Yes, learning. Loving yourself is a learning process. We receive lessons without realizing it from a very young age that either contribute or take away from our healthy self love. Last night I watched my mentor Dr. Christiane Northrup on Oprah's Super Soul Sunday and she reminded me why I love her so. She shared her wisdom of how our minds, bodies and spirits relate to our environment to create health. Her words brought new awareness of how I got caught in self-punishment and shame from a young age. She told Oprah that when young children are abused, they take on (absorb) the shame that the abuser should have had. They live with this shame and make judgments about their self-worth. Oprah, like me, has experienced sexual trauma at a very young age, and I could detect a glimmer of raw emotion and "aha" behind her eyes that I too felt.
Well how noble of us to take on that responsibility and shame for our abusers! Unfortunately, continuing with this pattern of accommodating others, unaware of the programming, ultimately led to my collapse when the stress reached a fever pitch. Working myself out of the depression, trauma symptoms, nightmares, disordered eating, post-college financial crisis, and self-punishment was a difficult but rewarding journey. Inspired by Dr. Northrup and other mind-body health trailblazers almost 15 years ago, I went beyond traditional therapy to use optimal nutrition and other self-love/self-care practices such as yoga and meditation to honor my body, treat it as an ally, listen to it's wisdom. In the process I became aware of my unique gifts and purpose here on Earth to help others transcend their difficult circumstances to experience wholeness, peace, joy, and love. I wasted years thinking I was damaged goods and not deserving of (fill in the blank) but now I live a life full of joy, possibility, purpose, spirituality, "magical coincidences", optimism, love and gratitude. You can read more about my story in my first co-authored book Dare to Be Authentic, Vol 2: Learning To Love Yourself, available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Dare-Authentic-Vol-Learning-Yourself/dp/1478191937
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Christmaskwanzhanukkah is over and the new year is upon us. In the cold and stillness of the post-holiday season we can take time to go inward and contemplate what it is we want to create moving forward. Million Dollar Consultant Allen Weiss says our new year resolutions are not flawed in the formulation but in the implementation. How will you keep yourself on the hook this year? Are you still in the dream and design stages (with a fleeting hope it will happen) or is this the year you are all-in-ready-for-results?
2015 is an 8 year (2+0+1+5) which is the infinity symbol and signifies prosperity. But 8 also symbolizes hard work for that prosperity. If you are willing to put in the work, to implement your goals and structures for holding yourself accountable, 2015 could be a magical year for you. Do you struggle with follow-through? Do you get overwhelmed easily with all the ideas and tasks you have? Hiring a coach is one of the best investments you could make. The money you spend will pay off as you reap the rewards of an accountability partner, someone to point out what you are not seeing, someone to help you hone that laser focus, and someone who is always rooting for you and acknowledging your progress and strengths.
I am offering 50% off my monthly coaching services (regular price $399/mo) for as many months as you want to purchase before January 1st, 2015. If you have decided that 2015 is your year to go for it, let me be your partner to get you there. Contact me in the next 3 days for your discounted rate! (Minimum of 6 sessions is recommended to see lasting change).
The new year is also a popular time to start your new health and fitness goals. If you are ready for the sure thing, the real and lasting lifestyle change, you might be interested in a unique program that starts on January 12th. There is nothing out there like it in terms of it's safety, research base, effectiveness, and support. It includes the purest pharmaceutical grade nutritional supplements along with access to a comprehensive website with all your materials and resources (recipes, yoga/meditation videos, weekly planners, etc.) and complementary coaching. You would be surprised how economical all of this value to you is (Hint: it is less than my monthly coaching fee). Please email me if you are interested in hearing more.
So I happen to be of the Vata-Kapha dosha type in Ayurvedic Medicine. The Vata keeps me endlessly wondering many thoughts and thirsty for knowledge, and the Kapha ensures that I gain weight just by smelling chocolate chip cookies baking. The downside of Vata influence is that I can easily become off-center with too much activity or stress, and the upside of Kapha influence is that I am dependable and nurturing. Characteristic of both is that I don't like being cold. Recently, the weather dipped below the 70's in San Diego, causing me to unpack my scarves and boots and be very ambivalent about my usual ice cold green breakfast smoothie. (If you live in the part of the country that is getting dumped in snow right now, please don't hate me for my last sentence. I grew up in the coldest part of the United States so I have paid my dues...and I'm still sensitive to cold!) I decided to try a hot cocoa version of one of my breakfast smoothies and I am sharing it with you because it was just too delicious and satisfying to keep to myself.
This concoction is super nutritious, boasting 18 grams of protein, 12 grams of fiber, almost half of your RDA of magnesium (magnesium keeps depression and anxiety at bay), 8.5 grams of healthy fat, only 12 grams of sugar, and antioxidants and polyphenols. Antioxidants and polyphenols, particularly from raw cacao, have been reported to have protective benefits against heart disease, allergies, cognitive decline, cancer, chronic illness, harmful gut bacteria, and aging among other things. The cocao also has stimulant properties so this could be good if you typically rely on coffee to wake you up, or bad if you are trying to calm down or go to sleep soon. This drink is also dairy-free and gluten-free for those of us that don't tolerate that digestive nonsense very well.
You will need:
12 oz. hot or boiling water
1 serving of Usana Nutrimeal Free (or your favorite non-gmo plant-based protein shake powder)
1 serving (2.5 T) raw cacao powder
.5-1.5 cups of raw spinach
sprinkle of cinnamon
drizzle of raw honey for added sweetness
I suggest blending this drink in your blender or shaker unless you enjoy powdery protein dumplings in your cocoa. It was delicious, creamy, not too sweet, and warmed me up this morning. I intended to add spinach, but what was left in my refrigerator looked like something only a Great Depression era grandmother would salvage...not particularly alive. I passed for today. Adding 1 c. of spinach would increase the nutrition astronomically, by giving you 900% RDA of Vitamin K building bone health, it would complete your RDA of magnesium for the day, nearly complete your RDA of calcium, and it would add in a host of other antioxidants and nutrients such as B vitamins and Omega 3's that can help to prevent cancer and mental health issues. Spinach secret: It blends well with chocolate (and strawberry) smoothies so that you do not taste it, but it will give your drink a slight greenish hue. The green is where the goodness is! If you are used to the super sweetness of high fructose corn syrup, you can add in a little honey (local honey will help inoculate you from seasonal allergies) to transition to this drink.
You might be tempted to try this with a packet of Swiss Miss. Keep in mind that doing so is not the same, because not only is Swiss Miss devoid of the nutritional goodness, it also contains ingredients deleterious to your health. If you don't have access to a health foods store in your local area, you can find raw cacao online cheaply at places like iHerb.com. Contact me if you would like a discount code for your order at iHerb or a discount on the delicious Nutrimeal Free Protein powder by Usana Health Sciences. Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter here for more information and freebies like this delivered straight to your inbox.
We've all heard of GMOs and that they are bad, bad, bad! But why? Is it really worth spending the extra money on organic corn and organic meat? Is it really necessary to avoid the canola, cottonseed, and corn oils used in most fast food restaurants? And, hey! I thought soy was healthy!
I recently explored this issue and reviewed the literature and I will share with you what I found. Warning: You might get very angry at business as usual in America.
First of all, companies like Monsanto have such a strong hold on America that GMO research is not even allowed here. What happened to America the free? Some people think seedless watermelon and hybridized tomatoes are GMOs but they are not. Unlike breeding same species of plants for desirable traits, the process of agricultural genetic modification happens in a laboratory and uses DNA from one species to splice genetic material into an entirely different species (Encyclpaedia Brittanica, 2013). An example of this is the common practice in GMO food manufacturing of splicing the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) into cells of corn, cotton and potatoes (organic foods are not GMOs). Agricultural companies use this genetic engineering technique in order to increase profits through a higher crop yield with fewer losses to pests because the Bt toxin works by bursting open the stomachs of insects and killing them. How does Bt toxin affect humans? Not entirely differently. It seems to promote a condition called intestinal permeability, or "Leaky Gut", which creates gaps in the intestinal lining and seems to be related to a long list of chronic health conditions including allergies, anxiety, depression, ADHD, Autism, MS, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Candidiasis, IBS, Eczema/skin rashes, fibromyalgia, and obesity (Bested et al., 2013).
I recently watched a video on the Institute for Responsible Technology website (2013) by GMO expert Jeffrey Smith and Clinical Nutritionist Tom Malterre in which they discuss the link between GMOs and the increasing prevalence of gluten intolerance. The problems begin in the gut. According to Smith and Malterre, Bt toxin promotes leaky gut. Leaky gut happens when the intestinal lining weakens due to emotional stress/trauma, improper diet (high sugar/low nutrient), eating gluten-containing foods, chronic alcohol use, dangerous bacteria or fungal invaders, some medications, prolonged use of antibiotics, hormonal birth control, or environmental toxins (Brenchley & Douek, 2012; Benton et al., 2013; Bested et al., 2013; Eaton, 2004; Perlmutter, 2013). The intestinal permeability of leaky gut allows undigested food particles to leave the intestines and enter the bloodstream where they are recognized by the body as intruders, causing an inflammatory reaction of the immune system which can create a food sensitivity or Type B allergy. Symptoms of food sensitivity range from fatigue, brain fog, joint pain, achiness, addictive cravings for the offending food, migraine headaches, moodiness, decreased concentration, hyperactivity, teariness, anger outbursts, etc. (Ross, 2002). It is important to note that Bt has been used as a biological pesticide sprayed on organic crops. This is a very different application of the substance, with far fewer effects than reported with the genetic modification with Bt. According to the Bt Fact Sheet on the Sierra Club Canada website (n.d.):
"B.t. bacteria should not be confused with genetically engineered B.t. crops such as B.t. corn. These crops are designed to give off the B.t. toxin from every single cell of the plant. They therefore emit a relatively large amount of B.t. into the environment, which has been shown to kill non-target species such as butterflies. B.t. bacteria, on the other hand, do not pose a significant threat to non-targets when sprayed directly onto crops or into catch basins." (NOBODY wants to kill butterflies!)
Smith and Malterre also state GMOs are responsible for suppressed digestion and an increase in the immune system load. They report that Bt has been found in the bloodstream of 93% of pregnant North American women and 80% of babies. They state that there are many health benefits of a GMO-free diet, even weight loss. This is not surprising considering we need our fat cells to store toxins and keep them from overwhelming our vital organs. If we have too many toxins, our body will not let go of that fat storing the toxins. You know what also has a lot of fat? The human brain.
Neurologist and nutritionist Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain (2013), warns that although only a small percentage of the population has the autoimmune condition celiac disease, about 30% of the population is gluten sensitive, and 100% of the population can't properly digest gluten which leads to "leaky gut" and "leaky brain". This likely happens through the gut-brain axis, which communicates bidirectionally so that problems in the brain (anxiety, depression, etc.) are always present with problems in the gut (bacterial/fungal imbalance of microflora which causes leaky gut) and vice versa (Cryan & Dinan, 2012; Forsythe et al., 2012; Gomez-Pinilla, 2008). Therefore, cognitive impairments such as depression, anxiety and brain fog seem to cause microflora imbalance and microflora imbalance seem to cause depression, anxiety, and brain fog. What came first, the chicken or the egg? Researchers don't yet know, but the importance is what we know about the relationship and therefore ways we can intervene: through nutritional approaches.
According to Perlmutter (2013), leaky brain is the breakdown of the blood brain barrier which results in toxins entering the brain that don't belong, such as pesticides, heavy metals, food dyes, and other unnatural substances creating problems with mood, memory, concentration, executive functioning (hyperactivity, impulse control, focus) and early Alzheimer's. I find it interesting that GMOs were introduced into supermarkets in 1995, now dominate our food supply, and prevalence of developmental disabilities from 1997-2008 has increased by 17.1%. This includes a 33.0% increase in ADHD, and a whopping 289.5% increase in Autism (Center for Disease Control [CDC], 2013). As a mental health clinician who has worked with special education students in the public school system for over 9 years, I can tell you that the prevalence of Autism and ADHD continues to increase and is significantly impacting tax payer dollars. In the controversial Autism and vaccine debate, could it be that both parties are right? Perhaps it isn't necessarily the vaccine that causes Autism, but perhaps the unnatural preservatives used in the vaccine mistakenly entering into the leaky brain of a susceptible child, whose intestinal flora was populated by a mother with her own leaky gut issues? Perhaps the problem is further complicated by feeding the child GMO infant formula and foods? Research has shown an increased prevalence of intestinal permeability with individuals with autism (36.7%) and first degree relatives of individuals with autism (21.2%), as compared with healthy controls (4.8%) (Bested et al., 2013).
Being the optimist and action-oriented person that I am, I propose we focus on the silver lining and the possible solutions. It seems that everywhere we turn our government-regulated food, water, and pharmaceutical supply (influenced by large corporations who tend to prioritize profits over people) serves up something disastrous for our mental and/or physical health. We can't always control flouride or birth control pills in the drinking water supply, pesticides blowing in from the farm upwind, or e coli in our spinach. However, we can control some things. We place our vote with the food we choose to buy. In 2008, Monsanto was forced out of the rBHT business (the chemical given to cows to increase milk production, at the expense of pus and growth hormone in the milk, which was linked to increased rates of cancer in humans) due to a large enough number of people refusing to buy rBHT milk. This caused it to be taken off the shelves of major grocery stores. We can choose to invest our money into our health and buy organic, non-GMO food (nearly all non-organic soy and corn in the US is genetically modified, and non-organically raised animals are fed GMO corn and soy), spend time in nature, and exercise daily. People initially think organic food is much more expensive, but it is actually significantly cheaper in the long-run if one can avoid chronic disease, shortened working years and/or disability, lower quality of life, and expensive medical treatments. If you support universal healthcare, let's come together and prevent the need for expensive healthcare. If you don't support universal healthcare, let's come together and prevent the need for expensive healthcare.
Being that stress is also a major contributor to the condition of leaky gut that correlates with so many mental and physical health problems, it is important to manage stress. This can be done through therapy, meditative practices, group or family support, spiritual connection, exercise, and even nutrition. Research shows eating a "Western diet" (high fat processed dairy, carbohydrates, meats, minimal fresh produce) produces stress, cognitive challenges, and mood issues. Also, depression and stress often cause an individual to increase consumption of high fat, unhealthy foods (Popa & Ladea, 2012) to create a vicious cycle, and another chicken or egg phenomena. According to the latest research (Bested et al., 2013; Perlmutter, 2013; Popa & Ladea, 2013) both managing stress through meditative practices, and eating stress-busting non-GMO foods such as the staples in the Mediterranean diet is the best approach. An ideal stress-busting, good mental health diet according to researchers consists of:
Benton, D., & Donohoe, R. T. (1999). The effects of nutrients on mood. Public Health Nutrition, 2(3A), 403-409. PMID: 10610080.
Bested, A., Logan, A. C., & Selhub, E. M. (2013). Intestinal microbiota, probiotics and mental health: from Metchnikoff to modern advances: Part II - contemporary contextual research. Gut Pathogens 5(3), 1-14. doi: 10.1186/1757-4749-5-3
Bested, A., Logan, A. C., & Selhub, E. M. (2013). Intestinal microbiota, probiotics and mental health: From Metchnikoff to modern advances: part III - convergence toward clinical trials. Gut Pathogens 5(4), 1-13. doi: 10.1186/1757-4749-5-4
Brenchley, J. M., & Douek, D. C. (2012, April). Microbial translocation across the GI tract. Annual Review of Immunology 30, 149-173. doi:10.1146/annurev-immunol-020711-075001
B.t. Bacillus thuringiensis Fact Sheet. (n.d.) Retrieved from Sierra Club Canada website: http://www.sierraclub.ca/national/programs/health-environment/pesticides/bt-fact-sheet.shtml
Cryan, J. F., & Dinan, T. G. (2012). Mind-altering microorganisms: The impact of the gut microbiota on brain and behavior. Nature Reviews. Neuroscience, 13(10), 701-712. doi:10.1038/nrn3346.
Forsythe, P., Kunze, W. A., & Bienenstock, J. (2012). On communication between gut microbes and the brain. Current Opinion in Gastroenterology, 28(6), 557-562. doi: 10.1097/MOG.0b013e3283572ffa.
Gomez-Pinilla, F. (2008). Brain foods: The effects of nutrients on brain function. Nature Reviews. Neuroscience, 9(7), 568-578. doi:10.1038/nrn2421.
genetically modified organism (2013). In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/897705/genetically-modified-organism-GMO
Eaton, K. K. G. (2004). Comparison of lactulose breath hydrogen measurements with gut fermentation profiles in patients with fungal-type dysbiosis. Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine 14(2), 171-180. doi:10.1080/13590840410001735036
Jeffrey Smith and Tom Malterre Discuss GMOs and Gluten. (2013). Retrieved from Institute for Responsible Technology website: http://responsibletechnology.org/glutenvideo
Perlmutter, D. (2013, Sept 24). The surprising truth about wheat, carbs, and sugar [Podcast]. Retrieved from http://oneradionetwork.com/health/david-perlmutter-md-the-surprising-truth-about-wheat-carbs-and-sugar-your-brains-silent-killers-september-24-2013/
Popa, T. A., & Ladea, M. (2012). Nutrition and Depression at the forefront of progress. Journal of Medicine and Life, 5(4), 414-419. PMCID: PMC3539842.
Ross, J. (2002). The mood cure: The 4-step program to rebalance your emotional chemistry and rediscover your natural sense of well-being. New York, NY: Penguin Group.
The fourth of July is typically a holiday of celebration, and fun times with family and friends. It was my grandfather's favorite holiday. In fact, he loved it so much that when he was battling terminal cancer, he waited to die until after he had watched his one last parade. This also happened to be my last summer at home before living independently as a young adult. From that year on, Independence Day took on a double meaning. What was once the best time of year surrounded by family, was now a day with sad memories and the potential for loneliness. As the years passed, I actually began to forget that it was the day my grandfather passed, but began to notice waking up with a gloomy outlook on that day year after year. As I made the correlation to anniversary grief, I was surprised how the effects could persist over a decade and beyond. They were mild, mild enough for me to not even make the connection initially, but distinctly related to this time of year.
The mental health community would agree that healthy grieving of a death can take up to a year. What is less talked about, however, is the unexpected reactions that may continue to come up. Anniversaries, birthdays, or special events or reminders of the loved one, even new unrelated losses can bring up all those old feelings you thought you left at the funeral home. You may find yourself crying easily, eating less or more, sleeping less or more, thinking about your lost loved one more than usual. Or you might just note a more subtle feeling of "the blues", not wanting to be social, irritability, or low energy. Having a loss around the holidays, particularly a formerly treasured holiday, can make dealing with these feelings even more difficult because of the cultural emphasis on and your own expectation for fun, laughs, family togetherness, and overall good times. Also, as the economy and modern living result in the family spreading further apart geographically, it can be more difficult to access the needed physical support of loved ones.
There are some things that have helped me to deal with the residual anniversary grief I have felt with my grandfather's death, so that it is manageable and lessens each year. I will list a few things here that I have done, and also some other suggestions too:
1. Plan ahead - There are so many things in life that we handle with ease when we take the time to connect with our inner selves, become self-aware, and make a plan. Whether you are giving a presentation at work, or walking down the aisle, having a plan for feelings or reactions that are likely to come up will help you feel in control and calm. Also, noting your grief anniversary day in the calendar and being sure to schedule your day (especially with nurturing or fun activities) can help to provide a healthy distraction and give you the extra TLC you need. This might be a spa day, inviting guests over for a party, or asking good friends if you can be included in their plans.
2. Get Social - One of the hallmarks of depression is a feeling of wanting to isolate, which when indulged can make the depression worse. Recognizing the tendency to withdraw, or wanting to hide away, requires honesty with yourself and the motivation to push yourself to initiate contact with supportive others. Call a friend, get together with family who were also close with your loved one, or get involved in a community event. Fireworks show, anyone?
3. Get Outdoors - Anyone who lives by the beach, chooses to live in a cabin in the woods, or gazes at a backdrop of mountains every day intuitively understands the healing powers of nature. Our skin soaks up Vitamin D that improves our mood and immune system, fresh air fills our lungs, nature sounds soothe our psyche, and all the creatures we encounter remind us that life is bigger than us and our problems.
4. Get Moving - If you can do this in nature, even better! Exercise improves mood, energy, and gives us a rush of natural endorphins. We have our antidepressants already built-in and immediately accessible!
5. Start a New Tradition - So the holidays aren't the same after Nana died. Rather than dwelling in the past, reminisce about the good 'ole days and then get started on a new tradition with your immediate family. Maybe Nana loved a certain dish. Teach your kids to help you prepare this dish and serve it every year as part of the celebration. Or you could do something completely new and different, that makes you feel good about yourself and your community, like donating your time and/or resources to a particular cause or charity around the grief anniversary. Or take the time to honor your loved one, their importance in your life, and commemorate them by doing something on the anniversary (like writing a blog!)
6. Remember that You Are Still Connected - Your loved one is no longer on Earth, but your souls are still connected. When you notice a sign, a symbol, a person, a particular flower/bird/animal, a smell, or a sound that reminds you of your loved one, rather than thinking of it as a random occurrence, you can choose to think of it as your loved one giving you a little hug, or reminding you that they love you. Their essence will never die, and you will have many opportunities to reconnect with it.
7. Know When to Get Professional Help - If your grief is all-consuming and gets in the way of daily living such as work, relationships, or leisure activities, or it persists longer than just the anniversary time, or you are consistently using drugs, alcohol, food, or sex to cope, you might need the assistance of a licensed therapist or support group. A therapist will compassionately listen to your concerns, no matter how crazy or weird you think they may be. A therapist can help teach you healthier coping skills that will help you tolerate the bad feelings without adding secondary consequences (such as hangovers, trouble at work, relationship strains, weight gain/poor health, etc.). Once you are coping better, you can move toward healing. The support of a group, such as the Mind-Body Skills Group I offer, can help you to realize that you are not alone, and also provide you with new intimate relationships with compassionate others that support your healing. Above all, it is important to recognize that feelings such as grief and depression are normal parts of the human experience in response to loss, significant change, or traumatic events. The problem comes when you become stuck in these feelings. Appropriately moving through these feelings and life experiences is a skill. A trained professional can skillfully and compassionately guide you through your difficult time. Avoiding it or numbing it will not make it go away, it only delays the healing.
So there you go. A few tips to help you survive your next anniversary of loss. It is a part of life that we will all inevitably experience, to one degree or another. Through our sadness and grief we have the opportunity to experience the richness of life; the contrast between the infectious giggles of pure joy, the heart-swelling love between parent and child, the excitement and passion of something new, and the pride of seeing someone important to us reach seemingly unsurmountable heights. Moving through these emotions define what it is to be human, to be living, to be thriving.
What colors your world? What I am about to say might seem like common sense to some, but it struck me as a profound thought as I really absorbed it. The "ah-hah" moment came yesterday as I found myself captivated by a gorgeous sunset overlooking the Pacific ocean. I was drawn to the brilliance of the colors, like a moth around a flame, and was invigorated. I had just finished doing a Bioenergetics exercise which clearly had left me feeling open and alive, having released limiting stuck energies. My thoughts then wandered to those individuals who aren't feeling particularly open and alive, so overtaken by their own depression or anxiety that they can't see the colors as brightly. (Like the antidepressant commercials). I wondered how it gets to that point, being that we are all born pure joy. I then had the realization that individuals who have suffered through abuse or recurrent trauma had to "numb" themselves, and decrease the vividness of their experience to survive the torture. What was surely a highly effective coping skill at the time is now robbing them of precious beautiful moments of their everyday life, because it has now become the body's natural instinct. The interesting part is that they don't know what they are missing until they are swept away by a brilliant moment such as the one I had. Helping others see the vividity in life again is one of the things I love about my work.
Oasis of Awareness
Turn the Mirage into an Oasis