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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Our Obsession with Protein Part II: The Straight Facts

I’ve gone off on a philosophical tangent lately in the blog. Now that we’ve moved into earthy Taurus, it’s time to ground back into some practical information and straighten the record about protein. In the first segment of this topic, I introduced you to the big-picture-importance of protein, and the reasons why we’re obsessed with it at this particular time. Today, we get down to the nitty-gritty details of why we need it, and how much we need.

I recently gave a talk about food at the local running club and, naturally, the discussion veered towards protein. This happens because people associate it directly to muscle. Really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg where protein is concerned.

WHY YOU NEED PROTEIN

As I explained in Part I of this segment, protein is the building block for every aspect of your physical container. It’s the structural material for all connective tissue in the body:

  • Your protective layer: skin, mucous membranes, nails & hair;
  • Cartilage, ligaments and tendons to hold you together;
  • Muscles so you can move;
  • Your nutrient & communication highway: blood vessels;
  • Bones & teeth: yes, they need Ca, P, F and Mg to give your body solidity, but those minerals are encrusted on a protein matrix, like a heavily beaded bodysuit.

“Protein gives me energy.”

Yes & No.

Protein does indeed provide energy (calories), but because it’s required for so many specific jobs in the body, it’s more practical to rely on carbohydrates & fat for most of your energy needs.

The extra energy boost you feel from protein has more to do with the functional molecules that do the physiological work and keep communication flowing.

  1. Hormones of Action:
    • regulate & control all bodily functions from the glands in your brain;
    • control your very metabolism (how you use calories);
    • keep your blood sugar (brain food) balanced;
  2. Neurotransmitters: send electrical & chemical impulses through your brain & body for instantaneous responses to life with its many twists & turns;
  3. Antibodies: help maintain your integrity by creating boundaries between what’s yours and what isn’t;
  4. Enzymes: facilitate just about every chemical reaction – and there are millions.

HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED

As I said last time, the body recycles and reuses amino acids (the units that link to form protein) in whatever combination is needed at a given time.

Because of that sustainable quality,  protein has the lowest requirement of all the macronutrients – only 10-15% of caloric intake, as compared to 65% & 25%, more or less, for carbohydrates and fat.

Protein Math 2

Protein Math: click on the image for the full view

NUMBERS ARE GREAT, BUT HOW DOES THAT TRANSLATE INTO FOOD?
It’s not as difficult as we seem to think.

First, a reality check: the average American eats 100 g of protein daily. Much more than enough; an amount that sets us up for problems (I’ll get to that in a sec).

Food for 60 g protein

For a great article about plant-based protein: http://kriscarr.com/blog-video/my-crazy-sexy-guide-to-plant-based-protein/

For a summary of amounts in conventional protein-rich food: http://lowcarbdiets.about.com/od/whattoeat/a/highproteinfood.htm

NOT ENOUGH PROTEIN

When you don’t eat enough protein, you lose body mass: hair, nails, skin, then muscle starts to break down; wounds don’t heal well and you get sick more easily; you become lethargic, and in the extreme your blood will degenerate. In fact, any of those signs could be a red flag that you need more protein in your diet.

Continuing the analogy of the temple from Part I, when you don’t replace damaged bricks, nor maintain the mortar, the structure will eventually crumble. Necessary tasks will remain undone when you spread the staff too thin.

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING

The other day, I heard someone at book club announce, “You could never get enough protein.” Why, oh why do we hold onto the idea that if some is good, more must be better?

Eating too much protein doesn’t come without a price on your health. As a reflection of the consumer society in which we live, a high percentage of protein in the diet creates issues similar to the overcrowded landfills and plastic islands in the ocean.

High protein consumption

  • Dehydrates the body: water is necessary to the reaction that breaks peptide chains (strings of amino acids) apart.
  • Increases tissue acidity, the playground of inflammation and feeding trough for cancer. Calcium & other vital minerals are drawn out of your bones to buffer the acid.

To make up for a relatively low intake of carbohydrates, amino acids are converted to glucose for energy, an inefficient conversion that requires energy to perform.

  • This same reaction creates ketones and nitrogen-based bi-products, which in turn
  • Force the kidneys work harder to eliminate the wastes, potentially allowing them to back up in a toxic traffic jam.

All this extra peeing is how protein has become the latest panacea in our eternal quest for weight loss solutions: That big initial weight drop is nothing more than water loss.

ARE YOU ABLE TO TAKE IT ALL IN?

I touched on this last time, but let’s talk about it concretely:

So you eat adequate protein for your age, gender, activity level (see the box above), yet how much of it are you absorbing?

Before the protein-digesting enzymes can do their job, a protein needs to be denatured (uncoiled) by stomach acid. Not enough acid, and that protein stays pretty much intact through the rest of the digestive ride, leading to putrefaction.

Translation: feeling full & heavy or heartburn after a meal (esp. if it includes meat); bloating & smelly gas; constipation. (As well as the signs of low protein mentioned above)

The good news is that this is easily fixed

a)     lay off the antacids (talk to your health care professional if you have an ulcer or true high stomach acid);

b)     drink a glass of warm water with 1 tsp of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar before your meals (or after if you have heartburn)

Hope this helps clear up some of the confusion. If you have any questions, bring them to the comments below, so everyone can benefit.

 

Strengthen your Immune System from the Inside

Spiritual ImmunityIt’s that time of year in the northern hemisphere: the beginning of flu season. It had been my intention to share nutritional ways to support your organism from whichever viruses are floating around this year.

Instead, I wonder, have you ever taken the time to consider the holistic significance of your immune system and how it works to keep you healthy?

The Immune System (Re)-Defined

The immune system (IS) is your body’s defense against disease; no news here. But did you know it’s in fact one part of the complex messaging system in your body that includes your mind and emotions? The field of psychoneuroimmunology has broken open the mysteries of how hormones, neurotransmitters and the various immune responses work constantly to keep you healthy on a minute-to-minute basis.

On its own, the basic function of the IS is to differentiate between self & non-self.

Let’s take a step back and look at that role metaphorically.

Differentiating self from non-self: what’s yours and what’s not. From a psychological viewpoint, that’s called boundaries.

A healthy immune system is all about having healthy boundaries. Immunity is about not letting something in, or not letting it affect you. Like that saying, “I am immune to his charms,” meaning the guy has no sway with you.

Again, from a physiological POV, the 1st line of defense is the skin and mucous membranes: the actual physical barrier that protects you from your environment. The skin also delineates the human form, it literally defines your (physical) edges.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m out of sorts emotionally, I feel as if “I don’t know where my edges are”. I trip or bump into things, and I have a hard time making decisions that are right for me. At times like this, I’ve been taken advantage of, or I let someone else’s priorities rule my mind.

Let me draw you a picture:

You work long hours and barely have time for your family, let alone yourself, because you’re afraid there won’t be enough money to pay the bills. You say yes when the boss asks you to work over the weekend because it’s nearly salary review time; you have to say no to your daughter’s big soccer game.

Or, how about this one:

Your pre-teen really wants to go to a party weekend that you feel is wrong for his age. You tell him no, out of a desire to maintain his best interests and your values. He rants & screams all sorts of threats and insults, bangs his door. Do you maintain your decision. Or, do you worry that his frantic behaviour is an indication that he’ll act in some rash way, so you give in.

Here’s another:

You need time to yourself this weekend, to recharge your personal batteries. You look forward to puttering in the garden and curling up with a good bodice-ripper. But your sweetie is counting on you to go to the family gathering at his mother’s cottage. You go out of obligation, or stand your ground and feel guilty all weekend.

These types of scenarios send messages to your mind & body that your values, needs and priorities are secondary to everyone else around you. Keep this up, and eventually lose sight of what’s yours and what’s not.

Physically, that’s what your IS does. It lets in and/or defends against organisms seeking access to, and energy from, your body. Because of its strong ties to your thoughts and emotions, its actions can happen as a response to love or of fear.

Now, let’s go a bit deeper. OK, a lot deeper.

The Self.

When I talk about the (capital S) Self, I’m referring to your Higher Self, your Spirit. The part that connects you to the Cosmic Whole, that carries the blueprint for who You are.

As a messenger within your organism, the IS is a part of the Soul’s guidance system. Your soul is kind of like the GPS that helps you navigate your Spirit’s map. The Soul leads your body, heart and mind towards the greatest expression of your Self.

On an energetic level, the IS helps you grow into that full expression, by acting as a messenger that determines what is true to You and what isn’t.

When you prevent that growth, by suppressing immune responses (such as acute fever & inflammation), the IS cannot convey its messages effectively. The message needs to get louder to be heard.

The results of a faulty immune system manifest as susceptibility to infections (viral, bacterial or fungal) on the one hand, and allergies on the other. (The extremes of those opposites play out as cancer and auto-immune disorders.)

The diminished IS comes from a lack of self-care (read: Self-Love). The hypersensitive responses are an over-reaction born from Fear.

To break boundaries into their simplest form, it’s all about saying Yes or No. Looked at another way, boundaries are formed/maintained/breached depending on whether we act out of Love or out of Fear. (As with the examples above.)

When we eat chicken soup for our illnesses, how much of the immune-boosting of the soup comes from the Love of the mother or grandmother who made it?

Several studies at Linda Loma University in California document the direct impact of sugar on the IS. (Google it for details.) Large amounts of sugar – an addiction used to replace any lack of sweetness or love in our lives – brings with it a false sense of well-being that simply over-excites you, then leaves you drained and wanting more.

Kind of like a bad boyfriend.

Physiologically, the adrenals feel the brunt of that impact.

The adrenals play a key role in our response to stress (they’re the source of adrenaline & cortisol). Did you know they’re also responsible for modulating inflammation – one of the non-specific immune responses? If they’re not happy, then neither is your ability to respond to invaders.

The adrenals are a part of the 3rd Chakra, the Will. This emotional energy centre oversees your ability to take your place, to stand your ground. It’s the home of your sense of Self. It’s depleted by fear and enhanced by self-love.

Poor adrenal health is something I deal with almost constantly in my practice. As women we live our lives from our should’s, from the needs of others and out of fear of losing them. No matter what type of issue she comes to me with, there’s often a piece that leads right back to a woman’s 3rd chakra and her adrenals.

As you prepare for the winter, check in on how solid you’re feeling on a mental-emotional level.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I live my life according to what’s true for me?
  2. Do I honour my own values?
  3. Am I able to say No when something’s not right for me? Do I say Yes when something is?
  4. Do I have a good support system? In 2 of her books, Dr. Christiane Northrup points out that simply having the perception of strong emotional support enhances a woman’s immune response.

One last reminder: A healthy body and immune system does not necessarily mean that you’ll never get sick – it means that if you do, you’re equipped to deal with it.

What will you do to improve your sense of Self before hunkering down for the winter? Share your thoughts with the rest of us in the comments below – you might provide inspiration and support to someone else!

If you like this post, be sure to Like and Share it with your Friends & Followers!

I wish you a winter filled with rosy cheeks and laughter!

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