spring cleaning

Spring symbolizes the start of many new lives.  When I think of spring, I think of breathing in fresh air, cleaned and renewed by the new budding leaves and plants.  At the same time, humans start cleaning up their lives. “Spring cleaning” isn’t just an arbitrary combination of words.  The new season is a time for us to clean our houses from top to bottom including windows where the sun will shine on and closets full of dust bunnies and Christmas decorations.  It is also a time for us to clean up our lives and bodies.  To the men, it may be to clean up those shaggy winter beards or the ladies, to begrudgingly start shaving again after a long winter of thick pants.  Another aspect that gets cleaned up is our diet.  Winter is a heavy season filled with rich foods and indulgences that linger way past the holidays.  Spring is time to overhaul the diet and start eating lighter. After all, swimsuit season is right around the corner!

This morning a friend of mine asked about detoxing safely. Detoxing is defined as “cleansing the body of poisons or toxins that may have accumulated through addictive habits.”  Let me tell you, detox is the new black.  The buzz word has made its way into every new diet product and Oprah episode. The act of detoxing has been around since the dawn of man, but it is entering our everyday vernacular now that people are becoming more aware of their bodies and concerned about their health.  That’s not to say that it isn’t also hyped up by the media and those who want to gain commercially through generating that concern in people.  Detoxing can be marketed to be very attractive-“This pill will not only rid you of those nasty toxins but will also help you lose weight!”  Who wouldn’t want both?!

However, detoxing is not to be something to be taken lightly.  As stated in the definition above, detoxing is cleansing the body from results of additive habits.  You may have first heard of the word when a newscaster described a celebrity to have gone into detox due to a heavy drug addiction. In those facilities, patients are monitored carefully to make sure that they release their toxins safely and successfully.  Detoxing is extremely difficult and painful if your body is overwhelmed with toxins. “Painful?” you ask. Yes, painful.  Your body stores toxins in your body because its natural cleansing mechanisms can only get rid of so much at one time.  We introduce toxins into our bodies at a quicker rate than we can release them because we consistently eat foods laden with pesticides and processed with chemicals as well as expose ourselves to toxins in our environments like pollution and stress.  When you detox, you limit your exposure to these toxins and thus, your body can concentrate on getting rid of what you are holding onto.  When your body lets go of those toxins, they re-enter your bloodstream and can overwhelm your system causing headaches, nausea, muscle aches and general discomfort. A hangover can be considered a result of a detox. And think about it, depending on how much you’ve drank the night before and how much you’ve tried to remedy it with water, it can range from your being fine and dandy the next morning to being keeled over in your bed.

So, is detoxing a good idea or not?  Well, it definitely is because we live in such toxic environments.  But you need to do it smartly.  The first step is to clean up the diet.  Limit or eliminate processed foods, eating out, and most of the following: caffeine, white flour, white sugar, meat, and dairy.  Oh and for obvious reasons, alcohol.  And I would increase fruits and vegetables, preferably organic, whole grains, and water. After successfully doing that for a week or two, the body would then be ready to detox through a “cleanse,” which we won’t get into in this post.  But do take note that by following those simple steps above, your body is already detoxing, only at a slower rate.  Following a diet that has more whole foods in it lessens the stress on your body and it will start to eliminate those toxins.  However, in this case, you will usually not experience the detox symptoms except maybe if you are addicted to coffee or eat loads of sugar at 3:00.  Overhauling the diet and detoxing is not something that can be successfully achieved overnight. Gradual lifestyle changes must be made before going through a cleanse.

On that note, look for future posts on cleanses! Meanwhile, share any detox experiences you may have had or tips for other readers.

let’s spring into spring!


Framework to a Better You

Today is the first day of Lent. Traditionally, Lent is a period of fasting and self-repentance. I'm not particularly religious, but I think that a lot of older rituals were developed for a reason and have value in themselves, regardless of all the other obligations or religious connotations. Think of it as a framework to a better you :) I see Lent as an opportunity to improve yourself. A time to break nasty habits of create much better ones.

In the past, people fasted to celebrate Lent. Now, most people give up an indulgence, usually something that worsens their health. No soda, no cake, no chocolate, no sweets, no bread...you get the picture. We have moved from a society that had just enough to survive to one of over abundance and indulgence. We all have developed poor habits that worsen our overall wellbeing.

Take the initiative and do something for yourself this year. Use Lent as a framework to make a promise to youself. It doesn't have to be centered on deprivation. You can make it as positive as possible but gear it towards creating health, not taking away from it. Some examples are do yoga for 46 days straight, eat a piece of fruit before every meal, get to bed before 10 5 out of 7 days a week, etc. You can also go the traditional route and not eat desserts, not drink soda, avoid high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated fats.

Whatever it may be, here are 3 guidelines.

1) Gear it towards health: For purposes of my blog :) Health is not just about what you put into your mouth. It's about your environment and overall lifestyle. Cut back on chemical cleaning supplies, get 10 minutes of direct sunlight every day, a limit of 2 hours of TV a night...

2) Try to be realistic about it: Remember, this is your promise to yourself! You can make whatever stipulations you want to ensure you can actually carry it out (within reason-don't say you will give up ice cream all but 6 days of the week). For example, you can do whatever it is you're going to do for 5 out of 7 days, or only have dark organic chocolate , or run every morning unless it's snowing outside.

3) Tell people: This is twofold-telling people will 1) get your support from your loved ones and also keep you accountable. Let people know what you're giving up so they can support you in your efforts. So that if you are giving up meat for Lent, then they will not make you a meatloaf at their dinner party. Tell your friends and family in a casual email, post it as your gchat or Facebook status, tweet about it via Twitter, or make a comment to this post!

So after all this chitter chatter about what you should do, I'm sure you're wondering what I'll be doing. I plan to do two things (b/c I always have to complicate it). First, I will not eat baked goods for 46 days-unless they are homemade. And secondly, I will not eat after 8:30 except once a week. How about you?


H 2 the izz-O

So...I have had this post drafted on my phone since before Halloween. Once again, another crazy 3 weeks…When I get really busy, unfortunately, my normal schedule is turned inside out and stress usually makes me eat, act, and feel differently. I’m sure you can relate… Although I have been getting better at managing how I respond to stress, I hit a new low one day in October.

Work has been busy with my boss on maternity leave, I started my warm up classes for my health counseling program, and have been working on something big personally involving lots of paperwork. It hit a peak on Oct. 22. I started the day with an awesome vinyasa yoga class at 7:00. Then I headed to work. There I found out that I had forgotten some paperwork at home. I headed home, searched high and low for my paperwork, and then headed back to work. By 11:00, I had only eaten a banana for the day and not drank anything. One of my friends at work had graciously gotten me a coffee so I toasted my Cosi bagel, spread some cream cheese and pumpkin butter on it (yum!) and started eating the bagel and drinking the coffee while prepping for my 1:00 meeting. It was a huge bi-monthly meeting that I lead and I wanted to sound cool, calm, and collected while sounding like I knew what I was saying. Unfortunately I was shaking while I was talking throughout the entire meeting. I thought, oh I must be still running on adrenaline or it’s the coffee or maybe I was really that nervous for the meeting. It lasted the entire hour of the meeting. After, I went back to my desk and finally had a chance to chill out.

It was a crazy morning, a lot of rushing, prepping for the meeting, a rushed breakfast/lunch, and nervousness about facilitating the meeting. That could really send someone over the edge. But those things were the least of my issues. My biggest issue was that I was completely dehydrated!! Since getting up at 6:00, I had gone to yoga, during which I did not drink water (that will be explained in another post) and headed to work. I ate a banana and then started the craziness. I chose the coffee over water thinking that was what I needed to wake up.

I’m usually VERY hydrated. I frequent the restroom often and fill my water bottle constantly at work. My carelessness that morning had my body in a complete tizzy. Once I got to my desk and downed half a bottle of water, I started feeling better almost immediately. I have heard from so many people that they don’t feel thirsty so they don’t need to drink water. That is not true. Drinking water is essential on a cellular level. Don’t let it get to the point where you are shaking, stuttering and can’t think straight. Those are really the most extreme symptoms. It’s crazy to think that the majority of us are dehydrated. We drink coffee to jumpstart our day and then drink caffeinated beverages throughout the day to stay awake, but our bodies may just need some good ol’ H2O to jumpstart our day. Or read my post on lemon water and try that every morning for a week.

until next time,
drink & drink often


Limes & Tangelos & Pears, Oh my!

I had an interesting conversation with a coworker, let’s call her J, on Thursday about fruit. Apparently, in a meeting, someone mentioned that fruit should be eaten alone and not until 4 hours after a meal.  This is something I learned 6 months ago in my detox class and have been practicing since (but generally I say 2-3 hours not 4). There are many thoughts about fruit combining from the many food modalities. Some agree and some disagree. Some are based on more intuitive reasoning while others are validated by science. This theory on fruit is generally proven by both thoughts. Ayurveda and modern science supports this.  Ayurveda believes that fruit is best in the morning and separate from other foods.  Modern science explains that fruit decomposes or breaks down quicker than any other food and should not be eaten in combination with other foods to gas and indigestion.  If you eat fruit after a large meal, like say a hamburger with fries and a chocolate shake, the hamburger, bun, and fatty shake will be digested first. During the time that those components are being digested (let’s not even start at how big a food combining no-no that meal is), your banana is sitting in your esophagus rotting away. This starts to cause gas and indigestion and you’re most likely not going to get all, if any, of the nutrients from the fruit at that point.
So, after my convo with J on Thursday, I thought I would send her an email with some links on food combining charts.  She responded and asked “Can you tell me again why it matters what combinations of foods we eat?”  Here below is my response. I apologize for the choppy writing but I was writing it at work ;)

Well, there are a combination of reasons.  One is the enzymes that it takes to digest the food, second is simply being able to digest the food.  I’m very logical when I think of our bodies so excuse me if I don’t get a specific body part or nutrient correct. 
I’m going to TRY to be short and sweet with this but the answer to that question is multi-faceted:
  1. Enzymes: your body needs enzymes to digest food.  We produce a good amount of enzymes ourselves.  Also, raw foods have enzymes in it but once we heat/cook our food up to about 117 degrees we kill the enzymes-hence the popularity of a raw food diet.  When the food we ingest does not have the enzymes to digest it, we have to produce it. This takes some time and is taxing on the body.  I also think that when some enzymes are present, others are not. I have to brush up on some of this info.  A little good to know-amylase, the enzyme that breaks down starches, is only produced in the mouth, so chew your bread, oatmeal, etc. more.
Oh that brings me to another point-Americans tend to INHALE their food.  Larger food chunks going down to the stomach have to break down to smaller pieces before being broken down to the nutrients. So chew your food.
  1. Digesting: So combining foods can affect a lot of things including your energy level and nutrition absorption which can stem from how you digest your food.
a. Energy level: So your body spends A LOT of energy on digesting your food.  Proteins are very difficult to digest b/c of the amino acid chains that make up protein.  Your stomach has to take apart and rearrange the chains to make them appropriate for your body.  Plus most of the protein we eat is cooked which means more enzymes.  And there is info on how carbs and other things break down, but the long and short of it is that there are 1) certain foods that are plain bad for you; 2) the more food you eat, the harder it is to digest and 3) the more variety in the foods you eat, the harder it is to digest.  Think about the concept of food coma.  It’s not fictional. Try to think of the last time you had food coma-it probably wasn’t after have a large green salad or place of fruit, but probably after you had a plethora of foods (e.g., Thanksgiving dinner).  These large meals really affect our energy levels or even smaller meals with 10 different ingredients can do that
b. Nutrition absorption: I don’t know enough about this to say a lot but basically eating certain foods can together can inhibit the absorption of nutrition.

Hope this was helpful and a stepping stone to discovering what food combining is all about.  I’m going to start my warm-up classes so look for future posts!

Until next time,
Eat fruit, but only alone!


when life gives you lemons...

I participated in a cleanse in April to reset my diet, especially after a lackadaisical and gluttonous winter. It was held at Back Bay Yoga, one of the awesome studios in Boston that I frequent, and lead by an instructor who is self-taught in Ayurveda. She had the participants apply some Ayurvedic principles to our diets and our lifestyles. To put it simply, Ayurveda is the scientific arm of yoga developed over the thousands and thousands of years that yoga has existed. One of the more known areas of Ayurveda is diet and health. I will definitely delve more into this topic but I don’t want to stray away from the original intention of this post. And that is to tell you about a nugget of information that I learned and have practiced almost everyday since April-lemon tea.

I start everyday with a lemon tea concoction which I have named my “lemonaid.” I use it to wake me up and to get my digestive system going. There are so many cleansing properties to the drink. Also, two added bonuses are that 1) I start the day by hydrating myself with about 1.5 cups of water and 2) in the winter, I will start the day feeling nice and toasty. Not that kind of toasty! I mean nice and warm from my favorite ingredient in the drink-cayenne pepper!

So how do I make this drink?

Well first, I juice half of a lemon-organic if possible-then I add about a teaspoon of raw honey and a couple of dashes of cayenne pepper. As you get used to the drink, you can adjust the amount of each to taste. Next, I fill half of my mug with filtered water from my fridge and then fill it to the top with boiling water. Ultimately, you want the water to be warm in order to gain the most benefits from it. I unfortunately do not have a thermos to keep water warm in my apartment so I boil the water and mix. Now, the reason I mix it in that order is because the direct heat from the boiling water can destroy the enzymes in the lemon and raw honey. This may be taking it a little too far but in my mind, I’m preserving some of the nutrients. Lastly, I drink it with a straw due to the acidity of the water.

As I mentioned, there are many cleansing properties to the drink, specifically from the lemon and cayenne. I don't have all of the medical/scientific reasoning behind it but this post from Making Love in the Kitchen nicely spells it out. For those looking for another resource for alternative health advice, methods, and recipes, I highly recommend this site.

I think it is pretty impressive that I have been so diligent with drinking this water. But the key to it is to go slowly, take it one day at a time. I feel that adopting a healthy lifestyle is a process. If you change it all at once, it will be too overwhelming. Start by introducing small changes that you can dedicate yourself to. Eventually, it will become a (healthy) habit. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day. Just hop back on the wagon the next morning. Rome wasn’t built in a day-how do you expect to change your lifestyle in a day?

until next time,
make lemon aid!


paul pitchford& veggies

And there goes the summer…and a little bit of fall...needless to say, it’s been a little crazy around here. Summer was full of activity and before I knew it, it had come and gone and most of September involved a 3-week trip to China! Now, it’s back to reality, back to a regular schedule and also, (hopefully) back to a regular blogging schedule.

Last post, I said I would speak a bit what Paul Pitchford lectured on during the IIN Open House.

Paul started the lecture by saying that he turned vegan overnight and has never looked back. Sounds pretty impossible and in my opinion, it is. Most people cannot accomplish a drastic change in diet like. Especially in the Western world. But Paul went on to say that although his diet transformed overnight, he spent 6 years preparing for that change. His preparation took place in 2 areas of his life before he even touched his diet. The first was intuition and awareness which he achieved through contemplation and self-reflection. So much of changing oneself is changing the mental aspect. I don’t have any more notes about this but I think that he was referring to intuition and self-awareness. Not only gaining a better understanding of what your body needs vs. what society says it needs, but also understanding where you stand in this world. Second was physical activity. He focused on physical activity because doing so helps strengthen digestion which in turn helps you absorb nutrients more easily. He made a point to say that physical activity doesn't mean you need to run a mile. Walking and gentle exercises like some forms of yoga are great places to start. The beautiful thing is walking and yoga can help you with intuition and awareness as well as your physical wellbeing. The last component to his change was the diet itself. Becoming intuitive does not only mean becoming in touch with yourself but also with the world around you. An awareness of equilibrium and morality is achieved. This is where a vegetarian diet comes into play. Being vegetarian is (traditionally) non-harmful and harmonious with the world.

The bulk of his lecture was a comparison of the Mediterranean and Japanese diets. He focuses on these two diets because it appears that two islands in those regions have attained the “fountain of youth.” In Crete and Okinawa reside two of the oldest populations in the world. Being a centenarian on those islands is almost normal! The Mediterranean and Japanese diets are very similar in principle-heavily based on fruits and vegetables and local food. He cited studies showing the benefits of the Cretian and Okinawan diets. He also spent a good amount of time describing T. Colin Campbell's work, The China Study, the largest, longest running, and most comprehensive population health study. The study shows a correlation between a typical traditional Chinese diet, which is heavily based on vegetables, and good health. Even with higher levels of healthcare and the “modern” lifestyle in the West, the Chinese have lower levels of cancer, heart disease, and get this, osteoperosis! The US’s meat-focused diet, including milk, is the root cause of the aforementioned “dietary diseases” (a term Paul used that I will be stealing :) among many other sicknesses. Paul states that the perfect diet is a fusion of the Okinawa and Crete diets, two islands known for their inhabitants who live very long lives. This diet is one of fresh fruit, full-fat goat or sheep cheese and yogurt, little red meat, local, organic food, fermtened foods, sea vegetables, fermented soy, and little dairy.

I definitely recommend that you read The China Study, especially for those who are more comfortable with science than logic when it comes to health. You don’t have to be a PhD to understand what Campbell is saying and the study is not sponsored by some no name company or Vegetable Farmers for America (aside: anyone ever see those corn syrup commercials that are sponsored by the Corn Growers of America??). Three prestigious schools, Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, have been partners in this study.

I hope this post has enlightened you on a little bit of what one of the biggest names in health thinks and also on a resource that you can tap into at home to understand a more of the benefits of a vegetarian diet. Look for more posts in the future about Paul Pitchford as I received his book, Healing With Whole Foods, for my birthday and will be diving into it as I prepare for my classes.

until next time,
eat more veggies!


the next step

I just realized it's been a whole MONTH since I've last posted! I totally apologize! Life's been pretty busy with spring cleaning (yes, I'm a tad late on that), family visiting, work, trying to enjoy the sun when I can, lamenting the 30 days of rain, etc.

This past weekend in particular was quite hectic. I worked Friday night and Saturday brunch service. Then I headed on a bus down to New York City where I managed to pack Pinkberry, family, dancing, Chinatown, and shopping in 18 hours!

It was a really awesome weekend but the highlight of my trip and the reason I went to New York in the first place was attending an open house for the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. IIN is a school that teaches you many different food modalities, basically different food philosophies or diets, and how to counsel people with that knowledge. In the end, you are certified to be a holistic health counselor by the school and the AADP, American Association of Drugless Practitioners. I've been looking at and thinking about the school for almost a year now. I read the book, Integrative Nutrition, written by the founder of the school, Joshua Rosenthal in the Fall and it really resonated with me. The basis of Joshua's food and health philosophy is bioindividuality-that every person is different and there is no "one size fits all" diet for everyone. By learning many different food modalities, you can understand each and apply the appropriate one(s) to fit an individual's biological make-up and lifestyle.

The program is a series of classes that you attend on the weekends for a 6 month period. Classes are held in Lincoln Center and features different speakers each day including leaders of the industry like Andrew Weil, Deepak Chopra, and T. Colin Campbell. (Paul Pitchford spoke at the Open House-look for my thoughts in my next post!) Although I’ve been looking at the school for a while now and could have applied for the 2009 series, finances and doubt, internal and external, stopped me. But with some big picture/life things going on lately and a shift in my mindset, I am totally ready to take this leap

So, I have tentatively enrolled and once I speak to an admissions counselor next week, I will be set to go! I'll be sure to keep you updated on everything I learn as I’ll have access to their online information and forums once I enroll.

until next time,
no regrets