Should is the New Gluten

“I should eat better.”

“Great suggestion, I should try that.”

“I should be in better tune with my body at this age.”

“The weather is nice, I should get out my bike again.”

“I know what I should do, I just don’t do it.”

If there’s one word that I hear come out of every one of my clients’ mouths it’s the word should.

 

It’s not just about food and health, either. It seems to permeate all aspect of our lives.

“We should book a weekly date night… play with the kids more… ”

“I should get those investments sorted.”

“I should spend more time with friends… update my website… hire an assistant… network more.”

As one of the local business coaches says, “women are constantly shoulding all over themselves.”

 

My inner-perfectionist loves the word should, a word that we somehow imagine will move us forward and finally get us to that door we long to enter. As if it’s the driving force that will help you plan your day and inspire you to be more productive, make better food choices and show up as your best self in all ways.

In reality, all “should” does is elongate the hallway leading to that door, like in some weird dream where you can never reach the place you’re desperate to attain.

Should makes it harder to get through that door

All it really does is set you up for a sense of failure because the bar – that you set too high in the first place – is now completely out of reach, no matter how hard or try… so why bother.

You make it your responsibility to, not only look after everything and everyone, but do it gracefully, with perfectly coiffed hair, rock-hard abs and fuelled with nothing more than kale smoothies and rainbows. As my spiritual psychotherapy teacher often said, “we carry our responsibility on our should-ers”.

“Should” weighs heavily on you, it drags you down, makes it awfully hard to rise up to life’s challenges. No wonder you’re so exhausted all the time!

 

“Should” has become the new source of all that ails you in your life.

It’s the source of all your troubles in the way that gluten was tagged, about a decade ago, when it showed up as the nutrition buzz-word.

Women come to me with questions like, “should I give up gluten, should I give up dairy, should I give up red meat,…?” While it is a matter of personal exploration and reading of symptoms to decide which course of nutritional advice is right for you, the first thing that all women must to give up, across the board, is “should”.

I’ve recently started to catch myself: “should” comes out of my mouth far more than I’d like to admit. Curbing it feels a bit like trying to give up gluten.

It was hard to say goodbye to some of my favourite food – fresh baguette and croissant, pasta, French toast. With gradual shifts and letting new habits take root, my body slowly adjusted and I felt the difference. I noticed where the gluten had been doing the most damage.

 

Here’s what I’ve noticed about the damage “should” does:

“Should” comes out when I recognise that I’ve been “bad” and know it’s time to reign in and be “good” again. Foodwise, it usually that means that the sweets have snuck back into the daily for me and I need to get out of the jag…cut the addictive streak.

“Should” is the voice of the advice I’ve received over the years, when I find myself stuck in the same place for the 47th time. When I kept having gallbladder attacks over and over again, and my acupressurist reminded me at every session to eat less butter and more bitter, I nodded then promptly ignored her advice until it got so painful, I had no choice.

“Should” surfaces when I feel guilty for not being the perfect example of business owner or housekeeper or parent or wife. The perfection, of course, defined by what I see others achieving on social media.

“Should” is a word that comes from the outside.

When you look up your symptoms online or go through the latest book, there may be suggestions that work for you and there may be others that don’t. Not everyone can function as a vegan or Paleo or low-fat or on whatever diet/lifestyle is being sold as the best this month.

“Should” is all the expectations we set for ourselves based on the standards that have been set for us by society and the media. I’m paraphrasing my friend Casey Erin Wood here – that’s basically her definition of “perfection paralysis”.

Paralysis. Should doesn’t move you forward. It stops you in your tracks.

 

 

The best way to give up should? Say Yes!

There is no one-size fits all solution to eating right.

The truth for you may lie somewhere in the middle of several rules. You need to experiment, explore, try out and listen to what works.

In tuning into your body, and noticing its sensations & symptoms, in feeling the emotions that move through it, you learn what feels good at a deeper level. Listen to your body and get to know how it says “No” and how it says “Yes!”

 

Yes is a commitment.

Yes opens the door to possibility.

In the dance of emotion, Yes is linked to desire, the drive to step towards something new.

Yes is an action.

You get to Yes one step at a time.

 

This solution is not a quick and easy fix. Like giving up gluten (or sugar, or dairy, or avoiding your taxes, or…) there will be trial and error. There will be days when you can do it, and days when you want to give it all up and dive into the fresh aroma wafting from the nearest bakery.

Slowly, gradually, with baby steps and support, you move away from the perfection required by “should” and come home to the comfort of being good to your body. Yes!

 

Want help taking that action?

You’ve got 2 choices:

Through the spring, I’ve been going Live to talk about some baby steps – pick one that appeals to you and give it a whirl.

OR,

You can find support for these types of changes in The Eating Better Conversation, a closed Facebook group where we talk about the challenges that hold us back and celebrate the little wins that move us forward in our quest to eating better.

 

Where do you should on yourself? How do you define your “Yes!”? When you share your thoughts in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

 

Oh, and you should really click the pretty green buttons and share this post to all your friends, telling them they should read it too!

 

The Magic Wand for Eating Right

 

“I want to eat right, but I want it to happen like magic.”

OK, maybe the request isn’t spelled in such blatant terms, but the message is there. Clients arrive in my office with the apparent hope that I will have the magic wand to turn their belly fat, their fatigue, their achy joints and all their troubles into happy endings.

In a sense I do, though, like Cinderella’s fairy godmother, I’ll make her work for it. Have her gather all the necessary pieces so that I can help her turn them into what she wants.

Being the diverse mosaic of humans that we are, there’s obviously no one-size-fits-all solution to the quandary of eating right. The map for your healing journey will be different from anyone else’s.

And yet, there is a common ground to that human-ness, to the nourishment it takes to feed a vibrant woman. So, that the answer to that question of “How do I eat better?” really is as simple as the wave of a magic wand. It’s a guideline that goes like this:

Reduce any food that causes you trouble and increase those that nourish you.

Bibbity-bobbity-boo!

Very general, yes. Think of it as a forest path with several possible routes to get you to that garden of health you long for.

 

Explore the possible paths by listening to your body.

Eat less of anything you know you are, or to which you even suspect you are, sensitive. This could mean a full-on allergy (walnuts give you hives), an intolerance (lactose gives you cramps), or just some random item that makes you feel “wrong” (raw cabbage makes your eyes itch, grapes make you sleepy, oats turn you into a screaming banshee).

Logical or not, common or not, if you react to it in an adverse way, your body is saying “No” …at least for now.

Periodically avoid the items that are generally hard to digest or make your body work harder in other ways. These include such items as dairy, gluten, red meat, sugar, alcohol, poor quality fats, chemical additives. You don’t necessarily need to give these up permanently (ok maybe the additives and the poor fats), but give yourself a periodic break.

Whether you notice that they cause distress or not, they do add to your stress load.

Holistic nutritionist Jessica Sherman sees our capacity to deal with stress like a glass: the more you add to it, the more likely things will spill over into an inability to function or disease or irritability or weight gain or any of the myriad reactions we experience when our energy is drained under stress.

Staying away from foods that cause you stress, physical or otherwise, will allow you to keep enough room in that glass for the stuff you can’t avoid (the jerk at the office) or for when the rug gets pulled out from under you (your husband says it’s over) and you need the reserve.

Eat more nutrient dense food. Food that gives you more nutritious bang for your caloric buck.

Whole food. (Not sure what that means, or think you do? Read more here.)

Here’s a fairy godmother trick for you to ensure nutrient density.  Think of it as the Magic Looking Glass through which you can consider everything you eat.

magic of eating right

Make sure every meal and every snack contains some amount of protein, fat and fibre. Bonus points if you include something green.

Here’s why:

Protein: Needed to make all the functional molecules in your body and to maintain all of your structure. It’s easier to access when consumed in small amounts with other foods through the day. Get more details about how much protein you need daily and food sources here.

Fat: Slows your digestion to help level out blood sugar; needed for your hormone balance, efficient metabolism and to help you absorb minerals and fat-soluble vitamins. Get the skinny on fat here.

Fibre: Will help you feel satisfied (and stay that way longer); feeds the friendly flora in your gut; gives your digestive tract a good workout and grabs all the garbage for removal. Though I have no post specific to fibre (yet) this one outlines the benefits of whole carbohydrates (where you find fibre).

Green (plant) food contains magnesium. Of the 500+ jobs that magnesium does in your body, it is key to your hormone balance (in men that magic mineral is zinc); it helps your body release energy from food; it gets depleted under stress and yet it helps your body recover from the effects of stress.

Ex. Apple with nut butter (pumpkin seed butter)
Eggs with sweet potato and leafy greens
Chicken & vegetables (at least one green)
Rice cakes (or other whole grain/seed cracker) & black bean dip, drizzle with olive oil (add a pinch of arugula or cilantro)

Red beans & brown rice with avocado (really yummy with steamed broccoli)

What about all the other vitamins and minerals?

I’m glad you asked.

When you choose nutrient dense food, whole food that is naturally nutrient dense, you are choosing food that already contains the vitamins and minerals needed to digest, assimilate and metabolise that food.

And here’s my little secret: when you feed your body such nourishing food on a regular basis, then, having felt the difference, your body will start to crave those very things!

How’s that for a magic wand?

 

Think about the last 3 meals you ate through that filter, and let us know how they fared. Any improvements may be one small step away and sharing these tweaks opens the possibilities for others.

 

Let all your friends know about this simple trick by clicking any (or all!) of the pretty green buttons.

Curbing your Attitude of Apology

A few weeks back I received an email from my yoga teacher offering a 5-minute practice while she was away. It revolved around the mantra “I’m allowed to take up space.”

This affirmation immediately brought to mind how I often act with an attitude of apology, that is, not actually saying I’m sorry, but feeling like I’m imposing on others by requesting to have my needs met.

Ouch.

How many times have I clammed up because I might upset someone or be an inconvenience to them?

It’s not just me. I don’t even think it’s just us overly-polite Canadians. How many women do you know who apologize at every turn?

  • I bump into a lady at the grocery story, and she says sorry.
  • Delayed email replies come in with the story that defends or hopes to excuse its tardiness.
  • A colleague who just finished the flu apologizes for needing to cough.
  • I decline the salad filled with nuts at a neighbour’s house and she apologizes profusely for not knowing about my allergy – how could she have known when I didn’t tell her? (There was no way I was going to starve without it, either.)
  • Women all over the internet are offering and taking courses about how to request the fees that reflect their goods’ & services’ value, or how to be visible for the sake of their business.

Some days it feels like the women around me are apologizing for their very existence. Double ouch.

At the same time, there’s a huge paradigm shift happening, with women standing up and speaking the truth despite the risk of backlash and shame.

The very energies make that kind of shift at this time every year, as the sap begins to flow and buds prepare to appear. Nature is burgeoning out of its winter shell. Seeds are decaying in the warming ground so that new life can feed on the remains.

To paraphrase Leonard Cohen, cracks are appearing in everything so that the light can get in.

In fact, I’ve come to learn that shame doesn’t happen when the truth is let out into the light. Shame is the stagnant stew that keeps the thing festering in the dark. Shame is what makes us want to apologize for just being here.

Which gets me back to the idea of taking up space.

In the dance of emotion, anger’s purpose is to take up space. It’s the sweeping arms and roar of a mama bear protecting her den. It’s the kicking and punching that fend off an attacker. It’s the premenstrual fury that makes everyone else take a step back from you, giving you the space you need at that vulnerable time.

Anger is the energy that pushes you out of the stagnating funk or disappointment or fear and makes you take that first step forward.

 

In a couple of weeks, we’ll be making the transition into spring – the season of wood, according to Chinese energetics – a time of blossoming green and all of life pushing out into new growth.

Spring is the time of the liver, what many people now know as the seat of anger. It is, however, also the seat of creativity. Just think how frustration leads to new ideas when you back off with a little patience. That creativity is what gets expressed when you step out of your shell and into the light of day.

The wood element also looks after your tendons. The sinew that, like the reawakening limbs of trees, are ready to be lubricated for movement, as you uncurl from the cold.

Spring is the time to throw off the detritus of winter, when your energy returns with the growing light, when you want to be outside more and be more active and start new projects.

The big trend at this time of year is to detox: clean that liver of all the junk and too much “comfort food” through the winter. This is a great practice, though for anyone who’s not used to it, I caution you to go gently; start simply in your first go-round. Overdoing it can deplete rather than recharge you, if you’re doing too much too soon (i.e. before winter is fully over) and it can also be like poking that mama bear when she’s been brewing over old slights for years.

Think of your liver like a pressure cooker: you want to let the steam off gently and gradually so it won’t explode in your face.

 

Other than cutting out the sugar etc., and eating more greens (if it grows naturally at this time of year, eat it!), there are other practices that can support your liver and your rejuvenation as you sprout into the next iteration of the wholly healthy vision of who you’re becoming.

 

  • Hydrate well: get all the juices flowing to keep you limber and flexible (physically and otherwise).
  • Get outside and move (walk, run, skate if it’s still cold enough, bike if it’s dry enough, play street hockey with your kids).
  • Look up to the clear blue sky; let it recharge your energy (your pineal gland loves that particular colour!).
  • Until the trees pop in the coming weeks, notice the patterns and shapes in their lacework of possibility.
  • Put on your favourite music and sing your heart out. Dance too!
  • Write out what pisses you off, cry about it – let those tears wash you clean – then take the steps to change what you can and release what you can’t.
  • When you hit frustration or irritation or any other brick wall that makes you want to rage or give up in despair, take a step back into the buffer zone of patience.

These gestures don’t need to be large or earth-shattering (that’s part of the patience piece again).

The day I got that email, I consciously made a couple of clear requests of those around me. No one was offended by my call for help – I was home with a very sick boy and needed a few groceries – or by my asking to reorganize schedules to better suit my priorities. The next day, I got up the gumption to quit something that wasn’t working for me, rather than stick with it out of obligation.

In staying present to what I needed that day, I opened my capacity to be present for myself and others…I gave myself the room to grow into that new space.

In opening the door to who you are, even just a tiny crack, allows the tiniest tendril of your being to peak out; to gather some sunlight, to feel the kiss of a few raindrops and grow that much more.

Which door are you ready to crack open; where does your being need a little more light? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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.