Not Your Average Smoothie

I was surprised and delighted when I was asked to participate in Williams-Sonoma ‘Not Your Average Smoothie’ week!  I’m a huge fan of smoothies; although I will admit that I’ve gotten into a bit of a rut when it comes to adding variety to my drinks.  This is the perfect opportunity to shake things up a bit!

I moved to Austin, TX a year ago last August, and I’ve noticed something interesting.  My tastes and cravings for certain foods have changed.  For example, I spent most of my life in New England and autumn was always my favorite time of year.  I loved the colorful foliage, the crisp weather, the apples, and everything orange:  sweet potatoes, winter squashes, and pumpkin.   Couldn’t get enough of them when fall rolled around.  When I was a baby, I  loved squash so much that my mom fed it to me often.  Then I started to turn orange and the doctor told her to stop feeding it to me.  Still love it to this day.

Yet, living in Austin’s warmer climate has done something to my tastes for baked sweet potatoes, and squash soup, and pumpkin pancakes.  The temperature hasn’t quite dipped low enough for me to drag out the potato peeler.   Although, as I write this, I’m told we’ll be having some icy mornings this week.

ppatch

A few weeks ago, I went back to Connecticut to visit my family and I was reminded of all the autumns I passed through.  This pumpkin patch was near my parents’ house and I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t remember it being there.  Maybe I just didn’t appreciate it enough when I was there.

clay

In keeping in line with the theme for Smoothies Week, I decided to share an ingredient that I often add to my smoothies that many people might consider out of the ordinary, but knowing why I’m adding it will make it seem not so strange.  The ingredient is Living Clay Detox Clay Powder.  It’s a bentonite clay that I use for washing my face and as a facial mask.  But many people may not realize that it can also be used as an internal detoxification aid that draw toxins and eliminates them though the digestive tract.  It also helps to clean the digestive tract.  I like to think of it as a mask for the gut. : )

Living Clay has no real taste, so I’ll add about a teaspoon to any flavor of smoothie I make.  And since I had pumpkins on my mind recently and ‘tis the season, I thought I would add it to a fall-inspired smoothie – something I would call a Pumpkin Almond Smoothie, but it was suggested I call ‘Moose Juice,’ since it has maple syrup which originates up North, which is also home to the moose population.  : )

mooseingred

The combination of ingredients provide ample protein as well as healthy fats and fiber and a bit of sweetness from the banana and maple syrup.  It looks more like a mocha, tastes like heaven, and feels like home.  This was breakfast yesterday and it kept me full for hours.

moosesmoothie

Moose Juice

  • 1 c unsweetened almond milk or water
  • 1 scoop protein powder (I used a vanilla whey powder)
  • ¼ – ½ pumpkin puree
  • 1 T almond butter
  • ½ frozen banana, chopped
  • 1 t maple syrup
  • 1 T chia seeds
  • sprinkle of cinnamon and/or nutmeg
  • 1 t Living Clay (optional)

Blend ingredients together in a blender.   Pour into a glass and enjoy!

Insomnia – the new obesity

Something I’ve always been grateful for is my ability to get a good night’s sleep.  In fact, if you asked me my most important health and beauty secret, I would say sleep because of the following benefits:

For years, I’ve pretty consistently gotten 7-8 hours per night, until recently.  Just before moving to Austin, I began having sleepless nights where I either tossed and turned all night, or I woke at 2:30-3 am and couldn’t go back to sleep.  I figured it was simply because of the whirlwind of emotions and amount of work I needed to accomplish to prepare for the move and that once I got down here and got a bit settled, things would get better.

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OK, so I’m here and I’m about as settled as I’m going to get for the time being, and still, I’m having too many restless nights for my own comfort.   According to the CDC, insomnia is a public health epidemic.   It’s causing traffic accidents, lost productivity at work, illness and disease, depression, and is now being called the new obesity.   Not surprising given all the benefits we know of from getting consistently good sleep:

  1. Hormone balance – this includes insulin and glucagon involved in sugar storage and usage.  Cortisol that goes up in response to lack of sleep and contributes to belly fat.  And ghrelin and leptin involved in hunger and satiety, respectively.  The end result is healthier food choices and a lighter, leaner body.
  2. Lower risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer, depression, and other chronic diseases.  Besides the regulation of hormones, our bodies use sleep time for repair, house-keeping, and regeneration.
  3.  More efficient detoxification.  Your liver’s strongest detox period is between 10 pm and 2 am, and even better if you go to bed on an empty stomach.
  4. Healthier skin as a result of repair, regeneration, detox, and hormone balance.
  5. Stronger immune system that’s better able to fight off sickness and disease.
  6. Better short-term memory; better able to learn and carry out difficult tasks.  Your brain consolidates learned ideas or skills while you sleep, allowing you to recall or perform them better.
  7. Better moods – Sleep helps to dissipate stress and calm anxiety, improving your mood.

If you find you’re having trouble getting a good night’s sleep, here are some tips for setting yourself up for an effective bedtime routine:

  • Try to go to bed around the same time each night ~ usually 10 pm.
  • Eat your last meal of the day at least three hours before going to bed.
  • Avoid caffeine late in the day and alcohol – yes, alcohol can interfere with REM sleep.
  • Get regular exercise to keep stress down.
  • Keep electronics off or out of the bedroom, including a computer and cell phone.   I usually either turn my phone off or put on airplane mode if I need the alarm.  Or, I’ll frequently leave it in a different room while I sleep.
  • Avoid watching anything stimulating or disturbing before bed, like the news.
  • Have your bedroom completely dark.
  • Sleep on the right mattress; this is a biggie for me!
  • Legs up the wall – A restorative yoga pose that I’ve been using lately and remarkably, it will put me into a deep, relaxed state in 5 minutes!  If only I could sleep in that position, I’d be all set.   But it certainly sets me up for getting to sleep.
  • Passion Flower Tea – After posting a picture of a beautiful passiflora, or Passion Flower, on Facebook, I learned by my friend Bonnie Plaut Rogers, an expert in herbology, that Passion Flower is great for calming the monkey mind, which is something that keeps many of us up at night!

What’s your secret weapon for getting a good night’s sleep?  Please do share it!!

Image courtesy of debspoons

Asian-inspired Spaghetti Squash Salad

I’m in Little Rock, AR, on my way to Austin, TX and chilling out after being on the road for about twelve hours.  Between today and yesterday, my daughter and I have made good time from Hesston, PA to here.  Something that I wanted to do while on this road trip was to eat healthy (of course!) and so we’ve made sure we had plenty of water and healthy snacks in the car.

And, since yesterday, we’ve stopped at three Whole Foods in Lexington, KY, Nashville, TN, and Little Rock, AR to eat.  It’s sort of become a challenge for us to stop at one in each city along the way (we still have Dallas and Austin left), because we just like to check out the differences between the stores and we know that we can easily grab a great salad, and a macaroon or two, to fill us up without putting us to sleep on the road.  So far it’s worked and we’ve met some cool people along the way.

raystown lakeWhile in Hesston, PA, though, we stayed with a friend of my daughter’s near Raystown Lake and whipped up a storm of colorful dishes for a cookout Saturday night.  One of them was an Asian inspired cold spaghetti squash dish that I wanted to share with you because it was a huge hit.  You can roast the spaghetti squash ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to put it together.

asian spaghetti squash salad

Asian Spaghetti Squash Salad 

1-2 spaghetti squashes, cut lengthwise, seeds removed

fresh savoy cabbage, chopped into fine shreds

1 large carrot, shredded

black sesame seeds (or toasted yellow sesame seeds)

cubed, smoked tofu (optional), mung beans, or sprouts

3 T rice vinegar

1-2 T sesame oil

Place the spaghetti squash cut side down in a baking dish and bake at 350 °F until a knife easily cuts through it; let cool.  Using a fork, gently scrape the strands of squash out from the shell into a large bowl.  Add a couple handfuls of cabbage, the carrots, tofu, sesame seeds, and vinegar and oil.  Gently toss and add more vinegar and/or oil to taste.  Chill in the fridge.

Hey Y’all, I’m Moving to Texas!

For a few years now, I’ve been working to build my health coaching practice while at the same time, furthering my education in the fields of functional medicine, nutrition, intuitive eating, and personal development.   I realized a long time ago that as long as I continue to wake up breathing, I’ll continue to learn and so I’ve committed myself to a lifetime of education, both formally and informally.

My education and work history has taken a very unconventional path, from working in a corporate position for many years, to over a decade as a research scientist, a science editor, and now a health coach building my own business.  At one point I remember thinking, ‘My work history is so strange, who would ever hire me if I decided to look for a job?”

austinflowerLooking at how far I’ve come, though, I recently discovered that I’ve taken some major steps and that I’m ready for more and as much as I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone in the past, it was time to do it again at a bigger level.   It’s amazing that when you ask the powers that be for opportunities that you really are ready for, they show up.

And one that I’ve decided to take is a position with Ruthie Harper, a functional medicine doctor in Austin, TX.   I immediately felt a rapport with Ruthie over the phone and after visiting her and her practice in Austin a few weeks ago, I instantly knew I wanted to join her group.  She’s one of the top thyroid doctors in the state of Texas and we share many of the same philosophies about health, diet, exercise, and so much more!  And, ironically, she was looking for someone with my skill set.

I’m excited about this move and my new position where I’ll be seeing patients and getting out into the community to help build her medical practice.   In fact, my role with her will actually be very similar to my role in my own coaching practice.  And the education I’ll gain working with her will be phenomenal.

One of my long-term goals has been to move to a warmer climate because as much as I love snow, and the seasons in New England, I’m becoming less of a fan of the long winters inside.  I have to admit, though, that Texas had never occurred to me.  However, after visiting Austin and talking to people about the move, I realize that I’m probably the only person on Earth that didn’t know how cool Austin is.  After visiting, though, I got to see for myself. For example, the original Whole Foods is in downtown Austin.  It’s rebuilt and easily the largest grocery store I’ve ever been in.  It will take me weeks to get through the place.  And there’s lots of live music, natural springs, hiking, and bats : )

So since making the decision to take the position, needless to say I’ve been busy packing and getting ready for the big move.  After living in CT for most of my life, most of my moves have involved transporting unpacked boxes from one location to another.  But after spending almost four months in Rwanda with only two suitcases, I realized how little ‘stuff’ I need or want.

I decided I’m not taking anything I don’t need or love and so I’ve been knee deep in the minutia of going through every nook, cranny, and item, like boxes of old paperwork, photos, and clothing, etc.

I’ve sold or given away all my furniture, had a tag sale, and donated clothing to The Village for Families and Children.  At this moment, everything I own, including my clothes, could probably fit in seven or eight plastic bins.  And I’m still thinking about whether I really want or need some of it.  In a couple of weeks, I’ll be driving down to Austin with clothing, a few kitchen items, my computers, my juicer, and my daughter who will join me on the trip before heading home to California.

Am I nervous, scared, worried?  Maybe I should be a little bit of something, but in some ways, I’ve never been more grounded in my decision and ready for this adventure and new phase of my life.  As far as my health coaching practice, I’ll continue to see clients, especially by phone or Skype, which is how I work with the majority of my clients now, including several that are continuing on with me.

I’ll continue to send out my newsletter, less frequently, and will still offer my detox programs that can be found on my site.   If there’s anyone you feel that I should meet in Austin, by all means let me know!  I’m looking forward to meeting people and getting to know the city and all it has to offer.

A healthy week you’re probably not eating

purslane1

I’m always fascinated by the fact that nature provides exactly what we need, like root vegetables in the fall to get us through winter, and leafy greens in the spring for clearing out winter’s toxicity.  Last year and again this year, a plant that most of us treat as a weed has been finding its way into our garden and in fact, it’s taking up just about every free inch of exposed soil.    If you’re not familiar with purslane, it’s a low-growing, succulent-like plant with small, tender leaves that shoot off of thin stems.   There are so many reasons to take this plant seriously:

  • It’s edible and is a great source vitamins A, C, and E (as alpha-tocopherol) and other antioxidants as well as magnesium and potassium.
  • It has a mild, spinach-like, slightly lemony taste that goes perfect in salads, wraps, or stir fries.
  • It’s high in plant-based omega-3 fats and contains the longer chain, marine-based fatty acid, EPA.
  • Unlike my poor kale that’s getting chomped on by something (maybe birds or bunnies?), animals and bugs seem to ignore it.   That means no spraying necessary.
  • It’s probably already growing in your yard.   As long as you’re not treating the lawn with herbicides or pesticides, it’s safe to pick and eat.

salad with purslane

For the last few weeks, I’ve been adding a bunch to my salads; stems and all, as an alternative source of leafy greens and sometimes I’ll even munch on it by hand as a snack!

If purslane is something you’d like to try but don’t have it growing near you, seeds are available from a number of companies.  And the plants themselves generate lots of seeds that you can save – or eat.

How to spray a cleaner cooking oil

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There are a number of different spray cooking oils on the market today that are convenient because they allow you to spread a fine mist of oil in your pans and they make greasing things like muffin tins a snap.

This is why I wanted to let you know about some great spray bottles from Misto. How do they work? The cap doubles as a hand pump that you operate to increase the air pressure in the bottle before spraying. The bottles come in aluminum, stainless, or glass, shown in the picture.

Why do I like these bottles?

* They eliminate waste – No more throwing aerosol cans in landfills since they can be used over and over again.

* They use a natural propellant – If you notice on the cans of most spray oils, they contain something simply listed as ‘propellant.’ If you look at the Material Safety Data Sheet for Pam Cooking Spray, you’ll see that it’s actually made up of isobutane, propane, and butane. I wouldn’t want to spray that on vegetables that I’m grilling (for example). With the Misto bottles, the propellant is air.

* They’re versatile – They’re not limited to oil. They can be used for vinegar, clear salad dressings, thin marinades, or anything else you might want to apply by spraying. And you have control over the quality of oil or other ingredients you use.

* They promote exercise – I’ve mentioned in the past that anything that gets you using your muscles in the kitchen, like chopping, grating, peeling, etc., is a good thing. Here’s just one more way to get a bit of a workout in the kitchen . : )

They can be found on sites like Amazon or at Bed, Bath and Beyond.  They range from $10-$20.

Are you and your cell phone attached at the hip?

Energy was the topic at the most recent Institute for Functional Medicine conference in all forms.   And this included a form of energy that often feels like the elephant in the room – electromagnetic frequency (EMF) energy.  Today, significantly more so than even four years ago, we’re surrounded by EMFs from cell phone towers and WiFi.  And the phones are getting more powerful than ever, which also means that the radiofrequency (RF) energy they’re emitting is stronger than ever.
There is an ongoing debate about whether cell phone usage causes cancer, including brain cancer.  According to the FDA and the World Health Organization, there is no definitive data to link radiofrequency from cell phones to negative health outcomes.  There are studies; however, that were presented at the meeting that conclude otherwise.  Here are a few of the findings:
  1. A study published in Brain Research found that prenatal exposure of 900 MHz of EMF for 60 minutes/day during the entire gestation period resulted in a decrease in numbers of pyramidal cells in the rat brain hippocampus.
  2. Researchers from Gazi University in Turkey found a significant increase in oxidative DNA damage and lipid peroxidation in non-pregnant and pregnant rabbits exposed to 1800 MHz of radiofrequency radiation for just 15 minutes/day for seven days.
  3. A study in PLoS One exposed purified human sperm in test tubes to 1800 MHz of EMF-RF in a range of specific absorption rates (SAR) and found with increasing SAR, greater mitochondrial DNA damage, reactive oxygen species, reduction in motility, and death compared to unexposed sperm.
  4. Research published in JAMA found that spending 50 minutes with a cell phone turned on and against the ear significantly increased the rate of glucose metabolism in the brain. The significance of this is not yet clear; however, the results do indicate that our brains are sensitive to RF-EMF exposure.
There are a number of precautions you can take to limit your exposure to the potential damaging effects of RF-EMF energy:
  • When on the phone, keep it at least 5/8th of an inch from your ear (this is also stated clearly in the iPhone User’s Manual), with the antennae turned down towards your shoulder.  Better yet, wear a wired hands free device for phone calls.
  • Limit phone calls and text instead, and if possible, limit texting too.
  • Avoid carrying your phone in your pocket or in your bra (which evidently many women are doing!).  Carry it in a purse or bag to get some distance from your body.
  • Put your phone on airplane mode when not in use to stop the signal when you’re not using it.  Keep it away from your bed, especially in active mode.  And if possible, turn it off at night.
  • Don’t allow your children to play with your phone.  Skeptical or not, it took decades to determine that cigarette smoking caused lung cancer.  The cells that are the most vulnerable are those that are rapidly growing like stem cells, spermatocytes, neuronal cells and embryonic cells.  And children of course are now being exposed to RF-EMF from day one, while many of us were adults when the technology became common.
I’m not ready to give up my phone, I’ve grown too attached to it.  But I’ve been using many of the suggestions above to lower my risks.  And at times when I’m feeling frazzled, I walk away from all technology for a short time and it helps too.

Why I’m taking my diet back to the drawing board

Probably one of the most frustrating things for people is the confusion over dietary recommendations.   For example, first you’re told not to eat eggs, and then you’re given the green light to eat them (btw, still today, there are ongoing debates in science about this).  When we were told that eating fat would make us fat, guess what.  I stopped eating fat and gained weight, like everyone else!   Despite the confusion, we’re learning more and more everyday about nutrition, especially how individualized it can be.  And I’ve finally come to realize and accept that the right answer for you is not necessarily the right answer for me.

food test

This is why I recently began offering food sensitivity testing to my clients, so that they could quickly uncover foods to which their bodies are intolerant.  Unlike food allergies which are an IgE/histamine response that happens immediately, can often be severe, and identifies foods that must be avoided permanently, the food intolerance test measures a delayed, inflammatory reaction to each substance tested.  For many people, certain foods they’re eating may be inhibiting weight loss or causing other symptoms such as:

-          Abnormal cravings/bingeing

-          Migraines

-          Stomach pain/bloating

-          Heartburn

-          Diarrhea

-          Irritability and nervousness

-          Hyperactivity/ADD

-          Skin disorders

Imagine how surprised I was when I found out that my body had a severe reaction to carrots, oats, oregano, and goji berries.  I also had moderate reactions to stevia, turmeric, pumpkin, and red and green leaf lettuce!  And I had mild reactions to thirty-eight foods and medicinal herbs, many of which I eat all the time, including spinach, coconut, cacao, celery, ginger, sweet potato, and chlorella.  Needless to say, I was bummed out but I think my mother is more freaked out than I am.  When I told her I was removing all of these foods from my diet, her reaction was, “What are you going to eat??”

There’s actually well over one hundred foods that my body was OK with, including beets, avocados, lemons (yay!), quinoa and other gluten-free grains (I only reacted mildly to gluten and whey), meats and seafood, nuts/seeds and herbs/spices.  So now, I’m doing the experiment.  For me, I’m interested in finding out if it will alleviate my sciatica that flares up pretty frequently.  Does it mean that I have to avoid all of these foods forever?  No, but at least initially to heal whatever may be going on from them, and then there’s a way to introduce them back without a reaction.

If you’re frustrated about why you can’t lose weight, or suspect that something in your diet is initiating symptoms and you can’t put your finger on what it is, and you want more information about the test, contact me for a brief session and I can explain it in more detail.  Rather than spend weeks, months, or forever experimenting, you’ll have a good idea of where to begin in about one week.   I’m  also offering it with DNA testing to help you optimize your detoxification pathway.  Because with greater awareness, you can make better choices…

A ‘no excuses’ approach to eating healthy while traveling

dallas foodI’m in Dallas for the rest of the week at the Institute for Functional Medicine’s annual conference.  This year’s conference is all about energy.  We’ll be hearing about mitochondria – the little organelles in our cells that make energy and the food that keeps our cells healthy enough to make energy.   We’ll listen to talks about brain, heart, and gut health, tissue repair and athletic performance.  EMF radiation and how it impacts us, to the therapeutic, healing energies of compassion, intention, and connection.    I’m sure my brain will be full when I get home!

Of course, for me, having the ability to keep up with all this will take energy too and so when I travel for something this intense, I make sure I arrive prepared with some foods that I know will get my mornings going on the right foot and keep my energy up throughout the day.

More and more, I’m packing food when I travel and eating out less and I prefer it this way.   It saves me time and money, and it gives me greater control over what I’m eating.   It also helps me handle and recover from a trip more quickly and reduce my chances of getting sick.  Even this morning, on my early flight, my breakfast was leftover chickpea salad that I threw together last night for dinner.  “Chickpea salad for breakfast?” you may be wondering.  Yes, it worked for me!

As I was unpacking here at the hotel, I laughed because it seemed like I had more food than clothing in my suitcase.  And as I piled it on the desk, I decided I would share with you what I brought so that you could see that it is possible to travel and eat healthy.  I carried a couple of the items myself, but the rest were stowed away with the cargo.

In the picture above, there’s whole oats, hemp seeds and a protein/green powder mix in recycled glass jars, almond milk, wild Alaskan salmon, walnuts, avocados, green apples, lemons, cucumbers, and some teas.   For the most part, it’s a relatively simple combination of foods.  I’ll be eating some meals out too, but there’s plenty of great options here to begin my day and to keep me full, keep my brain working, and keep me energized.

Here’s the thing.  There will always be an excuse to start eating healthy ‘tomorrow’.  There will be that vacation, or wedding, or birthday dinner, or barbecue, or conference.   Yet, it is possible to eat healthy and enjoy life.  It doesn’t have to be a one or the other, and I’d like to suggest that life will be more enjoyable when eating in a way that works for your body, mind, and spirit, becomes your way of life.

Are you ‘tuned in’ to opportunity?

Image courtesy of scottchan

Image courtesy of scottchan

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” ~Milton Berle

A couple of nights ago, I was on a breakthrough session with someone over the phone and we got on the topic of commuting to work. She explained that she’s in her car about two hours per day and she’s often frustrated when she’s stuck in traffic. I think we’ve all been there, especially if we don’t see it coming. But she’s made the drive often enough to know what to expect and so the negative feelings around it are probably showing up even when she’s not making the drive.

To ease the stress that can eventually contribute to hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, weight gain (she would like to lose weight), and more, my suggestion for her was to use her two hour drive to listen to something inspirational that will lift her mood, or if there was a particular topic she was interested in, why not use the time to learn about it.

A few years ago when I was getting certified as a health coach, I was commuting from CT to Boston once per week. It was a three hour drive into the city (mostly because of rush hour traffic), and about two hours home. Of course, it did have its moments, especially if I was tired. But I realized it was the perfect opportunity to listen to my class lectures. And so I listened to the majority of my schoolwork while driving! And even today, because I’m often in the car, I’ve got plenty of backup to listen to.

The bigger message here is not necessarily about the health risks related to long commutes, but that the lens you look through can have a dramatic impact on your health. When you face a problem, is it from the point of view if its limitations and do you allow it to frustrate you, or can you see an opportunity?

If the commuter gets frustrated on her way to work, how might that affect her performance on the job? If she’s in a bad mood when she gets home, how will it impact her relationship with her family? How might it impact her health? Or the likelihood that she’ll make healthy food choices rather than eat “unintentionally”. And then, what about her ability to lose weight?

Might listening to something uplifting get her to work in a more upbeat mood? Will she have more energy during the day or walk through the door with a bigger smile for her family? Will she hear a nugget of information that changes her life for the better? Would she learn something that if she shared it with someone, would ultimately help them?

I would say yes to all of the above, and more! Because the ripple effect is far more powerful than you realize. You can never fully predict the influence you’ll have on another person and sending ripples of positive energy are always better than the alternative. The key is that they begin from within and the way you choose to view whatever you’re facing makes all the difference – for everyone.