Get your Daily Dose of Delicious

I used to have a list of “25 Rules to Live By” on my fridge. Don’t remember where it came from or who wrote them. It’s long since gone, but one of the rules has stuck with me:

What could be simpler?

Beyond food plans and reset diets. Beyond reading labels or trying to balance your meals.

What happens when you choose your food by how much pleasure you derive from it?

With one of my clients, we refer to it as the “yummy factor”. One day, while sorting through healthy variations to balance her blood sugar, she declared, “I want my food to be yummy.” And so it should be!

Delicious involves all 5 of your senses as you eat your meal.

Soak in the flavours, colours, aromas, textures and sounds as you eat.

Used effectively, though, you need to remember to stop when the pleasure subsides.

Marc David, director of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, tells the story of a client he had who loved McDonald’s and ate it every day for lunch, in the car as he drove from job to job. Since he refused to give it up in his quest to settle his digestive pain and find a healthier weight, Marc made one suggestion: take the time to slow down and really savour his lunch.

So the man made the effort to pull over after getting out of the drive-through, and he took a full 10 minutes to eat his Big Mac. At the end of the week, he called Marc to say he hated McD’s. It’s salty and fatty and its only benefit was the convenience of grabbing it on the run.

Maybe you can’t relate to that guy, so consider instead what happened to me the other night.

We were out celebrating my son’s birthday and I let myself be tempted by one of the decadent desserts: salted caramel & roasted apple cheesecake, served in a waffle cone. It looked like an artfully spilled ice cream.

The first bite was heavenly. The second still yummy. By the 3rd, I was getting overwhelmed with the amount of sugar. With the next one, I started to think how that much dairy would wreak havoc on me the next day. I was no longer enraptured with the experience, yet kept shoveling it down unconsciously.

Rather than stay engaged with my sense of fun, relish the novelty of the presentation and savour just one or two bites, I let my inner glutton take over. Sure enough, I was painfully full all evening and congested the entire next day.

 

Delicious involves your sense of appreciation.

Appreciation for the art & skill that goes into good food – visual as well as taste.

Such sites as Yum and thousands of Pinterest boards owe their popularity to our hunger for their gorgeous food “porn”.

Even words can fill that need for delicious. When my husband reads out the recipe names from his latest copy of Fine Cooking, it’s like sweet nothings being whispered in my ear. Roasted Beet Muhammara, Poached Egg & Asparagus Toasts with Lemon-Chive Beurre Blanc, Crispy Potatoes with Lemon and lots of Oregano.

Appreciation for the company and the setting surrounding you during a meal.

Even when eating something you cooked yourself, alone in your own kitchen, you can revel in what you’ve created. Be grateful for the care you took to nourish your body.

Can you feel the difference in your body when you bite into something delicious?

Your whole body relaxes. (If you know anything about digestion, you know that’s the ideal state for it to work at its best.)

Your entire focus pauses, if only for the briefest of moments, to fully embrace the essence. Like those first soulful kisses with a new lover.

 

And that’s the thing.

Delicious isn’t all about food any more than nourishment is.

I know we sometimes have a hard time getting past conventions. (My mother still thinks all I do is tell people what to eat.) I remember finding it somewhat odd – yet oh so fitting – the first time I heard someone refer to an adorable toddler as “delicious”.

Infuse your entire day with delicious from morning until night and fall in love with your life in a whole new way. All it takes is a hint of conscious awareness of what’s already there.

The delicious stretch while still under the covers.
The delectable heat of the shower hitting your skin and waking your brain.
The luscious flow of your dress sliding down your body.
The gratifying tang of the fermented carrots on your scrambled eggs.
The scrumptious smile on your son’s freckled face as he waves goodbye for the day.
The exquisite pause of being quietly alone before heading to the car.

Need I go on?

Life’s too short to drink bad wine, read crappy novels or sit through a boring movie.

 

“If it’s not delicious, don’t eat it.”

I spent 4+ years studying holistic nutrition. I keep up with the latest superfoods and hormone balancing tricks. I teach my clients to adjust their lifestyles for better digestion. In the end, it all revolves around that one simple rule that was right in front of my face all that time.

 

What were the 3 most delicious parts of your day so far? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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Good Food is Only Half the Picture

Do you work hard to be conscientious about what you eat, but still don’t feel quite like yourself?

food half the picture

The food you eat is literally that which you take in from the outside world in. But that’s only half the picture. Nutrition includes both your food and your digestion.

Digestion is the gateway to the body: it’s how you take in and adapt the outer world to suit your needs and purposes.

The digestive tract is actually outside the body – did you know that?

It’s a tube that runs through your body. Think about it a minute: it’s one long tube with an opening at both ends. Sure there are variations along the way, and valves to keep things contained in the right place at the right time, but it’s all one big tunnel.

The food you eat, substances from the outside world, go into the tube. Your digestive organs release juices and such out to break down those morsels, only then do the bits you need get absorbed into the bloodstream. Into the body to be made into whatever substance you need.

 

The function of your digestion plays an active role in how well you’re nourished.

We tend to think of digestion as an automatic process over which we have no control. Not true.

Who you are, your emotions, your attitudes, your approach to life, even your personality will affect your digestion and how you assimilate food. There have been studies of identical twins, who’ve been raised the exact same way, and yet one is fat and the other thin. One thrives and the other is sickly.

Other factors go into how well you digest: stress levels, emotional state, where you are, who you’re with.

Think about it: Have you ever eaten something, let’s say an oatmeal muffin, one day and have been fine, and the next time you eat the same muffin, you sneeze your head off or get a belly ache?

Have you ever had a big fight with someone you love and not been able to eat even though you were hungry 10 minutes before?

Do you try really hard to be conscientious about food choices, calories and portions sizes, with little or no impact on your weight, your energy levels, your skin, or whatever your weak spot happens to be?

 

Digestion is an expression of your soul.

Your spirit holds the blueprint for your most vibrant manifestation: your highest potential. Your soul helps to guide you towards that potential through your intuition, symptoms, images, dreams sensations and feelings.

Your soul guides your body to become what it is meant to be, in order to best steer you towards who you are meant to become. On a physical level, this means building the container (you might even call it the temple), the body that will best suit your purpose. Hence, your soul helps direct your digestive tract to absorb certain nutrients.

 

Digestion is a reflection of how you take in and digest life.

The way you digest food contains the metaphors for how well you savour, absorb and release situations. It harbours clues to where you need to grow and expand and what you need to release.

Do you have a hard time stomaching a certain situation?

Did your father always tell you to stop your bellyaching?

When do you have a hard time assimilating circumstances?

Do you have a hard time letting go of crap you no longer need?

When you learn to understand your digestive processes and see that you play a conscious role in its functioning, you take a pro-active role in getting the most out of the food you eat. Which then sets you up for improved health across the board.

Digestion is one of the doorways to your relationship with Life.

 

Because digestion is how you access nourishment, it’s the best place to start when it comes to healing your body.

You can’t maintain and repair the container until you get full access to the raw materials it needs.

Kind of like the shipping and receiving of a major corporation. Once that department is running efficiently, the rest of the company has what it needs to build its product and grow.

Through enhanced digestion you’ll realize your pot belly’s not here to stay. Your smelly pits and acne aren’t requirements of perimenopause. Nor is exhaustion and indigestion a criteria for motherhood. Depression and anxiety aren’t states you have to live with.

Imagine:

  • Feeling at home in your body.
  • Having the energy to fully enjoy your life again.
  • Being present to your own needs, as well as to your kids.

I could write pages about this stuff. Instead I’ll leave you 3 simple fixes you can make to improve your digestion today and an invitation for more if you want it.

 

3 steps that will impact your ability to nourish yourself for life.

1. Sit and Savour.

Take a breath as you sit, this will engage your relaxation response. Give gratitude for what’s in front of you.

Enjoy the meal with all 5 of your senses: Give your body a chance to sensually and energetically tune into the food you’re eating for better assimilation.

2. Chew.

Other than making things easier to swallow, the movement of your jaw sends a muscular message down the tract, telling the other organs that it’s time to get ready to receive and digest some food.

3. Include fermented food in your meals.

Things like yogourt, kefir, miso, kimchi, sauerkraut and other fermented veggies.

These are your sources of probiotics, the micro-organisms that improve digestion and elimination, stimulate your immune system and provide you with certain nutrients, like B and K vitamins.

 

Better health is possible.

It starts with building the relationship to your body and taking an active interest in how it’s nourished.

Do you take your digestion for granted? What’s one thing that would improve in your life if your body made better use of the food you eat? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

 

Are you ready to move beyond seeking the right food choices and deepen a relationship to your body and how it works?

I invite you to join a series called Spring into Celebrating You, in which I walk you through 3 rituals & explorations to (re)connect with that most fundamental relationship of who you are and how to feel at home within the needs of your body.

If there’s one place that you deserve to be comfortable, it’s at home in yourself.

Learn more about this basket full of essential garden tools right here.

 

Know anyone else who works hard to get the best out of their food? Send them this post using any (or all!) of the social share buttons below.

Sex and your Muffin Top

muffin top

You know effects of stress on your heart, your body, your health, your belly,…

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a super hero or a magic pill that could wipe the slate clean and slow down all those effects today?

There is!

The best part? It doesn’t come from a lab, deplete any natural resources or cost hundreds of dollars. You’ve got it already.

Stress and your Body

You know the story about the fight or flight response, right?

When something happens and you need to move fast. After the fact, the stress response goes into high alert for a certain time to make sure you’re out of the woods.

The good news is that, in this state, your adrenal glands pump out cortisol to keep you going like the Energizer bunny.

If your community has just been evacuated to a shelter because of a flood; if you just lost a loved one and have to keep putting one foot in front of the other through the funeral; if you were in a car accident and are recovering from whiplash and a broken leg, then good doses of cortisol are just what you need.

As one of the hormones of the endocrine system, cortisol impacts the entire system in the same way that one musician will influence the sound of an entire orchestra, for better or for worse. Click here for a quick physiology lesson to explain further.

Cortisol influences hunger, blood sugar levels, inflammation and libido, all for the sake of keeping you moving until you’re out of danger. Because that’s what the stress response is: a survival mechanism to get you out of danger.

However, when you’re under constant stress, day in and day out – yes, I’m talking to you, Ms-Trying-to-Do-it-All, with work, children (or trying to get pregnant), love life (or trying to have one), traffic, over-stimulation from TV. The drive and drama in your life + the caffeine you consume means you’re in chronic low-level stress mode all. the. time.

The bad news is that given too much reign, cortisol will keep playing its tune all day, every day.

In your body, cortisol
• Stimulates insulin: increases your hunger, decreases your satiety (feeling full), ultimately messes with your blood sugar
• Stimulates belly fat: enough said
• Displaces progesterone: reduces your sex drive, makes it harder to get pregnant, AND opens your body to the damaging effects of estrogen dominance
• Suppresses the immune system: makes you more susceptible to getting sick
• Suppresses melatonin production: makes it harder to sleep

OK in the short term, when you’re coping with a real emergency.

Not ok in the long term.

Which is why we need a super heroine to come along and keep that stress hormone in check!

Enter: Oxytocin

Not just for labouring women, this hormone is the champion of feeling safe, aka reducing danger signals and promoting the relaxation response.

Oxytocin reduces cortisol levels.

Think about it, in order to give birth to or nurse a baby, a woman must feel safe. This is an animal instinct. The “tagline” for the relaxation response is rest and digest: necessary to proper sleep and nourishment. (You wouldn’t take a nap or stop for a meal while you were fighting or fleeing, would you?)

Oxytocin improves digestion and sleep, and cuts the muffin top off at the pass.

Oxytocin is also known as the bonding hormone. Under its influence, babies bond to their mothers (and fathers), couples bond to each other, individuals bond to community.

Oxytocin creates connection.

What better way to find a sense of safety and reduce cortisol levels?

I suggest you take several doses of oxytocin daily:

1. Deep hugs
2. Massage or other body work
3. Hold a baby, play with a child, snuggle a pet
4. Hang out with your soul sisters – even through email, chat, texts and Facebook groups, the intimacy is real and has an impact on your physiology
5. Need an extra boost? Have an orgasm…or two…which, in the right company, means you’re deepening the connection to your self.

Have something to add to the list? By all means, tell us in the comments below. When you share your thoughts, you open the possibilities for others.

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What is Whole Food?

You know that you’re supposed to eat whole food, but there’s a bit of confusion out there around what it exactly. Do you know why it’s so important?

When I ask my clients about it they say, “Sure, I eat whole wheat pasta,…I eat organic,…I shop at Whole Foods.”

While whole food my be organic, organic food isn’t necessarily whole.

Shopping at Whole Foods means that you are more likely to find items that are locally or sustainably grown, that are fair trade and made from healthier ingredients, however, this is only part of the whole picture.

Whole food is as close as possible to its natural state when you eat it.

  • Nothing (or very little) taken away – you might still need to peel or hull or skin/scale certain foods.
  • Nothing (or very little) added to it, not counting the lovely flavours we add to enhance a dish, preferably whole in themselves.
  • Not altered (or very little). You might need to cook (meat), ferment (soy) or add minerals (corn) to make certain foods digestible or to access the nutrients. You might need to dry, salt or ferment it to preserve it through the winter.

Using that definition, we can look at what foods we commonly eat along a spectrum from whole to processed:

Wheat berries – stone-ground whole wheat flour products – unbleached flour products – white flour products

(Whole has nothing to do with gluten or lack thereof: Brown rice – white rice – brown rice flour products – white rice flour products)

Meat is tricky because we rarely eat the whole animal, maybe a fish or small poultry  – sticking to chicken breasts only is a partial food – processed meat products are made from parts as well and have lots added to them.

That said, you can eat the entirety of a larger animal over a season, especially when you make bone broth and eat the marrow and the organs.

Egg – egg yolk/white – dehydrated eggs

Fresh whole milk – pasteurized/homogenized whole milk – 2%/skim/cream – powdered milk

A no-brainer whole food choice would be fresh vegetables and fruit. Eat more of those, and you’re golden.

 

Whole food is what was traditionally called, well, food.

Whole food is the opposite of many of the food-like products we find in the middle aisles of our grocery stores: refined and processed items. That is, It’s lower in the stuff that Health Canada tell us to avoid: added sugar, excess sodium and poor quality fats.

Now, many modern food have been formulated to include missing nutrients.

In terms of straight nutritional value, whole food provides a better profile of nutrients.  It’s naturally higher in the all the nutrients we need: fibre, minerals & vitamins, protein, essential fatty acids.

Whole food contains all the nutrients you need to digest, assimilate and effectively metabolise the core ingredients. It’s pure logic.

Take wheat again as an example: It contains a good store of starch – the carbohydrates we use for energy – as well as the B-vitamins, minerals, protein, fat and fibre we need to efficiently absorb and use that energy.

Strip away the bran & the germ to make pretty white flour and you’re left with straight starch – the “bad” carbs you are trying so hard to avoid these days. The impact of straight, refined starch (sugar) on weight, blood sugar levels and hormone balance is well-documented.

The commercial benefit of white flour is that it won’t go rancid because they’ve taken out the (good) fats. If you ask me, though, food that doesn’t go bad is a food devoid of life. The essence, the life-energy, has been stripped from the grain (for more on this concept, see this post on Fats).

 

Whole food has vitality, it’s got the energy you crave.

The vibration produced by the living aspect of the plant is what actually feeds and helps your organism stay alive.

As time went on in the modern food era, nutritional scientists gradually realised the folly of refining grains, when pellagra and other deficiency diseases reared their heads. To their credit, they started to “enrich” the flour with synthetic or extracted forms of some of the very same vitamins & minerals they had removed in refining.

What about the stuff they don’t replace? We’re all scrambling around trying to access it in other ways…can you say omega-3 supplement?

Without going on too long about it, this herbal example beautifully illustrates my point as well: Willow bark is a traditional remedy for headaches and fever. It’s active ingredient, salicylic acid, was researched, extracted and sold in a pill: aspirin. Trouble is, aspirin wreaks havoc on the stomach. Willow bark, however, has no such side effect because it contains other substances that work symbiotically with the active acid.

 

Whole foods are part of your body’s history.

Among those of us who grew up from the late 50s through the early 90s, I’ve had many conversations around “How did we ever survive?” We of the Alpha-Bits and Chef-Boyardee, Tang and McDonald’s generations. Sure, we survived, but did we thrive? We of the chronic-diseases-like-never-before generation.

From the body’s perspective, we’ve been asking it to deal with products that don’t resemble the fare our organs evolved to recognise and digest. To that end, we lack enzymes to metabolise certain foods. In some cases like dairy, not knowing what to do with it, the body either pockets it away in our tissue (joints and breasts, in particular), or it feeds the pathogenic bacteria in our digestive tract, or the body mounts an inappropriate immune response (allergies and auto-immune disease).

How can something nourish you if you can’t even access the nutrients?

Is the long-term poor nutrition perhaps the reason why we’re all desperately loading up on superfoods and supplements – food that over-compensates for the nutritional gaps we had growing up?

 

Here’s a thought:

We were the generation raised on the standard North-American fare: processed (convenient), fast and altered food.

We’re also the generation that walks around talking about “not being enough” – not smart enough, not thin enough, not rich enough, not creative enough, not healthy enough,…

My husband calls us the searchers: perpetually looking for the purpose, the career, the diet, the guru, the man/woman that will solve all our problems…that will make us feel enough. That will make us feel whole.

Could it be that we’re feeling this way because we are, in fact, lacking in some way? That by refining away and destroying nutrients – the essence of the food we’d been eating for years (during our formative years at that) – we are indeed undernourished? Lacking in a way that goes much deeper that the nutrient itself?

 

The solution? Eat whole food.

Eat colour – this is where the plant world stocks up all those antioxidants, the immune system of the plant. Convenience: buy the items pre-cut.

Eat fresh – avoid anything without a best before date, or anything that doesn’t expire until next year. Convenience: frozen vegetables; canned beans or fish (rinse them well to reduce the salt)

Eat what your grandmother cooked. As a bonus prepare it the way she did. (The true bonus is the way she enriched all her meals with love.)

 

Now it’s your turn: Do you feel your body’s been deprived from eating less-than-optimal food? What do you do to make up the difference? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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What’s for Breakfast?

Readers have been asking: “What’s the best way to start the day nutritionally?”
I’ve been having many conversations about breakfast with clients.
It’s time I wrote about the most important meal of the day.

It really is. Here’s why.

The way you start your day sets the stage for the rest of it.

Think about it:

How does your energy improve when you go for a run first thing?
How does your focus shift when you wake up with a few sun salutations?
How are your moods when you’ve meditated in the morning?

What happens on the days when you don’t feel like it, when you don’t have time?

What you eat at that time of day makes a difference as well.

Consider the client who came to see me about energy levels and about getting enough food to help her sustain a rigorous physical routine – she runs, does Pilates and martial arts. One of the first things she said to me was that breakfast is her favourite meal. She LOVES a full breakfast (eggs, sausage, toast or potatoes). She proceeded to tell me that she works out, then has a green drink “because it’s healthier”. I don’t know how it’s healthier if she can’t focus on work by 11, and she’s ready to eat her agenda by 3.

We have a tendency – because of time, health, lack of a.m. hunger – to skimp when it comes to breakfast. Sure a coffee and a bowl of cereal will get you out the door and through traffic to work. Once you get there, the small burst of energy will be done (and your blood sugar will drop) so you’ll need the next cup of coffee and/or muffin to keep you going.

Then, for the sake of your health – or let’s be honest, your waistline – you have “just a soup or a salad” for lunch, maybe with a bit of tuna or turkey. Come 3:00, you got it, the blood sugar takes another dive (naptime anyone?).

Let alone the meltdown you have when that thing you’ve been working on for weeks hits a major roadblock or your computer dies in the middle of a launch.

Then you start grazing the minute you walk in the door (I used to start with the lunchbox leftovers) and keep going all the way through supper prep, sometimes not stopping until you hit the sack. Feeling like shit and resolved to “eat less” tomorrow.

Yes, it has to do with healthwise choices (which I’ll get to shortly), but it also has to do with the mindset that goes into the planning and preparation of a decent breakfast. I make it pretty clear around here that nourishment involves much more than nutrition.

There’s more to your breakfast than a collection of nutrients.

For one thing, have you ever noticed that breakfast food tends to be pretty beige – cereal, toast, etc. The green drink craze has at least introduced a level of vibrancy to the morning.

Nourishing your body with a variety of colours awakens you at a different level. As I tell 5-year-olds, when you eat more colours your cells will be as happy as when you see a rainbow. To put it in more adult language, the colour of the food you eat will resonate with your chakras (the body’s energetic “rainbow” and emotional centres).

And that’s just one sort of sensual enjoyment you can get out of a meal. We tend to be one-hit wonders in terms of morning flavour as well: sweet. It’s quite stimulating to experience a bit of salty, a burst of sour, a hint of bitter, maybe even a touch of spice. When was the last time you took a bite of your breakfast and thought, “Delicious!”?

Taking the time to prepare and eat an adequate meal in the morning sends the message to your entire being that you’re worth the effort. Breakfast is an act of self-love.

And I’ll bet if you’ve taken the 15-20 minutes to cook a beautiful breakfast, you’ll want to sit down and enjoy it fully.

When you provide your body with the food it needs to efficiently get through the morning, you’ve set yourself up for success.

I had recently recognized that my own morning choice – usually the unconscious bowl of cereal (granted organic, gluten-free and bulked up with seeds and dried fruit) – wasn’t cutting it when it came to getting me through the day. I often ate lunch at 10, then needed a 2nd one at 2. I knew I had to make a change.

Synchronicity brought my attention to an online breakfast challenge (Laura Hames Franklin’s Superhuman Breakfast). I’ll admit, it took a few days of resistance to get me through the initial commitment, but the difference it made to my day was instantly remarkable.

Since making the commitment to eat well in the morning, I can sit down and work at my desk without visions of sugary snacks distracting my writing. I can be present for several clients or teach a whole class (often talking about food) without my stomach rumbling from any lack.

Without the requisite blood sugar drop that comes with the standard muffin or green smoothie, your moods stay on an even keel. You can now cope with whatever the day brings with grace.

Imagine: no embarrassing rumbling, no slump, no need for a cookie (or 3) mid-afternoon, a good night’s sleep and enough energy to get up in the morning.

Sure, I’ve adapted what I learned to suit me more fully, but the basics have been established in my mind as the way to go.

The recipe:

  1. A full, colourful, warm, delicious meal.

In nitty-gritty terms, you want to make sure that your morning meal makes up 25% of your daily calorie intake. Include protein, complex carbohydrates and a fermented food for ease of digestion.

If you’re trying to cut down on animal protein, this is the meal to eat it!

(Enter your email in the blue & orange box below to receive more details, the reason each part is so important and a handy PDF to pin to your fridge.)

  1. Play with your food.

OK, you know I don’t mean finger-painting in your porridge.

I mean play around with different foods, new ways of preparing old favourites. What happens in your day if you have an egg along with your green drink? What happens if you have a sweet potato instead of toast? How would you feel after eating another helping of last night’s casserole or a bowl of the lentil soup you just warmed up for your kid’s thermos?

My friend Sue Ann runs an online community called Chocolate for Breakfast. Whether you literally eat chocolate for breakfast or not (she does!), it engenders the idea that all of our meals need to be infused with pleasure.

What works for YOU?

You should have seen the look of relief on my client’s face when I gave her “permission” to eat a full breakfast again.

Bon Appétit!

Now I’ve got a challenge for you:

In the comments, share your fave breakfast & whether it works for you. THEN, spend a few days playing around with different options and let us know what you’ve discovered. When you share your thoughts, you open the possibilities for others.

Give your friends the chance to improve their day too: share this post by clicking any (or all!) of these buttons.

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To help you get going, I’ve made a PDF to post on your fridge: the basic recipe (and why each element is important) + suggestions and room for you to add a few ideas of your own.