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
- 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.
- 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.
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!
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!
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!
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,
Tree or Vrksasana is a challenging balance pose with several variations. You stand on one leg while the other leg is with the foot on your standing leg’s inner thigh or calf or in half lotus. Your arms can be in prayer in front of the heart, above your head or outstretched, hands in yoga mudra. The variation that you take is dependent on several factors-your stage of development in that pose, how flexible your hips are, and also just how balanced you are feeling that day. Some days, no matter how hard I try, I cannot balance while my foot is on my upper thigh. However, the one thing I never do is place my foot on my standing knee.
For some reason, tree pose is used in ads to depict yoga, balance, peacefulness, or health of some sort. Unfortunately and frustratingly, I have seen countless pictures in advertisements AND on fitness(!) magazines and sites that display pictures of women in a tree pose with their foot on their knee. My most recent issue of Shape (which I love) had an advertisement with a pretty woman in a tube top swimsuit in a horribly incorrect tree pose. Looking up the words “tree” “pose” “yoga” in Google Images returns several pictures where tree pose is being shown in incorrect form on respectable sites including Fitsugar.com, chopra.com, and theholisticcare.com. There is also a disturbing one of these children at camp where many are doing the pose with their foot on their knees.
The benefits of yoga are wide and varied but a pose must be done correctly. Otherwise, your alignment is off and there is much pain and little gain. When the instructor tells you to get into tree pose, the gym mentality sometimes seeps in and you may think, “Oh well, I can’t get my foot all the way up my thigh, so I’ll put it as high as I can-on my knee-even though the instructor said not to.” When you place your foot on your knee, you are defeating the purpose of yoga in two ways. First and foremost, you are not recognizing, understanding, and respecting your limitations. You didn’t learn how to shoot a 3-pointer in one day, so don’t expect to learn a pose in one day. In basketball, we can only do so much to put the ball into the hoop, but unfortunately, in the case of yoga, we sometimes think we can coax the body into position-leading to a second kind of harm: physical harm. In tree pose, your standing leg already has your entire body weight on it and is trying to keep you upright; when your foot is on your knee, you are not only placing additional weight onto the standing knee but you are putting sideways pressure on it! This pushes your knees in an unnatural position which can cause you to become even more unbalanced. To compensate, you may even lock your knee to try to ensure that you stay standing. You may think that all of these factors are no big deal if you do it once in a while or until you work-up to placing your foot onto your thigh but in reality, you are stressing your knee, as if our knees don’t get abused enough. Please please respect your body, listen to your instructor, and protect your knees.
So until next time,
Many Westerners, me included, are first exposed to yoga through their gym or a physical fitness class at school. After we get past the idea that yoga is simply stretching, we see it as a rigorous physical exercise-after all, we do practice it in a gym. However, perfecting the physical practice is not the ultimate purpose of yoga. Yoga is not practiced so that we can develop extraordinary flexibility and fold into a pretzel shape or gain massive core strength to balance into crow pose, then a tripod headstand and then lower ourselves in slow motion into chataranga. Although yogis can do amazing things with their bodies, those movements are only a means to the ultimate goal(for lack of a better word) - achieving a clearer mind or state of consciousness. A dumbed down explanation of it is that yoga is a moving meditation pairing physical movements with proper breathing to achieve clarity of the mind and thus strengthening the awareness between mind and body and universe.
Unfortunately, people's perception of yoga as strictly a physical exercise does perpetuate if individuals are never exposed to instructors who speak about yoga as a holistic practice or they choose to ignore their hippie instructor or perhaps they never even hear their instructor because they are too busy trying to stick every pose while checking themselves out in the mirror. The gym mentality is a strong and ugly beast that is bolstered by the American emphasis on competition. Admit it-there have been times in your practice where you want to be more flexible, more balanced, more focused and ironically, more yogic than the guy or girl next to you. The first step is identifying these instances and the next step is to shift your mentality.
I wanted to touch briefly on this topic tonight because I wanted to plant the seed that the practice of yoga is not actually fully yoga until you recognize the mind element of it. Maybe this will provide you with the revelation you have been looking for to elevate your practice or perhaps it is a stepping stone to your understanding of yoga. Either way, I think this awareness can at the very least, help you start respecting the practice as a whole. So next time, don’t roll your eyes when your instructor spends time breaking down ujjayi breath, instead, let it empower your practice and take your mind and body further.
Until next time,
breathe deeply & practice clearly
When my life gets hectic, sleep, then exercise, and then mindful eating habits fall by the wayside-creating a horrible mind.body imbalance during a time when I could use it the most. Luckily, weeks like this are more of an exception than the rule. My previous job, as a consultant, required consistently longer hours week-in and week-out. It was in the “Bull Pen” that I gained my “Freshman 15”-snacking on nuts, devouring chocolate, eating late dinners from the Grand Central market and gulping 11PM iced double espressos with a shot of chocolate. It would have been a quick downward spiral into obesity, depression, and general overall poor health if it weren’t for one factor-yoga.
Now how can I attribute my current lifestyle and beliefs to one single thing? To my fellow yogis, you will agree with me when I say that yoga is more than what meets the eye and also its benefits are in the eyes of the yogi or yogini. When I was first introduced to yoga, I saw it as a reason to get out of the office, spend some time with co-workers, and get some “exercise.” I don’t remember my exact opinion of yoga before, but I’m pretty sure I saw it as a frou frou “workout” that was a bunch of stretching and then allowed you to sleep at the end it. HAHA, man was I ever wrong! I remember one of the first times I felt that yoga was an actual workout. I was in triangle, stretching my right hand up and feeling every tendon in my upper arm fidgeting. That was an awesome sensation and something I look back on often to remind myself the surprises that yoga holds.
For those who know me, I have become a huge advocate of yoga (and I believe rightfully so!) I believe that my growing awareness of the mind and body (the basis of this blog) can be attributed to my yoga practice and the people I have met that have influenced my practice. Each and every time I get on the mat to practice, I encounter unbelievable challenges-both physically and mentally. I spread the word because I want those that I care about to not only feel all their arm tendons but above that, I also want them to experience the awareness that comes with yoga. And now my blog is just another avenue for me to shout on the top of the virtual rooftops my love for it:)
I will not write any further about this topic since I could go on for hours about all the different aspects of it. Don’t worry though! This mind.body exercise will be featured often and proudly on Potluck Orchard. In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts on yoga -how it’s affected your life, your favorite pose, your most challenging pose, your introduction into it, etc. If you have not tried yoga yet, I encourage you to go out there and take a class at your gym or a local studio-actually take 10 since that is about how many it takes to start understanding it more deeply-then come back and tell me about it!
Until next time,
breathe deeply and pose
The rules are simple: eat nothing but fruit for 3 days. For me, that means eating any assortment of oranges, apples, grapes, grapefruits, pears, strawberries, bananas, and the occasional pomelo. This also includes tomatoes and avocados which are the savory savors of the cleanse. :) However, actually going through the cleanse is not as easy or delicious as it sounds. The three main challenges (isn’t it strange how things come in three’s?) are overcoming: 1) our habits; 2) our aversion to limitations; and 3) our propensity for distraction.
our.habits: Like I mentioned in the last post, we have many lifestyle habits, especially concerning food. Breaking our habits is extremely hard and requires a lot of willpower, especially when it is self-induced. This cleanse provides a little bit of structure to test our willpower. We can rationalize the hell out of it but at the end of the day, we never really NEED anything. This is something I try to remind myself, whether I am on a cleanse or not. Tonight, for instance, I was rationalizing that my Teddie’s All Natural Crunchy Peanut Butter would be appropriate for the cleanse because peanuts are legumes, which are technically fruits. But I reminded myself of the reason I was doing this in the first place and settled down to a dinner of avocado, strawberry, and tomato salad with thoughts of peanut butter cookies dancing in my head. It is a long road to breaking those habits, but I see the cleanse as a pit stop to revisit periodically to get me back on track.
our.aversion.to.limitations: When you used to ask your mom for cookies before dinner and she said no, how much more did you want them? We don’t deal well with limitations and never will. This cleanse is all about retraining our minds and allowing ourselves to see that limitations will not ruin us. We don’t need to eat 3-6 different meals each day to survive nor do we need to eat everything but the kitchen sink for every meal. Actually, it is easier on our digestive system to limit the variety of foods that we eat in one sitting. And remember, there is always tomorrow to enjoy those cookies.
our.propensity.for.distraction: Food often serves as a distraction mechanism. Either from itself (at the buffet, how many of us actually taste our bland cubes of jello atop overly spicy chicken wings atop soggy French toast atop greasy lo mein noodles?) or from other issues (at a family reuinion, how many of us stuff our faces instead of partaking in a conversation of how well cousin Johnny is doing in med school?). Going on this cleanse gives us a bit of breathing room allowing us to focus on other aspects of our lives. Focusing on other things will be easier because frankly, by the afternoon of your first day, eating fruits will be so monotonous that you will only eat when you are hungry. Lessening the distractions of our days helps us not only to take a step back and be more aware of ourselves, but also start to observe what is going on around us- details that we’ve previously overlooked.
A fruit cleanse is a vehicle that brings out and makes us aware of our attachment to food. It seems simple enough but this cleanse that appears to only limit us physically challenges us very much psychologically. Giving ourselves the opportunity to check back in with our body is crucial to our mind.body connection.
Until next time, be strong and be aware.
Back in the days of the cavemen and cavewomen, humankind’s biggest concerns were to survive from one day to the next. Due to the scarcity of food, we only ate when we were hungry or when there was food to be had. When it was dark, we would sleep. Modern developments have made absent many of the issues that our ancestors dealt with, like scarcity of food, light, and warmth. Although our world has changed dramatically, I do not believe we have changed that much psychologically. We still act on instincts and have carnal desires. However, in today’s society, our desire to survive is no longer the issue. Instead, we focus on attaining pleasure. Unfortunately, that shift from survival to pleasure is the root of the growing disconnect between the mind and body.
Now you may think, is it a crime to want to be happy? It is not a “crime” until you start to hurt yourself. In modern day, we have instant access to almost anything that we want and are often so overstimulated that it is easy to be caught up in attaining gratification and ignore our bodies’ needs. Additionally, we have become so ego-centric that what we think is right for our body, not our common sense or intelligence, makes our decisions for us. Our desire for pleasure is very complicated but ultimately, it leads to our seeking euphoria-usually a false sense of it. This false sense of happiness often coincides with a complete disregard for what the body really needs.
There are one-off cases of pursuing instant gratification but many times, our desire manifests itself into habits. I’m sure you have heard the saying, “Humans are creatures of habits.” And that is because habits are developed around repeated experiences that provide us the feeling of pleasure-what we are all ultimately seeking. Habits become so ingrained into our lives that sometimes we do not even recognize them as habits, but as the norm. This ill-recognition is one of the main indicators of the mind.body DISconnection.
Now, you may think that this post contains many broad statements about the general population and does not apply to you. You are right to think that because habits range from the very minor to the extreme. The indications of extreme are addictions like alcoholism, obesity, and drug abuse. But I am adamant when I say that everybody has a habit that has caused them to ignore their body at one point or another-including you. How many times have you stayed up later to catch a TV show that you ALWAYS watch when your body is telling you that you are tired and need sleep? Have you ever gone back to the buffet line one too many times only to feel nausea and stomach pain later? You may think that missing a little sleep to catch that TV show is not a big deal, but it is safe to say that this was not the only time you ignored your body. Constantly disregarding the body is dangerous. It may be hard to believe, but the body actually knows what we need better than ourselves. Before we examine our bodies’ relationship with external factors, we need to restore this relationship within ourselves.
Amid the hustle and bustle of our lives, it is easy to get lost in our thoughts and be clouded from what our bodies need. I encourage everyone to live quietly the upcoming week, or even just the next few days. Take off those iPod buds on your commute to work and listen to your body. Before you reach for that second helping at dinner, think, “Does my body really need this or is it just a habit for me to have a second helping?” Recognizing the disconnect is a huge accomplishment unto itself. It is the first step in restoring the mind.body connection.
Until next time, listen and learn.
*The mind.body connection is a very extensive both biologically and psychologically. I have only chosen to cover one aspect that serves to support my idea of the harmful disconnection between the mind and body.
I have always loved food. In every aspect. Sure, I love to cook and bake. But I also make grocery lists weekly, stroll the supermarket aisles daily, browse recipe sites late into the night, read food blogs often at the detriment of my productivity at work, and surf various sites salivating at gadgets and gizmos for the kitchen. There is something about food that allows me to completely immerse myself into it.
In the past year, my obsession with food has gone full circle to include its effects on the mind and body. I’m still surprised that my attraction to food did not automatically transition into a curiosity of how it influences the mind and body. It’s perfectly logical but at the same time, I’m not sure how many “food centric” people can say that they have examined this relationship. At first, it seemed like it would be simple to learn—science has “proven” certain foods are good for you and others are bad. Little did I know that the extensive Health & Nutrition section at the bookstore isn’t there just for show.
Food is integral to the body’s functions; it is the fuel allowing the body to operate. Like any fuel, it can allow you to run optimally or inadequately. You’ll make it to your final destination (e.g., writing that quarterly report) but what you eat can actually effect how long it will take for you to get there, the quality of the end product, and how you feel throughout the process. Many, many people have theorized on the food.mind.body connection. So as you can imagine, my investigation in the Health & Nutrition section has become much more extensive than I initially anticipated. Since first diving into this topic, I have had extensive conversations with friends and accumulated a lot of knowledge via books, websites, workshops, and personal experience. But I have been overwhelmed by the breadth of information and have not been able to develop a clear opinion and theory of on my own on food and its relationship with the mind and body.
After months of reading and processing facts, figures and opinions, I decided that a blog would be the best avenue for me to synthesize and share my readings and experiences. I think that feedback and opinions—the contribution from readers to this Potluck blog will really help my progress. Be forewarned that, on occasion, I will still explore the Cookbook section of the bookstore and feature some not-as-healthy food. After all, it is unrealistic to think that in our modern day culture, we will be healthful 100% of the time. At the end of the day, it is about finding balance in our lifestyles and hopefully, this blog will be our guide through the journey to attain it.