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Using food as a form of self-love

Let’s face it – you have a body and it needs nourishment, but you also have a body you feel needs to fit certain standards of beauty within a cultural context. Sadly, these two needs don’t fit into the same box for most women and, more often than not, we find ourselves sacrificing health for beauty or, conversely, believing that we have to sacrifice beauty for health. I don’t know about you, but the conversation I’m interested in having is one in which sacrifice is not invited to the party and we can literally have our cake and eat it too – honestly, why would you want cake you can’t eat anyway?

 

Most women, including myself at various times throughout my life, I know tend to view food in a very dogmatic, data-driven, numbers sort of way.

 

How many calories does it have?

Will it fit my carbs for the day?

Is it a bad food or a good food?

How many miles will I have to run to get rid of that dessert?

 

We act like food is merely an annoyance to deal with, something we’d really prefer not to engage with if we could just figure out how to bypass our biology…

 

“If only I wasn’t so hungry all the time!!! I’d totally look like a bikini model. Damn appetite. Damn body”

 

Comical yes, but sad and true nonetheless.

 

But what if there was a different way? A way to love and appreciate food. To court our food like a romantic, Italian lover and to fall in love with the very essence of it? To tap into the sensual, inspired side of food and to revel in its colors, tastes and smells? To find gratitude for its nutrients and excitement in its stunning beauty? And, further, what if the path to this glorious relationship with food was through our relationship to ourselves?

 

You see, whether you like it or not, you were given a body. And that body of yours is a precious gift. We, as in our consciousness, are not our bodies, but rather souls that reside in a body until we decide to leave. In that sense, your body really is on loan from forces that extend further than your ability to see them.

 

Imagine this: Let’s say that when you are born you are given a car. This car is meant to last you your whole life and get you everywhere you need to go. Now, knowing how fickle cars can be, I’m betting you’d treat your car with the utmost respect, love and appreciation. You’d feed it quality gas and take it for regular tune ups. You’d keep it clean and fueled up with all the right fluids and treat it with loving kindness. You wouldn’t push it to do more than its capable of because you’d understand that you don’t get another one if it were to die out, and you have places to go, people to meet, things to do! Ultimately, this car would be your most prized possession because without it your life would be incredibly difficult to maintain.

 

As clunky and mismatched as this analogy may be, your body IS your car and you do only get one in this lifetime. Your body was given to you for a very special purpose, and truthfully, I believe you picked it out with utter excitement knowing all that you could do together. You said, “that’s the one I want! Just look at it!”

 

In return, your body wants nothing more than to please you, to help you get around, to house an intelligent brain and take you on grand adventures – but you, in your human nature, are over here berating it, punishing it, scolding it and hating it. You curse your body and say mean things to its face. You talk about it behind its back and criticize it every time you see it. You expect it to perform like a work horse on a peasant’s diet and then get angry when it holds on to its last shred of comfort in your thick thighs, beautiful, soft belly and full cheeks.

 

Can you really blame it? I don’t know anyone or anything that can thrive under those conditions.

 

So let’s change the narrative. Let’s become renegades in the world of food and nutrition and diet, and say “No more” to the ceaseless marketing meant to make us feel bad about our bodies!

 

Let’s fall in love with food and get excited about what our “car” needs to keep living up to its fullest potential. Next time you’re in the grocery store, imagine what your car might need in this moment… What sounds delicious, fresh and vital? What makes your heart dance a happy dance when you think about it?

 

Can you imagine the perfect crunch of a salad leaf?
Can you taste the sweetness of a fresh peach?

Can you imagine a bite of nourishing, creamy butter on a warm piece of toast?

Is a delicious bite of decadent dark chocolate calling your name?

Does a bittersweet glass of red wine on the patio make your toes tingle with anticipation?

 

Intuitive eating and eating out of love are about so much more than always choosing the “healthiest” foods or foods that we deem good. Sometimes, in a moment of pure joy and self-love, a piece of dark chocolate with some smooth, creamy cashew butter just lights me up. Other times, I really want to snuggle on my couch, watch a good movie, drink some wine and indulge in a gluten-free pizza. The key being that both scenarios involve love, not angst, worry or guilt.

 

Choosing to fuel your body isn’t always about drinking green smoothies and eating salads, although those are great choices in moderation. Using self-love to heal your relationship with food means caring about the way you feel (emotionally) and eating with love on your mind and in your heart. It means getting excited about your meals, trusting your body to absorb the nutrients and tuning into what your body is asking for in that moment. It’s living moment to moment and understanding that you are a dynamic, changing being, and therefore, your food choices will be too!

 

At first, it can seem scary to let go of the rules and restrictions, especially if we’ve had them in place for a while. And for a tiny bit, you may go off the deep end eating everything you can think of in that moment. That’s ok. If there is one thing I can promise, it’s that if you approach it with a feeling of curiosity and love, you will come back to center and your body will balance itself out. After one too many pints of ice cream, you WILL crave some veggies, and in that powerful moment, you are on your way to intuitive eating. That is what it means to use cravings to your advantage and to listen to the messages.

 

Intuitive eating, born out of self-love, is not a dietary strategy. It is the relationship you were always meant to have with your body. The one where you wake up in the morning grateful for its existence and say, “what do you need today, how can I serve you? What would make you happy?”

 

The rewards from tuning in and listening to those messages are countless, but the greatest one I believe it the sense of complete confidence you begin to embody as you recognize the effort you’re willing to make for this priceless friend of yours. Knowing you are doing all you can for yourself in order for you to thrive brings about a deep sense of appreciation and gratitude for yourself, and that, my friends, is true self-love.

 

 

Happy eating!

 

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Inspired Action Vs. Action: What's the Difference and How Can You Tell?

So, have you ever felt the pressure to get something done, or to check something off your list, but felt totally uninspired to do it and let procrastination suck the life out of you? Yeah, me too. In fact, I started going down that familiar path today, but was luckily interrupted by a phone call from a friend that lasted well over an hour and took my mind out of forcing myself to write this blog and into talking and laughing and connecting. Afterward, not only did I feel inspired with tons of new thoughts and energies buzzing through my brain, but I felt excited to sit down and jam out this post because the lesson is applicable to so many of us. When we force our way through life, we get tired and burned out, but when we tap into the source of never-ending energy within us, life flows effortlessly and easily. And this applies to everything from our closest relationships to writing weekly blog posts. The rules never change. Hold on too tightly, and the sand falls out. Open your hand and let it sit, and it can remain indefinitely.

 

But, the key is recognizing this, because as we all probably know, it’s easier said than done when we’re up against a deadline or when our partner is drifting further and further away or when we don’t know whether we should quit the job or stay. I get it. I LOVE making lists and checking items off. I love certainty and am terrified by change. I find it so satisfying in the part of my brain that likes things orderly and organized – the part that feels safer when things are under control. But when our lists and expectations and goals become more harmful than helpful, it’s worth stepping back and taking a look at how our forcefulness is actually the cause of our discomfort, NOT the thing we think needs changes or fixing or completing.

 

Recently, I had a wonderful experience I’d like the share that demonstrates this beautifully. I’ve often heard from spiritual teachers that when we align with the universe and our intuition, projects, experiences and relationships all flow effortlessly, almost like divine inspiration flowing THROUGH them. And while I’ve certainly experienced many moments of peace and clarity, I’d never really had that deep knowing about something that made it feel like I was floating on clouds. I’ve always been the push-through-it type where it takes me 3 days to painfully hack out a blog post filled with more edits, typos and rewritten sentences than not and by the end of it I feel mentally and emotionally drained. It was the same for programs I’d put out, coaching follow ups or big ideas that flowed through my brain. I loved them, but I equally hated them because they felt hard and overwhelming and stressful. But recently, I’ve been leaning into the idea of divine inspiration and letting the work flow through me instead of wrangling it out, and I finally came to a personal understanding of this with a small e-recipe book I co-authored.

 

One of my favorite teachers talks about how meditation allows the brain to slow down and turn off long enough that we are no longer blocking our internal guidance. Up until the past few months, I’d always used meditation in a very physically-focused way as a tool for calming down my nervous system and squelching stress. But, lately, I started focusing my attention on it’s more spiritual attributes. Namely, as a way to connect to my inner guidance system and source.  So, one day, after a nice, but not out of the normal, meditation, I got an Instagram notification from a friend whose recipe I’d cooked and photographed that said, “You always make them look so pretty.” Not thinking anything of it, I laughingly wrote back, “you cook em, I’ll make em look pretty!” and then, right then and there it was as if I was handed an idea that felt so natural and logical, it was hardly a big deal, but I knew deep in my soul that it was inspired. I shot her a text and said, “Hey, what if we actually do that and create a book together. You cook, I shoot?” To which she replied, “Let’s do it.” And the Simple Summer E-Recipe Book you’ve been hearing me talk about for weeks now was born. But not only was the idea born, the entire project flowed so seamlessly it felt as if I knew all along how to put together and craft an e-book. Then the emails began flowing in and the each and every picture turned out perfectly with one or two shots. The recipes were delicious and easily perfected in less than a week and every phone and brainstorming session was smooth like butter! THIS is what we mean when we talk of divine guidance and inspiration. THIS is what it feels like when the energy of the universe is flowing through you and into your creations, experiences and relationships. THIS is what alignment feels like and what it means to let go and let god – or the universe – or Buddha – or source, or whatever you call it.

 

When we take time to meditate, to slow down, to enjoy our life, to connect and live calmly, we are then open and receptive to these energies. Had I not taken the time to meditate and slow down my restless mind, and instead, pushed through my day without stopping until my head hit the pillow, I would never have seen that path unfolding right before my eyes, nor had the good sense to take it! In fact, I probably would have written it off as a silly passion and convinced myself I didn’t have time for it. And how much I would have missed! From that idea sprang forth four others, including an actual cookbook and new podcast. This is what it means to sync up with the universe, let go of the control and let divine guidance have its way with you.

 

Sure we can push and grind and manipulate our world so that we reach our goals and make ourselves heard, but we can also relax into them and get the same, if not better, results. Having done it both ways, I can tell you that this is one the best things I’ve ever created because of how it felt while I was doing it. There was no stress, no angst, no overwhelm – only joy, excitement and fun along the way and when it was done, I looked at it and smiled grateful for the adventure it took me on during those weeks.

 

If you’re the kind of person who is used to #nodaysoff and #hustling and #workgrind, I urge you in this moment to consider whether or not that mentality is actually serving you? Are you feeling burned out, uninspired and busy? If so, take some time to replenish and sit your ass down for a meditation. If you can’t possibly bare the idea of that (we’ll have to chat about that another time), then do something, anything, to unplug.

 

Go on a walk outside, chat with a dear friend, get a massage, go on a long drive, watch a sunset, even have a glass of wine. Keep unplugging for as long as you need until you feel so inspired to do something you couldn’t possibly ignore it and when that happens, notice the ease with which you get it done. This is how we find our joy and inspiration my friends. It’s not through hard effort, it’s not through control and it’s certainly not through grinding it out. Sure you can get things done that way, but they will probably be half of your genius at best and leave you feeling exhausted and in need of a vacation. Whereas divine inspiration actually bolsters our energy and fills us with delight.

 

Have you ever had an experience with divine guidance? Do you live in flow with the universe? If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Until next time,

Sy 


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Why I'm Changing the Direction of My Business, and Why I'd Love for You To Come Along!


Blog Post – Why I’m Changing the Direction of my practice, and why I’d love for you to follow along

 

 

I have a confession. I’ve been struggling for a while now, and truthfully the only people I’ve expressed it to are my closest confidants. I don’t mean to imply that anything is wrong, because its not, but I haven’t felt aligned with my practice for a couple of months now and the frustration has been swirling and building and gestating. Recently, this somewhat irritating energy finally decided to express itself, and I experienced a pretty major meltdown. However, once I finally dried my tears and got myself out of the shame/blame game, I realized the clarity that had been born from the moment. You see, I started out in the health and wellness community very passionate and excited about nutrition and its role in the vitality of the human body. I thrived on learning how to heal from chronic conditions that the conventional medical community dismissed such as anxiety, autoimmunity, depression and hormonal imbalance and ate up every piece of information I could. From there I got interested in other physically-focused aspects of health like sleep, exercise and the stress response, but then as I continued my research, work with clients and personal journey into the space of living well, I realized there was a big, fat hole no one was talking about. Well, not no one, but at least not the majority of practitioners I knew and listened to. The disconnect was: How other pieces of our lives such as work, relationships, self-acceptance, mindset and our ability to lean into feelings like love, vulnerability and joy fit into the puzzle of wellness AND can stop us from really ever getting out from under the story we feel is ours to bear. You see, many of my clients (including myself at one point) hit a wall and stalled out when we focused solely on nutrition. Sure they’d get results and feel or look physically better, but they would either fall back into old habits OR still walk away feeling like there was something missing. They’d get stuck in “healing mode” for months or even years at a time always looking for the next protocol, lab or aha-diagnoses to finally cure their issues, not realizing it all had to do with alignment.

 

The deeper I got into my own path with these internal subjects, the more I started sharing with my clients and the more results they started getting as well. They were becoming happier, calmer, more joyful and less anxious. They were aligning more with their soul paths and learning all about self-love and compassion and taking time, maybe for the first time, to implement self-care, which led them to show up better for everyone around them as well. WE began talking about relationships, and shame around money and their unwillingness to forgive themselves for not being perfect and as I watched these transformations unfold, I realized that I no longer aligned with just a nutrition-centered practice, but still wasn’t sure how to bridge the gap between where I was with my business and where I really wanted to be.

 

Then this last week, in the middle of another frustrating battle, and subsequent breakdown, with my copy, messaging and marketing (all things I dread by the way), I realized something – It wasn’t flowing because it wasn’t my truth. Well, not my whole truth anyway. You see, I’m not interested in taking my clients half way and focusing in on what I consider to be only one aspect of healing and transformation. I’m interested in co-creating and rendezvousing with those who are ready to chew on the whole enchilada. Those who are looking to wake up a year from now and say, “I don’t even recognize the person I used to be.” Those who are willing, able and committed to finding purpose and passion every day and who are ready to fight the good fight to bring forth their authenticity and divine truth.

 

Does nutrition line up with this? Absolutely. You must have a well-oiled machine if you want to win the race, but is it the whole picture? Not from what I’ve found. In fact, over the last couple years, I’ve found that there are really 6 key areas of the human experience that impact whether or not we will ever reach our fullest potential and live a life of freedom and happiness, of health and wellness. They are: Diet, Sleep, Exercise, beliefs/mindset, relationships and finances. And yes, I’m aware that the last one is a loaded topic, but it’s true. I’ve met people who were eating the best diets and sleeping 8 hours a night, but were riddled with dis-ease because they were constantly worried sick about money or, on the flip side, who felt terrible living large because what they really wanted was to live off the grid in a more sustainable way. Like it or not, money plays a role in all of our lives and our alignment with what feels good to us matters – whatever that may be!

 

In my mind, each one of these aspects compliments the others like a beautiful tapestry with multi-colored threads woven throughout. The picture simply wouldn’t be complete without each individual colored strand, and that is the way I have found healing to occur. I believe with my whole heart that when we are not in alignment with the higher purpose we come here to this earth for, that our bodies will find a way of telling us this. Maybe it starts out small like feeling a little tired and burned out, but as we continue to ignore the messages, our body and inner beings turn into screaming toddlers, throwing tantrums and trying every trick they know to get our attention.

 

The more we ignore the message, the louder the fits get until finally, and usually in a grand-gesture of frustration, we end up with something more serious like autoimmunity, heart disease, cancer, depression, anxiety, thyroid issues or some psychosomatic condition conventional medicine has no answer for (um, hello me). Then, and only then, with our backs pinned against the wall, do we usually listen up and THIS is the pivotal moment where we have a choice. A choice to choose a new path, the one that’s always been waiting for us, being held in trust by our higher consciousness, or to turn away in fear and continue to live a life with our hearts and souls closed off to all that we are wasting away what precious time we have left in this mortal body.

 

For those who choose option A, the path will not always be clear or easy – that is to be expected, and where I come in as a coach. I decided to go at this journey alone, but not because I wanted to. At the time, I simply didn’t realize there were coaches out there who were acting as mentors and guides and facilitators for those like myself who were walking the path of awakening and transformation, or I would have absolutely enlisted the help someone wiser. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t’ have teachers. I read books, I listened to books, I listened to podcasts, I read blogs, I Googled an inordinate amount of questions, I went to retreats, I spoke with friends and family, I saw therapists, I went to yoga classes, I meditated, I saw energy healers, I followed inspiring Instagram accounts and so much more. I submerged myself into the space of transformation because it was what I wanted more deeply than anything I’d ever wanted, and you can too. I went through much trial and error in my own journey, and while I certainly don’t preach one way of living (there are a million different ways to align), I do feel like all those experiences put me in a much better position to guide others down the path of awakening and reformation.

 

I believe that there are more of us than ever hearing the call. The call that says, “There’s more. I am more.” It is when we hear this call that we must listen or our resistance to it will build and gain so much momentum that our lives will begin to disintegrate before our eyes as the universe drags us along down the path to our dreams. We can go kicking and screaming, getting beat up along the way by the dusty road of stagnation and fear, or we can let go, surrender and trust that where we are heading is grander than anything we could have imagined for ourselves. It is our choice.

 

So, with that being said, this is the gentle, but exciting shift I will be making with my clients and in my platform. I’m not entirely sure how it will all unfold, and that part is exciting to me now. But I do know that this new, more expansive direction feels right and feels good. I can’t wait to be a part of the many journeys of total life transformation that are to come. Nothing gives me more joy than seeing my clients lives improve as they learn to lean into their intuitive nature and step into their power and vitality. But none of that is possible without addressing more than just our diets. More than just what’s in front of us in a way that we can see, touch and hear. We must go deeper if we are to truly change, and that is what I hope to bring to the table in this new direction. I hope you’ll stick along for the ride. I have a feeling it’s only going to get bigger and better from here. Until next time...

 

Much love, 

Sy 

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Are ANTS Stressing You Out?

ANTS. If you’ve ever had an an ant infestation, you’ll know just how pesky and downright yucky those little guys can be. While today’s conversation centers less around the bug-version of the pests, emotional and mental ANTS are just as annoying, persistent and damaging if left to their own devices. If you’re not not familiar with the the acronym, it stands for Automatic Negative Thoughts, and today I want to chat with you guys about why these patterns are so detrimental to our health and how they skyrocket stress levels.

 

First, let’s do a little unpacking of what an ANT is. Like I mentioned before, the name is pretty self-explanatory, but often times we aren’t even aware we’re engaging in ANT activity until we take a purposeful look inside our minds. I remember there being a time when I thought my thoughts were both uncontrollable and coming from somewhere outside of myself. I had negative, sad and pessimistic thoughts all day long, but thought that’s just the way my brain was made and that I was powerless to change it. Then I remember picking up a book called Change Your Brain, Change Your Life (mostly because I was desperate to get rid of my all-consuming anxiety and depression) and in an unexpected turn of events, learned about ANTS. ANTS are just negative thoughts we’ve been thinking so long and so frequently that they are hardly perceptible anymore.

 

For example: If you’re someone who struggles with body image issues, you may think something along the lines of “Ew, look at my love-handles” every time you pass a mirror without thinking twice about it. Your FIRST and most present (read: automatic) thought is to look for what’s wrong on your body, and I’m betting you’d be hard pressed at that point if I asked you to find something positive to note.

 

As another example, perhaps you’re someone who tends to be a worrier. In this instance, you’re probably looking for all that could go wrong in any given situation, event or circumstance rather than what could go right, and you most likely chalk it up to “being safe instead of sorry,” or even pragmatic thinking.

 

But here’s the thing, every time we think a negative thought, our body responds, and it’s not necessarily a good thing. From an evolutionary perspective, negative thoughts turn on the fight-or-flight mechanisms in our body because, essentially, they are signaling that something is wrong and that we should be ready for danger. This sends out stress signals to the brain which then compensate by releasing more signals and stress hormones to deal with the problem. Your body, as brilliant as it is in many ways, doesn’t really know the difference between a real and perceived threat, so whether you are truly in danger, or merely thinking negative thoughts that make you feel threatened, the response is the same.

 

This is why ANTS, which many of us think every day, sometimes all day, are so harmful both physically and emotionally. We are literally our own worst enemy when it comes to the thoughts we think because our thoughts create emotions and emotions create responses, and chronic, long-term exposure to these types of responses has a wearing down effect on the body’s systems. Over time, this exposure leads to stress-related pathologies such as digestive issues, headaches, tension in the jaw and neck, raised blood pressure and heart rate, wonky menstrual cycles, drained energies and much, much more. The human body does an excellent job when acute stress is present (think emergencies), but really isn’t designed to handle the pressure of long-term, low-grade chronic stress day in and day out. When we start to feel these effects, it usually shows up as “just feeling off.”

 

Many, in fact most, of my clients come to me because, while they can’t quite put a finger on what’s wrong, they recognize that they don’t feel alive, vibrant, healthy, and in many cases, happy. That’s when our work begins as we start to uncover and unpack all the ways that stress, in all its many forms, plays a role in our physiology.

 

 

So, now that we know how thoughts impact the body, the question you probably have is, “What should I do about it?

 

I like to tell people, in order to make real, transformative changes, you must first be aware of what it is you’re trying to change. Now, I realize that may seem a bit blatant, but often times we are looking to our immediate problems or issues, rather than the stuff bubbling underneath them. Heading back to our analogy about body image, it would be easy to think that if we could just change our body, we’d be happy. But underneath that desire is really just a wish for more safety and confidence, and those are emotional feelings, not physical ones. By taking a look at the thoughts we’re thinking that are causing us the pain (ie. I hate my body, I’m so ugly, why can’t I look like so-and-so) we can then, and only then, decide to choose again with thoughts that embody those feelings of safety and confidence.

 

 

But first, awareness. In order to become aware, you must bring the idea of ANTS into your immediate presence. I suggest doing this by putting reminders up in the house or on your phone. You can also take a written inventory of your particular ANTS and put that up for you to see somewhere. Get clear on the thoughts you think all day long that are no longer serving you, and then with this awareness, choose new thoughts in their place that feel better every single time they pop up. By doing this, you are re-training your brain to think positively and in a way that actually calms the stress response in your body rather than igniting it. You are your own best soother. You know exactly how to make yourself feel better in a way that no one else can once you tap into that intuition.

 

It’s not always easy to see these – after all, they are small and sneaky and sometimes, we don’t know they are there until we get bit – that’s ok. As with everything, noticing ANTS takes practice and commitment, but if you are truly interested in changing the way you perceive your life, body, job, relationships, health etc… this is a fantastic place to start.

 

 

The human brain is powerful beyond measure, and it’s an area of health that continues to expand as we learn more about the mind-body connection. Learning to tap in and tune in to the underlying current we build our lives upon is one of the most empowering steps we can take when it comes to creating a healthy body and a happy life. I’ve seen countless people get stuck in a space of healing and therapy and darkness, despite eating all the right foods and doing all the right programs, because they are too afraid to do the internal work it requires to be free. And that’s ok. It can be scary, and it can put us out of balance to look inside and get pointed and real about the ways in which we’ve been creating our own unhappiness. That’s quite the responsibility. But I believe we are all not only up for the task, but masters at it. You did NOT come into this world to worry about your body, fret over your job, fight with your family or beat yourself up every single day for not being perfect. You came into this world to thrive, love and experience all that life has to offer in the most delicious way!

 

If ANTS are something that have been infesting the deepest regions of your mind for years now, make today the day that changes. Make today the day you shine some light on those dusty old beliefs and shake out the proverbial rug. Your life is calling. Are you ready to answer it?

 

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Underestimating the Power of Silence

 

In a world on constant stimulation, it’s no wonder we are falling a part at the seams. We easily recognize when a child is overwhelmed, overstimulated and ready to crash, yet somehow we subscribe to the idea that as adults the need for downtime and decompression disappears. Well, fortunately (or not if you’re used to burning the midnight oil), I’m here to bust that myth.

 

The human body very much needs periods of rest, relaxation and decompression in order to function optimally. In fact, we need it so much that we have two very distinct branches of the nervous system designed to handle both times of stress and activity and rest and replenishment. They are termed the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, and most of us living in modern societies get stuck in our sympathetic (fight or flight) system, leading to burnout, exhaustion and dis-ease.

 

While we tend to think of noise as something we simply hear, noise actually has more to do with our brain and endocrine system than anything. Each sound we hear gets processed through the brain as we try to make sense of what it is and how it fits into our world. The sound of traffic on the freeway doesn’t mean a whole lot to us, but a crying child that sounds like our baby does. This constant filtering out of important vs. unimportant happens without our immediate knowledge, but when we are in a state of stress, or hyperarousal, we are more keen to tap into every single sound we come into contact with leading to sensory exhaustion.

 

This is why when we are feeling more mentally and physically fatigued, sounds can appear to be more irritating or intense than usual. Ever feel your heart start to race when a motorcycle zooms past? Or get instantly angry when you drop the shampoo bottle in the shower? When stress and anxiety are present, the body is already in a state of fight-or-flight and sudden, loud sounds exacerbate the stress response. Not only is this an issue for us physically, but it doesn’t allow us to tap in to the intuitive healing nature of our bodies and minds. If hypersensitivity to sound is something you notice, it could be a huge clue into the levels of underground stress your body and brain may be experiencing. We are often numb to the effects of stress in ourselves because we’ve been pushing so hard for so long that it feels natural.

 

Many of us are quite afraid of silence. We’ve trained ourselves to need noise and stimulation like a toddler needs a binky. You see, in silence we are able to hear ourselves think, and for most humans that’s a scary concept, particularly if we aren’t living aligned with our truth and purpose. It’s easy to get caught up in the “shoulds” and forget about our happiness and wellbeing when we are zipping from task to task and fall into bed at the end of day with the tv blaring to drown out our thoughts. BUT, when we get still and silent, we are no longer able to run from the ideas, thoughts and beliefs that aren’t serving us and to some, that is unbearable. When our lives are in need of change, it is the moments of silence that make this apparent – but if we’re unwilling to hear those messages, silence becomes the enemy.

 

However, with some love and attention, I believe that everyone can come to not only not fear the silence, but come to adore and crave it. Ten out of ten times, the thoughts we are afraid to think or face are just merely shadows on the wall. We believe there are monsters under our bed, but when we turn on the proverbial lights, we find that they are really just shoe boxes and dust mites. Learning to love silence comes first from understanding that thoughts are simply thoughts, and they have no power over you unless you choose for them to. Just because you think a thought, does not mean you must take action on it or that you must continue to think it. But, without ever stopping to assess what they are, it will be impossible to let them go or to choose new ones. This is where silence comes in handy. Not only is it incredibly soothing and nourishing to your body’s physiology, but it allows the mind to eventually slow down, catch its breath and reroute to greener pastures.

 

So, how exactly do we practice something like silence? I personally find that it’s easier for me factor it into my day in small ways that in larger chunks of time. When you think of all the places that noise shows up in your life, it becomes easier to find ways to let it go. Take an inventory of the sounds in your life: traffic, cell phones, notifications, emails, conversations, spouses and kids, televisions, radios, music, air conditioners, work environment and so forth. Now, once you’ve done that, look for periods of time when you could purposefully choose silence instead. Often, I will choose to turn off the radio, roll up the windows and find silence on my drives. I meditate for at least 10 minutes a day as well and find silence in my sitting. You could put your phone on silent at night or choose to read instead of watching TV. Take a walk in nature by yourself or close the door and take a five-minute power nap. However you can, try to fit in this replenishing practice to see a drastic reduction in stress, worry and anxiety. As your physical body relaxes, so to will your mind, and once that happens positive momentum makes the practice easier and easier.

 

Until next time...

Much love, 

Sy 

  

 

 

 

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Self-Loathing to Self-Love: My Not-So-Pretty Journey from Fear to Happiness

 

 

My journey to self-love was not a beautiful, gentle, existential unfolding that one day manifested magically into happily-ever-after (although some days it feels that way now). No, true to character, I found the steepest, hardest, rockiest and most ragged mountain to self-love I could climb and set forth without the slightest clue where I was going or any rational amount of gear for the trek. Luckily, I lived to tell about it and let me tell you, the view from the top made every stumble, fall and bruise worth it.  

 

You see, I fought my story and I fought it hard.  I struggled against it. I punched it and kicked it and screamed at it until my face turned blue. I cursed it relentlessly… but, like all stoic parents, it stood there calmly until I was done and welcomed me back with open arms as I finally relinquished my fears and found solace in its Being. In fact, before I climbed up on the woo-woo train I live on now, I considered the term self-love to be incredibly annoying – a catchy headline crafted for lame magazine articles or for people in life (myself included) who just had to find a way to feel better about the fact that they didn't measure up and never would. Self-love was bullshit and I didn’t need it. I’d be fine on my own, just like I always had been. Except not really.

 

When I was 5 years old, my parents got in divorced and my father disappeared from our lives for the next 25 years. No phone calls, no visits - not a peep. While I realize that divorced parents certainly aren’t the worst thing a child can go through, it was incredibly difficult for my 5-year old brain to wrap my head around the fact that it wasn’t my fault. I took it hard and developed a story-line that would follow me throughout the rest of my life. It went like this:

 

“He left because you weren’t enough and you’re not lovable. If you were, he would have stayed. Therefore, figure out how to be lovable and perfect and no one will ever leave you again. Oh, and by the way, you NEED others to love you because, without their love, you are nothing and no one.”

 

Ouch.

 

I put those gray, gloomy glasses on, and I never once took them off until my life fell a part so hard that I didn’t have any other choice but to question everything I’d ever known or believed.

 

While it was fairly harmless as a child, as I continued grow, this story line evolved into something bigger. It needed an outlet, somewhere to go other than inside my brain with all it’s swirling, racing thoughts, and so it took on a life of it’s own. At age 12, I had my first panic attack, and my anxiety disorder was born. Fearful and obsessive thoughts became my norm, as did feelings of unworthiness and self-loathing because clearly, I wasn’t normal. When you spend your days working to be perfect, the realization that you are not, in fact, perfect, and even worse, kind of weird, delivers a striking blow to your self-concept. Everything was scary. I developed phobias and fears, obsessive thinking patterns and constant physical manifestations of my stress. I wouldn’t eat in fear of getting sick, I wouldn’t make friends in fear that they’d see how weird I was, I wouldn’t try new hobbies for fear that I’d fail, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t… I remember hiding as much as possible from the world around me in hopes that staying small and unseen would keep me safe. After all, the world was scary and people were even scarier, and if it was me against them, it had to be me. 

 

For better or worse, my family learned to work around my irrational (and exhausting) list of fears, but it never occurred to me that others wouldn’t as well. As I entered into high school, I quickly realized that I’d better learn another way of staying safe because I was getting a lot of attention, and I couldn’t hide anymore. So, being the smart little cookie that I am, I adapted and figured the next best way to hide: I conformed.

 

I studied out exactly what was cool - what was acceptable - how to manipulate and control my appearance, personality and experiences so that they seemed like I was not only normal, but worth liking. But, underneath it all, I was a mess. I was terrified that at any moment I would be exposed and that everyone around me would find out my deep, dark secret. That truly, I was nothing.

 

As I look back on my life, I recognize how many of my choices weren’t my own. Not because other people were making them for me, but because I was basing them off of what I thought others wanted me to do and it was exhausting. This manifested in as many ways you can think of, from pretending to like certain music to giving my body over to boys I never should have. Never once, however, did it occur to me that anything was wrong with this scenario. All I was concerned with was being better than everyone around me so that I didn’t have to face my own fears. Essentially, I wasn’t a very nice girl to be around and this behavior only got worse the older I got. I went from innocently gossiping about other girls in high school to hating every other woman that dared enter into my vortex. I was jealous, insecure and vicious, and it affected not only me but all of my relationships as well. Every one seemed to give me weird vibes, but of course, it was them not me, right?

 

In my early twenties, my anxiety had gotten so bad that I was having a hard time leaving the house. I was ruining simple things like dinners out with my family and would worry about bigger events like vacations months in advance for fear that I’d have a panic attack - which, I invariably then would. They would last for hours and hours, and I’d suck everyone around me into the experience. As much as I hated the anxiety, I hated myself even more for having it. I felt broken and exposed and out of control. And in this lack of control, I began controlling everything and everyone around me in an attempt to make sense of my life. Nothing was left to chance. I became suspicious and fearful of everyone. No motive was left unchecked and no situation was left to chance. There was no room for error or spontaneity in my world. It was too risky.

 

Then, one night, in the middle of an attack, a friend of mine offered me a little blue pill that made all my problems disappear. I had found my new best friend – Xanax. This simple little pill gave me the kind of relief I’d looked for my entire life. For the first time, maybe ever, I sat on the couch without a care in the world and laughed. It felt good, and I was hooked. All I had to do when things got shaky or my nerves acted up was throw back a little pill and I would melt into oblivion.

 

For the next 8 years, anytime life felt hard, or the elephant on my chest got heavy, I had a trusty back up. There was no stopping me now. I could party as hard as I wanted to and mask the effects with my little friend. I could get in an argument and five minutes later not give two shits about it. I could fly across the country and knock myself out for 24 hours if I wanted. Anxiety attacks? What were those? I hadn’t had one in years. I controlled my anxiety. I was finally normal. I had found a band-aide so large that it seemed as if no pain couldn't be conquered.

But, here’s the interesting thing about numbing. It's not a selective beast. When I learned to numb the bad, I unknowingly numbed the good as well.

 

Connection? Out of the question.

Happiness? Seems impossible.

Fulfillment? Not meant for me.

Clarity and peace of mind? A pipedream.

Purpose and passion? Only for special people.

True love? Terrifying.

 

Despite the fact that I was no longer physically having attacks, the fear never left. I covered it, but I didn’t fix it. I was still broken and damaged, and now also a slave. You see, without my side-kick, I was vulnerable, weak and open to attack. Which meant that I had to make sure my protection followed me everywhere. It was an addiction, but if you’d asked me then, I was fine. I had come to believe that I NEEDED those pills to survive. That without them, I wasn’t strong enough, smart enough, normal enough, good enough, courageous enough to be ok. Nothing had changed. I still wasn’t enough – I was just an expert at covering it up.

 

The relationship I called into my life during those years did nothing to prove me wrong either. I know now that we call into our life experiences which will uncover and trigger all our deepest wounds in an attempt to heal them, but at the time, I thought my problems stemmed from the fact that I was defective. My boyfriend at the time had a habit of breaking up with me when things got rough, triggering my deepest, darkest fears of abandonment. But, instead of recognizing these situations for what they were (a call to heal my misperceptions), I took them to mean something else entirely: I had to be even MORE perfect. Each and every time he left (which I don’t blame him for given the circumstances), I beat myself into the ground for not being what he wanted and worked to pretend I was fabulous and happier than ever. Sadly, it worked, and I continued to draw him back into my experience, only to unravel once again into self-hatred, control, jealousy, fear and self-sabotage – which would again, send him running for the hills. It was a vicious cycle that lasted for 7 years and only worked to confirm and deepen my fears rather than heal them.

 

Then something occurred to me that changed me world and uprooted my beliefs in a way that nothing before every had. I don’t know why, what or who led me to my decision, but something inside of me thought, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” I didn’t want to be dependent on something outside of myself anymore for happiness (or what I thought was happiness at the time.) I didn’t want to carry around a bottle of prescription ‘calm’ with me everywhere I went or rely on those pills to get through a day. Something inside of me was desperate to be free, and while I didn’t know it at the time, I was willing to risk everything to get it.

Looking back, I could have done it a much easier way. But, like I said, I chose the hard path, and I refuse now to beat myself up over it. I did the best I could with what I knew to be true in those times. I wish I could say that it was sunshine and roses from that moment on, but in all truth, things got a lot worse before they got better. I quit a powerful drug cold-turkey and had no clue what consequences lay in waiting for me. My mind dissolved almost instantly into complete terror and what had seemed like panic attacks before now looked meek and mild in comparison to the episodes I was having now.

 

I was losing my mind, and I didn’t know what to do about it. Some stubborn ounce of reserve kept me from going back to my drugs, but I was out on an open ledge with no protection and no idea how to talk myself down.

 

I pushed everyone away. I couldn’t hold a job, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t make love, I could barely go to the grocery store… Once again, I couldn’t, and I was pissed.

 

So I did what every sane, average person would do –  I began a healing journey so intense that it would unravel every single thread of my life in order to put it back together in a more authentic way that matched who I really was underneath it all.

 Doesn’t everybody Eat, Pray, Love their way through life like that?

 

Sounds nice, yeah? It was – and it wasn’t – and it was – and it wasn’t – and it was.  It would take me about three years to get to where I am now - happy and free and loving my life. Three years filled with more pain that I thought I could physically bear and more happiness than I ever knew was humanly possible. The journey has not been a linear path of rolling hills and grassy fields, but rather an arduous, sometimes life-threatening adventure filled with peaks and valleys of all depths. There were in fact, many moments in time where I considered ending my life and pictured how sweet of release it would have been. And I don’t say that lightly. But somewhere, in the back of my stubborn mind, there was always a dim light of hope that there WAS something more – something better – something good – even when I couldn't see it.

 

The first two years, I healed many parts of myself, but most of them were physical. Through the use of a real-food diet and meditative tools, my anxiety dissipated into a distant memory. My body changed from frail and sickly to thriving and healthy. I learned new ways of thinking, new patterns of thoughts and new beliefs and ways of interacting with others. But still, one lingering issue remained: I didn’t actually love myself, and I still didn’t believe anyone else could either.

 

It didn’t make sense. Based on how far I’d come and how well my life was going, I should have been happier than I’d ever been, yet I was battling an internal war no one knew about. I was empty, and still numb, and in a last ditch attempt to find out if I was lovable, I self-sabotaged in the most hurtful way I possibly could have. And while I still cringe a bit in sharing this part of myself, it would leave out the most important part of my story so far: My ultimate catalyst to self-acceptance, love and compassion. 

 

In my desperate search for validation and acceptance, I led myself into the arms of someone who was not my boyfriend. It was as if I was 16 years old again, looking for anything and anyone to fill the void – the emptiness and loneliness – the lack of love from the one person who mattered most – myself.

 

While I stubbornly believed that I just needed my boyfriend to love me more... not leave me so much... not dislike my annoying habits so much... in order for me to happy, I failed to realize that it was never about him. It never mattered if he stayed or went. It never mattered if he loved me or not. None of my actions were, or were not, about him. But you bet your ass that’s what I went with. We always search outside ourselves for answers until we no longer have a choice and that is exactly what happened.

After trying to work it out one last time, he left, and he didn’t come back. I was 5 years old once again, and every fear I’d ever had about being unlovable, unworthy and no good to anyone roared through my psyche and threatened to consume me. This was it. I was backed against the wall, living with a shame so deep it left me breathless and unable to cope with the consequences of my actions. You think others have the power to threaten your self-love? Try loving yourself when you've done something very, very hurtful and wrong. To say I was my own worst critic would have been a gross understatement. There was no where to run, no one to blame, no where to hide…There was no choice but the one right in front of me. It was time to heal once and for all.

 

And that is what I did. With no power whatsoever to change my outside circumstances, I had no choice but to turn inward. For me, this looked a lot like reclusiveness. I read, I walked, I wrote in my journal, I cried, I cooked, I listened to books, podcasts and talks, I cried some more, I did yoga, I did energy work, I meditated, I took long, warm baths, I prayed, I cried again, I exercised too much, I exercised too little, I ate too much, I ate too little, I yelled and screamed and cried again until I there were no tears left, but all along I searched. Little by little, I began to learn more about myself and felt the weight lift. I saw glimpses of the woman I was becoming, full of pain but also resolve and integrity, and it felt nice. I began to feel kinder, more loving and more accepting of others. As I started to slowly let myself off the hook, I was able to let others off as well. As I allowed myself to be where I was, it was ok for others to be in their own space too. My relationships began to heal, and I realized that we all feel pain, and that no one feels in control. I learned that change is what keeps life exciting and that I was resilient even in the face of uncertainty. I learned that there is a source much greater than me ALWAYS working for me and my highest good, and that I am safe no matter what. I learned that when I stay committed to tuning in, I don't do or say hurtful things. It's when I veer from my truth that I get scared and lash out. I learned that the world is anything but scary and that it's ok to laugh, and then cry because I'm laughing. I learned that it's ok to feel scared by the depth of my own happiness, and that I can try again tomorrow when I unravel back into old patterns. I learned that I'm not weird for feeling such deep emotions and that my passion is exactly what makes me so beautiful. I learned that the emotions I feared would never sweep me away like I imagined, so I might as well quit running from them. But, then, in the most unexpected and beautiful unfolding of all, I learned the one thing that mattered most…

 

While traveling across the state to visit a friend, I had some good music on in the car and miles of beautiful scenery before me. I was feeling good. I was feeling happy and light and carefree. Feelings that were becoming more and more regular the deeper into my healing I went. Sunshine was warming my skin and my mind felt calm, peaceful and clear. In that moment, as if from somewhere outside of myself I was delivered a thought so clear and beautiful it’s hard to describe in words. I realized for the first time who it was that had gotten me there to that delicious moment of joy. It was as if I was seeing two girls, both myself, but one of which who always known this moment in time would come. She was the one who pulled me off the bathroom floor so many times in the middle of a melt down. She was the one who whispered “there’s a better way” when I was blind to it. She was the one who led me to the books and teachers, who then led me to healing, which led me to happiness. She was the one who, when I felt like I couldn’t possibly go on, grabbed me and threw me on her back to carry me the rest of the way.

 

In that moment, upon realizing that there were no mountains she would not climb for me, nothing she would not do to ensure my happiness and peace, and that this girl was ME, I fell in love. Giddy, star-struck, mouth-open-in-amazement love. And yes, I cried. A lot. I’m a crier, and that’s ok.

 

In that moment, I realized what it meant to become whole. I appreciate and love that girl inside so much, that even if someone came up to me tomorrow spewing hateful comments about her, I wouldn’t believe them. I’ve seen what she’s done for me, and no one can convince me otherwise. I love her unconditionally. I may make mistakes, but she never does. I may choose fear over love, but she never will. I may forget who I am, but she will always know. And her and I are inseparable. She is my new sidekick, and I kinda like her….

 

To me, self-love is about so much more than looking in the mirror and liking what you see looking back. It’s more than enjoying your personality or writing down a list of positive qualities. It’s bigger than all of that. Self-love is the absolute alignment with who you are – It is an energy and love so great that it creates worlds – it’s recognizing that no person, no experience, no place and no thing has the power to separate you from that which you are, which IS LOVE.

 

It would be silly to say that I’ll never experience negative or fearful emotions again. I do all the time. I’m human after all, and that’s ok. It’s more than ok, it’s perfect. We all get triggered and we all want to be loved and accepted. Even the darkest, ugliest parts of ourselves are just searching for love.

 

But, I will never again doubt that there is someone who loves me unconditionally and irrationally, and now I will always know that that person is me.

 

My story may not look like yours, and that’s fine. That’s not really the point. I share this with you today not to relate, but rather to say that no matter what your story is, it’s waiting for you with open arms, ready to love you unconditionally. There is nothing wrong with you or any of us. We are not broken, we do not need fixing and we are certainly not damaged. We may need some polishing from time to time and a little TLC, but hear me when I say this, YOU ARE NOT BROKEN and neither am I. Today I feel happy, beautiful and free. Today I feel empowered beyond belief and able to tackle anything that comes my way with patience, grace and humility. Life is not as simple as one, measly blog post about self-love, but it is as simple as this:

"Decide you want to love yourself and don’t stop until you get there."

 

When we make the decision to heal, we WILL be led to circumstances and experiences that will call it forth. It might not always look pretty, but it will get you there if you trust the process. You don’t have to understand self-love today or tomorrow or even the next day. Just trust that you will someday and look for evidence to support that belief every day until you have your own moment in the car.

 

Signing off with love,

Sy

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Eat Organic = Stress Less?

Eat Organic – Stress Less?

So, if you’re new to healthful eating, or even if you’ve been nourishing your body with nutrient-dense foods for a while, you may wonder just how important the title “Organic” really is, or if it’s something you need to be concerned with. Sadly, many people see the organic stamp an an excuse for pretentiousness and even write it off as simply an excuse to pay more for the same thing. However, for those experiencing stress (ahem, all of us), and especially those feeling burned out, eating organic foods can make all the difference in your health.

 

The human body is fascinating. Every second of every day, your innate intelligence is working hard to keep you alive and well. From your expanding lungs and pumping blood to your beating heart and hydration system, you’ve got thousands of processes taking place that you most likely never think about. One of the organs we’ll talk about today, which carries out over 300 bodily functions every day, is the liver. Now, you might be wondering what the liver has to do with you feeling stressed about your never-ending, always growing to-do list, but stay with me here.

 

The Role of Your Liver in Feeling Stressed

The liver is a powerhouse organ that plays a starring role in your blood sugar management. If you’ve been here a while, you’ll know just how important blood sugar balance is to maintaining low stress levels, but if you’re new, we’ll do a little recap. Low blood sugar is registered as an emergency by your body and brain. After all, the sugar circulating around in our blood is what fuels all these innate bodily processes, so without it, things start to slowly run out of fuel and eventually shut down. Yes, low blood sugar eventually causes death – this is what we call starvation. At the sake of sounding grim, keeping blood sugar levels steady and even is incredibly vital to your body’s sense of safety. So, when those levels dip, a whole host of emergency protocols get triggered in order to get blood sugar back up into the safe zone. One of the ways your body does this is through the liver.

 

The liver has the ability to mobilize stored sugar and send it out into your bloodstream to keep levels steady between meals or when you don’t have access to food for several hours. Pretty cool right? It’s like your own little food storage/emergency preparedness center. Unfortunately, this process only happens when the liver clean and clear and ready for action… Can you see where we might be headed here?

 

A congested, stagnant liver cannot mobilize glucose effectively and must call upon it’s pal Cortisol (your stress hormone) to do its job. Sort of like calling your coworker to fill in for you when you’re having a sick day.  When cortisol spikes to raise blood sugar, so do all your other stress hormones like adrenaline, making you feel jittery, anxious, stressed, irritable and even angry in some cases. If this cycle goes on multiple times throughout the day, you can see how your life might appear to feel pretty stressful!

 

So, now that you understand that cycle, the question remains, “Well, what causes a congested liver?” I’m glad you asked.

 

Organic vs. Conventional Foods

Our liver’s other highly important job is to filter out the chemicals and toxins we come into contact with everyday. Some of those we find in our environment and some are made by the body, but both must be broken down by the liver in order to be carried out of our body through our waste. However, the liver, like any hard-working organ, has a breaking point. It can only do so much, and in our modern environment, we are pushing it to the limit.

 

Everyday, fruits, vegetables and grains around the world is sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, growth stimulants and other hormone-disrupting toxins. The animals we source for meat and eggs are given antibiotics and growth-hormones, fed grains they can’t digest and are forced to live in conditions you wouldn’t wish upon your worst enemy. Our fish and seafood are exposed to heavy metals and petrolatum every single day – and then, we eat these foods. When we ingest all these harmful, synthetic and toxic chemicals, guess who has to clean it all up? Yep, your liver.

 

In small doses, the human body is capable of dealing with outside stressors like these. But, just like a tuna fish accumulating mercury, your liver and other tissues will accumulate toxic build up when exposed to low-level amounts day in and day out through your food. This congests the liver as it tries it’s best to filter out and break down all these outside stressors leaving it unable to perform its other functions well, again, calling upon cortisol to lend a hand.

 

Not only does organic food contain up to 80% less of these harmful toxins, but it also hasn’t had its healthy bacterial balance upset by all the chemicals and antibacterial agents. So, while organic foods are helping to de-load the liver and clear up congestion, they are also adding healthful bacteria to our body that will help balance our health in many, many ways.

 

But, Organic Food Is So Expensive...

 So, if you’ve hung around this long, chances are stress plays a pretty big role in your life and you’d like some help. But, I can hear you now – “I get it, organic food is important, but it’s just too expensive to eat that way all the time.”

 

Well, while I understand your fears, I’m here to talk you out of them. Eating organic can be incredibly expensive yes. But it can also be incredibly cheap, in fact, even cheaper when you consider how much you’ll be saving per year on things like doctors visits and medications you can throw out. Here are 10, yes 10, ways you can work the system to make eating organic not only a regular part of your life, but an affordable, fun part as well.

 

1.     Shop at Farmer’s Markets in the spring and summer months. Even the smallest of towns are starting to hold good quality markets and the produce and meats there are usually half the price of going to a grocery store like Whole Foods. Secret Tip: Go early for the best pick on fresh produce and call the farmers ahead for the cuts of meat you know you’ll be using in the month ahead.

 

2.     Eat in season. Foods that are in season will always be cheaper than trying to buy them when they aren’t. Not only is growing them cheaper, but so is shipping for the growers, so they can charge you less. If you’re not sure what’s in season when, Google it. Take some initiative, there are resources everywhere!

 

 

3.     Go in on a meat-share. Get some family members or friends together and buy an entire animal to split. You can easily find cow and pig shares from tons of local farmers just by doing a quick Google search. Just make sure you find animals that have been pasture-raised and humanely-slaughtered for the best health benefit to you.

 

4.     Find a local farmer or butcher who will sell individual cuts of meat and eggs. Better yet, get a separate freezer and fill it up with your favorite cuts. You can usually buy in bulk like this from local farmers for half the price of store bought meats and eggs.

 

5.     Use coupons from organic, real-food grocery stores. This one doesn’t need a whole lot of explaining, but can save you tons of money on pricier organic items.

 

6.     Make your own organic foods at home. For example: Buying a good quality sauerkraut at the store can cost upwards of $8.00 per bag. Making your own kraut out of organic cabbage will cost you around $2-3 dollars after you’ve bought your storage jars. If you have a little extra time, making expensive items can save you hundreds of dollars over the long term.

 

7.     Implement the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen. Not all produce items are equally sprayed or at risk for toxic build up. The EWG (environmental working group) has created a document which lists out the Clean 15, produce which you can safely buy conventional, and the Dirty 12, produce which should always be bought organic. Using this guideline, you can save a little extra splitting between organic and conventional.

 

8.     Join an online organic store like Thrive Market. Thrive has made their entire platform about cutting the cost of organic food and making it more accessible to the masses by cutting out the store front. You can easily order items you know you eat regularly from Thrive and save TONS of money avoiding high priced items in the store.

 

9.     Buy in bulk at stores like Costco or Trader Joe’s. As people become more and more aware of the benefits of organic food, larger chain stores are beginning to keep up with demand. You can pretty easily find organic, clean foods in places like Costco for cheap. Stock up on the foods you eat most there and then save smaller stores for special items or foods you might waste in larger quantities.

 

10.  Start your own garden! The best way to know exactly what’s on or in your food is to grow and harvest it yourself! If you live in a nice climate and love spending time outside, a garden might just be your new favorite hobby. There’s nothing quite like the reward of self-sustainability.

 

 

Overall, eating organic, real foods is nourishing to our bodies for many reasons. Our human body is a unique and complex organism with thousands of different pathways and systems, all intertwined with each other. Giving ourselves the most nutrient-dense, fresh and natural foods we can find will not only lessen the burden on our organs, but also provide us with all the building blocks we need to regenerate and repair day after day as we live our lives.

 

 

*If you’re not sure where to start or have questions about a certain health issues you’ve been experiencing, feel free to schedule a free consultation with me by calling or texting 435-680-3850. I take on a limited number of clients per month for my 1:1 coaching program, but would love to speak with you about whether or not your case would be a good fit. 

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How Food Affects Your Mood: Part 3, Caffeine and Sugar

 

In parts one and two of our series, we took a look at how a real-food diet can greatly influence our mental health and how food sensitivities can trigger anxiety-based conditions. In the final piece of the series, we’ll be getting a little nerdy and learning about two of the most widely-used and abused drugs in human history and their effects on the human nervous system: Caffeine and Sugar.

Now, at first glance these might seem totally harmless, and for some people, and in small doses, they are. However, for those of us struggling with anxiety or other psychiatric disorders, they can spell catastrophe.

Both caffeine and sugar are stimulants to the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain and spinal cord and therefore responsible for almost every bodily function you can think of. Similar to a traffic controller, the CNS signals to every system in the body where to go and what to do to keep things organized. Caffeine and sugar also play a starring role in the regulation of blood sugar, which we’ll discuss in more detail below. While these two seemingly innocent indulgences may be commonplace in today’s busy, fast-paced world, I want to break down the misconception around their benign effects and show why eliminating them could be the missing link in getting your anxiety managed.

First, let’s talk about America’s favorite past time: Caffeine. In most parts of the country, people are addicted to their morning cup (or three) of joe. Whether or not we really need it’s stimulating effects isn’t as important to people as the emotional reward they get from a comforting, warm cup of coffee in the morning or an afternoon, iced latte pick-me-up. But, those habits may be doing more harm than good for those of us with anxiety disorders. Caffeine stops fatigue in a couple different ways, but one of those is by stimulating the adrenals to release hormones and neurotransmitters like cortisol and adrenaline which serve to rev up our nervous system and keep us alert. Unfortunately, these are the same chemicals released by our body during a stress response such as getting in a car accident, finding out you’re being fired or getting into an intense fight with your spouse. When we are in these type of situations, our body requires more energy to deal with them, also known as flight, fight or freeze. From an evolutionary standpoint, stressful situations call for split decisions and keen awareness, which are all enhanced by the activity of cortisol and adrenaline. These two substances increase our heart rate and blood pressure, break down stored sugar into usable energy, dilate our pupils and get us ready for attack – which are all very useful when we are, in fact, under attack. But what about when we’re not? What about when we’re just starting our day, jumping in the shower or driving to work? Are these messengers as helpful then?

Unfortunately, not only are they unhelpful, but they’re actually harmful over the long term, especially when their effects so closely mimic the symptoms of anxiety. Coffee jitters anyone?

After we get a surge of adrenaline, what happens next is usually a crash. We mobilize lots of sugar from our stores, but now that the fun is over, we enter into a state of depletion, or low blood sugar. This is when we usually get the intense craving to reach for something sugary or another cup of caffeine to “re-dose” because we start to feel pretty terrible. If you’ve ever experienced low blood sugar, you’ll know that not only do its symptoms closely mimic anxiety, but it can aggravate low-grade anxiety into more of a panic situation. Your body sees low blood sugar as an emergency and will treat it as such, pumping out all sorts of icky signals to get you eat something.  We call this Reactive Hypoglycemia and it’s your body’s way of reacting to the stress of caffeine. Some of the things you might experience in a low blood sugar crash include: 

 

Excessive hunger or intense cravings

Shakiness or jitters

Lightheadedness or faintness

Intense fatigue or low energy

Irritability

Brain fog or inability to concentrate

Sweating

Nausea

Increased heart rate

Anxiety or feelings of worry

 

Seem familiar? Many of these also pop up during an anxiety or panic attack and be easily confused for heightened anxiety. Often, simply cutting out caffeine can have tremendous stabilizing effects on both blood sugar and anxiety episodes. But let’s back up a bit, back to those cravings you get after a blood sugar crash. We talked about how caffeine lowers blood sugar by first stimulating a stress response and then turning into a responsive crash. But what about sugar’s effects?

Well, similar to caffeine too much sugar is seen as stressful to the body. Sugar is also a nervous system stimulator and affects the blood sugar cycle in a similar way. When we eat carbohydrates, including vegetables, fruits and starches, our body breaks them down into smaller molecules of sugar and fiber. Some carbohydrates break down slowly, like vegetables and some very quickly, like starches. If you’ve ever put crackers in a glass of water, you’ve seen how fast starches tend to break down in the body. This process is sped up even further when we eat blatantly sugary foods that don’t need much breaking down to turn into immediate glucose. This causes our blood sugar to spike very rapidly, something our body doesn’t like. In response (keep reactive hypoglycemia in mind here) our body sends out hormones to lower the amount of sugar in our blood by shoving it into our cells, but can get a little overzealous and lower blood sugar too much. As our pendulum swings from one extreme to the other, we once again experience a crash and find ourselves in a frenzy of cravings, headaches, irritability and anxiety in an effort to refuel our body. This is when we reach for a bag of M&M’s and a coffee to get through the afternoon workload, further perpetuating the cycle.

Blend the affects of caffeine and sugar and you’ve got yourself a perfect storm. 

So what can you do to step off this crazy train and into a more balanced, even blood sugar cycle? While there are lots of different tools to employ, I’m going to discuss the ones most helpful for anxiety-sufferers today.

 

1.     Start your day off with some heathy fats and protein. Eating a breakfast with a source of fat, protein and some slow-digesting carbohydrates, such as veggies, will ensure that your blood sugar stays more even throughout the day. It can take a few days for your body to regulate if you’re used to sugary cereals, donuts and coffee for breakfast, but after a week or so, you’ll begin to notice better energy, less anxiety and less cravings.

 

 

2.     Cut out the caffeine and switch to decaf or herbal teas. This one can be tough – I know. I have so much sympathy for not only the physical withdrawal of caffeine, but the emotional void you can feel like it creates as well. But tackling caffeine can be a huge piece of the anxiety puzzle, and I’m willing to bet that a panic-free day is probably a pretty great reward for you at this point. If you’ve been drinking lots of caffeine, gently wean yourself off and give yourself plenty of TLC during your withdrawal period. Drink lots of water and take it easy until your symptoms and cravings disappear.

 

 

3.     Do a sugar detox. While this can be challenging at first, everyone reports feeling so much better after cutting out extra sugar from their diets. Start by cutting out the obvious forms like cookies, candy and ice cream, and then start to be aware of the sneaky sugars you find in a lot of processed foods. Granola bars, flavored yogurts, “healthy” cereals, and excess fruit are good examples. To help keep it in perspective, every 5 grams of sugar is equal to 1 tsp. of white table sugar. If you wouldn’t eat 3 tsp. of white sugar in a sitting, then eating a protein bar with 15 grams of sugar listed probably isn’t a good idea.

 

Now that we’re done with this series, I hope you have a list of tools you can take with you to start navigating your journey back to peace of mind. Anxiety and other psychiatric disorders can be scary and overwhelming, but you’re not alone, and it CAN be done. Learning to work with your body rather than against it is a powerful mindset to adopt and can dramatically shift the way you feel for life. If at any point you feel overwhelmed by your condition, don’t hesitate to contact a practitioner or licensed professional for support as it can be key to long-term healing, and never forget to have compassion and love for yourself and your journey. 

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Why You Gain Weight When You're Stressed


Most women I know struggle with wanting to lose body fat in one area or another, and many can’t figure out why, despite all their best efforts, this isn’t happening. Now, aside from the topic of self-love and acceptance (two concepts I find paramount to your overall health and wellness), it’s not a crime to want a firmer midsection or to tone up your legs. A healthy, vital and active body is able to carry us places we wish to travel and move in exciting, fun ways that we might not be able to otherwise. Plus, who doesn’t love the feeling of confidence you get when your body is living out in it’s perfect potential? I know I notice when my body feels heavy and sluggish versus when it feels light and energetic. However, notice I said YOUR perfect potential.

 

What we’ll be discussing today is not how to land someone else’s body or uncover six pack abs, but instead how your body’s perfect set point will be revealed once you undo the harmful effects of stress and let your unique shape and size shine through. When I cut out my personal food intolerances, began reducing inflammation and lowered my cortisol, I ended up losing 10 pounds without any changes in exercise or restrictive dieting -  and I’ve seen this happen time and time again with my clients, as they too lean into stress reducing practices and new ways of intuitive, healthful eating.

 

So, you’re probably wondering how one accomplishes such a thing? Well, we’ll get there in a minute, but first I want to take you through the why of how stress causes you to put on extra fat (generally in the belly and hip region for us gals) and then we’ll talk about ways you can reverse this nasty cycle.

 

If you’ve been here long, you’ve probably heard me throw around the term Cortisol quite a bit. However, if you’re new, cortisol is referred to as our stress hormone and is responsible for helping us get through an event that requires us to “flee or fight.” In cases of acute stress, such as a car accident or other emergency, this hormone can be life saving. When our brain registers a stressor, it calls upon our adrenals to release cortisol. Cortisol then circulates throughout the body, breaking down amino acids (mostly from our muscles), and turning them into glucose so we have plenty of energy to either run away quickly or fight bravely. This hormone, combined with adrenaline and dopamine, are responsible for the effects of stress like increased blood pressure and heart rate, hyper-arousal and alertness to danger, shakiness or jitters and dilated pupils. All the necessary ingredients for us to evolutionarily deal with being chased by a tiger or fighting off a neighboring tribe.

 

In these short-lived, acute scenarios, this cascade, known as the the stress response, is not only necessary, but welcomed by the body and brain.

 

However, when we begin to abuse this chain of command by entering into the chronic stress zone, we begin to see problems arise.

 

The effects of cortisol and adrenaline take quite a while to leave the body, meaning that when you’re under chronic stress (think daily traffic, stressful job you hate, negative thoughts all day long, fights with your spouse, crazy kids running around the house while you’re trying to work, too much on your to-do list and not enough time to do it, moves, bills, and on and on) you have a constant supply of stress hormones running through your veins like a drip line filled with Red Bull.

 

Can you imagine just how drained and depleted you’d become eventually if this were the case? Well it IS the case. Adrenaline and cortisol are powerful drugs which is why many of us are “stress-junkies.” They feel really good, until they don’t.

 

Unfortunately, stress is king in the body. The adrenals, which are responsible for the stress response, are also responsible for governing functions like sleep, sex drive, sex hormones, weight and metabolism, thyroid function and more. But, when they are burdened with pumping out more and more cortisol to meet the demands of our stress levels, these other processes take a back seat. Essentially, your adrenals take the nutrients reserved for making all these other things happen and shove them into the cortisol-manufacturing process. So, now that you’re aware of the way that works, let’s dive into cortisol’s effects on our body composition.

 

#1: Cortisol is catabolic. Catabolic is just a fancy way of saying that cortisol breaks down hard earned muscle tissue. Now, in small doses, not a big deal. But in every day cases, where you’re in a constant state of catabolism, muscle degrades while fat increases. That’s because it’s cortisol’s job to turn amino acids into glucose, remember from above? Those amino acids are most readily found in muscle tissue. Muscle is way more metabolically active than fat, meaning it uses up, or burns, more calories sustaining itself than fat. More muscle = higher metabolism. More cortisol = less muscle. You see the problem?

 

 

#2: Cortisol promotes the storage of belly fat. During times of stress or famine, the most important things to protect are our vital and reproductive organs. Where are they? Yep, in the belly and hip region. Cortisol is what gives us the famous spare tire or muffin-top, despite working out and eating healthily. There are actually more cortisol receptors in the tissue of our abdominal reason specifically for this purpose. More stress = more belly fat.

 

 

#3: Cortisol increases blood sugar, which increases insulin, which increases fat storage. Now, insulin gets a bad rap, but essentially we need it in order to get glucose into our cells. When our blood sugar rises because we eat, it’s insulin’s job to open up our cells so that energy from our food can get in. This is why we call it the “storage” hormone. However, when cortisol is released and goes around breaking down muscle into glucose, our blood sugar rises. Only, we don’t necessarily need this extra fuel and our body knows this, so it releases an overload of insulin to lower our blood sugar. We are now storing not only fuel from our food, but also fuel from the extra glucose floating around and our cells are full. Not only does this end up causing us to store more fat, but also to become insulin resistant as our cells can’t take any more energy. High cortisol = high blood sugar = high insulin = extra fat.

 

 

So, now that we’ve painted a pretty grim picture, let’s talk about what you can proactively do to mitigate these effects, because, let’s be honest, it’s frustrating to watch your waist expand despite all your hard work and healthful living.

 

While I highly recommend turning down the volume on your high intensity exercise routine and making sure you’re eating a diet high in greens, healthy fats and clean protein, I want to focus today’s tips on emotional/perceived stress. We call it perceived stress in the health industry because really, what stresses one person out (like doing taxes or working 60 hours a week) may not bother another. We all come with different, unique set points based on our genetics, childhood, lifestyle etc., so what we perceive as stressful isn’t in and of itself stressful. Now, the best way to lower emotional stress is to take a look at your perceptions and see how you can reframe them into something that isn’t stressful.

 

Let’s look at a fairly neutral situation like end-of-day traffic. You’re on your way home from work and stuck in traffic even though you need to be at your son’s baseball game in 30 minutes and still haven’t eaten since breakfast. You could: Scream at the drivers in front of you, curse the traffic gods, stress about being late and hungry and panic at the thought of showing up in front of all the other mother’s late – again – in your work clothes – tired and hungry…

 

OR

 

You could step back and look at it another way. By the very definition that you are in traffic, you should be in traffic. It’s rush hour in a big city, there’s usually a wreck or something blocking the flow, and it’s pretty typical. That’s just the way it is. So, you decide to enjoy your time listening to the podcast you never have a moment alone to play or that new audio book you purchased, but again, don’t have time for. You also realized that your hubby is stuck in traffic as well on his way home, so you call him and have a flirty, fun conversation you don’t get to do as much these days with kids around 24/7 and decide that he’ll cook dinner while you’re at the game. Before you know it, the traffic has cleared and you’re on your way to the game, and because you’re in such a good mood, stop by the store for a snack, and meet your best friend walking in to the game, who also happens to be late – because of traffic.

 

Now – which one do you think releases cortisol and which one do you think releases happy, feel-good hormones?

 

I’m guessing you don’t need me to tell you the answer. And, while this might seem like a silly situation, you can take any possible situation in your life and choose to meet it with grace, patience and love or fear, panic and stress. Reframing is a powerful way to calm down our stress response and therefore naturally allow our bodies to thrive.

 

In short, if you’re working yourself to death at the gym and haven’t touched a carb since ’98, I’d recommend that instead of doing more, you do a little less. Show yourself some compassion, choose to see your life with some light, and see if those extra lbs. don’t come melting off. I dare you.

Until next time, 

Sy

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How Food Affects Your Mood: Part 2, Anxiety and Nutrition

Food Intolerances Triggering Anxiety

In Part 1 of this series, we talked about how a real-food, nutrient-dense diet plays a critical role in the health our neurotransmitters and hormones, which are the chemical messengers responsible for keeping us calm, happy and centered. In Part 2, we’ll be diving deeper into how specific foods either soothe or excite our nervous systems by contributing to something called immune system activation. This occurs when the foods we’re eating don’t agree with our individual body chemistry and cause our immune system to attack, leading to all sorts of symptom manifestations, particularly psychiatric ones such as anxiety and depression. However, before we go citing our immune system activity, let’s talk about what that means …

 

Immunity is the system in your body responsible for determining self versus non-self. It’s what keeps us healthy when bacteria or viruses attack and how we fight off infection. Anything determined as “self” is permitted to enter into the body and anything determined non-self is attacked with immune cells and antibodies. This is when we say things like “I’m fighting off a cold” or “She’s beating the flu.” It’s our trusty immune system doing all this work! When all is well, this system is vital to our health and can even save our lives. However, like an unruly teenager, this system can get out of hand quickly when triggered in the right way. Today, we’ll be discussing those triggers: both what they are and how you can avoid them.

 

It seems funny that food could trigger our immune system. After all, isn’t all food meant to be eaten? Unfortunately, and much to our dismay, not all food. Some of this has to do with the actual food itself (veggies vs. hot pockets for example), but some of it has to do with what is called bio-individuality. In simple terms, this words just means that each of us has a unique body chemistry which responds to certain foods in different ways. What might cause me to thrive and feel energetic, might be recognized by your body in a totally different way and cause sickness and low energy instead. This largely has to do with genetics, but can also be influenced by environment and lifestyle factors. As we’ll talk about today, people who experience anxiety are much more likely to show antibodies to common allergens than the average person, as well as test positive for impaired gut function. Considering that 80% of our immune system is found in our guts, we start to see the connection between what we eat, our digestion and our immune system. Now things are cookin…

 

Like we talked about in Part 1, everything we eat is digested and broken down into smaller nutrients for our body to use. The absorption of those nutrients takes place in our gut (small intestine) and each of those food molecules has to pass through our immune system before being “cleared” to enter. Two of the most common trigger foods to humans are the protein Gluten (found in wheat, barley and rye) and dairy products. When these trigger foods hit our immune system, the body sees them as non-self invaders and starts a reaction to take care of the problem. Like I mentioned before, this can happen for various reasons, including genetics. Much like a cut, when the body senses an immune response, certain reactions take place. Heat, inflammation, pain, redness and swelling occur, however, instead of on the outside of the body, this will happen on the inside. We call this internal inflammation and its effects on the body are numerous. For obvious reasons, inflammation, pain and swelling don’t feel good, but internal inflammation in the gut causes a much more dangerous issue: Leaky Gut.

 

Our gut is the barrier between the outside world (our food) and our bloodstream. It’s also pretty picky and lets only very small nutrients and food molecules pass through it’s junctions in order to keep out non-self invaders. However, the internal inflammation we talked about below acts sort of like sandpaper, irritating and wearing down these junctions creating loose spaces and bigger holes. This allows larger bacteria, viruses and food molecules to enter into our blood where they are most assuredly marked as attackers, creating a war in the body. It is THIS war, this chaos, which creates the changes in our brain chemistry that lead to disorders such as anxiety, panic and obsessive-compulsiveness.  In fact, one[Sw1] [Sw2] [Sw3]  study[1] showed that 57% of people with psychiatric disorders tested positive for antibodies to the proteins found in gluten! This means that over half of the people tested reacted negatively to eating gluten, triggering immune and inflammatory responses. Once we have this leaky gut syndrome, almost everything we eat can become problematic because it was never supposed to enter into our body in that form and, is therefore, rejected as it were by our immune system.

 

So, now that I’ve gone and presented such a huge conundrum, let’s chat about the ways you can heal this cycle. Don’t worry, I’m not going to leave you hanging!

 

While there are various tests floating out there in the health industry, many of them have proven to be unreliable at best and completely false at worst. One of the best ways to determine an intolerance or reaction to a food is to simply do an elimination diet. To do this, you remove that food from your diet for a period of time (usually 30-60 days) and then reintroduce it to check for a return of symptoms. The reason the test calls for such a long period of time is to give the body a chance to resolve its inflammation and calm down to get the most accurate read possible. If upon reintroducing the food, you notice symptoms pop back up, you then know that there is a sensitivity going on, possibly even an allergy. You can then, once again, remove that food to eliminate your symptoms and return to feeling good again.

 

One of the most common questions I get with clients is, “Will I have to avoid it forever?” While I tell them that I can’t answer that definitively, I can give you two likely scenarios. Often, after some healing has occurred people are able to reintroduce the foods which they react to infrequently and without much problem. On the other hand, sometimes there is a fixed intolerance requiring abstinence for life. In this case, I tell people to get excited, which they often feel confused at. But I like to look at it like this: You get to feel good again, and there’s hardly a price on an anxiety-free life, and you get to dive into the fun, new world of healthful eating and learn new skills such as gluten-free baking or try new treats like coconut ice cream. With tons of evidence coming out to support dietary approaches to chronic illness, more and more bloggers, recipe creators and influencers are speaking out about how they manage their lives with a food intolerance and are creating streams of hope for those who may feel overwhelmed or confused.

 

Learning to eat in a way that works for you body isn’t a life sentence – it’s a privilege! Many people go their entire lives feeling terrible and never understanding why, only to end up on medication after medication just getting by. I get excited every time I land on a sensitivity with my clients because it means their one step closer to living a healthy, vital and thriving life and finding out their secret formula to wellness!

Stay tuned for our last part in this series where we’ll discuss the effects of sugar and caffeine on anxiety and how they can easily mimic panic attacks or anxious feelings. Wishing you well!


 

1.  Jackson, Jessica R., et al. Neurologic and Psychiatric Manifestations of Celiac Disease and       Gluten Sensitivity. PMC. 2 May, 2013. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3641836/ 

 

 


 

 


 

 

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