The “Yes” Express

IMG_2244 “I’d love to, but I’m afraid I’m just too busy that day, but let’s get a date on the calendar, that does work”. “I’d love to help at the event but I’m already volunteering at a fundraiser that same week”. These things aren’t hard to say and yet somehow or other, when we are in the moment, often these are not the words that come out. We end up saying “Of course, I’d love to help” or “I’ll be there” or “Yes, I’ll host that” or any number of similar answers. We just seem to have a hard time saying “NO”!

Jingle Bells

The holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year for many people. There’s decorating and shopping to be done, baking and cooking. We want to see all our family, friends and colleagues. There are parties and open houses and dinners and on and on. How wonderful it all sounds! However, a couple of weeks at this pace and you may find yourself tired and grumpy before we’re even half way through December, which is not wonderful at all! Of course we want to do as many fun things as possible and if you are good with a hectic pace, go for it! However, for some of us it’s important to set boundaries and save a little time and energy so that we can enjoy the season. I remember the days when I would cram it all in, and be so exhausted by the end of the year that I inevitably started the New Year with a bad cold and sore throat.

My Proposal

I don’t want you to think of it in terms of saying “no” to someone or something but instead think of it as saying “yes” to yourself! We all love the word “yes”. It has such a nice soft sound to it. It’s fun to say and good to hear.
When you say “no” to an invitation or obligation that could cause you stress, what you’re really doing is saying, “yes” to you, and you’re worth it!!

“Yes” is More!

Saying, “yes” to yourself is like telling yourself how valuable you are. How worthy you are of care and consideration. You’re telling yourself you’re important, and your needs are valid. When you say, “yes” to yourself you’re also setting a good example for your family, friends, and children. People will respect you when you set these boundaries. Lead by example and set the tone for others. When you get through the season with ease and are able to enjoy every moment with your friends or loved ones, and maintain good health and cheer, others will take note. It is not selfish but sensible. What good are you to anyone if you deplete yourself or compromise your own life or health? We naturally want to make others happy (which is a nice thing) but we shouldn’t always do this at the expense of ourselves. You don’t have to always be the one to host the family gathering or make the entire meal. Find ways to share the responsibilities with others. And don’t feel bad about declining an invitation (as lovely it is to receive them) because you have multiple commitments that same week and you need a little time to recharge or to work on your own projects or passions. Unless of course you actually enjoy wrapping presents at 2 a.m.!

Say “yes” to...  

yourself

your health

your body

your well being

your needs

your spirit

your passions

your dreams

your choices

your ideas

If saying, “yes” to someone else compromises your life in some way, then you seriously need to think about saying, “yes” to yourself instead! I spent years saying, “yes” to things and people that didn’t serve me. How did that work out for me? Not so well! I have worked hard at learning to say “yes” to myself instead. It takes practice but I can report that I have gotten rather good at it! Trust me, the more you practice doing it, the easier it gets. You quickly see and feel the difference it makes in your life and then there’s no going back. The power of saying, “yes” to yourself builds and builds. So, get on the “yes” express with me now, and feel the difference for yourself! How are you at saying, “yes” to yourself and your needs? Do you have any tips to share to help us all out as we navigate the holiday season? Please share below, we’d love to hear!  email_signoff1

Go with the flow! The Benefits of Eating What’s In Season

I think we would all agree that’s its easier to be in the natural flow of things than trying to fight against it. This is just as true when it comes to eating. Sometimes we have to be reminded to change our diet with the season. So many of us eat the exact same thing for breakfast everyday, don’t vary our lunches very often and have a few go-to dinner recipes. This does make our busy lives just a little easier. However, let’s keep the seasons in mind and try to follow the natural order of things. Our ancestors would eat with the season, not because they were trying to be fashionable but because they simply didn’t have a choice. They didn’t expect to be eating peaches in the winter and Brussels sprouts in the summer. Technology and our modern food system allow us access to most foods all year round and grocery store shelves don’t vary that much from season to season anymore.
Eating seasonally is simply trying to include foods in your diet that are grown at the same time of the year that you actually eat them.
Eating seasonally is good for your health, the planet and can save you money! IMG_1092

Higher Nutritional Content

Produce harvested and eaten at its peak generally has more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than produce harvested before it’s really ready and then shipped long distances. You know what a big fan I am of those free-radical fighting antioxidants helping to keep our bodies free from disease! Foods that are grown out of season are often sprayed with all sorts of chemicals to help them survive in a growing season that’s not natural for them. Therefore, these foods are often full of pesticides, waxes, preservatives and other chemicals that are used in order to make them look fresher than they are. YUK! More preservatives = Less nutritional value

Flavor

Fruits and vegetables just taste better when they’re eaten in season. A great example is the perfect, juicy tomato ripened by the summer sun versus the bland, not so juicy green house grown winter version

Variety is the spice of life

When we eat for the seasons we naturally get a broader variety of foods in our diet. This can encourage us to try new things and consequently, expand our palate. This can also help create a more well-rounded and better balanced diet. Nature knows best and seasonal foods often harmonize with our nutritional needs. In winter we are provided with foods that help keep us warm and in summer with foods to cool our body down and keep us hydrated. So as winter approaches, think about replacing that lunch salad with a bowl of hearty soup. Eating seasonally also allows us to rotate the foods we eat which may help prevent us from developing food intolerances to certain foods and reap the health benefits of a diverse diet that is naturally detoxifying. IMG_1020

Value for money

When a food is in season, and plentiful its also usually less expensive. When it’s out of season it can cost a small fortune. Think about the teeny wee tub of blueberries that costs double what it did a couple of month ago. Ouch! When you buy what’s in season, you’re buying that food at the peak of its supply and it costs less for farmers and distribution companies to harvest and deliver to your grocery store or local farmers market. Out of season food either grown in an unnatural environment or shipped half way around the world is not only not as good for your health but can break the bank.

Save the planet

By eating seasonally this often in turn means you’re eating more locally grown produce. This not only helps support local farmers and your community, it also cuts down on fuel costs and pollution. IMG_0880

Harmony

Eating with the season connects us to the calendar, the earth and each other. We can recall or look forward to the activities associated with certain foods such as blueberry picking with a friend or a special seasonal family dinner.

Balance

As with everything, we shouldn’t get too hung up on trying to eat “perfectly” with every season.   Yes, there are health benefits to this food movement, but stressing out over it will reduce those benefits enormously. Just keep the seasons in mind and try to work with them and not against them. If you love a certain fruit or vegetable that’s out of season, it’s not a crime to eat it, but keep in mind that there might be a seasonal or local alternative that’s just as delicious and good for you!

Hearty Winter Vegetable Soup

Talking of expanding our vegetable horizons, Tania from The Cook's Pyjamas www.thecookspyjamas.com created this recipe to do just that – try new winter veggies! http://thecookspyjamas.com/hearty-winter-vegetable-soup/ Hearty-Winter-Vegetable-Soup-3

Roasted Winter Vegetables

Jamielyn from I Heart Naptime www.iheartnaptime.net takes you step-by-step through how to roast the perfect veggies! http://www.iheartnaptime.net/roasted-winter-vegetables/ roasted-winter-vegetables-7-e1358487693365 Do you feel like you already eat with the seasons? Or want to give it a try? Share below any tips of favorite foods you enjoy at this time of year. email_signoff1

Pass the Dish

With Thanksgiving just a couple of days away, the holiday season is truly upon us! Of course this means the season of eating is also upon us!
Sharing a meal with family or friends during the holidays is what it’s really all about but for some of us, it can be tricky. The most important part of all these events is just being with those you love and the food is very much secondary.
However, these gatherings can be a source of stress for some and we need to be mindful of this. Someone might be trying hard to lose or maintain their weight. Someone else may have a food intolerance or allergy. Some may have emotional issues around food. Whatever the reason, just being thoughtful and aware can make all the difference. The last thing you want is conflict at the table during a holiday gathering. This is no time to force food on those who don’t want it, or to preach your way of eating to others. The holiday table is no place to get riled up or judge-y. Here are a few things to think about as you navigate the holiday eating season!

Be true to you!

If you have a particular way of eating for health or ethical reasons, you’re vegetarian or perhaps have a food intolerance or whatever it might be, don’t feel pressured to eat all the wrong things for you just to make others happy. You are the one who has to live with the consequences of this.

You’re not eating for someone else, you’re eating for yourself.

For example, I have a dairy intolerance. If I eat dairy I am not going to feel good later, not to mention that I know that eating food my body doesn’t tolerate has long-term health consequences, so why would I do it? Some people may not be familiar with food intolerances and allergies and so may push food not fully understanding how they work. They may think “oh it’s just one piece of pie with ice cream, what harm can it do”?

Kindly, but firmly pass!

Plan ahead.

To avoid confusion and stress, be upfront and let your host, family or friends know about your eating needs in advance and explain what you’re about. You don’t want to show up and throw your host into a tizzy wondering what they’ll feed you. Also, they may not know where to begin cooking for you, so offer to bring a dish or two, so you know there will be things you can enjoy. If you’re staying at the home of your host, arrive with ingredients in hand, or hit their local grocery store when you get to town. Make sure you have enough to share, and who knows, maybe you’ll introduce people to something new and delicious! Maybe you’ll even create a new tradition?!

Set your intention.

Thinking all this through before the event and setting your intention will help you stay on track. For example, what will you eat? How much you will eat? Seconds, or no seconds? Will you have dessert or not?

No, means NO!

Let’s say you’re working on maintaining or losing weight, you don’t want to derail all your efforts because you feel pressured or you’re not prepared. If you have a plan going in you are much more likely to be successful. Don’t make a big deal out of it either, just take what you want in the quantities you’re comfortable with and pass the dish to the next person. Also don’t be afraid to pass a dish without taking any. Most of the time people are so busy they’ll hardly notice this. If someone does bring it up, be ready with an answer, such as “I’m not eating {fill in the blank} at the moment” or “I’m saving room for more vegetables” or “I’m watching what I eat, but thank you”.

Stand up for yourself and your body!

Know yourself.

If will power is a problem for you, again, you need to plan for it. Let’s use dessert as an example. If you’re someone who can have one taste and stop, then do it. However, if you’re someone who has one taste and then before you know it, the whole slice is gone, then you need a diversion. At dessert time, plan to have a cup of tea or coffee and a small piece of dark chocolate. This way you’ll feel you’re still part of the celebration and won’t be sitting twiddling your thumbs while everyone else is on their 3rd slice of pie!

Beyond the event.

I think it’s so important to think past this dinner or event. Think about the next morning. If you stay true to you, you will wake up feeling fabulous, healthy and proud. You won’t wake up still feeling as stuffed as the turkey from the night before, sluggish and worst of all disappointed in yourself or guilty :(

Oops!

Sometimes, despite our best intentions, things go awry. DO NOT beat yourself up about this!! Be kind to yourself, look back at where things went off course and learn for the next time.

Love is fuel.

The MOST important thing is to savor the time with your loved ones. Fill yourself with joy and love and you won’t need to worry about filling yourself with food.
A “quick tip” if you are working on weight management ~ eat your veggies first. They’ll fill you up, nourish you wonderfully and you will be less likely to over indulge in the other higher calorie foods.
You know I’m all about vegetables, so I thought I’d include some fantastic recipes for the season.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Cinnamon Butternut Squash, Pecans, and Cranberries

This is a delicious and beautiful holiday dish from Julia at Julia’s Album www.juliasalbum.com. You’ll find lots of other fabulous recipes on her website, geared towards busy people who want to eat well without spending tons of time in the kitchen! http://juliasalbum.com/2015/10/roasted-brussels-sprouts-cinnamon-butternut-squash-pecans-and-cranberries/ brussels

No Bake Pumpkin Tarts (Vegan + Paleo)

These wee tarts could hardly be cuter! Thanks to Megan at Detoxinista www.detoxinista.com Megan is on a mission to make healthy living easier and more accessible. She shares quick and easy recipes made with only all-natural ingredients, to prove how delicious real foods can be. LOVE her mission!! http://detoxinista.com/2013/10/no-bake-pumpkin-tarts-vegan-paleo/ DSC02830

Quinoa Stuffing with Butternut Squash, Cranberries and Pistachios

The peeps at BuzzFeed have compiled “24 Healthier Thanksgiving Recipes that are actually DELICIOUS”. One stop shopping! The Quinoa Stuffing with Butternut Squash, Cranberries and Pistachios looks like an amazing alternative to the typical version. http://www.buzzfeed.com/deenashanker/healthier-thanksgiving?sub=3515499_4274987#.mmwZ32A9Y enhanced-8740-1416250307-6 How will you be celebrating Thanksgiving this year? Do you have a favorite recipe you’d like to share? Share below, we’d love to hear. Happy Thanksgiving! xo email_signoff1_name

Sweet Dreams

Sweet Dreams

My husband has said many times, that he doesn’t think I slept for 10 years! Yikes! I’m not sure how totally accurate his 10 year estimate is, but anything even close to that scares me to think about. How did I survive? Looking back, I honestly don’t know! bed-890579_640 In my particular case, I blame stress and out of balance hormones for my decade of lost ZZZZs. Stress and hormones are a bit of a vicious cycle. Out of balance hormones can cause you to sleep poorly, leaving you tired and less able to cope with everyday life and therefore lead to stress. Stress can disrupt the delicate balance of hormones in your body, leading to poor sleep and other symptoms. So it’s a bit of a chicken and egg question as to which came first? I wonder if my out of balance hormones led to poor sleep and therefore stress or was it my stress that caused the hormonal crazies in the first place?! I may never know, and at this point, knowing isn’t as important as making sure it never happens again.

If I knew then!

I just wish I knew then how important sleep is to the body. Of course, I knew it wasn’t ideal to sleep as poorly as I did, and I wasn’t happy about my sleeping issue, but somehow I got by and learned to live with it. It became my “new normal”. Certainly over the years I tried to solve it and did make some good progress in latter years, but not before it took its toll.
Not only does it feel good to get a good night’s sleep but your good health depends on it!
While you sleep your amazing body is hard at work repairing cell damage, reducing inflammation, detoxifying and keeping your immune system strong. If you’re not getting the right quality or quantity of sleep your body cannot achieve all it needs to do to keep you in tip top shape. For me personally, I think my poor sleep contributed to my poor health. I’m not saying I got breast cancer just because I didn’t sleep, but I do believe that my immune system was compromised because of it. No one thing gives you cancer, I think of it as a “perfect storm” and for me I truly believe that my decade of lost sleep put me in a vulnerable situation and gave disease an opportunity and an “in”. Please don’t make the same mistake! I would love to save anyone the pain of dealing with a health crisis and so I’m getting on my wee “soap box” here and pleading with you all to prioritize your sleep.

Tips for a better nights sleep!

  • Commit to an amount of sleep and back out your bedtime from there. The recommended sleep range for adults is 7-9 hours. It might seem like a huge deal to go from 5 hours to even 7 hours, so try adding a ½ hour each night for a week and then another ½ hour the next week and build up. The key is to start and the goal is to re-set your body clock so that you have a regular bedtime and wake time.
  • Your bed is for sleep and romance only! NOT for watching TV, computer use and playing Words with Friends. You know who you are ;)
  • Treat your bedroom as a Sanctuary. De-clutter and create a calm peaceful environment conducive to a good nights sleep. Don’t keep work by your bed or stacks of papers or files in the bedroom. These things distract the mind and create a negative vibe in what should be a peaceful oasis.
  • Plan ahead. Try not to eat too close to bedtime as your body will be too busy digesting when it should be relaxing and repairing.
  • Wind down with a nice cup of tea (you know I’m a big fan). I always have a cup of chamomile tea in the evening, but I try to have it 90 minutes before bed, so that I’m not running to the bathroom during the night.
  • Dim the lights. Turn off bright or overhead lights later in the evening. Soft, lamplight will help you to relax and wind down readying you for sleep.
  • Orange is the new blue! If you’re using your computer or phone in the evenings, surfing the web, catching up with all your Facebook friends or shopping then be sure to download a screen-dimming app. I admit this is part of my nightly routine, so I totally get it. My solution is the f.lux app that dims and warms my screen with the evening. You simply tell it where you are in the world, and it does the rest! This way, you avoid staring at the sleep disrupting blue light that tricks and confuses your body into thinking its daytime.
  • Quiet time. Create at least 30 minutes of quite right before bed. This means, turning the TV off and no more screens.
  • Buzz kill! Don’t drink caffeine too late in the day. Even if you’re one of those people who think caffeine doesn’t stop you from getting to sleep, it can disrupt your sleep. I’m a bit hardcore on this, and think stopping caffeine by noon is ideal, but if you’re trying to make a change here, start by backing up your last caffeinated drink gradually over a couple of weeks.
  • Blackout! Sleep in a dark, quiet room. All those little lights that are on everything these days seem intense when you’re lying in the dark and can also cause sleep disruption. I went around my bedroom and used electrical tape (opaque and comes in lots of colors) to cover any offenders. Black out shades are a great way to keep streetlights or that full moon out of your bedroom, but a quick, easy solution is to sleep with an eye-mask (which I do when I’m in a hotel room).
  • Cool it! Studies show that in general the ideal temperature for sleep is quite cool, around 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures too much lower or higher than this can cause restlessness. Temperatures in this range facilitate the decrease in core body temperature that in turn initiates sleepiness and help you drift into bliss.
Whatever your reason, or dare I say “excuse” in some cases for not getting an adequate amount of sleep, I’m here to tell you, you need to find a way to fix it. Good sleep is the foundation of good health and needs to be a priority. I often hear people say, “I can get by on 4-5 hours of sleep” like that’s a cool thing. Well, it’s not. I know life is busy and full and some days you just don’t know how you’ll get it all done. What seems to happen for many people is that sleep is very much at the bottom of the priority list and basically gets whatever (little) time is left. Sleep well and you will give your body the tools it needs to fight for you. How’s your sleep? Do you struggle with getting to bed on time? Have you found the perfect formula for a restful night? Please share below and sweet dreams to you all! email_signoff1

Balancing Act!

stones-944145_1920 As this is my first health/nutrition post since finishing “Cups of Prevention” I thought this would be a good time to step back and take a more global look at what the secret to good health and disease prevention is.

Balance

No one thing brings good health. No one food will keep you well! No one supplement will keep disease at bay. It is a combination of elements that create the magic. I’d love to introduce you to one of the most important concepts I believe I learned in my program with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. This concept is “Primary Food” and “Secondary Food”, the brainchild of Joshua Rosenthal, the school’s founder. Drumroll please!

Primary Food

  • Relationships
  • Career
  • Exercise
  • Spiritual Practice

Secondary Food

  • The physical food we eat.
The first time I heard this concept, I was hooked! How much sense does this make? A lot! Let’s explore Primary Food. As human beings we are multi dimensional and require the right combination of things to be “working” in our lives in order to be truly happy and consequently, healthy.

Relationships

Maybe you’re not in one or maybe you’re in an unhappy relationship or marriage. Maybe you don’t have a good support network of friends or family around you and feel isolated and alone. A response to this might be that you come home from work to an empty house or a house full of negative energy and a trip to the fridge for a big tub of dip to help that big bag of potato chips taste even more comforting is top priority. Later on you find yourself reaching into the freezer for the tub of ice cream. These “tubs” of junk are often a substitute for the relationship that’s missing or not working in your life. On the flip side, remember those early days when you were head-over-heels in love? You were so excited, giddy and high on love that you didn’t even feel hungry. Love was nourishing you and feeding you in every sense of the word!

Career

Maybe your job is a source of stress and anxiety and you dread going to work everyday and especially on a Monday morning. You live for weekends and vacation and the day you might retire. You might be the boss, feeling overwhelmed by all the responsibility that comes with that role, or you may hate your boss and the way he or she treats you. Many people feel trapped in a job they hate because of money, opportunity or fear of change. Whatever the issue is, all the kale in the world won’t make you healthy and happy if you’re miserable 8-10 hours of the day! An important note here is that a satisfying career may also be a hobby you’re passionate about, an artistic endeavor, volunteer work that you love or anything that gives you purpose and satisfaction.

Physical Activity

Maybe you exercise ALL the time perhaps even to an extreme, fighting thoughts or beliefs that you are never quite thin enough or quite perfect enough. Alternately, you may resist exercise altogether either because you simply don’t like it, think you don’t have the time for exercise or feel insecure about your abilities. The old “use it, or lose it” phrase comes to mind here. We need to move our bodies to maintain our strength and balance as we age. Not to mention the benefits of a boost in energy and feel good hormones that comes from exercising. Finding the right kind of exercise for you, whether it’s running, walking with a friend, yoga or weight work is essential. The key is to find something you enjoy and will stick with.

Spiritual Practice

A spiritual practice can mean so many different things to different people. For some, it’s going to church or their chosen place of worship and belonging to that “family” who offer support and comfort when needed. For others their spiritual practice might be found on the yoga mat or meditation pillow. Some may find it communing with nature, by looking up at the leaves on the trees or the stars in the sky. There’s no one-way to define this, but on some level we all need to feel “at one” with something. We are spiritual beings in a material world and as such, we need to feel a sense of connection to something or someone greater than ourselves. I just think this all makes SO much sense.
If any of these Primary Foods are waaaay out of balance, then chances are our Secondary Foods will be too. We often use food to fill voids, comfort ourselves and to help us de-stress.
The way to create balance is to first of all determine what area or areas of your life are actually out of balance. Only then can we begin working on bringing them back into the balance we need for true well-being. I had quite a bit of work to do myself around this :) but have made good progress and continue working on this everyday. Of course the food we eat plays a vital role in our health and well-being, but these primary foods are a way to nourish and feed ourselves on a deeper level. One does not exist successfully without the other. True health comes from balance in all these areas of our lives. How is your balance? Are you working on a certain area and how are you doing with it? Share below so we can all support each other to make positive changes. email_signoff1_name