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 Health Benefits of Sisterhood

 

People laugh at me sometimes, with how obsessed I am with book club. More than guiding my current reading habits and being an outlet for intellectual curiosity, it takes up priority space in my calendar. Some would say I’m almost religious about it. Could be.

One thing I know for sure: that one night each month feeds my soul.

I used to have a similar take on a choir I’d joined for a time. About the art school office I worked in for 10 years. About natural health school. About hanging with my friends – girls’ night dinner parties being the cherry on the cake.

The common denominator in all these enriching scenarios? Female community.

(Maybe my need for such circles is a bit religious. Being part of a value-based collective certainly adds appeal to any religion. Having stepped away from the Catholic Church I was raised in, my need might be greater than someone who’s stayed more fully connected to a specific faith.)

My girlfriends, and the other clutches of women I mention above, were key to my survival post-divorce. Over 5 tumultuous years, I first learned how a non-judgmental circle of women (& a few special men) grants me

  • the courage to surrender the masks/labels and be myself;
  • the safe space in which to pour my hopes and fears;
  • shoulders to cry on, buddies to dance with;
  • the permission to put myself first (not that we women need it, but we think we do).

I learned that a strong group makes each individual woman stronger.

Being immersed in a community of like-minded, supportive women is the most direct route to knowing and loving yourself.

This solid container works for anything you want to improve really, however, in terms of health, the support of a group is proven to speed recovery and reduce risks of recurrence.

As part of a community, you have a built-in buddy system – someone to hold you accountable, to cheer you on, to hold your hand when things get rough, and to celebrate with you when they go well.

Knowing someone has your back in that way makes it easier to step out of your comfort zone.

On my own, I doubt I’d have had the energy to find another man, let alone explore the world of online dating. Without the love of friends and colleagues, jumping full-tilt into a new line of study might not have been so effortless, and I may never have discovered a new career – one that continues to stretch and fulfill me 14 years later.

A healthy relationship and enriching work serve to nourish you in mind and soul – essential pieces of your health picture.

More than just having a body free of disease, health literally means to be whole. To have balance in the lifestyle choices you make, so you can enjoy balance in your life.

That “being healthy” umbrella covers every part of your life – relationships, heart & soul, mind, work, money, society. It’s not just about the perfect body or a body free of disease. In fact (this is a discussion to explore further another day), it’s possible to be healthy even with a disease.

Every part of your life stands to improve with the health-giving support of a collective.

Community also means a place to ask questions and learn from the experience of others.

In recent years, I’ve discovered pockets of loving circles online. Some of the small Facebook groups I belong to hold the same magic as I’ve experienced in person. They might be a network of colleagues and other alternative health practitioners; financial advice; business support for solopreneurs; accountability and cheerleading through a challenge or a course. I’m also a part of deep spiritual circles through the internet.

I have connected with like-minded women all over the globe who I now consider good friends.

No matter the area of life, my book club, my friends, these online groups all prove to me yet again that it takes a village to raise a healthy woman.

Which is precisely why I have opened a community of my own. The Whole Health Dinner Party is a closed Facebook group for members of my community. It’s a place to talk about food and body and soul and life. For asking niggling questions and sharing thoughts. A place for conversation about health in all its shapes and forms.

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The Soul of Bone Broth

 

Have you noticed that you can’t turn around these days without tripping over someone extolling the virtues of bone broth?

Recipes, videos, blogs and expert interviews – guilty as charged. I have been suggesting bone broth to clients with everything from IBD to arthritis to breast cancer. Heck, it even makes a great body booster for my athletic sons.

What’s the deal? Is this truly a revolutionary superfood or just the flavour of the month, and why is it making such a huge comeback?

I’ve known that bone broth is the ideal supplement for nourishing, well, your bones. It’s one of Nature’s calcium supplements, along with the other minerals and protein your bones need. By steeping all the nutrients from one set of bones into liquid, they’re easily assimilated for yours.

Recent studies are proving that this very basic, traditional food is also loaded with glucosamine, condroitin and balanced electrolytes, including highly absorbable potassium. It’s being touted as the cure for leaky gut and dysbiosis. It calms inflammation and detoxifies your digestive tract. It nourishes you when you’re pregnant; it rejuvenates you when you’re ill.

My goodness, it really is a super food!

You might know me enough to realize that my trust in bone broth goes much deeper than those wonderful physical benefits.

Broth is at the basis of some pretty ancient traditions: show me a Jewish grandmother who doesn’t make chicken soup. What about congee, the Chinese equivalent? Soups cross every culture – phó, dal, wonton, Korean hot pot, Mexican avocado soup, minestrone,…

This isn’t coincidence. These practices developed from very basic human practices: ancient traditions that use every last piece of the animal they killed. Not the “yucky” parts we usually throw away, bones and cartilage and fat and organs are the gold! Think about it: your structure and your organs are the core part of you, the most essential, so it stands to reason that they should be storehouses for your most essential nutrients.

Maybe it was because of the fat scare in the 90s that turned us off these good bits. Maybe it was growing awareness of environmental toxicity that compelled us to chuck the skin and the liver. Then, we became overly concerned with building muscle, which somehow translated to a need to eat more muscle (lean meat). Slowly over the last few decades, our focus shifted from enjoying the whole animal, to only wanting boneless breasts and tenderloin.

The return to whole food seems radical, but it’s just a natural return of the pendulum after so many years feeding ourselves partial foods and non-foods. Some things obviously need peeling or gentle cooking, but the goal is to eat it as close to how it grows in Nature. All of it – the seeds, the pith, the leaves, the roots – not just the starch and the sugars.

It’s not just about the plants, either. Eating whole food also means eating an animal whole. Ok, you might not eat an entire cow at one meal, but a family of 4 or 6 through a year…sure!

Eating the whole animal means getting what you can out of the gristle, the gizzards and the bone, not just the “meat”.

There’s also the convenience of cooking lean, boneless meat. Nothing to trim or clean; just pop it on the grill or in the pan and (voila!) healthy fast food at home. We live fast, we eat fast, we want our meals to be ready fast. I can’t tell you how many women in my office tell me they don’t have time to make healthy meals.

At the risk of sounding like an annoying mother, Rome wasn’t built in a day. To have anything of quality – a house, a dress, shoes… or a healthy body, is not something that appears fully-formed overnight. It takes time and effort and persistence.

Your body regenerates completely every 7 years. Which means that it could take that amount of time to shift your health fully. There is no magic bullet – no herb, no superfood, no drug – that will cure you tomorrow.

You are in the driver’s seat of your own healing with the choices you make, the food you eat, the thoughts you think, the feelings you express and words you speak. All that you receive into your body and that you emit from your being form the dynamic creation of your health. It’s a wave, a pulse, an ever-shifting breath. It is eternal. It takes time. Wait…scratch that…it’s timeless.

When you feed your body with such “slow” food as bone broth, you are infusing the water, not only with nutrients, you are accessing the health and energy of the animal, of the plants he ate, of the plants you’ve added to the pot.

Having a crock-pot on the go for a day or two harks back to the kettle on the fire, the hearth of the family home, the core of the community. It’s the women around the fire-pit, tending, caring, nurturing. You’re heating the house and nourishing your family with nothing less than basic nutrition, I dare say, with love.

Nothing fancy or difficult about it, either. Same method your grandmother used (bones and veggies covered with water), with the simple addition of some vinegar to draw out the minerals and break down the protein. Let it simmer ever so gently for a good long time (3-4 hours for fish, 24 for poultry or up to 48 for beef).

If truly time is of concern to you, why not engage some of that community spirit to your benefit? Get a couple of friends to start bone broth sharing: everyone collects their organic bones in the freezer, then each month, one of you tends the fire. You can even make a party of everyone coming by with their jars for their share the wealth.

Perhaps my ideas are bit too far out in left field for you. Then, look at it this way: taking the time to make your own bone broth is a way of slowing down and taking a breath in the middle of your go-getter life. See it as an act of self-care, an act of self-love, to supply yourself and your family with the most exquisite nourishment you can offer.

There are countless recipes out there for how to make and use bone broth – what’s your favourite? When you share in the comments, you open possibilities for others.

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feature image: bouillon by esmée scholte via freeimages.com

Vibrant Health: Better than a Magic Bullet

There was a moment with the client I had the other day – she’s by no means the only one who does this – when she was hit with the reality that there’s no magic bullet. She won’t leave my office with her pants feeling miraculously looser any more than one day without gluten will see her through every meal without bloating.

It’s the point when she realizes that achieving her health goals will involve choice and commitment every day. It’ll take effort and persistence both inside and out.

As we talk more, and I learn more deeply about what she wants – how she wants to feel – I watch as that sense of burden transforms into hope: she can do this!

It’s not only possible, it goes above and beyond her desire for more energy, less weight and easy periods. While it may take a couple of months to ease her symptoms, this is something she can have today.

That something is Vibrant Health.

Vibrant Health is being connected to your body – aware of sensations, emotions, likes & dislikes, and using them as beacons to where you want to go in life.

Vibrant Health is engaging with life sensually: with all your senses. Tuning into the colours, smells, sounds, textures, tastes all around you, and letting them guide your decisions.

Vibrant Health is a state of balance – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually – the wherewithal to navigate daily challenges with grace.

Health isn’t static or finite. We act as if it’s indelibly lodged in a certain weight, a lack of disease or the ability to complete a half-marathon in under 2 hours. I watch people run the race for health in frantic attempts at perfection, fearing that one step in the wrong direction will have them tumbling back to square one, or worse, an early grave.

On the other hand, I see people (ok, women) put the priority of their own health way at the bottom of the to-do list, letting it get buried under a pile of kids’ and husband’s and work needs. (Read more about the wisdom of putting yourself first here and here.)

Regardless of how much you weigh, how many cookies you eat, whether you opt for organic (or not), it’s possible to be healthy.

Health isn’t an absolute. Like anything in life, once you arrive at your intended goal, more doors will open to lead you towards the next big thing.

This is natural and to be expected. As you create new habits and discover who you are underneath those symptoms – as you grow and expand into who you want to become – that new version of you will have a whole new set of priorities and desires.

Vibrant Health is the joy you feel knowing you’re doing everything you can, in this moment, to be as helathy as you can, to live the life you want.

Vibrant Health includes knowing you’ve got what it takes to make positive changes on your own.

Vibrant Health means being honest enough with yourself to know when to reach out for help from friends, colleagues, accountants, lawyers, health practitioners, body workers, contractors, a cleaning lady,…

Vibrant Health goes beyond food and exercise. Yes, whole food choices play a huge role; they’re part of the inner shifts that create the glow as you blossom on the outside. As promised by miracle detergents, Vibrant Health turns the washed-out version of your life into the vivid colours you’ve always imagined.

Vibrant Health isn’t a destination. It’s a journey.

Like any journey, it takes planning, time and perseverance. Like any journey, you get where you want to go one step at a time. Like any journey, you’re the one who has to take those steps. As with any professional who helps you along the way, my role is to act as your guide, showing you the simplest path.

Because it’s my desire to see women all over the world expand into a state of Vibrant Health, I’ve come up with a recipe to get things cooking. Enter your details here and I’ll send it to you.

In the meantime, tell us what your vision of Vibrant Health looks like. When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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How Bragging Improves your Health

You’re tired all the time and lack the motivation to do anything more than lament your frustration with your body. This is a sign that you need a boost of vitamin Brag.

The other day I was tooting my own horn to my Guest List and it got me thinking.

Why is it that we women are taught to look pretty and keep our mouths shut, like a Victorian child?

We’re taught to give constantly. Part of our nature, certainly, but it seems that’s all we’re supposed to do.

I see so much self-doubt and low self-worth and depleted self-love in my office. It underlies so much of what ails us as women.

You give to the point of exhaustion. You’ve drained your reserves and you’ve got nothing left. And still, you’re afraid to make your own needs a priority.

You fill yourself with wine and cookies and so you lack nutrients as well as emotional sustenance.

When I was in grade 8, the most derisive thing my gang commonly said was, “She’s so conceited!” In hindsight, we said this about girls who were confident and assured in their greatness, yet we saw it as a bad thing.

Having dinner with these friends last week, I listened to how some of them are still compromising their own well-being – consciously understanding it’s taking a toll on them physically to stay in a loveless marriage or to tolerate the weight of caring for a senile parent – yet reluctant to put themselves first.

My clients are the same. So locked into being the one to give, they’re terrified to even ask for what they need. Afraid to alienate or anger their loved ones. Afraid of rocking the boat.

It’s not surprising that poor thyroid function predominates the female landscape: of the one in 10 North Americans with issues, women are affected up to 8 times more than men.

This gland that regulates your metabolism, that determines your energy levels, controls your ability to express yourself as well. It sits right by your voice box, and as part of the 5th chakra, functions under the energetic role of your Voice.

Shaped like a butterfly, it’s your ability to express your beauty and soar.

My point is that our inability to speak up and shine has become physiological.

Thank the goddess there’s a movement to change all that.

Look around at thought leaders in any field. Diet, exercise, money, business, marketing, parenting, web development, travel agents: everyone’s getting in on the authenticity bandwagon. It’s all about speaking your truth, showing up as you are, getting to know yourself deeply and letting your inner light shine. (Yes, I’m in there too.)

Being able to love and honour who you are is key to your success in any part of your life. Your health included.

Yet after years of putting yourself in the backseat, of feeding and pleasing everyone else first, it’s become so deeply ingrained in your psyche that making the shift isn’t that easy.

You know what you need to do, but you just can’t step up and do it.

I’m a strong believer in the fact that we can access the nutrients we need for vibrant health from the food we eat. Not from the calorie-rich-nutrient-poor choices of a processed/fast food diet, but from whole food, real food.

Sometimes, though, a certain condition or an extreme lack means you need to supplement. Not necessarily for the long-term, but certainly to get you over the hump and back on track.

I propose supplemental bragging.

In the same way your thyroid may need extra iodine or B-vitamins, I’m suggesting your self-worth and motivation need a boost of vitamin Brag.

You may have already jumped into a gratitude practice – an excellent way to open your heart to the riches that are all around you, to acknowledge the subtle nourishment you receive daily. So important when our tendency is to always look for more.

In openly sharing a goal you reached or praise you received, even a picture of the cake you baked, you acknowledge the value you offer daily.

  • You get to speak the words that others don’t always remember to speak on your behalf.
  • You feed your sense of satisfaction rather than blowing it off and moving on to the 12 things you didn’t do today.
  • You enrich your motivation by filling your own cup first.
  • You replenish your reserves so you’re giving from the overflow…saving your energy for preparing a beautiful meal or planning that trip to Italy.

Start today. Make a call, tell your family at dinner, post it in the comments: Why are you proud of you today? And how does it feel saying it out loud? When you share your wins you open the possibilities for others.

I’ll go first: I am tickled pink to be included in a part of a series called “Women and Wisdom” and yes, I’ll say it, I’m most pleased to be publicly recognized for the fact that wisdom is indeed what I share every day in my office. It feels awkward to write those words, but it also makes me want to laugh – loosen the stricture in my throat that’s trying desperately to keep them to myself.

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