Friday, February 27, 2015

Differing Food Journeys

My journey with food has been feel-good driven over the last few years. There is something addictive about removing something from your diet that you know is making you sick and then as soon as it is gone, you instantly feel better. That feeling better perpetuates the urge to know what else you can do and if there is a next feel-better-level. I am currently on this journey to finding how many rungs are on this eat-well-feel-better ladder.

My journey started almost 4 years ago with gluten. I was tired of feeling horrible, grumpy, lethargic and sick all the time and I figured cutting out gluten couldn't be any more painful than the pain I was already in. 6 months after that I cut out lactose and most dairy. Slowly and naturally, I ate less and less meat and dairy and more veggies.

With my Institute for Integrative Nutrition Health Coach course I am learning new things weekly. Within the course we are encouraged and greatly intrigued (at least I am) to try the diets we are learning about. A few days ago I decided to start a 21 day vegan kickstart-esqe type challenge as encouraged by the recent lecturer Neal Barnard, MD. I know I have a problem with dairy, yet I continue to eat it (because it is oh so good and one of my last vices), but Dr. Barnard convinced me to see if I can go vegan. Also I'm just recovering from a nasty cold (I rarely get sick) and the idea of reintroducing dairy feeling disgustingly mucus-y, so why not start now. While not following the PCRM Kickstart to the t because of my gluten sensitivity and I know well enough how to eat vegan without much guidance, I am trying to eliminate what remaining animal products I still consume: yogurt, kefir, aged cheddar, butter, chicken and fish from time to time, for the next 21 days.

It never occurred to me that my personal food journey would effect my loved ones around me. I figured I might inspire or encourage. My family is extremely supportive and encouraging, but when you are the sole cook and grocery shopper in the house and you make radical dietary changes and those tasks fall under your responsibility, by default the people in your house are effected. I kept thinking this is my journey, my experience, "A" can do whatever he wants and eat whatever he wants, and he does. But I realized today that it's not that simple.

Food is important to us. We have always bonded over food. When we first started dating I tried to wow him with my cooking and I did. I always felt great pride when he would brag to his friends about how good my cooking is. I was always looking up new recipes that would entice his taste buds and yearn for the mmm moan. We love to try new restaurants. Not much changed when I went gluten free. It didn't effect A much. He continued to eat his gluten with abandon and life continued. But the more I move through my food journey and the more I continue to cut out, the further we are getting from enjoying the same food journey together. We have always valued cooking together and enjoying a meal together, but now my meal is not the same as his meal. My cooking is not what he wants and needs. His food needs are very different than mine. But because I cook and shop he is now eating, sometimes, the meals I make. He cannot be sustained on a vegan nor vegetarian diet. His is a carpenter which demands a lot of energy in a day and if he doesn't eat protein a few times a week he feels weak.

Don't get me wrong, he is by no means a meat and potatoes kind of a guy. He has vegetarian parents and will happily eat a vegetarian meal, but the more I learn, the more I experiment and the more I cut out, the less he can get from the food journey I am on.

Sure he knows he should eat more greens, and he does when I make them. But I am eager to try real, whole, food in its natural way, without much deviation. And while the vegan thing is new, and possibly temporary, maybe it is not. I am really looking forward to a raw diet experiment this summer (Why wait until summer, you ask? Raw food has a cooling effect on the body and in the winter, especially like the one we've been having, you naturally want warming foods. It is poor timing. In the summer you want cooling foods, so I will wait). I never intended to drag anyone into my food journey experiment, especially not the more radical ones like vegan and eating raw, but by default A is getting dragged. Poor guy.

We had a very eye opening conversation today because making sure he is full and satisfied by my cooking has always been extremely important to me - it is how I express my love to a certain degree. But now I am not doing that, nor satisfying him, because our food needs are entirely different. This is hard for me. I had to wonder if there was dissatisfaction outside of the food-love, which he readily assured me was not the case. Phew.

A encourages, support and wants me to completely immerse myself in the IIN® course. He understands the value of my experimentation especially when I start taking on clients. It will help me understand different viewpoints, but he also pointed out I will most likely deal with people more stubborn and less open than he is when it comes to food. (He is so wise). So this is a good lesson too.

It is interesting how much food and nutrition is such a personal journey, and for me emotional to a certain degree, because I am learning so much and questioning a lot of what I used to hold true about food. I have always loved food, but it was gooey, meaty, cheese, flavorful, bountiful food, and while I still love food, I love it in a different way; a nourishing, nutrient dense, quality first sort of a way.

Unintentionally, I have changed the household dynamic of food and A either needs to eat my way or start cooking for himself again, which is a first in our relationship (and not an ultimatum, just a reality). And he is torn between knowing what I am making is probably better for him and he knows he "should" eat it, against what he wants to eat, which sometimes (often) is not brown rice and veggies. (I can hear him saying from our conversation earlier - "Enough with the rice and veggies. You can only eat so much bland f-ing rice and veggies.")

So while we are currently on different food journeys, which didn't even occur to me until today, I hope to one day be able to make vegan and/or vegetarian food that is so scrumptious that even A will like it, and maybe, just maybe, might brag to his friends about how good a healthy dish of mine is.

Friday, February 20, 2015

All The Kale in The World Won't Make You Happy

I am at a work conference in Boston, which is supposed to be exciting, intriguing and informative, which I gather it is, for those who want to be here and love the industry they are in.

The only thing I keep thinking to myself, lecture after lecture, is I so don't belong here and I SO don't like my job.

I am currently a Director of Sales and Marketing for a publishing media company. I took the job because of the hefty pay increase and the excited presumption, and naive hope, that I would be doing more marketing than sales management. I should have known better. I clung to the idea that marketing is creative to a certain extent and the idea of coming up with exciting ways to brand a long standing institution that never viewed marketing or branding itself in the past, was alluring. This however is not even 5% of my job. The "and marketing" should really just be dropped from my title. I knew what a sales manager was. It is a very data driven, spreadsheet loving, analytical job coupled with the management of a team of sales reps that look to you for guidance, leadership, Ra-Ra, problem solving, and sales advice. I can do a lot of those things if it is for something I love. And I am great at leading a team. But sales is not one of those things I love. The word alone makes me want to run. Did I tell you I hate sales people and pitch-y conversations? Yeah, I know, what the hell am I doing in an industry that I knew I loathed from day one. A nice paycheck will make people do stupid things and go against who you know who you are at your core. Hi my name is stupid.

Bottom line. I hate my job. It is such an unnatural fit. And sitting through sales lecture after sales lecture is just rubbing salt in the festering wound that is my unhappiness with my job.

In the IIN® course I'm taking we are taught the necessity to focus on primary foods first and then secondary foods will fall into place. Primary foods are those things that feed us, at our core, in this life: relationships, career, movement/exercise and spirituality. Secondary foods are actually the whole foods we eat. The thought is that if your primary foods are not in balance then you will struggle with eating well, because imbalance in our primary foods leads to poor food choices, decisions, emotions and cravings.

I have secondary foods down pat. I love eating well. I love cooking. I love the farmers market and pressing my green juices. And all but the one of my primary foods is in balance and thriving. But it is so red-siren-blaring-flashing obvious that my job is the doom of my existence, no amount of kale, green juice and yoga will fix it. I get this little stress spot on my face, that is scaly and red, and it is a daily reminder, when I have it, that my body is actually rejecting the daily drudge of my job. 

And the funny thing is we tell ourselves that career is not that important, but when you think about it, on a work day we most likely spend more hours at our job than we do with our spouse! Shouldn't it be something you like? Something you want to spend a large portion of your day doing?

I think so. I am convinced in this lifetime I will have a career I love. One that I don't feel takes more of me than I want to give. One that I enjoy getting up and doing 4-5 days a week. One where I feel I am making a difference in the world, in other people's lives and in my own. And I have learned that the hefty paycheck is really not that important to me. I would rather have a fulfilling career and make little money, than the current position I am in.

Enrolling in Institute of Integrative Nutrition® was that first step for me. I look forward to my class every week and I gobble it up as soon as it is available. All I want to do is my classes and wish I could know it all tomorrow and be a practicing Health Coach tomorrow. The thing is I kind of have always been a health coach. For as long as I can remember people have come to me about their diet concerns, exercise questions and ailment issues. I have always been the person people come to with their problems. I have been a health coach for many years without even knowing there was a title for such a job or that I could and probably should have been charging for my services all these years, ha. 

It is really quite amazing that IIN® came into my life at exactly the moment I needed it. This might be the universe's way of telling me I am headed in the right direction and boy does it feel good.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Info Fiend Find: Quality of Our Food By CATHERINE PRICE

"We use the presence of synthetic vitamins in so many of our foods as justification to continue to eat whatever we want, and seek to fill any remaining gaps via pills."

Eat good, whole nutrient dense foods not those with labels that indicate vitamins were added back in. That's never a good sign.

Great article from NY Times.

Quality of Our Food

THERE is much concern these days about what’s in our dietary supplements. Are they actually filled with the ingredients that the labels promise?

Maybe, maybe not. Quality control issues in the estimated 85,000 dietary supplement products available in America should give every consumer pause. But even vitamins themselves — the 13 dietary chemicals necessary to prevent deficiency diseases like scurvy and rickets — pose hidden hazards of their own.

We believe so strongly that vitamins are always good for us, and that the more we get the better, that we fail to notice that food marketers use synthetic vitamins to sell unhealthful products. Not only have we become dependent on these synthetic vitamins to keep ourselves safe from deficiencies, but the eating habits they encourage are having disastrous consequences on our health.

Discovered barely a century ago, vitamins were a breakthrough in nutritional science, providing cures and preventions for some terrifying diseases. It wasn’t long, though, before vitamins spread from the labs of scientists to the offices of food marketers, and began to take on a life of their own.
Even though an estimated two billion people around the world still don’t have access to adequate vitamins, most Americans have never experienced or seen the consequences of a serious vitamin deficiency. It’s tempting to believe that we’re being protected from these deficiencies by vitamins found naturally in the foods we eat.

In reality, however, most of the vitamins in our diets are synthetic additions, whether they’re in obviously fortified products like breakfast cereals, or hiding in plain sight. Milk, for example, has been fortified with vitamin D for so long that it’s become a major dietary source of the vitamin without most of us realizing that it’s an artificial addition.

Nutritionists are correct when they tell us that most of us don’t need to be taking multivitamins. But that’s only because multiple vitamins have already been added to our food.

Given the poor quality of the typical American diet, this fortification is far from superfluous. In fact, for products like milk and flour, where fortification and enrichment have occurred for so long that they’ve become invisible, it would be almost irresponsible not to add synthetic vitamins. If food companies didn’t do so voluntarily, the government might have to require it, to make sure that we didn’t accidentally eat ourselves into nutritional deficiencies.

Mandatory fortification will never be necessary, however, because synthetic vitamins are as essential to food companies as they are to us. To be successful in today’s market, food manufacturers must create products that can be easily transported over long distances and stored for extended periods.

They also need to be sure that their products offer some nutritional value so that customers don’t have to go elsewhere to meet their vitamin needs. But the very processing that’s necessary to create long shelf lives destroys vitamins, among other important nutrients. It’s nearly impossible to create foods that can sit for months in a supermarket that are also naturally vitamin-rich.

Luckily for manufacturers, the early days of the packaged foods industry coincided with the advent of synthetic vitamins, which made it possible to simply replace any vitamins that processing had destroyed. This fortuitous timing meant that manufacturers never had to publicly admit the nutritional inferiority of their products.

Instead, they were free to make claims about the benefits of enrichment and fortification without acknowledging why the addition of synthetic vitamins was necessary to begin with. And once they began to recognize the enormous profits that synthetic vitamins could help them achieve, they never looked back. Today, it would be easy to blame food marketers for using vitamins to deceive us into buying their products. But our blindness is largely our own fault. Rather than challenge the companies that make these foods, we’ve entered into a complicit agreement with them: They depend on us to buy their products, and we depend on the synthetic vitamins they add to those products to support eating habits that might otherwise leave us deficient. The problem with this approach to nutrition is not that there’s anything inherently wrong with synthetic vitamins — it’s the shortsighted nutritional philosophy that our obsession with vitamins encourages. Sure, our easy access to synthetic vitamins means that we’re no longer likely to die from acute vitamin deficiency diseases. But extra vitamins do not protect us from the long-term “diseases of civilization” that are currently ravaging our country, including obesity, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes — many of which are strongly associated with diet.

Indeed, natural foods contain potentially protective substances such as phytochemicals and polyunsaturated fatthat also are affected by processing, but that are not usually replaced. If these turn out to be as important as many researchers suspect, then our exclusive focus on vitamins could mean we’re protecting ourselves against the wrong dangers. It’s as if we’re taking out earthquake insurance policies in an area more at risk for floods.

And adding back vitamins after the fact ignores the issue of synergy: how nutrients work naturally as opposed to when they are isolated. A 2011 study on broccoli, for example, found that giving subjects fresh broccoli florets led them to absorb and metabolize seven times more of the anticancer compounds known as glucosinolates, present in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, than when glucosinolates were given in straight capsule form. The researchers hypothesized that this might be because the whole broccoli contained other compounds that helped people’s bodies put the anticancer chemicals to use.

And yet we refuse to change our eating habits in the ways that would actually protect us, which would require refocusing our diets on minimally processed foods that are naturally nutrient-rich.

Instead, we use the presence of synthetic vitamins in so many of our foods as justification to continue to eat whatever we want, and seek to fill any remaining gaps via pills. This isn’t true just for people who exist on junk food: The popularity of dietary supplements and vitamin-enhanced processed “health” foods means that even those of us who try to do right by our health are often getting it wrong.

While the recent debate over dietary supplements is important, we mustn’t let it distract us from an even more fundamental question: how we’ve allowed the word “vitamin” to become synonymous with “health.” If we actually thought about this, we’d be forced to admit that the allure of vitamins has hijacked our common sense. And we’d realize a consequential paradox. Synthetic vitamins are now required to keep us healthy — but they also enable us to eat ourselves sick.

A science writer and the author of “Vitamania: Our Obsessive Quest for Nutritional Perfection.”

Another Snow Storm - Wah! (whining font here)


Enough with the bite-ass-cold wind chill! Enough with the blizzards! Enough with the snow drifts! Enough with winter!!!

I am SO over winter right now!

Cuddle-bugs trying
to stay warm
Granted I knew early on when I moved to Maine that this is typical come mid-February, everyone goes a little stir crazy. Ever heard of cabin fever? Well it is real! The weather is relentless. We are fricking cold. There is white stuff for days, and miles, and coming through the windows and doors. There comes a point where you want to take off all the layers, feel warmth on your skin, but nope that's not happening for many more months, and we all know it and we all get a little grumpy because of it....grumble, grumble.

Even the dogs are going crazy. The snow is so plentiful and deep, they have no where to run and play. Not to mention how cold it is. They go on poop and pee strikes refusing to go outside in the 40 mph winds, only to come in seconds later completely white covered in snow, most likely not having done their business. I mean who can blame them!? I certainly don't want to be outside for any longer than absolutely necessary. I can't even imagine having to drop trow and tinkle. I don't even like to pee when the toilet seat is cold. Poor puppies.

Even the dogs are going crazy! Listen to them making velociraptor noises into each other's mouths, haha!

I am so over it. And yes, I know, I am the one who chose to live here, I am the Southern CA girl who, for-god-knows-what-reason, moved to Maine (to freeze apparently!), blahedy blah. Four seasons is fun and all, but yeah not so much when all you want to do is ball up under the blanket and stay warm and eat - oh wait I think they call that hibernating. I get it! And that's all I want to do. Hibernate.

It is really hard to focus on health and wellness when you don't want to take your warmest jammies off all day, and all you want to do is eat yummy warm, gooey foods, and cuddle and watch movies all day. Sure I can pull my big girl panties on and buck up and workout and write and drink my green juice - and I do - but there is a force much stronger than any good intentioned strong will can stand up to and that is a full fledged Maine winter.

Look at the
shape of these snow flakes!
So what's a girl to do....continue to buck up and stick it out until spring? Yeah, I don't think so. Try as you might not to gain some extra winter padding (you gotta stay warm somehow), be super focused and write and create (there is only so much writing and creating you can do when you are frozen), or do what I have found to be the only solution - run. Plan a trip to sunny SoCal and bid the winter adieu (at least for a week or so!). Booking tickets now!

It sure can be pretty though - shhh, I didn't say that out loud.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Enough With the Labels

I am a vegan, but I wear leather shoes.

I am a marathon runner, but stay out all night partying.

This is my life partner, but hate that term, even though marriage doesn't define the relationship either.

I am a vegetarian, but I love to eat bacon.

I am straight, but occasionally have sex with my same gender. 

I am gluten free, but love beer.

We like to label everything and labels are important to our society. It allows others to understand you. If there is a label people know where to compartmentalize where you fit in their brain, in their social circle, in the world. When you don't fit in the label, or when there is no label to fit you or your lifestyle choices, people ask a lot of questions, or don't and walk away confused.

I get why we have labels, but I hate them. Why do we care so much if each of us fits into a predefined explanation of diet, love, lifestyle choices, sexual orientation, etc. We are all unique and all our own you, so why do we need to be defined by general labels? With whatever label we give our selves or society asks us to put on ourselves, there is always a disclaimer after that states, "well, but..."

The irony is most labels don't fit anyone, yet we feel obligated to use them for ease of conversation, "Oh thank you, I can't I'm a vegan," but honestly we are not any one thing and I wish we could just be, without labels, without excuses, without explanation - us.

If you want to eat meat in the winter because you live in Antarctica and it warms you, yet you identify best with the label vegan for the remaining 9 months of the year, then eat your beef, pack on some winter pounds, listen to your body.

If you are in a monogamous relationship and both can talk openly about your sexual needs and have sex with other people from time to time, then do it, don't be limited by the term monogamy or open. Just be you, in your relationship, and if it works for your relationship than that is what matters.

The thing is we are so concerned about fitting in and being defined by terminology that other people and society understands, that we all are forced to live by the limited terminology. Then when asked, you have to somewhat defend who you are because you don't exactly fit the term, but who the hell does? If we all just stopped worrying about fitting in and just were our unique, real, freaky, meat eating, vegan, sex loving selves we would all learn to love and accept each other a little more. If we all let our freak flags fly we would realize that none of us are 100% defined by any term and therefore the terms are useless. We would learn to accept each other as we are, as individuals, as unique and defined only by you, your actions and your heart.

So go be your vegetarian, boozing, cross-dressing, meat eating, church going, table dancing, marathon running, all-loving self if it is the most authentic version of you.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

It's Not You, It's the Diet

There is this amazing concept at the core of my IIN® called Bio-individuality. It is the idea that no one type of diet works for everyone, and that one man's food is another man's poison.

I love this because it brings to light to silly nature of fad diets. A new diet comes out that is all the rage and everyone swears by it. Many will inevitably try it and it won't work. The sad thing is that the people who "fail" thought it was them, that they were weak, they didn't try hard enough, but the reality is the diet wasn't for them. They didn't fail the diet, the diet just wasn't right. Repeated "failure" however causes people to give up and quit which is heartbreaking, without knowing the real problem was that the diet wasn't for them, not from lack of their effort.

If we all understand diet from the bio-individuality stand point, we will stop looking to crazy new fad diets, but instead will listen to our intuition and learn to listen to our bodies. Our bodies know what they need and they tell us. We just have to learn to listen. You may think your body is telling you that it needs meat, dairy, Twinkies, potato chips, etc., and it very well could be telling you that those are real cravings, but you and I both know that those are not real foods that the body "needs." Cravings are the body's way of telling you it is lacking something else - be in nutrients from real whole foods or nutrients from a fulfilling life like needing more love.

Once you learn to listen and identify what the body really needs and is asking for then you can start with the simple things that everyone knows - eat more vegetables, whole grains and fruits, less meat, dairy and processed foods. That is not to say you can't have those things, just have less of them by eating more of the good stuff. And when you want a little of something else, then have it, but just a little.

We don't really need a $59.7 billion diet industry that is always pushing miracle pills, ideas, methods, fad diets and has us perpetually living on a diet. What you need for your health and well-being does not come in a pill, or a shake, or a book. It comes from listening to your very wise body and applying the very simple things we all know we need to do more of - drink more water, eat more vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, seeds, lean means, whole real dairy and move more. It really is quite simple.

So go ahead try a new diet, it might be the perfect fit for you, but don't get down on yourself if it doesn't work. Brush it off, knowing you gave it your best, realized it asked you to cut out too much, and move on. It wasn't your fault, it was the diet not fitting your needs, your food needs, your lifestyle needs. It's OK to try something new. Eventually you will find a perfect balance that works right for you, which will not be the same thing for your spouse, kids or friends, it is uniquely yours and the more you listen, the more your body will guide you.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

You Don't Know, Until You Know

This seems obvious and like duh, but the reality is you really don't know - what it is like to feel good, to poop well, to identify how certain foods effect you, that medications can be greatly diminished by diet changes, that exercise can fix most any mood problem - until you have actually done these lifestyle shifts and you think "Oh wow, how did I go so long not knowing."

But you can't know or understand until you make a change. Even subtle ones like drinking more water every day could be a baby step to solve perpetual dehydration; which can be masked in hunger pangs, a headache, irritability, mental fog, sugar cravings...

My Man is always confused when I say I am off, I need to get back on track (not that I have deviated all that far, but it happens). He worries, asking how are you so sensitive now? Is there a bigger problem? It is not that I am more sensitive. I am more in tune with what is "off" for me and when something goes off just a tiny bit I notice it instantly. I know I need to eat more brown rice, or juice more, or do more yoga, or get more sleep. And there is no underlying issue, other than I can't believe I lived "off" for so long, so uncomfortable for so long, and I didn't even know it.

I didn't know, and I couldn't have known, without the comparison to then and now. And I think this then will be compared to a future now. I have recently enrolled with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition® to become a Health Coach and I can already feel the shifts of my lifestyle that I know now. So I can only imagine what my future will look like in my lifestyle choices I learn and implement with IIN®.

The thing is, we all know little things we could and should do in our daily life that would be better for us: drink more water, sleep more, eat more vegetables, move more, have more sex, sit still in silence - pick one, just one, even the one that seems the easiest and do it. Take note of how it makes you feel and difference it makes in your day to day. When that easy lifestyle choice becomes second nature and you don't even have to consciously think of it, choose another. Bit by bit, your small baby steps will snowball into continually wanting to make yourself feel better. The feeling better is addictive and sooner or later you will weigh choices based on how they will make you feel. And then one day you will find yourself thinking, "How did I go so long..." and "I didn't know blank would make such a difference," and "How did I used to live like that?" 

"How did I not know, until now that I have this comparison of feeling amazing. I didn't know until, I knew the difference. And wow what a difference it is."