Sunday, January 23, 2011

Recommit To Your Health: Part 1

January isn't over yet, so I think it is still appropriate to talk 'resolutions'.  

I have noticed over the past few weeks in my day to day interaction with patients that there is a common theme post-holiday.  Common phrases are:  "I fell off the wagon", "I over ate", "I got off my routine and now I feel badly", "I'm frustrated with myself because I gained back all the weight that I lost", "I don't feel balanced".  What a way to start the year! 

While resolutions may help us to refocus our energy, often times they can make us feel guilty for what we have not been doing.  Instead of approaching this year's resolutions with the guilt of eating poorly over the holidays or the shoulds of what you think you ought to be doing more or less of, consider resolving to spend more time doing what you love and enriching your life in ways you genuinely look forward to.  What a fantastic way to think about resolutions! I invite you to think about the year ahead in a positive manner that will allow you to accomplish great things without the guilt. 
A Top 10 List on how to recommit to your health:
1. Focus on what you want, not what you don't want.  Do more of what you want.
2. Chart your successes, and visualize yourself achieving your goals.
3. Move your body every day, no matter what. 
4. Talk about what you want and ask for support in achieving it.
5. Be realistic about how your body, life, house, etc. “should” look – focus on health and not appearances.
6. Strive for more meaningful connection with friends, family, and colleagues. Define what this means for you.
7. Get the blood work, dental cleaning, or home repair you’ve been putting off. Don’t take up mental space with self-criticism for tasks that have not been completed.
8. Compare your progress in life to your own goals, not others. You are not them.  This life is your journey.  Live it well.
9. Smile and laugh as often as possible. Cry when needed.
10. Make a collage from magazine photos of everything you would like to draw to you this year. You’ll be amazed at this time next year how much of it actually happened.

Don't spend energy worrying about what you haven't done.  Lead a life that celebrates the fullest experience possible.  

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Year, New Health

A New Year is always a good time to be inspired to create change.  Be inspired to make your commitment to REAL health this year.  REAL health is possible.  Hold a vision of your perfect health - what does that look like?  Make it real for yourself.

A good place to start is with what you eat.  This year make it your challenge to create some "Food Rules" for you and your family.  Food Rules, or what I like to call personal food policies,  are guidelines that help you to form ideas about what you should eat to feel your best.  The overall goal is to move closer and closer towards eating all REAL food while decreasing and eventually eliminating all the foods that don't provide you with nourishment and vitality.  

I have listed my top 5 food rules - the 'non-negotiables' for me and my family.  These are the guidelines that I stick to when I do my grocery shopping, meal planning, food preparation and lifestyle decisions.

1.  If you eat grain, always sprout, sour or soak it first. 
Grain is not an essential aspect of a wholesome, nourishing diet.  There is nothing you can find in a grain that you can't find in greater quantities elsewhere.  That said I do enjoy a hot grain cereal in the winter and raw granola in the summer.  Sometimes a nice treat is a crusty loaf of sourdough bread dipped in a steaming bowl of hot stew or soup.  All in all, grain should be kept to a minimum and choosing whole, unprocessed grain is essential.  Stick to whole oat groats, buckwheat groats, quinoa and millet.  If you choose to eat grain, this year make sure to prepare it properly in accordance with traditional, time-honoured methods.  Whole grain contains an anti-nutrient called phytic acid which binds up minerals preventing their full absorption.  This means all those whole grain cereals, crackers and cookies aren't doing you or your family a lick of good.  The effects of these anti-nutrients can be mitigated by souring, sprouting or soaking which combines whole grain with warmth and a slightly acidic solution.  This process activates phytase, a food enzyme, that effectively neutralizes phytic acid rendering the whole grain more digestible and its nutrients better absorbed.  Make the effort to sour, sprout or soak your grain.
To Do:  The next batch of break you make should be sourdough, and plan meals ahead so you have time to properly prepare your grain for optimal nutrition.  Give sprouting a try.  Soak your oatmeal overnight in water and lemon juice or a bit of yogurt.  

2.  Eat cultured or fermented foods daily.
Cultured and fermented foods play an enormous role in traditional diets.  First born of practicality, fermenting and actively culturing foods offer benefits beyond a way to preserve food without refrigeration.  Indeed, the natural process of fermentation often increases vitamin content while reducing sugar content; moreover, fermented foods are teeming with beneficial bacteria - those tiny probiotic bacterias in your gut that work to strengthen your immune system, making vitamins and warding off pathogens.  Make the effort to eat fermented and cultured foods at least daily.  In our home, we try to eat small amounts of yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi or other fermented foods with nearly every meal. 
To Do:  Make your first batch of sauerkraut or homemade yogurt.

3.  Give up refined foods:  sugars, oils and flours.
The single most effective thing you can do for your health this New Year is simple:  remove all refined foods from your cupboards.  Give them up.  Just like that.  You may have paid good money for that bag of sugar, the gallon of vegetable oil or that bag of flour, but its money wasted.  Why spend money on 'food products' that won't give you vitality and good health?  Instead, put your effort and your money into REAL food.  You may think, "I only use flour (sugar or canola oil) occasionally."  But, occasionally is still too often.  Refined foods can leach micronutrients from your body, contribute to risk of autoimmune disease, cancers, metabolic and endocrine disorders and heart disease.
To Do:  Take a big garbage bag and throw out any vegetable oil, soybean oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, hydrogenated fats, white sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, agave nectar, white flour, unbleached all-purpose flour, enriched wheat flour, refined sea salt, iodized sea salt any boxed or packaged foods containing these ingredients.

4.  Enjoy more sunshine.
Most of the population, children and adults, are deficient in vitamin D.  Blame an indoor society coupled with a near-paralyzing fear of skin cancer that has kept people covered up and slathered in carcinogenic sunscreens.  Yes, many sunscreens contain carcinogenic compounds.  Kinda defeats the purpose!  Low levels of vitamin D are linked to cognitive dysfunction, depression, autoimmune disease, cancer and heart disease.  Instead, go outside without sunscreen!  If you are particularly concerned, use a touch of coconut oil or sesame oil on your skin both of which have protective effects.  Remember to cover up before you burn, so bring a wide brimmed hat or loose, long sleeved clothing to avoid the pain of a sunburn.
To Do:  Head outside today or tomorrow (or wait until summer) and don't cover up in sunscreen.  Let the sun warm your face and skin and play to your heart's content.....for those brisk winter days having a little bit of skin exposed for 10-20 min when daylight has peaked is the key to maintaining adequate vitamin D levels.

5.  Choose only grass-fed, pastured and wild animal foods.
Grass-fed, pasture raised and wild caught animal foods are deeply nourishing.  For thousands of years prior to the advent of industrial agriculture, these were the only animal foods we knew.  The manner in which an animal is raised does make a difference, not only to your health but to the health and vibrancy of your local economy and environment.  Grass fed beef and red meat is a richer source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), omega 3 fatty acids, beta carotene and retinol than the meal of conventionally raised animals.  Moreover, grass and pasture based farming provides environmental benefits as well - nurturing the local fields, improving the diversity and proliferation of native flora and fauna.
To Do: Ask yourself - where does my meat come from?  If you don't know, find out and investigate a source of grass fed local meat.  

So there you have it!  A short list of pretty simple changes you can make today to move forward towards a healthier and happier lifestyle.  Choose and create health for yourself.  

Please share your experiences and thoughts!