Are You Your Body’s Worst Enemy?

Ever get hit with a smack-in-your-face reality check and wonder why it took you so long to figure this out? The kind that makes you wonder how you could be so stupid…how could you have let it happen when you clearly know better?

A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling terrific. I was emerging more & more from the shell of safety I’d built around myself during the big move. My thoughts were much more clear than they had been since the car accident, and though my belly was giving me occasional grief, my body was reacquainting me with the strength and resilience I thought I’d lost to the downhill slide of middle age.

I took a little trip home to Montreal to visit friends and such. At an acupressure session, I was reawakened to the deep healing you get from going for tune-up support rather than damage control. I walked out feeling like a million bucks!

That night, I went out for the first in a series of overly permissive meals, all in the name of my birthday. I proceeded to indulge, at one point or other over the next 2 days, in ALL the things I usually avoid out of concern for my health… at times, all at once.

I mean, come on, this was a time to be celebrating, a time to let myself go and enjoy.

While I’d just had all this lovely energetic work done on my digestive system, and was fully aware that taking it easy was important – in the same way a big workout after a massage or chiropractic adjustment is to be avoided – I still let my elbow be twisted about sharing a bottle of wine, I ordered the veggies smothered in sour cream. I didn’t refuse the invitation to share a slice of chocolate cheesecake.*

Little wonder that I felt like crap warmed over on the train home, sipping lemon water and swearing to eat nothing but vegetables and broth for the next week.

My logical brain wanted to pin the hangover on some particular culprit: too many late nights, one glass of wine too many, the chocolate, the pasta, the ice cream.*

The fact is, this had nothing to do with the dairy or the gluten or the chocolate or the sugar or the alcohol – they were incidental to this story.

The worst offender in all of it was myself.

 

Yes, there are certain foods and habits that you are best to avoid. If you’re trying to fit back into your favourite dress, if your arthritis prevents you from opening the pickle jar, if your gassy gut makes it too embarrassing to go out, there are definitely foods you know to stay away from, there are habits that help you feel better, that prevent things from getting worse.

It’s so easy on those days that you feel bad to stick to the tried & true routine. Once you start to feel good again, your resolve slips. The better you feel, the more exceptions you allow.

If you’re listening closely to your body, you will be aware of the subtle whispers when she hints that it’s time to ease up and be “good” again.

 

Then there are the times when you feel great, when you’re so high on yourself, you feel invincible, and you somehow believe that nothing could harm you. These are the days you understand what you want your new normal to be. This is how you dream of feeling every day.

Integrate that sensation when it comes; sit with it, get to know the edges of this newly expanded container around you, seek its wisdom. Settle into it.

If you don’t you’re liable to crash as I did.

The Hendricks’ call this the Upper Limits Problem – when you get to a state of more positive energy than you’re used to, and you (subconsciously) find a way to knock yourself back down a few pegs.

 

Is there a fine line, though, where the knocking down isn’t quite so subconscious, when celebrating becomes damage?

 

This may be harsh to say, but that’s what I call abusive.

What I did to myself the other day – ignoring the pleas from my inner knowing and ingesting things I ought not, and in large quantities; hurting my system more because it was extra sensitive, then back-tracking with promises to do better next time. Sounds like abuse to me.

bound in self abuseThe Bach Flower Essence for abuse/self-abuse is Vine. Think of the plant itself: perfect tool for self-flagellation. Even after you do the thing that hurts you, that was so stupid, you continue to beat yourself up about it for days and weeks to come. A vine is the perfect plant for tying yourself up in a knot.

Then it hardens, so that you end up being fully bound in old growth.

Thinking about vines reminds me of the princess in the tower, locked there by a nasty old witch, the character we’ve come to associate with evil personified. Could it be that witch is the part of you that keeps you locked inside the perceived limitations of your issues?

The witch is selfish in the way that she prevents the princess from sharing her beauty with the rest of the kingdom. In squandering your good feelings, in hoarding this better version of you by keeping her hidden or small, you deprive others of the opportunity to love you. You deprive yourself of an opportunity to love you.

The witch cares for the princess so much that she hides her away out of fear for her innocence, not wanting her to get hurt. Are you caring for yourself when you don’t give yourself the chance to heal, or is that a form of cruelty? It’s true: the more open you are, the more you stand up for what you value, the more vulnerable you are to ridicule and attack from the world around you. Yet, the more open you are, the more space you have to grow and blossom into that million dollar version you usually only glimpse.

All that to say that, as much as some of your back-sliding may be subconscious, there are times when perhaps you’re more aware than you’re willing to admit. There are times when you ignore your better judgment, your inner voice and the advice of your health-care practitioner in favour of the momentary freedom of not having to care.

There are times when your fears of stepping out of the familiar shell that is your life and state of health keep you bound in inertia.

 

The good news is that making mistakes is all a part of learning.

Deliberate or not, every time I overstretch the current limits of my body, I’m brought back to a place where I can regroup with compassion, and find a new route by which I can find my way out of the familiar in comfort.

 

I will say this again because I want to be sure you heard it:

When you get to that place of feeling better that you have in ages, of having shifted into a gorgeous expansion (albeit unfamiliar):

Integrate that sensation when it comes; sit with it, get to know the edges of this newly expanded container around you, seek its wisdom. Settle into it.

 

Do you abuse your body with misplaced care? When you share your thoughts and experiences in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

* Note: none of the food items I mention in this anecdote are bad for you in and of themselves. They represent the worst culprits in this particular phase of my healing journey. We’ll talk more about permission and concepts such as 80/20 in an upcoming post.

 

Why Am I Dealing with This AGAIN?!?

As I settle into the rhythms of the New Year, I’ve been revisiting the basics of my business and coming face-to-face with where I get stuck over and over again. Notions of branding and editorial calendars and the like.

WAIT! Before you think you’re in the wrong place or that I’ve changed tacks altogether, bear with me…I’ll get to the point that you need to hear.

When I started out as a practitioner, that’s what I wanted to do: practice modalities to help clients find ease with their health. It never occurred to me, until I was thrown into the wilds after graduation, that I’d also have to think about message and networking. Marketing has become the bellyache that has me lying awake at night considering the possibility of giving it all up in frustration for a simple life of suburban housewifery.

That’s not why I got into this profession! I went back to school so I could guide women to a deeper understanding of their bodies, to teach them about the choices they have to address their health, not to learn about metrics.

It’s my mission to have you to hear the call of you soul as it whispers urges to change a few habits, so your entire being can shine. I can’t do that unless I shine: I have to get out there and do the stuff I’d rather not do.

It’s a form of self-care. You have habits in place which mean you will be feeling your best, that you have the stamina to get through your day, so you can be the effective professional and the present mom you strive to be despite the chaos that has been your life.

So, I do what I gotta do – perhaps grumbling a bit at first – inevitably I learn something about myself, my abilities, my strengths & weaknesses, and a much deeper understanding of how I might help. I learn something new about business in general and maybe navigate the world of marketing with a bit more confidence and skill than before.

One of the coaches I follow describes it as a spiral staircase: you keep going around the same circle, getting to the same place over and over, but each time you do, it’s from a higher vantage point. You’re older, wiser, more experienced and can see the benefits (or downfalls) of what you did before, giving you the foothold to get up to the next level.

It works the same way with your health.

When you’re dealing with a chronic condition, like IBS or anxiety, or when you get one cold after another through the winter: there are times when you feel like you’ve licked it. Whatever remedies or diets or bodywork you’ve tried has you feeling better than you have in ages and you’re convinced it’s gone for good. And maybe it does go for a few weeks, months, years even, but then it shows up again.

Symptoms that are all too familiar – that particular stabbing under your ribs, the spinning thoughts that won’t let you focus or the bone-deep tiredness that signals you’re about to get sick. Again.

So you go on the hunt once more. You head to the doctor, the mindfulness coach, the nutritionist who will have the right answer this time, all the while kicking yourself for the ways you believe you went wrong.

After that anger and self-flagellation and the defeatist rant – that’s it, this is going to stick around for the rest of my life! – after these feelings pass, take a moment to observe what’s actually going on.

Is it exactly the same as it was before or have things shifted, even by the tiniest amount?

Though familiar, is the pain perhaps a little less intense than usual?

Are you having fewer panic attacks?

Does this virus feel like it’s moving through rather than taking up residence in your chest?

Is it possible that you are, in fact, experiencing these symptoms from higher up on the path to full health?

Could it be that what you were doing has helped and this set-back is here for you to learn & integrate the next piece?

 

In playing with my Tarot cards at the new year, I pulled the Wheel of Fortune in response to what I might experience through the few first months.

At face value, I took it to mean that things are going to be up & down – there will be good days and bad – what else is new?!? Looking more closely, I was drawn to the way that the king and queen hold hands as if they’re trying to keep each other from falling off.

Well, things got rough already last week (set-backs in both business and health), I was immediately reminded to look for that hand to hold. To get out of the worries in my head and talk to my friends and healers and coaches and support groups until I could find a solution, or at least feel stable enough to handle it on my own.

When my gallbladder acted up, I was in the country without my usual arsenal of remedies and without service to reach any wise-women. It forced me to get back to the basics of nourishing food and journaling about what’s happened lately that might have triggered the flare-up. By the time I got home and was able to take some homeopathics, things cleared pretty quickly.

Easy for you, you might think; yes, I have the knowledge and the products at hand. This time, I did. To be honest, that’s not always the case. Sometimes, fear and frustration block my ability to think for myself and I need to call out for help, which might be in the form of new guidance or might simply remind me of what I already know and have.

With business, I got stuck with which direction to take with my ideas, so I jumped in with a coach, started writing out scenarios based on her prompts, only to realise I’d written it all before. Like with my belly, I have what I need already.

AHA! That card is telling me to “Stop reinventing the wheel!” With my business, with my belly – heck, with parenting, marriage and daily routines – I have the tools for success, and I know who I can call to help when I don’t.

It all comes down to stepping back onto that wheel – taking the action that will move you out of what’s going on, that will create the momentum to move you forward and up to the next level. The ride might be a challenge, and you might need to hold on for dear life for a time so you don’t fall off, yet you will get out of the pitfalls faster than if you let yourself fall off the edge entirely.

If things are bad for you right now, if you’re frustrated to be suffering the same pain, your pants still tight and your energy still flat, let me be the hand you need.

Reach out and I’ll take hold: Let’s talk. I have availability to chat with 12 women this month…a half hour to get you moving in the right direction, let’s set up a time!

 

Where Are You on your Healing Journey?

In an email she wrote me last week, a client referred to her health as “an ongoing project”.

I could easily have read a defeatist attitude in that descriptive, and certainly, there have been times with that client when the relentless energy it sometimes takes to manage her health has gotten the best of her. However, considering the beauty she shared in the rest of this particular email, I read those words as coming from someone who understands and accepts that what she’s going through is as much a part of her life as the family and friends who surround her, as the work she does, as the food she cooks & eats.

Which isn’t to say that she’s given up on getting better. I have also seen that same person, experiencing the same symptoms, embody the hope of growth and self-discovery as she strives to overcomes the very issues and realities of a chronic condition that threatens to drag her down.

As much as you want to find that miracle solution to cure all that ails you… ever… for the rest of your life, there’s no getting around the ups & downs of healing.

Healing is a journey. There’s no doubt about that. The concept of a healing journey isn’t some new-agey, airy-fairy or lofty notion. It’s a fact.

Like any journey, there are easy steps and rough patches, there are days when you want to call it quits and others when you feel ready to take on the world.

Where you find yourself on that journey speaks about where you’ve been, but more importantly, it offers the map of how to uncover your next steps.

 

Health & the Healing Journey Demystified

In the linear, Newtonian thinking of our conventional world – the mindset and belief-systems we’ve been steeped in for generations – our ideas of health get caught in the realm of those straight lines, of cause and effect. When you have condition B, take steps 1, 2 and 3 to get you back to healthy state A, by the removal of B altogether.

Some things work like that, with the ease of a light-switch.

Break your leg, set the bone, and it knits back together.

Get a cold, rest and drink clear fluids, and the cold goes. (I want to argue here that a generally healthy body will get through the cold regardless of what you do or don’t do.)

Get a headache, take a Tylenol, and it’s gone. Gain 10 pounds, eat fewer calories, and you’re back to normal.

Which gets into the question of what constitutes the illness. Is the pain in your head a condition? Is your coughing and sneezing the cold? Is your bulging belly the problem?

No.

Those are the signs & symptoms of your condition, illness or problem. They are the outward proof and inner experience that let you know something is wrong. Their progress and decline might even inform you about how much better or worse you’re getting. They are not the disease.

Health itself is a balance. The word stems from the same root as the word whole. It insinuates a completeness – which might be where we get the idea that there’s a final Point A to which we can return.

The fact is it’s a continuum.

Maybe continuum is not the best choice of word to use in relation to healing. It again insinuates a linear journey, a sliding back & forth along one track.

What most people forget is that health runs along several tracks at once. You’ve got the 4 major lines of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health, with a few intersections for ease of movement, and occasional expansion outward – kind of like the map of the Montreal Metro system.

The healing journey map however, is more like the map of London’s Underground. Besides the routes that allow you to go east/west and north/south across the expanse of the sprawling city and its suburbs, there are also circular lines that bring you around to the same spot an hour later. There are those that cut diagonally, getting you where you need to go more efficiently. Some have several tangents so that, depending which train you’re on, you’ll end up at a different destination altogether. The number of intersections create countless possibilities – some more direct, some busier at rush hour, some not running on weekends – for getting you where you want to go.

Far from a straight line, the state of your health swings you around the loops of the lemniscate – sideways 8 –  the infinity symbol that reminds you that it’s endless.

Your health is a dance that sways to the tune of your life.

Your health can sit steadily like when you and your best friend found the sweet spot between your weights on the see-saw, or it can tip over and crash-land you on your butt.

I can keep going with these metaphors, but I think you get the picture.

 

To add to that more expansive picture of health, understand that the narrow range of movement which you call “healthy” can shift. The point you aim to regain won’t necessarily be the same place you started.

Your definition of health will change – it should change. If it’s not, you might want to start with examining and exploring your personal definition of health. As you age, as chronic conditions crop up, as the bumps and scrapes of life leave their scars on your body, point A looses its clarity, is no longer one fixed point.

From this perspective, Quantum thinking, the concept of whether energy is a particle or a wave (spoiler: it’s both) takes concrete form in your body. Your ideal health wriggles and dances its way through your life.

Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t to say that your vision of ideal health can only decline over time. On the contrary! It’s quite possible to seek a state of health that’s an improvement on where you started, or where you’ve always considered “normal” to lie.

 

All that to say that your healing can be about being on the one little trip that will get you from being congested or overweight or in pain, back to the point of departure. Yet it’s so much more.

Your healing journey is an adventure that takes you around the world and back, only to have you decide to pack up and try again.

Your healing journey offers routes to ease the pains that crop up over and over again, until you find one you walk comfortably,…then until you discover yet another option.

Your healing journey derails your plans, leading you down dark alleyways of terror, or turning you around a corner into the most beautiful meadow you’ve ever seen.

Your healing journey takes you to the mountaintop you always dreamt of reaching, and from that vantage point, you see the possibility of how many more places you could go.

Your healing journey happens on the outside with lifestyle choices and professional help and new modalities and a changing body.

Your healing journey happens of the inside with deeper self-knowledge and growing courage and emotional roller coasters and shifting energy.

Your life is a healing journey. What an absolutely exhilarating thought to ponder!

The 3 Stages of the Healing Journey

How exciting, and yet how daunting to imagine so many possibilities for yourself and your health!

Even trying to decide how to eat these days gets overly complicated and overwhelming, with endless experts trying to convert you to their magic formula. Search for one thing, like how to cook Brussels sprouts, and you get thousands of recipes. (1,420,000 actually, I just checked.)

Now that we’ve created a complex image in your mind that resembles a spider’s web, all sticky with places to get snagged, it might be helpful to think about which stage of the journey you’re on.

Are you dealing with an acute condition that needs immediate and focused attention? Have you come out of those woods and are working to stay well away from them? Or have you turned your gaze to new horizons?

While the map for each of those areas of healing might look just as complex as the other, remind yourself that a map is something you observe from above. Imagine instead that the complexity comes from the fact that you’ve got 3 different levels of journeys laid on top of each other. Have you ever seen the transparent layers that make up the details of an animated movie still or a cartoon strip? The big picture emerges when different elements come into play.

Same with your health. Let’s rotate that map of your healing journey so you’re looking from the side, at 3 layers, like a cake. Much easier to swallow!

 

The first layer, or the first stage of your healing journey, gets back to the basics of that conventional approach to medicine. It’s damage control, the place where you’re trying to overcome or survive an acute issue.

Symptoms → find the cause → take the remedy/undergo the procedure → return to normal

My own healing of different conditions and states have gone through these stages. I can turn any one of my experiences on their side to see how they’ve played out.  To make these concepts easier for you to understand, we’ll look at the cross-section of how I’ve been dealing with gallbladder attacks in recent years.

My digestion has often been a weak point in my physical health. About 4 years ago, things were getting worse. One night, what felt like indigestion progressed through the night until I was awake with cramping pain so bad, I half hoped there would be a baby at the end of it. The second time it happened, I realised it must be a gallbladder attack. The 3rd time, in as many months, I cut out certain foods, and started to see a practitioner for acupressure and Chinese herbs. When it happened again, after a perfectly “healthy” vegan meal, the pain settled in for the long haul – dull, thank goodness, but very present – and I knew I had to get more help in case of any complications.

After 24 hours of being poked and scanned and observed and soaked in fear-mongering in the ER, I was sent home with prescriptions for 2 heavy-duty antibiotics and a referral for a surgeon to remove the offending gallbladder as soon as the inflammation subsided. I understood the potential gravity of the state I was in, however, I also knew that removing my gallbladder would open me to a whole gamut of other long-term issues down the road.

Which is when I made the leap to the next level.

 

The second stage of the healing journey focuses on prevention, in which the impetus for your care becomes about thriving and getting past the issue.

Through psychology, we’ve come to learn that people are motivated by the need to move away from, or towards, something they don’t want, or desire. Preventative medicine and preventative self-care stem from avoiding certain risks. This approach can be as superficial as not eating fried foods to not get a zit, or as extreme as having a full mastectomy to avoid breast cancer.

Up until the time I found myself in the hospital, I was simply using bandaids: staying away from food that clearly triggered the issue, while taking Chinese herbs and going for acupressure when things got out of hand.

The fear-driven intensity of the ER doctor and his conviction that surgery was the only option, as well as antibiotics that did not agree with me at all, galvanized my resolve to never get back to that place again.

While in the first stage of dealing with this, I was merely trying to get past the pain when it hit; now I had become prepared to do whatever it took to avoid having to go to the ER and to keep my gallbladder without putting myself at risk of dangerous complications.

Under the guidance of my acupressurist, I systematically removed any foods that might put my liver into undue stress – for me, that meant all dairy, gluten, sugar, alcohol, red meat, fatty foods, and chocolate. Without the context, it would have been pretty dire and depressing to drop all those at once. Newly motivated by the deep need to avoid a repeat performance made the decision easier. It was a simple question of, did I prefer to have the piece of cake and glass of wine, or to put myself in danger again?

My self-care routine expanded to include regular appointments for acupressure and emotional/spiritual sessions, to maintain the better flow of energy through my digestive tract and in my life.

These steps worked wonders. Not only did my symptoms subside, I started feeling more energized than I had in a while. I was sleeping better. My usual nasal congestion had all but disappeared. My digestion flowed, so I was able to enjoy food more freely again, even while sticking to some restrictions. I had everything under control.

When things slackened so much that the subtle symptoms cropped up again, I recognised that it was time to refocus that resolve.

Recently, my habits slipped further still and I felt things block up like they hadn’t done in a couple of years. Problem was, I couldn’t muster what it took to get fully back on the wagon of those good habits anymore.

This approach worked until it stopped working.

Slowly, gradually, I found my way into the 3rd stage of this process.

The last level of the healing journey looks at the same problem from the other side of the motivational coin. The difference can be subtle, but extremely powerful.

 

The 3rd stage of the journey – the icing on the cake – is when you start creating the health that you want, and blossom into your full healing potential, by moving in the direction of what you desire.

Looking after yourself from this angle means that you’re making decisions from the point of view of the person you want to become, how you want to eventually feel.

How would “Ideal Me” eat? What would She do for exercise? How does Ideal Me want me to deal with that relationship issue? How does She pray?

Where the act of preventing illness has a huge element of control, creating what you want requires a large dose of surrender, as you open yourself up to the possibilities that come your way. It requires you to trust the answers that arise to the questions you pose, because there’s no concrete proof that your intuition – yes, this is your intuition working in its full glory – is steering you right.

I wish I could say there was some defining moment that sparked the shift in mindset for me. With so many huge transitions in my life over the last 2 years, it’s difficult to pinpoint, but the fact is that this has been a gradual shift – more a whimper than a bang.

Sometimes the knowing is crystal clear and I make choices with absolute ease. Other times, there’s a struggle as fear and doubt creep in again.

Ironically, many of the decisions I make now, especially when it comes to food, are exactly what I had done under the guise of prevention. The difference is that where I had been making those choices to avoid a gallbladder attack, now I am trying solutions that might possibly dissolve the stones altogether.

As the paradigm flipped from one side to the other, the conscious feeling and movement of my emotions started to become a regular habit – or maybe it was that emotional play and release which allowed the tide to turn.

The more deeply I settled into the vision of where/how/who I wanted to end up, the more I noticed the breadcrumbs of synchronicity showing up to lead my way. Unless, it was the light I shone on those breadcrumbs that guided me to this new awareness.

In this part of the world, it doesn’t matter which is the cause and which the effect. The upshot is that I am letting the possibility of yes take me where it might, when before I was guided by the limitations of a no.

The most remarkable thing about being in this place is the strong sense that I am healing, regardless of whether those gallstones go away or not. Perhaps one day I will need surgery to remove the physical residue and eliminate dangerous risks, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t healed in the meantime.

I am constantly healing. This is a journey, after all – one that constitutes many trips and adventures. Some longer than others, some that end and some that never will.

 

Healing is as unpredictable as life itself. How you approach it depends on who you are in a given moment as much as the severity of what you need.

The healing journey, that convoluted map, has as many intersections connecting the layers, as it does along each plane. You will find yourself travelling it up & down as well as back & forth and all around.

Though I’ve laid this out in a linear story for ease of telling, the journey itself isn’t linear. In this particular experience, I move up & down through the stages as time goes on. Though I spend a lot less time in damage control than before, it doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally find myself back on that station platform.

Like life, healing is not a 1-2-3 experience. You might start with prevention and move into creation with a certain issue without ever having to do any damage control. Chronic issues might have you swimming from one to the other and back again in a seemingly endless cycle of flare-ups and remission.

And remember, you can go through these phases with your mental, your emotional, your spiritual health as much as your physical.

How daunting, how terrifying and how exciting. Yes, it’s a process. Are you up for the ride?

The client I mentioned earlier is someone who has poured a good dose of creativity on this project that is her healing journey. She has grown to explore it in a way that allows her to shine fully as one of the most warm, generous and beautiful souls I know.

She has proven what I believe at my core: Your healing journey is self-love in action, and the straightest path to a better life.

The divine Amanda Marshall sums it all up so beautifully in her song “The Gypsy”:

“The finest tapestry takes patience and the ability to wait
For each thread to support the bigger picture and the larger purpose
And in the fearless, reckless pursuit of intimate love
It is not the destination it’s the journey.”

Where are you on your healing journey? Where do you get snagged in that complicated web? When you share your thoughts and questions in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

How to Get Enough Water in Winter

 

Pretty snow and cozy sweaters. Rosy cheeks and the crisp slice of skates on ice. Maybe cold keeps you indoors more than you’d like, but at least there’s some hot soup to wrap your hands around as you curl up for yet another hour.

What a great time of year to break out all the comfort food, to not worry about those few extra pounds. Even so, you might be waking with a dry mouth or crusty nose and feel like your skin will flake off completely.

Do you need to drink more water in winter?

It seems counter-intuitive. We usually think in terms of getting enough water in the heat of the summer, or when we exercise. It’s just as important, if not more so, to make sure to get a balance of liquid in the cold.

Using the logical lens of basic physiology, temperature extremes of both kinds require your body to work harder, and thermal regulation happens with the help of water flow in & out of your organs.

We eat more preserved food in winter. Roasting and baking dries food, and central heating evaporates our surface moisture.

That said, this isn’t a directive to refill that water bottle or down another glass of ice cold water. (***PSA: it is never wise to down a glass of ice cold anything, even in summer – it makes your body work hard to start heating up and wreaks havoc on your digestion.***)

This is not a call to drink more water.

This is a call to stay hydrated.

In Chinese Medicine, water is the element of winter. The time of deepest yin – turning inward both for introspection and storage of energy – reflected by the most yin of substances. It’s the season that strengthens your kidneys, your adrenals and your bones.

Like any of the elements in the Chinese spectrum, water needs to stay in balance. Too little and you lack energy, too much and you dispel that energy. In the conventional Western mindset, that means making sure that we take in as much as we put out – same way we tend to think about calories.

Your digestive tract secretes about 9L of water each day, though it resorbs most of it. Between healthy bowels, healthy kidneys, sweat and tears, you lose about 2L of water per day, which is where that average daily intake comes from.

In that overly simple equation we forget two important details.

First, the water we lose includes salt and other minerals.

Water, in its original state, necessarily contains minerals: the sea, la merla mère, the mother.

In order to be properly nourished, we need those minerals. Of course, you can’t drink water straight from the sea in vast quantities – the concentrations can mess with your cells and cause problems, which is why it makes you vomit.

Minerals make up part of the yin aspect of water. Do you remember that old rule from chemistry class, water follows salt? Having adequate minerals in your body draws more water, holds more water…and the water is what allows those minerals to stay in your body. The deepest nourishment of your tissues, the functioning of every tiny cell relies on those minerals.

Think of it this way: during these quiet months of a more inactive, hibernating lifestyle, your organs are soaking in that nourishment, replenishing and recharging for when things heat up and speed up again.

Yes, all those quiet, introspective activities you’re drawn to in winter are part of that nourishment too!

In drawing your metabolic focus inwards, that yin energy is keeping your core warm through the season. The happy side effect is that your extremities are cooler, which makes it easier to tolerate the cold weather.

Secondly, we forget that the water we drink is processed.

I don’t know a single person anymore who isn’t making a conscious effort to cut out or at least cut down on processed food from their life. We read food labels obsessively and look down on anything with added sugar or preservatives. And yet, we ignore the processed nature of the water we drink and use to cook.

Sure, you put the tap water through the Brita or have a reverse osmosis filter under your sink. In so doing, you’re also stripping some degree of minerals.

All that processing and refiltering also removes the life from water.

Don’t believe me? Take a sip of Brita-filtered tap water, hold it in your mouth and notice how it feels. Now do the same with a sip of high-end spring water, such as Evian or Fiji. Can you feel that? One is thin, flat, the other has a roundness to it – the very molecular-structure of the tap-water has been altered. (No, I’m not crazy – try it!)

No one has shown us the power water’s energetic nature better than Masuru Emoto. Google his work and look at the crystal formations of different water sources, and water exposed to different stimuli like music and words – watch videos of what happens to rice exposed to different energetic sources.

No matter the source of your water, drinking too much of it will just make you pee more: make your kidneys work harder at elimination rather than taking advantage of its prime regeneration time and toxin filtration and depleting you of yet more minerals.

We’ve established you need to keep water in balance at this time of year, and that drinking more water is not the solution, let’s jump to the part of how to hydrate yourself better in winter.

Like it long and slow.

You’re naturally going to be drawn to heavier, more dense foods at this time of year – the stuff that sticks to your ribs. In cooking any of it, you want to keep the temperature low and cook it longer.

Not only does this maintain the moisture in your food, long, slow and moist cooking makes it more easily digestible, preserving your energy in yet another way.

Stew meats and veggies.

Boil up a variety of roots and mash them together. Play around with combinations, as some work better than others. My newest favourite is cauliflower, celery root and parsnip.

Eat more legumes.

Roast winter greens gently (325-350° F).

 

Soups not smoothies.

In the winter, cooked veggies are the option of choice – save the salads, sprouts and frozen smoothies for another time. Steer clear of tropical fruit that’s grown in, well, tropical countries, which means they are cooling in nature. Think of hardy fruit: apples, pears, or (soaked) dried fruit. Coconut and its milk count here as they’re warming!

Steam your leafy greens – or throw them into your soup at the end. Yes, this includes lettuces and fresh herbs.

When you generally eat a diet high in vegetables, fruit and whole grains (think about it, every cup of brown rice or oatmeal holds 2 cups of water), you’re getting a good proportion of the necessary 2L right there – no one said you have to drink that much liquid!

 

Get enough salt…not too much.

No, I’m not suggesting you start pouring the Sifto on everything, or giving you permission to eat chips daily.

While salt will draw water and your energy inward to keep your core warm, an over-consumption will reverse those benefits and have you purging the excess, as described earlier. In that sense, it’s even more important to steer clear of overly salty food, i.e. fast and processed, more than ever.

Think well-seasoned, not salty. When cooking salt-cured meats and fish, rinse well and/or change the water halfway.

Sodium is the key component that water will follow, but like our food and water, when stripped of its natural components, salt does more harm than good. Eat whole salt.

Use grey sea salt (the kind that seems a bit wet means it also has good iodine levels); pink or black sea salt; Himalayan salt; mix kelp powder with sea salt. Like your vegetables, vary your salt sources for a variety of nutrients as well as flavour.

Go for more seaweed, in soups, as a salad or as the salt source when you cook whole grains & legumes.

 

Drink warm, clear liquids in moderation.

Bone broth – think of all those minerals in there, giving your bones ALL the nutrients it needs, straight from the source!

Herbal tea – spearmint is warming, Indian spices (chai), fennel, ginger in moderation (too much can be too hot and cool you down), are good choices. Hibiscus-based fruit blends have a boost of vitamin C.

Celery broth is my new favourite – according to the Medical Medium, Anthony William, celery juice first thing in the morning is the ideal tonic – I have a couple of friends who swear by it. In the winter, though, I find raw food and fresh juice too depleting, so have gone for the heat extracted version and really love it.

Not too hot or your body will start trying to cool you down. When you do drink some water, be sure it’s at least room temperature.

 

Easy on the caffeine and alcohol which, other than making you pee more, dispel and deplete the energy needed to keep you warm.

That said, lightly steeped tea (black or green) quenches your thirst, as does a squeeze of lime in warm water.

 

Easy on the flour products.

If your skin is dry, before you up the water intake, try cutting back on the baked goods. All that pure starch will draw water to it in the digestive tract, which not only makes it hard to digest, it deprives your cells of some of that moisture.

 

Winter can be harsh – if the last couple of weeks have been any indication, this is going to be a tough one in Eastern North America. Work with the energy of the season, give yourself permission to close down to a certain degree and drink in the warmth of mothering yourself a little more.

When Every Setback Feels Like a Failure

 

Raise your hand if you start emails with apologies.

“Sorry it took me so long to reply…”
“I’m sorry your email got lost in the pile…”
“I’m sorry to have missed your thing…”

I’m resisting that urge big-time today. Something happened to offset my commitment to put my thoughts to paper (screen) every other week and I desperately feel the need to apologise for it – like I’ve failed.

I can logically see that yes, life happened in a way that focused my attention away from my plans: I was in a small car accident – no injuries other than my car, but it still turned my world upside down if even briefly.

To be honest, my thoughts were mostly focused on self-indulgent musings about why such a thing happened (the awkward part of believing that we create our own reality) and wracking my brain for the lesson so that I could move on. (As you can imagine, that part hasn’t quite sorted itself out yet.)

Now that I’m back to the land of the living, I find I’m beating myself up for not having done all the shoulds I let fall to the wayside for a few weeks.

Do you ever feel that way?

Like when you set out every morning with the best of intentions for how you’ll eat well and meditate and exercise, only to find yourself at the bottom of a bag of chips by the mid-afternoon.

Or when you write out the agenda of what you’re determined to accomplish in a day and get lost on Facebook for an hour before you even get started.

Or when you decide to recharge the love in your marriage only to be triggered by that thing he says as he walks in the door.

So you feel like you failed, and why do you even try, and you’ll be stuck here forever.

Where did that come from, the belief that a setback is a failure? More importantly, what can you do to get over it?

Two words: perfection paralysis

To loosely quote my friend Casey, that’s the way we freeze our lives to maintain the high standards we set for ourselves in response to high standards society sets for us.

Here are 3 ways to defrost that need for those perfect standards and move forward:

1. Stop trying to do it all at once! (aka take baby steps)

Rather than revamp all your eating habits overnight, take one thing from that list the health coach gave you and do that for a few days before you attempt the next one.

Take one task you want to accomplish today and break it into the 3 steps it actually requires, and let that be your agenda.

Rather than expect rainbows and sunshine, avoid going down the rabbit hole of negativity by giving your man a smile and offer him a fun little piece from your day.

2. Get in touch with your own perfection

Sit quietly, breathe into your belly and open yourself up to the light and love waiting in there (possibly hiding quite deeply) for you to feel it.

This may take a few tries to get…this stuff can be subtle and quiet, especially as compared to the loud and persistent voice of your inner critic and whip-slinger who is always ready to lynch you for the slightest transgression.

Put on a timer for 10 minutes to keep you from getting frustrated or trying too hard. Do it again tomorrow and the next day and the next.

3. Set the bar from the inside

Again, get in touch with that perfect you.

Listen to your body for clues as to what you need, as to what standards you want to adhere, as to what the first next step is.

And here’s the key…possibly even the hardest part: when you’ve got your answer about that step? Take it!