Life is full of surprises!

Hello, my friends!

I just returned from a wonderful week with my extended family in Michigan. The photo above was taken on a trail above Lake Michigan, looking towards the Sleeping Bear Dunes in the distance. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a destination that should be on your list if you appreciate hiking, rocky beaches and visiting vineyards! This area is full of small vineyards and fruit orchards, so I hope you like cherries, because that is one of their specialties.

We had a gorgeous rental house, there were 16 of us all together, which included 3 generations. It was so fun to catch up with everyone, as well as go exploring together. The forecast predicted rain for each and every day, but we ended up having a decent amount of sunshine, which we made sure to take advantage of.

They say that nature has the power to soothe us, and I definitely felt my spirits lift while taking in the amazing scenery. It’s hard for the every day problems of life to bother you when you really immerse yourself in nature. It was my first trip to the Great Lakes and I marveled how Lake Michigan pretty much looked like the ocean – nothing on the horizon – just miles of blue water. I loved it.

Everything was going great…and then…it happened.

The day before we were set to leave, my youngest niece and nephew fell ill with a stomach virus. And, within 24 hours, 75% of us were violently sick right along with them. While I’m glad it didn’t hit till the end of the vacation, it sure did complicate our travel plans home. I mean who wants to fly or drive for hours wondering if you are going to lose your lunch at any minute?

I’ll spare you the details because it was pretty horrific, but somehow we all made it home in one piece. My symptoms hit early last Saturday morning, and although I’m functional, almost a week later my stomach is still not right. Here are some things that have helped: ginger ale, ginger tea with honey, probiotics, and eating what the body craves (in this case, rice cooked in chicken broth).

What can we all learn from this experience?

  1. We all need to recharge our batteries in nature when we get a chance.
  2. You never know what is waiting around the next bend.
  3. Be gentle with yourself and others when things go haywire.
  4. And when you get sick, follow your body’s lead on what to eat, drink, and when to rest.

I sincerely hope that all of you are feeling amazing today and ready to head into a fun and relaxing weekend.

Just for fun, send me your best stomach remedies! 🙂

Bitter, beautiful herbs

Hello, my friends, I hope this post finds you well!

About 2 weeks ago I decided to consult with a practitioner of Chinese Herbal Medicine. As I mentioned in my last post, I became intrigued with reading about adaptogenic herbs. I already go to get acupuncture on a semi-regular basis, and I was curious if adding specific herbs to my diet would help my overall health.

My acupuncturist was encouraging when I brought it up, but she advised seeing a specialist who was trained in herbal medicine and who would understand what dose and what combination would be best for me. I’ve tried self diagnosing and self medicating with over the counter herbs before with little luck, so I decided to take her advice.

I was powerfully tempted to just order my adaptogens online, but I managed to spend a little extra effort and money to get a real consultation. Luckily I live in the city and alternative medicine and holistic health options are available.

I made an appointment and met with someone trained in acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine. He took an extensive health history and asked all kind of questions about my health goals, my stress level, my diet, and what I needed the most help with. It was interesting because both my herbalist and my acupuncturist mentioned that it sounded like the source of my problems was in my digestive tract.

While I have tons of evidence like intolerance of certain foods and stress induced heart burn, I never thought of myself as having digestive issues, isn’t that funny? Duh! I’ve been so engaged in my personal narrative of depression and anxiety that I never focused on my gut. And believe me, I have read many times that our immune systems are like 90% based in our digestive tract. Why didn’t I put two and two together? It’s like I missed the forest for the trees.

So that was one of my first “ah-ha” moments. Next I went about taking my herbs on an empty stomach morning and night. They taste bitter, but manageable. The taste association that popped into my head was horehound. Did the school nurse ever give you horehound lozenges when you were a kid? That’s what the brew reminded me of, but less sweet. (By the way, that’s a photo of the herb horehound at the top. And, yes, horehound is known to be good for digestion.)

A side benefit of taking my herbs was diet mindfulness. I had to think about when I took the herbs, since they weren’t supposed to be taken with food. Then, I figured if I was making the effort and paying for custom herbs, I should probably step up my healthy eating game. The experience helped me refocus on my food choices and to pay better attention to my body. Was I actually hungry? Did I want protein or veggies? What was the best option available at the moment? Surprisingly, I ate less and felt better. I haven’t lost any weight yet, but I’m less puffy in the tummy, so that’s a plus!

I will be taking herbs for the next month or so and evaluating if they make me feel better. I already feel like I’m in a clearer head space, and I’m excited to see where this all goes.

I hope you are feeling well and happily working towards your health goals, whatever they may be!

Have you had success with certain food plans or alternative medical treatments? If so, please let me know in the comments or on FB.

The Power of Nature

We’ve probably all heard that spending time in nature is good for our health. Being outside in nature, and even looking out a window at trees can reduce our stress levels! Here is one source, but there are many if you let your fingers do the googling. {I’m sure that’s correct English! 😉 }

Another natural movement that’s caught my attention is the use of herbs, specifically adaptogenic herbs. The information behind this trend hails from Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Considering how much benefit I’ve derived from acupuncture, I was surprised how long it took me to come across this stuff.

The correct use of these herbs is supposed to support your body’s nervous system, and improve your physical and mental ability to adapt to stress. When I read about this, I was thinking, OMG, this must be freakin’ fairy dust! Our lives are full of stress and it wreaks havoc on us everyday, even when we eat healthy, exercise, meditate, etc. In fact, most of the wellness behaviors we try to integrate into our daily lives are pretty much all aimed at managing stress, am I right?

The first time I saw the term ‘adaptogen’ was in the FB ad for Rasa. Rasa is a coffee alternative with adaptogenic herbs that is supposed to both help you feel more alert, while also nourishing your body with that fairy dust stuff. I’m not sure why I didn’t order it right away, but it did send me into research mode.

As someone who loves to self medicate (within reason) as a coping mechanism, I have a history of trying all kinds of herbs and supplements. For example, in my medicine cabinet right now I have half empty bottles of turmeric, bromelain, and nettle leaf. I know they were supposed to reduce inflammation, improve digestion and ease my allergies respectively. Unfortunately, they didn’t work well enough for me to keep taking them. Usually I can’t tell any difference from taking over the counter herbs and I just give up. I think the problem is that they should be customized and managed like a prescription, rather than just popping them like your daily multi-vitamins.

I asked my acupuncturist about adaptogen herbs and she said the same thing: use them with supervision. She said our body systems are all interconnected and that herbs can have side effects if used incorrectly. Her advice was to consult an herbalist, and that’s my plan in the near future.

In the meantime, inspired by Rasa, I’ve been spicing up my morning coffee. I’ve been adding different teas to my coffee filter along with the grounds. I’m loving adding chai or DeTox when I need it. It’s a different taste that I imagine might make me a little healthier? Who knows?! Time to consult the experts.

If you are ready to jump on the bandwagon, I came across this website this morning. It offers a number of adaptogen elixirs, and is definitely aimed at women. Of course, I think men can benefit from the right herbs as well. While it is tempting to hit “buy”, I’m going to find an herbalist near me and see what they say first.

May you have a stress-less kind of day!

You win some, you lose some…

I just had my annual check up with my doctor and had some interesting results. Every year I have blood work done to check my cholesterol, blood sugar, thyroid, etc.

Last year this time I was killing it on all fronts: losing weight, dropping cholesterol, and decreasing my need for antidepressants. Most of this was rooted in adopting a new diet in the fall of 2017. I started following the Wahls Protocol, an anti-inflammatory diet, aimed at people with MS. My mom has MS and I wondered if I was predisposed to it, too. (Genetic counselors say no, but I was still nervous!)

And since there is no one-size-fits-all diet, I also consulted the Eat Right 4 Your Type guidelines (I’m blood type O). The two diets overlapped a lot, and I was having wild success.

I should say, I was having wild success while I followed the food guidelines religiously. But, as we all know, it’s all too easy to fall off the wagon when we are stressed, sick, sleep deprived or a little complacent.

So this past year, roughly from last spring till now, I have been under a lot of stress. I won’t bore you with the details because it’s all normal life stuff: working, going to school, parenting, paying bills, etc.

Stress knocked me off my health wagon quite easily and repeatedly. Have you ever heard of stress eating? My name should be in the dictionary next to the definition. Sometimes I literally can’t function without dark chocolate! And then after I get my semi-sweet fix I might need some salty snacks, you know, so it’s all balanced out. 😉

Fast forward to February and I have to face the music – my doctor is getting my blood work and I can’t avoid it. I did some things wrong in the past year healthwise: eating too much and being inconsistent with my healthy diet goals. On the other hand, I did a few things right: I did eat the right foods more often than not, and I started running.

So what happened at the appointment I wanted to skip? I found out that I gained back a lot of the weight I’d lost the year before (no surprise). That hurt, because I didn’t want to be a yo-yo dieter. BUT, something good was also revealed: my cholesterol continued to drop! I can’t tell you how much that knowledge made my day/ month/ year!

It turns out that making the effort, even imperfectly, to eat the right foods DID make a difference to my heart health over the long run. In fact, my doctor was shocked because I have a history of high cholesterol on my mom’s side of the family. She said she’s never had a patient successfully eat their way out of family history cholesterol. I was so damn happy!

So as you see, you win some and you lose some. I gained weight but dropped cholesterol. I found out I still had more work to do, but that there were some good results already happening.

I hope this inspires you to keep making an effort on the healthy eating front, even if you don’t do it perfectly. Getting it done a majority of the time will still benefit your long term health. So, cut yourself some slack and get back in the game, your heart will thank you for it!

If you are not familiar with the Wahls Diet, an easy way to jump start is to immediately ditch dairy and gluten, while eating more veggies. I also recommend looking up the Eat Right 4 Your Type books by Dr. D’Adamo.

Have a great week, and look for ways to start or restart your own success story!

My Green List

Hello, everyone, I’ve been thinking about the environment. There are surges of news stories from time to time about climate change, and I do believe we need to be trying to figure this whole puzzle out. That being said, I don’t have a whole lot of control over government and industry! Wah!

A while ago I came across an article with a photo of two large whales washed up on the beach dead, their bodies full of plastic and other garbage. It really unsettled me, that imagery is burned into my brain unfortunately. I couldn’t find the exact link to share with you, but if you Google “whales wash up on shore full of plastic” today, you will get plenty of hits. Enough said.

So, I wanted to share today some of the ways I try to use less plastic. I might not be able to influence the government on climate change, but I can, in my own house, make a few changes that put less plastic into the ocean.

These are things you can do that are easy and can make a difference! I have two young kids and I work part time – life is busy, but these changes are so simple they don’t take any time.

  1. Ditch the plastic straws. My kids loooove using straws, but I know they are bad for the environment. So, I switched to using paper ones. Yes, if they sit in your drink for a few hours, they may start to degrade, but they you could order yourself some stainless steel or glass straws. I bought these straws on amazon. And if you are looking for something really cool, please see my friend Jannine’s website – she makes beautiful glass straws in amazing designs.
  2. Gather some reusable lunch containers. Packing lunches for yourself or your kids? There are so many options out there for reusable containers! Drink in the box will let you say goodbye to juice boxes. (Just make sure you hand wash these to keep them leak proof.) These ReZip bags can replace a lot of ziplocs, and there are many options for little tupperware or other containers for fruit, veggies, pretzels, etc. The only trade off here is the hand washing, but you’ll be amazed at how well these items hold up over time. And treat yourself to a reusable water bottle, pronto, there are so many cool ones out there!
  3. Consider the packaging. This is probably the hardest one, as so many products we know and love come in plastic wrap. Next time you shop, see if something you regularly buy is available in another brand packaged in cardboard, metal or glass. Sometimes you have no plastic free option, but sometimes you do! I know some folks buy in bulk to lessen the packaging, so that could be an option, too.
  4. And about shipping…I am totally guilty of buying my life on amazon, I’m not going to lie. However, the more we ship, the more we use boxes, packing materials and contribute to traffic related pollution. I’m not ready to say goodbye to all delivery services, but I am trying to order less. If I can easily pick it up at the store in my neighborhood, I’m choosing that option more. Oh, and for heaven’s sake, use some reusable bags when you shop!
  5. Eat more veggies. Not so much about plastic, but about carbon footprints…you’ve probably heard that the environmental impact of eating beef is much higher than eating vegetables. I still eat beef, but not a lot. Each person needs to evaluate their health needs, but there may be some small changes that help the planet.
  6. For the Ladies…I’ve got two words for you: period underwear. There are a bunch on the market now, I used Thinx and had a good experience. Just follow the care instructions and you’ll use so many less disposable products!

These are things I’m using/ doing now that are easy. Send me some of your ideas on other ways we can be a little more green without making it a full time job. Find me on FB !

Thanks and have a great day!

What is your theme?

I know it’s February, but this is going to continue the thread of New Year’s resolutions…so, how are they going? Are you finding ways to be more like yourself? Are you nurturing your true colors? I hope you are realizing what you really want and trying to bring it into your life. 🙂

Way back over winter break I had a lot of time off with my kids while their school was closed. We did fun things, but we also got bored as the unstructured days dragged on. By the time we had to return to school and work, we were ready. My kids might claim they wanted more vacation time, but I certainly didn’t. Why?

Well, as much as we all need to rest and recharge, I’ve noticed that once I get a few carefree lazy days, I’m good. Many moons ago my husband and I went on our honeymoon to an all inclusive resort in Jamaica. We had about a week and did nothing but visit the beach and drink margaritas. It was awesome for most of the time as we were exhausted by the demands of our rather traditional wedding and planning. (I never want to dress shop for formal gowns again!)

While we were there, we met folks from England. They were planning to stay for 2 weeks. First I was shocked by having that much vacation time, then, later, I wondered: What would you do there for two weeks?! I’d be bored out of my mind and ready to get home. For better or worse, that is just how I am!

So it’s January 3rd and I’m ready to get moving. I’m ready to learn and accomplish and achieve and jump into the new year. What met me at the door? A whole lot of nada.

Projects I expected to fire up were delayed. Weather caused some more delays around school and work. Then my mom got sick and I had to spend my free time not “producing” but sitting with her in the hospital for hours on end. It’s like I burst out of the starting gate and slammed right into quick sand or jello – there was no racing ahead for now.

I had other obstacles, too. I am transitioning off a long time medication and it was/is having some odd effects on my body. I had wanted to zoom ahead with working out and healthy eating, only to find myself in a physical transition period that couldn’t be pushed.

More waiting. Damn it, the theme that is emerging for me on every side is Patience! The universe is literally making me cool my heals while all I want to do is race ahead. Insert many other frustrated curse works here !#@$!

I know that in order to better connect to the authentic me (new years stuff), I have to let go of trying to control everything. I love to cajole and find work-arounds and generally keep things in forward motion no matter what the obstacles are. However, at this point, I’m picking up the signal that I have to let things unfold in their own time, no matter how crazy it makes me. This kind of realization is not news to most people, including me, but understanding the concept and being OK with it is completely different!

So here I am, trying hard to be patient, looking for my opportunities to arise for action. And, in the meantime, doing my best to remain calm. Frankly, if I’m going to be treading water, I’d like a few more snow days!

I want to know – is anyone else out there having these kind of experiences? Are you seeing themes, patterns or messages repeatedly coming your way? I’m just curious if anyone else is seeing this too.

I hope whatever IS coming into your life is making you happy and helping you to be your awesome self.

New Year, New Me? Nope.

I don’t know about you, but I am sick of hearing “new year, new you!”

Come on, like I’m going to start all over again? I’ve been building this masterpiece for decades now, and there must be some part that’s good enough to bring into 2019. Am I right?

Not that I noticed, but that Planet Fitness marketing as a sponsor of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve was pretty genius. I’ll bet a lot of folks in Times Square and watching from home were considering a new gym membership. Heck, I even gave it a thought (very briefly)!

But enough about that…I have some real ideas for making 2019 happier and healthier. And, no, I’m not subscribing all of you to the “kale of the month club.” (Maybe next year?)

First of all, something for happiness…how about we change the slogan from “new you” to “return to you” or “a more authentic you”? What if we all decided to spend a little time deciding what really makes us happy, and add that into our lives, no matter how quirky? You want to get really good at ax throwing? Or you want to buy cool art supplies and make pom-pom animals? How about just getting out to see your friends and socializing more? I say pick one thing you really love to do and make time for it, even if it seems frivolous.

Secondly, something for your health…let’s ditch a few chemicals. What if you took one conventional personal product like soap, deodorant, tooth paste or makeup and switched it out for an organic/natural one? Last year I switched to a natural deodorant, made by Native, and I’ve been trying different natural toothpastes. Just switching a product or two could reduce some of your exposure to chemicals that may be messing with you.

I’m getting this from Alisa Vitti’s book Woman Code. Guys, don’t leave just yet, she includes a list of personal products and the common chemicals they are made from that are known endocrine disruptors. These chemicals can cause problems with development, reproduction, immune function, the nervous system, and cause cancer risk to rise. So you will want to look out for things like parabens, phthalates, sodium laurel sulfate (which is in everything), to name a few. We are lucky to have so many options on the market these days, so you have a good chance of finding some stuff you really like that is a bit healthier.

OK, enough about the scary chemical talk! Let’s refocus on what makes us happy, especially the wacky or unusual stuff. Recently, I happened to stumble upon this website called Legacy Cacao. On this website you can order authentic small batch Cacao from Guatemala that is blessed by a Mayan Priestess. It is supposed to delicious, full of antioxidants and have positive vibes attached. Obviously something like this won’t appeal everyone, but I can honestly say that I really want some of this. I don’t know anything about Mayan spirituality, or if I would even like the end product, but it sounds amazing. Thinking about blessed chocolate makes me happy.

What out of the ordinary things make you happy?

Here’s to an amazing new year full of health and happiness!