Women, weight gain, and menopause; Part two – exercise!

When I wrote in my last blog post about women’s belly fat in menopause, people took notice. Belly fat can definitely happen as we age – for women and men alike. The article centered primarily on the stress hormone, cortisol and the implications of high-stress levels throughout life. Stress causes us to gain weight, and for many who are considered obese, stress is a principal cause both early and later in life.

One of the big questions I get from my clients is how to plan workouts for optimal weight and overall wellness.  The good news is that you do not need to train for a marathon to optimize your workout routine and control your weight.  If you believe that, go back and read my blog post “Lessons from a Fat Runner”.  Additionally, it’s absolutely important for you to understand that obsessive exercise including excessive cardio work, causes high stress in the body. Remember, cortisol is the stress hormone and when activated, it scurries through the body looking for new ways and special places to store energy or fat because you’ve put your body into fight or flight mode. Stop that. Stop it right now.

The truth is, an ideal exercise routine for every human on this planet (unless you ARE specifically training for a high-intensity competition like a marathon, century ride, or Ironman) consists of 3 things:

  • You need to get the heart-rate up the equivalent of 2.5 hours a week or approximately 150-175 minutes a week (Mishra, N). For me, this consists of running every day-ish for about 30 minutes. Some weeks it’s more, some less ~ and certainly it’s more if I’m training. If you don’t run, walk really fast, ride a bike, use a stair-stepper, do high-intensity intervals, step up and down on a sturdy block or stair (add a few weights if you like), jump-rope, skip, chase your kids or grandkids around the yard, swim a lot, play racquetball or tennis;
  • Throw heavy stuff around. This does NOT need to be in a gym. Get a 20-25 pound kettle bell and swing it around. Do squats with it. Hold it over your head and walk from one end of the room to the other and back. Pace a room doing lunges holding onto two 5 or 10 pound dumbbells in each hand. Swing a gallon of water around. Hang from a tree. See how far you can pull yourself up. Carry a baby and do some baby-bench presses. Play airplane with your kids and balance them on your feet. Swing a sledge hammer. Chop wood. Dig a garden. Do squats while you pull weeds. Push a big tire across your yard. Move some rocks. All of these things will keep your bones healthy and happy;
  • Do some breath/body movement to keep the stress down and thus control the cortisol levels. If you don’t want to do yoga, how about Tai chi, Pilates, Qigong, meditation, or just breathe. For more on this, see my earlier post “Just Breathe“.

That’s your exercise routine. You’ve got this – a little cardio (30 minutes a day), throw heavy stuff around, and breath/body movement. In my next blog post, I’ll talk a little about other hormones, the food we eat, and inflammation and how these things tie back to our weight and overall wellness. If you want to learn more about how I can help you plan your optimal workout and how to eat for peak health and wellness, go to the “Tell Me About You” tab on the main menu and I will be in touch to set up a time to chat and help you set your body goals, and see if one of my programs is a good fit for you.

(Mishra, Nalini and Mishra, V.N. – Exercise beyond menopause; do’s and don’t’s. Journal of Mid-Life Health – July 2011)

Women, weight gain, and menopause: Part one!

A number of my female readers reached out after I posted my last blog post that presented tips on how to control your weight. I knew it was a hot topic, but I was surprised at the number of people who are really concerned and feeling a bit deflated about recent weight gain. Ug. I get it. So let’s talk about it.

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but when we age, our bodies change. Our hormones, metabolism, memory, and all sorts of other things just aren’t what they used to be. But it is a fallacy that all menopausal women (pre, during, and post) gain weight. Let’s take a look at what is happening….

Lifestyle habits are critical to what happens to our minds and bodies throughout life. There are a few habits that can dramatically impact the outcome of our weight as we age (generally speaking! Of course there are other issues related to weight gain. I am not a doctor, so your particular situation may require a deeper dive and a visit with your doctor). Here is habit number 1 that I work on with peeps in my Healthy Habits program. My next few blog posts will cover several other habits related to women, weight gain, and menopause:

  • #1 – The level of stress that we experience across the spectrum of our lives is bad news for the body and mind. High levels of stress throughout life tire out our adrenal glands – they become exhausted, lazy…..dysfunctional. Women, in particular, spend so much time taking care of everyone else that often we neglect our own needs physically and emotionally. Our high-octane lifestyle and stress in the body cause our poor adrenals to wear down. Weight gain happens when our adrenals are dysfunctional. Young women – pay close attention to your levels of stress and develop lifestyle habits to deal so that as you age, your adrenals continue to work well. Why? Keep reading….

Here’s a little more detail about what happens with the adrenals. The adrenals are responsible for the production of many hormones including cortisol, adrenaline, DHEA, etc. The ovaries, on the other hand, produce our sex hormones. As menopause creeps closer and the ovaries produce fewer sex hormones, some of the responsibility shifts to the adrenals. BUT…..if the adrenals are dysfunctional from fatigue, the body will look for yet another hormone-producing helper, and guess where that’s found.  Yep, you guessed it, our fat tissues. As these fat tissues are called into action, the body stores the extra fat in the lower abdomen and just like bad magic, the tummy pooch is born. Now I don’t mean to freak you out, but once the pooch develops, it’s next to impossible to get rid of it. The pooch may be annoying to deal with, but darn it, you don’t need to gain weight. Stay with me…..

Your first line of defense against wearing down your adrenals and possibly experiencing weight gain is to control your stress, no matter your age. Start with meditation, or if that is too woo-woo for you, how about yoga? Don’t like yoga? How about a nice walk? Counting as you breathe? Repeating a mantra (mine is “I am calm, I am calm, I am calm”). Turn off the TV in the evening and allow yourself to sit in silence and reflect. Long, extended exhales.  Journal. Have gratitude. So many ideas. Simple ideas. The difficult part is just doing it.  Do it. Today. Be calm.

I’ll be back soon with more on how to manage weight near, in, or after menopause. Have hope, ladies (and gents because weight gain is a real thing as we age and it happens to all of us). Weight control is all about your habits. Next up: food, drink, sleep, exercise, fasting and detox.

If you are curious about how to get started in the next round of my 12-week program ~ Healthy Habits beginning September 2019 ~ please go to the “Tell Me About You” tab on the main menu, complete the wellness survey and I will be in touch to set up a time to chat and see if the program is a good fit for you.

 

 

Four tips for avoiding the weight gain trap

Eat an early dinner.  Seriously. Just do it! If you eat a late dinner regularly, you risk slowly (or quickly) gaining weight and before you know it, you won’t recognize your former self.

Current studies show over and over again that eating a late, heavy dinner leads to weight gain. The ancient wisdom of Ayurveda teaches that eating an earlier, lighter dinner is the first, and most important self-care practice that will lead to a healthy, happy body (and thus, happy mind and spirit ~ they are all connected, you know). Two cultures collide and support one another. That just doesn’t happen often, so pay attention!

I know it’s a tough concept since our culture (shared by many, many cultures) has built itself (in recent years) on sharing late, heavy meals together – coupled with wine and drinks – finished off with a nice, sugary dessert.

What’s wrong with this scenario? Well, for most Americans, absolutely nothing, but considering over 65% of all people in the US are overweight, maybe it’s not such a great trend. Only you can decide what’s right for you, though. Read on for reasons to kick the late, heavy dinner scenario…

  • Eat your heaviest meal at lunchtime. This is when your digestion – or in Ayurvedic terms – agni – is at its peak and is in the best shape to digest and process your meal;
  • Avoid processed foods with all your might! “Highly processed and refined foods quickly raise blood sugar levels after they are eaten. This means fast food, most packaged foods, foods made with white flour and white rice, white bread, foods with artificial sweeteners, foods with high fructose corn syrup and preservatives, sugar-heavy drinks, etc.” (Dr. John Douillard);
  • Fat metabolism slows down if the body does not have enough time between dinner and breakfast (or breaking of the fast). So eat an earlier dinner and don’t snack afterwards. Close your kitchen and move away from the food. Allow the body to rest and digest for a minimum of 12 hours, though longer is even better;
  • Finally, less food in the stomach allows cortisol levels to drop and allows us to get to sleep earlier, more quickly, and provides a deeper, more productive and nourishing sleep (Dr. John Douillard). When this happens, you wake earlier without a heavy gut and constipation which then leads to brain fog, achy joints, and overall physical and mental grumpiness.

Hmmm…..sounds a lot like a vicious cycle, doesn’t it?! It does not need to be. Interested in learning more about ways to improve your overall health and wellness through the simple habits of Ayurveda? Join my 11-week Healthy Habits course in March of 2018. Learn self-care strategies that will make you feel amazing and happy to see your reflection each day.

 

Lessons from a fat runner…

Now, using the word fat is probably an exaggeration, but I’m not far off in my use of the word so hang in there with me while I explain. I’ve been a distance junkie for many, many years. I’ve run marathon after marathon, countless distances from 5k to 26.2, a dozen or so ultras (those beyond marathon distance), triathlons, ultra-swimming distances, etc. It may sound like I’m bragging, and from a “git r done” perspective, I am a little. But what I want to tell you about are my two ultimate athletic failures and what I learned from those failures.

First, in 2008, I ran 8 marathon or longer races.  Some of these races were only a week apart. I was in great running shape. But I looked a little like the Pillsbury Dough (wo)man. Back then, I had no idea how or what to eat. I ate everything, anything, anytime I wanted. I was a runner! HEAR ME ROAR! When I was hungry, I was like the plant in Little Shop of Horrors.  You could hear me from far distances – FEED ME! Ask my husband, he’ll back me up on this one. So failure #1 – I was a chubby distance runner.

Next, in 2015, I competed in my one and only Ironman full distance triathlon in Couer d Alene, Idaho – my only DNF (did not finish) in all the years of running, swimming, and biking. I worked with a professional coach, spent gobs of money, learned too much about heart-rate and zone training, trained so many hours that I simply cannot count them because it’s too depressing, and said no to friends and family and co-workers to anything that did not involve riding my bike 80 miles. I had no life. And again, I ate and ate and ate. I wasn’t fat like I was in 2008, but I wasn’t healthy. To be fair to myself, I was in about the best shape athletically as I’ve ever been and the thrill of completing “most” of 140.6 miles was awesome. But after the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile hilly bike ride, and 13 of the 26 miles I was to run, it was game over.  I passed out and melted down and ended up in the medical tent. Why? Failure #2 – I was a disaster at understanding my nutritional needs for my lifestyle.

(Photo is from my Coeur d Alene swim with 2,300 of my Ironman buddies)

Here are the lessons I learned: 1) no matter what the books tell you, eating as much as you want and carb loading like a lunatic is NOT good for you. There are numerous sources today that give good advice on how to burn fat for fuel instead of relying upon spaghetti, cereal, pop tarts, or a loaf of bread (I’d be happy to provide in further detail for anyone who cares); 2) protein does not necessarily mean meat. I’m not evangelizing veganism here, but there are so many places to get protein in the plant world that it would rock your world if you opened your mind to new ideas. Eating a hunk of chicken or a steak with your meal is NOT necessary, and in fact, I would argue, is not a good way to get the protein you need for your well-balanced and healthy diet; and 3) fats can be something other than cooking with a ton of oil, including extra virgin olive oil, which I LOVE, but think avocado and coconut for a natural, whole food fat.

If you want to learn more or have a chat about nutrition for your lifestyle, reach out to me. I will be leading an 11-week Healthy Habits course which includes lots of good stuff about eating, beginning in March 2018. I’d love to have you on this journey with me as we work to evolve and align our habits to make our lives and hobbies like running, walking, hiking, jogging, cycling, swimming, cross-fit, knitting and so on, better. Thrive on, my friends.

 

 

 

Don’t be a sleep deprived zombie! Tips for becoming a better sleeper – slay the sleeping zombie!

I am the best sleeper I know. Ask anyone that knows me well….my family, my friends, ask my co-workers who I often travel with. When it’s time for sleep, there is no compromise. I’m not embarrassed. I make no excuses, no apologies. I just sleep well – peacefully – deeply – habitually.

It has always been easy for me, but I have also cultivated some habits throughout my life that have helped me become the A+ zombie-slayer sleeper that I am. I’ve also learned a few lessons along the way, and these were valuable. Here is my list of how to go from being a sleep-deprived zombie to a zombie slayer – ready to take on anything:

  • Early to rise. This is a habit that can take some time, but get your butt out of bed early. I get up at 4:30 almost every day – I drink my quart of water, do a few sun salutations, stretch, poop, and either meditate or just contemplate. Getting up early gives me the “me” time I crave. I am an extreme introverted-extrovert. I love being “out there” – in charge of the world, but I must, I repeat – I MUST have “me” time that involves me and my thoughts without expectations or an agenda. Me time. Best part of the day. And then off I go to either teach yoga or go for a run – or both. Everything we do in life is a habit. It may be difficult to get up early, so go for the B-. Make a plan and celebrate one day at a time.
  • Work like a beast during the day. I believe in hard work. I’m a fundraiser which means if I do not work hard, I fail. Again, no compromises. Work, work, work…..it’s for a good cause, so although the stress can get to me sometimes, I have learned to breathe and keep it in perspective. You may be thinking – “great, but that’s not my life….I’m a stay-at-home-mom, or a postal worker, or (fill in the blank)” – it does not matter what you do for a living – just work hard, play hard and wind yourself down so you are tired at night.
  • Don’t watch TV. Just don’t do it. I’m very fortunate to have been raised in a home where TV was not allowed for the most part. My parents owned a TV but it was on only after permission was granted. My dad would often turn on the “boob tube” with no sound and fall asleep watching a baseball game or golf (oh my gosh – have you ever watched golf on TV……zzzzzzzz ~ now there is a way to get a good nap). The blue light from TV is awful and the constant input and bombardment and overstimulation is awful. Give it up. Throw it away. Walk away. Just don’t watch TV. If you are hooked, record your favorite zombie show, give yourself a time-allowance for TV and stick to it. The less stimulation and noise in your head in the evening, the better. If you allow the chatter of a TV into your brain, you’re as dead as a zombie. Please don’t be offended. Just turn the stupid thing off and walk away. Play chess, read a book, read to your kid, make some broth for tomorrow, oil massage your feet, do yoga, go for a long walk with your spouse, weed the garden, dust your furniture, write in your journal, draw pictures, color in a coloring book…..just please, for crying out loud, TURN THE BOOB TUBE OFF. Quiet the mind. Slow down. Breathe. Calm……
  • Don’t do a hard workout before sleep. If you run in the evening, switch it up. Try it at another time during the day. Experiment. Journal the results. It will likely make a difference.
  • Your time on the pillow is the most personal, intimate, quiet “me time” that you have in your life. The only people or thoughts allowed in your head when pillow time arrives, are those people and thoughts that YOU allow in. This is where I excel. Stress, you are NOT welcome. Difficult people, you are NOT welcome. Yesterday, you are NOT welcome. Tomorrow, you are NOT welcome. It is up to YOU who and what is allowed on your pillow. Set rules. Hard rules. You are not shooting for a B- here. Sleep is where you want to work for an A. Keep a notebook by your bed if you’re constantly bothered by thoughts of what you need to do or things you need to remember. Write them down and sleep. If I am bothered by a thought, I tell it “YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE”. Does that sound weird? Probably – but try it. Set the rule. Be firm. No compromises. Go for the A. Do not allow thoughts and stress to join you during pillow time.

When we are sleep deprived, our physical being and all of our interactions and reactions to the world are strained. We are red-eyed, exhausted, walking around bumping into things – we are zombies. You can control this. You write your own rules – so write them now (actually write them down), be firm with yourself. It takes practice but you can do it. Be the zombie-slayer….save yourself and learn to sleep.

If you want to learn more or have a chat, reach out to me. I will be leading an 11-week Healthy Habits course beginning in March 2018. I’d love to have you on this journey with me as we work to evolve and align our habits to make our lives better, filled with sleep ~ zombie-free. This is my promise to you.

The Anatomy of a Good Poop; 2 top tips for the perfect morning poop

I know this topic is a little edgy for some.  But there are few things in life that can either completely make your day or ruin it.  And a good poop, or lack thereof, is right at the top of the list. As a kid, the topic of poop was absolutely NOT ALLOWED around my dad. He preferred to pretend that certain bodily functions did not exist and having an open conversation about it was absolutely taboo. My sister struggled for many years with severe ulcerative colitis so gut distress was certainly something I was aware of, but did not feel I could ask questions openly or speak freely about the topic. Frankly, I was pretty uncomfortable talking about poop for most of my life.

During my adult life, though, I raised three daughters. A new generation of people! And those people liked and still like to talk about poop (and every other thing you could ever imagine). I am glad for their openness and ability to talk so frankly about a topic that I would never have mentioned as a kid.

Exploring and understanding the anatomy of a good poop is something that I want for myself and for my clients, friends, and family. I love the topic, really I do.  I follow some absolutely brilliant doctors who specialize in gut health, but to be honest, there isn’t a single western medicine doc or practitioner that I’ve found who is interested in talking or educating me on the natural ways to heal an unhealthy gut.  It’s in the holistic world ~ including Ayurveda and Yoga, where I am learning all I’ve ever needed to know about gut health and the process of healthy pooping.  I will list a few of my favorite gut docs at the end of this post.

After reading a recent article by Dr. John Douillard, Ayurveda Practitioner, I decided to write this blog post and share some of his wisdom, as well as information I gathered during my certification with Cornell’s Plant Based Nutrition program.  Yes, its science, but it’s not hard to understand, and for the average person – like me – understanding just a little bit about this process and the unbelievably easy things you can do to heal your gut and activate a good poop, is a game-changer.  Here is the process through which food becomes poop…..

  • Chewing food causes enzymes under your tongue to hop into action and begin to break down the food;
  • Digestive acids in the gut continue this process;
  • Your gallbladder and liver produce bile. Enzymes from the pancreas neutralize the gut acids and continue to break down the food;
  • Color, consistency, and regularity of the stool are ruled by bile which is critical;
  • It’s in the small intestine where mucus is produced which actually forms the stool (or bolus) of food. This is the stage where nutrients are extracted;
  • When the food bolus moves into the large intestine, water is pulled from the bolus and shazaam, you have the perfect poop (theoretically speaking).  (Dr. John Douillard)

So that’s poop!  Pretty easy, wouldn’t you say?

The anatomy of a good poop, though, would not be complete without a discussion about why the process does not work for SO many people. It’s not because your amazing body is unable to poop. For most, it’s not because your body is broken or missing something (although it is certainly true there are many things that can impact your gut beyond what I’m writing in this post). The two biggest culprits responsible for your inability to have a healthy poop in the morning are that you are not drinking enough water in the morning and your eating habits are not optimal for your body.  Here are my top two tips to help you on your quest for the perfect poop:

  • Eat an earlier, lighter dinner and close your kitchen after dinner. Keep your dinner simple and easy to digest. The body needs (and actually craves) a break from the enormous workload it has of constantly digesting the foods you eat. Experiment with eating your evening meal earlier, or better yet, see if you can eat only during the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. (or pick your optimal times)  and allowing the remaining hours in your day/night to rest and digest your gut.  I try to have my morning smoothie after yoga and a short run – around 7 or 8:00.  I try hard to have dinner no later than 6:00 pm.  Many refer to this as intermittent fasting – which is a pretty easy concept, but takes some time to master and for some, it takes having a coach or accountability partner. See if you can find meals for dinner (or SUPper – back in the day, SUP or supper literally meant soup or broth) that are limited to only a few ingredients.  Soups, stews, and salads are ideal.
  • Drink a quart of water in the morning upon waking – BEFORE COFFEE OR TEA. Does that sound like a lot? It’s not, once you get used to it.  When we allow the body to rest and digest throughout the evening, we re-hydrate our entire cellular system. When we drink a quart of room temperature or slightly warm water in the morning, it moves through our intestines and begins to inspire the waste to move out of the body. Our bodies deserve this deep, cellular re-hydration for all that we expect of it throughout the day.  In addition to stalling a morning poop, without hydration, we have inflammation in our joints, our fascia gets gunky, and our muscles cramp. Who wants that? Athletes – if you are not drinking lots of water in the morning, your chance of injury is multiplied.

Poop is the magic elixir of life! Without a good poop in the morning, you are carrying yesterday’s waste into your new day. It hurts just thinking about it! When your system is clean, you can take on the world. So see if you can incorporate a reduced time schedule for your meals and close the kitchen after SUPper. Give the body time to rest and digest. Put a quart mason jar near your bathroom sink or next to the coffee machine in the kitchen and opt for water first and everything else next. Drink, drink, drink and before you know it, a quart of water is no big deal.  Happy pooping!

If you are interested in learning more about how to improve your life and health through simple lifestyle and habit change, consider my 11-week program Healthy Habits.  The next round begins in March ~ I’d love to have a conversation with you about whether the program is a good fit for you.

For your gut-reading pleasure, visit Dr. Robynne Chutkan at www.Gutbliss.com .  She is on Instagram at gutbliss and Dr. John Douillard at www.LifeSpa.com .

 

Does your past trap you in the present and exclude you from the future you really want?

 

I recently attended a conference with 28 women entrepreneurs who share a common goal to create a space for people to improve their health and lives through lifestyle change. At the conference, I was challenged to think about who the “future-Alison” should be and how I want to show up in the world. Interesting concept! I certainly have considered what I don’t want to be – but that’s a whole different blog post.

I feel pretty good about what I have accomplished in my life-both personally and professionally. I still have lofty goals for the future, though, so it’s time for me to rally, make a solid plan, and lose all of the old limiting thoughts, behaviors, and patterns that could hold me back from being “future-Alison”.

What are limiting thoughts and behaviors? Have you ever decided to start eating healthy and one day in to your commitment, things get tough at work and you grab whatever you can find and eat at your desk? Have you ever decided to run a 5k and then every day put off the training run because you’re too busy, too sick, too stressed, the weather is bad, or you just don’t feel like it? Have you ever decided to put off a big move – maybe a job change, a relationship change, or moving to a new area – just because you think the time isn’t right?  Have you ever sacrificed something you really need or want just to satisfy someone who will honestly never be satisfied? These are limiting thoughts and behaviors.  They are patterns that show up in your life – time and time again – and derail you from your goals and dreams.

Here’s my challenge to you: who is the future you? And what is holding you back? Let’s do this together – write down your goal or something about “future-you”.  Quantify your goal – when do you want to hit your goal and become the-new-you? Now here comes the tricky part – think about any patterns or beliefs that limit your ability to reach your goal. For me it is simple. If my goals are not written and in front of my face at all times, I forget. If I do not quantify and stick with a metrics, I forget. If I get busy with daily chaos and lose myself in my email box, I forget. And most importantly, when things get tough and I begin to lose confidence, I scrap my goal and say “forget it – it’s easier to just keep doing the same old same old”. I’ve done it very recently – I recognize it and I don’t like it.

These are patterns that the “old-Alison” was familiar with.  Whether I like them or not, they are familiar, and therefore easier. But no more. My calendar is now filled with blocks of time for me to work on what I need to move forward toward my goals and dreams. There are times that I will not be able to honor the schedule – true – but the time blocks are there to protect and support the person I want to be next.  My coach encourages me to shoot for being a B-, so if I miss a day or two – no big deal.  I can still get that B- if I honor the next two days of “future-Alison” time on the calendar.

So get on it! Figure out who the “future-you” is and put that person in your calendar.  Schedule sacred time for YOU, honor it, and allow the “present-you” to be free of the past and look forward to the future.

 

 

 

 

Just Breathe……..

Just breathe……..

I am a yoga teacher.

I love saying that.

I AM A YOGA TEACHER!

The thing that I love the most about teaching is hearing – anticipating – and really listening to the gentle rhythm of the collective breath of students when they are in flow during a class.  Yes, I really love it (mmmmmm…..pause…..ooommmm).  While teaching, I inform students about the benefits of breath and body movement yet for many, the synchronized breath with movement is allusive.  They forget, or they get caught up in the moment (or moments) of holding the stillness of plank, or the thought of their upcoming paper has taken them right out of the studio and back into the chaos of life.  It happens.  Frequently. So I remind them….”come back to the breath”, “breathe into the body”, “full breath in, full breath out”.  I’m a yoga teacher.  I teach breath-body movement. It’s my job to remind them – to help them find the rhythm….synchronize….breathe….find stillness…..savasana.

I leave the studio most workdays by 7:15 a.m. after an early morning yoga class. Off I go to work – ready to face the day – fresh with a sense of blissfulness that I just helped a room full of people find their rhythm, stretch their bodies, and still their minds. I walk into the office and the emails start – and meetings – and more meetings – phone calls – spreadsheets – interruptions – paperwork – deadlines……stress!  Bam, its’ stress.  I’m a yoga teacher. And I have stress.

I am guessing that you, dear reader, suffer from stress as well.  Tomorrow I’m going to practice what I preach and I encourage you to join me.  In yoga class, I teach that when you allow the exhale to extend just a bit longer than the inhale, the central nervous system calms, the body relaxes, and the breath flows more easily. Take as few breaths in a minute as possible – maybe 6 or so.  Feel into the magic of your breath.  Pranayama. Join me tomorrow – when you feel stress – take a walk, sit in your car, find a quiet place in the office – close your eyes, slow the breath…count… slow… breathe.

….just breathe.

 

Clean and organize your kitchen, for crying out loud!

Did you know that losing weight is as easy as cleaning and organizing your kitchen? It’s true.

In my 20’s and 30’s, I  was the typical overworked, underpaid, stressed-out exhausted mom who had no time to worry about a clean, organized kitchen or losing a few pounds? I did what most people do with those pesky 20 pounds – I bought into the latest diet pill and exercise craze whenever I could afford it. But they never worked.  Skinny I would be….for a few months, and then I’d be right back where I started.

It’s taken time and commitment, but after many years, I realize out of all the healthy things I do for myself (and I do a lot of healthy things – now!), organizing my kitchen for what my body needs is THE most effective diet system I’ve experienced.

Sadhana is an Ayurvedic term that refers to any spiritual practice that leads to an aligned life.  Oh, how I love this concept. Kitchen Sadhana, then, means  aligning my kitchen to provide the life I want, need, and crave.  Alignment for me means taking care of myself so I feel good, so that I can take care of my family, friends, colleagues, and yoga/coaching tribe.

Kitchen Sadhana saves me time, I eat better because it is seasonal, I save money, and my kitchen looks (and smells) GREAT. In other words, I own my kitchen. But it takes commitment.  Every weekend, I spend at least an hour or two getting organized. I store all my beans, nuts, and grains in glass mason jars so I can easily find what I need and restock before I run out. I cut veggies and fruit – and freeze when necessary – which assures that I always have what I need throughout the week. I cook up delicious and nutritious soups on the weekends and freeze several containers for my daily lunches.  Throughout the week, I save stems, leaves, and over-ripe veggies to boil into veggie broth that I freeze for use with soups and stir-fry.

Kitchen Sadhana means that my shelves are full of what is good, healthy, and right for me and my family. It assures that bad foods do not sneak into my kitchen and it helps me keep my weight where I want it to be.  At 56, I weigh less than I did in my 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s – in fact, I weigh only 5 pounds more than I did in high school and I feel great.

Practice Kitchen Sadhana – clean and organize your kitchen – and you’ll lose weight and feel so good.

The 5 healthy lifestyle lessons we can learn from the boiling frog

Whether we are familiar with the sad frog tale or not, most of us readily understand the important lesson. Yet many of us choose to ignore the parallel of the frog’s unfortunate death to our own lives – specifically the many ways in which we ignore our health.

To borrow another phrase, if I had a nickel for every time someone said – “oh, I’d eat better but I don’t have time to prepare my food”, or “it’s too expensive to eat healthy”. Before someone calls me out for being a hypocrite, I need to admit that I have a cookie problem. I was raised with plenty of sugar in my diet; no one ever talked about the evils of sugar back in the day. If I asked for a box of Oreo’s, it would magically appear after my mother’s weekly shopping trip. Many a day I would eat an entire row of Oreo’s by myself. It’s been years since that has happened, but just yesterday, I was alone in my sister’s house, laser-focused on her not well-hidden cookie jar. I ate cookies – yes I did. I am a recovering cookie addict and must actively manage the 12 steps of cookie recovery in my life. But I digress…..

The water temperature slowly rises. The frog relaxes and begins to sleep. Like the frog, our health is slowly deteriorating. We continue to choose the wrong foods no matter how crummy they make us feel. Millions of us suffer from IBS, constipation, heartburn, fatigue, lethargy, depression, and addiction. Because we did not prepare a nourishing breakfast, we shove a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin in our pie hole. Then off to the doctor’s office to beg for a prescription to alleviate our symptoms. We have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, adult on-set diabetes, obesity, and a plethora of diseases that with just a little exercise and improved nutrition would reverse. We are stressed out and depressed. But it’s a slow process and like the frog in water, we don’t feel the heat.

The water is nearing boiling stage. Little time is left to save herself. Poor frog. All she needs to do is muster the strength to hop out of the hot water. Unlike the frog, our reflexes are well intact and we have control over the decisions we make. For us, it’s not an immediate hop or die situation. We make tiny adjustments to our diets and move our bodies just a little with profound results.

The problem so many of us have with change is that we “bite off more than we can chew” (let’s see how cliché I can make this post! I’m on a roll). Habit evolution takes time, energy, will-power and incremental change. Too bad the poor relaxed frog does not enjoy the same advantages.

Consider making tiny changes. Try these 5 simple things to help make change and better health happen for you:

  1. Keep it simple. Identify one or two things and begin there. For me – it’s the cookie thing. I understand that occasionally cookie-mistakes will happen, but I can easily go a full week without eating a cookie. Good for me. That’s change. Next time, I’ll shoot for two weeks, then three, and so-on.
  2. Dial it down to zero. Say no to the things that fill your life with distraction and concentrate on what matters. Do I really need to schedule an appointment 3 hours away for 9:00 a.m. – eliminating any hope of a morning workout? I do not. A noon appointment works just fine and I can still do an hour of yoga or run a few miles before I begin my day.
  3. Purge your life – your kitchen, your closet, your thought patterns, your habits, toxic people. Just pick a few and get rid of them.
  4. Find the fire in your belly. Decide what exercise will make you happy and commit to doing it 3 days next week. Allow yourself to be hungry and make friends with the digestive fire happening within you. In the beginning it might be difficult. But after just a few days, you’ll make friends with the fire. Hunger is Agni (the Ayurvedic term for digestive fire). Let your digestive fire do its work. Feel into it.
  5. Grow your personal integrity. What does your body need? Get to know what you need not what you want. Once you allow yourself to feel the fire in your belly, you’ll begin feeling more physical integrity. Act on it.  Do you really need the 2-day old donut you just found in the breakroom? Is the Girl Scout cookie really that good? Does it taste better than your personal integrity feels?

Back to our poor friend, the frog. It’s too late for her. She dies in the boiling water. But unlike the frog, we can see our poor health. We can notice the muffin-top around our mid-line. We recognize that we are out of breath after jogging to the mailbox. Our gut is gassy and bloated because we ate half of a pizza last night. Our internal water is beginning to heat up.

We have no good reason to let the water boil. Spring is the perfect time to begin making change – the rain, the buds, the flowers, the birds, and yes, the frogs. She really didn’t boil to death – it’s just a fable with a lesson. Take the frog-lesson and grow into your physical integrity – make a few changes this spring and change the course of your health.

(This blog post was inspired by my health guru mentor – Cate Stillman – author of Body Thrive and my coach at Yoga Health Coaching.  Many of these ideas came directly from her quite brilliant book, Body Thrive).