How food helped me through grief

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I was lucky to be raised by a mom who loved to cook.
My ideal party situation would be to have good friends and family gathered around a gorgeous picnic in wine country on a hot summer afternoon with tables covered in simple but beautiful food and good wine. Everyone is eating, laughing and enjoying being in the sun and in each other’s company.
As you can see, I am in total love with food, but what brought me to nutrition was when my mom was diagnosed in 2011 with melanoma.
 
I had always been a “crunchy” kind of person, but that single event changed me forever and propelled me deeper into the world of holistic health.
My mom and I poured our hearts and souls into healthy eating, alternative medicine, meditation and prayer. Though my mom passed away in 2012, I noticed that all the lifestyle changes I made while supporting her was actually benefitting me – my inflammation had noticeably reduced, my fitness had improved, and since I looked and felt so good, I was more confident in myself than I had ever been. Plus, my mood swings that I was kind of notorious for had significantly lessened.
I lived with anxiety for a long time. I was an anxious kid, and it got worse in my twenties. Like many young adults, I developed a habit of relying on alcohol and drugs to cope, but it was mostly the alcohol that really took a toll on my health and my life. I was 23 when I realized that I couldn’t even have a normal romantic relationship without being buzzed.
After my mom passed away, I chose to be kinder to myself (I’m sure my liver was like “Finally!!!”). I started with looking closely at what I put into my body. I cut out processed foods and poor quality fats like hydrogenated oils from my diet. I became intentional about everything I ate and when I chose to consume them. I cut alcohol and other substances out of my life for over a year. I chose nourishing foods like fruit, vegetables, spices and herbs in their whole form. I drank a lot of kombucha. That was the beginning of my journey into discovering how incredible our bodies are, and how it can change your life when you commit to taking care of it.
 
Looking back, I know that had I not changed my lifestyle, the old ways would have made it harder for me to process my grieving. My new lifestyle not only made me generally happier, I even lost weight without intending to and I started saying “yes” to more positive things in life in general. My whole inner being changed.
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If you would like to learn more about finding your self-confidence in a gentle and holistic way, let me know. I am so excited to connect with you!

How to Stock a Healthy Pantry

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There is no better time than now to do a deep spring-clean of your home, office, car, and wherever else you spend a lot of time. One area that I can help you with is your kitchen! Think of your kitchen as the place where your health begins. As Hippocrates famously said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine by thy food.” When you start to think of your food as tools for health, you can start to think about how the items you stock your kitchen with are going to benefit your body.
Yes, I know – it’s very different from the way that a lot of us were raised to think of pantry essentials. For many of us, our parents most likely shopped with convenience, price and accessibility on their minds as their top priorities. Those thoughts led to us growing up with seeing enriched cereal, tomato sauce, canned beans, crackers, and cookies in the pantry. Maybe some vegetable oil. And maybe microwavable popcorn.
 
The kitchen is a direct reflection of your health.
 
To begin the deep clean, go to your pantry and open up all the doors. Take a good look at what you have. If you see anything that has been there for over a year, throw it out. If there’s anything that includes a lot of chemicals, preservatives, hydrogenated oils and dyes on the ingredients list, throw it out. Be mindful when tossing out these items – if they come in a cardboard box, take the contents out first and discard the cardboard into your recycle bin. And if you have a compost bin at home, you could even open up the packages and dump the contents in there.
Now your pantry might be looking a little hollow. This is the time to make a list of the foods that will support you and your family’s health.
Here’s an example grocery list to stock a healthy pantry:
  • Beans (dried or canned with no preservatives or additives) like lentils, black beans, garbanzo, Great Northern
  • Coconut milk (pure, no preservatives)
  • Coconut sugar/Honey/Maple syrup
  • Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Organic spices
  • Quality oils such as coconut, avocado, grapeseed, extra virgin olive oil (always carry one oil for dressing and one oil for cooking over high heat)
  • Organic pastas and organic pasta sauces made without preservatives or chemical additives
  • Organic coffee and teas
  • Fermented foods like pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi
  • Rolled oats
  • Cacao nibs
  • Good quality nuts and seeds (walnuts, Brazil nuts, almonds, macadamia, sunflower and pumpkin seeds are all packed with micronutrients)
  • Dried seaweed
  • Dried mushrooms
  • Good quality stocks and/or bone broth
And there you have it, friends. The above list is just an example to give you some ideas. Your list will probably differ due to you and your family’s unique tastes and preferences. Do you have any pantry essentials that I haven’t listed above? Let me know in the comments!
Wishing you an abundant spring season and happy deep cleaning!

Self-care rituals for women – just do it

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I believe in beautiful and nourishing self care rituals. Whether it’s taking the extra step at bath time to use an indulgent sugar scrub, or painting your nails while tuning into your favorite podcasts, or winding down at night with a mug of herbal tea and listening to Enya’s Greatest Hits while curling up on the couch with your lap dog in your lap – whatever your ritual is, honor it and do it more often.
 
These displays of extending love and care towards ourselves will benefit us greatly by making them a regular practice, rather than reserving them for special occasions only. If you’ve ever seen the face of a woman while conducting her self care ritual, you’ll know just how powerful it is. As a kid, I’d always know when my mom was done with her bath because the whole house would smell like roses.
 
She had this rose-scented body lotion that she would apply after her shower or bath. What made the experience of watching her even more beautiful was the fact that she would put on her light pink silk robe that had a pink rose print on it. Her face would be slightly flushed and glowy with an air of serenity and evening calm. That whole experience – the scent of roses, the pink silk robe, the act of self care – became the quintessence of feminine beauty for me.
Naturally, I learned to associate the scent of rose with all the positivity and feelings of loveliness that was conjured by my mother’s nightly ritual. 
 
There’s an episode in one of the earlier seasons of Sex and the City where Miranda is seen seated on her bed after a shower, massaging lotion onto her legs. She looks calm, sensual, satisfied and at peace with herself in that moment. She makes you feel that she is doing something delicious, something fulfilling. I thought it was such an accurate portrayal of how women appear on the outside when they are engaging in an act of self care.
 
Perhaps some of us are better at scheduling self care rituals into our routines more regularly. But a lot of us still need a reminder to do that. So let’s look at the benefits of self care:
  • Self-massage helps to turn on the parasympathetic nervous system which aids in relaxation. Relaxation combats stress and anxiety, which are contributors to chronic disease.
  • Self care, whatever form it may be in, is a powerful statement of self-empowerment. As the sandwich board outside my local yoga studio says, “We are only one decision away from a good mood.” By choosing to engage in self care, the body returns the favor by producing more feel-good hormones like serotonin which induces feelings of well-being and happiness.
  • Practicing self care regularly increases our self esteem because it instills the belief within us that we are worth every minute of it.
  • Self care is not only recharging, it is a direct way to fill up our own cup which enables us to be more affluent givers. As Lisa Nichols explains, the best way to give to others is from our saucer that we are spilling out into because our own cup is so full. This is the key to burn-out prevention. What we need more of in this world are supercharged women! 
  • No one knows you better than yourself. Rather than relying on others to treat you the way you want to be treated, take the opportunity to do it for yourself in exactly the ways you like it.
Some ideas for self care rituals:
  • Take a bath in hot water infused with milk, essential oils of your choice and fresh rose petals or sprigs of lavender
  • Light some candles at night and do a restorative yoga or slow stretch routine
  • Make yourself a sweet treat using nutrient-dense ingredients like fresh berries, raw cacao, good honey, grass-fed cream or coconut milk and enjoy it mindfully, unabashedly.
  • Go for a long walk on the beach or in the forest.
  • Do a simple self-massage routine – take a few drops of a light carrier oil (like fractionated coconut oil) and add a couple drops of a soothing essential oil like ylang ylang, geranium or marjoram and rub it into your hands, wrists, forearms, upper arms, shoulders and neck. As a general rule of thumb, make small, rhythmic and circular motions over joints, and make slower, long strokes over your limbs. For a really effective tension reliever, take your hands behind your head and massage the occipital ridge (the baseline of the skull where it meets the top of your neck) with your fingers, gently but firmly. They say that 90% of headaches are caused by tightness in the occipital ridge.
  • Read a fiction book
  • Have your morning coffee outside and bask in the sun
Whatever your self care ritual of choice is, it should be something that is done just for you and no one/nothing else. It should feel wholesome and delicious. You’ll know that it’s working when your breath naturally starts to slow down and you feel at peace and indulgent at the same time. Once you’re there, capture the feeling – get to know it very well. This is where your essence lives. When you are undisturbed and your whole attention is on the moment. Schedule more of these moments into your life and enjoy fully. 

How to use essential oils for everyday life

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Here are a few tips on how to incorporate EOs into your everyday life so you can get the most out of these wonderful and versatile oils!
 
Lavender – add 4 drops into your diffuser with 4oz of water and set that up in your living room or bedroom; wherever you’ll be up until you go to bed. Lavender helps calm your nervous system so you can get a restful night’s sleep.
Peppermint – rub 1 drop of Peppermint onto your temples and on the back of your neck to help alleviate a tension headache. Peppermint is also great in the summer to add to a glass of water for you to drink and enjoy the cooling benefits. Some people even diffuse or just inhale Peppermint in the mornings because it’s replaced their morning coffee! It’s a very invigorating scent – it reminds me of Christmas.
 
Oregano – this is a hot oil, meaning do not apply it onto your skin unless you’ve properly diluted it. Oregano is a super powerful antibacterial. So if you’re fighting off a cold, I suggest dropping only 1 drop into your tea and consume. You can also add it to a veggie capsule and consume it that way. It fights infections better than any antibiotic I’ve ever used. One time I had a nasty sinus infection. I took oregano oil capsules and elderberry syrup and I was feeling great in a matter of days. I also add a couple of drops of oregano oil into my mouthwash to really bust those germs!
 
Lemon – add 1 drop of lemon into a warm cup of water and drink this every morning upon waking. Before your coffee. You’ll get all the benefits of lemon at a higher potency. Warm water with lemon also aids with liver detoxification. Do this everyday and you will never catch a cold! You can also use several drops of lemon to clean and protect your leather furniture.
 
Frankincense – aka the “King of Oils”. It’s great for wound healing. I use one drop on my face every few days to keep my skin cells youthful and vibrant. Do you deal with acne? Use frankincense and melaleuca on your spots and watch the scars fade fast. It’s also a great one to diffuse in your room to invite a sense of calm and peace. I place a drop of frankincense onto my third eye when I meditate.
 
Melaleuca – also known as Tea Tree oil. We had a lot of this when I was growing up in Australia. Tea tree oil is a safe yet powerful antibacterial. Safe to apply diluted (or not, depends on the person) on scrapes, pimples and bug bites. Dilute equal parts melaleuca with equal parts of a carrier oil like coconut oil or even extra virgin olive oil and apply directly onto affected area. Melaleuca is very effective at fighting bacteria.
 
Breathe – this is great for reversing congestion in your sinuses. Rubbing a drop or two of this in your palms and inhaling will help open up the air passageways. It’s also antibacterial so it’s great if you’re fighting off a cold. I also use Breathe sometimes before a workout to help me get pumped up and to encourage breathing deep into my lungs.
 
DigestZen – one drop of this in a glass of water or tea is awesome for supporting your digestion. Use this if you’re experiencing poor digestion like flatulence, stomach ache, constipation, heartburn, etc. It tastes like fennel so you can tell your kids that it’s going to taste like licorice for a little encouragement 😉 And yes, it’s totally safe for small children. If you travel a lot, this is a must-have – use this blend to keep your digestion in check. If you don’t want to consume, you can apply it topically onto your stomach. Happy belly!
 
OnGuard – this is a GREAT one to diffuse in your home to purify the air, kill germs, and make your house smell great! With orange, cinnamon, clove and other warming essential oils, it is the epitome of autumn. You can also make a counter top spray by adding 6 drops of this into 8 oz of purified water and spritz your kitchen and bathroom surfaces for an effective antibacterial cleaner. OnGuard is safe to ingest so you can also make a mouthwash by adding 2 drops of OnGuard into 3 oz of water and gargle away! Inhaling OnGuard may even help ward off sweet cravings because of its sweet, warm, comforting and spicy aroma. Just rub a drop of it in between your hands, rub together and inhale deeply.
 
DeepBlue – if you have tired feet or shoulders, apply a couple drops of DeepBlue directly onto your sore muscles. It’s just like TigerBalm, but not as intense unless you rub it on yourself during bathtime. I once rubbed DeepBlue onto my shoulders while I was sitting in a hot bath. The intensity of the wintergreen and camphor was stronger than usual because my pores were wide open from the heat of the water. It’s great for relieving sore muscles, but it’s also nice for invigoration and inviting better circulation into any parts of the body that may need it. For example, rub some DeepBlue into fingers and wrists after a long day at the computer. Your hands will thank you 🙂

Wtf are the B-complex vitamins and what do they do?!

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The B vitamins are a group of vitamins that are SUPER important to our bodies, especially with energy production.
 
They are water-soluble, meaning that they dissolve in water. This is a reason why vegetables should not be overcooked in water, in an effort to preserve its water-soluble vitamin contents, the B vitamins and vitamin C, by preventing them from leaching into the water. Being water-soluble, there is no posed danger on taking an excess of B-vitamins since they cannot be stored in the body (McGuire & Beerman, 2013).
 
There are eight B vitamins in total. The reason for there being 8 of these vitamins is because they all function very similarly to each other, but possess unique chemical structures. They were also each discovered by different scientists at different points in time. Together, they play an important role in converting food into energy.
 
Vitamin B1, also known as thiamin, is essential for assisting in the metabolizing of glucose and alcohol. A serious deficiency of B1 can result in beriberi, which was more common in the last century, especially amongst populations in impoverished areas. Less severe levels of deficiency can result in neurological disorders like irritability, depression and memory loss, and gastrointestinal issues like loss of appetite (Low Dog, 2016).
 
Our cells turn riboflavin, or vitamin B2, and niacin, or vitamin B3, into coenzymes that are required for many energy production processes, such as the reduction-oxidation reaction, aka redox, which is used to produce ATP (when food converts into energy), and to help convert vitamins A and folate into their useable forms (McGuire & Beerman, 2013). Some symptoms of severe riboflavin deficiencies include glossitis, stomatitis and cheilosis, which are all disorders of the mouth and tongue.
 
Nutritionist Elizabeth Lipski draws the conclusion that cracks in the corners of the mouth is caused by a lack of B vitamins; this caught my attention because it is something I have personally suffered. It is a painful and uncomfortable situation, and until I read Lipski’s Digestive Wellness (2012), I did not know how to heal it except for using chapstick to keep my lips moist which just temporarily alleviated the pain.
 
From a personal standpoint, the B vitamins have helped to considerably improve my oral health. When I started to follow Lipski’s advice last year by fortifying my diet with a B-complex supplement, it reversed the condition and it has not recurred since. I take either a multivitamin or a B-complex supplement every single day.
 
An additional benefit that I now enjoy from taking a daily B-complex is improved gum health. Since I have had three root canals that I know of, I have been experiencing issues with my gums, especially in areas by the teeth that have had the root canals. Every once in a while a flare-up will occur in a specific area of the gum, which becomes inflamed and painful. The B-complex supplement and the adaption of a plant-based diet with meat have significantly reduced the frequency of gum flare-ups.
 
Before I started to eat meat again in my adulthood, I was living on a pescatarian diet but primarily ate vegan and vegetarian meals most days with fish only on occasion. I was also not taking any supplements. I believe this was the cause of the downfall of my oral health, as well as the root canal procedures that I’ve had done over the years. Since meat and dairy are rich sources of B vitamins, I can see in retrospect that I was lacking in these essential nutrients by not eating foods or taking the supplements that offer the complete set of B vitamins.
 
Since the B vitamins are crucial for converting food into energy, it explains why I used to experience lower energy levels during my days of being mostly vegetarian. One of the very first changes I noticed when I began to eat meat again was the sustained levels of higher energy. In fact, this was the main reason why I decided to eat meat again. At 32 years old, I am really enjoying having higher levels of energy for longer periods of time, which enables me to function in all areas of my life better, especially in my work and physical exercise.
 
Please note that this is my own personal experience. I do not judge others for what they want to eat, and completely respect those who choose vegetarianism and veganism. Pantothenic acid, or vitamin B5, is found in almost every animal and plant, which is why it was derived from the Greek word, pantos, which means “everywhere”. Also essential for ATP production, B5 is also directly responsible for synthesizing CoA which is necessary for glycolysis. Vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B5 can be found in meat and dairy, but vitamin B6 differs in that it is especially available in chickpeas and fish. Vitamin B6 comes in three forms: pyridoxine, pyridoxal and pyridoxamine. B6 has the operational duty of making nonessential amino acids which the body produces on its own without needing it from food.
 
Biotin, or vitamin B7, is also crucial for ATP production. Nuts and eggs are both great sources of biotin. The small intestine is the site where the B-vitamins are separated from the protein in order to get absorbed in through the intestinal lining. Eggs contain a protein called avidin which is bound to the egg white and prevents the biotin from being bioavailable. Thankfully, avidin can be destroyed with heat, which is why eggs should always be consumed after being cooked. Remember how blending raw eggs into your protein shake was trendy in the 80s/90s? Well, they just didn’t know.
Folate, or vitamin B9, is abundantly available in dark, leafy greens. The importance of maintaining adequate folate levels by pregnant women is always emphasized because folate is responsible for DNA synthesis and cell division. Folate deficiency in pregnant mothers can cause neural tube defects like anencephaly and spina bifida in the baby. Women are recommended to start taking folate, which is always included in a prenatal supplement, as soon as they learn they are pregnant to support the development of the baby.
 
B12 plays a big role in maintaining mental wellness. Since it helps to produce myelin, which helps transport nerve impulses by wrapping around the nerve cords, and the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, B12 is absolutely crucial for preserving our brain health and emotional wellbeing for the long-term. B12 is the one B vitamin that is found exclusively in animals and not plant foods, which is why vegans have to be especially mindful of getting adequate levels of B12. An option for vegans is to supplement in the form of capsules or getting injections.
The B vitamins are a powerful pack that is crucial for the production of energy and stabilizing mental and emotional health. They are best taken together, because many of their functions involve the other B vitamins.
 
References
Lipski, E. (2012). Digestive wellness: strengthen the immune system and prevent disease through healthy digestion. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
McGuire, M. & Beerman, K. (2013). Nutritional sciences: from fundamentals to food. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Low Dog, T. (2016). Fortify your life: your guide to vitamins, minerals, and more. Washington, DC: National Geographic.

How does Nutrition Education benefit me?

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Nutrition education is more important than ever because there is a great need for it now. The rates of Americans with chronic illnesses like heart disease, cancer and obesity are steadily rising, yet all of these conditions can be reversed with proper nutrition practices. Combined with adequate exercise and stress management, the ultimate goal of optimal health and wellbeing can be achieved. However, many people still face the risks of debilitating diseases and poor mental health such as depression and anxiety (Seaward, 2016).
 
The role of the nutrition educator is to successfully change the behaviors of people, from making unwise decisions to wise ones. Our food choices not only affect us, they affect our future generations as well as the health of the planet. Big Ag and food corporations are profiting enormously off the population’s misinformed food choices at the cost of our planet and all its inhabitants. Chemicals that are known to be toxic to the environment, animals and people are still being used as pesticides and fertilizers today. Plastic packaging and to-go food containers and utensils go straight to the landfill after one-time use. Processed foods in non-biodegradable packaging make shipping and distribution easy, which causes immense carbon emissions year after year.
 
The result is that we are left with tough choices. Ad campaigns and marketing fill the media channels, bombarding us with mixed messages on a daily basis. We are working harder and longer hours than previous generations from a few decades ago. We carry more varied responsibilities and are constantly plugged into our technology devices. Eating out is very hard to avoid as it is strongly tied to convenience, our modern culture and social rituals, derailing us from being motivated and having enough time to prepare food at home.
 
The answer to these problems lies in our own hands. By empowering people to choose organic foods and making their own meals at home, they decrease the likelihood of type II diabetes and being overweight. We can reduce our carbon footprint, save money and keep an optimal weight, which leads us to a sense of accomplishment and therefore, more happiness.
 
Theories are invaluable to nutrition education as it helps understand why people do what they do (Contento, 2015). The human mind is complex with many factors dynamically affecting one another in shaping their understanding of the world and of themselves. In order to yield successful results in behavior change, the educator should know all the determinants of the audience’s health behavior in question. Theories are used to learn how to work with the audience’s determinants and how to shape their behavior change. Theories of motivation like the health belief model, theory of planned behavior and social cognitive theory have been used successfully to achieve desired behavior change amongst various groups and settings.
 
The DESIGN procedure is used to create a strategic plan to effectively propel behavior change. Each step of the method is intentional in laying down the foundation of the plan. Upon deciding on the desired behavior change, all determinants of the health behavior should be known, then an appropriate theory must be chosen to use for the structure of the plan so that it is clear what determinants will be measured and how they can be measured. Next is to choose the activities in which the behavior change can take place, such as cooking classes or distributing educational posters. These plans are for generating action in making the behavior change. Finally, the last step is to evaluate the entire procedure to determine if the behavior change was made.
 
There are key factors that can predict whether an audience is going to be willing to make lifestyle changes or not, such as if they view the benefits of the behavior change to be more valuable than not making the change and staying the same as they are. Their perceived level of support should also be high enough, and their level of self-efficacy has to be high enough to even begin the process of changing. There are endless other factors that could potentially halt the process of behavior change, and so the nutrition educator has to be prepared to meet those barriers with effective educational activities. However, with the right plan, the participants can triumph and accomplish the desired behavior change.
 
For example, take the audience as a group of adults from the baby boomer generation who are at risk of getting type II diabetes. The behavior change that is sought after is to reduce their intake of sugar. Just the idea of taking something away that the participants highly value can be met with resistance, yet implementing effective educational activities can increase the awareness and motivation of the participants. After assessing the audience’s determinants and whether they are ready and willing, a series of activities can be introduced to the group.
 
The activities should target the determinants of the audience’s personal beliefs and attitudes. Although the audience may already have some awareness that sugar is “bad” for them, they may need more clear indicators of why it is so detrimental to their health. Motivation can be boosted by showing how diabetes can affect their interpersonal and intrapersonal values, such as playing with their grandchildren or preserving their dignity as independent adults. With the motivation in place, specific educational goals can then be met.
 
In this case, group cooking classes would provide new practical skills they could use and learn new sugar-free snack recipes to practice at home. They can also partake in nutrition classes where they learn about the benefits of alternative sweeteners, as well as examining real-life examples of the reality of life with type II diabetes, like a debilitated physical condition and reliance on expensive medication.
 
On the flipside, a healthy lifestyle habit like regular exercise can be promoted by having the participants start a weekly walking group which provides grounds for new friendships formed over shared health goals. As exercise also triggers feelings of wellbeing, it could reduce the cravings for sweet foods. Another activity that can facilitate the behavior change is hosting regular potluck dinners to give the participants a chance to put their new cooking skills to the test and to inspire each other to cook and enjoy foods that are sugar-free and nutrient-dense. The communal aspect of group learning is another important cause for behavior change.
 
In conclusion, the DESIGN procedure is an effective tool for behavior change that is backed by scientific evidence and therefore should be utilized for health education.
 
References
Contento, I. R. (2015). Nutrition education: linking research, theory, and practice. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning
Plamondon, C., & Sinha, J. (2014). The Plastic Problem. Retrieved April 13, 2017, from https://www.lifewithoutplastic.com/store/the_plastic_problem#.WPA_CVPys_N
Seaward, B. L. (2016). Essentials of managing stress. (4th ed.). Jones and Bartlett Learning.

Why I became a Holistic Nutritionist

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Every time I meet new people and tell them that I’m a budding nutritionist, they ask me, “So what do you do?” I tell them that I offer one-on-one consultations to help people boost their health and help treat gut issues, inflammation, acne, compromised immune system, diabetes, addiction, anxiety and depression using food, movement and mindfulness as my tools. Most of the time I get raised eyebrows. Is what I do really so hard to believe?

 

My Mom’s Battle with Cancer

When I was 26, my mom passed away after her battle with cancer. She was officially diagnosed in 2011, and a year later, she was gone. During that year, her and I did all the research on ways to complement her treatment using holistic methods, such as anti-inflammatory diets, switching all products to eco and body-friendly ones, herbal treatments, Traditional Chinese Medicine, meditation and positive affirmations.
 
She was very pure at heart, always honest and always impeccable with her word. Growing up I remember how she would always be sponsoring children in third-world countries, and anytime an opportunity to donate to a charity would pop up, she would give without a second thought.
 
Early in 2012, my mom’s battle ended. Along the way, I learned about antioxidants, vegetarianism, nutrition, toxins and organic vs. pesticide-laden foods.
 
Today I am mindful of eating a whole-foods based diet and steer clear of processed foods, hydrogenated oils and sugar. It’s not easy – especially when you our society is built upon convenience and grab-and-go options are everywhere, but the discipline and effort I put into it is worth it. I am very happy with my body, my overall health and how I feel.
 

Anxiety

The most noteworthy change that I noticed since I started eating this way is my general mood. I used to have quite extreme mood swings and severe anxiety. I believe that the instability of my moods and anxiety triggered me to rely on alcohol and drugs to numb the discomfort. Alcohol in high quantities is totally the worst, so I only drink on occasion now – I would say on average 3-4 drinks a month. My body used to be so inflamed – especially in my face, which as a young woman was very upsetting – and today I don’t have that concern.
 
There’s a lot of work and research out there that has proven that diet, exercise and meditation can reverse Type II Diabetes and cancer. I discovered Kris Carr in 2011 when I learned that my mom had cancer. Carr has been my hero since. She, along with others, is living proof of someone who reversed stage 4 liver cancer with the aforementioned tools. Another woman I look up to is Rebecca Katz who is a chef and food educator and supports cancer patients with whole foods in the Bay Area.
 
Our reality is the result of our thoughts, and our thoughts – conscious or unconscious – can be affected by the quality of our food. I have personally experienced the shift in my mindset when I switched to a diet that is 95% whole foods (with the exception of cake on people’s birthdays), drastically reduced alcohol consumption (no more hard partying), and started regularly exercising.
I am a better person now than I ever was in my twenties. Not that I regret anything because I know that every step I took have led me to where I am now. I’m not perfect, but I am happy. So if you don’t believe that food can be a key to a happier life, please reconsider. And if you feel that eating healthy is hard or burdensome or not yummy, then let me know and I can help make it a lot easier for you. My goal is to help people achieve their best life through food, exercise you love and meditation. To learn more, shoot me an email at seypitton@gmail.com.

How to overcome anxiety naturally

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Anxiety first entered my vocabulary in my sophomore year of high school when I took an Intro to Psychology course. It thrilled and relieved me to learn that there was a word for a condition that I experienced a lot, and even more so, the fact that a lot of people experience it. And therefore there is a huge market for its treatment, most available in the form of pharmaceutical drugs.
 
Feeling anxiety was part of my everyday reality and I never thought about “treating” it until I realized that other people I knew were because it was helping them feel better and more confident about themselves. But what could I do to treat my anxiety other than go to a psychiatrist? I was never interested in going that route; the idea of using meds to control it didn’t mesh well with me. I wanted something more easily obtainable and that aligned with my preferences for natural living.
 
Yoga came into my life in my sophomore year of college. I needed credits and I was fortunate to go to a college that offered yoga as a class. On top of that, my school was in Palos Verdes, California, so naturally there was a swimming pool next to the auditorium where the class was held. On some hot afternoons, some of the students would wear their bathing suits underneath their gym clothes and we’d jump into the pool after class. Those were some awesome times.
Several weeks into it, I saw that my movements were more coordinated and my posture was more upright. (I was always the tall, lanky kid and slouched as a teenager). My low back pain dissipated. Yoga was beginning to change me, but the changes weren’t limited to the physical realm. My thoughts and speech were more coherent and there was a bounce to my step. I smiled often and gave more hugs.
 
I also took notice that I was feeling more at ease in my social encounters; I felt more at-home in my body than I ever had before. I was generally more relaxed and cheerful, and I noticed that the people around me felt more at ease. My anxiety was diminishing. Of course it didn’t totally get eradicated; to this day it challenges me to stay balanced. I have to practice regularly to continue enjoying the benefits.
 
This was one of the hardest lessons I learned about yoga: it is a practice. It means doing it regularly; it means you are devoted to your highest good. Cultivating a regular practice did not come easily to me, and I still grapple with today. But by making small changes, I am able to get a little yoga into my daily life with a home practice. Take these three simple steps to make it part of your life:
 
1. Keep a yoga mat rolled out on the floor in a dedicated space in your home where you can easily access it. My yoga mat lays in my bedroom. I love to play gentle music with a beat, like East Forest while practicing to deepen my focus. I also love to diffuse some beautiful essential oils in my room to anoint the space with healing aroma. Creating a small altar space next to where you practice can enhance your practice. Add pictures or statues of teachers and symbols that resonate with you (like a guardian angel, Ganesha, Buddha, David Bowie), beautiful things that you love (crystals, art, sentimental keepsakes), and elements of nature (seashells, leaves, candles).
 
 
2. Set reminders for yourself in a calendar or planner. Seeing it written down as part of your schedule or having a reminder set on your phone will serve as motivation and make it official. Just get your ass on the mat! No need to pressure yourself with the hopes of doing a 60 minute vinyasa flow practice. Whatever will unfold will unfold. Chances are, at the end of a workday, you are too tired and may not be feeling creative to come up with a fresh sequence, but if you are up for that, more power to you! And if you are not, more power to you! Thank yourself each time you reach your mat. You deserve it.
 
 
3. If you have family or other household members that need your attention when you’re at home, the way to keep yourself from getting distracted and from missing out on a nice practice is by sheer determination and pure will. Excuse yourself from them for practice time. Remember – the more you give to yourself, the more you will be able to give to others without even trying! The more you put into yourself, the more the world will benefit from it. Allow yourself to peel away from your loved ones for 20 minutes so you can come to yourself, land on the intention to clear your mind and reset. You control your life and your time. Fill yourself up with so much love from the practice then go back out there and shower the world with it.
 
 
4. And if you still don’t get around to it, it’s ok. It doesn’t make you a bad yogi. Yoga includes bringing the practice off the mat and into your daily life by practicing non-violence, conscious breathing and being mindful. It’s the little things. Yoga expands your consciousness and therefore you are feeling the effects of it and feeling less anxious, less tense. And even if one day you notice that your anxiety is at a level 10, you know what to do; take big, slow breaths and fill up your lungs fully. Be kind to yourself. The grass is green right here, right now.
Namaste 🙂

5 Tips to Improve Digestion

  1. Chew your food well. My mom used to tell us this when we were kids. Ideally chew every bite 30-40 times. Digestion enzymes are released into your mouth when you’re chewing via the saliva. The breakdown of glucose actually starts in your mouth this way. The only way to initiate this chemical reaction is by chewing. Additionally, food should be masticated really well to increase its surface area which makes it easier on your cells to absorb the nutrients. Because eating without good nutrient absorption is pointless.

  2. Free yourself from distractions. When you eat while reading a book, newspaper, your phone, or watching TV, you’re diverting your attention away from digesting your food. Mindless eating can lead to overeating because your attention is taken away from knowing how much you’re eating. Overeating is very taxing on the digestive system, causing it to slow down. A strained digestive system leads to flatulence, discomfort, constipation and the longer you keep this up, the weaker your digestive system gets. You also want to avoid getting stimulation that can stress you out, which leads to the next point.

  3. Eat sitting. When you’re washing dishes, standing over the sink, walking around the house and fidgeting with things while eating, you’re causing undue stress onto your body. When your body is being stressed, digestion stops. Even if you’re eating, digestion will stop if you’re under stress. So please eat while seated, preferably at a table, in a serene environment. Knowing yourself is key here – if you’re an extrovert, you may be comfortable eating while chatting with folks, but if you’re an introvert, you may prefer to eat quietly. If you’re under a lot of stress, I highly recommend that you stick to soup, something really easy and gentle on your gut.

  4. Ginger. It’s your gut’s best friend. Ginger has been used for thousands of years to cure indigestion, boost immunity and stimulate a heating sensation. In Ayurveda, digestion is powered by your digestive fire known as agni. Ginger is excellent at stimulating the agni, strengthening the digestion, which in turn strengthens you overall. If you experience diarrhea, indigestion, slow digestion, stomach pain or discomfort, grate some fresh ginger into a mug and add warm water with some lemon or apple cider vinegar for a simple yet very effective tonic. Have this drink with your meals. My ashram in India served this ginger drink at dinner time and it was heavenly, plus I never had digestion issues and it was my first time in India!

  5. Meditation, the best medication. What does this have to do with eating? Everything. Practicing meditation is one of the most effective stress busters. Giving yourself time to unplug from the noise of the world is essential to stay balanced. I’m not saying it’s going to make you a perfect person, but I will say that meditation can be the way to more contentment in your life. It’s effective at reducing anxiety, confusion and fears, and can help you navigate the way through life’s challenges, because let’s be honest: you can’t see the stars without the darkness. When your headspace is still, the brain can then do what it’s best at: conducting our body systems. If you’re a beginner, just give yourself 5 minutes to turn off all your devices, find a nice, quiet spot and sit comfortably. Close your eyes and just watch your breathing, releasing all control. The more you practice, the easier it will get.

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Ashwagandha AKA the natural xanax

I don’t understood why my favorite herb of all time – Ashwagandha – hasn’t risen to mainstream popularity yet already. Over the years, it has become my top stress remedy for situations that I don’t have a lot of control over, like travel, work, bad traffic, moving to a new home, attending stressful events, dealing with a hangover or extreme tiredness. In my experience, Ashwagandha is an unbeatable anti-anxiety remedy that helps me reduce stress over a prolonged period of time and peps me up when I need it, that also helps me fall asleep at night.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), aka winter cherry, is an Indian herb that grows in the most intolerable and harshest conditions. Since the winter cherry can bare arid climate and poor soil, those resilient properties are what enables human consumers to feel like they can power through any rough circumstances. It effectively helps combat stress and is often compared to ginseng, a powerful root tonic that has been used in Asia since ancient times as an energy and libido booster. Except Ashwagandha is not a tonic; it is a powerful adaptogen that supports your nervous system and can improve circulation and overall cognitive functions (now you see why I love to take this stuff before I go to work on a day that I know is going to be intense).
I have found that by taking one capsule in the morning, I am able to face 8 hours of stress-less bliss. I used to do a lot of event-planning for big events where I orchestrated a lot of moving parts while trying to impress prospective clients; needless to say, those days were stressful. There would be little time to eat lunch and if it weren’t for Ashwagandha, I would have succumbed to relying on caffeine and booze on a relatively empty stomach which is the worst thing you can do to your body; it was far from sustainable and the fastest way to burn out by day’s end.
Ashwagandha changed my life. By keeping the stress at bay, I am able to stay more organized and productive. It helps me stay on top of my game and now I even find time in the day to eat lunch like a person should. Fortunately I don’t have much trouble sleeping through the night, but I’ve had friends who were saved by Ashwagandha when they were going through a bad break-up or other stressful events that disturbed their sleep. I am more of a daytime user and I love it. It has no side effects and no risks attached to it, unlike anti-anxiety prescription meds which are commonly abused by Americans nationwide. I have had friends use Xanax recreationally, taking it without a second thought of how much they are taxing their livers. I myself am guilty of that. When I was in college, I went through a phase of mixing Xanax with alcohol which was really crazy and irresponsible. There are times when I blacked out and I am so blessed that I was never faced with any danger. Perhaps the only danger was myself.
Just remember that the most effective ways to treat stress and anxiety are regular exercise to get your blood flowing, work up a little sweat and eating nutrition-rich meals every day. Don’t underestimate the power of music. Put on your favorite tunes and watch the stress melt off your shoulders.
And if you want to give Ashwagandha a try, do your research on the seller and the herb before purchasing; go with reputable companies who have high integrity and use organic ingredients.
References:
A Pukka Life – Finding your path to perfect health – Sebastian Pole