With all of our society's focus on WHAT we eat, and the numerous "PERFECT" diets out there, we assume that all we have to do to have the perfect health and body, is just eat THIS or THAT, but by now we know if it were that easy, we would all be walking around in pure joy and bliss and celebration of our physical bodies all the time… and that is NOT the case in our society right now.
So, all of scientific nutrition tells us that we are what we eat... and this is true to a certain degree, but... what we haven't really understood yet is that HOW we eat is just as important. Our body is a complicated ecosystem of functions… of mind and body. Just think about it for a minute... when is the last time you had to tell your heart to beat or tell your lungs to breathe? Never. So what does that say about the body’s wisdom? Right? Yeah, pretty freaking incredible when you stop to think about it.
So, we’ve all been given these incredible bodies to carry us through life… to learn, to explore, to create relationships and pursue our passions… and ALL WE HAVE TO DO IS TAKE CARE OF IT. Seems like a pretty reasonable trade, am I right? In all organisms, including humans, all cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems of the body work together to maintain the life and health of the organism. Let’s follow suit and do OUR part.
Your body is a brilliantly functioning organism and it needs you to slow down and take care of it. This is your part.
CONSIDER... our thoughts and our state of mind create our actions... and then our actions become habits. If this is the case, then it all starts in our head.
In a society that prides itself on being "busy-er" than ever before, we have all begun to judge our value and worth on our ability to GET MORE THINGS DONE. Because of this focus on achievement and success, our collective health is beginning to suffer. In creating a new and healthy relationship with food and body, we absolutely MUST cultivate an understanding of why we stress and how that stress impacts our health and our lifestyle and food decisions.
What is stress exactly? We all know we have it, but where does it come from and how the heck do we get rid of it?
We feel stress as a very real thing… but in actuality we CREATE STRESS in our head as a result of our thoughts.
The classic definition of stress is...
“Any real or imagined threat, and your body’s response to it.”
So by that definition, celebrations or tragedies can cause a stress response in your body. Our bodies don't know the difference between being chased by a tiger, dodging cars in rush hour traffic, arguing with our spouse, imagining the worst outcome of a relationship issue, an intense work conversation or a constant emotional assault caused by what we’re focused on and our negative self talk.
Once we feel stress, we should know that there is a cascade of stress hormones coursing through our bodies that is creating a reaction that we are feeling. Each of these situations causes our bodies to go into a fight or flight response… we FEEL that as STRESS.
Did you know that stress directly affects digestion... which directly affects your metabolism… which directly affects your weight? Yes, that is correct.
(Ok, stay with me, we’re about to dig deep into physiology...)
So, the key to understanding the profound link between metabolism and stress is looking at the central nervous system (CNS). The portion of the central nervous system that exerts the greatest influence on gastrointestinal function is called the autonomic nervous system (ANS). This particular aspect of the nervous system is highly involved in digestion. It is responsible for getting your stomach churning, for getting the enzymatic secretions in the digestive process flowing, and keeping the dynamic process of nutrient absorption into the bloodstream on the move. The ANS also tells your body when not to be in digesting mode, such as when there’s no food in your belly...
...or when you’re in fight-or-flight response.
This is how… Two subdivisions of the ANS (autonomic nervous system) help it accomplish its dual task of digestive arousal and digestive inhibition: these two subdivisions are the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches. The sympathetic branch activates the stress response and suppresses digestive activity. The parasympathetic branch relaxes the body and activates digestion. It might be helpful to think of these two parts of the nervous system as on-and-off switches.
While under stress, your heart rate goes up, your blood pressure rises, and blood is shunted away from your midsection, going to your arms, legs, and head for quick thinking, fighting or fleeing. All of these changes are referred to as the physiological stress response. This stress response is your body’s brilliant way of maximizing resources and functions to ensure your best health. For a moment, think back to our ancestors… before modern day civilization, humans were coming in contact with things on a daily basis that were an actual threat to their lives… so the body’s wise design says “if you need to be escaping or fighting for your life, you don’t need to be digesting food… we will re-direct our energy and resources to the body so it can outthink, outrun or overpower this current threat.
Simply put, the same part of our brain that turns on stress turns off digestion. And conversely, the part of the brain that turns on the relaxation response turns on full digestive power. So, you can see that eating healthy nutritious food is only half of the story of good nutrition. Being in the ideal state to digest and assimilate food is the other half.
The problem is... our body doesn’t now know the difference between a real threat or an imagined or mentally created threat. Americans are in a constant state of stress… which means, we are eating in this same state... the physiological stress response.
Under those circumstances, your digestion completely shuts down. If you are eating while your body is under the stress response… you could be eating the healthiest food in the world, yet you won’t be able to fully digest and assimilate that food, and your body will not be able to burn calories effectively.
It’s important to realize that all your thoughts and feelings create physiological changes. Countless cells and systems you don't even know about change with every emotion.
A good example of one of these delicate systems is called the cephalic phase of digestion. This phase of digestion occurs even before food enters the stomach. It results from the sight, smell, thought, or taste of food. This is just the first phase that the body goes into when in a state of relaxation, to receive nourishment and to begin to prime the rest of the body’s metabolism to burn food for fuel. It is critical to our metabolism and nutritional health, for us to slow down.
The other downfall of eating while stressed is that if the neither the mind nor the body is really PRESENT to the experience, it’s almost as if it didn’t happen. When we are rushing around, mindlessly eating on the go, we are not really HAVING the experience, so the body and the spirit are still craving that nourishment. When we haven’t truly processed the experience we are also much more likely to be hungry for this experience again sooner, which can inevitably lead to eating more, which leads to excess weight in the body.
We must slow down and prioritize the nourishment of our bodies.
Action Step - This week take 3 minutes before each meal to breathe and put the body into a state of relaxation to maximize digestive function. Slow down while eating, taking time to enjoy the meal and be mindful that you are fueling your body.
1 Tablespoon Oil (veg broth can be substituted for oil)
1 whole onion (peeled and quartered)
1 whole butternut squash peeled, deseeded and cut into same size pieces
2 tsp himalayan salt
1 Cinnamon stick (or equivalent of ground) (ginger and/or nutmeg also good)
Almond or cashew milk (I love making this from raw pureed almonds or cashews and water) Blend 1 cup of nuts with an almost full blender pitcher of water. The more water, the thinner the soup...
Heat large pot on medium heat
Add oil or broth
Add cinnamon stick and any other spices here
Add quartered onion, cook until lightly browned edges
Add peeled butternut squash, cook until lightly browned edges
Add almond milk just to the top of the veg. Add water if not enough liquid.
Add Salt (I use my eye, so translation might be 2 teaspoons?)
Cover, reduce heat to med/low and cook.
Using a pressure cooker, cook time is about 15-20 minutes.
For a regular pot, cook time will be about 40 mins. Poke the squash with a fork to
see when it's soft.
When done, remove the cinnamon stick and then puree mixture in the blender.
You may add water or more almond milk for consistency preference.
Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds for a delicious crunchy texture.
One of my favorite things to do is to create healthier alternatives to traditional dessert recipes. Food is the basis of all life and it is such a delight to think that it can be delicious AND serve our best health at the same time! Here is my favorite simple black bean brownie recipe!
One 15oz can black beans, rinsed and drained well
3/4 cup cacao
1/2 cup sweetener (sugar, agave, honey, etc)
1/4 tsp Himalayan salt
3-5 Tablespoons melted coconut oil (more oil for more moist/gooey brownies)
2 "flax eggs" (2 tablespoons ground flax meal and 6 tablespoons water) (make this mixture first)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 teaspoon baking powder
Heat oven to 350 degrees
Lightly grease muffin pan or cake pan (I use coconut oil)
Blend all ingredients in food processor (*if using flax eggs, blend flax and water first and let sit for a few minutes) then add to all other ingredients
Bake for 20-30 minutes
*Can add nut pieces or vegan chocolate chips to top of brownies if desired
Allow to cool for 15 minutes
If you're a female on planet earth, you've thought about your body and its appearance. Best case scenario, you feel happy and strong and confident in your own skin. And... That is not the case for SO. VERY. MANY OF US.
For many of us, we spend years judging our bodies, focused on what we wish were different and what follows is often frustrating and depleting efforts and countless attempts to change and control our bodies.
Enter, diets and extreme restriction. We focus on our weight, because that's what we've been told our value is based on (ahem). We diet, eliminate food groups, weigh our food, count calories, manipulate, restrict, weigh our bodies and then because of all that controlling and restriction... we get to a point where we can't keep up all that hard work around food... and we give in, to the temptation of pleasure with food. The pendulum swings back in the other direction from all that limitation and we feel out of control with food. We may go off the rails and fall completely off our "program" and then feel incredibly disappointed, guilty and shameful about what has happened AGAIN, with little to no idea of what to do.
Diets don't work. They are based upon a model that is designed to make you fail. When considering a new eating plan ask yourself "can I eat this way for the rest of my life?" and if the answer is no, then you might be in for a rude awakening at some point. I'm not saying that short term jumpstarts and plans are bad, we just have to enter into them knowing that they are temporary and we must simultaneously be doing the mental, emotional, psychological work necessary to sustain real change. There is a way of eating that supports your best health and it's comprised of whole, clean, nutrient dense foods in the right amount for your body and your energy needs. There are tons of other ways that we "use" food to enhance our lives, but at the end of the day, it's about finding what works for you and what is going to make YOU feel satisfied, healthy and happy.
Our current programming (thoughts, feelings, beliefs) are the inner landscape that drive our decisions and behaviors. Once we do the work to discover all the elements that are contributing to our decisions, we can start to make sustainable changes to arrive at the peace and ease that we so desperately desire with food and body.
Something you can start with is to simply become present to your thoughts and feelings about food and your body. Are there old beliefs there? Where did they come from? Give yourself permission to challenge anything that feels negative or limiting. Many of my clients have their most insightful AHA moments through journaling when cravings or thoughts about food and body come up.
Diets are a temporary solution to a deeper problem unless you're changing the mindset that got you to that destination in the first place. From my perspective, our work is to become more conscious to our thoughts, feelings and beliefs so that we are not allowing them to unconsciously drive our food decisions.
Need help? Have questions? Feel free to reach out!
Emotional eating is one of issues that my clients struggle with the most and to say that it is near and dear to my heart would be an understatement.
I myself spent years of my life using food to fill a void that cannot be filled with food. Intellectually we know... Internal emptiness cannot be filled with external substances. It is through my own healing journey with food and body combined with years of exploring this subject and working with hundreds of clients that has allowed me to come to some deeper conclusions around this topic.
First, I think it is important to explain my personal thoughts on emotional eating. I don't think it's truly realistic to entirely separate emotion from food. We are emotional beings and to think that we could ever treat eating food as an entirely mechanical act that should be totally devoid of emotion is quite ridiculous in my opinion.
Historically... we celebrate with food, we experience community with food and for many of us, our very first experience of feeling love is through food and nourishment. So, through this framework, we can allow and accept our feelings and emotions around food. I think the key here is to be able to be aware of our emotional reality, to be able to manage our emotional process and to be able to participate in conscious choosing when it comes to food. It is when our choices are mindless or unconscious and turn into unwanted habits that we may feel we need to reach out for support.
From my perspective there are usually 3 types of causes of unwanted eating behaviors.
1. emotional/psychological - some internal driver like anxiety, stress, fear, boredom, loneliness
2. chemical - an addiction to food substances like sugar that create a dopamine effect in the body
3. environmental/cultural - our environment (culture/society) creates pressure for us to consume more
The first step to healing an unwanted behavior is to become aware of what is causing it. We must first ask ourselves, "what are the reasons that I am engaging in this habit" "when do I find myself doing this?" and "why?". Approaching the subject with a sense of curiosity can help remove the pressure and judgement that we so often self impose.
Once we have more clarity around the factors that are contributing to our own individual habits and reactions, we can begin to take steps to disentangle from the behavior and live in a more aware and intentional state of being. Journaling can be a very helpful tool in understanding any patterns you might be experiencing with food and lifestyle choices.
Above all, approach the subject with love and self-compassion. You are not alone and your perceived struggles with food and body are a doorway to a greater experience of life. You CAN have the relationship with food and body that you desire and I am here to help you if you need more support!
Sending love and light.
These are definitely the days of quick fixes and overnight success stories. Whether we're talking about losing weight, achieving financial success, getting fit or designing the life we dreamed of... why does it seem like some people have it so easy and for the rest of us... well we just feel like we got the short end of the stick and everything is so hard?!
A few examples...
While perusing your social media accounts, you scroll upon a picture that your good friend from high school posted. She's in a bikini standing on the beach in the Dominican Republic and she looks A.MAAZING. She's super fit with a huge glowing smile on her face and is basking in the sunshine. Is that a margarita in her hand? She looks to you like she is having the time of her life. Man, she must have lost like 20 lbs since you saw her just a couple of months ago! She's got abs for pete's sake!
Then, while out for lunch that day, you run into an old co-worker who has since left the company that you still work for. You notice she is driving a brand new car and when you ask her how things have been going since she left, she tells you that things are better than ever. She started her own business last year and has never been happier! She works from home a lot and gets to set her own schedule. She has time to take yoga classes in the morning and still pick her kids up from school at the end of the day. She exudes a newfound joy and looks way more vibrant than you ever remember seeing her at work.
It would seem by the examples above, that achieving some level of success in these areas was easy for these folks, right? I mean, they must have a secret strategy... or a magic pill... their lives are so different and so good, and seemingly overnight!
This. This is a problem in perspective. There have been many small things that had to change on a day to day basis for each of these individuals to achieve their goals. And since none of those incremental changes was visible to you, you might assume it came easy.
Now, keep in mind, I'm not saying that everyone has to have a rockin' body, time freedom, incredible energy and a new car to be happy... ;) I'm just saying that having the things that we want and reaching our goals (whatever they may be) takes work!
What is not visible to you is the 45 minutes of workouts that your high school friend did every single day for 6o days and the clean eating plan she implemented to lose the weight and gain her newfound energy and glow. You didn't see that she sacrificed her boozy Sunday brunches and TV time and instead opted for Sunday AM smoothies and fitness. You didn't know she gave up sugar and fried foods and started a food journal. You didn't see that she tracked her water consumption every day. All of this you didn't see.
As for your friend that started her own business... you didn't see her waking up at 5am to start strategizing her day. You also didn't see her when she was working at her kitchen table 'til well past midnight, designing and creating her website. You weren't privy to the countless calls she had with overseas product manufacturers or the multiple interviews with nannies to help her with the kids to give her just an ounce of free time in the now so that she could have loads of it in the long run. You didn't see the date nights she sacrificed with her husband or that they gave up eating out for a year to save money.
It makes total sense that we might assume that things should come easy. The messaging is all around us. Everywhere we go, advertisers are marketing to us, telling us that if we just buy their newest, greatest, cutting edge product or process, then we will be skinny, wealthy, fit, happy, etc.
Think about it. You arrive home from work, maybe you heat up some leftovers and turn on the TV. The commercials in between your favorite programs are telling you that for $19.99 you can have abs of steel, or for just $149.99 you can buy the real estate DVD program that is going to change your life by making you instantly successful with their secret proven system. Maybe you've seen the quick weight loss programs that ask for a monthly fee in exchange for a pill or processed packaged foods that are going fix your your weight problems by "taking the weight off and keeping it off"?!
Unfortunately, none of these claims is true. Reaching our goals takes work and having the life we want requires us to do the hard things, not only once, but over and over and over again. We must wake up from our walking sleep, reject the idea that things will be given to us and make the decision to do the work every single day.
So, I encourage you. Create a vision for what you want to have in your life and then create some goals and objectives that will get you there. Break those goals down into daily actions and then do them, every day. Wake up early, write the lists, get the workout in, change the eating habits, do the work.
I promise you that you will be happier in your own skin and prouder of you than you've ever been.
Here's to you discovering the small things you can do everyday to be the person you want to be.
As always, much love and light.
We are told again and again that “diets don’t work.” So for those of us that have weight loss goals… what are we supposed to do?
Let’s look at the idea of mindfulness, noticing the here and now without judgment, for a more sustainable way of breaking bad eating habits.
The word diet is defined as “a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one's weight”. Sparingly??? Why would we do that? Just by this definition, we know diets aren’t sustainable. They are a short term behavioral answer to a problem that may be more deeply rooted in long term conditioning and habits.
We learned how to make our food choices long before we ever made them. We received messages at a very young age from our family system about food and body. Combine those messages with expectations from media, physiologically addictive sugar and processed flours and a multi-billion dollar diet industry… and it’s no wonder we’re confused about how to support and nourish our bodies.
It’s completely possible to follow a very rigid calorie counting diet and lose 20 lbs in a few months. So what’s so bad about losing 20 pounds quickly on a rigid calorie counting diet? Most people eventually regain at least that much when they give up the diet.
Mindfulness is about creating a new lasting relationship with your eating, versus an old paradigm of counting calories and feeling guilt when we don’t “do it right”. And for those of us who feel that our willpower fails over and over, mindful eating is not about willpower. Rather than being about rigidity, mindful eating asks us to be aware of what we truly want and feel, and make a choice from that place.
It takes practice – not only to slow down and notice our food but to realize what aspects of our eating are tied up in emotions, habits, memories and family history... And then it takes practice to move from awareness to action.
In mindful eating exercises, we can take a single almond and study it – color, shape and smell – and then eat it with the same attention to detail. Practicing this exercise repeatedly with different foods increases our connection to our senses around food, and therefore our food choices. These mindfulness techniques also teach us to treat our bodies as worthy of care… worthy of different, and healthier choices for our bodies.
In a time when we eat in our cars, standing at the fridge and at the computer, developing an awareness of and enjoyment for nutritious food may not seem easy. What is possible to learn though, is that better choices are available to us, when we are in a state of awareness, tuned in.
By slowing down, we allow ourselves to put some space between our emotions and our reactive choices. Sometimes eating in response to emotions can be ok, with awareness. The problem is when it becomes chronic.
Another way to become more connected to our food choices is through the selection and cooking of our food. When we are engaging in this process, we are already giving ourselves a head-start toward mindful eating. We are already IN relationship with the food when we are selecting, holding it in our hands, purchasing it and preparing it to be consumed for nourishment.
When we eat mindfully, we eat more slowly. When we eat more slowly, we digest more efficiently and are also more aware of when we are becoming full… which is a sensation that can be missing from a rushed eating experience. We are also just able to purely enjoy the food more when we are present!
Food can become even more of a pleasurable experience when we are truly connected to its purpose in our lives. I invite you to begin to slow down, become conscious of your choices and to begin to see food as nourishment!
For many of us the Thanksgiving meal is the most welcomed meal of the year… and it’s also the meal that causes the most distress. From chaotic family dynamics to high calorie food favorites, it’s no wonder we end up feeling guilty! I'm sharing a few mindful steps to prevent post meal woes!
Most importantly, enjoy yourself and eachother! The Thanksgiving season is a time of year that reminds us to be present and grateful for all that we have.
Limitless love and gratitude!
Cravings. I believe we've all had them, and most of us have no idea where they come from or what to do when they come up. Do you feel like your decision making process has been stolen and you are a prisoner to those immediate desires? If so, you're not alone. Cravings are one of the most common yet misunderstood issues that come up with my clients. In order to overcome our cravings, we must first understand them. When your next craving pops up, follow my simple four step S.B.A.T. Model to create more awareness.
Food cravings are often just disguised emotions. Once we know what we are truly feeling and why, we can apply compassion and reason in order to work ourselves out of that space. Sometimes, you might still choose to eat the cookie, but now you’ll be doing so from a place of presence and awareness!
Love and Light!
Hi! I'm Margaret. My passion is connecting with people and helping them remember their awesomeness. I love healthy vibrant colorful food, travel, yoga, being outdoors, my goofy Bernese Mountain dog Charlie and finding spirituality in the everyday. I see this life as a giant playground where we get to play and learn and expand everyday! xoxo! Margaret