How to Nourish YOU for the Coming Year

 

I step out my front door after a heavy snowfall. The expanse of white blanketing my lawn is pristine – not a rabbit trail, nor a wind drift in sight – it’s pure, clean and full of possibility. I get a satisfying thrill to be the first one to make a mark. Today, it’s a footprint. Other times it’s an angel.

That’s exactly how I feel on the first of the year. As if by turning to a fresh page on the calendar, I’ve wiped everything clean and get to start again; I get to make my mark on the year in any way I desire.

I get to step forward as the person I want to become.

I get to feed and dress and entertain myself in a way that reflects the wants and needs of that “new” me.

I get to enjoy relationships with a whole new heart.

I get to share my reaffirmed values through work and service to others.

The possibilities are vast – all emanating from me.

All starting from that 1st step.

2017 is going to be a big year. I can feel it.

Am I feeling the excitement brewing as Canada turns 150, as Montreal turns 375, as most of my friends and I turn 50, my eldest son, 25?

Politically, we’ll see a whole new world – terrifying and thrilling in equal measure.

Maybe I’m tuned into the cosmic pull of numerology. 2+0+1+7=10, the culmination of one cycle and the start of the next; as well as (1+0=1) the very beginning. Maybe I’m feeling the onset of the Year of the Fire Rooster – vibrantly social and healthy.

Whatever influences and environment and waves push and pull against you through the coming year, at the centre is you. YOU are the only part over which you have control. YOU are the only tool you have for creating waves – through your own care & feeding, in how you interact with others, in how you vibrate in the world through work & community – your footprints.

Will they be made of carbon or snow? Of fairy dust or hard facts? The choice is yours.

It all starts with you.

Before you make that first step each day, though, be sure to start out knowing who you are in that moment. Connect with YOU first. Action comes next.

Huh?!? What does all this mumbo-jumbo mean?

It means that the best way to be yourself, to feel like yourself and stay nourished through your day, is to start each morning with a bit of ritual: a morning routine.

A morning routine ensures that you start your day nourished body, mind and soul.

A morning routine wipes the slate clean like that freshly fallen snow. Without necessarily getting rid of yesterday’s transgressions, it contains forgiveness for them, and hope for tomorrow’s wins.

A morning routine ensures that you have had time to yourself and for yourself, no matter what the rest of the day holds. It gives you the space to focus inward before engaging outward.

When life rips the rug out from under you, a morning routine maintains a constant, a beacon to which you can tether yourself to get safely to the other side.

A morning routine connects all parts of you into an integrated whole from which you can better make decisions about work, food, leisure… basically, how you want to spend your time, energy and money through the coming day.

The daily practice of a morning routine fosters discipline. Not the strict, whip-cracking type. Ritual establishes boundaries as a safe container for who you are, what you will & won’t do, what you will & won’t let in…or out…of your life.

A morning routine starts the conversation in which you can listen to your body – her needs, her hopes, her fears.

A morning routine gives you the space to connect with the Divine, a conversation with a greater power. This includes the petitions for what you need as well as listening for a response.

If there’s time for nothing else on a given day – the connection to self and spirit are the non-negotiable pieces to my morning, in the form of breathe.

Feeling my breathe move into my body’s centre, then settling into that space as it leaves.

That way, I start each day with a calm nervous system.

I start each day with a dose of oxytocin – bi-product of connection, which lowers cortisol levels, with its residual waves to improved blood sugar, immunity and libido.

I start the day, saying, “This is ME.”

I take each step from there.

Your morning routine will likely look different than mine. It will vary, depending on whether your day includes a marathon or a day of leisure, kids or just you, being at home or on the road. Your routine may alternate depending on the type of work you do, or where your values and priorities lie.

One thing that remains the same for each of us, whether you will be teaching kindergarten or spear-heading a corporate merger, starting out your day grounded into YOU will set you up for more energy, success and happiness at the end of it.

My morning routine has evolved over time and continues to evolve as my needs shift through the seasons and the circumstances of life. For the next four posts, through the months of quiet hibernation in winter, it’s the perfect time to share some aspects of my morning routine, not as specific rules, but as guidelines for possibility.

How you make your own routine is up to you.

Do you have a morning routine, or a non-negotiable bit to your day? We’d love to hear about it! When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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Choosing Toxicity

 

Powerful words hit home at just the right time.

Clearing through my desk drawers, I came across “Your Metabolic Journey”, a sublime excerpt from Marc David’s Slow Food. Like any truly wise piece, it strikes a different chord each time I read it.

Going through once again, I paused at this part: “If you invite toxicity into the body then you are asking it into your personal world.” True. Could apply to me. The full impact of how deeply these words were meant for me didn’t show up until a few days later.

A Bad Habit Revealed

I hate to admit this out loud, but I tend to be the shoemaker’s child when it comes to my eating habits. Using the turmoil of a big move as an excuse, that tendency took over and became the beast I’d worked so hard to tame. My food intake was less than exemplary, less than nourishing.

I was eating stuff that I clearly know is bad for me (because of asthma and gallstones and other issues that seem to be cropping up like weeds as I age). I am a much happier girl if I stay away from gluten, dairy, sugar, dark chocolate (I know!), greasy food and alcohol. Yet, I was eating bread and pasta and baked goods constantly. I was adding cheese and creamy sauces to everything.

A Nagging Belief

As part of my inner journey, I recently came face-to-face with a belief I held around punishment necessarily following reward. Call it the Upper Limits Problem (à la Gay & Kathleen Hendricks), or a fear that something bad must follow the good, a loss after a win. I started living in dread that some mysterious shoe would drop because of many positive changes in my life, to the point that I was lying awake, imagining the possibilities in all sorts of permutations from identity theft to brain tumours to multiple forms of destitution.

I’m always on the lookout for when and how certain conditions start in body and mind, so I wracked my brain for the story or memory that would have set that belief in motion. Yet, it didn’t seem to resonate with any of the childhood stuff I’ve rehashed for other juicy info.

How Habits Create Beliefs

A few days later, I woke up to the fact that I was nursing a glass of port while nibbling a bowl of chips into which I’d dumped a pack of Reese’s Pieces.

This wasn’t a party or a special occasion or a rare occurrence. I was having them, the worst foods for my digestive and adrenal health – for the 3rd day in a row – as I supervised homework and got supper started. To be perfectly honest, I’d been eating chips and drinking alcohol more regularly than is good for me these past months, along with my other transgressions.

You see, I’d had a good day, was feeling carefree and I figured, “Why not?” knowing full well I’d likely be suffering in the days to come. This is a pattern with me. Nothing new.

And that’s when Marc David’s words hit me full force. The belief in punishment is not a result of some trauma that happened when I was 3. It’s the result of a current habit I’d let slip into daily routine.

How crazy is that? I’ve been punishing my body as a means of celebration.

How to Turn Awareness into Action

The lesson I’d received went one step deeper the next day when I, yet again, chose a glass of port over herbal tea for my mid-afternoon treat… because it was there.

It seems that becoming aware of the pattern wasn’t enough to get me to stop. It took a much harsher reality to snap me out of it completely.

The 8-year-old daughter of a dear friend has a usually benign condition that, in her case, causes intestinal bleeding. It’s been stable for several years, but has recently come back with a vengeance. The day after my big Aha, she was in surgery for the 2nd time in as many weeks, as 5 doctors performed innovative techniques to stop it once and for all.

This girl was fighting for her life, yet I continued to take my own digestive & healing capacity for granted by clogging them up with the very elements that cause me the most harm.

My good intentions took on a whole other meaning when they weren’t just about me. I needed a cause greater than myself – a Why – to jump-start the humility it took to step fully into the shift.

I’d been praying and sending healing light to my friend, her family, the doctors. It was time I put my prayers into action. …Maybe create a new belief in the process.

The only way I can build trust in the Universe’s inherent goodness, to trust the powers at be to keep me safe when things go well, is to build trust in myself to do the same.

Regardless of how magical the intention behind your thoughts and words, there comes a time when you need to set the wheels in motion with concrete action. If I want to free myself from unnecessary punishment, I need to stop punishing myself unnecessarily.

If I want to enjoy vibrant health, I need to stop the practices which dull that vibration.

A Belief is a Choice

Another thought lands as these realizations swirl through me, mind, body and soul: holding onto a belief or a habit is a choice.

And so I choose to detoxify. Not a full-on diet change, I simply reduce the ways in which I “invite toxicity” into my body.

I choose instead to “invite the sacred into [my] personal world, [so I] will find it inhabiting [my] metabolic world.” (Marc David)

I choose reward over punishment, health over setbacks.

I choose to feed my body, my thoughts, my beliefs according to the person I want to be.

I choose to show myself the Love I want to radiate to the world.

And you know what? Like magic, there’s been no question or struggle about nourishing vs harmful foods ever since.

What about you? Which of your habits perpetuate beliefs you’d rather clear? What awareness have you recently had which now needs action to alter your metabolism and your life?

When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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The Soul of your Meals

 

Waiting at the school gate yesterday, two of the moms were chatting about their experiences giving up dairy – one because of the potential links to cancer, the other due to skin and digestive troubles. They were talking about how it’s become a full-time job to be disciplined about what they eat, have an exercise routine that keeps the fat down and the bone density up, and to “study every night so you know what to do the next day”.

I doubt our mothers, certainly not our grandmothers put so much mental time and effort into what they ate or fed us.

What happened to change that perception, and how can we fix it?

We’ve changed 3 ways that have driven our current obsession with the right food:

1. Growing awareness.

We’ve become more aware of the connection between food and health beyond weight loss, calories and nutrients.

We’ve become aware that the space-age breakthroughs which extended the shelf-life of what we eat – removing parts that go bad, adding stabilizers & preservatives – have left us with food stripped of vital elements and flavour (for which we compensate with sugar and salt). Because it’s made to not go bad, it’s also devoid of life.

We’ve become more aware that a lot of what our grandmothers did was, in fact, healthy. Now we’re scrambling to re-establish a way of life that we’ve lost touch with, and that doesn’t always fit into our busy modern lifestyles.

2. Growing perfectionism.

One of the advantages of our global community is how much we can learn and share because we’re so easily connected. On the other side of that coin, we have far too much scope to compare ourselves to the Jones’.

Mrs. Jones likely only posts on social media when she’s had a good day. How many of you take selfies when you look like the dog’s breakfast after no sleep and a huge fight with your man? Or when you’ve gained 20 lbs thanks to your new meds? People post about healing everything from hangnails to stage 4 cancer with any given diet. What are we to do but raise the bar for our own looks, relationship and health expectations.

Not only do we want it all perfect, we want it to happen ASAP.

3. Growing choice.

Things might have been simpler for Grandma because there wasn’t much choice. There were certain cuts of meat she could afford and knew how to cook, the seasonal vegetables and a couple of breads and cookies to go with it (that she’d made herself with fresh ingredients).

Not only can you now buy any type of food, from anywhere in the world, at any time of year, you can go online and have just as many sites explain why what you’re eating is crap, as there are those who’ll say it’s the best.

The solution? Think about your grandmother.

Think about the simplicity of her meals, the love she put into preparing them and the joy you felt eating them.

Think about how dinner at Grandma’s meant everyone was sitting at the table together, having conversations between bites. Sometimes there would be bickering and sometimes you’d all be laughing – both were welcome and taken in stride.

Think about how you were allowed to have seconds of the parts you liked and were forgiven if you left the ones didn’t.

It was slower. It was peaceful. It had soul. …It was delicious.

Yes, the reality of our lives, and ever-changing female bodies, is that there will be times when dietary changes are necessary. (I wrote a whole piece about how to ease that transition.) Your belly and your skin may indeed be much happier without dairy.

It may also take a bit of time to let go of it completely. The emotional ties we have to food & eating go far and deep. If it were as easy as buying different groceries and learning a few new recipes, my colleagues and I would be out of work.

Remember this: No matter what your health requires you to eliminate, you don’t ever have to give up the simplicity, the relaxed pace or the love or the soulful enjoyment of a meal. Indulge in those nutrients daily and your health will improve no matter what’s on your plate.

Bon appétit!

What practice do you incorporate into your mealtime to keep it fresh and nourishing? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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Better Eating Habits Made Easy

“What the hell do I eat?!?”

Freeze frame on the woman in my office.

Deer in the headlights. Panic stricken.

A little over an hour ago, she walked in with a smile on her face. We exchanged pleasantries then she proceeded to tell me how the inflammation/hormones/lack of sleep is affecting her body and her life.

She walked me through a typical day, we talked about when things started to go awry, then we dove beneath the surface. We explored the ways her life situations contribute to her symptoms. We focused inward, listening to her body’s clues about what it needs.

Through it all, she followed my lead and answered my questions with curiosity and that raw honesty you bring forth when you’re committed to doing what it takes to fix this thing once and for all.

Then we got back to the practical side of things. The lifestyle shifts and food suggestions that will reduce her symptoms and help her body rebalance. This is when I explained how ___________ (gluten, dairy, sugar, refined food,…) are part of the problem and she’d do better to do without.

That’s the moment when the deer stepped onto the road. “There’s nothing left to eat!”

You’d think I’d just told her we needed to cut off her arm.

It’s the first reaction, isn’t it?

Regardless of what the doctor or the naturopath has explained, or despite test results that show a clear sensitivity to certain foods, a wall goes up.

Before you open your mind to the possibilities the changes present – among them feeling better! – the first thought is that there’s nothing left to eat.

It’s like when you take the same route home from work every day, then one day there’s a construction detour. Do you happily trust the detour signs to get you where you need to go, or do you go into panic mode because your routine has been sideswiped?

Resistance is the ego’s way of making sure you stay safe. Its definition of “safe” being “familiar”. If there’s one thing we all resist more than anything else it’s change – stepping out of the ol’ comfort zone and into the unknown.

Resistance also smacks of your inner teenager rebelling when she’s told No.

When it comes to food and eating habits, treading into the zone of resistance and rebellion is par for the course. Your brain, your gut and your emotions are hard-wired together more tightly than that tangle of string in your kitchen junk drawer. Pleasure, punishment, associations, comfort, control all balled up with fears and skewed needs for love and attention.

So, even if you’ve made a conscious decision to change the way you eat for the sake of your health, it takes a bit of time – and potential backsliding – to sort out the knots and get some new habits in place.

Sure I could jump in and give you a list of ways to replace the poor choices for better. You could browse the cookbooks at your local Indigo or Google x-free recipes and find more ideas than you’d ever have time to use.

Before you can go there, though, you need to make friends with that rebellious teen. Settle the panic from the inside so you have more success on the outside.

Rather than run with a list to the health food store, grab your journal and ask yourself the following 3 questions:

1. WHY are you making these changes?

The first response here might be “because the doctor/naturopath/osteopath told me to”. Maybe you’ve seen a friend have success with a particular eating style. Maybe you’re just trying the next thing on the list of trends that may fix your “thing” once and for all.

Which gets to the next layer of response: fixing your thing. Do you want to lose 15lbs, sleep better, have more energy, stop being in pain after every meal…?

Sure, those are all part of why you’re cutting out some of your favourite foods. Now look at why those things are important to you.

How will your life improve or be different after those pounds are gone? How will your parenting, marriage, career shift once you’re feeling better? What parts of your life are you putting off because of these issues?

2. WHAT’S preventing you from making the changes?

Perhaps it’s the practical steps that have kept you stuck. “I don’t know what to eat.” Fortunately, this one’s easily rectified thanks to books, the internet and professional advice.

What else is holding you back from getting closer to your health goals? I usually phrase this with clients as: What are the benefits to staying in this state?

Benefits to being fat, tired and in pain – is this woman insane?!?

Breathe into that question. Sit with how it makes you uncomfortable. You may even want to put it on the backburner for a day or two. Then come back to it. Gently.

Does the added weight keep you connected to your late father? Help you establish your place in the family or at work? Does your pain get you special attention? Does the lack of energy allow you to keep playing small?

There’s no judgment in what comes up here. No shame in understanding your motivations and beliefs.

Only once you see them can you determine if you still need them or if you can pack them up and send them on their way.

3. How do you want to FEEL?

What’s your dream solution?

How would you feel, how would you look, if the health issues were cleared?

How will you feel when those shifts in your life actually come to fruition? What are the actual sensations in your body when you’re living the life you want to be living?

I’ll bet there are variations of expansiveness, lightness, groundedness. I’ll also bet there’s a sense of safety, of feeling well in your own skin.

Whatever those sensations are, hang out with them and describe them to yourself or a partner until you know them in detail – the colour, the temperature, the texture, the image they remind you of. Notice how you sit and stand when you feel that way. Notice how you speak when you feel that way – both the words you use and the timber of your voice.

Let these sensations in your body become familiar. Let them permeate you with how safe & comfortable you are in that state.

Give the way you feel a name: Grounded Expansion. Blue Angel. River of Calm.

Now, set that as your intention. The Why of the changes you’ll make – dietary or otherwise.

Use it as your touchstone when the voice of panic creeps in to sabotage your efforts, or when your friends try to twist your arm to accept one small piece of fudge cake.

Ground back into your intention. Your safe zone. From there you can build new habits to help create and sustain that way of being on the outside. From there you can decide if, in this moment, a piece of cake to bond with friends is more important than the integrity of your digestive tract.

Holding the intention of who you want to be and why you want to be that person opens the door of possibility wide enough that the necessary changes no longer induce fear. They become almost effortless.

If you still need help with the details, by all means, get in touch. I’d be only too happy to guide you.

In the comments, tell us what your biggest block is when it comes to changing an eating habit. How did you overcome it, or do you still struggle with it? When you share your thoughts, you open the possibilities for others.

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Lighten Up! 3 Ways to Reduce the Winter Blues

 

Getting out of bed these days is brutal. After I finally drag myself up, only to be greeted by the cold tiles in the bathroom, I get to repeat the process with my son. Some days I never hit my stride and my sweet tooth is threatening to take over. I’ve got no zest for life; I feel washed-out. From about 5:00 onward, all I think about is going to bed, sleeping is all I want to do once I’m there.

Yup. I have a clear case of S.A.D.

Seasonal affective disorder shows up in an about 3-5% of Canadians – closer to 15% if you count the milder form of “winter blues”. It’s a very real form of depression that hits in countries at the northern- and southern-most parts of the planet.

Logical in these months of reduced daylight, though I’d say it gets compounded by the fact that we modern city folk tend to spend far too much time indoors, no matter what time of year. And when we do go out, we keep our skin covered and our eyes well shaded.

We’re systematically depriving ourselves of one of the most nourishing nutrients we have: the sun.

The sun’s rays on the cholesterol in your skin provides vitamin D. Sunlight also enter your eyes, hits your retina, stimulating your pineal gland. As the regulator of your entire system, this wise little nugget of fat, nerves and minerals controls circadian rhythms, both large (life cycles) and small (day/night).

The pineal secretes melatonin as daylight wanes in the evening, to make you sleepy and keep you knocked out until dawn. Daylight and the blue of the sky shut off its production so you can get up and go the next morning.

It’s logical that on the shorter days, the memo to ease up on the sleepiness gets delayed.

Were we smart and followed our animal nature around this, we’d honour the lack of light (and heat!) and slow down through these deep days of winter. Heck, those squirrels and polar bears sure know what’s what as they gorge, make a cozy bed, then nap for weeks. But we live in a society that clings tightly to a set schedule. That values productivity and being “on” more than listening to your personal needs.

Everything in Nature screams to slow down, have a nap, take it easy, yet we insist on driving through a snowstorm on icy roads to get to a meeting. When I asked my osteopath about her holidays, she guiltily told me about watching an entire season of Broadchurch in one day with her husband, then quickly went on to justify the “indulgence”.

Other than impairing your ability to go-go-go, this low energy state drags some of us into a full depression. Melatonin is made from serotonin – one of your feel-good neurotransmitters. With more of the latter being shunted into the former, your usual good moods and energy have quite literally gone into hibernation.

Serotonin, in turn, is made from tryptophan, so you crave starchy food in search of a source. More specifically, you want sugar, as it’s both the quickest route to more energy (albeit not a sustainable one) and another stimulator of the feel-good centres in your brain.

Many North Americans have learned the good habit of popping vitamin D through the winter months to protect bones, digestive tract, immunity and breasts from lack of sun on our skin. (If you haven’t got on this train yet, start!)

It’s just as vital to supplement the lack of sun in your brain.

Here are 3 ways to do just that.

1. Light therapy

The regular bulbs in your home and office aren’t enough to do the trick, though ironically, they’re enough to set your melatonin off-kilter when you’ve got them all on late into the evening.

As a bonus, this practice not only reduces the effects of S.A.D., it helps regulate all your cycles – sleep, menstruation, fertility.

You need full-spectrum light. Sunlight.

Get out into the daylight for a good 10-20 minutes every morning, without any type of lenses covering your eyes. Ditch the shades when you walk the dog or the kids to school. Go an extra couple of blocks before hopping on the bus. If it’s mild enough, have your morning tea on the deck.

Lunchtime is the next best time to do this.

Open the blinds in your office; move your desk so can see outside.

Even if you’re not getting direct sunlight – the sun’s only just coming up as I head out these days at 7:40 – you can still drink in the blue of the sky or the hint of brightness behind the clouds.

When I conscientiously look up at the sky rather than bow my head against the cold in the morning, it makes a marked difference to my energy levels and mood.

If you don’t have the luxury of an extra 20 minutes outside – I won’t harp on at the moment about all the ways this is good for you – then get yourself a full-spectrum lamp or two. Have it on in the room(s) where you spend most of your time each day.

2. Take some down time.

Remember, the pineal gland is about rhythms & cycles. Which means turning off just as much as being on.

If your energy wanes at this time of year, don’t fight it.

Honouring the fact that this is a season of drawing inward and quiet rest attunes your body and recharges your batteries for the more energetic times of the warmer months.

  • Switch from power yoga to restorative yoga. This delicious practice nurtures you with lots of gentle poses and support with blankets.
  • Have more evenings in than out. Jigsaw puzzles and board games come out more often at our house. They draw us together as a family or make a great excuse for putting on a pot of chili and having some friends over.
  • Choose a meaty novel or your journal over TV. Tackle the classics you’ve had on your shelf for years, or see what the library has among the new arrivals. (If you prefer an e-reader to paper books, be sure to put it on night mode.)
  • Get more sleep. By all means, go to bed a bit earlier. Sleep in a bit later on the weekend. The snow will still be there to play in when you get up.

3. Eat your way out of the blues.

Feed your brain with adequate protein and good fats to keep neurotransmitter and hormone levels up to par.

Nourish your need for sugar and comfort food with squashes and roasted root vegetables. Not only are these yummy choices packed with nutrients, you can think of them as concentrated sunshine – the sugar molecules literally being the sun’s energy in carbon and water.

How do you keep yourself energized through the winter? When you share your thoughts in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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