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Making Change Last

What is change? And where does it come from? 

 

Does it come from the 30-day program guaranteed to help you drop those “last five pounds?” 

Perhaps the numerous self-help books you’ve picked up this year? 

Maybe it comes when you finally give in to your spouse’s request and go to therapy? 

 

The answer to all of these and more is: Yes and no.

 

For the secret to change is not really a secret, nor is it nearly as complicated as we make it out to be. It is, however, scary and confronting and perhaps one of the hardest things we’ll ever run into because change is found not in programs, ceremonies, self-help books, coaches or therapist’s couches but in Truth. 

 

Pure, raw, unfiltered Truth.  Not in the 5 steps or 3 keys or prescriptive information we find on the internet, but in the acknowledgment of Truths - our Truths - that awareness brings to the surface. From a place of truth, we can no longer hide from the most beneficial course of action. We can no longer suppress, deny or run from that which motivates us or from our responses to those motivations, and thus, we do not. And then…. we change.

Because we cannot see a truth without paying attention to it’s consequences, and, when we do, our inherent desire to align with love, both for ourselves and others, arises naturally. 

 

When we know that we secretly binge on donuts because we’re working to fill a void left behind by our father…and our first boyfriend and our last boyfriend and every friendship we’ve ever had … we begin to reach for healing instead of pastries. 

 

When we learn that we can’t stop cheating on our partner because we’re too scared to feel our loneliness when he or she isn’t able to be present with us, we reach for self-love instead of a pseudo-connection found on a social media screen or in a secret hotel room. 

 

When we find out that we’re addicted to stress and success because intimacy and settling down and being present scare us beyond words, we reach for meditation instead of creating a crisis or working 80 hours a week. 

 

When we realize that we hate our anxiety but that it also keeps us from having to face our fears and explicitly set boundaries around ourselves, we reach for courage instead of Xanax. 

 

These truths – the hard ones that terrify us to look at – are the gateway to doing it differently. While we can, with some success, willpower our way into surface changes, the real, long-lasting growth appears when we drag our truths out from the dark corner in which they hide and allow them space and room heal. 

 

And how do we do this you might ask?

Through the cultivation of awareness. Whether you want to lose weight, work on your anger issues, find love, clear up your health issues, make more money or find lasting happiness, the answer is the same: Cultivate awareness and, through it, change will come.

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The Art of Reclaiming Your Life


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Over the years, in my own life and in talking with others, I’ve come to the realization that many people are walking around right now lamenting lives not lived. They’re stuck feeling like their life isn’t their own, yet are unsure how to fulfill that deeper desire. As if somehow, in some other dimension, they’re living a life they feel passionately connected to and thrilled about, but here and now, are mostly just tired, burned out and waiting for the weekend to arrive.

 

I remember those feelings too. In fact, it wasn’t until I was nearing 30 that the call to more blared so loudly in my ears I couldn’t ignore it any longer. Yet, I also remember not knowing how or where to start because it felt as though every time I tried to “find my inspiration,” or discover my passion, I came up short handed and more frustrated than before. There were many nights of resignation, wondering if these dreams I had in my head for contentment, happiness and joy were simply not meant for me, meant for someone else with more drive, more courage and more *go-get-em-ness. It wasn’t just that I hated all the jobs I tried out, had a long-term relationship that was falling a part or that I woke up every morning with a sense of unease and discontent, but more more the overwhelming feeling that there was something out there for me and I was just missing what it was – that I was disconnected from my purpose, my reason for being, and it felt awful.

 

"Like a loyal dog, the nagging, persistent desire for more continued to stick with me..." 

 

So what did I do? What any normal, self-respecting adult would do – I numbed. Without a way to figure out what exactly was wrong, I was left with a general malaise about life that I couldn’t take any longer. I watched too much television, I drank too much wine, I went to the gym every single day, I filled my time and space with other people and their wins and losses and I counted the hours between waking and sleep when so I could give my mind respite from my thoughts. But no matter how over-stimulated or “busy” I managed to stay, it never left my side. Like a loyal dog, this nagging, persistent desire for more continued to stick with me.

 

Funny enough, I find that we are often led to what we most desire through secondary routes. For me, I was finally forced to slow down when I came face to face with my worst enemy at the time: my anxiety. With no other options, I enlisted the help of a therapist who I will always hold dear to my heart for this reason: He introduced to me meditation.

 

Now, in no way, shape or form was I sitting myself down to meditate everyday because I thought it would lead me to some spiritual awakening or "back to myself", I simply wanted the anxiety to leave. But as I familiarized myself with the practice, something miraculous happened. A shift in consciousness, if you will, that radically changed my life – forever.

 

"Stillness and silence speak... but only if you let them..."

 

You see, stillness and silence speak … but only if you let them. Many of us fear that if we stop running, stop working, stop obsessing, stop trying, that what we are running from will catch up with us. But that is the point. It’s as if there is a benevolent messenger running after you, with all the answers to your burning questions, but you are running away, convinced that if he catches you, you will surely die. 

 

However, you begin to make room for stillness in your life, you allow answers to come through you. You allow your subconscious mind to voice what it has known all along. You allow all that you are to show up fully, presently and with confidence. You become clearer, sharper, more in focus. The endless loops playing in your mind calm down, the edge is taken off so to speak. From there, you can actually tap into the wisdom and knowing that lies within you rather than looking for answers outside where they can never be found.

 

The health problem you just can’t get to the root of? The career decision you're up in arms about? The relationships you can’t decide to leave or stay? The diet strategy that will work for your particular body needs? The friend you  need to have a talk with but aren’t sure how? The money you need to come up with but have no clue where it will come from?

 

All these answers, and more, exist in this space.

 

But, getting there can be somewhat uncomfortable, and that’s where most people give up. When they shut off the TV, stop the needless conversation, turn off the notifications and retire to their quiet space alone, they begin to panic. Even a quiet house can send chills of anxiety running through someone who fears his own mind. His own heart.

 

So what do we do in the face of something that feels so large? We start small. If you are used to endless amounts of stimulation, absolute silence is going to feel empty and you’re going to want to run. That's the simple truth. The best antidote for this then is to take baby steps into that big, wide pond. Start by giving yourself 10 minutes of time to unplug a day. Turn off your cell phone or flip it upside down while you read a book, watch a movie or do dishes. Perhaps, roll your window down in the car and turn down the music. Maybe you take a walk without your phone or decide to do some reading instead of watching TV. Perhaps you just sit in silence with your friends or partner for a minute or two, not needing to fill the space with your words.

 

Start small. That is the key. Then, when you’re feeling more comfortable, ease your way into more purposeful practices like meditation, lying still or breath work. Or even just try spending a few hours completely to yourself. No distractions, no cell phones, no external noises, no podcasts, no radios… Just you, and you.

These rich, deeply personal experiences can only be felt for what they are when we are willing to receive and hear the gift wrapped up inside them. But if we’re not quite ready, they can propel us into further numbness and further shame because we’ve now failed at the “thing” that was supposed to change our life. This is why I suggest starting small and easing your way into such a practice.

 

Stillness and silence speak. But not in a language we are used to hearing. Learning to understanding this unique communicative style takes time, awareness and willingness. If all you start with is a small desire to hear that voice, that is enough. Eventually, you will figure it out, but give yourself the time and space to let it unfold naturally. Every question has an answer, our job is merely to allow the receiving of it. 

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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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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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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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How Food Affects Your Mood: Part 1, Anxiety and Nutrition


A Real-Food Approach to Anxiety

Anxiety and mood disorders are huge topics when it comes to health and wellness. In fact, millions of people are currently on prescription anti-anxiety medication and struggle with the effects of their condition daily. As someone who battled chronic anxiety and panic attacks for over 20 years, I understand just how crippling and mind-numbing it can be. Not only does anxiety play a large role in our emotional wellbeing, but more and more research is pointing to the physical effects stress has on our bodies as well. While there are several factors to consider when it comes to managing your anxiety, one of the most influential and foundational facets is nutrition. Generally speaking, our nutrition has either the ability to bring us closer to wellness or closer to disease, depending on how we incorporate it into our lives. My aim in this series is to discuss the ways in which food can restore health and vitality and to give you some simple tips for nutritionally calming down your nervous system.

 

Simply put, your nervous system is directly affected by what you eat. When we eat food, it gets broken down by our digestive system into small nutrients like sugars, amino acids or fatty acids which can then be used by our body for various functions. For example: Amino acids are needed to make neurotransmitters that help our brain to feel happy, alert and energetic, and we get them from protein-containing foods such as meat, fish and eggs. Certain foods are higher in nutrients than others, which is what makes them part of a healthy diet. These nutrients are absorbed in the small intestine, which we’ll refer to from here on out as The Gut.

 

One of the ways we can increase levels of anxiety is by not getting enough of these nutrient building-blocks in our diet. Like we mentioned above, many of the neurotransmitters and hormones that our brain needs to work optimally are made out of nutrients such as amino acids and essential fatty acids. Before we digest them, these are known as proteins and fats, but what we don’t realize it that not all nutrients are created equal. When we eat processed, synthetic foods (mostly found on the shelves of grocery stores), many of the nutrients have been destroyed through the manufacturing line, including vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, proteins and complex carbohydrates. This means we are left with a lifeless food that our bodies aren’t quite sure how to use. As we become more and more deficient in these essential building blocks, we become less and less able to manufacture our feel-good brain chemicals which leads to all kinds of imbalances, including anxiety. While it might seem over-generalized, the statement, “you are what you eat,” couldn’t be more true.

 

Tips for Nutrient Density

Eating a nutrient-dense diet means that our food is coming from real sources which have been minimally processed to retain the most nutrients possible. It also means avoiding foods we call pseudo-foods, or in other words, foods which have been made with ingredients that disrupt our health such as high amounts of sugar, synthetic vitamins and minerals, chemical preservatives and fillers, artificial flavors and colors, sugar substitutes and other hard-to-pronounce items. But, you may be wondering at this point how to determine which foods fall into this category and which foods you should be avoiding? Below, I’ve outlined three easy principles to get you started on the path to real-food living and towards greater health and less anxiety.

 

1.     Shop the perimeter. This advice has been used a lot, but that’s because it still rings true. Most of the foods you should be eating (meats, vegetables, fruits, eggs, etc.) are found on the outside aisles of the grocery store rather than down the middle lanes. There are definitely exceptions to this rule such as with nuts, seeds and some healthy snacks, but as a general rule of thumb, you will do well with shopping the perimeter. To further nourish your body, look for pasture-raised meats and eggs, organic vegetables and fruits and minimally-processed condiments and snacks. If you are eating foods with labels, make sure you check the ingredient list for items you can recognize. If it sounds like a chemical, it probably is, and you’ll be better off looking for another brand or alternative option to drop in your cart. Shopping at local farmer’s markets is also a great way to ensure you’re getting fresh, vibrant and whole foods into your diet.

 

2.     Don’t Fear Fat. Sadly, we’ve spent many years fearing healthy fats and thus created the low-fat/no-fat fad that’s just now starting to get debunked. Healthy fats do many things for our body, but they are particularly nourishing and soothing to our nervous systems because of how they interact with our blood sugar. If you’re currently experiencing anxiety, adding in one source of fat into every meal can greatly reduce low blood sugar episodes which tend to look and feel a lot like anxiety. Healthy sources include: fattier cuts of meat including beef, fish (especially salmon), seafood, whole eggs, organ meats, butter and ghee from grass-fed cows, olive and olive oil, avocado and avocado oil, coconut oil, coconut milk, sprouted or soaked nuts and seeds, nut butters and raw cheeses and milks.

 

3.     Limit Sugar Intake. In part 3 of this series, we’ll dive even deeper into sugar’s effects on the body and brain, but for now, realize that sugar can significantly impact your mood, and usually for the worse. While sugar gives us an instant “high” and makes us feel good temporarily, it’s usually followed by a crash and burn where we feel terrible. This usually shows up as jitteriness, headaches, shakiness, extreme hunger, irritability or racing thoughts, which are eerily similar to anxiety attacks. For the best results, aim to eat no more than 25-30 grams of sugar a day, mostly coming from natural sources or sweeteners like fruit, raw honey or dark chocolate. At first this can be difficult, but as your blood sugar begins to even out and cravings are diminished, you’ll see energy levels increase and anxiety levels decrease.

 

 Navigating the waters of anxiety can be tough, but with a compassionate, curious approach, you can dramatically shift the way you interact with the world and learn to live free from fear, worry and panic. Stay tuned for part two of this series where we’ll talk about how food sensitivities could be triggering an immune response in your body and revving up stress and anxiety. Now go enjoy some yummy, healthy food! 

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Stress and Carbs: Unpacking Low Carb Diets and Female Hormones


How Does Stress Affect Our Bodies? 

Carbs. Most of us these days have a love-hate relationship with carbs, particularly since the introduction of low-carb diets like Atkins and the South Beach Diet. Many people have seen wonderful results switching from a SAD (Standard American Diet) to a low-carb approach and, arguably, many lives have probably been saved with the reduction of starchy, sugary carbohydrates like bread, pasta and pastries. Today’s post in no way, shape or form is meant to demonize low-carb diets or spread dogmatic information related to carbohydrate intake. However, as with any dietary strategy, it’s seem that we’ve taken this one a bit too far, especially as women, and I want to discuss some of the long-term ramifications that an extremely low-carb approach can have on our overall health.

Women are complex creatures. Just ask any man and he’ll most likely back this up! Sadly, most of us have come to despise the beautiful, feminine qualities that make us who we are, a.k.a. hormones. Either we spend our time trying to cover them up and push them away or we don’t give them much though at all and can’t figure out why we feel “off” or not “quite like ourselves.” Simply put, hormones are messengers. They carry signals from your endocrine glands around to various parts of your body to manage processes like hunger, menstrual cycles, stress levels, sleep, bone density, thyroid levels, sex drive and many other daily, bodily functions. In a word, hormones are VITAL to our health. But what happens when they get thrown out of balance? As you can see, hormones play a role in almost every function you can imagine, so they create quite a stir when things get thrown off kilter.

What Do Carbohydrates Have to Do with Hormones?

In order to understand why carbohydrates are important to hormone balance, it’s important to know a little bit about the stress response in the human body and you’ll also need to understand something called the “Pregnenalone Steal.” We’ve talked a lot about stress and how it effects the body. You can find more on the topic here. However, its safe to say that stress comes in both physical and emotional packages. When we refer to stress, most of us are talking about perceived stress, or emotional stress. This is the type of stress that exists in our mind when we’re feeling overwhelmed, scared, anxious, busy, angry etc. The reason we called it perceived stress is because of its relativity – what stresses me out might not bother you one bit and vice versa. Then there’s physical stress, which is the result of outside forces causing internal stress such as too much exercise, eating foods that don’t agree with our body chemistry, lack of sleep, etc. Both of these combine to make up our total stress response.

Now, the main hormone responsible for regulating our stress response is named Cortisol. Cortisol has several really interesting jobs in the body, but it’s mainly used to mobilize and gather up glucose to provide our arms, legs and heart with the energy they need to deal with a given stressor. For example: Let’s say you’re walking down a dark alley (not sure why, but just go with it) and a man in a dark hoodie comes up to you with a gun and asks for your wallet. In this instance, your body is immediately going to go into what’s called Fight-or-Flight mode, or in more technical terms, sympathetic dominance. During this time, you’re making split decisions about whether to fight him off or run away. Either way, you’re going to need a lot of extra energy and wits to get the job done, and this is what cortisol and adrenaline are responsible for. They do things like increase your heart rate and blood pressure, break down stored glucose for energy needs and increase your cognitive abilities. Cortisol is also released like this during exercise, which is why some people can get addicted to high intensity regiments. Cortisol makes us feel powerful, alert and energetic…to a certain point. You see, cortisol was never meant to exist in our systems for too long. It was made for acute, more natural, stressors like the scene described above. Similar to recreational drugs, the effects are only fun for the body and brain up to a certain point, at which they become degrading and dangerous.

So here’s the thing: The stress response will ALWAYS take precedence over every other function in the body. It was meant to get you out of dodge and save your life and dag nabit that’s what it’s going to do. Heading back to the scene above, do you imagine your body is thinking about digesting your dinner or making a baby? If you’re not sure, the answer is NO! Your body is thinking about two things – fighting or “flight-ing.” So – stay with me here and listen closely to this next part. Cortisol is released during both acute bouts of stress (the gunman) AND chronic ones. Chronic referring to: traffic on your way to work, fights with your spouse, hating the job you go to every day, eating too much sugar, eating foods you’re allergic or sensitive too, exercising too much with little recovery, worrying about money, worrying about health, worrying about your weight, worrying about anything and everything, staying up late watching TV instead of sleeping… you get the idea. Basically, most of us have created lives for ourselves that require us to put out much more than we put in and our scales are left way out of balance. During all of this, cortisol is being released leading to heighted and chronic amount circulating through our blood stream, which, funny enough, is stressful to our body.

Now, back to that strange term, “prenenalone-steal.” Your sex hormones and cortisol are made from the same building block called pregnenalone, which is made from cholesterol. In a perfect world, pregnenalone gets evenly distributed to all the different hormone pathways and all is well. However, in someone with high stress levels, there is a greater need for cortisol which means there is a higher need for pregnenalone. Your body will shuttle any and all pregnenalone to the process of making cortisol in order to keep up with those stress demands to the detriment of your other hormones. This is why we refer to it as a “steal,” because cortisol is essentially hogging all the good stuff for itself and leaving everyone else high and dry.

Tweetable (or something like that): If you’re experiencing chronic stress, and not taking any measures to reduce it, it will be impossible to balance your hormones.

So What’s the Deal with Carbs?

Now, you might be wondering at this point how your carbohydrate intake fits into this picture. We’re getting there, just had to throw in the foundations first. Carbohydrates play sort of a double role here.

In times of stress, we use up more nutrients because stress is expensive. It amps up our bodily functions and puts us in a state of high alert. This means we need more calories, more carbs, more fats and proteins and more vitamins and minerals than we usually would to keep up with the demands. This goes for physical AND emotional stress. Now, our bodies are pretty neat since they can literally turn proteins and fats into usable glucose. But, and here is the caveat, that is a slow process no matter how efficient your body is at it. Eating carbohydrates will always be the fastest way to increase blood sugar levels, thereby usable energy. When blood sugar levels drop, this is registered as a top priority stressor to your body. So – what happens? You’ve probably got it by now, but yes, cortisol gets called to action once again, further perpetuating the cycle. This is why, particularly in times of stress, eating some slow-digesting, complex carbohydrates can go a long way in putting a wrench in the nasty blood sugar/cortisol cycle we see so many women going through. Often times you’ll see someone start on a low-carb/high fat approach and it works wonders (by the way, we’re talking 10-50 grams of carbohydrates daily here) Their skin clears up, their energy shoots through the roof, the fat melts away and their periods balance out. But then, a little while later (sometimes months, sometimes years) things start to shift. Usually, we can trace it back to a stressful time period or event, and they start to feel terrible. They begin to feel bloated, tired and heavy, their cycles get irregular or go missing all together, their energy plummits and sleeping becomes erratic and unsatisfying. They can’t understand what happened or why they aren’t feeling good, so they naturally think, “I must be eating too many carbs again,” and start to restrict even more leading to greater and greater disturbances.

Often times, fixing these issues and imbalances is merely an equation of carbohydrates. Our needs to various nutrients change as the season and tides of our lives change as well. Sure, maybe high fat and 20 grams of carbs a day worked, but then you had a baby, started working out more to lose the post-pardem weight, got a full time job, lost a full time job, went back to school, had another baby, started eating more sugar because you’re tired all the time, started exercising even more to make up for it, and on and on and on… Life happens. Our job is to flexible and intuitive enough to understand this and to adjust our nutrition and exercise with the tides of our life. When our body needs a rest, give it a rest. When we are working harder than usual, give it more carbs. When you’re feeling rested, pull back a bit or up the exercise volume. Listen and flow. Usually when we get stuck, it’s because we’ve gotten stiff. Dead trees are stiff trees and they break in the wind. Trees that are full of life sway and bend when the winds of life stir. Which one would you rather be?

That’s all for today friends. If you’ve been struggling with any of the issues above or have been considering changing up your nutrition routine, you can always schedule a free discovery call here to see if Nutritional Therapy could benefit your health.

Much love,

Sy

 

 

 

 

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