cup of apple cider vinegar with 2 cups of tepid water. Wring your fabric out before applying it. If you are soaking socks, wear wool socks over the top of them and re-soak them after about 3 hours when they are dried out.

Another important principle to remember about fevers is that our greatest discomfort comes when we begin to get dehydrated. You don’t have to limit yourself to water in order to replenish your body’s need. Herbal teas and especially bone broth are particularly nourishing and restorative. I also like electrolyte powders, such as Ultima Replenisher, added to my water.

A Restorative Remedy for Malaise

I understand how difficult it is to budge when everything aches and the fatigue goes bone deep! However, movement can get lymph flowing better, moving waste away from our cells, and it can open up airways, reducing congestion. Yoga teacher Adriene Mishler presents a most relaxing and rejuvenating sequence you can do on your sick bed.

Zinc Works for Sore Throats

You’ve seen supplements that combine vitamin C with zinc. That’s logical since the immune system uses both to fight pathogens. But have you ever thought of applying zinc directly to your inflamed throat tissue? Ahhh, it’s truly soothing! And it doesn’t just numb; it actually provides immune support to your throat tissue. My favorite spray is TheraZinc.

Other Cold and Flu Remedies that Work

  • Cough: Did you know that according to this study, honey is just as effective as dextromethorphan, the active ingredient in most cough syrups? I like mixing it with a little lemon juice and warm water. Others stir it into oil and vinegar, or combine it with cinnamon.
  • Headache: Several different essential oils can be effective when rubbed on the temples. I am partial to peppermint or spruce.
  • Congestion: Hydration is paramount. I find it helpful to temporarily omit dairy and to sip a cup of steaming herbal tea, such as peppermint, eucalyptus, or ginger.

Don’t Forget to Support Your Spleen

It’s a forgotten organ, but your spleen is a blood purifier and is challenged in its filtering capabilities when you are under viral attack. A few drops of burdock tincture or a cup of burdock tea every few hours can be quite healing. I also recommend skin brushing to keep your lymph from stagnating and putting additional burden on the spleen.

The Most Important Cold and Flu Remedy

Last, but not least, take a day off – or several. Stop pushing. Let your body do the work of recovering without fighting against you. It needs the energy to address the viral threat, not to meet work deadlines, run the kids to soccer, throw in another load of laundry, and fix dinner for company. Don’t just take an over-the-counter symptom treatment to keep going. Give your body the grace to heal by truly resting.

 

Measuring foods against an ideal diet

The Ideal Diet

What is the ideal diet? Is it Keto or Vegan? Should you employ the Flexitarian approach or try Intermittent Fasting? What about Volumetrics?

Truthfully, none of the above diets are ideal for everyone. Because our physiology, genetics, stressors, food tastes, energy expenditures, and budgets are all different, there is no one-size-fits-all diet!

However, there are some principles that can be applied to every eating style. These principles have guided international cuisines through the ages. They have kept humans alive and thriving for millennia.

First and foremost, the ideal diet for you will be one the that supports your lifestyle the best. No approach is any good to you if you can’t implement it consistently over the long haul. Sure, anyone can “white-knuckle’ a diet for a few weeks. But is it sustainable? Is it enjoyable? Further, can you do it without endlessly charting, counting, and tracking? In addition, are the ingredients readily available?

Once you have determined what foods are accessible that you are willing to cook and eat on a regular basis, you might consider these additional keys. I deem these tenets as ideal for mankind’s diet across the planet.

5 Keys To An Ideal Diet

  1. No industrially processed or refined foods. If you think about it, you will realize that food labels are a relatively modern creation. If you were to travel to the Inuit, the Maori, or the Maasai of yesteryear, you would find no commercial foods whatsoever. Now, I’m not glorifying primitive life. I’m only pointing out that strong people require strong natural foods.
  2. A balance of animal and plant foods. Your physiology is that of an omnivore. Nature did not design you to be purely carnivorous nor utterly vegan. You need the phytonutrients of the plant kingdom, and the fats, amino acids, and vitamins of the animal kingdom.
  3. Nutrient dense. Foods from nature have comparatively lower calories and higher nutritional value than man-made foods. For example, contrast a stalk of broccoli with a protein bar. There are so many wholesome plant chemicals in the broccoli that we haven’t even discovered them all! But we know there are upwards of 500.
  4. Cooked plant foods and raw animal proteins. In the ideal diet, vegetables are best raw and animal foods are best cooked, right? Not necessarily. We can learn from traditional cultures that some plants are more digestible when cooked. Some proteins are best consumed with the raw enzymes that help us digest them. Nature and history are good schoolmasters to help us weigh the benefits of cooking against eating raw.
  5. Some fermented foods or beverages. Until the commercialization of modern foods, there was no culture in the world that did not eat fermented products regularly in its diet. Some examples are kimchi from Korea and chutney from India, natto from Japan, and togwa from Tanzania. Mexico had its horchata, and Finland had its sima. These help stabilize your oh-so-important microbiome.

Additional Tenets for Optimal Eating

  1. Soaked, soured, cultured grains, legumes, nuts & seeds. Is it possible that today’s allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances are partially due to improperly-prepared food? In temperate regions all over the globe, societies pre-treated their seeds with extensive methods of sprouting or fermenting. These approaches neutralize the “anti-nutrients” that make them indigestible.
  2. A wide variety of saturated and monounsaturated fats. Certainly, we should understand the science by now proving that a fat-free diet is absolutely detrimental to human health. But which fat is best? Perhaps olive oil is optimal for the heart. However, you cannot build a brain without saturated fat! No single fat has the corner on the health market. The best diet contains fats from both animals and plants, from a diverse range of foods.
  3. Colored salt. Since when was stripping any food down to a single molecule advantageous to your health? Nature brings us food with all the co-factors we need to utilize it. In the case of salt, the other trace minerals are crucial to maintaining our electrolyte balance.
  4. Skin, bones, and organs, too. Just as it is unnatural to eat food that has been processed down to a component or two (think sugar and white flour), it is also just as short-sighted and unhealthy to eat only the  muscles of a creature and to throw away the rest. All societies from the beginning of time made use of the whole animal in their cooking. Each part has its special contribution, such as collagen, minerals, or vitamins.
  5. Special nutrition for select groups. Soon-to-be parents, mothers, and children have an especially high nutritional need! Nature requires these individuals to eat better for the propagation of the race. Our rising generation should have the best diet of all, instead of the most deficient! It is deplorable that we bribe our little ones with treats, send them with puffed bits of artificial food for lunch, and serve them dinners of instant, processed, microwaved substances.

For me, the ideal diet is the one that is closest to nature!

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.