30 Things I learned on Whole 30 by Guest Blogger One Healthy Hamptons

I am SOOOO excited to have as a guest blogger, Kiley from onehealthyhamptons.com. She and I are both wellness warriors in the Hamptons, and it’s been such an honor to team up with her. We have a very similar take on the Whole 30 movement/diet and I wanted to share her list of things she learned while on Whole 30, because I feel the exact same way. 

Kiley DeMarco, MSW, NLC, is the founder of One Healthy Hamptons website, community, and e-magazine for all things healthy in the Hamptons, and co-founder of Hamptons Wellness WeekKiley is Nutritious Life Certified in Nutrition and has a Masters Degree in Clinical Social Work from Boston College Graduate School of Social Work. She lives in Sag Harbor with her husband and their Swiss Mountain Dog, Sammy.

I recently completed my first (and probably my last!) Whole30. 30 days of whole foods and not a speck of grains, dairy, soy, legumes, corn, baked goods, or added sugar of any kind. I know, I know, “what the heck did you eat?!” Lots and lots of plants, lean protein, nuts and seeds, that’s what! Oh, and not a drop of alcohol. Sounds fun, right?! If you’re wondering why I would do such a thing, (I don’t blame you!) The book It Starts With Food, by the founders of the Whole30 program, inspired me to dig deeper into my own diet and lifestyle, eliminating the foods/food groups above in order to re-evaluate how my body reacts to them after the 30 days. For more specifics about the Whole30 program, click here!
Whole 30 snacks

Although it was tough to adjust and even tougher to refrain from just one little teeny tiny drink, (hello, it is rosé season!) I learned a ton over the past 30 days. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly:

1. Sugar is errrrywhere and we’re all pretty seriously addicted to it. You’ve probably heard this in some capacity, but what does that mean?

2. Consuming sugar, artificial sweeteners, and natural alternatives like honey, maple syrup, and even stevia, on a regular basis not only “feed the sugar dragon,” but also throw off our taste buds, cravings, and ability to reach satiety normally.

3. Personally, I do not enjoy black coffee; however, I discovered over these thirty days that I do enjoy unsweetened coffee. Over the past ten years or so, I’ve transitioned from a serious overload of artificial sweetener to cutting back, replacing it with more natural stevia, cutting back on stevia, and now I finally was able to rid my coffee of any sweetener. Whole30 forced me to learn to enjoy my coffee simply with Homemade CocoNut Milk and this is definitely a habit I’m happy to keep. Now I truly savor my coffee, no longer crave it sweet, and rarely do I need a second cup. Remember that baby steps are the way to change a habit for the better. Try cutting the sweetener in your coffee in half to start, if you’re soda drinker, replace one soda a day with seltzer, or satisfy your sweet tooth by having a piece of fruit for dessert. It really does get easier and easier, trust me on this!

4. That’s not to say that occasionally indulging in sweets you truly love is not absolutely necessary to living a balanced life. My love affair with dark chocolate has rekindled and our flame is going strong…although I do not neeeeeeeed it daily like I used to!

5. While many people argue that they don’t have time to eat healthy, healthy meals made from real, whole foods can be very convenient. The Whole30 program made me simplify my meals, at first, simply because of less options to choose from, but now, out of habit. Going forward, I’ll continue with this practice as I’ve noticed that less-complicated meals are easier to digest.

6. I re-discovered some great staples I had been overlooking, like good old scrambled eggs. Nothing fancy necessary. Why? Because…

7. REAL FOOD TASTES GOOD! Seasoning your meals with herbs and spices, tasting the sweetness of a piece of fruit, and savoring the true flavors of food is what it’s all about. Again, baby steps. Your palette will adjust and your body will learn to not only like real foods, but crave them. Trust me, trust me, trust me.

8. Fat does not make you fat. How do I know? Well, I did not gain (or lose) any weight on Whole30, even though I was eating a lot more (healthy) fat on a daily basis – more nuts, oil, avocado, etc.

9. More fat is not better. Some is best.

10. Whole30 or not, portions size is crucial to healthy eating, even when eating all healthy foods.

11. Avocado has my ❤ on a daily basis.

12. This may turn your world upside down: peanuts are not actually nuts. A peanut is a legume, like beans, which means that your body may react differently to peanuts or peanut butter than it does nuts and other nut butters. Just some food for thought. And, yes, I did cut out peanut butter for 30 days (if you know me at all, you know that peanut butter is my favorite food in the whole wide world.) Instead, I ate homemade almond and cashew butters as well as sunflower seed butter, that just may top peanut butter on my list of favorite foods. I’m happy to say that peanut butter does now make a regular appearance in my diet; however, it is not the only thing I think about morning, noon, and night, which is probably a good thing because there are other things in life, right?

13. Rules takes the guess work out. I’m not a big fan of long-term labels, strict diets, or restriction, but committing to a short-term plan can be motivating enough that there’s no need for willpower.

14. It’s really, REALLY scary what is in 95% of our “food” these days. For example, even something like store-bought “all natural” almond milk, which a lot of people think of as a healthy upgrade, has far more ingredients than just almonds. What the heck are locust bean gum or carrageenan and why are they in my almond milk?! I decided to break up with store-bought milk for the time being and stick to my new love, Homemade CocoNut Milk. Same with the aforementioned nut butters. Just make your own or buy the ones made with just nuts. There really is no need for ‘palm fruit oil’ in your jar of nut butter. Just like there’s no need for added sugar in your tomato sauce, soy isolate in your snacks, or high fructose corn syrup in…ANYTHING. That’s a no-no no matter what.

15. Which brings me to my next point that I just can’t say enough: READ YOUR LABELS.

16. And do what’s right for you. As I said…

17. Eating healthy doesn’t mean eating only the latest superfoods or trying the latest diet trend. It means knowing what foods make you feel healthy and good.

18. If a food/food group makes you feel energized and healthy, you should probably eat it.

19. If a food/food group makes you feel crappy, tired, or sick, you probably shouldn’t eat it.

20. Whole foods are super versatile, see below:

Zuchinni noodles

21. Another little fun fact I learned over the past 30 days is that any woman in her 20′s or 30′s that declares that she’s not drinking will, without a doubt, be labeled as pregnant, whether it’s by your waiter or your best friends.

22. Drinking seltzer water or kombucha out of a wine glass is not the same as drinking wine, but that’s alright.

23. Waking up on a Sunday morning without any hint of a hangover or headache is worth all of the above – sacrificing the wine and being labeled pregnant.

24. Smoothies are delicious and nutritious. Smoothies aren’t on Whole30 due to a lack of chewing, the act that kick-starts digestion and satiation. So, what’s a smoothie lover to do? Chew your smoothie! Seriously, do it. I missed my smoothiesgreen smoothies, and smoothie bowls and am happy to introduce them back into my routine, especially heading into the summer season!

25. It is possible to have too much meat, even lean, organic, grass-fed meat. I got sick of chicken after the first week on Whole30. Happy to say that I’ve since reintroduced tempeh and veggie burgers for some delicious meatless protein. Although I know that for me, everything in moderation works when it comes to protein, I totally respect the vegetarians, vegans, and paleos of the world too. Did I mention to do what’s right for you?! I think I did.

26. The benefit of minty fresh breath after a garlicky meal just may outweigh the drawbacks of chewing gum. Again, something I cut wayyyy back but am not willing to give up completely. Yet.

27. The dreams are real folks. The Whole30 book warns that people on Whole30 may experience weird dreams about eating off-plan foods (which means that you start over at day one.) I’m pretty sure that I had some sort of cheating-on-Whole30-food dream every single night for a month straight. Some worse than others: on the eve of day 30, I dreamed that I weighed myself and the scale read 498 pounds. Thankfully, I woke up.

28. There is something so refreshing about breaking up with the scale. You’re not allowed to weigh yourself during the Whole30 program at all. I’m not a big fan of weighing myself daily, or even weekly, because the number doesn’t often correspond with actual progress. “Non-scale victories” are often much better than a number – looser pants, higher energy, clearer skin, toned muscles, etc. Regarding the scale, if the number makes you feel stuck, negative, guilty, or ashamed, stop weighing yourself and rely on how you feel, inside and out, and how you fit into your clothes. If the scale makes you feel confident and accountable, go for it.

29. Being a proud member of the clean plate club is just plain overrated. Having a healthy diet means eating until your body is satisfied, whether it be fish and veggies or a rich, decadent brownie. It’s not about finishing every last bite, it’s about enjoying one bite at a time, regardless of what you’re eating, and putting the fork down when you’ve had enough (enough means you’re satiated, not loosening your belt in a food coma.) This is easier said than done, I know, so it’s worth the mental effort to work on improving this habit, one meal at a time.

30. Healthy eating is not a mindless activity. It takes awareness, consciousness, presence, and purpose. Some examples include being mindful of how certain foods/food groups make your body feel, inquiring about food preparation when eating out, not digging into the bread basket or snacking simply because the food is right in front of you, and savoring occasional indulgences sans guilt.

So what’s the conclusion here? Honestly, I think that Whole30 has a TON of positive aspects (primarily eating whole foods) and a few negatives (too extreme, too much meat, and not enough smoothies.) Though I’m not the biggest proponent of this exact plan, I’m really happy that I experienced it because I did learn a lot and got rid of some poor habits. What made me stick with it after finding these faults? The sheer fact that I had made a commitment to myself.

Whole30 has lots of great aspects to it and I know that it has changed lots of lives for the better. If this seems like a plan that may be right for you, I encourage you to commit fully as well. Although 30 days may not be realistic, I would suggest an elimination diet for anyone looking to getting to know your body better, especially if you believe you may have an unidentified food sensitivity. Give your body a break from a certain food or food group for about two weeks and then reintroduce it to evaluate your body’s response. That way, as long as other food choices remain consistent, you should be able to tell 24-48 hours after consuming that food/food group if your body is sensitive to it. How will you know? You’ll know. Either it will make you feel fine, good, the same, or it will make you feel not so good in some way. As mentioned above, if it makes you feel yucky, try to cut it out of your diet as much as possible. Lastly, I repeat: read your labels and just eat real food!

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One Healthy Breakdown: lessons learned, tools in toolkit, carry on.

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The Link Between Success and Happiness

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How many times have you told yourself the “When I…” story?

When I get a better job I will be happy. When I meet the right person I will be happy. When I live in my dream home I will be happy. When I have more money in the bank I will be happy. 

We generally believe that happiness increases in direct correlation to the increase in our success, health, or material possessions. Perhaps it does to a certain extent, if you already have the right attitude and are fundamentally happy to begin with.

Things like success, health and material possessions are more prevalent now than in any other time in human history. We have the fewest numbers of people dying from disease and war, life expectancy is higher than ever before, technology allows us to learn and connect with people all over the globe, and we generally have more daily conveniences than other generations.

When I think of where we are in society, we should be happier than ever! So why is stress, burnout, anxiety and depression more prevalent than ever?

Believing that happiness follows success is a broken paradigm. Success is a moving target. Once we hit success, our idea of what success is moves up to the next level and it’s easy to feel like it’s not good enough because our own mental bar rises.

So when we experience any advancement in our lives (whether personally or culturally) our expectations change. Aside from the fact that our technological advancements also come with an assumption that we will be superhuman and achieve ten times more in our day than previous generations, we are faced with a new phenomenon I like to call comparison living.

Comparison living: Judging your life in comparison to people who have (or appear to have) more than you.

Recipe for disaster.

This unfortunately is easier now more than ever with things like Instagram, Facebook, celebrity magazines and tv shows glamorizing the lives of the rich and famous, and the internet in general. We are constantly bombarded with what I like to call “brag media.” Let’s face it, very few people are posting pictures or statuses about a major fuck-ups in their life. Which overall is a good thing, because I like to keep things on social media positive. But as a result, we see all of the great vacations and perfect life moments of others, and every time you see this there’s something in you that goes “I want that.”

Here’s the truth my friends: Happiness levels don’t rise with success or external stuff. 

There are many people who have a good home, a family, food on their table, clothes in their closet and yet they are not happy. It is your own choice to focus on the good, or focus on the bad. Nothing in your external life has to change to be a happier person, and that is what so many people unfortunately fail grasp.

There are people who have terminal diseases and are happier than people who have everything in the world. What’s the difference you ask? Gratitude. Being happy for what you do have. Unless you are dead I bet there’s something you can find to be grateful for. I’ve been to parts of the world that are devastating to see as a “first worlder.” Yet what I’ve noticed time and again is that there are many people who have very little and are still fundamentally happy.

 

Gratitude

So let’s get practical. What can you do to increase your happiness in your life?

  • Every time you hear yourself go “When I have…” or “Why don’t I have…” STOP yourself right there and immediately list 3 things you’re grateful for right now.
  • Attach the practice of gratitude to something you already are in the habit of doing. The best one I can think of is brushing your teeth. If you think of all things you are grateful for when you brush your teeth, then you’ve practiced gratitude for a couple of minutes every day and it didn’t take you any extra time.
  • Other times you can do this are when you are waiting in line at the grocery store or at the doctor’s office- or any time you are waiting for something. It’s the universe giving you a couple of free minutes. Spend them mindfully.

When we get still we intuitively know that there is more to life than waking up, going to work every day and accumulating stuff. There is a deeper meaning in life and people feel a yearning to understand it and experience it. People are starving for something they think they don’t have; but we all have it in us to be happy.

 

pH 101: Alkaline Eating for Overall Wellness

PH 101: alkaline eating for overall wllness

While learning about pH in high school chemistry class may not have seemed like anything worth knowing back then, it’s actually vital in understanding our body’s reaction to certain foods and what will promote ultimate health. This is an area of health that is grossly overlooked! So many of our modern health problems can be linked back to an overly acidic diet.  Let’s explore!

What is pH?

pH value determines how many hydrogen ions are in a given solution (in this case your blood). It is measured on a scale of 0-14. Everything below 6.9 is more acidic, and everything above 7.1 is more alkaline, with increasing value the higher or lower it is on the scale, and 7.0 being neutral.

How does it affect my health?

Different parts of our bodies require different levels of acidity or alkalinity. Your stomach needs to be more acidic to break down food, but your blood needs to be slightly more alkaline. Without the correct pH, your cells won’t do their job which is to keep your body alive. Kinda important! Because your body wants to stay alive, healthy and in balance it will do everything possible to maintain the proper pH if it ever gets out of balance.

When we eat large amounts of acidic foods it causes inflammation in our bodies which is a gateway to all sorts of health problems (overgrowth of bad bacteria like yeast and fungus, heart disease, arthritis, allergies, skin problems etc.). In addition to being anti-inflammatory, alkaline foods are easier to digest which impacts our immune system, as well as reducing yucky bloat.

If your blood is overly acidic due to the food you eat or environmental conditions such as chemicals and toxins, your body needs to find reserves of more alkaline minerals (magnesium, potassium and calcium) from your bones, tissues and organs to get back to its happy place of balance. Which can be a bad thing if it happens all the time, because your bones and organs need those minerals too. And it’s just taxing on your system to constantly be fighting to maintain homeostasis.

Think about it this way: The body needs to remain at 98.6 degrees. Any higher or lower and your body goes into certain processes to get back to that temperature or else bad stuff happens. On a hot day you sweat to cool off, on a very cold day your blood will leave the extremities and go to the most vital internal organs to keep them warm.

Your body does the same thing to keep itself at that perfect pH which is around 7.35-7.45. If you eat too much acid forming foods, your body will pull vitamins and minerals out of your own tissues and send them to the blood to get that pH back down.

Fun fact: Everyone knows that dairy products contain calcium. So a direct line of thinking would assume that if I drink more milk I will be putting more calcium in my body and therefore have stronger bones. Not exactly. Once in our bodies dairy becomes an acidic food, so your bones will actually lose some calcium in your body’s effort to balance the pH after eating something as acidic as dairy. Scary right? You’re better off getting calcium from a plant-based source so you can utilize that calcium without losing any from your bones.

So which foods are acidic and which are alkaline?

I’m not going to list the pH value of every food here (trusty ol’ google will help with that if you really want to know). But it’s important to know which foods to eat more of, and which to eat less of.

More acidic foods:

  • alcohol
  • meat
  • dairy
  • coffee
  • eggs
  • sugar
  • wheat
  • processed foods

More alkaline foods: 

  • fruits
  • veggies
  • nuts
  • beans
  • some grains are slightly alkaline like buckwheat, quinoa, brown rice, millet, oats, barley and spelt.

*However because balance is key, it is not recommended to eat a 100% alkaline diet. Our bodies are slightly more alkaline, therefore respond best to a slightly more alkaline diet. My favorite book on alkaline eating (Honestly Healthy for Life) recommends 70% alkaline to 30% acid foods. So you don’t have to give up all acidic foods forever.

3 easy ways to begin to eat a more alkaline diet: 

1. Make the veggie the main and the meat the side. You don’t have to change what you eat as much as the portion size. Instead of 8 oz of steak with a side of rice, carrots or broccoli, make a 3-4 oz portion of meat as your “side” then make a huge salad with lots of veggies in it as your main. No need to become a vegan if you don’t want to.

2. Warm Lemon Water. I know this is totally ubiquitous on the internet right now. I realize it’s beginning to sound like a broken record. Everywhere I turn there’s another site touting the benefits of drinking warm water with lemon in it first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything else. But it’s only because it’s true! This is an easy habit to get into and you don’t have to deprive yourself of anything.

3. Ditch the sugar and processed shit. Pretty self-explanatory. Everyone knows sugar and processed foods are the devil. But let’s be real, I don’t expect myself to give it up for good, but that doesn’t mean I can’t make good choices and substitutions whenever possible.

My 2 cents: This is not an all or nothing strict diet. Just because a food is on the acidic list, doesn’t mean I  have to give it up completely. While meat is on the acidic list I don’t believe giving up meat entirely is healthy either. The amount and quality of the meat is most important. I try to get grass-fed beef whenever possible. It contains far more nutrients than conventional beef does. The best thing do is just be aware and if you tend to experience inflammatory symptoms it may be worth switching up your diet to include more alkaline foods.

Mindfulness: How to Improve Every Minute of Your Day

3 simple steps to mindfulness

I find it really interesting that 10 or 20 years ago this topic was rarely discussed publicly. Now, “mindful” is a buzzword being discussed by major publications and figures like The Huffington Post and Oprah. I feel like there is a shift happening with the collective consciousness of the population. Open-mindedness and acceptance have become more valued in our society as we are fighting against discrimination and intolerance openly on social media. While our new technologies have revolutionized how we socialize, work and live, it can also be burdensome when over-consumed. As we increase our connection with others on the outside we tend to lose connection with ourselves. Incorporating a mindful practice into your daily life, can get you back to yourself and feel connected to what’s real and what matters.

Think back to the last time you were driving, folding laundry, or eating. Where was your mind during those times? The majority of the time you are, like me,  probably thinking about something that has already happened, maybe imagining a bad moment over and over again beating yourself up over it, or something in the future that you wish to happen, need to do, or are worrying about. In that moment your mind was not with your body, it was elsewhere. This is what happens to us too much, and it disconnects us from our present reality.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is being fully in the present, focusing on your awareness of sensations, feelings and experiences; observing and accepting what is happening at the present moment, without judgement. Mindfulness is used in many places as a therapeutic technique for relieving chronic pain, anxiety and depression.

How do we cultivate mindfulness?

For some, the idea of sitting down for 20 minutes a day and meditating is overwhelming, and puts on too much pressure. Your life can be one great big meditation practice if you are willing to be in the present moment.

Here are some steps toward living mindfully:

1). Pay attention to what you are doing right now, on purpose. Not because it’s a mindless activity, but because you are practicing awareness. It’s doing what you’re doing, and knowing you’re doing it. Take a walk without your headphones and listen to the sounds that are around you, look carefully at everything you see, feel the ground under your feet. When you find yourself thinking about the past or the future, don’t judge yourself, just bring it back to right now.

2). Observe your thoughts without judgement. When you realize that you are not your thoughts, you can separate yourself from them and they can’t get ahold of you anymore. Emotions and thoughts are always popping up at the worst times right? Part of the cycle is that we are too hard on ourselves for our bad thoughts. We like to punish ourselves. How many times have you said to yourself  “that was so stupid, why did you do that?”  If a feeling comes up, acknowledge that feeling but don’t judge yourself for it.

3). Observe your physical sensations. The the weight of your body on the ground. If you’re sitting in a chair, where do you feel the pressure of the chair on your body? The texture of the seat you’re in, the temperature of the room. The feeling of your shoes on your feet. Are you hungry, are you in pain, are you sleepy? If you are eating something, what is the taste and texture? Tune in to what your body is feeling everywhere.

While these steps are simple and do not take any extra time out of your day the way traditional meditation does, it’s not easy to remember to be mindful. The more you practice being mindful the more it becomes a habit. Start out by picking one or two activities throughout the day during which you will practice mindfulness. It could be cooking, cleaning, eating or anything that you can devote your full attention to that maybe you usualy don’t. In the comments section below, share how you practice mindfulness, or plan to begin a practice. I would love to hear all of your wonderful ideas!!!

Mindfulness quote

My Newest Health Obsession: Aloha Daily Greens

I have to share my newest health obsession: Aloha daily greens. Now please know that I’m not being paid to say this. I make no money on this blog. I do it because I love it and I share content that I feel is worth sharing to my fellow wellness warriors out there.

Aloha Daily Greens is a powder that you can add to water or smoothies that gives you an extra boost of green nutrients. They are made from organically grown ingredients and everything is at the highest level of sustainability right down to the packaging. I decided to try them because they were doing a free sample offer which was 6 packets of green goodness.

 

I was highly skeptical that I would like it. In fact I almost ordered the sample pack a few months ago and I changed my mind because honestly, green powder in water, yuck! I really didn’t think it would be worth it.  I decided to give it a try this week and I am honestly really happy I did. I’m not going to tell you it changed my life in 6 days, and anybody who is that enthusiastic about something is probably getting paid to say it. But what I will say is that I really liked the taste. Not in like a “funfetti cupcake” kind of way, but in a “wow that’s surprisingly refreshing and not at all ‘healthy’ tasting” way. I didn’t even add it to a smoothie this week because I liked drinking it just in water. The taste is very mild, like flavor infused water. There is a chocolate one too which I thought would be great in a banana smoothie.

Anyway just wanted to share my thoughts on it. Show of likes, how many of you have tried or want to try Aloha?

If you’re interested you can get $20 off your first purchase by using my promo code CAROLINE102. 

Health Benefits of Maca Powder

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I accidentally bought maca powder when I meant to buy matcha powder. Oops. Oh well! I know this mysterious maca is supposed to be a superfood so I decided to do a little research on it so it doesn’t go to waste. I am SO GLAD I accidentally bought this stuff because it’s benefits are pretty freakin’ awesome.

What is it?: Maca is a root vegetable grown in the Andes Mountains. Some say it’s close to a radish or a turnip. Who knew?

What does it do?

  • Increases and sustains energy.  And does so without stressing the adrenals like caffeine and sugar.
  • Regulates hormones 
  • Improves thyroid function. 
  • High in iodine (which has a load of health benefits in itself)
  • Reduces menopause symptoms
  • Reduces Depression and Anxiety
  • Improves memory
  • Improves muscle gain and development
  • Improves circulation

Maca contains nutritious vitamins such as B1, B2, C, D, and E as well as minerals such as calcium, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, iron, copper, iodine, manganese and zinc. It also contains essential fatty acids and ameno acids which means it’s a good source of plant protein.  Wikipedia has a much more in depth explanation than I can provide.

How do you incorporate it into your diet?

Since maca is usually found in powder form it can be easily incorporated into smoothies, which is probably the most common way to use it. However I find the rich nutty flavor to be a bit strong in a smoothie so I like to add it to oatmeal. Creative people out there are always coming up with ways to incorporate it into recipes such as puddings, brownies, protein bars, homemade ice cream, desserts, and so on.

So if you happen to be in the mood to try something new that you may not have heard of before, this versatile superfood may be fun to try out.

Superfood Oatmeal Power Breakfast

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I love incorporating superfoods into my diet. I find the easiest way to do that is mixing them into smoothies, yogurt and oatmeal. I waver back and forth on the whole grain debate. Some say whole grains are healthy, others say that the modern grains are so genetically modified it’s best to stay away from them. But what I know for sure is that worrying about things like that is more harmful to my health than not.  So I adopt an everything in moderation approach. I probably have oatmeal once a week and I try to use organic Irish steel cut oats when I can. I like loading up my oatmeal with everything in my cabinets that would give me fuel for the day. The great thing about this breakfast is that you can add or take away any ingredients depending on your taste and what is available to you.

Here are my go-to power oatmeal ingredients (it looks like a lot but I just use what I already have, these foods are staples in my kitchen).

  • Irish steel cut oats
  • 1/2 tsp maca powder
  • a few generous shakes of cinnamon
  • 1/2 of a banana chopped
  • toasted walnuts chopped
  • slivered almonds
  • chia seeds
  • goji berries
  • a small splash of almond or coconut milk
  • 1 tsp maple syrup if you like it sweet

Mix everything together and enjoy!

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Food Freak-outs

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Everyone loves a plan to start off the new year right with energy and optimism. We tell ourselves that we are going to eat better and begin to make grand plans for a nutritional overhaul. There is so much to be learned about ourselves by exploring new territories, and taking on challenges, even when things don’t go as planned.

When we decide to change our diet habits in any way, whether it’s something small or very dramatic, we forget that beyond the physical act of preparing and eating new foods, there are unexpected psychological issues that come up as well. These are what I like to call “food freak-outs.” It’s not necessarily about the food, but it’s the mental challenge of changing our habits. Women especially have a very complicated interconnected relationship between food and our mental environment. We tend to use food as rewards, punishments, social lubricants, feeling suppressors and mind numbing agents.  Feelings of anxiety and conflict can arise when those voices start to say “It won’t kill me to have just one. What’s my quality of life if I say ‘no’ to everything?” versus “You made a commitment to stick to something so you must stick to it.” Balance is key and it’s best to decide what is going to work for you. I find that diet programs usually don’t work (for me at least) because it’s an external force, designed by somebody who is not you, influencing your internal system and thought process.

So how can we find harmony and success in this process of improving our health without hating ourselves like Louis C.K says?

Make up your own rules to follow, but still be smart. Decide where you can tiptoe across that line occasionally (a glass of wine with dinner or some dark chocolate), and where you will never step foot (multiple cocktails and a trip to the drive-through). You are more likely to stick to something that you have laid out for yourself than a preplanned rule based system made by a stranger. The difference is you have to want it, and you’re more likely to followthrough with something if you created it for yourself.

Allow yourself a momentary pass for certain situations. The hardest part about making the changes last is when you get that last minute call from a friend to go out to dinner, or when you forgot your lunch at home and have to find a fast replacement during your 15 minute lunch break. Then the guilt and hatred sets in when you “fall off the wagon.” It feels terrible to go to someone’s house and have to tell them that you don’t eat certain foods. That was something I decided I couldn’t do. So when I am in my home, doing my own cooking and food shopping I go as heathy as possible, that way I can relax a bit and not beat myself up during the times when I don’t have all the control. I found that when I’m in a situation I cannot control, the really unhealthy thing to do is work myself up into an anxious frenzy or a “food freakout.”

Be kind to yourself. Harsh words toward yourself are the opposite of health promoting. So if you find yourself on a diet where you are constantly depriving yourself or experiencing harsh thoughts toward yourself (“I can’t believe I just ate two chicken chalupas. I hate myself!”)  something is not working. That’s not to say allow yourself every indulgence and disguise it as self love. Taking good care of yourself is as much about food, as it is your thoughts.

Experiment. For short periods of time I have done every kind of nutritional plan including vegetarian, vegan, paleo, Whole-30, gluten free, and felt like a failure when I “cheated.” I found that the key wasn’t converting to one for the rest of my life because at some point I was bound to fail, or just change my mind. Try something out for as long as your willing to keep it up. It could be a month, a day, or just one meal. The benefit is you will learn to prepare new types of foods, and you can see what works best for your body. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Don’t ever set yourself up for a failure! Today I was a vegetarian, tomorrow I may be paleo. As long as what you are trying out is mostly whole unprocessed foods, play around!

For people who are natural worriers, adding another thing to life that you are going to worry about is a recipe for disaster. During the times that I experience conflicting thoughts and harsh feelings toward myself when it came to my food choices I ask myself what’s my bottom line? Is it keeping to a regimented program just for the sake of it and in the process beating my soul into submission with feelings of guilt and anxiety? Or is it being loving and kind toward myself and rolling with the flow of life as best I can, while making good choices? I’m sure you can figure out the answer to that one.

Sometimes life give you moments where it’s healthier to go with the flow and pick up again tomorrow. 

Inspiring Women: Kris Carr

Everyone who cares an ounce about their health should know about this major wellness mover-and-shaker: Kris Carr.

Her story begins with, but certainly is not defined by, a diagnosis of incurable cancer. She chronicled her journey to find health and vitality through various types of holistic treatments and nutrition in the documentary Crazy Sexy Cancer (which I highly recommend).  While not afraid to show the raw realities of a cancer diagnosis, she retains her strong sense of humor and optimistic attitude in the midst of breakdown and uncertainty. She shows that a “take matters into your own hands” approach to your health can be as emotionally liberating as it is physically healing. She refers to herself as a cancer thriver, which I love, because though her cancer may be incurable, she has been able to maintain her health and improve her wellbeing.

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Since her documentary, Kris has written 5 books about her healing journey, helping and inspiring others with and without cancer. Her website kriscarr.com is my regular go-to for information, recipes and tips on healthy living. She is the Green Juice Queen, and one of the reasons I got a juicer last year.

I recently had the privilege to see her at an event with Gabrielle Bernstein called Crazy Sexy Miracles. While the majority of her brand is focused on nutrition, she spoke primarily about living a joyful and extraordinary life. She gave great advice on understanding your purpose and passion, and how to live a life of balance and alignment. Along with a side busting sense of humor, her authenticity and empowering voice is as inspiring as it is down to earth.

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My new bff and I. JK, I wish.  Sorry for the horrific quality of this photo (*sigh* cell phone cameras).

She’s like the friend you wish you had that drags you to yoga with her, makes you try her new green juice recipe and gives great advice, but also drops f-bombs like a trucker and makes you laugh until it hurts. We all need a Kris Carr in our lives.

When is it important to buy organic?

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I ask myself this question all the time. There are some basic rules of thumb that I follow when it comes to fruits and vegetables. But it’s easy to feel insane, as I often do, when we don’t have so much control over our food. Eating at restaurants and friends houses can be a challenge for people, like me, who are always reading labels and ingredients lists, wondering if this is organic or GMO-free (I know, if it gets any worse I probably should see a shrink). I’ve done a little research to set some boundaries I can feel at ease with. Certain foods are a no-no if they aren’t organic, some are a “try your best to get organic” while for others it doesn’t matter all that much.

#1: Know the Dirty Dozen. If buying organic is hard, then just go for the holy grail. These guys typically contain the highest levels of pesticide residue: apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches/nectarines, spinach (including frozen and canned), peppers, cucumber, tomatoes, snap peas, potatoes and blueberries. So if you are going to buy only a few things organic, make it these ones.

#2: Clean 15. You can feel at ease knowing the clean 15, produce you don’t have to buy organic: avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, sweet peas (frozen), onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwi, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe (domestic), cauliflower, and sweet potatoes.

#3: Pick what you eat the most of and buy just those ones organic. These are the foods that are frequent fliers on your shopping list, and are consumed in your house on a weekly basis. So if you eat a lot of spinach, cucumbers, celery and apples, like I do, then always buy those organic, no exceptions. But if you hardly eat potatoes or snap peas, then once in a blue moon it’s ok to skip the organic if you have to.

#4: When dining at a restaurant try to let go of the anxiety of not knowing if your food is organic. It probably isn’t, unless they specially state it on the menu. This situation always gives me problems. There are essentially 3 choices here: 1) Don’t ever go out. Yea Right! 2) Go out but worry the whole time over what you cannot control. 3) Go out, chose healthy options when available, and allow yourself a day off from worrying. It’s not easy, I often find myself hovering around option number 2, but I’m trying to go with the third option more. Part of what I am trying to do about easing my (and your) anxiety, is being ok with moderation. I’m writing this post as much for me as for you.  It’s easy to get obsessed with reading alarmist articles  and websites that scare the pants off of you. If I know one thing

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it’s that worrying is like junk food in your body. Anxiety messes with us physically and can cause as much damage as a big mack with fries. If I eat a non-organic apple one day and worry about it, then I’m causing more harm to my body then If I just ate the apple and didn’t give a crap. Happy shopping!