Mercy, Mercy, Me (The Ecology)

Mercy, Mercy, Me (The Ecology)

To quote the late great Marvin Gaye, “Oh, things ain’t what they used to be, no, no. Oil wasted on the oceans, and upon our seas, fish full of mercury.” “What about this overcrowded land? How much more abuse from man can she stand?” Gaye wrote the lyrics for this iconic song in 1971, the year I was born. This song which came out nearly 50 years ago, could have easily been written about our world today.  Marvin Gaye is one of my favorite poets and modern-day soothsayers. Through his music, he advocated not just for the rights of his black brothers and sisters, but for all people, and for the planet. Gaye wrote about things like discrimination, hate, division–the themes of countless generations. But he also spoke of hope, acceptance, love, and unity. I think it’s cool that throughout history many cultural revolutions have been played out through music.   I am a proud product of this generation–born to learn from the mistakes of those who came before me and to speak my mind. 

That said, as a staunch advocate of veganism, I have been accused a time or two of being self-righteous. But self-righteous people believe they are morally superior and often speak in terms of unfounded certainties. In other words, they espouse their own “self-serving” versions of the truth. That is not me, nor my intention. The truths I speak of have been scientifically proven over and over again. These laws of nature are predictable, measurable, and, as it seems–inevitable. But I have learned to be careful when I speak because sometimes passion can be mistaken for preaching. So, I will do my best to walk the line. 

I have written before about the carnage of modern-day animal agriculture, an industry whose practices are protected by “AgGag Laws.”  The Agricultural Gag Laws are designed to silence whistleblowers who reveal animal abuses on industrial farms. Ag-gag laws currently exist in seven states, penalizing whistleblowers who investigate the day-to-day activities of industrial farms. (1). In my state of Missouri, whistleblowing has been criminalized. In other words, if someone exposes the truth of any atrocity, they can be prosecuted and penalized. The State legislature and the lobbyist behind them believe that these “truths” can be damaging to corporate interests and their profits.  

Organizations like the ASPCA and PETA who make it their mission to expose these inhumane practices are often villainized by the mainstream who believe that abusing a cat or dog is horrifying but are unwilling to take action when it comes to the horrors suffered by agricultural animals. Part of this is cognitive dissonance is due to societal conditioning; we do things because that’s the way everyone does it, but also because the atrocities and abuse in our food system are hidden away. 

This abuse leads me to my next point, the conditions that are causing the suffering of these animals. To quote journalist Michael Pollan, “Were the walls of our meat industry to become transparent, literally or even figuratively, we would not long continue to raise, kill, and eat animals the way we do.” I read his book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” four years ago and have used it as a reference point for many of my meat-eating friends who have questions about my choice to be a vegan. Before reading Pollan’s book, I had watched a documentary called Food, Inc. Prior to becoming a vegan, I had never given much thought to where my food came from. But once I learned where it came from I was appalled. It became my mission to learn as much as I could and to teach others. I am not going to go into all of that because I already have in previous posts here, but suffice to say what we are going through now, is no surprise to me.  

Covid-19 has been referred to as the Wuhan Flu after being traced to a wet market in Wuhan China. These wet food markets sell live animals, without much, if any regulation. Like many other zoonic diseases like Mad-Cow, Swine Flu, Ebola, they are given their names from the animals or areas where they originated. These diseases are passed from animals to humans due to things like “Habitat erosion, which may be one of the biggest factors in how viruses have begun breaking down the walls between us and the animals that originally carried them.” And the most common way they initially transfer to us through our modern-day food system. “It’s the handling that comes before eating — the killing, skinning, and butchering — that is highly risky.” (3)

But that’s China.  Just because we don’t have wet markets here in the US doesn’t mean that we don’t get sick from our food here. Currently, there is an outbreak of fatal bird flu in South Carolina that has people worried statewide about the low pathogenic disease, which has mutated into the more severe version and can be transmitted from “species to species.” For years in neighboring Duplin County, North Carolina, where 20% of people who live within a half-mile of a pig or poultry farm have asthma, mucous membrane irritation, respiratory conditions, reduced lung function, and acute blood pressure elevation. Statewide about 900,000 or 10% of the population lives within 3 miles of such farms. And as it often does, it seems to affect mostly minorities and the poor. 

In a 2017 article, The Guardian reported that researchers from the University of North Carolina revealed that most of the state’s industrial hog operations disproportionately affect African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans, a pattern, that “is generally recognized as environmental racism.” “They (corporations) fill massive lagoons with [waste], and they take that lagoon stuff and spray it over fields,” said US Senator Cory Booker in recalling a trip to North Carolina late last year. “I watched it mist off of the property of these massive pig farms into black communities. And these African American communities are like, ‘We’re prisoners in our own home.’ The biggest company down there [Smithfield] is a Chinese-owned company, and so they’ve poisoned black communities, land value is down, abhorrent … This corporation is outsourcing its pain, its costs, on to poor black people in North Carolina.” 

Former NC State Representative Rep. John Blust in a general assembly meeting called out his colleagues for protecting big business by “passing amendments to prevent anyone who lived more than a half-mile from the source of an alleged nuisance from suing. The law prohibits lawsuits filed more than a year after the farm begins operation or undergoes “a fundamental change” and bar punitive damages unless the farm operator had been convicted of a crime or civil enforcement action for violations related to the alleged nuisance.  (4) Blust went on to say that the legislation “shields “one giant corporation” from individual neighbors who have legitimate concerns about the stench, the flies, the buzzards, and the dried remains of sprayed and liquefied hog excrement that coated their houses. Blust and his constituents lost as the bill was ultimately rushed through to avoid debate and amendments.

We have reached a frightening precipice in time, a global crossroads if you will. With recent news reports of groceries seeing meat shortages by the end of the week due to hundreds of Covid-19 outbreaks in meatpacking plants, there will likely be a mad rush to buy up the current supply. If this happens, millions will be forced to find their protein sources from other means. I hope that people will realize what some of us have known all along, ware designed to eat plants. Just because we have evolved to eat meat, doesn’t mean we should. Plants are not only a sustainable resource for human consumption, but they are a viable resource for our planet. Every day I eat the bounty of the plant world, and I am neither hungry or dissatisfied. I am healthy and happy. In the last week, I have had two people reach out to me, wanting me to know that I had helped change their perspective. They are both moving toward veganism. I hope that those two will help two more, who will help two more. Epidemiologists, climate scientists, and countless others have shown through scientific modeling that we don’t make a significant shift and continue to make the same mistakes over and over again; it will eventually lead to our demise. That would be awful. Finally, I am reminded of this great parable I’ve heard for years.  

“The Drowning Man.”

A fellow was stuck on his rooftop in a flood. He was praying to God for help.

Soon a man in a rowboat came by and the fellow shouted to the man on the roof, “Jump in, I can save you.”

The stranded fellow shouted back, “No, it’s OK, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me.”

So the rowboat went on.

Then a motorboat came by. “The fellow in the motorboat shouted, “Jump in, I can save you.”

To this the stranded man said, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.”

So the motorboat went on.

Then a helicopter came by and the pilot shouted down, “Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety.”

To this the stranded man again replied, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.”

So the helicopter reluctantly flew away.

Soon the water rose above the rooftop and the man drowned. He went to Heaven. He finally got his chance to discuss this whole situation with God, at which point he exclaimed, “I had faith in you but you didn’t save me, you let me drown. I don’t understand why!”

To this God replied, “I sent you a rowboat and a motorboat and a helicopter, what more did you expect?”

 

 

 

 

 

Ayubowan–May You Have Long Life

Ayubowan–May You Have Long Life

When I got sick a few years ago, I knew that western medicine would not offer me much in the way of actual healing. Having been a follower of ancient Chinese medicine for years (thank you, Bill Moyers, for “Healing and the Mind”), I knew the powers of acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and of course, the meditative practices of Buddhist yoga. But after listening to dozens of podcasts by a naturopathic doctor, Dr. Stephen Cabral, I began researching an even older practice of medicine from India called Ayurveda. While the Chinese have been practicing medicine for nearly 3500 years, the Indian’s have been practicing for over 5,000 years. I have adopted the practices of both cultures but would consider myself more of an Ayurvedic practitioner.

Chinese, and Indian Ayurvedic medicine, are the two most commonly practiced forms of traditional medicine in Asia.  Both share a similar holistic approach—treat the person as a whole vs. treating just a symptom or set of symptoms. Philosophically, however, they are very different from each other. Ayurvedic medicine takes a constitution-based approach, i.e., individuals are born with different traits and characteristics that are unchanging. When their constitution (dosha) is out of balance, it creates a set of symptoms that, if left unchecked, can lead to “dis-ease.” Chinese medicine treats what they call ch’i or qi in the body. Ch’i is a vital energy that connects to all of your organs and their function. It also uses an aggregate of healing modalities, which includes acupuncture, Chinese herbal therapy, massage, dietary therapy, Tai Chi and Qi Gong. It is ultimately based on Taoist philosophy. I will write more in-depth about Chinese medicine in a future post, but for now, let’s talk Ayurveda.

Ayurvedic medicine emphasizes the three doshas or biological energies found throughout the human body and mind. They believe that doshas govern all physical and mental processes and provide every living being with an individual blueprinting for health and fulfillment. These doshas are called Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Your constitution, or dosha, is determined at the time of conception. Much like the color of your eyes, or the size of your stature, your composition is unchanging. While we have all three doshas in our body, we each have a dominant dosha that cannot be changed. Once a Vata, always a Vata. Let’s begin.

Kapha governs all structure and lubrication in the mind and body. It controls weight, growth, lubrication for the joints and lungs, and formation of all the seven tissues — nutritive fluids, blood, fat, muscles, bones, marrow, and reproductive tissues. Therefore Kapha controls our lymphatic system. Even in the desert parts of the country, winter is relatively damp and cold with spurts of snow, ice, or freezing rain. These elements create a similar reaction within the body to accumulate Kapha, particularly avalambaka Kapha (Kapha housed in the respiratory system). We feel the results as we blow our nose and cough our way through winter.

For me, winter means puffy eyes, and puffy eyes can be a clue your lymph fluid is getting sluggish. Other signs of an “increased” Kapha (when a particular dosha is present in higher than average proportions, it is increased, aggravated, or excess state) can be sluggishness, swelling, higher than normal blood pressure, and excessive phlegm. So what can we do? Exercise!

It turns out lymph vessels are squeezed by your muscles when you move. Therefore, exercise plays a vital role in lymphatic fluid circulation. Deep breathing exercises can also benefit the flow of lymphatic fluid because of the pressure deep breathing creates in the chest and abdominal cavities along with the contractions of the diaphragm and abdominal muscles.

Lymphatic Yoga motions: neck motion – slowly lift your chin to the ceiling and look up while inhaling slowly; bring it down, on a slow exhalation and look at the heart (Repeat 3X). Bring your head to a neutral position. Turn your head to the right and look over the shoulder far behind you, the same to the left (3X). Shoulder motion – breathe in, slowly lift your shoulders to the ceiling, exhale with a sigh and let them go down (Repeat 5X).

Other ways to balance your Kapha:

  • Breathe deeply and slowly for at least 10 min daily.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Reduce your daily salt intake.
  • Reduce your alcohol intake.

Vata dosha governs movement in the body, the activities of the nervous system, and the process of elimination. Vata translates into “That Which Moves Things,” and it governs anything related to movement, such as breathing, talking, nerve impulses, shifts in the muscles and tissues, circulation, assimilation of food, elimination, urination, and menstruation. Vata is often called the “King of the Doshas,” since it governs the body’s greater life force and gives motion to Kapha (“That Which Sticks”), and Pitta the third and final dosha (“That Which Cooks”).

I am a Vata dominant and winter time is the hardest time for me.  Vata’s love warm climates and warm food.  They have high energy (bordering on hyper) and have a hard time saying no. Vata’s respond to stress with fear, and because their mind is continuously moving, it makes Savasana in yoga (a time of extreme silence), the hardest part of yoga! Vata’s are quick to learn, usually fast talkers, and tire quickly because they try to do 1000 things at once. If Vata’s are out of balance, it’s because they have exceeded the limits of their energy.  They can sometimes become anxious and can’t sleep.  Vata dosha is closely connected to the root chakra, which is responsible for grounding and bringing a sense of wholeness and happiness.  Ground through yoga and exercise can be quite helpful.

Ways to balance Vata:

Pitta derives from the elements Fire and Water and translates as “that which cooks.” It is the energy of digestion and metabolism, and energy production in the body that functions through the carrier substances such as organic acids, hormones, enzymes, and bile.

The central locations of Pitta in the body are the small intestines, stomach, liver, spleen, pancreas, blood, eyes, and sweat. Physiologically, Pitta provides the body with heat and energy through the breakdown of complex food molecules. The primary function of Pitta is transformation. Those with a predominance of the Pitta principle have a fiery nature that manifests in both body and mind.

Qualities of Pitta:
• Hot
• Light
• Intense
• Penetrating
• Pungent
• Sharp
• Acidic

Pittas doshas are usually of medium size and weight. They sometimes have bright red hair, but baldness or thinning hair is also typical in a Pitta. They have excellent digestion, which sometimes leads them to believe they can eat anything. Aggravated Pitta causes problems related to excessive heat and acidity in mind and body such as acid indigestion, diarrhea, anger, fever, hot flashes, infections, and rashes.

To balance Pitta:

  • Enjoy exercise, but avoid getting over-heated or too embroiled in competitive sports.
  • Keep cool. Avoid hot temperatures and food.
  • Walking in nature especially by bodies of water or in the shade of mature trees, yoga, swimming, skiing, cycling, etc. are good choices
  • Favor cooking with cooling spices like fennel, coriander, cardamom, and turmeric. Coconut oil and olive oil are also good.
  • Avoid chili peppers, vinegar, alcohol, tobacco, caffeinated beverages, and chocolate
  • Get to bed before 10 PM
  • Moderation; don’t overwork.
  • Allow for leisure time.
  • Regular mealtimes, especially lunch at noon.

In sports nutrition, the doshas are very similar to the endomorph, ectomorph, and mesomorph body types, as you will see below.
• Vatas are energizer bunnies that love to move. They are most similar to the Ectomorph body type.
• Pittas are natural athletes. They are comparable to the Mesomorph body type.
• Kaphas are most like the Endomorph body type.

Often, due to many factors in our environments like weather, seasons, lifestyle choices, and diet, the most dominant dosha tends to become imbalanced, but any Dosha can also become imbalanced. These imbalances create a secondary, “current” state, known as Vikriti, which results from inadequately supporting our natural constitution (Prakriti). We push ourselves off balance by continually eating foods or adopting habits that are not suited to us — primarily by exposing ourselves to more of the Doshic energies that we already have. If we are experiencing symptoms of imbalance, such as bloating, rashes, spots, hot flushes, itchy skin, sore gums, gassiness, tummy upsets, lousy temper, tiredness, or anxiety, it means that our Vikriti is way off from our Prakriti. These signs that our mind-body is off-kilter, if left unchecked, lead to disease down the road.

In summary, the doshas are dynamic energies that constantly change in response to our actions, thoughts, emotions, the foods we eat, the seasons, and any other sensory inputs that feed our mind and body. When we live in the fulfillment of our natures, we naturally make lifestyle and dietary decisions that foster balance within our doshas. But when we live against our intrinsic nature, we tend to support unhealthy patterns that lead to physical and mental imbalances. In my next blog post, I will discuss some of the ways to re-balance your doshas and begin to explore some of the themes of traditional Chinese medicine.

Thank you Stephen Cabral, ND for your passion and knowledge that you share so freely and lovingly.

Until then, Ayubowan!

Running the Path

Running the Path

The other day my neighbor came over for coffee.  She seemed a bit down and out and told me she was thinking about running.  She said she wanted to feel better about her body, and that losing some weight would make her feel better about herself.   She told me she had never run before, and wanted to pick my brain on how to run.   I smiled and said, “Go put on some running shoes and run!  Don’t overthink it.   Just go for a run.  Don’t worry about how fast you are, how long your run is, or how many times you had to stop to catch your breath.  Just go run.”  I remember not being able to run ¼ mile without stopping.  Now I run a full 8 miles without resting once.   I started by simply putting one foot in front of the other.  “But,” I also cautioned her, “it’s not the weight you lose from running that makes you feel good about yourself.  Weight loss is an extrinsic motivator and will likely be a reason you stop running.  Don’t seek to be a size two.  Instead seek dedication, consistency, and persistence.  They will make you feel better about yourself.”  Change your vernacular and you will change your life.

Like yoga, running has changed my life.  It’s become a way for me to quiet my mind.  It is like a moving meditation.   I focus solely on my breath and let go of all tension and thought.   When I hit my stride, I feel like I could run forever.   I achieve the same state when I stay in certain deep asanas, like pigeon, for a long time.   It’s the best feeling in the world.  If I am in a bad mood, anxious, stuck creatively, whatever is going on, I will go for a run, or do some flows.  And when I’m done, all is well again.

When I look back over the last year, hell, over the last decade… I am proud to say I have accomplished much.   I have gained a lot, learned a lot, but also forgotten much, and lost a lot.   I have reached some goals that I never imagined possible, while I watched other dreams go up in smoke…but that, as they say “is life.”    The “one foot in front of the other” mentality has served me well, until now.   Lately, I feel fearful and uncertain about some big things in my life.  And the truth is, I don’t really know why.  Life has pretty much stayed the same.  But then I think maybe that’s the reason I feel this way.  The Buddha said, “There is no fear for one whose mind is not filled with desires.”  I get it, I want more.  But thinking about my future is almost paralyzing.   It was the Buddha who said, “Overthinking is the greatest cause of unhappiness.”  So perhaps silence is best.  Who knows, maybe I’ll slow down and give silent meditation a try.  Or maybe I’ll just go for a longer run.  🙂

With that, Happy New Year’s and Happy New Decade.  May you have many abundant blessings, and may you get back all that you give.  Remember to seek out joy, as it is always there for us. May you find peace in any given moment, and may you do hard and scary things!  Grow abundantly!  Namaste!

From Here to Eternity…

From Here to Eternity…

I will always be a vegan. Now that I know, what I know. I have seen the remarkable effects physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Sounds dramatic, right?  Well, it has been.  In my early 40’s I was carrying around an autoimmune diagnosis, 40 pounds of extra weight, I was depressed and tired.   Now, not quite 4 years later, my doctor still marvels at my annual blood-work. He is amazed that I am at my recommended body weight and not taking any medications.  Amazed because the Mayo clinic estimates 7 out of 10 of us adults are taking some form of a prescription drug, with many of us taking 3 or more meds…and 75% of us are overweight and 40% of us are obese.   Being sick and overweight has become the new norm.  Therefore it’s not surprising that the US is ranked dead last in the “healthy’ category against 10 other wealthy countries in the world.   How is that possible? 

Well, imagine you are sitting at a table and you keep banging your leg against the chair so long and so hard that it becomes bruised and quite painful.  Finally, someone comes along and says, “Hey, I’ve got a medication that will soothe your pain and another medication that can fix those nasty bruises.”  So you take the pills, and sure enough, the pain goes away and your skin looks better, so you think you’re healed.   But you’re still banging your leg on the chair, and now because the real problem has never been addressed, your original issue has become catastrophic.  Yet nobody ever tells you, “Hey stop banging your leg on the table.” Doctors are taught to prescribe medications for a certain set of symptoms. They are not required to recommend nutritional interventions and, in fact, nutrition is not even a requirement in most medical schools. With the AMA only allowing doctors 15 minutes to spend per patient, it’s not long enough to talk about diet anyway, it’s just long enough to write a script.  Because the truth is there is no money to be made if we are all well, only if we are sick.     

Heart disease and diabetes are directly correlated to an excessive amount of animal protein consumption and are rarely related to genetics. But a good many people believe they are simply victims of their genes, doomed to a life of middle-age weight gain, cancer, heart disease and diabetes.  And we are seeing a rise in colon cancer rates for the first time in people in their 20’s, a disease not normally seen until our 50’s. A recent study by the Pentagon revealed that 71% of young men between the ages of 17-24 (over 24 million) are ineligible to serve in the military because they are physically unfit. And I am sadder, yet, that we are rearing a generation of kids who are not predicted to live as long as their parents…all because of our food choices.

Truth is, four years ago, I never gave much thought to the likes of a cow, a chicken, or a pig.  I only knew that they would eventually become food bought in a store.   I never made a connection that those packs of chicken and ground beef were once living breathing animals. I didn’t know that they were purposely hidden away on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s), because if we actually saw what was happening to them we would be disgusted and appalled.  I felt better buying cage-free eggs.  Though more expensive, I figured cage-free was better because these chickens were allowed to run around in the sun.    What I didn’t know was that baby chicks have their beaks cut off so they don’t peck other chicks in their cramped living quarters.  And that cage-free really just means that tens of thousands of chickens are crammed in warehouses instead of cages, and where there is only 1 foot of space per chicken on average. Many of them sustain painful lesions and suffer from ammonia blisters due to sitting on unsanitary floors.  A sad life indeed. 

I also didn’t know that dairy cows were forced to stand in inches of their own excrement while getting milked 10 months out of a year until they are eventually turned into ground beef.  I didn’t know that most E-coli outbreaks in lettuce and kale stemmed from a CAFO’s waste lagoon, or pools of poop, that pollute our fields, rivers, and streams.  And worse, some of these CAFO’s can make the individuals living by them very, very sick.  Don’t even get me started on Duplin County, North Carolina. 

I have also learned that it takes a lot of money and resources for us to eat these animals.  I didn’t know that lobbyists fought to have our tax dollars subsidize the meat and dairy industry.  I didn’t know that it takes nearly 2,400 gallons of water just to grow just 1 pound of meat.  I didn’t know that 800 million people could be fed with just the grain that livestock eat alone.  And that much of that grain is produced here in the Midwest.  It’s why they call Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, eastern Nebraska, and eastern Kansas the corn-belt because we grow corn for livestock.  In fact, more than 90 million acres of grain is planted here just to feed livestock feed alone.  It is also an area where cancer rates are on the rise and the levels of pesticide use are skyrocketing.   

But that’s not the only thing…about 24% (some argue it’s more like 50%) of all global greenhouse gases come from our support of commercial agriculture. These warming gases are caused by things like livestock methane gas production, and deforestation, or the clear-cutting of trees in order to make room for more livestock.  You’ve probably heard that the Amazon Jungle in South America in on fire.  That is because they are a developing nation that is looking at places like the U.S. (land of the rich and plentiful) as an example. So now they are cutting down trees in record numbers because they have discovered the economic value in cattle production; those companies who own the factory farms are the fuel for the fire.  And those who have long associated eating meat with affluence and prestige inadvertently fan their flames.    

Plant-Based eating has never been shown to cause disease. In fact, it has actually been shown in some cases to halt and even reverse many diseases. It is a way of eating that supports our bodies ability to do its job naturally, without drug intervention. It is better for the animals and better for the planet. I am hopeful the tide is turning and more and more people are waking up, so to speak. I remain mindful that a few years ago, I didn’t know any of this either.  And I am joyful at the prospect that others may follow their own journey because of myself, or countless others like me, that have inspired them to do so.  Being a vegan is one of the greatest gifts this life has given me. 

The Rain Barrel Effect

the-rain-barrel-effect-250x167This year for Thanksgiving we went to visit family in New Orleans.  If you’ve ever been, you know that New Orleans is one of the only cities in America that has its own dialect, its own music, and its own food—rich spicy fried deliciousness!   It is also a city that encourages day drinking and in fact, some might even say it is expected!  It is the Big Easy after all.  So as not to break with tradition, I jumped right in! I had a fried green tomato po’ boy, a veggie muffuletta sandwich, and the best filé Gumbo I’ve ever had. And that was just the first 2 days!  While I truly enjoyed myself, it was no surprise that at the end of my 8 days, I had gained 5 pounds and a wicked sinus infection!    Ah, love the holidays!

The next 6 weeks are a challenging time for most of us.    Between the holiday parties, eating out more often, drinking alcohol, many people celebrating and eating with more than one side of the family, the leftovers, the cookies, the candy, and the pies, we decide not to worry about any of that and figure we’ll start Weight Watchers and hit the gym in January 1st.  The thing is…gaining weight isn’t our only concern.  We have now increased our toxic load during cold and flu season.

Think of your body as a rain barrel.   When we drink alcohol, eat cheat meals, don’t get enough sleep, and are stressed, we are slowly filling our own personal rain barrel.  One day or two days of filling it won’t really matter, but if we spend 6 weeks filling our barrel, it will begin to run over.  And when it runs over—we get sick.  A cheat meal, or extra food you wouldn’t normally have, bread, alcohol, anything with high calories, raises our glucose levels.  And blood sugar spikes can lead to drink munchies and low blood sugar the next morning–leading to headaches, dizziness, and fatigue.   Alcohol can disrupt our circadian rhythms and our sleep.   And getting adequate sleep is imperative to not getting sick.

So how can we still enjoy all of the festivities this holiday season and not overfill our barrel?  If you go to a holiday party and drink a few, or a few too many, or if you enjoy a hearty cheat meal…give your body a rest.  What’s the best way to do that?  Do a “one-day reset” the next day.  Give your body some “quiet time” with nothing further coming in—so it can focus on getting rid of the effects of a cheat meal, the alcohol, or both!   The following PDF is my favorite naturopathic guru, Dr. Stephen Cabral’s 24-hour reset!

http://stephencabral.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/One-Day-Reset-Diet.pdf

You can also go out and have a great time with either no drinking or just one drink!  My favorite trick is to have a glass of water with a squeeze of lime and a splash of cranberry first.  It’s refreshing and hydrating.  And it’s one less drink than I would’ve had!  My first drink is water, the second drink is alcohol, the third drink is water, etc. And Sometimes I don’t drink at all.

Another great tip is to do a quick work out beforehand.  Just do Tabata, squats, lunges, push up’s, or a quick 5-minute circuit, twice.  This will allow your body to absorb sugar, not gain as much body fat, and reduce inflammation.  And it’s great to know that it doesn’t have to be an hour in the gym to be effective!

And finally, we need to stop pushing ourselves too far in one direction.  This time of year we tend to ask too much of ourselves. And constant stress can make us sick!  Everyone needs quiet time–alone time.  Meditate, do yoga, take a nap, or go for a walk.  Jesus spent time in silence and solitude.  It’s how he dealt with the constant demands of HIS ministry and cared for HIS soul.  By doing these things, we serve not only ourselves, but we also serve HIM when we remember that HE is the Reason for the Season.

Angels Among Us

Angels Among Us
Before kids, my image of motherhood looked something like this… big pregnant belly, tiny fingers and toes, early mornings, sleepless nights, birthday parties, trips to the zoo, and wrapping paper scattered on Christmas morning.  Not being completely unrealistic, I also envisioned more sleepless nights, a few skinned knees, broken hearts and maybe a broken bone or two… you get the picture.  Three kids later all of those things did indeed come to pass.   And I don’t take any of it for granted…Ever.  But when life happens “unexpectedly,” as if often does, it can be downright scary.

Looking out over Forest Park as I write–just a few hours before we are to be released, I am humbled by the experience of motherhood.  I take nothing for granted and am grateful for this big job, and for my little people.   The staff at St. Louis Children’s Hospital are gentle angels who do an amazing job caring for, and about the children here.  Our experience at Children’s has been comforting and heartwarming.  And my heart goes out to the parents who will remain here. Especially for those who could walk these halls blindfolded.   Because for them, their daily “reality” consists of a stream of medications, needles, x-rays, and not knowing from one day to the next whether their kids will ever go home again.

 

 

To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals-Benjamin Franklin

fasting

“In 2016 Yoshinori Ohsumi, won the Nobel Prize in “Physiology or Medicine” for his discoveries around something called autophagy, a fundamental process for degrading and recycling cellular components.”(1)

The word autophagy originates from the Greek words auto-, meaning “self”, and phagein, meaning “to eat”. Thus, autophagy denotes “self eating”. Autophagy is the body’s internal recycling program – scrap cell components are captured and the useful parts are stripped out to generate energy or build new cells. The process is crucial for preventing cancerous growths, warding off infection and, by maintaining a healthy metabolism, it helps protect against conditions like diabetes.

One of the best ways to induce autophagy is through an “Intermittent Fast, or IF.” It takes a lot of energy to digest food and certain foods more than others. Our digestion rate is based on several things like basal metabolic rate and what we’ve eaten. But in general meat and fish can take as long as two days to fully digest. The proteins and fats that meat contain are complex molecules that take longer for your body to pull apart. By contrast, fruits and vegetables, which are high in fiber, move through your system in less than a day. In fact, these high-fiber foods help your digestive track run more efficiently in general.

The breaking down of all food (among other things) creates oxidation and free radicals in the body. Free radicals are toxic byproducts of oxygen metabolism that can cause significant damage to living cells and tissues in a process called “oxidative stress.” The vitamins and minerals the body uses to counteract oxidative stress are called antioxidants.

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According to Functional Medicine Dr. Stephen Cabral, the benefits of intermittent fasting are as follows:

  1. Weight loss. We are talking about a natural weight loss, where your body actually taps into body fat to lose weight.
  2. Lowered blood sugar levels. Lowered blood sugar decreases insulin, which in turns helps to decrease things like cortisol, estrogen, etc. Also decreases midsection fat.
  3. Speeds up metabolism. Who doesn’t want a faster metabolism?
  4. Promotes longevity (10-20% longer life). By allowing for processes of natural detoxification, and reduction of inflammation to occur.
  5. Better control hunger signals (Hunger vs. Cravings). An empty “stomach,” is true hunger (4-5 hours after last meal). A craving is usually a blood sugar issue.
  6. Improves detoxification because the body is now a scavenger for free radical’s and allows time for the liver to cleanse the blood.
  7. Improves brain energy/clarity because extra energy goes to your brain instead of your stomach. Shown to improve conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease.
  8. Improves your overall immune system by killing existing cancer cells, necrotic tissues, and cancer cells just starting out. It kills sick cells, microbes, and also helps prevent premature cell death.
  9. Lowers blood pressure, cholesterol, and inflammation, because you do not have as many free radicals in your body. Most all diseases are related to inflammation in the body.
  10. Helps clear up skin based issues like acne, psoriasis, and eczema that are caused by dirty blood, yeast overgrowth, and bacteria.

So how do you do an intermittent fast?

I prefer a once a week 24-hour fast, and here’s why. A simple 24-hour fast lasts from dinner-to-dinner, or breakfast-to-breakfast, whatever you like. For example, I eat a light dinner around 6 pm on Sunday evening and then I fast until the next day’s dinner at 6 pm. In this regimen, I do not actually go a full day without eating since I am still taking one meal on that ‘fasting’ day.   I have a plain, “Daily All-in-One Support Shake” for breakfast and another for lunch. I also drink at least 8 glasses of water and several cups of green tea throughout the day to help my body “feel full” and push all of the toxic waste out of my system. I begin every day (and have for years) with a smoothie for breakfast. So every day from dinner to lunch I am doing an 18-hour fast.

If a 24-hour or 18-hour fast is too much, then a simple 12-hour fast can be a great way to start. Essentially, you stop eating after dinner and do not eat again until breakfast the next morning, making sure there is at least 12 hours between meals.   This simple 12-hour fast can help regulate blood sugar, burn fat, and improve mental clarity.

 

 

The Ties that Bind

“My friend and I were passing some elephants, when my friend suddenly stopped. She was confused as to how these massive creatures were held only by a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at anytime, break away from their bonds, but for some reason, they did not. She saw a trainer nearby and asked why these animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away. “Well,” the trainer said, “when they are very young and much smaller, we use the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.” The man was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds, but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.” –The Elephant and the Rope

As a health coach I often find many of my clients are “held back” by self-limiting beliefs. They either cling to beliefs that no longer serve them, or they still adhere to falsehoods they learned in childhood.   For example, while exploring why a severely obese client of mine over eats, he revealed that as a child, he was expected to eat everything on his plate even after he was full.  As he got older, and serving sizes got larger he continued to eat until his plate was empty.   By the way, did you know the average restaurant meal is now more than four times larger than it was in 1950’s?

So, are you like the elephant?  Were you told to keep eating even after you were full?  Have you tried every diet in the world and still can’t lose weight? Maybe it’s time to dig deeper and find out what’s really holding you back.  What ways do you feel bound and powerless?  The great thing about our belief system is that we can change it. And change it immediately.  Like the mighty elephant, you hold the power, even if you don’t realize it. It’s time to break the rope and finally be free.

 

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What You Don’t See Can Hurt You

So the other day my son was eating an apple that still had the sticker on it. He’s eight, it happens.  It probably makes the most sense for me to wash everything as soon as I bring it home, but that doesn’t happen.  However, I do wash everything (including all my organic stuff) before I use it.  I even wash a cantaloupe before I cut into it because I don’t want what’s on the outside to make its way inside.   In 2011 a Listeria outbreak from cantaloupe killed four people and sickened 141 people across 20 states.  (1)  If you add in the salmonella outbreak (cantaloupe again) in 2012, we now have more than 400 people ill and at least 36 individuals who died as a result of these two outbreaks.  While it may sound like that’s a relatively small number compared to the 318 million Americans in this country, remember only 1 in 10 of us eat our fruits and veggies every day

Experts say, all in all, 20 people will touch a tomato before you slice it up for your salad. And that’s in addition to all the animal waste that can mingle with your produce on the long journey from farm to table. (2) At the time of these outbreaks, Michael Landa, the Director at the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition revealed, in part, multiple findings of insanitary production, handling conditions, and practices in packinghouses.   That is why, if I eat the outside or have to slice it to eat the inside, I wash it.  But that’s just pathogens, dirt, and debris.  What about the 146 different pesticides that are found on 75% of our produce?

A non-profit organization called the Environmental Working Group (EWG) put together two lists, “The Dirty Dozen” and “The Clean 15,” to help consumers know when they should buy organic and when it is unnecessary. These lists were compiled using data from the United States Department of Agriculture on the amount of pesticide residue found in non-organic fruits and vegetables after they had been washed. Domestic and imported versions of two items – blueberries and snap peas – showed sharply different results, so they ranked those domestic and imported items separately. (The full list can be found here, https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php)

The fruits and vegetables on the EWG’s “The Dirty Dozen” list, when conventionally grown, tested positive for at least 48 different chemicals, with some testing positive for as many as 67. For produce on the “dirty” list, always go organic. “The 2016 Dirty Dozen” list includes:

  • Strawberries
  • Apples
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Celery
  • Grapes
  • Cherries
  • Spinach, kale and collard greens
  • Tomatoes, cherry tomatoes
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Hot peppers

All the produce on the EWG’s “Clean 15” 2016 list had little to no traces of pesticides, and is considered safe to consume in non-organic form. This list includes:

  • Onions
  • Avocados
  • Cabbage
  • Pineapples
  • Sweet corn *
  • Frozen sweet peas
  • Honeydew melon
  • Mangos
  • Asparagus
  • Eggplant
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Papayas *
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
* Denotes the majority of these are Genetically Engineered.  Look for organic if you don’t want GE products.

Remember my son’s apple?  Well, we decided to perform a little science experiment.  We filled three glasses, the glass on the far left is regular tap water, the glass in the middle is my fruit and veggie wash, and the third glass is after his apple soaked in the veggie wash after one minute.   In this case, a picture is definitely worth a thousand words.

This is a link to a story NPR featured on America’s Test Kitchen and their recommendation for the best fruit and veggie wash.  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14540742

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This is a great video about the Environmental Working Group.

Do You Mind?

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Have you heard the one about the “Boiling Frog?”  No?  Let me share.

“If you place a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will immediately try to scramble out. But, if you place the frog in room temperature water, and don’t scare him, he’ll stay put. If the pot stays on the stove and if you gradually turn up the heat, something very interesting happens. As the temperature rises, the frog will do nothing. In fact, he may show signs of enjoying himself. As the temperature gradually rises, the frog will become groggier and groggier.  Though there is nothing restraining him, the frog will sit there and boil. Why? Because the frog’s internal apparatus for sensing threats to survival is geared to sudden changes in the environment, not to slow and gradual changes.”

I like this anecdote.  Specifically, how it relates to the concept of mindfulness. Ignoring his instinctual cues and basking in the comfort of the warm water, the frog was oblivious to the dangers of the water temperature rising in his little hot tub, and he paid the ultimate price.   It made me realize that at one time, I too had been the frog in the pan. I was 35 pounds overweight, suffering from severe reflux and joint pain.  Thankfully, I was mindful of the temperature rising, and I jumped out before it was too late.  Sadly though, like our friend the frog, many people don’t.

Mindfulness has become my mantra lately. My journey into mindfulness began with my yoga practice.  Most of my life, I have struggled with staying focused.  I’m sure I have some degree of ADHD.  Yoga Asanas (poses & posture) require constant mindfulness to keep balanced, and I have discovered the beauty of living in the present (thank you, Dede) and staying focused.

An article in “The Secret Life of Asana”, Sandra Anderson said it best… “By awakening and reorganizing inner life, [Hatha] yoga gives us the experience of being independent of – and free from – the knots in our psyches. Repeated practice and conscious awareness stabilize this experience of freedom and make it an increasingly more influential part of our being. As a result, we gradually restructure how we live our lives, including what we eat, what we find pleasure in, and how we treat our children. This must be an active, ongoing process.   Otherwise, the deeply rutted road grabs the wheels, throwing us back to old and painful ways of being and the loneliness of alienation from our inner Self.”

Yoga isn’t the only way to practice mindfulness.  It can be practiced a thousand ways, many times a day.  I was at a party recently and was talking to a friend who was complaining about her weight. She had put on 48 pounds in the last few years and was feeling a little despondent.   The doctor wants to run some tests at the beginning of the year for fibromyalgia, lupus and IBS.  A self-proclaimed cheese addict, that evening I watched her eat almost an entire 3-quart cheese dip. BY HERSELF.  Laughing, talking and mindlessly eating, she consumed nearly 2400 calories and 187 grams of fat in less than an hour.  Sadly, the water is getting very warm for my friend.

We don’t just wake up one day 40 pounds heavier, or with heart disease, cancer or one of the countless autoimmune diseases.  Instead, we slowly and gradually make our way toward these things.   We eat heavily processed, sugar-laden, man-made foods that are calorically dense and nutritionally deficient. We are rearing an entire generation of kids on these foods, and because of it, they are not projected to live as long as their parents.  We abide by the notion that we have time to change our ways, yet we never do.  We trade long-term health and happiness for short-term instant gratification.  We’re doing this over and over, day after day.

By being mindful of what we put in our bodies, by trading short-term gratification for long-term health and happiness, we can have our cake and eat it too.   But we can’t eat the whole cake.  I try to live by the 80/20 rule (most of the time it’s the 99/1 rule, aside from having ADHD, I am also a little obsessive).  Most of the time I eat wonderfully healthy and delicious foods for nourishment.  But, sometimes I will eat really decadent and delicious foods to indulge.   And when I do, I’m very “mindful” of just how divine it is!