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.

A Lighter, Brighter, More Energetic You

chivesSpring is finally here!  One of the signs for me was a large tuft of chives that poked its head out of the ground a few weeks ago and that I’ve been picking from ever since.

This is a natural time of the year to cleanse.  In fact, our bodies instinctively want to do this after a long, cold winter of eating heavy foods and reduced movement.  And like magic, nature provides some of the best foods around this time of year for us, like dandelion, which is a potent cleanser.

The other day I was telling a client of mine that I was gearing up to do a detox and she asked why I detox?  Well, as much as I’d like to think my diet is ‘perfect’, it’s not.  I had never taken part in a cleanse of any sort until a few years ago, and I liked the results so much that I decided that they would become part of my spring and fall.

You’re probably aware that your body is designed to continuously detox through your breath, your skin via your sweat, and your digestive system; however, today, we’re continuously bombarded by chemicals like:

  • chlorine and fluoride in our water,
  • fumes from car exhaust and power plants that often contain heavy metals,
  • xenoestrogens from plastics, cans, cash register receipts and our personal care products,
  • pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics and hormones from our food

And much, much more and we don’t even know the full impact that exposure to one or more of these can have on us over time.   There is, however, a growing body of evidence that many of these so-called persistent organic pollutants, or POPs are playing a role in the chronic diseases on the rise today, such as obesity, early onset diabetes, cancer, etc.

And if you’re interested in exactly what’s showing up in people’s bodies, the CDC puts out a report on human exposure to environmental chemicals and the EPA’s site allows you to search by state or zip code to see which chemicals have been released into the environment and by whom.

What’s becoming increasingly apparent is that some of us are better at eliminating toxicity from the body than others.  And, if you diet is particularly burdensome on your body, it becomes much more difficult to keep up with the detox process.   Even with a healthy diet, we sometimes just need a nudge.  I remember a couple of years ago, I had a pesky rash on my left elbow for weeks that would not go away.   About seven days into my detox though, it had disappeared without a trace.  That surprised even me and my results have always been positive.

So, to give my body a rest and to clear some space to allow it to get rid of any gunk that may have built up over the long winter, and to transition into a lighter eating pattern for the spring and summer, I do a cleanse.

How might you know that a detox/cleanse is a good idea for you?  Your body will leave clues.  There’s a long list of signs that I will often go over with my clients and here are some of the most common that can be alleviated:

  • digestive issues like diarrhea or constipation
  • itchy or ringing ears
  • mood swings
  • fatigue or sluggishness
  • itchy or watery eyes or dark circles
  • headaches or insomnia
  • stuffy nose or chest congestion
  • poor memory or concentration
  • chronic coughing or canker sores
  • skin breakouts
  • joint aches or stiffness
  • water retention
  • weight gain or loss or trouble losing or gaining weight
  • bingeing or cravings

TCU14head

I have several clients gearing up for detoxes and I’m about to begin my 14-day program.   This program includes a medical food and a supplement that both provide additional liver support so that when toxicity is released, the liver has enough resources to safely neutralize and ship it out for elimination.   The last thing you want is for your body to dislodge the toxins hiding out in your fat cells, only to circulate them around and do damage in your body, and then store them somewhere else.  I also offer a 21-day ‘food only’ detox designed to be gentler than the 14-day program.

If you’re ready to feel lighter, brighter, and more energetic, check it out my programs here.  You can also read about what some of my clients have to say about their detox experiences.  And if you order a program by April 15th, you’ll get a reduced rate of $100 off!.  So if you’ve been thinking about it, now’s the time.  You can order the program now and begin when you’re ready. Simply contact me here and we’ll get you set up!

Give Your Lower Back and Hips Some Love Today

If you sit for long periods of time throughout the day, then chances are you’ve experienced or are experiencing lower back discomfort or pain.  I know if I sit for longer that a couple of hours at a time, my lower back tightens up and I need to take care when standing up from a chair, or especially with getting out of a car so that I don’t torque my back from the combination of turning and rising.

One of my strategies has been to alternate between sitting and standing more often and even as I type this, I’ve got my computer propped on a pedestal on my desk and I’m standing.  It’s also good for circulation, helps burn more calories, and I often add in some isometric exercises as I type to give my muscles a workout.

If you don’t have the option to stand while you work, Judi Bar, a certified yoga therapist at the Cleveland Clinic demonstrates three simple stretches in this two minute video that you can do right at your desk to give your lower back and hips a good stretch.  There’s no need to change your clothes, take off your shoes (unless you want to), or even get up from your chair, although after the stretching, you may be motivated to stand up and stretch your upper body too!

If you’re not used to stretching, begin by moving slowly in and out of shallow movements and use the rhythm of your breath as a guide.  Over time, allow yourself to go into deeper stretches and hold them for more breaths.   Not only will you be giving some love to your back and hips, you’ll be taking a moment to slow down and get present, and that will help to reduce stress and at the same time energize you!!

Why You May Never Arrive at Your Destination and Why That’s a Good Thing

ID-100132826“In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions.  It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.” ~Tony Robbins

One day many years ago, I was leaving my place of work to go home for lunch and I saw a woman running down the street.  From my best guess, she was in her late forties and had accumulated excess weight in her abdominal area­, which we all know by now is dangerous.  She was running at a slow pace and appeared to be struggling with her breath.  Except for what I saw, I knew nothing else about her.

Over the course of several months, I would continue to see her pounding the pavement on my way home for lunch and what I began to witness was astounding.  Gradually, her step got lighter and quicker and I could see that she was breathing easier.  She also lost a considerable amount of belly fat, her face got thinner and she had a glow to her skin that wasn’t there before.  And the look of struggle was eventually replaced with a look of pure joy.   It didn’t take a genius to see that this woman was transforming her health.

Fast forward two decades.  I’ve been working out at the same gym almost daily for a little over a year.  When I first started going, I noticed a woman who came in regularly too and each time I ran into her, she was focused on her workout.  The last few times I’ve been, it dawned on me that this woman had lost a significant amount of weight.  Her hips, thighs, and arms had shrunk and she now had a waist.  She’s also more energetic, her complexion is pink, and she smiles a lot.  I also spoke with her the other day and she said that after years of putting herself last and feeling the effects of that, she put her foot down and decided that her own self-care was a priority. Yay for her!!

Yes, both of these women have lost weight.  AND their improved health is showing up as increased energy, healthier skin, and better moods.  Both women are examples of what you can accomplish when you make the commitment.  It’s like anything else, right?  If you commit the time and effort to furthering your education, working on your relationships, spending quality time with your kids, packing your own lunch, or maintaining your home, it will eventually pay off.  Often times in ways that you don’t anticipate.   For both of these women, their commitment, consistency, and determination was paying off.  Not overnight, but over time. 

If you agree with the expression, it’s the journey, not the destination, then you get that the transformation that happens along the way is what gets you there.  Where it really gets interesting, though, is that you may never actually arrive ‘there’, because as you change and grow, so does the destination.

My most successful clients are the ones that make a commitment to themselves and are consistent with their actions.  That doesn’t mean that they never splurge at a birthday party or holiday, or that they never miss a workout.  It just means that their new normal is healthier and they are much quicker to get back on track and move forward than they were in the past.  And this is in part because they’ve adopted new habits.

I was talking with one of my clients recently and she agreed that with everything she’s learned, she can’t really go back because she’s inherently changed.  She’s equipped with information that has changed the way she see things and she’s tried and experienced new things that have expanded her toolbox and her habits towards better health and she now knows what it’s like to feel good!

Not long ago, I saw the same female runner again – running of course.  Still looking amazing and still on her journey, and once again inspiring me…

If you’re motivated and ready to make a commitment to yourself but unsure where to begin, I’d love to help.

Hiding Out Because of a Cold Sore?

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles

I wanted to bring up a topic that I don’t talk about much, if ever, although one that I’ve had to live with for most of my life:  cold sores.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve been prone to an outbreak and if you suffer from them or know someone who does, then you know what I’m talking about.  They’re unsightly, they’re painful, they can leave scars, and they feel like they can put my life on hold.

Ironically, the thought of addressing this topic now came as Valentine’s Day approached – how romantic!  Call me a rebel, lol.  But rather than talk about the benefits of dark chocolate or love, or how to keep your heart healthy, something attracted me to the lips.  Maybe it’s because the holiday signifies love and intimacy–and kissing and I wouldn’t want something like this ruin (or prevent) a good kiss : )

If you’re someone who gets cold sores, then you probably know very well that they’re caused by Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (HSV-1).   Amazingly, 95-98% of people harbor the virus and many may never know it if they don’t have an outbreak.   While dormant, it resides in our neurons and when activated, it targets the skin and mucous membranes, often on or near the lips.  If you do get one, it’s important to keep your hands away from your eyes to avoid ocular infections, including keratoconjunctivitis that can be serious.   And HSV is contagious, so it’s important to keep your personal hygiene items like hand and face towels, your toothbrush etc., separate to avoid contaminating others.

Over the last 10-15 years, I’ve been pretty successful at reducing both the frequency and severity of cold sores through some trial and error with anecdotal and scientific evidence (you can read about here), and personal observation about when I’m most susceptible.  My own personal treatment plan for HSV-1 has been relatively holistic.  There are actually drugs available to prevent outbreaks; of course they don’t come without side effects.  I have tried some of the topical treatments though that I’ll mention below.

In general, here are the triggers that I’ve found for myself.  Many overlap with those commonly reported and they may vary from what you’ve found:

Overexposure to the sun – this can lead to dry, parched lips and in general, anytime my lips have gotten overly dry, I’ve been susceptible.  In fact, if my lips get dry inexplicably and even lip balms don’t seem work, then I know something’s up and I take extra precautions.

Stress – not surprising, since stress can weaken the immune system and make it more difficult to ward off a viral attack.

Acidic foods  – for me specifically, these include things like citrus (oranges, grapefruit, and tomatoes, especially cooked), vinegars and drinks like Kombucha.

Arginine (arg)-rich foods like nuts and nut butters, seeds, coconut, even chocolate (sadly) – of course, foods that I love!

Poor diet in general  – too much sugar and refined carbohydrates that are going to weaken the immune system and of course promote hormone imbalances and stress.  And combining this with my monthly cycle increased the odds.

So, what can you do to reduce the likelihood of getting a cold sore or quicken healing?   Many measures are obvious and some not so:

Keep your lips protected in the sun – Wear a lip balm, preferably with sunscreen when you’re outdoors.  There are many brands out there, but I like Burt’s Bees because it’s petroleum- and chemical-free and easy to find.   As a general rule, avoid letting your lips get dried out or chapped.  If it happens, check in on your hydration and your diet, both of which can have an impact.

Reduce stress – Exercise, proper diet, enough sleep, mindfulness techniques like meditation and breathing can all help here.

Avoid trigger foods – Maintain a healthy diet free from sugars and refined carbohydrates and try cutting back on citrus or concentrated foods like nuts and seeds, etc.

Take l-lysine (lys) – An essential amino acid found in high levels in animal products, l-lysine is believed to antagonize l-arginine, which activates HSV-1.  Foods like nuts and seeds contain both arg and lys, but the levels of arg are often much higher.  Some studies have shown that l-lysine supplementation can help.  I’ve been taking about 1000 mg everyday for at least a decade and sure enough, if I go off of it for several days, I’m more likely to have an outbreak.   I’m also more able to keep foods like nuts and seeds (and chocolate) in my diet if I am consistent with taking lys.

Apply ice – Over the last couple of years, I’ve found that at the first sign of an outbreak (usually a tingling on my lip), if I apply ice for as long as possible, even if I do get a cold sore, it’s usually much less severe and heals more quickly.   It may not always be practical to do this, but if you’re at home and can take the time, it may be worth it.

Use over the counter meds - In the past, I’ve used ointments like Abreva and also a homeopathic cream that worked well to shorten the duration of an outbreak.  Zinc sulfate has also been shown to speed healing time and there are a number of additional herbal remedies listed here that I haven’t specifically tried.

Seriously, cold sores are no fun and preventing them is always better than dealing with the healing.  Is there something you’ve found that works for you?  I’d love to hear about it!

And if you’d like support with transitioning your diet and with strategies for managing stress, I have an arsenal of tools that can help.  An eating plan and lifestyle strategy that reduces the chances of getting cold sores will help you across the board with your health.  Want more information?  Contact me to see how to get started.

Why Body Brushing is More than Skin Deep

body brushI don’t know about you, but the minute the temperature drops and the heat comes on in the house, my skin immediately reacts with chapped lips, dry, cracked, wrinkly hands and scaly legs. Besides having creams, salves, oils and lip balms within arm’s reach, making sure I stay hydrated with enough water, getting enough healthy fats in my diet from foods like nuts, seeds, and fatty fish, I’ve stepped up on something that in the past, I had only done occasionally in my personal care routine:  body brushing.

In the several weeks since I’ve bumped up the frequency, I’ve noticed a difference in the way my skin looks and feels.   If you’re not familiar with it, body brushing involves taking a brush, preferably with natural bristles, to your dry skin before showering.  I’m currently using a brush like the one in the picture.  I like it because there are no hard surfaces and it’s easy to maneuver since it works from either side.  And rather than simply brush randomly across the body, there is a technique recommended.

Begin at the feet and brush in long gentle strokes up the legs towards your heart.  From your neck, brush down your chest and back (whatever you can reach), and brush in long strokes from your hands towards your shoulders.  Use circular motions at your knees and elbows and on your trunk.

Here are some obvious and not so obvious benefits you can expect from it:

It sloughs off dead skin cells.  Our skin cells are continuously moving through a life cycle that ends with a layer of dead cells at the outermost surface.  In the winter, I often forget to take the extra step of exfoliating when I shower.  Sometimes I just want to get in, out, and dressed as quickly as I can so the skincare gets skipped.  Maybe you ignore it because you’re covered up most of the time anyway.  I get that.  But making the effort to remove that dead layer of cells will enable your skin to breathe better and will make your skin glow.

It stimulates the lymphatic system.  Unlike our cardiovascular system, our lymphatic system is slow moving, and like a good massage that mobilizes it, body brushing does the same so it’s a strategy for boosting your immune system, especially with cold and flu season upon us.  To take it even further, if you have time, after brushing, oil your skin before jumping into the shower.  It’ll adds a layer of massage to your routine, and will help prevent your natural oils from being washed away in the shower.

A second strategy that I’ve used a lot in the past is to oil your skin before drying off after your shower.  You’ll get the massage and the moisturizing and can skip the lotions or creams afterwards.  Some of the best oils to use are coconut, raw sesame, and olive oil.

It’s energizing.  If you’re in the habit of showering just out of bed when you’re still wiping the sleep from your eyes, a nice all-over brushing will make every cell in your body come alive so you’ll be wide awake and feeling alert even before you step into the shower.  Brushing your skin may actually take some getting use–it did for me, one reason why it’s best to go easy on your skin.  However experiencing the benefits is enough to keep me doing it.

And one more thing.  Body brushing is more than skin deep.  For me, regardless of the time of year, when I pay more attention to my skin, I feel better.  Like any self-care ritual you treat yourself to, it feeds you.  And anytime you find nourishment outside of food, you’re less likely to turn to food when you’re not physically hungry.  This is just one of the many self-care rituals and soul-feeding tips I offer in my coaching and detox programs that’s helping my clients live their best lives…