Heat and Light

Happy solstice, and return to more light every day. Winter can be a season we brace against, but I invite you to welcome it fully, and find heat and warmth within. I spent an amazing weekend at Kripalu and I came out with a sense of ownership of my own energy and experience of the day. Here’s a practice I encourage you to try. Go in with an open mind, and experience all that comes up, physically, mentally, emotionally. Resist judgement. Feel the heat that builds inside you, and carry it through your day. (This post seems long - is long! - but it’s really a short practice. I just wrote it out in great detail to support you going slowly. Perhaps read through once before you physically do it… or read as you go… there’s no right way, so there’s no wrong way! :)

Sun Salutation in Slow Motion

Start in mountain pose: your hands at your sides, feet about two fists apart. Tail gently tucked, chin and shoulders subtly back and down. Breathe. Feel rooted to the earth, and open to the sky above. Breathe, breathe again. Slowly bring your hands to prayer position in front of your heart. Breathe slowly and deeply.

Inhale and point your fingers to the ground and lower your hands, still palms together, to the ground deep into the earth, then, slowly, slowly, scoop the earth’s energy as you separate your hands and sweep them wide and up over your head. Slowly, breathing. Slowly moving.

Reach above your head high, hands come back together, fingers wide, palms together. Feel your body, feet, legs, back, chest, neck and arms. Feel the energy awaken. Breathe, stay there, breathe long and slow. Keeping hands and arms up, drop your shoulders down and back. Pause between inhale and exhale. Feel your body, feet into earth, hands to the sky, long and awake.

Inhale while you start to slowly sweep your arms wide and your torso forward. Take a few breaths to get all the way to forward fold, legs softly straight, body draped over thighs, hands hanging towards or on the floor. Feel your body, observe your mind’s thinking and gently breathe as you continue all the way to forward fold, whatever that is for your body in this moment. 

Stay for a couple breaths. A few breaths. Let your body tell you, notice if you don’t react to sensations right away. If you stay quiet.

Inhale and slowly rise halfway, like an upside down “L” - back and legs straight, arms resting on your legs wherever they land, head facing the floor. Breathe. Lenthen your head and tailbone long parallel to the ground, while you stretch legs and feet deeply into the ground. Feel what’s there to feel. Roll your shoulders back and stay for another breath. Put your weight on all four corners of your feet, slightly rock around the parts of your soles to see what happens with your balance. Breathe.

Inhale and slowly reach one leg back behind you while your hands come to the floor next to the other foot as that knee bends. Do this in one reach, slowly, or do it in a few shorter steps or wiggles back. No matter, no difference. Come to high lunge, hands on the floor, bent knee over ankle, other leg straight behind. Torso faces forward. Say hello to your hip, which is likely saying hello to you. Feel, breathe, stay. If you like, move your hands slowly to your thigh. Or not. Breathe in, out, in, out. Slow the experience down. Say hello to your beating heart. Send in breath. Breathe out judgements of your experience. Just feel what it’s like to stay here.

Hands on the floor, inhale and slowly send the bent leg back to come into plank, or top of a push-up position: hands straight under shoulders, body angled in a straight line from head to heels, toes curled under on the ground. Heels stretch back, head reaches forward. Breathe. Micro adjust shoulders back and down your spine. Get long, get hot. Breathe. Say hello to your belly. Feel the fire. Soak it into your bones. Keep that tailbone slightly lifted, not sagging. Breathe as long as you like here. 3 breaths. 30 seconds. One minute. 

Exhale and slowly slowly lower like the bottom of a push up. Elbows close to your sides, tailbone slightly lifted. Knees off the floor, or on the floor to help. Say hello to your shoulders and upper arms. Trust their strength. Cheer them on. If you can, stay for a breath or two or three just off the floor - feet and hands rooted, everything else just above, straight and strong (in your mind at least). 

Inhale up to a back bend either with legs just above the floor, or legs down. Use hands to lift upper body up to look at the wall in front of you. Say hello to your low back. Be kind, be gentle, be slow. Breathe in and out. Stay as long as you like. Play with the experience.

Exhale and lower back to either just above, or down on the floor in a straight line, hands next to ribs, legs out straight, toes curved under. With fire and using the heat you’ve built, lift your tailbone into down dog - upside down V. Let your bones help hold you, feel your power. Stay and breathe. Stay and breathe a little longer. Feel what’s there to feel. Notice the flurry in your mind and then get back into your body where it’s more interesting. Let your mind do it’s thing without your attention. Breathe long and deep and slow.

Inhale, lower your tailbone while you slowly bring the other leg forward - in one step or many - in one breath or many, so that your other foot is between your hands. Come up on fingers to open your chest here if you like. Breathe. Be gentle. Adjust as your body leads you to. Be curious. Breathe slowly and deeply here in high lunge. Out. In. Out. Find space. Feel the heat.

Slowly with an inhale, bring the back leg forward so your feet are about hip distance away, upper body lowered along your legs. Get there slowly, and stay in this forward fold. Let your hands come to a natural place with knees softly straight, or hug your calves. Breathe here. Feel the energy you’ve built. Breathe into it, fan the fire with your breath. 

Inhale and slowly slowly rise, scooping your hands out to the sides and up as you come. Take several breaths to get there, head comes up last, from your tailbone all the way up to your head, ending in a slight back bend, standing tall, arms high overhead, fingers spread, hands apart over shoulders or a little wider, beaming that energy up through. Breathe here. Feel your belly and chest rise and fall with deep breaths.

Bring your palms together, lower your hands past your face, palms together in prayer and draw that heat and light deep into your body. Hands stop in front of your heart, thumbs pressing into your ribs, feeling your circulation strongly. Slightly lower your head to neutral, and let your hands fall slowly to your sides.

Breathe here and let your eyes close. Feel, experience, acknowledge everything that happened. Find gratitude, find humility, find confidence. Celebrate yourself. Breathe until you’re done. There’s all the time you need. Enjoy.

A Gift of Kindness and Fairness

Happy December! Maybe more than any other, this month finds us in lots of places in our minds, hearts, and bodies. It’s a roller coaster of excitement and overwhelm and often resignation until the resolutions of the new year. 

And you know me well enough to know that I’m going to put in a plug for that body of yours. I know it’s easy to push aside and ignore, but instead, I’m asking you to be more open to how your body’s feeling, ready with your toolbox loaded with kindness and fairness.

Here are the two questions you can ask your body every day, or even every hour:

1. Is there something that my body needs that it’s not getting? (And then give it.)

* Can I be more kind about what I’m giving my body: more water, rest, deep breaths, movement, or a big bowl of green leaves and veggies?

2. Is there something that my body doesn’t need that it is getting? (And then stop giving it.)

* Salty, oily, sugary food and alcohol, or maybe judgement and impatience ~~ can I be more fair about what I’m expecting to feel like based on what I’m choosing? Also, what’s my reaction to my body’s signals like low energy, bloat, achiness, trouble sleeping, intense cravings for unhealthy foods ~~ am I being fair in allowing the truth of those symptoms as my body’s only way of talking to me? Which brings you right back to question #1…

Simple, honest, but also sort of radical in this culture of treating symptoms/ignoring causes. My hope is that this practice guides you as you go hither and yon spreading love, and receiving as much joy as you can reach and soak in. 

For me, please let me take this moment to thank you for your openness, your attention, and your care. You’re a shining star, and I’m glad to have you to share with. Please let me know what your health goals and wishes are for 2018, and if I can help. I have some changes simmering on my GSH and life’s journey…. 

But for now, here’s to a healthy transition from ’17 to ’18! xo

For Real: How to Lose Weight

I’ve been in the nutrition and wellness world long enough to be convinced of this. I’ve seen it in myself, in my family and friends, and in my clients. And while I wish simplicity meant ease, we all know they’re not the same thing. This is a journey, one totally unique to you and your history. There’s really no finish line, just a practice of observing, learning, adjusting as we go. Thanks for being on your path alongside me.

1. Don’t focus on losing weight.

I know, this sounds ridiculous, but really - extra weight is a consequence of something else going on, and that’s where your attention should go first, while you leave the scale aside. What are the emotions, the beliefs, the drivers behind what you eat and when? This is not always comfortable to research and uncover, but until you resolve the blocks or twists in your thinking or feeling, the weight isn’t going anywhere, at least not for long. It’s there for a reason - the food is solving some other problem. Think of extra weight as a helpful arrow pointing to something else that you’re not aware of. Be very gentle, loving, and curious and you’ll find it. Then you can learn to address that real issue in a way that serves you better, and it’ll take as long as it takes. You have time, no need to rush this.

2. Learn what you need to about nutrition. Then step away from the headlines and hype.

It’s very simple, but it’s not presented that way. We’re told: carbs are good! Now they’re bad and protein is good! Oh wait, now I need to eat more fat?! Kale, turmeric, salmon, blueberries, nuts, and kombucha (what the heck even is that?). Paleo, vegan, gluten free. Of course the dairy industry will tell us that cheese is great for us. Milk does a body good. Of course the packaged food companies will brag about whatever health kick is trending (whole grains in rainbow colored goldfish crackers!). And doctors aren’t trained in wellness, they’re trained in managing conditions with pills and procedures, so of course that’s what they’ll suggest. It’s big, big business, and it’s all competing to grab your attention and your dollars. I suggest that instead, just get your cute rear end into the produce section where the truth about being healthy quietly welcomes you.

  • Headlines about protein, carbs and fats distract us, but the simple truth is that we need a lot more fiber in our diets. (Howdy, fruits and veggies. Beans, too.) Like a whole lot more than we’ve become used to. Go slowly while your digestion (happily in its time) adjusts.
  • We need to eat less animal foods. Not necessarily none, but a lot less than we’ve come to think of as “normal”. And the animal foods we do eat - beef, fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, milk - should be really high quality (and yes, expensive). Eat less of it. None is totally fine too. You can get enough fats and proteins from plant sources like nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
  • At long last, give up the junk completely - soda (diet or not), bottled drinks, chips, cookies, fried anything, packaged snacks, and all the high sugar/high white flour stuff. Yes it’s fun in your mouth - the crunch, salt, sugar, crisp - but it does you no good inside, so don’t send it into your precious body where it hurts. 

3. Weight loss will happen as a result of your choices.

No need to count or measure anything. Be mindful of everything you swallow, and why you chose it (see #1 and #2 above). Then you can lose weight BECAUSE you’re caring for yourself, rather than caring for yourself IF you first lose weight. See the difference? Care comes first, and reaching a healthy weight becomes a result of that care. Be at ease and let it take time. No guilt, just learning as we go. You’re doing great and I’m here to support you if I can. As always, reply back with any questions or comments. :)

Daily (Baker's) Dozen

One of my favorite resources for health info is NutritionFacts.org - a non-profit run by a doctor who looks at the latest science to figure out what to eat to create our best health. He sifts through all the best research and summarizes the results in short videos on all kinds of health and food related topics. (It’s a great resource with an easy search bar on the site.)

Anyway, the reason I’m telling you about him is that Dr. Gregor wrote what he calls his “Daily Dozen” - a list of what to eat every day for the best health supporting, disease fighting results. I love this simple checklist, and… (bonus time!) I’ve added a lucky 13th item for you at the bottom.

Do your meals include any or lots of these foods? Are you inches or miles away? No worries either way. Maybe ask yourself, what one thing can you add today or tomorrow to get closer to completing the whole list, or one of the categories? And please reach out to me if you have any questions or could use a little motivation.

Okay - here goes:

1. Beans - 3 servings

  • 1/4 cup hummus or bean spread
  • 1/2 cup cooked any kind of bean: split pea, lentils, edamame, tofu or tempeh
  • 1 cup fresh peas

2. Berries - 1 serving    

  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen: blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, cherry
  • 1/4 cup dried

3. Other fruit - 3 servings

  • medium sized piece or 1 cup: apples, avocados, bananas, dried apricots, cantaloupe, clementines, dates, dried figs, grapefruit, honeydew, kiwi, lemon, line, mangoes, nectarines, oranges, peaches, pears, pineapple, pomegranate, plums, prunes, watermelon

4. Cruciferous veg - 1 serving

  • 1/2 cup chopped: arugula, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, radish, any other greens
  • 1/4 cup brussels sprouts or broccoli

5. Greens - 2 servings    

  • 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked: arugula, beet greens, kale, mescaline mix, spinach, swiss chard, any other greens

6. Other veggies - 2 servings    

  • 1/2 cup raw or cooked: asparagus, beets, peppers, carrots, corn, garlic, mushrooms, onions, pumpkin, seaweed, snap peas, squash, sweet potatoes/yams, tomatoes, zucchini

7. Flaxseeds - 1 serving

  • 1 tablespoon ground flax meal (ideally, buy whole seeds and grind a week’s worth at a time, but you can buy pre-ground, too)

8. Nuts/Seeds - 1 serving

  • 1/4 cup: almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, chia seeds, hazelnuts, hemp seeds, pecans, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts

9. Spices - 1 serving    

  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric plus any other spices and dried herbs

10. Whole grains - 3 servings

  • 1/2 cup hot cereal (measured before cooking): barley, brown rice, buckwheat, millet, oats, popcorn, quinoa, rye, teff, whole wheat pasta, wild rice
  • 1 cup (100% whole grain) cold cereal
  • 3 cups popcorn
  • 1 slice (100% whole grain) bread

11. Beverages - 5 servings

  • 12 oz: water, unsweetened tea (green, white, hibiscus or herbal)

12. Exercise - 1 serving

  • 90 minutes of movement throughout the day when you’re heart rate goes up

13. Acceptance - 1 serving

  • When judgement, self-criticism, guilt and compare-itis pops up in your mind (and it will!), don’t play along. Instead just notice it, allow that this happens automatically in our culture, and then gently replace it with a positive, kind thought. 
  • “I’m reading this list all the way to the end!” 
  • “I’m open to change and growth.”  
  • “I’ve gotten this far in my life, so I must be doing lots of things right.”
  • “I’m going to [fill in any action you feel inspired to take] now - feeling proud and optimistic!”

Emotional Eaters

Have you ever thought of yourself an emotional eater? (Really, haven’t we all?) Starting when we’re very young, we learn to go to food as a first response to any kind of discomfort. And the message gets repeated and repeated our whole life: Is there an emotion you don’t want to feel? Or do want to feel? Food can help with that! Feeling sad or squirmy or tense or jittery? Must be hunger! And it really does help… in the short term at least, food eases and distracts. But as we all know, it doesn’t work so well in the big picture or long term, because it’s not what food’s for, and our body reminds us of that in ways we don’t love (extra weight, hypoglycemia, indigestion - all the chronic health issues that food can cause).

Please, please don’t get down on yourself for the choice you’ve learned to make - it’s easy, it works, and it’s reinforced constantly. Feelings are tricky to figure out and food helps us get in (or out of!) touch with them reliably and effectively. You’re one smart cookie (pun intended, sorry).

Here are the two most common ways we learn to process emotions - 

  1. notice them, name them, talk about them
  2. push them down as a weakness and distraction

Is either one familiar to you? Sometimes we do one and not the other, some of us do both. But here’s the new part for me: there’s a way to experience emotions that interrupts the need to use food (with practice). There’s a third way I’m learning more about that feels like a helpful missing piece:

3. feel them in your body

Have you ever felt what happy or sad or mad or lonely feels like, just in your BODY? Where do you feel it, specifically? How does it feel? Lumpy? Tight? Jittery? What does it make you naturally want to do? Curl up? Clench? Growl? Something else? And also notice anywhere you DON’T feel it? Is there a part of your body that isn’t affected by the feeling? Knowing where it ISN’T can help when it gets too strong and you want a break. Maybe you can go to your toes or elbows or wherever there’s some quiet for a rest. Practice this for difficult and also good emotions. What does pride FEEL like? How about happiness?

When you try, you’ll quickly notice that the old habits I mentioned (#1 and #2 above) will want to crowd in and take the wheel. You might want to name the feeling, or explain it, judge or defend it, react to it with thoughts, opinions, ideas. Or you might want to stuff it away and get “back in control.” And that’s okay - notice that strong habit, then gently but firmly move it aside while you try something new. Those habits aren’t invited to this party. Just BE with the emotion in your body, physically, until your body is done. How long? Who knows - but your body will tell you! 

See if that experience over the next days or weeks provides any direct release/relief. Then you can get back to using food in its starring role: fuel for that beautiful body of yours. No more, no less. <3

That Makes Sense

The first step to making a change is to be totally okay with what’s going on right here and now. Does that sound backwards? I mean, if it’s okay, then why do I want desperately to change it?? It’s NOT okay - that’s the whole point!! 

Hear me out for a sec. The most permanent successes I’ve had helping people change their behavior (the stuff they’re either doing or not doing that they don’t like, that hurts their health) comes from switching from a battle mindset to an accepting one. As that shifts, then the whole inner conversation loosens up, and behavior naturally starts to shift too.

How? Let’s try.

Start by thinking of something you do that you want to change. Snooze button v. exercise. Cookies before dinner. A glass of wine v. herbal tea. Whenever what you WANT isn’t what you DO. Okay. Got one in mind? Great. Now quietly listen for your thoughts around that choice or behavior when you last did what you DID, not what you WANTED. Anything judgmental in that memory? Kinda mean, even? Like maybe words you would never say out loud, never to anyone else? Weak, dumb, broken, hopeless, pathetic, lazy…. gulp. And notice any emotions directed at yourself, too. Did you feel angry or frustrated? Scared maybe, or ashamed? Oh boy. If you’re like me, (like everyone?), then this is very familiar turf. 

Here’s what I’ll ask you to do, while you’re in this uncomfortable place.

What if instead of judging and criticizing, you got open and curious? I promise you 100% that every single thing you do is for a good, smart, real reason. It really is - all. of. it. So think again of the thing you don’t want, and get curious: what is this a solution to? What’s the problem? Be kind, patient, it’ll come.

Too tired? Skipped lunch? Feeling sad? Habit? Cute someone who scoops ice cream you want a reason to visit? It’s all truly okay - you’re okay. When you’re curious about WHY the behavior is there, then you can start to see the real pressing problem that it’s solving. And then you can start to weigh the ups and downs of alternatives if you want to make a different choice going forward, one that supports your health too.

Here are a couple of examples: If I sit and eat a real lunch - not some crackers and cheese in the car, but actually take a break during the day to get outside and move a little, then I might not be so tired when I walk in the house when the box of granola bars is my best choice. Or if I skip the wine and late dinner, I might sleep better and be more ready to get up to take a walk. If you want to make a different choice, plan it out fairly ahead of time, so the one you want is the best one at that time.

Does that make sense? Try it for the day and see if you catch yourself in judge mode. Be alert - it happens so often and automatically - this nonstop fight for control - that we honestly don’t always notice. It’s like an irritating background noise we don’t hear anymore. And as you go, please let me know if I can help, or if there’s something sticky (or unsticky!) you want to share.

Remember: you are a smart problem solver! Be a kind one, too. xo

Exercise Your Most Valuable Parts

Spring is in the air! Which means extra daylight, extra energy, and… maybe… extra pounds leftover from winter. No worries at all - that’s how it’s supposed to be. It just means it’s time to shift to spring food and movement.

I’ve shared the idea of interval training with you before, but in case you *ahem* missed it, here’s a reminder that workouts with short, intense bursts have a whole lot going for them. Mostly the short part, plus they really do get you fit fast. (And by fit I mean able to resist the degeneration of aging and vulnerability to disease.) Try it with me, even just once a week. I’m doing it monday, wednesday and fridays early when the day is still getting started.

This version is a pyramid formula that gives you the best of both worlds - short bursts to sculpt your muscles (okay, we like this), and longer ones to strengthen your heart and lungs (vanity aside, this is the ticket to health). How fast you go is totally not the point, as long as you max out whatever level you can keep up the whole interval without having to stop. You can use a treadmill, rowing machine, elliptical, hill or stairs, jumprope… whatever you have and suits your body.

For me, just as a reference, my highest high definitely feels like I’m sprinting like Usain Bolt ready to drape the flag around my shoulders to receive my gold medal, but really, at my sprint, I’m pretty sure a decent marathon runner would pass me. Did I say this is a tough 22 minutes? It’s hard, but to have a fit heart and lungs? It’s a worthwhile trade indeed. 

So drop the self-judgement, put on some loud pop music, be where you are, and hear the crowd roar.

Okay, ready?

Here’s the pyramid, after you do a little warm up on your own:

Full speed for 30 seconds, then 30 seconds at recovery speed.

Full speed for 1 minute, then 1 minute at recovery speed.

Full speed for 2 minutes, then 2 minute at recovery speed.

Full speed for 4 minutes, then 4 minutes at recovery speed.

Full speed for 2 minutes, then 2 minute at recovery speed.

Full speed for 1 minute, then 1 minute at recovery speed.

Full speed for 30 seconds, then 30 seconds at recovery speed.

Seriously, you are a mega athlete star and I want your autograph on a Wheaties box.

But, Why?

Woo hoo! It’s Green Start Health’s 5th anniversary this year!

And because this puts me in a reflective mood, I want to share an overview of what I believe even more now than I did five years ago. And not just what, but also why I do this work. (We’re all motivated by our WHY more than our WHAT, don’t you think?) 

Here’s my why:

Food is the best chance we have to keep ourselves healthy. Of course, we’ll never have 100% control or a guarantee, and we all know outliers. But I sure don’t want to test my resilience to find out where my tipping point is.

We can seriously stack the odds in favor of our good health, with some pretty good side effects: we get lean and more energized too.

The evidence is clear about just what it takes to do this, even though the message gets very twisted. Remember that food is big (big!) business, and there’s a lot of spinning, partial truths and downright b.s. coming at us. But aside from all that noise, there really is a simple truth.

We know that:

1. We want our blood pH to be neutral to alkaline, because disease thrives in an acidic environment.

2. We want our immune system (which lives in our intestines) uninflamed, strong and able to kick disease to the curb, thank you very much. 

3. We want a body that’s unwelcoming to the most common killers: cancer, heart disease, diabetes, plus immune diseases and, while we’re at it, the pain in the neck realities of the common cold, flu and allergies.

4. Because they die off and get replaced our whole lives, we want to build strong, healthy cells, not ones that are damaged and vulnerable.

And we know that food either gives us this body… or it doesn’t. It totally depends on what we eat. Here’s the food that gets us closer:

Veggies - all of them, especially leafy greens or anything else green.

Fruits - all of them, especially berries. 

Nuts and seeds - almonds, walnuts, cashews, pumpkin, sunflower, chia, flax.

Beans, lentils, herbs, spices, and whole grains (not just wheat, even if it’s whole).

Fats - mostly from all of the above foods, plus extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil for cooking.

Now we’re left with the things that, like it or not, make our body a comfier place for sickness to settle in. But please don’t panic: I’m not talking about once in a while servings - you can be absolutely healthy and eat a little of all this stuff! But months, years, decades of meals high in these foods is when real trouble sneaks way too close for comfort.

Junk food - all the packaged, processed stuff, including soda/bottled drinks - diet or not.

Dairy - milk, cheese, ice cream, yes, even yogurt.

Meat - chicken, beef, pork (sorry, bacon), also fish of the feedlot type, but even the most local, grass fed stuff needs to be dialed down to smaller servings than we’ve gotten used to.

Sugar - including corn syrup, table sugar, and white flour.

Fats - fried and charred food, plus all the highly processed yellow oils (canola, soy, corn, etc).

Still with me? How does that land for you? Feeling energized and clear? (That’s my hope!) Irritated and overwhelmed? That makes sense, too, it really does. As I said, simple doesn’t mean welcome or easy. There are a lot of reasons we eat what we do, and it takes courage and energy to make changes from a place of freedom rather than judgement. 

Try to swap the narrative of “this is what I can’t have” or “this is what I have to do” to “this is what I can do” or “this is what I’m choosing for myself.” See if that softens any resistance

And if you’d like, I’ve made a new draft of my Leaves+Twigs book all about how to eat. This edition is short and to the point, in a way that I hope makes it easier to not only decide what to eat, but also how the heck to turn vegetables into meals. Want a copy? It’s $10 to cover shipping and printing… please let me know by replying to this email and I’ll send you one

Phew. This was longer than usual. No matter where you are on your path with your body and health, you’re doing great, you’re enough, and I thank you for letting me share my thoughts. xo

Start with all the Yous

At the risk of sounding new-agey, have you ever felt like there was more than one you in you? And you’re right - we’re all made up of multiple aspects, each with needs, stories and wants. So I’m starting this new year by giving a nod to each member of the team.

Here’s my list - perhaps one piece or another will resonate with you.

The Bod

I’ll feed my body simple and nourishing food, and pause to notice it every now and again during the day. (Thirsty? Hungry? Need to pee or stretch? Deep breath or maybe a walk?)

The Mind

In a conversation, instead of thinking of what I’ll say next, I’ll listen, pause, and then reply with a follow-up question or reflection, rather than a “my turn” story.

The Heart

When I feel an emotion, I’ll name it, and wait to see what happens if I don’t automatically react, but just feel it. I’ll remember that feelings come and go and I always have choices about how to behave, including being still.

The Spirit

I’ll be on the lookout for exactly what I want to find - both in me and in the world, knowing that whatever I look for, I’ll find. (So I’ll look for the good stuff, of course!)

A Good Day

I’ll start each day with a simple intention - something positive and doable, maybe from this list.

I’ll end each day with a bit of praise for myself and gratitude for someone else.

5 Daily Practices that Feel Really Good

1. Start and end the day with a glass of water. (Have a few more during the day.)

2. Eat green leaves, veggies, and - in a relaxed state, s l o w l y - a little of everything else you want - no judgement, no guilt.

3. Listen more and react less - to others and with yourself. Look for the underlying truth.

4. Take a walk outside. Lift your arms over your head, stretch open your ribs and fill your lungs with fresh air.

5. Give compliments - to strangers, people you know, and to your beautiful self.

Have a happy happy thanksgiving; please call or email me if I can be of any support.

xo

 

Quiet this mind? Yeah, right.

Have you tried meditation? Or tried to try? Maybe you’ve just felt like you’re supposed to try, but… I mean, the benefits seem blissfully good, and people who get there are just so…. I don’t know - I always feel a little inadequate around their inner peace.

So here’s my busy-brain version - no zen mental state needed. No counting breaths or repeating mantras or watching imaginary drifting clouds while struggling to ignore a million thoughts. In fact, your mind will be online the whole time - that’s the cool part. And you can dip in for 5 seconds or 5 minutes or… go ahead… 5 hours, you over-acheiver.

Ready? Here’s how: Pick a sense, and notice stuff.

That’s really it, but here’s a little more detail if you want.

Sit or lie down, or walk or jog or stretch or do the dishes, and choose a sense to focus on. (Okay, don’t pick tasting or smelling for this.)

Can you feel points of your body on the chair or floor? In your clothes? Can you feel the air or your body breathing in? What does it feel like to breathe in and out - nose to belly?  Can you feel soreness, tightness, floppiness - and what does it feel like to let it go some more? Feel bones, muscles, organs. Skin, toes, jaw. Don’t think about it - just get deepinto the feeling part.

What about hearing? Birds? Cars? The fridge humming? What does each thing actually sound like when you focus on it? Don’t just name it and move on - stay and really listen. Can you hear your body digesting maybe? Or breathing? What about weather or voices or critters?

Seeing is a great sense to be still with or take on a walk. How many shades of green or brown do you see? Or if you’re indoors, how many shadows can you see? What color are they - not what you “know” - what you truly see. (Spoiler alert: shadows aren’t grey.) Maybe find all the red around you. Or blue or shiny things. Or curves or corners or things that are moving. Notice it all without naming or reacting.

And when you’re done - high five to you for doing something amazing for yourself! You brought your whole, brilliant, active mind into the present moment for a bit. No past, no future, no stories - just here now. And you get all the goodies that the varsity meditators get (lower blood pressure, increased sense of calm and well-being, etc), and you did it by using your mind to get there, rather than trying to somehow stop it.

Let me know if you try and how it feels. :)

What, When or How?

Eat food slowly.

Seriously - that simple thing is a really big deal. Most of us - especially emotional eaters, but also regular busy people - eat fast, often while multitasking. So whether you’re eating the best stuff - highly nutritious, gorgeous whole food - or a bacon fried onion double cheese burger - either way, your body can’t do what it needs to do if coming in too fast. That means that lots of the benefits of the good stuff are lost, and all of the natural signals around the heavy, rich stuff are completely missed. In stress (fast, mindless eating), your metabolism goes into lock-down.

Try this. Instead of spending energy on what to eat, or when to eat, just focus on how you’re eating. For a single bite, a meal, a day or a whole week - see what happens when you eats—l—o—w—l—y. 

If judgements or emotions come up in the space (or more like when they come up), allow them, be kind, and feel proud you’re trying something new and healthy. Yay: you!

 

Eat Whatever you Feel Like

If you’re paying attention in this culture we live in, you’ve probably come to think of your body as a kind of improvement project. Make this bigger, that smaller, stretch a bit longer here. These messages are coming at us from all sides, so much so that we start to play them automatically in our head. (My daughter was three or four when she “realized” that pretty = blonde. Yes, my heart sank that day.)

So let’s remember what our body is: it’s the natural expression of ourselves. It’s bones, muscles, blood and organs that enable us to be alive, regardless of how hard our abs are, or where we do or don’t want hairs. We see, taste, hug!

And food is, well, it’s how we get to keep on being alive and well. (Thanks, food!)

But when that viral and perpetual improvement loop gets in the way, food becomes a means to work on trying for that “ideal” body. Or it becomes a way to rebel against all that control and restriction. (Exercise plays this game too - do we do it to LOOK better? or to FEEL better and LIVE better? Hmmmm. Ask yourself.)

Bottom line is we get really busy making decisions based on what we see, not so busy noticing what we feel

When you start to FEEL your body, your choices will naturally change. When you treat your body like a vulnerable living thing that depends on your care, you end up wanting different things than you did before. Instead of the “getting away with” or the “I CANNOT be trusted around ice cream” mentality, you can feel free to have whatever you want. Whatever feels right - body, mind, whole lovely self. 

Start to feel your tongue, stomach, digestive tract, energy level, emotional state, thought patterns - and after, see if what you want shifts maybe just a little bit.

Your Beautiful Mind

Lately I’ve been thinking about the conversations that run in our heads about food. The “Will I or won’t I?” “Should I or shouldn’t I?” “Be good or bad?” “Have this or that?”

It’s exhausting for sure, but hard to find the off switch. Seems no matter which choice you make, the chatter keeps chattering on a constant loop.

It makes sense that when you’re judging or restricting something - even in your thoughts - you’re going to push back against the control and want more. That’s why diets boomerang. That’s why being “good” for breakfast and lunch too often means overindulging around dinner. Denial + judgement = big time cravings.

Before you ask (I can hear you): no, this does not mean eating with wild abandon. You’re right, in a way, that’s the opposite of denial and restriction, so it’s a really smart thought. But instead, what it means is stepping out of that conversation altogether.

How? First, notice that all this chatter is happening in your beautiful mind, but you’re not your mind - you’re the person with the mind, thinking the thoughts, busy having the conversation with yourself. But you also have a body that speaks to you. 

In order to quiet the noise in your head, drop into your body. Change the channel from M to B. Your body knows how to eat - it sends signals of hunger, satiety and thirst that you may be out of the habit of hearing if you’ve been distracted with all the thinking.

To make this shift, it helps tos l o w   w a y   d o w n.  See the food, smell it, and feel the sensations in your body. Do you feel physically hungry? No? Then go take a walk, call a friend, pet the dog. Yes? Then choose whole, high quality foods your body will thank you for. If thoughts and emotions bubble up, see if you can name them, allow them. Sometimes we eat fast and a lot in order to push feelings away. When you slow down, there they are, and they’re not always fun. Let them out as much as you can.

Enjoy your food fully and indulgently - s l o w l y, and listen for signals from your body when you’ve had enough. If your mind tries to interrupt and make the decisions (Clean your plate! or You’re So Weak! or even You deserve it!) simply thank it for trying to help, and then change channels again to reconnect with your body. That’s where the food wisdom is.

Your mind is beautiful, but with food, practice letting your body run the show. Instead of asking which voice in your head to listen to, see if you can hear what your body is saying instead.

But, Why?!

There’s a lot (a lot a lot) of information coming at us all the time from the world outside - and even inside our own heads. Do this, not that, be this way, try that… and on and on and on. Yes, from my newsletter, too. For me, I’m a happy recipient when I’m able to choose thoughtfully what I let in, and filter away the rest. I really do like to hear about new recipes and ideas, workouts and places to go or things to try. Do I actually do them all? Not even close!

And that’s okay. It’s okay to be where and exactly how you are right now. You don’t have to do anything or be anything more than you are. No guilt, excuse or apology needed. Can you choose to reach for something? Try something? Work on something? Sure! But please know that you don’t have to to be enough. You’re enough right now, making all the choices you make for good and smart reasons.

My reminder for you today is one I often repeat to myself. Health is not the goal. I mean, who cares about being healthy just for the sake of it? So what?? But health is one of the big things that helps you reach your goals - whatever they are for incredible you. 

We eat lots of veggies so our immune systems are strong. We move so our bones, hearts and muscles are strong. We breathe and stretch so our minds and joints are supple. But that’s not a victory in and of itself.

The really good part is what happens next… what amazing things will you do with that body and mind? How will you expand into the freedom that you’ve created? That’s the fun part.

 

Drink Liquid Gold

I’m not one for trendy superfoods. Honestly, all plants are super and you don’t need one over any others to be gloriously well! But there are some that are wildly packed with goodies. Turmeric is one (the spice that gives curries their bright golden color). Think: anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, antioxidant, good for your skin, liver, brain, memory, helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol and helps raise fat-burning, just to name a few. Bottom line is this spice is amazing for you, so it would serve you well to work it into your routine.

I’m just now hearing about golden tea… do you already know about it? Taken any time, but especially first thing or at bedtime, it helps with digestion, ease aches and pains, and gives you a beautiful inner glow.

To make it, you first need to make a turmeric paste (don’t walk away - it’s easy and lasts!):

1/4 cup turmeric

1/2 cup water (more if needed)

1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper (makes the good stuff in the turmeric much more available inside your body)

Mix all this together in a pan, and slowly heat until it’s a thick paste - 7 to 9 minutes, adding more water if you need to. Let the mixture cool and store in a glass container in the fridge - keeps for 2 to 3 weeks. That’s it.

Now to make Golden Milk, combine a teaspoon of coconut oil, 1/4 teaspoon of the turmeric paste you made, a cup of unsweetened almond or coconut milk and a little honey, to taste. Options: add a little cinnamon or vanilla. Serve warm (being careful not to bring it to a boil).

Two Little (Big) Things

Summer’s time to shift into a slower gear, and it’s put me in a back-to-basics mood. I have two thoughts to share. Little things that - with awareness and intention - can become big deal things.

1. Eat Slowly. No matter what it is or where you are, sit down, pull over, turn off the screen and take time. Taste, feel, smell. Eating in a relaxed state has really big benefits for your digestion - you absorb more nutrients, you feel when you’re full, and you turn on your calorie-burning furnace. For extra credit: take one long breath in and out before you start, and one more when you’re done. Seriously - try it and see how you feel (can be harder than it seems!).

2. Give Yourself the Benefit of the Doubt. There’s no good or bad food, good or bad you, or right or wrong choice. There’s just the thing you choose among many options. Sometimes it’s obvious why we pick the one we pick, and sometimes the reason’s hiding a little deeper. Either way, it’s a real, honest reason - not good, not bad. Drop the judgement - even the “I’ve been so good today!” and get off that punish/praise roller coaster. Extra credit here: when you feel that should-I or shouldn’t-I judgmental buzz swirling, pause to get in touch with your most evolved self - your wisest, calmest you - and ask that part of you what to do. Even if that’s not what you choose, that’s totally okay. Just noticing the process without using words like good and bad is a big deal.

 

Even a Four Minute Workout Has Big Results

If you don’t know what H.I.I.T means (and why would you?), it stands for high intensity interval training. And it’s just that - exercising by alternating short, intense bursts with longer, moderate ones. It’s actually the way bodies are meant to move, before we had couches and cars and elevators and grocery stores. (We like these things, I know... and we should!)

I just came across a bunch of new research on the big benefits of interval movement. It turns out that not having enough time to exercise isn’t really a thing. You have four minutes, three times a week, right? These studies all resulted in real improvement in overall fitness, blood pressure, metabolic rate, blood sugar resistance, muscle strength - equally as good in these areas as a long, sustained workout. I hear you, and yes, this is still harder than NOT exercising, but the payoff is really big, in ways you’re going to like, so see if you can challenge yourself to try.

Here’s my cheat sheet for you from all the studies. Pick one and play around with it. Try them all. I mean, now you have time, right? :)

(None of these findings suggest you should stop those long walks or bike rides - those are fabulous for your body and mind. Just add short bursts on the days you used to write off as too busy for exercise - three times a week is ideal, but once is great, too!)

10 minute cardio workout (1 minute of intensity)

2 minutes - warm up at an easy pace (walk or slow jog)

20 seconds - do an all out burst (sprint, or something equivalent)

2 minutes - easy (back to a jog)

20 seconds - all out burst

2 minutes - easy

20 seconds - all out burst

3 minutes - cool down (walk)

7 minute whole-body workout

30 seconds for each exercise, without much or any break in between:

  1. jumping jacks
  2. wall sit (sit with your back against a wall, thighs parallel to the ground, and hold - no chair)
  3. push ups (on either your feet or knees as you can)
  4. ab crunches
  5. chair step-ups (alternating legs, step up and back down from a sturdy chair)
  6. squats (keep knees over toes)
  7. tricep dips (hands on a chair seat behind you, lower torso down and up, legs bent or straight)
  8. plank hold (top of a push up position)
  9. high knees/running in place
  10. alternating lunges - forward and back
  11. push up with side rotations (at the top of each push up, pivot and raise your top arm straight to the ceiling)
  12. side plank hold (on the sides of both feet, with one hand supporting you down from your shoulder, the other straight towards ceiling)

4 minute cardio workout

Sprint or row or pedal or climb for one sustained 4 minute burst, three times a week. (Yes - this has as much benefit as a long moderate workout - just make sure it’s intense and your heart rate is up around an 8 or 9 on a scale of 10!) Feel free to add a little warm up or cool down.

30-20-10 workout (12 minutes)

Run, ride or do whatever cardio activity you like, gently for 30 seconds.

Accelerate to a moderate pace for 20 seconds.

Sprint as hard as you can for 10 seconds.

Repeat for five loops total, without a rest in between.

Then rest for two minutes (stop or walk slowly) and do the whole thing again one more time.

You don’t need a stopwatch, you can just count to yourself - or use a timer if you like - whatever makes it easier and more fun.

Easy walking intervals (6 minutes at a time, 30 minutes a week)

High-intensity interval training programs aren’t for everyone. Here’s a way to seriously improve your fitness and strength in a gentler way, but still with the big benefits of intervals.

Walk for 3 minutes at a 6 or 7 level on a scale from 1 to 10 (somewhat hard).

Stroll for 3 minutes.

Repeat 5 sets either all at once, or at other times throughout the day.

 

Inspire Your Inner Clutter-Tamer

I recently (finally) read Marie Condo’s The Art of Tidying. Have you heard about it? She takes a really common thing - dealing with accumulated stuff - to a whole new place of mindfulness and gratitude. I’ve read so many stories of life-changing results, I had to check it out. Full disclosure: I’m a kindred spirit here and have always lived clutter-free - honestly, if anything goes missing in my house, all eyes turn to me with an accusatory stare.

If you haven’t read the book, or if you’re facing spring with a little energy (or maybe a familiar desire but no energy) to create some space and order in your home, I’ll share what I like best about her process, combined with some of my own practices. 

  1. Get clear on what you’re doing: this is about letting go. Cleaning and storage comes after. So you’ll end up with less stuff, but much more meaning and joy.
  2. Rather than start with a drawer or room or even closet, start with a category. Seriously, it changes the whole deal to do it this way, so stuff isn’t just mingling around from one spot to another, undoing your good work.
  3. Gather everything (seriously: every last thing!) in that category into one place - maybe socks, sports equipment, books, tools, bedding, towels, bath and beauty products, even something little like writing utensils can be an easy start. Clothing can be done all at once, or you can break it up into categories like: sweaters, pants, coats/jackets. Just be sure to first gather every single item that fits the bill. Spread it all out on a floor or bed or table.
  4. Take a few deep, calming breaths. It’s okay. You can totally do this. Take some time to acknowledge the use you got out of each thing. Feel grateful for the purpose it served.
  5. Now, rather than focus on what to get rid of, focus on what to keep. Keep what truly serves you now, or as Condo says, what sparks joy. Then, simply discard the rest without drama. Have a place ready to put the things you no longer need, like a giveaway and throwaway bag/box. You don’t have to keep anything because it’s still useful. By giving it away, you share that use with someone who needs it more urgently than you. Take a picture if it has emotional value or triggers a nice memory.
  6. Neatly put away what’s left - what you’ve chosen to keep - in its most logical spot. Don’t rush to buy storage containers unless there’s a real need. Usually more storage just means more stuff, and after you pare down, you’ll find you have plenty of space already. Keeping things where they go is the best way to stay in touch with what you have and where it is. Imagine no more digging or frantic searches.
  7. Before you tackle another one, finish each category all the way to the end. Make a trip to the dump or thrift store with the discards now, so you don’t end up creating an overwhelming mountain of it all you’ll have to face later (or be tempted to rifle back through…).
  8. Use this practice to notice your shopping habits. Pause to be sure it’s something you truly need that’s missing in your life. Yes, a sale is great, but maybe you already have something like it with good use left. Our culture is built on creating urgency around consumption (act now! 40% off!), but you know very well that another sale will happen later.
  9. Feel the ripple effect. This process will merge into the rest of your life, leaving you feeling lighter, more in control, and more purposeful. Notice how having less feels like more, and that it changes your ability to make and trust your choices in other areas of your life. Don’t force downsizing on your family, but allow them to watch you, get curious and try. See where it leads…

For more on my process, check out my new Decluttering service. I’d be happy to help you get started, get finished, or get the whole darned house done.

For more on Marie Condo’s process, get the book! She really dives deep into the phycological and spiritual practices in a small, readable book (if your buried, forgotten stuff had feelings, would it be happy ignored in the dusty dark of a closet for years? And never insult your socks by balling them!). But seriously, she writes wisely on fear about the past, the future, reasons we feel attached to stuff, and how learning to simplify our personal space spreads out into our lives in big ways. 

You’re replacing a false sense of helplessness (I can’t face all this crap - it’s depressing and makes me feel guilty.) or preparedness (I’m safe because I have everything I could possibly need “in case”.) with a true sense of confidence (I have enough, and I can handle whatever life steers my way.). 

So I guess, yes, in a way it’s a practice of the spirit if you want it to be.

Hi, Body.

To me, yoga can be like meditating: a thing I feel like I should be doing more of, and be better at. But at it’s core, yoga is a practice of breathing. So hey, I’m all for breathing!

I’d like to share an easy series that takes about five minutes - it’s a no-tight-clothes, no-mat, no-sanskrit needed greeting to my body and breath. And a pause to my thinking, thinking mind, which is really nice too. The older we get, the more important it is to take our spine and limbs in directions they don’t usually go. Feel the blood flow - it’s so good.

There’s only one rule here: let your body go where it goes. And not go where it doesn’t. Your expectations and opinions aren’t invited to this party. Your arms go over your head the way they go over your head - no need to fret. Your plank pose is on your toes or knees and wobbly or wonky - and that’s what it is - it’s perfect. Let it be. And even if you’re a yoga pro, there’s a lot of action in this simple series. Don’t poo-poo it as too beginner - it can be as advanced as you invite it to be.

1. Stand up tall, hands at your sides, feet a little bit apart. Tuck your butt a little, tuck your chin a little. Feel your shoulder blades slide back and down as your inhale opens the front of your chest. And again: inhale, exhale.
2. Inhale as you lift your arms straight up over your head, shoulders down, hands open. If your shoulder says hi, say hi back. If it says thank you but that’s as far as I can go, say okay, but trust me and stay here for a second, it’ll be worth it.
3. Exhale and inhale again in that position.
4. On your next exhale, fold forward, bend your knees, and put your forearms on your knees, keeping your back long and straight. Feel your long spine, tailbone to head. Inhale and exhale here.
5. Inhale and put your hands on the floor right under your shoulders and walk your feet back, so you’re a plank on your hands and toes. Or knees work well here too, and so do forearms - don’t judge or get all bossy, just go where your body leads. Either way, you’re a straight line, head to knees or feet, no sticking up or drooping down butt.
6. Exhale and inhale in this plank position - once, twice, three times if you’re feeling it. Heck, ten times if you want. Hello: arms locked from your shoulders straight to the floor. Hello: torso and abs.
7. Inhale, keeping your hands on the floor, and walk back, keeping bent knees, putting your forearms back on your thighs, straight back like before. Exhale.
8. Inhale as you rise back up to standing, straight legs, arms go all the way up above your head, hands open. Exhale and inhale here.
9. Exhale your arms down. Inhale, exhale. Feel all the parts of beautiful you, and the effects of what you just did. Awesome.
10. Say thanks to your body for letting you run it around now for the rest of the day.