Something’s not right. Should I give up gluten?

 

Every once in a while, you get to the point in your life when something’s got to give. The sense of dissatisfaction spills over into your body, so you just don’t feel right, and those nagging little things start to get louder.

Life has a way of showing up in your body.

I’ve given up counting the number of women I come across who feel the stress of life in their digestive tracts.

  • Women whose IBS reflects the turmoil in their marriage or their job
  • who can’t eat when things get too intense
  • who develop allergies to everything from soup to nuts
  • who suddenly can’t digest the foods they’ve always eat
  • who start gaining weight without having changed a thing in their habits.

When life takes a big left turn, it’s only normal that you’re going to feel it where you’re most susceptible – digestive tract or other places.

When you’re in the muddy transition zone of moving from the life you knew into the vast unknown, your body is going to express its fear in the place it knows you’ll hear it.

When something desperately needs to change, your body will speak to you in a language that makes you pay attention.

Because you feel it in your body, the first place you’re going to look to fix things will be with your body.

Inevitably these women all ask me the same question: “Should I give up gluten?”

Possibly, though not necessarily.

 

Why gluten’s an all-around problem all of a sudden:

Without going into a long sermon about the overload of gluten (mostly highly-hybridized wheat) in our North American diets, understand that too much of anything difficult to digest will cause problems.

Being on the harder-to-digest end of the spectrum, gluten helps set the stage for inflammation anywhere in your body.

When there’s already inflammation specifically in the gut, there is limited access to the brush border enzymes that break down that gluten, amplifying the problem.

Meaning: If there’s any of inflammation in your body – anywhere in your body – gluten may do you more harm than good.

 

It’s not just the gluten:

I can almost bet that most of the gluten you eat comes in the form of refined wheat (or other grains), i.e. flour products. Even if your bread and pasta and muffins are made with whole grain flour…they’re still made with flour!!

As a matter of fact, even if you’re avoiding gluten, there are a heck of a lot of lovely substitutes that are also flour-based…because they’re aimed at replacing the stand-bys you’d rather not go without.

Think of it this way: remember when you were in kindergarten and you mixed flour and water to make a paste? Imagine how that paste would gum up your intestines, making the digestion of almost anything more difficult.

Meaning: Get your starch and sugars from whole grains (full stop!) and vegetables…not flour products.

 

The bigger picture:

Let me ask you this – regardless of whether you know the source of your stress and your belly aches:

What about your life are you not digesting?

What is it about your current life and the chaos you’ve been getting through that you can’t assimilate?

What are you having a hard time swallowing?

What makes you nauseous?

I can do this all day, but I think you get the point.

Here’s your invitation: Insert whatever symptom  you’re having (digestive or otherwise) into the metaphoric questions and notice what comes up.

Most likely you’ll find emotions that need expressing and beliefs that could use re-evaluating.

Meaning: Your digestion is a reflection of how you digest life.

I wrote a whole post elaborating on that idea here.

 

Chances are, even if staying away from gluten will ease your symptoms, the way your body is reacting – the way it’s speaking to you – will open the door to the places that really need your love and healing attention.

All you have to do is listen.

 

I’d love to hear what comes up for you when you ask yourself those questions. If it’s too personal for posting below, by all means, send me an email instead. When you share your story, you open the possibilities for others.

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Wallowing vs Self-Care or How to Find Hopeful Movement after all the Chaos

 

Don’t you love that time, after you’ve gone through something big – when activity and thinking and decisions and emotional turmoil seem like a never-ending vortex that would pull you along forever – and things become quiet again? It’s so peaceful, just sitting and letting the dust settle on your new life.

You learn to relax again. You get caught up on a season of Broadchurch. You chat on the phone. It’s so comfortable.

Maybe too comfortable, because that was a few months ago; you’re still in that same spot and the dust is piling up.

You’ve gone from allowing yourself a quiet moment of recharging your batteries to full-on hibernation, and you’re starting to feel gross. Sluggish. Your waistline is expanding and your joints complain whenever you try to move.

Did you really just go through everything you did only to end up here?!?

I so get this. Every time I’ve broken up with someone, every time I’ve moved or changed career paths, I get to a point where I just want to curl up in the comfort zone of what’s easiest. But there’s a fine line between taking a moment of self-care and wallowing.

The beauty of change – whether consciously chosen or from the rug getting ripped out from under you – is that it opens the door to opportunity. Lost your job? What a perfect time to open the shop you’ve always dreamed about. Divorced? You can fall in love again…primarily with yourself.

Yes, it’s ripe with potential! Yet, without channeling some of that potential into movement, into action, you will stagnate and go stale.

Look at the trees this time of year. They’ve been standing still and grey, quietly enduring the cold. At a certain point, the sun gets warm enough and their sap starts to flow again. Life literally pours into their branches and they’re awash with colour and communal activity. Without the sap, its limbs will rot and eventually fall off.

Ok, so your arms may not fall off, but your body will feel the lack of vibrant nourishment over time. As poor health, as weight gain, as depression.

Sure wallowing can be part of the process, but when does it start to hold you back from the next necessary steps? And how can you get back into movement when that stillness feels so good?

Recharging makes conscious choices: to watch some TV or eat a cookie or have a glass of wine while you cook dinner.

Destructive wallowing feels like those same activities are a way of avoiding how you feel; they can take over to the point of mindlessness. One cookie becomes a bag. One episode becomes a whole season in one night. The glass of wine replaces dinner.

Recharging sheds tears for all you’re leaving behind – sometimes buckets of them from so deep in your heart, you suddenly understand why you’ve felt so heavy all these months and years. When they’re done, you’re filled with energy and a capacity to now fill that space with creativity and joy.

Destructive wallowing is needy and cries out of self-pity.

Recharging mourns. Wallowing pines.

Deep down inside (sometimes ever so faintly), recharging holds the candle of hope that you will, and do, feel better.

Wallowing feels like nothing will never be good again.

Recharging stays connected to friends and family, if only internally. Wallowing is completely disconnected.

Recharging naturally shifts back into creativity and a need to move. Wallowing can get stuck.

If you’re wallowing and truly feel there’s no way out, please, get help. Call me. Call a friend. Call a therapist.

If you just need a little bit of sunshine to get the sap running again,

  • Put on your favourite music and dance.
  • Go outside and take a walk. Go for a run.
  • Think about that really great day you had a few weeks back, how you felt and what excited you.
  • Get to a yoga class or zumba.
  • Visualize a shower of sparkling white light raining down on you and washing away the grey sludge from your heart and your soul.
  • Turn the dirt and start prepping your garden for planting.

Your mother was right to send you out for fresh air & exercise. Move your body. Get outside. Connect with Nature. Connect with other people…speak about how you’ve been feeling. Breathe.

What gets you back in the game when you’d rather stay curled up in your comfort zone?

If you know anyone who’s stuck in a rut after a big shift, by all means send this along using any (or all!) of these share buttons.

Breakfast to Get You Out the Door (when you can barely get out of bed)

 

Don’t you hate it when health consultants and nutritionists tell you that all you need to charge your day is a good breakfast? Do you want to hit someone the next time you hear that the right balance of protein and vitamins will get you going in the morning? (ahem…guilty as charged)

Sometimes the well-intentioned advice hasn’t taken into consideration the fact that you can barely get out of bed in the first place. Given the fact that your life is in such a turmoil right now, the only thing that energizes you is the thought of pulling the covers over your head and staying there until next July.

The only motivation you have for not giving into the obligation are your hungry kids and a fear of getting fired.

Overwhelm is like that. You just don’t want to have to think or feel or do life because every time you try, it’s as if you’re about to drown in the immensity of it all.

So you go through the motions. You throw some cereal at the kids, maybe pour a coffee down your own throat with the last bit of banana bread from yesterday and get on with your day.

Sure this routine might keep you putting one foot in front of the other, but the truth of the matter is, it’s only going to keep you stuck in that vicious cycle of overwhelm.

Physiologically, all coffee does is put your body into stress response – something you don’t actually need help with right now. And if you don’t already feel derailed enough, a lack of food in the morning or something sweet will ensure the impact on your blood sugar will up the ante.

I know. I know. You’re not actually hungry and putting a half decent supper on the table is about all you can manage when it comes to cooking.

Even if you don’t feel like getting out of bed in the morning, the one thing you can do for yourself is connect to your body. It’s for this very reason that your morning needs to start somewhere other than food.

Connecting to your body, as you do nothing more than breathe – listening to your body – is the one act of nourishment you can offer yourself before you even consider what else the day holds.

This is where practices, such as meditation, affirmations, or with receiving a ray of light into your heart, come in. When you start the day with even the tiniest reminder of who YOU are in the middle of the upheaval that is your life right now, you open the door to possibility for more.

You open yourself to the energy stores you forgot about, you open yourself to the early stages of renewed self-love, you open to what it takes to feed yourself adequately.

In those moments, there’s nothing to do but breathe, connect and listen.

One day, maybe you’ll realize you’re thirsty, so you start with a glass of water, maybe a squeeze of lemon.

One day, you might feel hungry, so you have a bite of last night’s chicken (or the banana bread).

One day, you may actually get the urge to boil a few eggs for everyone…

The thing I love so much about breakfast – other than the food part – is that it holds the forgiveness of a new day, a new leaf. No matter what happened yesterday, no matter what you ate or didn’t eat, breakfast is a chance to start again, to put a different foot to the fore, and maybe make a few strides towards better mindset and better health.

Trust that one day you’ll get yourself to the ideal of adequate protein, good fats and other nutrient-dense options in the morning. Likely sooner than you think when you start by nourishing your soul for now. (When you’re ready, you can get more details here.)

My morning routine has become the ritual that allows me time to reassess, to nourish my whole being, and to start each day with intention despite the whirlwind life can be. Your routine may not look like mine, and may evolve over time – the important part being that it’s an expression of who you are and what YOU need on a given day.

What gets you out the door each morning? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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How to Stay Focused When Everything’s Falling Apart

 

Life is hectic, there’s no getting around that. It’s not enough that you have to be fully present for work and get meals prepared. To say that you’re overwhelmed by the worry and responsibilities from your world feeling out of control is an understatement.

If someone asks you to make one more decision, you’re sure your brain will actually break.

How can you stay focused on what’s important when you feel it’s your job to keep everyone and everything from falling apart?

Meditation definitely lays the foundation and giving your emotions space of their own helps to clear the cobwebs, but being the cerebral person that I am, I realize I also need to harness my over-thinking mind.

I don’t do sudokus and memorize poems (though as I just turned 50, these may not be such a bad idea). Enriching my mind means mindset, more than my actual thoughts, and then applying it to the practical needs of my day.

Here are two steps to staying focused throughout your day:

1. Embodied Affirmations

The other day, I wrote of affirmations being part of soul nourishment, but as I think more on it, I realize that affirmations are words that emerge from the soul, which you can then digest through your mind and body.

Let me explain.

I’m sure you know that affirmations are statements you repeat to yourself, as a tool for shifting beliefs you hold, by “recording” new messages into your inner monologue. They’ve become part of the mainstream, though get a bad rap when they have no apparent effect.

The power of affirmations comes in the follow through, as part of a more integrated approach to creating lasting change.

It’s not enough to simply say the words to yourself. In order for your mind to actually assimilate them, you have to feel the truth of the words and take action as if they were true. That is, you have to embody the words.

Using affirmations in this way works for health issues, work problems, relationships,… Let’s look at the example of a poor eating habit, such as grazing when your stress & emotions get out of hand.

An affirmation to shift that habit might look like, “I eat only when hungry.” or “I plan meals that nourish me adequately throughout the day.” or “I breathe through pain & stress with ease.” Repeat in the mirror every morning, or when the urge to open the fridge hits, and you can eventually say them in your sleep, that is, without conscious thought. This part is valuable to a certain extent, as the words then drop down into your subconscious, like the coloured beads in Inside Out.

However, if you connect those words to your body, you start to become them…they become a part of who you are.

Ask yourself: What does hunger feel like in my body? How does being adequately nourished feel? What does getting through stress with ease look like?

With the answers to those questions clear in your mind (and body), imagine yourself getting through your day fully nourished and dealing with stress. Now use those sensations: feel the dropped shoulders, the unclenched jaw, the air filling your lungs as you say the words.

Once I started to integrate my own desired mindset shifts with the rest of me, I’ve noticed a change in my attitude that repeating words alone never did for me.

2. Embodied Plan of Action

The next part is to walk the talk.

Ask: What steps can I take to live as such today, even if the urge still strikes to inhale every cookie in the house?

Having said (& felt) the affirmations, take 10 minutes to pay some concrete attention to the actual food you’ll eat through the day. Plan what to defrost or buy, and list what you have available for nutritious snacks when you need a break.

Planning is the perfect way to keep your mind clear for ANY part of your day (some people prefer to do this the night before). Take 10 minutes to go to over the priorities on your list of endless possibilities – the things that you absolutely want to get done by day’s end – work-related, home and personal.

Using the same principal to help make those choices, ask “How do I want to feel in my body at the end of the day?” or “How will I feel tonight knowing X is done?”

Focus-enhancing bonus: Allot a specific amount of time to each task.

Having a set time helps to maintain boundaries, so your mind is free to focus fully on the task at hand, creativity & ideas & efficiency flowing more easily. Using a timer gives you a protected space to function, without the worry of everything outside that container getting in the way.

Give one of these a try – embodied affirmations OR the embodied plans. Come back here after a few days and let us know what shifted for you.  When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

My morning routine has become the ritual that allows me time to reassess, to nourish my whole being, and to start each day with intention despite the whirlwind. Next time, I’ll be discussing choices for the kind of breakfast will get you through the day ahead.  (Sign up in the box below so you don’t miss the coming instalments of how you might do the same.)

Know a frazzled friend who could use some of this grounding advice? Share this post with her by using any (or all!) of these buttons.

Read This When Your Heart is Breaking

 

You have to be as blind as Cupid not to notice that it’s Valentine’s Day, but how do you celebrate a day of love when your heart is breaking? I don’t mean the Hallmark, boy-just-broke-up-with-you heartbreak of adolescence. (Painful, yes.)

I’m talking about the energy-draining way your heart breaks when you have to fold your business, when you sell your house, when your period stops for good, or yes, when your man walks out on you (or you leave him). A breaking heart carries with it the heavy sadness that makes you want to curl into a ball, close your heart off from any more potential for hurt, and hide under a blanket for the foreseeable future.

Yet, you’re expected to be happy about the changes in your life (sure some are indeed for the best), to let go and move on, to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I mean, aren’t we all about being healthy in our processes – doesn’t being healthy mean feeling good?

The decades of twists & turns, ups & downs of my life have taught me differently. Circumstances like divorce, loss, injustices, as well as triumphs, opened me to the rainbow of emotions I hadn’t always understood before. Mainly, I hadn’t understood how they were connected to my health.

I often talk about how I learned that emotions are felt in the body, from a book. These weren’t separate phenomena going on in my head that had no practical bearing on me. They were actual, physiological responses altering my moods, my eating habits and essential to my survival. (Read more about the impact of emotions on your eating habits here; read more about the necessity of the core emotions here)

I learned – through joy and sorrow, success and hardship – that allowing the flow of all my emotions is part of the quickest path to renewed health, inner strength, productivity, and to love…loving myself, that is.

All that to say that even if you’re not bursting with thoughts of romance and crepe-paper hearts this week, that’s ok.

You’re feeling what you’re feeling and that’s not only ok, it’s necessary.

When you give yourself the time and space to literally curl inward, sleep a few extra hours, watch too much TV and only talk to your journal, you are performing a beautiful act of self-love. If your daughter was heartbroken, you’d make her tea and let her cry on your shoulder – chances are that’s what you need as well.

It’s extremely difficult to allow yourself that kind of wallowing; trust me, I know. When you’re the one who keeps everyone going, when you’re the one in control of the situation, it can seem nigh on impossible to fall apart. Perhaps you even harbour a fear that if you let go, you’ll sink into a rabbit hole of sadness and self-pity, even debilitating depression, and never find your way out.

That won’t happen. Emotions are simply energy-in-motion. Given the freedom to move, they do what they have to do and subside, like a wave. The times I surrendered to the depths of how I was feeling, I’ve always bounced right back within a day or two, recharged and motivated to take whatever necessary steps were next.

Sometimes you need to get to the bottom of the well before you can turn around and see the light.

If your heart is breaking – scratch that, WHEN your heart is breaking, because it will break, there’s no getting around that in this life – be gentle with yourself.

Listen deeply to what your body and your heart truly need in the moment and give it. Treat yourself with the loving care you would offer your best friend in the same situation.

Make your favourite, creamy soup and eat it 3 meals a day.

Spend the hours you need curled in bed pouring your sorrows into your journal.

Call the one person who will listen without judgment or advice.

Put on some heart-wrenching music; sing at the top of your lungs, dance in whatever way you’re your body wants to move, and let the tears flow when they come.

If nothing else, breathe. Connect to the one certain thing in the moment and the rest will follow as it needs.

Need help opening the doors to your heart again? Here’s a little ray of light you can let seep into the cracks and get things started.

My morning routine has become the ritual that allows me time to reassess, to nourish my whole being, and to start each day with intention. Next time I’ll discuss how to stay focused even when things are falling apart. (Sign up in the box below if you want to hear more.)

What nourishes you the most when your heart is breaking? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

Have a friend whose heart is breaking this Valentine’s Day? Pay the love forward by using any (or all!) of the buttons below.