Saturday, October 5, 2013

Let Food Be Your Medicine!

We're such a chemical soup!

If our interior ecology is off, we get sick. The challenge, of course, is to strike a balance. When that happens were pretty happy on all levels.

I say this because I have been reading about the effects of low healthy bacteria population in the gut, what I'm learning is the true "seat" of our health. If the bacteria is depleted, then fungus can take hold, and that can manifest as chronic sinus infections, skin problems, fatigue, moodiness, anxiety, insomnia... it's a pretty long list!

Using food as medicine, you can go about replacing all that bacteria (most often depleted by too many antibiotics) with the foods that promote it and eliminating those foods that don't. Basically, what's not good is any food that's acid-forming, so pretty much all sugars and starches. Some alkaline foods are on the list, too ~ all fruits except lemons, limes and cranberries.

That leaves vegetables, cultured foods (those packed with probiotics, or healthy bacteria), some seeds, almonds, herbs and herb teas ~ and that's about it. Dairy is totally off the list. Meat is acidic, but it's allowed if it is no more than 20% of your diet.

Sounds like about as much fun as a stair master, huh? That's what I thought, but I decided to try it anyway. One week later, I have to say it's been interesting, and not that difficult.

First of all, I don't have to ask myself what I think I'll have to eat. I've subsisted on mainly baked or cooked vegetables, almonds, and eggs or oatmeal in the mornings. Tea or water are about my only drink options. I've also added a good probiotic towards a healthier internal climate.

I'm getting lots of fiber so it's filling. Also, I'm not dealing with cravings for something sweet
to eat. I'm feeling calmer and more focused ~ unlike my usual compulsive self. The post-nasal drip I've dealt with for several years now is improving.

As a result of this frugality in the kitchen, I really appreciate and enjoy those social gatherings when I eat with friends.

I'll stay with this awhile to see what other benefits might emerge. I'll do as Hippocrates suggested and let food be my medicine!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Holy Water

I'm sipping a glass of water as I write this.

It's my reminder that my first obligation is to nourish myself so that I can continue to do the things I need to do. It's the talisman I need these days to remind me that my health is my real 401 -K.

For all the cerebral inventory of what's good to eat and what's not, who among us is disciplined enough not to continue reaching into a bowl of salt and vinegar potato chips if it's sitting right there? It depends on how mindful we happen to be; in other words, focused.

But that's tricky territory, particularly in our US culture; where most everyone has some level of addictive behavior.No shame or blame intended here, because I equate "addiction" to "imbalance." We all experience varying spots on that continuum throughout our lives, depending on what's happening around us, and how centered we are in spite of it.

That centeredness come from the daily practice of reminding ourselves of what's important to us, and creating goals and strategies that support that.

Which is why I don't buy salt and vinegar potato chips. They might sit in my cupboard unopened, until something triggers my innate instinct to obsess or worry about something. Then I'm headed that direction to get some quick relief.

Of course, it's not really relief, but it sure feels like that ~ briefly, anyway.

That's because we resist emotional discomfort at all costs because something deep within us might change if we let those emotions and uncomfortable feelings wash over us. But feelings stem from thoughts ~ and thoughts are just, well...thoughts.

So back to the water. As I drink it, I focus only on the thought that I'm lucky to have clean water to drink, and that it's providing what my body wants and needs.

In this moment, I'm grateful; and in this moment, I don't need anything else.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Want to Meet Your Neighbors? Start a Supper Club!

Our little supper club has been an interesting experiment!

We've nearly finished five of our six Tuesday night gatherings of the Redlands Village Supper Club, and the outcomes have been interesting. Just a handful responded, and it turns out that has been perfect. Everyone who's been there has been interested in good food and delving into and sharing various nutritional benefits.

We've met people we didn't know, the conversation has been positive and supportive, and the food has been absolutely delicious!

Last week one neighbor brought gluten-free chicken enchiladas seasoned with a scrumptious tomatillo sauce straight from her garden. Someone else contributed fresh tomatoes sprinkled with basil, and my donation was a red leaf romaine salad with sliced fennel and red onion, tossed with a homemade dressing of parsley, mint, olive oil, paprika, garlic and soy sauce.

The flavors were delicious in and of themselves, but I'm convinced there is the added alchemy of dining among friends that enhances the whole mix.

The other component was to walk 30 minutes five days a week with someone, to meet individual health goals.

One person shared a desire to loose weight and lower her high blood pressure, and so she and I have partnered over the past weeks at 6:30 am every weekday morning to walk a mile and a half through the neighborhood.

Last week she shared that she's lost nearly 10 pounds and her blood pressure is hovering in the normal range.

Food is medicine, to be sure, but encouragement and support are also essential for lasting health changes.

Try dining together with a few neighbors, partner for some walks, and see if that isn't the case!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

We had our first Supper Club meeting for my neighborhood.

Three people showed up, including myself. We enjoyed a very large spinach salad, mixed with other salad greens, walnuts, red and green peppers, walnuts, mushrooms, carrots and raisins ~ seasoned with a homemade mustard vinigarette. Some rosemary bread and some iced tea and we were set.

We talked about our health challenges and goals. Each person had the basic belief that food can do amazing things, but came to our gathering because they felt some group support would help keep them on a healthier track.

Everyone reviewed their current exercise regime, or lack of one. Two of us are partnering every weekday to walk 30 minutes a day (about a mile and a half) about an hour after sunrise.

This coming Tuesday we will each bring a whole food dish to share, and talk further about our challenges and our progress. 6:30 a.m. will arrive soon so I'm heading to bed!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Redlands Village Supper Club

I'm taking my food talk for a new walk...

So that I can "walk the talk," I'm starting a neighborhood supper club this month. I've invited residents of Redlands Village interested in improving their health to dine together on whole foods once a week, enjoy stimulating conversation, and applaud those improvements, however small.

While I firmly believe that awareness of our eating behavior is an essential part of learning to eat well, the support and connection with other people is essential, as well, because we all crave that. It may or may not happen in our homes around our own dinner tables. We seek it, nevertheless.

It will be fun to see who decides to join us, what new ways we'll learn of preparing healthy foods, the information we'll share and the friendships we'll make. And because we're gathering for such a laudable purpose, namely good health, I fully expect much good to come of it.

Exercise is part of the deal, and so each person will partner with a neighbor or spouse to walk our beautiful streets at least 30 minutes a day. We'll also drink more water and eat an apple a day. Everything else is optional.

So if someone has high cholesterol and high blood pressure, for example, I'm interested to see if it changes. I'm interested in finding out whether people notice that they sleep better, or that they have more energy. All or any of those things will show them that they're one the right track.

Who knows what else might emerge as a result of the little social experiment.

Our first gathering is next Tuesday evening over at Meadowlark Gardens Nursery. 

We'll see what happens. I can't wait!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Immediate Gratification

I'm all for the immediate gratification that food provides! Whole food, that is.

I've noticed that, just like a high-balance credit card account, the amount of sugar and carbs you eat can inch up during the day until the scales are tipped away from fruits and vegetables.

This can happen to all of us if we're not being mindful, moment to moment. In every aspect, that's the way we need to live in this world in order to thrive. But I found by paying closer attention, that I, too, have veered off the path.

I just wasn't noticing.

But I noticed last night. I wasn't craving an evening snack (like carbs!). I was over at Barnes & Noble later in the evening, and as I wandered over to the coffee bar and the pastry shelves as I usually do, I stopped and realized I didn't need any of that. I was satisfied.

How come?

Well, I had focused yesterday on eating lots of vegetables and fruits. I had apples on my oatmeal at breakfast, and for lunch had packed some homemade vegetable soup with plenty of high-fiber beans to microwave (had there been a stove, I would have heated it). Along with that, I had also prepared some coleslaw mixing shredded cabbage and carrots, some rice vinegar and olive oil, and some cilantro. Mid-afternoon, I ate an apple.

Dinner was a few ounces of baked chicken thighs, some more of that coleslaw, and a small helping of penne pasta with peppers and onions.

Sound like a lot of trouble. Not if you make a batch of soup and coleslaw that you can pull from the fridge. It's easy if you just think ahead and prepare a few simple dishes every few days.

This morning, I started again with oatmeal and chopped apples; and I have some more of that soup to take for lunch. For dinner, I'll make a large garden salad that I can eat over several days, and saute some portabello mushrooms to add to the rest of that vegetable pasta.

The benefits in how I feel provide great motivation!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

I'm Back!

I took a hiatus this spring. I decided I had to take time and notice how well I was "walking the talk."
I'm glad I did because sometimes when I'm saying a lot, I don't stop to notice how well I'm following my own advice.

Most of us are that way, I think. It's so very easy to spot all the areas where the rest of the world needs to improve, often the same areas we ourselves are neglecting.

There's a lot of truth in the phrase: "You spot it, you got it!"

I gained some awareness these past few months. The most valuable "aha moment" gained from slowing down and being more purposeful ~ or mindful ~ was that the more you truly nurture your body, the easier it is to make healthy choices.

Prior to that, the pace of my days was pretty ramped up, and I found that I was racing to complete whatever tick list was in front of me. I was totally in my head, and during that time the foods I was eating were more acidic than alkaline. It's the recipe for inflammation, and I found I was trying to think my way past it.

I write this because most of the time, this is how we are. We rely on thinking. I loved that arena. However, from that spot there's not much forward movement.

Instead, we have to rely on the intellect of our bodies. I found it's a pretty dependable vantage point if I'm getting enough sleep, enough water to drink, and enough fruits and vegetables.To do that, I had to be purposeful and I had to slow down.

Healthy eating truly is about residing in the moment, with one very simple question to answer every single time we make a choice: "Does this give me energy, or does it take away energy?"

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Paula Deen's Got it Down!

I never thought I'd be singing Paula Deen's praises, but I think she's figured it out!

America's best known Southern cook has a pretty good grasp of healthy eating witnessed by the fact that she's now 36 pounds lighter onthe scale. I predict she will be able to maintain on that path because she's not totally eliminating the foods she likes; she's just eating less of them!

Other tips she's shared: she watches her portions, loads her plate with "greens", doesn't totally abstain from her favorite foods, and she takes time to notice and appreciate what she's eating.

As with any self-improvement path, unless you're a Tibetan monk, it's best to cut yourself a bit of slack. In Paula Deen's case, she still enjoyed fried chicken. The difference is that it's now an occasional treat, rather than an almost daily staple.

For some ridiculous reason, we will go for "perfect" in our journey to be better people. But being "better" is different that being "best" or, well, perfect. "Perfect" suggests a comparison with others ~ so that we can stand out. "Better" means, we're better than we used to be. Not necessarily a huge transformation, but rather a shift.

Turns out those shifts in behavior are a lot easier to sustain.

Just ask Paula Deen!