Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Nourish & Strengthen Series No. 2 - Balancing Sugar Cravings

(Before I share these recommendations with you, I need to share a little bit about my embarrassing sweet tooth background. )

Sugar cravings have always been something I've struggled with.  (I shudder at the memories of my Coke a Cola / Hershey bar lunches from the Junior High vending machines.)  Fast forward to being a mother now.  I really love to bake. Especially in the colder months. Somewhere along the way I have adopted the belief that I am a good mother when I bake treats for my children, that baking cookies creates happy air, and that my children will love me more for it when they reflect back upon their happy kitchen childhood. But this belief could be the breeding ground for unhealthy lifestyles in my children and how they look at food.

In the past, we would bake dozens of cookies and goodies in all their many varieties for the holidays. From Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread cookies, to Cream Cheese Thumbprints, to Cookie Brittle, to Frosted Sugar Cookies with sprinkles, Mint Chocolate Bars, and my personal favorite, multiple batches of English Toffee. We'd give plates of our homemade treats to friends and neighbors, but lots of those treats made it into our own bellies as well. Yikes!

(I just totally had an episode of the too much sugar barf chills.)

I've really had to cut back. 

***I don't want it to be a fight with myself to be healthy***

If my children want me to make cookies, 
I don't want to tell them I can't because sugar is of the devil. 
I want to be able to bake treats in moderation and still encourage healthy snacks as part of our lifestyle. 

And I want to be a good example to my children - 
giving them the balance and tools necessary 
to grow up healthy and not addicted to sugar .

First, I've had to get a handle on my own sugar cravings.

Here's where my tips and experience come in.  These are the things I do now to help me achieve a better balance, I think they can help you too:

#1: Talk with your husband and children about your goals. Do this on family night so everyone can get on the same page.  Write down all the reasons why you want to eat healthy.  Hang your ideas on the fridge or tape strips of paper with the reasons written down on them, onto the cupboards for a while to remind everyone of what your goals are. Some examples are: "I want to run and not be weary."   "I want to feel good in my skinny jeans."  "I want my teeth to be in good shape when I go to the dentist."  "I want my mood to stay even tempered and not have highs and lows with energy."  "I want to be healthy from the inside out".  Reminders are super helpful for those times when the cravings are especially strong.

#2: Go through your kitchen cupboards, pantry and fridge and throw away all the junk.  Do this when you aren't hungry at all. Purge everything that has artificial sweeteners, unhealthy snacks, leftover holiday goodies, candy, and other tempting snack foods that will sabotage your goals. Don't hesitate in throwing it away.  Some of us have been conditioned to not throw food away. Better for it to go in the trash can than in your body. . . . which leads us to #3.

Pause before you bite.
#3: Visualize your body from the inside out when you eat.  Many of us are disconnected with the process of what happens inside our bodies every time we take a bite.  Pause for a moment, before you take a bite. If you can visualize the food inside your body as it's breaking down, if you can see it giving you nourishment, vitality, energy, strength and vigor, right down to the cells of your muscles and bones, you will become a more thoughtful eater.  You can take this visualization as deep as you want by educating yourself more on nutrition.  Here's one of my favorite resources for this kind of knowledge.  (Dr. Douillard is one of my favorite health gurus.)

#4: Sip hot water and/or herbal tea throughout the day.  My little red tea pot get's a lot of use in our house throughout the day.  So does my thermos.  An added bonus with this tip is the hydration factor. Sometimes our bodies crave sugar when we are dehydrated.  My favorite line of herbal teas are The Republic of Tea brand.  I'm a big fan of the antioxidant powers of herbs, they're natural friends to the immune system and body balance.  My favorite all time tea is called Get Lost for it's inclusion of the herb, Gymnema, a natural herb remedy for sugar cravings.  Get Lost tea also has hints of cinnamon and carob which satisfy the appetite without adding calories.

#5: Realize that having treats is not totally off limits. 

When I slip into an 'all or nothing' mentality about having treats and sweets, I begin to focus on only the treats. Laser focus. It's all I can think about.  But I'm learning it doesn't have to be all or nothing. If I'm feeling like treats are scarce in the world, I'll rebel and bake and feel like hoarding.  If I have a sense that I can bake a treat or eat a sweet whenever I want, that treats are abundant, then it's easier for me to say, Nah, not today. So, I let myself bake, sometimes cutting the recipe in half - just to remind myself that it's okay to eat for pleasure. The key is moderation.

#6: Decide in advance when you are going to have treats in the home:

Do not always have sugary treats in your home.  Choose the times that are most important to have treats, and only have the treat/ingredients available for those times.  This might mean boxing up the white flour/sugar/brown sugar/ ingredients you use for baking and putting them up on a high shelf in the pantry.  This will eliminate impulse baking or treat making when you make this rule because you actually have to  make a conscious effort to get the ingredients together. (Just the step of getting out the step ladder will kill my motivation to bake.)  :)  Since a lot of my favorite cookie recipes are memorized, this one step alone has helped me postpone or eliminate unnecessary/spontaneous treat making in our home.  I know I want to have treats for special events, for family home evening, or when we're entertaining.  But for everyday, I know I don't want them to be a part of our daily routine. Deciding in advance when it's most important to have treats and when it's not, also puts savings into our grocery budget and whittles down the waistline.

#7: Lean protein and healthy fats are your best friends:

I've noticed that protein stabilizes my blood sugar.  For me, this means eating a hard boiled egg for breakfast with some Odwala green smoothie to wash my vitamins and supplements down, a whey protein shake (I add spinach and frozen fruit for variety) and lean turkey meat for lunch, and a normal dinner with the family.  This is my normal meal plan for most days.  When I follow this meal plan, I don't get hungry and crave things between meals.  For healthy fats: I eat eggs, real butter and coconut oil.  When I eat the right kinds of fats, again, my blood sugar is more stable. Here's an awesome article on lipid composition and fatty chains and what's good and what's not good for the body.  I recommend reading it . . . which leads us to # 8.

#8: Educate yourself on what sugar does to the body and brain:

Knowledge is power.  I need all the super powers I can get when it comes to sugar craving. Take the time to read this article about sugar and sweeteners.  This tip is closely related to #3 above, and for good reason. While a part of me doesn't want to admit that sugar is of the devil, there's a part of me that now knows all the harm sugar can do to our bodies. And I can't ignore this knowledge when I'm having sugar cravings. I'm grateful for science and medicine and the insights they shed on foods and body chemistry.

If one of your goals is to curb sugar cravings, to be healthy from the inside out, try incorporating some of these tips into your lifestyle. Writing this post has been such a great reminder for me. If it helps even one person out there to feel better, I will be so happy.  As always, let me know of any tips you have incorporated.  We can do it!!!

Some sample smoothie ingredients

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Compassion Always Wins

I love how children give hugs without reservation
Okay - I've been really sad lately.  I mean - grief stricken sad - though no-one in my immediate circle has died.

It has to do with religion.
It has to do with people saying mean things to each other because of religion.

Before I lose anyone, (since I know this is a hot button that gets temperatures rising as much, if not more than politics) I want to say that there is no quick fix or perfect phrase or conversation that could happen to make everyone feel good when it comes to religion and walking away.  There's just so much heart-ache and shame attached to the topic. I'm noticing it with some of my very dearest friends and family.

I've been studying the effects of shame by reading some self help books that I feel I've been led to . . . and to make a long story short, I think there's a huge amount of people, (especially my age and younger) who have grown up in a Christian church, whether it be Mormon, Catholic, Evangelical, or other, and then walk away when they get older.

A central theme to this walking away is the shame attached to not living up to the social ideals the religious culture teaches whether explicit or implicit.  All of this pressure stems from man and not God.  But it gets really messy for people to make sense of.  I've noticed that often, bishops, parents, brothers, sisters are concerned about them and their spirituality. But sometimes those individuals' rejections of church they were presented with as the only possible interpretation of what it means to follow Jesus may in fact be a sign of spiritual health.  Maybe it's part of their journey for growth. They may be resisting behaviors, interpretations, and attitudes that should be rejected.  Perhaps they simply came to a point where they refused to accept the very sorts of things that Jesus would refuse to accept. 

And that's where it gets messy for me.  If a close friend or family member rejects the religion I've accepted, does that mean they now reject me?

Does it mean that since we don't have the same religion in common, I reject them?

Sometimes we just need to listen and validate our love
I like the idea of  adopting an expansive way of seeing the world and people versus the tendency to be judgmental and critical and thinking my religion is the only pathway to God.

There's only one path?

Often times when I talk to atheists or people who go a different way, and we talk about the god they don't believe in anymore, we quickly discover that I don't believe in that god either. 

So when I hear friends or family rejecting a certain aspect of Mormonism or Catholicism, or Religion-ism or Christ, I have to ask, "which interpretation of the doctrine? and which definition of Christ?"  I feel like my role right now is to be as completely non-judgmental as possible, compassionate and willing to listen. My friends and family already know how I feel and now I feel I need to leave it at that and listen. 

When friends are met with compassion and caring, there is a softening in the air that occurs.  This is scary, vulnerable territory for them. It takes a lot of courage to speak about questions and doubts.  They've probably already experienced a lot of hurtful shame and judgment from well meaning people which has pushed them  away.
What are we afraid of?
That they'll go to Hell?
These are good people we're talking about.  People we love.

It was super confusing for me when I felt more spirituality in yoga than I did in church. Church became hard for me, my particular culture can be so robotic sometimes.  But I'm learning that it's my own need for connection that wasn't being met at church, and that's not their fault.  Everybody is doing the best they can.  I've since been able to make sense of that and know why, and understand what was going on. When I go to church now, I try to be more easy going about everyone's spiritual journey, and be more caring. But it was tricky in my head and my heart. 

I'm trying to take what I've learned from my friends and just be real and genuine for people who are searching, seeking, questioning, even rejecting, and trying to understand.

Guilt motivates us to do better. Shame hinders self compassion
Jesus was perfect at diffusing shame. The difference between guilt and shame in a religious context is everything.  If we truly understand how to model and teach and speak without causing shame, we'd keep more of our people in our heart circles and have less heartache.  Same with parenting.  Guilt is healthy.  Shame isn't.  I've noticed I'm really flawed in my ability to do it. But I'm also learning to not be so hard on myself about it and to smile more and just be compassionate. 

Would love to know what you think.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Nourish & Strengthen Series No. 1

It is with much enthusiasm that I introduce this new series of posts on my blog, as many of us focus on renewal and new beginnings at the new year.

 I've already written these posts before, in my head, (does that count?) over the past 10 years as I've taught yoga and pilates and worked with my clients.  I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to actually post them on my blog.  But I do know - I feel compelled to share my experiences with nourishing and strengthening the mind and body and spirit here with you . . . my dear readers, hoping that I can help anyone out there in a practical way.

I've just celebrated my 40th birthday, which is quite a milestone in and of itself. With turning 40, I've noticed all sorts of changes occurring.  Some of them are a welcome relief, such as not being bogged down by what others think of me so much anymore.  Other changes are a little more tricky for me to come to terms with, such as my metabolism slowing down, my face looking more haggard in the mornings, etc.   It's important we have as much helpful, positive information on hand about body image. 

*** What I'm interested in ***

 the topics of
   healthy living, 
    aging gracefully, 
   loving life at every stage.  

These topics include, but are not limited to : exercise, nutrition, body image, mental health, hormones, supplements, expectations, acceptance, cravings, setting goals, recipes, workouts that work, well being, and lots more.

Over the years, we've shared valuable insights and tips with each other via email and social media, and it is my hope to share these pearls with more of you and offer up support in the form of these posts. . . full of tips, recipes, advice and validation.  I truly believe we are all in this together. 

*** Topic No. 1 is Body Image ***

Body Image can most easily be defined as 
how we envision ourselves. 
both inside and out.

With Love . . . 
    With Loathing . . . 

When I look at pictures of myself in my 20's and 30's, I wonder why I was so hard on myself.  Now that I've been 40 for about two weeks, I've caught myself thinking, "Gosh, I'm 40 now. I don't know if I'm up to . . . . . . ."  Isn't that strange?  Then I remember my grandmother's words. She said, "My life began at 40."  She lived life to the fullest, skiing at Vail when she was 74, having a sparkle in her eyes, doing all of her own gardening and always taking good care of herself. In her 80's she was in a lot of pain with her back, but her mind didn't focus on the pain or stop her from accomplishing and working right up until the end of her life.

I realize it is my mind, not my body, saying I don't know if I'm up to . . . . As we get older, we have to be very careful of the tricks our minds can play on us.  Sometimes your mind tells you to be careful for good reason, but sometimes it's telling you that your body can't do something that it can do.

Here are some characteristics that come to my mind I've noticed as positives in people whom I admire and who have a healthy body image with getting older :

*The tendency to feel gratitude for all their bodies still enjoy. They focus on what they still can do versus getting bogged down with limitations. They don't take their bodies for granted.

*More mental freedom. For some, as they get older, there is a much more expansive way of seeing the world and people versus in their younger years.  There may have been a tendency to be judgmental and critical - even narrow minded when younger, whereas as they've gotten older, things roll off their backs more easily.

*More contentment.  Not having that obsessive thinking or cling to things mentality that can get in the way of seeing the bigger picture.

*Telling the truth.  When we're younger, we're so focused on perception, we make small allowances with our authenticity sometimes.  They don't think about whether they should tell the truth; there's no choice, they just do it. And they allow other people the freedom to be exactly as they want to be. 

*Not basing their lives on contingencies.  When I was younger, I would think, "When X happens, I'll be happy."  When, when, when.  At a certain stage, you realize that you can't base your happiness on what will happen in the future.  Things can change at any moment.  Why not be happy now?

Love her crows feet.
Can I have hair like this please?

Love the sparkle in her eyes

As always, please add your thoughts on the comments if you'd like to chime in and share your ideas.  All of us have different perspectives to share and I love learning from each other. These are just the beginning of what I'm hoping is available to me as I envision myself growing older graciously.  

Love you all! 

Take Care of each other out there!