Happy St. Patrick’s Day. I am celebrating my first St. Patrick’s day in a way. I recently submitted my DNA to ancestary.com and despite any existing knowledge of my heritage, I have some Irish in me! I have been thinking about doing a more comprehensive DNA screen. Both Drs. Brogan and Gottfried discuss it in their respective books and blogs. You can get good information about your particular health profile and what you need (and what you should avoid) in order to optimize your physical and mental wellness. I am considering it, it’s pricey (and worth it?).
I decided to celebrate my first St. Patrick’s day as with Irish heritage by going for a run. I have already had enough days that were focused on beer drinking in my history that I opted out of that stereotypical part of the celebration. Plus, that would get in the way of my goals and I am determined.
My son plays basketball and my husband coaches. Most of my day, today, was attending games. I prepared my food and meditations so that I could keep both on track. I might have not eaten enough, but to be honest my appetite wasn’t there. That’s different for me. I usually have a difficult time even identifying when I am hungry and when I am not. Either way I usually eat. Today I listened to my body, today I could hear what it was saying. This may be a bit of craziness, but I think the adjustments I have been making in my diet and other wellness activities have made me more in tune and connected to my internal voice and cues. I am communicating better with myself. Anyone else experience that when they are eating better? Limiting their sugar and processed food intake?
I have a very busy week ahead starting with two full day presentations out of town and then evening activities after work. I am going to sleep by 10 tonight and waking up whenever tomorrow. No alarm for me. OH and I said “No.” I was supposed to go for a run with my running partner tomorrow morning, which is something I like to say “Yes” to, but it’s only supposed to be 15 degrees at our running time tomorrow so I said “No.” I do think I need the sleep more than the run at this point in time anyway. I really am determined to regulate my sleep.
Dr. Sara Gottfried recommends taking the supplement resveratrol. It is among the supplements she suggests in keeping a health profile that is younger than our chronological age. That’s important to me. I want to look younger then I am on the outside. I want to feel and “look” younger than I am based on what’s happen inside.
Resveratrol is a remarkable extract in red wine. According to significant amounts of clinical research this extract plays a role in cardiovascular and cellular health. You can’t just drink red wine and get the benefits because it would take at least three bottles of red wine a day to experience the effects of resveratrol extract. That seems excessive and like the negative effects of drinking three bottles of wine a day would surely out-weigh the positive effects of the resveratrol.
I am choosing this particular brand of resveratrol not just because it works to maintain cell health, promote normal cell cycle activity, promote apoptosis (programmed cell death) in unhealthy cells, support the normal activity of the SIRT-1 gene (you definitely want this), and promote cardiovascular health, by promoting healthy platelet activity, promoting vasorelaxation, and providing antioxidant protection of LDL particles, but also because of the concentration that is found in this brand.
What’s the deal with the SIRT-1 gene? Dr. Gottfried talks about the SIRT-1 gene. This gene activates a critical component of calorie restriction in mammals and promotes fat metabolization (good news). There is evidence that resveratrol mimics the effects of calorie restriction by targeting metabolic and stress response pathways affected by calorie restriction, but without restricting caloric intake, which may be helpful in promoting a longer lifespan. Healthy SIRT-1 activity, is connected to healthy mitochondrial function and energy expenditure, which is thereby connected to healthy weight promotion. Remind me why I am not taking this regularly? There’s not a good reason. I will be adding it to my morning supplements starting tomorrow. I’ll keep you posted.
With Love & Gratitude~
… and yourself…
I really do love my work which I think is why I am somewhat of a workaholic (fine I am a workaholic, there I said it). I also, like many other people have trouble saying “No.” How about you? Do you have trouble saying No to things you don’t want to do? As a mental health professional, I know the importance of living on purpose and saying no the things that pull you off your course. This week I am really going to pay close attention to when I say “yes” and “sure.” Checking in with myself when I agree to do things, making sure I am centered. How about you, what can you do this week to keep yourself centered?
I had said yes months ago to doing this full day presentation out of town. Collectively I over “Yes’ed” this month, but nonetheless I was psyched to spend my day doing what I love. I didn’t try an overdo it by getting to the gym at 5am, I did prepare and pack smart food choices for the day, I did give myself permission to have some caffeine if I needed it when I was driving. I felt balanced, centered and vivacious. I think what I am doing has been working. Guess what- it showed, that’s very reinforcing!
Where are the M&M’s?!
Later in the evening I got some disappointing news. I was bummed and I could feel the obvious emotional eating pull like nobody’s business. It was sad. I felt desperate. I wanted to stick with healthy and smart eating but I also wanted mint chocolate ice cream, chocolate in any form, cookies. My craving for sugar was indiscriminate and my self talk was insane. Here’s what I did. I put some frozen bananas in the blender with cinnamon and vegan, sugar free chocolate chips. It kind of worked. I say kind of, because I also had a handful of regular, full of sugar, vegan chocolate chunks. I did stop there (after I already had air popped popcorn and hummus). I think it would be helpful to have a food plan for the next emotional eating episode.
What really struck me was even though I had the intellectual understanding of what was going on, I could not use intellectual arguments to talk myself out of the emotional eating trajectory. What I did have was a strong appreciation for my relationship with sugar and how helpless I felt in that moment. That’s not good for my wellness in any capacity. This is why I need to break up with sugar and not fall for the tricks my emotions play in bringing sugar back into my diet.
I have talked tangentially and directly about supplements. I should be overt about the ones that I take and why I take them. I will also include links for each if so if you want more information you can find it.
I have to take B12 because I am mostly vegan so I won’t get it in my diet through food and your body does not make it (and you need it!). The other Bs are health all stars. Particularly they help with hair, skin, nails and your adrenals. Good news when you don’t get collagen (also from animals) and are stressed. I take it every day.
I take curcumin instead of pain medicine and have good results. I also take it when my knee hurts before or after a workout. It always works for me which makes sense because it has anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin promotes liver detoxification, promotes healthy glutathione levels and normal cellular regeneration. If you take it everyday Curcumin can help detoxify impurities in your body that build up over time. This particular brand also includes 167 mg of broccoli seed extract, a powerful source of sulphoraphane glucosinolates which supports the normal production of Phase II liver detoxification enzymes, including glutathione synthase, heme-oxygenase and catalase, and the body’s natural defense systems. Glutathione is the master antioxidant in the human body, it preserves and protects the brain and other body tissues from the damage of free radicals. Furthermore, glutathione recycles ( who’s not for recycling?) vitamins C and E, which are also powerful antioxidants. I take curcumin as needed, and am considering taking it more fr
I love this stuff. I take it every single day. OPC-3 Beauty Blend promotes skin elasticity, supports healthy collagen production, replenishes essential vitamins and minerals for the skin, and provides the skin and body with improved antioxidant defenses. It has so much of what I nutritionally need is in here. There are antioxidants grape seed extract, red wine extract, bilberry extract, citrus bioflavanoids and Pycnogenol®. These antioxidants are powerful free-radical scavengers that not only work to keep the skin healthy and beautiful, but also provide free-radical-scavenging abilities which are beneficial in a world filled with smog, pollution and other various unseen toxins. YES! See why I love this (not to mention it tastes good).
I am all about getting my gut health in order and everything I have been reading is saying this is the way to go. I have been taking probiotic daily for past two months. I can’t say I notice a specific difference. I can say that I really don’t get sick. Partly, I refuse to get sick the other I believe is related to my eating and supplementing. It’s certainly not because of my good sleep hygiene. Back to probiotics, here’s what they do. Probiotics are good bacteria that work to help maintain an optimal bacterial balance in the digestive tract. Gut health is connected to overall health. Probiotics promote healthy digestion by providing beneficial bacteria to help balance the GI tract, this also promotes a healthy immune system. There are 10 different strains and 10 billion active probiotic organisms. Each strain has a unique purpose, and the strains work synergistically to promote numerous areas of health, from immunity to stomach comfort and bowel regularity. That all sounds good to me.
I take Vitamin D with K2 everyday in the fall and winter because I live in the least sunny place in the US (not exaggerating). I need the D and it is recommended that you find one with K2. This one contains vitamin D3, the metabolically active form of vitamin D, along with vitamin K2, a form of vitamin K which supports vascular health and calcium utilization. Vitamin D plays an important role in bone health, heart health and immune support while working with vitamin K to support normal absorption of calcium, and promote healthy arteries. You can get your D level tested. I did several years ago because I was feeling foggy, tired and cold. Turns out my D level was nearly 0. Not good. I had to take mega-doses to get back where I needed to be for my health. Now I use it regularly and that keeps my levels normal. A word of warning, some studies have concluded that vitamin K2 does not interfere with anticoagulant medications.
A little bit of this and that
I take magnesium when I have trouble sleeping or settling down. I probably need it more regularly then that. I have talked about that in past blogs so I won’t repeat myself. I sometimes take resveratrol, coq-10, Green Coffee Plus Garcinia Cambogia. I’ll talk more about those another time. There are some other supplements that I have tried or am considering and I will share that with you too.
With Love & Gratitude~
Reminder to self…
I am a full-time professor, but not this week. It’s spring break. Like a hard-core workaholic, I filled my week off from my responsibilities at the college with additional work. I used my time this week to do some additional consulting and give two presentations. Today, though, is my stay at home, work at home day. My plan was to get in cross fit and run on the treadmill, reengage with my meditation practice, and review some student work. That’s not exactly what happened- I am kind of noticing a pattern.
This is Pepper, my sleep hygiene mentor.
I woke up to my alarm at 5:15am to meet up with my workout buddies at cross fit. I was SO tired, I started to text them and let them know I would not be going. I was about to write “see you Friday,” and then I realized I could not go Friday because I would be presenting out of town again. I dragged my ass out of bed and did the workout. Instead of getting on the treadmill after the workout, which would have been excessive anyway, I went home and went back to bed. I left my sweaty and somewhat stinky workout clothes on. I was that tired. I got in a decent nap, felt better, and moved through my day doing a bunch of errands. Then something interesting happened; I decided even though it was cold and a little windy out, I was going for a run. Outside. The sun was shining and I was craving an outdoor run.
I felt amazing while I was running and focused on incremental goals along the way. Get to 3 miles, get up the hill, run through the discomfort, get to mile 4, make it to the corner, get to mile 5. I did it! I did 5 miles without a walk break and at good pace (for me). It felt good to be running. So, good that when I got home I went right back to bed. I took another nap. Yep, I overachieved in the nap department! Between the run and the naps, I did not really get anything else accomplished. I am practicing being ok with that.
Can I share?
I have been re-reading Dr. Kelly Brogan’s book a Mind of Your Own. My copy is tethered and filled with notes. There’s a lot I want to share with my mental health counseling graduate students, there are things I want to share with some of colleagues and patients and then there are the new things I am learning that are relevant to the experiences I have had as well as members of my inner circle. I recommend this book, it’s really an important read for mental health professionals and people who are challenged with depressive symptoms. I teased these knowledge gems that are food/supplement means of combatting depressive symptoms out of Dr. Brogan’s book.
These are my five favorites:
Activated B Complex
If you don’t even meat, please supplement with activated B complex. You need it. Even if you eat meat you should consider supplementing with activated B complex. The vitamin Bs have the greatest impact on your mood. They act in ways that help with stress, they are contribute to healthy skin, nails, hair, eyes, liver, and the adrenal glands. We don’t store the Bs so you have to take them daily. I use an isotonic version because it’s easily digestible, there are no fillers or binders, and it gets into my system quick. Its associated with decreased risk of depression.
Taking magnesium helps settle you down. Those us who have anxiety, insomnia and PMS really benefit from supplementing with magnesium. Full disclosure, I do sometime have wacky dreams when I take it, I still take it because when I cannot sleep I get wacky in my wakefulness and that seems to be a greater liability. Here too, I opt for an isotonic form. This especially valuable when I am taking it when I cannot sleep because it takes about 5 minutes before it is absorbed into my system. In pill forms it would be hours.
This is a mineral that used to be in our food to a greater degree because of soil quality that has changed. This mineral promotes mood-lifting neurotransmitters. Essentially this helps with improved mood and the alleviation of anxiety. Therefore, selenium helps with both anxiety and depression symptoms; there are many people who have both.
I don’t really get how this works in the body, it’s beyond my understanding (at least for now). What I do understand is that supplementing with SAMe can help with pain, depression, liver disease. In Europe, they have been using SAMe to combat depression and anxiety for over 30 years (without the nasty side effects of SSRIs like Prozac).
This is a calming amino acid that is found in tea. I love my cup of tea so this is an easy one for me. This amino acid can help reduce anxiety, produce a healthy mind –set; that is simultaneously focused and relaxed—wait that’s a thing. Dr. Brogan calls it “meditation in a capsule!”
Tomorrow I am presenting all day out of town and taking the day off of exercise. I thought you should know that. As a way of addressing my psychological-emotional wellness I am practicing not having such an “all or nothing” mind-set.
With Love & Gratitude~
Today was an interesting day. I was doing a presentation on play therapy about 1.5 hours from my home. I really love doing these kinds of presentations. I love my work as a counselor and play therapist. I also love being able to train and teach students and other professionals. Although this throws off the rhythm of my schedule; it is good for my spiritual, economic and occupational wellness. I have to get on the road early, figure out the food thing, and make sure I am on my game because I set the tone for the day.
First off, I had to decide if I should get up at 4:45am to go for a run on the treadmill. That was the only time I would be able to squeeze in exercise. I factored in that I also have an out of town, full day, presentation scheduled for Friday, and that really would not work because the destination is even further away. I decided I was going for it; it is only 30 minutes earlier then I usually wake up.
Next, what to eat? I knew I would not have a ton of time when I got home from the gym so I needed something quick. I got that, protein shake with spinach. What to bring with me for lunch and a snack for the drive home. I got that too, protein bar, cashews. Perhaps that doesn’t seem like enough. A protein bar for lunch. Yeah, that’s not enough and a mistake many of us make. We have to eat enough to maintain our wellness, to literally think straight, and if you are trying to lose weight, you are really getting in your own way by not eating enough. In a gross over-simplification, what happens is our body systems act as if we are starving and trigger chemical responses to hold on to what we eat, blood sugar goes into a tail spin and our internal environment gets screwed up. There you have it. I made a mistake. The other mistake I was setting myself up for was thinking it was more important to sacrifice sleep then to sacrifice exercise. I have averaged 5 hours a night of sleep in the last seven days. I need sleep.
Change in plans
12:30 am and I still wasn’t asleep. I changed my plans. I turned off my alarm and decided to sleep as late as possible. I guess I would be getting two days off from exercise this week. I still followed my eating plan even though I knew it was not a good idea and headed out the door. I have been off caffeine for a week and a half; that went out today. I was so tired driving to the presentation I needed a baby sip of caffeine. I’ll hop back on that horse ASAP. What was happening to me was exactly what Dr. Sara Gottfried describes when your cortisol is off. I have a hard time falling asleep, low energy in the morning and then cravings of carbs and that’s exactly what happened next. Before I even got to my destination, I downed the caffeine drink and ate ½ the protein bar. Shit. Dr. Kelly Brogan also refers to this when she talks about being simultaneously “wired and tired.”
An intervention from Mother Nature
Presentation was underway and going well as far as I could assess. It was snowy outside, but here in Central New York, we measure our snow in feet not inches, so I did not think much of it. An administrative person signals me to come to the classroom door and advises me that we need to call it a day because of the weather. Everything in the area was shutting down and they were worried about our safety. Uh-ok. That was a first. That changes the entire trajectory of my day.
I was home and in my play clothes by 1:30. I had lunch. Tossed salad with a veggie burger and guacamole- way better than the other half of a protein bar! I took one look at the cats sprawled out and sleeping on my bed and decided to join them. My kids were sent home from school too and my 18 year old daughter, joined me and two of the four of cats for a nap. Naps are so underrated. I mean I really needed the sleep, but there are studies that show people who nap regularly live longer and healthier lives (sweet!). I felt so much better after I ate healthy whole foods for lunch and took my nap and then I went for that run on the treadmill. And guess what else happened… I ran further and better than I have since I had my appendix out in September of 2017. I have said before for that running centers me. It’s a moving meditation for me. What does that for you? Not sure, figure it out and have fun as you discover it!
With Love & Gratitude~
The Challenge of a Busy Day
I had to run from here to there a bit today. In order to fit in my patients, administrative duties, and family commitments. It was a good day, with the potential for me to get overwhelmed– which I didn’t!. There were challenges; fitting in my workout, meditation, and eating in a way that conveys I care about myself. What are some of the ways you deal with the challenges that come with a busy day (life)? Here’s what worked for me. I got up a little bit earlier (I’m still working on the sleep hygiene piece of the puzzle. It’s not good. I am still averaging just under 5 hours a night) so I could do my typical workout and still have time to get where I needed to go; showered. I prepared and packaged my food the night before. Instead of my usual cooked veggie breakfast, I had a protein shake with gobs of spinach so I still got a good share of veggies to begin my day. One thing about protein shakes before I move on, read your nutritional label. You want the sugar grams to be minimal at best. Most of the expert authors I am reading say it has to be below double digits. Mine has 0 (NICE!) here’s the link in case you are interested. What do you like in your shakes? I throw some cinnamon and spinach in there and it works for me. I wasn’t able to make time for my meditations and I can tell you I missed it. I want to talk more about spinach, so let’s go back to that.
Popeye was on to something
Popeye infamously gained the physical strength he needed to navigate tumultuous relationships (as a mental health professional I would have preferred if he did not use aggression to solve relational problems) by eating his spinach. He chowed that down and we should too! I add spinach to much of what I eat (spinach and avocado are my favorite add-in and add-ons). I always put spinach in my protein shakes; it looks like a Shamrock shake and for whatever reason that makes me happy. I typically also mix it in to my morning cooked veggies. An example breakfast would be spinach, mushrooms, zucchini, tempeh (fermented soy, not into that?- use eggs or crumbled sausage. You do you.), sprinkled with garlic, onion, salt, pepper, and paprika. I throw spinach into soups even when the recipe doesn’t call for it. I find it adds to the flavor and makes the soup hardy. I also often plate other cooked veggies on top of a bed of spinach. Beyond spinach being easy to cook with, incorporate, and filling; it’s packed with good reasons for us to, like Popeye, chow down.
I made this tonight for dinner. Mushrooms, spinach, artichoke hearts (I am really into them lately. Make sure you check the label. One jar I found had 8 grams of sugar. Why do my artichokes need sugar added? ugh-sneaky), tomatoes, red onion, and spiced with basil, oregano, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
Spinach is high in niacin (aka vitamin B3, is needed in every part of your body. As a supplement, niacin may help lower cholesterol, ease arthritis and boost brain function) and zinc (you need that for a healthy immune system), as well as protein (One answer to the question: “Where do you vegans get your protein?”), fiber (you need that to keep you regular and pooping), vitamins A, C, E and K, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and manganese (I’ll discuss some of these other nutrients in a future blog- I didn’t want to overwhelm you). It’s got good things for every part of your body (and mind too).
Additionally, spinach has an abundance flavonoids and those bad boys act as antioxidants to keep cholesterol from oxidizing and protect your body from free radicals (that’s a good thing. There’s a reason they are free, you get what you pay for in this example.), particularly in the colon (you don’t want free radicals there or anywhere else). The folate in spinach supports a healthy cardiovascular system, and magnesium helps lower high blood pressure, impacts your mood; helping people settle down and sleep. Spinach is good for your overall wellness, studies have shown that it helps maintain brain function, memory and mental clarity.How are you going to get that spinach into your diet and support your wellness by what you eat?
With Love & Gratitude~
Doing something new or different is good for your brain health and for me, that often means my emotional/psychological health as well. I tried something new today. My running partner Sam was telling me about Chrissie Wellington (check out what I am talking about) and her youtube running videos that motivate and help with pacing. This morning when I got on the treadmill I used this to change up my run. It was different, fun and I will definitely do it again. That’s the thing with exercise, you have to find something that excites and challenges you! What are you willing to try?
It’s kind of a wonder drug-ish
I want to talk to you about curcumin. What even is it? I am excited to tell you. Let me start off by saying it’s the stuff that I take when my knee hurts and then my knee doesn’t hurt. Magic, or at least turmeric. Before I get into what curcumin is and even more fascinating what it does, let me tell you about turmeric.
Vegetable Turmeric Stew- I made this!
Turmeric is part of the ginger family. Its stalk is used in both food and medicine, creating the common yellow ingredient that colors and adds flavor to curry (and tofu, and veggies, scrambled eggs, potatoes.. you get what I am saying here!). If you eat Indian food you are already familiar with the color and flavor. In traditional Indian Ayurveda, turmeric is thought to support general body strength, vision and normal milk secretion. Within dietary supplements, turmeric is found both alone, and in combination with products created to exert antioxidant activity and provide gastrointestinal support (it’s good for your gut and that might be the key to our overall health). Good news. The primary active compounds in turmeric are the flavonoid, curcumin and related “curcuminoid” compounds which deliver potent antioxidant properties and that’s why we need to talk about getting curcumin into your body. More good news, there are choices; food, tea, supplements.
Curcumin is not just and antioxidant, which is sexy enough, but it is also an anti-inflammatory (that’s why it helps my achy knee, the one that knows I am almost 50 years old. I hyperlinked above to the exact kind I use). It also modulates hormones and neorchemicals. Some studies show it helps with depression (possibly because depression shares symptoms with other diseases and manifestations of inflammation in the body). People with chronically high cortisol and with the biological markers of inflammation and symptoms of depression respond better to anti-inflammatories then antidepressants. Another study found that curcumin was superior to Prozac in cases of depression, especially when the Prozac was not working effectively. AMAZING, right?
You know what else it does, according to Dr. Sara Gottfried, curcumin “[C]ounters the proliferative effect of estrogen on cancer cells.” If your estrogen hormone balance is off, it feeds cancer, curcumin acts in the reverse. All this information encouraged me to find ways to incorporate turmeric, and therefore curcumin, into my system. I found this tumeric tea that I love. There are several varieties. Find one you love and take care of yourself! If you like the taste of turmeric, you are going to want to have about a tablespoon a day (sprinkle it on your food, another new thing to try). If you are cooking with turmeric occasionally, you are might not getting enough in your diet to reach the optimal level for health benefits especially if you are using it instead of those nasty NSAIDs, you will need 500-1000mg to get pain-relief results. 800 mgs is the sweet spot for me and my nagging knee pain and why I had such a great time with Chrissie Wellington on the treadmill this morning.
Tomorrow let’s catch up on data.
With Love & Gratitude~
I made it through my 24 hours of just veggies and I already feel reset. What a relief. I am reset and ready to move forward. Before moving forward, I wanted to discuss a few how I got heres with you all. Specifically, I want to address the things I have given up, the reasons why, and the results I have experienced. I would love to hear about your experiences too, so feel free to share them.
Good-bye to diet soda
I never drank regular soda except in an occasional rum and coke. When I was on the top of my drinking game I would even order a rum and diet coke, like it mattered. I did drink about 4-6 diet sodas a day. I was all about the diet coke, sometimes a diet sprite or ginger ale if I wanted something light (as if that even makes sense) and if I was buying large bottles, diet cream soda. Oh how I loved that diet cream soda. Here’s what happened, and this was about 12 years ago so some of the details are probably not 100% accurate. Two things, my dad quit drinking soda and I read that even if you drink diet soda, if you cut it out for a year you would lose 10 pounds. My dad inspired me as he talked about feeling better, that he was less gassy (perhaps pulling his finger would no longer get the same result as it did when I was a child), and that he genuinely felt less bloated in his mid-section and he could SEE a difference. My Dad’s influence is typically not enough to get me to do something, and did I say I loved my diet sodas. Well, shortly after dad quit soda I stumbled on this article that I mentioned above and that inspired me. I was looking to lose some weight and thought this was a good and fairly easy way to do it. Since then a lot more information has been mainstreamed about soda. Between the sugar & high fructose corn syrup (in regular soda), caffeine and those bubbles it’s freaking poison. Diet soda doesn’t have the same kind of sugar, but your hormones can’t distinguish so your body responds as if you are drinking the non-diet kind. Poison.
One of my wellness clients who was feeling stuck with her fitness goals and how she looked on the outside fought me about ditching the soda. I fought back hard because I knew she would see results and feel them too. Well, she just reported (literally like yesterday) she is basically off the poison and feels and looks healthier, not to mention her emotional/psychological wellness improved too, because she felt proud of herself. Love it!
I dabbled with being vegetarian in high school and college. Beer and pizza were still on the menu because they are meatless so that worked out for a while until I wanted a burger or Thanksgiving came up and what else could I eat but turkey. Also, I didn’t really like vegetables beyond traditional tossed salad so that was limiting. In my 20s-30s I went back to eating meat, eating whatever without much thought or connection to what I was putting in my body although I limited the meat I ate. Why I keep trying to limit or stop eating meat was, and still is, mostly a spiritual wellness thing for me.
I became vegetarian again in my late 30s. I still ate dairy products including eggs and I ate fish because can’t imagine my life without Sushi. I decided the day after my 40th birthday I was going to try to be vegan for a week. I was sure this was not going to last even the week because I love pizza (ate it at least once a week), I come from a long line of ice cream enthusiasts (I ate that almost every night, that’s not an exaggeration) and as far as I was concerned cheese belonged on everything. I picked the start day as the day after my birthday because I wanted to be sure eat gobs of ice cream cake (and I did) t. Well that was just under eight years ago and I never turned back. I do eat Sushi or other seafood when I feel like it. I will always have a bagel and lox with my family on Long Island. I will taste things that I am curious about. On a day to day basis though I do not eat animal including meat and dairy. I do not miss it. In fact, when I do try something, it feels spiritually off and some dairy makes me pretty sick. There’s good reason for that, which I will talk about in a later blog where I integrate the research. Another thing that I noticed when I stopped eating dairy was that my body changed. Weight that I used to hold in my hips and lower back, that did not respond to weight loss or my exercise regime disappeared. Nice perk! One last thing, I LOVE vegetables now and eat a huge variety of them. I actually feel weird and off center when I don’t get enough. Dr. Sara Gottfried recommends 8 cups of veggies a day, I usually reach that goals before dinner. As you can imagine I have no problem with regularity like many of my peers; another perk.
No Alcohol (for now)- No Sugar (need practice here)- No Gluten (Mostly)
The books that I am reading (see list below) and other ways that I have been educating myself (As a mental health counselor, I am particularly interested in how what you eat and how you take care of yourself impacts your mental health) all are making strong arguments for minimizing sugar and alcohol intake and much of what I am learning is making a similar case for gluten. I go no alcohol periodically which I find fairly easy except when there’s an event that involves champagne or meal that feels wrong without a glass of wine. I know that I will be drinking on our vacation in a few weeks because it would seem wrong to me not to start each day at the beach resort without having a mimosa.
Of course, alcohol and sugar are linked (chemically) and as easy as I find it to go months without alcohol, I find it challenging to go more than a few days without sugar. I wrote some about this yesterday and I will write more in the future. I will tell you that the first three days are tough and then it becomes easier unless you find yourself face to face with M&Ms. I also notice I have triggers, like I always want something sweet after a meal (there’s a reason for that, I’ll get back to you I just have to find the specific research on that) and I often feel like a need something sweet at work in my clinical office (I am not there every day so at least I have that going for me) and a night (again, there’s a reason for that, I’ll get back to you I just have to find the specific research on that too).
In no way did I ever plan to cut out gluten. I mean really, I am from Long Island, I am supposed to eat bagels! I love bread, I love to bake and eat what I make and for the love of GOD I am vegan, what’s left??!! The first time I did Dr. Sara Gottfried’s Hormone Reset Diet I played along and removed gluten as prescribed. I missed it, but like I said yesterday I really do love this reset. Anyway, when I added gluten back in I noticed that I felt like ass. Specifically, I felt tired and sluggish. I don’t have the time or desire to feel that way, so I am mostly gluten free. That gluten, like dairy, is sneaky in so many things, so you have to be vigilant. Again, there are good reasons why should remove gluten and then reintroduce it to see what happens. I will discuss what I have learned about why so many folks are having poor responses to gluten.
With Love & Gratitude~
What I have been reading:
A Mind of Your Own: The Truth about Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies and Reclaim Their Lives by Kelly Brogan, MD
The Hormone Cure by Sara Gottfried MD
Younger by Sara Gottfried MD
The Hormone Reset Diet by Sara Gottfried, MD
It Starts with Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig
The Case Against Sugar by Gary Traub
The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone
Ready, set, go
Running is magical for me. Truly a moving meditation when I run solo, even on the treadmill. Today, though, I get to run (and when I say run, I mean mostly walk fast with some running sprinkled in) with my long term running partner Sam. Over ten years ago, when Sam and I started running together I was training for my first marathon (and needed support for the long runs) and he was training for his 40-something-th. Turns out although we have little in common otherwise running bonds are strong enough to create and maintain amazing friendships. We logged over six miles, heard some spring birds, talked and talked and talked, set some new fitness and wellness goals, and GET THIS saw a snowy owl! One of the best things about being active and being outside while you are actives are those moments. A freaking snowy owl which, as an aside, is a great reason to take break when running or even walking.
Sam and I do a lot of talking about our fitness and wellness goals, training ideas, and offering commentary. He’s not just a good running partner (we sometimes snow shoe together too), is he is also a good accountability partner. It’s not a bad idea to have one of those. As you set your goals share them with someone who will support you! Here’s what I came up with; I need to register for a fall ½ marathon. I was scheduled to run one last September but then I had to have an emergency appendectomy two weeks before. It sucked. It still sucks. It is taking me a long time (I’m inpatient) to get my running anywhere near the level it was at. I am determined to do that. Today I started looking for ½ marathons in the Fall within an hour or two from where I live. I also texted another running partner and bestie, Judy, to see if she wanted to do one with me. Accountability, connection, loyalty, commitment; all good for my emotional wellness. I will keep you posted.
About those cookies
Along our run/walk I told Sam about the cookie incident as well as the negative self-talk. As I unloaded (he really is such a good friend), I also decided. I decided today would be different. I laser focused today and created a schedule for myself that allowed for thoughtful eating, meditation, time to spend with my family, and getting a few things crossed of that same list that set me off just yesterday. Guess what- it worked. When I can make chaos feel and look like stability my psychological and emotional wellness improves.
Sometimes you just need to reset: Cleansing
I really needed today’s reset. There are many different ways to reset so I like to decide how to reset by asking myself, “What do I need now?” Here are a few of the different cleanses I have needed and some commentary about them. My goal here is to create a conversation that you have with yourself, someone in your life, or even me to figure out what you need, and what you need now.
24 hour Fast
Sometimes I need a full day fast. I usually use the sundown to sundown model that I am culturally familiar with. During this fast, I drink water and tea but that’s it. I may go for a walk, but that’s the extent of the physical activity. I meditate, read, and if I feel like it, do some writing type work. I don’t leave home, I might not even shower. It’s about taking it easy and being quiet; inside and out. This type of cleanse centers me. I do it at least once a year, typically 2-3 times per year.
24 hours Veggies only
Veggies make me happy. It may surprise you, but as a vegan there’s a lot of other things I eat besides vegetables. Bryer’s makes a vegan ice cream that is crazy good and crazy loaded with sugar. I can’t have it in the house. I’ll eat the entire half gallon… in one sitting. Going just veggies for 24 hours rekindles my love for veggies. People often ask me when I share vegetables I cook why they taste so good, my typical answer “Because I am in love with them and I treat them accordingly.” What does that really mean, I am not afraid to use spices and use them liberally. This type of cleanse works best when I all that I need to reset is my eating, particularly getting gluten and sugar out of the dietary picture.
4-7 day cleanse (product)
This product, combined with following the prescribed eating plan does the trick for me when I need a cleanse that has physical results. It requires me to drink some fiber (which I actually love the taste of), eat clean, sleep, and move my body gently (no running or cross fit, although I ignore that part). It includes other supplements in the form of pills that are aimed at detoxing your liver. If you have been putting crap into your body, you may even get a bit stinky during this cleanse as the toxins are released. Hooray, if you are stinky it’s working. You have to meal plan and be thoughtful. I have had great results with this cleanse, losing 5-9 pounds during a 7 day cleanse. I usually do this one a few times a year, once a quarter. One last thing that I love about this particular product is there is no stress the comes from running back and forth to the bathroom.
21 day hormone reset diet (Dr. Sara Gottfried)
Oh how I love Dr. Sara and her advice. I have learned so much from her books and blog. She has an entire book dedicated to resetting your hormones and taking back your physical, emotional, nutritional, hormonal and even spiritual wellness. I have followed Dr. Sara’s Hormone Reset Diet twice. It’s challenging but the results are fantastic. This is my cleanse of choice when I need a full wellness reset. I swear last time I did it my eyes went from blue to blue sparkles!
No Alcohol (duration TBD) and/or No Sugar (duration TBD)
My body needs breaks from sugar and/or alcohol regularly. Dr. Gottfried recommends detoxing your liver several times a year for at least 2 weeks at a time. In case you are keeping track, I have been alcohol free for 10.5 weeks. Longest I have gone without sugar; 3 weeks. According to Dr. Sara, it takes 3 days to reset your hormones. No sugar and no alcohol will reset set some of the key hormones that impact your health and wellness.
Physical Space Clean Out (like my closet, desk, kitchen cabinets)
This kind of cleanse (purge) is time consuming yet worth it. I find this kind of cleanse is exactly what I need when I feel anxious. It diffuses my anxiety and improves my focus.
Technology Hibernation (duration TBD)
Technology, particularly FaceBook and email overwhelm me. How about you? Do you ever feel maxed out by your connection to technology? I was inspired by one of my mental health counseling students, Allison, to take FaceBook off my phone. I did and that was months and months ago. I won’t go back there. Every so often I will put an away message on my email and take at least 24 hours without checking it. This helps me when I am feeling fried, anxious, or irritable.
Let me know what you have tried and how it works. It would be cool to have a cleanse-type check list to refer to when your wellness is off or not optimal. I would be happy to put that together and post it.
With Love & Gratitude~
Started off strong & then…
I started my day off with a few wellness related activities. I dry brushed, flossed, took my supplements, had a protein shake, meditated and completed two tasks on my to do list.
I was psyched to have today to work from home even if I had a lot to do between today and Monday. I looked at my to do list and immediately felt overwhelmed. Following up with yesterday’s blog about cortisol and negative self-talk, I could clearly see the link as I cursed myself for taking on too much work (again). It’s not only hard for me to say no in general, but I love my work so I tend to over commitment. In addition to my teaching and other responsibilities at the college, seeing my clients, and running my clinical practice (and my Mom duties!), I took on six presentations, all out of town, and I am putting the finishing touches on my parenting book. It’s too much.
Even with all that I on my plate I decided I was going to the gym and made a commitment to my friend Melissa to join her at the HIIT class again. Do you have a gym, workout, walking buddy? I recommend it HIGHLY. Even when I want to find something else to do with my time, if I have made a commitment to another person, I am way less likely to fill my time slot with something else. The HIIT class was packed, awesome and tough. There’s a great energy in the room. I am so grateful to my fellow workout classmates and Trish the instructor for creating this very positive experience.
After HIIT class I hoped on the treadmill. I was in the mood to run. Some people would refer to what I do as jogging, it’s running I assure you. Also, a word of advice, if I may, never refer to what people do on the treadmill, road, or track as jogging. It makes us runners want to throttle you. Running is a moving meditation to me whether inside or out (which prevents me from the aforementioned throttling). I picture my stress falling behind me as move forward. I even sweat happy.
This is where the tide turned. After the run, I got on the scale. WHY! WHY? WHY! I know from long history of having a negative relationship with the scale, that I have to be in the perfect space emotionally and psychologically to responsibility deal with the number before me. I wasn’t. It’s as if all the other data, the inch measurements, the way my clothes fit, the way I feel, the changes I have made, the steps I have taken- – well, they don’t matter. I mean they do matter, but in that moment, they did not.
Welcome to Egypt
I kept my shit together through lunch time and then began to prepare for an Around the World Party. My country was Egypt. Now I have never eaten or made Egyptian food, but I was determined to deliver the goods at a high level. Thank you Pintrest (follow me there to see what recipes I have tried out). Anyway, I found an Egyptian soup that looked yummy, easy (key), and vegan. My daughter was making a potato dish as her contribution. We needed a dessert. Back to Pintrest, this time I found Egyptian Butter Cookies, definitely not vegan, nor sugar or gluten free. I usually will try to augment those ingredients and healthify (good word, right?) the recipe. I was scared though because I had never made these cookies before. I decided to use a Paleo flour, but I kept in the sugar and ghee. At least the cookies were gluten free. Besides being gluten free they were freaking delicious. In fact, they were so delicious, I pounded down three (they really are small) before I left for the party and then like six at the party, and another six after the party (there were leftovers).
All that sugar and ghee (clarified butter) which I usually do not eat resulted in night sweats, a bit of a pity party, and a stellar example of over-the-top negative self-talk. So much for Dr. Sara Gottfried’s advice that I shared just yesterday.
Tomorrow is a new day and a new opportunity. I have a morning running date with my long term running partner and friend Sam. I can do better, and I want to do better; psychologically, with what I choose to eat and not eat (at least I did not indulge in the Riesling in Germany).
with Love & Gratitude,
This wellness thing is tough
I haven’t been at this wellness thing with this level of attention for very long. It’s only a little over a week. I do feel challenged. My biggest challenges are
- Getting enough sleep
- Fitting in time to meditate x2 per day
- Negative self-talk
I don’t need the laboratory test to know my cortisol is high, and my guess is neither do you. In fact, when I reflect on my challenges at this time they all have link to maintaining a high cortisol cycle. Annoying. Dr. Sara Gottfried uses simple questions to assess your hormone status in her book The Hormone Cure. I score ridiculously high on the cortisol quiz. Although I am very proud of high scores on tests and quizzes historically, this is not one of those. Dr. Gottfried explains the science that links these seven health risks to high cortisol:
- Abnormal blood sugar, diabetes, and prediabetes
- Obesity, increased body fat, and metabolic syndrome in women
- Mood and brain problems, including depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple sclerosis
- Delayed wound healing
- Infertility and polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Worsening sleep
- Bone loss in menopausal women
I am not interested in any of those health conditions. Will you join me on doing what we need to do to lower our cortisol? Here’s what I can commit to, no caffeine, better sleep hygiene (my goal is in bed by 10pm, most days I am up by 5am), meditate x2 per day, nap if I have a chance (It’s on my agenda for tomorrow), maintain no alcohol. Dr. Gottfried also makes these suggestions; eat dark chocolate (I can definitely do that), get a message at least once a month (I can do that!), chant daily (I could try that?), practice forgiveness (I want to do that), have an orgasm (that sounds reasonable), don’t worry be happy (I practice that, it’s not as easy as it sounds, you already knew that!), take vitamin B5 (done), take vitamin C (done). She also recommends the following supplements: Phosphatidylserine (PS), fish oil, L-theanine (it’s in green tea), L-lysine combined with L-arginine, L-tyrosine. There’s a lot we can do to reduce our cortisol level, good news. Because I really do love data, next doctor’s visit I am going to get my cortisol (among other things) tested.
Being mean to yourself
When my mental health counseling clients are being mean to themselves I challenge them in session. I frequently respond to their critical view of themselves by saying “You are being so mean to yourself.” I use this type of response to highlight that if they changed the way they spoke to themselves, if they were not so critical; that it would ease their anxiety, depression and allow them to navigate the world with different mindset that notices the positive. I really do try to practice what I preach. I really work hard at turning down the volume on my inner critic, and wowza she is critical! Finally, I work at cultivating my inner coach who is supportive and pushes me forward toward my goals and living my life fully. For whatever reason, I am sure there is one, my inner coach was seemingly unavailable the last few days. WAIT A MINUTE- I just figured it out, my inner coach needs sleep. I can see this so clearly right now. When I don’t get sleep I am not always tired, but you know who is tired, my inner coach! Happy dance, that makes so much sense to me.
Got to go, my inner coach needs to rest!
With Love & Gratitude~