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Maintaining Equilibrium

It has been quite challenging to maintain equilibrium in these times. We are inundated with unhealthy media reports, viral load, erratic weather patterns, you name it – this is not an easy time. We hear one report one day and then the very opposite the next day or even on the same day. It’s confusing, and it’s unsettling and it’s downright stressful. So how can we maintain equilibrium? 

Here are a few ideas I have for you to do just that:

#1 Find good news sources. And sources of good news. The “regular” news gets to be too much, too often with very little reprieve. This is why I recommend you take timeouts often throughout the day and throughout your week to center and take a time out.

#2 Eat well. No matter what – it’s important to choose your diet carefully with good nutrition in mind. Sure when life is stressful you may want to reach for unhealthy snacks. In order to manage stress it’s best to choose healthy foods. When you do you’ll be creating a more natural way to calm your system, balance your hormones and have a good night sleep.

#3 Time out to de-stress, meditate, pray or incorporate some art. We all know about the benefits of meditation and quieting the mind but how about picking up a paint brush or making pottery. My Mother used to dry flowers and arrange them into picture frames and create a work of art which decked her walls and still do – bringing her joy and a sense of accomplishment every time she looks at them. Whatever you have had an inkling to create – why not start now when you are spending more time at home.

#4 Zoom. Yes we are now in a Zoom world. Other than business calls they have become a mainstay keeping us connected to friends and family. Nothing like being able to visit at a distance when we are unable to physically be with loved ones. Share a meal together or simply a chat. My husband and I were just invited to a Zoom Wedding.

We are all reinventing. In challenging times remember the simple phrase “This too shall pass”. Stay calm and calm.

The Healing Power Of Your Kitchen

I have written in the past about Hippocrates the Father of Medicine’s famous words “Let Your Food Be Your Medicine”, but I want to take it even further and make such a bold declaration practical for you.

As well as making your food be your medicine you can also make your Kitchen Your Pharmacy.  By giving your body foods to nourish and giving those foods the utmost respect they deserve there’s a good chance you’ll maintain your health for a very long time.

So what’s in your Kitchen?  Is it filled with healing ingredients?  

So here are 5 tips to help you make your kitchen a healing center:

Tip #1  Is Your Crisper Empty?:  If its empty that’s a good sign that it’s time to go shopping.  Your crisper should be brimming full of fresh produce and not be a “science project” as a friend of mine used to call her aging vegetable supply.  Make sure you rotate your vegetables and try and use as many of them on a daily basis.  If you are lucky enough to have an extra fridge in your garage like we do – you can store some of your fruits there.  I store my extra grapefruits, apples and oranges there.  They last longer than vegetables usually, so I stock up on them and keep them separate. One of my favorite mottos is: Veggies are your Best Friends! I hope it becomes one of yours, too.

Tip # 2  Salt is not a Spice:  If you are needing to refill your salt shaker every week there’s definitely something wrong.  Salt should only be used when cooking to bring out the natural flavor of food not to cover it up.  NaCl (Sodium Chloride) or table salt is not a natural food item.  Even if you are using sea salt, remember to use it sparingly – a dash is all you need.


If you want added flavor start incorporating add spices and herbs into your cooking instead.  Fresh basil is wonderful and has a calming effect on the mind.  Cinnamon isn’t only added to desserts – it can be added to savory dishes as well.  It adds interest to a dish and it’s also beneficial for balancing blood sugar.  And for those brave souls – I am one of them – curry or turmeric is an excellent spice adding pungency and heat to a meal.  These 2 are known to help reduce inflammation in the body, clear up sinuses and aid digestion.  Experiment and start slowly when adding new spices and herbs to your food.

Tip #3  Ever Heard of Therapeutic Vinegar?  Well there are culinary vinegars like balsamic, red wine vinegar and a myriad of gourmet combinations.  But one hails as a therapeutic vinegar and that’s Apple Cider Vinegar. When my clients work with me Apple Cider Vinegar is usually something I recommend they start using it immediately and often on a daily basis.  They report that it has a sort of cleansing effect on them.  It is well researched that for most people it helps with their digestion.  Unless you are suffering from digestive inflammation due to an ulcer or gastritis Apple Cider Vinegar is safe, tasty and an effective digestive balancer. 

Tip # 4  It’s Not Only the Food:  Not only is what you eat important, but how you eat is equally if not more important.  If you are eating your meals standing up, in a rush, washing your food down with liquids, in a heated conversation – all of these activities will have a serious effect on how well you break down the foods you are consuming.  The more stressful your environment, the less beneficial your meal.

 

Stress will increase cortisol, decrease proper digestive function and impair how important nutrients get absorbed. Without these nutrients you will not be feeling good for long.  Make your meal environment as stress free as possible.  Believe me, it matters. I have seen many of my clients suffering from all sorts of digestive discomfort, and by doing this simple fix they actually become more relaxed, healthier and happier.

Tip # 5   Overhaul the Bags and Boxes:  If you have a predominance of bags and boxes in your pantry or cupboards it’s time to haul them out and give them away.  Let’s face it, most of the foods found in  packages are usually not fresh or wholesome.  Unless they are nuts and seeds – which should probably be stored in your fridge not in your cupboards – they are most likely snack foods loaded with either sugar, salt, additives which are not healthy for you or your family.

Not only should your Kitchen Be Your Pharmacy filled with healing foods and beverages, but your food should come from the garden, trees or vines –  from nature in general.  That’s the secret to making Your Kitchen and Your Body Healthy for a long time.



Is Your Food Safe?

It’s an issue of food safety with warm weather, staying at home more and perhaps having more food delivery the issue of food safety is a real one. I personally have had to deal with this recently. My husband, for reasons of convenience and necessity, relies on Meals on Wheels. He receives these meals daily, they are pureed and in accordance with his renal dietary restrictions.  Lately, the drivers have been leaving food on the porch rather than placing the food in the clearly marked and cooler on the steps. Their disregard for proper food handling, unfortunately, has caused my husband to become sick a couple of times.. 

If food sits outside in temperature above 75 degrees for 5-10 minutes it can seriously compromise the food quality and safety, especially during summer months. One Meals on Wheels driver refused to touch the cooler due to COVID. Absurd! I was livid and contacted their area president to voice my concerns. He assured me that everything in their power will be done to rectify this situation. including having drivers use gloves, sanitizers and disinfecting wipes – which naturally should have been part of their protocol in the first place. 

Due to this personal experience I felt it would be a good topic for today’s article.

Now food safety may seem like a boring topic but if your food isn’t safe it can be dangerous and even deadly.  To help make sure you don’t become I’d like to share a few tips with you.

Here are 5 Simple Tips to keep your food safe during this very unusual summer:

    1. Use coolers and ice – Make sure your cooler is big enough to store everything. Of course, there are fewer trips to the beach due to COVID, but even with back yard BBQ need be safe so store everything properly.
    2. Refrigerate immediately – don’t let food lie out on the counter if you plan to have extra food for left overs. Refrigerate right away – today’s fridges are able to handle extremes in temperature so don’t worry that the food is still hot.
    3. Use sanitizers, gloves and hand washing when handling food that was delivered to your door. Keep yourself safe when touching any packages, food or otherwise.
    4. If delivered food is in any way questionable discard immediately. Don’t take a chance by convincing yourself “well maybe its ok”. It’s bad for you and if you have a compromised individual at home it could be exponentially harmful to them and may even put them in the hospital – something you want to avoid completely during this pandemic
    5. Proteins are more of an issue – veggies and fruits, of course, are less susceptible to being problematic when left outside after all that’s where they came from. If you have a salad with some fish in it or egg salad, for example they can easily become tainted in the heat. When it comes to proteins meat, fish, eggs, cheese, etc. Refrigerate 1st and quickly. 

 

Please stay well this summer and keep your food safe, nutritious and refreshing.

How To Care For Another and Yourself

I won’t say caring for another while trying to take care of yourself is an easy task but it can be done. Our first priority is often focused on the other person especially if they are ill, elderly or very young. I have had to deal with taking care of my ill spouse for five years now. He is not elderly but he has needed more and more care as the years go by. As he becomes more compromised, with comorbidities, we require more outside help. Finding the right care aides is no easy task but it can be done and they are a tremendous help. Places where I’ve been able to find great care aides are nursing schools, referrals, skilled nursing facilities, and of course agencies as well. 

So let’s dive in a little bit more into caring for yourself while caring for another. 

Here are my five tips:

Tip #1Having help is a must (as mentioned above). If even just for an hour or two during the day so you can get your bearings and have some rest or take a walk. Even if you don’t hire help try to enroll your community or your neighbors. Ask for help. Taking care of another is a difficult job and it often takes a village – so ask for help. It’s really quite remarkable, and moving, just how many people are willing to help out. Others may be able to help with shopping or staying with your loved one for a period of time. They may also be able to help if an emergency arises such as a fall occurs. Of course if it’s serious call 911 immediately.  However, if it’s simply a “soft” fall, as I call it, you can also call 911 and ask for a “lift assist”. The fire department will come immediately and assist your loved one back into their chair, wheelchair or bed. There are plenty of resources available, know that you do not have to do this all by yourself.

Tip #2:Get support call a friend or a family member. Laugh with them, share stories and engage. Take some time to be with others and share in their lives, Welcome the joy of having healing and meaningful conversations. Sometimes wisdom and support can come from people and places you never expected. There are certain community organizations with eager volunteers who are willing to help and do whatever is needed. I remember volunteers from one of our local organizations used to take my husband to his dialysis appointments 3 times a week. Everyone benefited, I received help by not having to transport my husband, the volunteers felt fulfilled helping and my husband had additional companionship and has since developed special relationships with these caring individuals. Their presence in your life makes you feel like you’re not alone. And certainly your church or places of faith can also provide essential support for you as well. 

Tip #3You need and deserve care as well. If you’re dealing with an elderly parent or a disabled partner it can be a grueling experience where you often feel there is no reprieve. Know that you deserve to take time for you. Do not ever feel guilty again about this. You need care and time to recharge your batteries mentally, physically, and emotionally. If you don’t rest or take time off you’re more susceptible to injury, fatigue, or illness yourself. Unfortunately, you may sometimes wonder where you disappeared to as more often than not the focus seems to be on the other person and on their needs. You have needs, too and those needs are just as important. Avoid any impulse to disregard, deny or delay your wants and wishes, if you do you may find yourself feeling resentment and then subsequently feeling guilty about the resentment and so on. You get the picture. Acknowledge your needs and wants – they are real and valid. You may want to explore this further with a therapist or counselor. Just know that you matter – remember this.

Tip #4Eat well. No matter what make sure you eat well. Make a nutritious salad for yourself chocked full of greens, red onions, tomatoes, radishes, etc. whatever you enjoy. Bake a piece of salmon with grilled asparagus and yams. Avoid snacking and eating a lot of sugary, fatty and/or salty foods – these will only deplete you, create cravings and make you even more fatigued than you already are. Make your meal time and your meals a special occasion. If you’re not able to share your meal time with the loved one you’re caring for perhaps schedule your meals together so at least there is some feeling of togetherness separate from your caregiving role. Make your mealtime a priority. Remember even though what you eat – a nutritionally dense diet – is important, how you eat is just as important. Making your dining atmosphere harmonious and peaceful will serve you both and will also enhance better digestion.

Tip #5Get your sleep. I cannot overemphasize how vital this is. I speak and write about Vitamin S (sleep) continuously.  Do not forfeit your sleep while taking care of another person. If you don’t sleep or get the rest you need you will be of little value to the person who’s receiving your care or to yourself. You cannot afford to miss out on solid, deep sleep. Again you need to recharge your batteries daily if you want to function the following day. And if your caregiving lasts for more than a few weeks you will need the continued energy that a good night’s sleep brings in order to sustain yourself and keep you strong and healthy long term. If you feel too stressed due to your caregiving role try magnesium or melatonin at bedtime. You could also try some of the various calming teas available in the marketplace, however for some it may create an increase need to go to the bathroom during the night therefore interrupting your sleep not improving it. You could try downloading an app for REM sleep or listening to relaxing music. Experiment and do whatever works so you can find those regenerating Zzzzz. 

I hope these tips give you a better idea of how important it is for you to take care of yourself in any and every situation you are facing in your life. Remember the saying: when in an airplane remember to give yourself the oxygen mask first because if you’re not healthy and strong it’s very difficult for you to help anybody else. 

Stay strong, stay healthy, and remember your oxygen.

Watch Out For These 7 Mistakes


1) Eating too fast. This one can creep up on you. I grew up in a very large household so eating fast was a sure way to get your fair share as well as make room at the table. But you need to slow down. Slowing down aides your digestion by breaking down the food you just consumed properly, converting it into energy and everything the body need to function. It’s also a great way to avoid overeating.

2) Eating too late. This is a problem for many people. If you eat too late your food will just sit there and not be digested effectively. Lying down right after eating, or worse trying to go to sleep after a meal, compromises the body’s ability to break down food adequately. Since you are not using the food you ate for energy much of the calories are stored as fat stores especially if you do this on a regular basis. Eating late also causes poor sleep patterns often causing you to wake up groggy and sluggish. Try and eat your evening meals and/or snack at least 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.  

3) Eating too much.  It’s an epidemic. Eating too much, too often and having large portions can be detrimental to your health. If you’re cooking at home, portion out your food in the kitchen. Try not to put the bowls and food platters on the table – you’ll be less tempted to overload your plate if you do. If you wish to manage your portions even more efficiently – you can weigh out your food with a small kitchen scale.

4) Eating too little.  Eating insufficient amounts of food can also be a problem. If you’re fasting for too long your body will start storing fat versus burning fat or carbohydrates as a fuel source. Eat at regular intervals throughout the day. Avoid spacing out your eating times for too long a period as that may wreak havoc with your insulin and blood sugar balance. Intermittent fasting can be a good strategy. I usually recommend a five day Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD) every month. This will allow your body to have a rest as well as provide enough good nutrition without depleting your body which a pure fast can do. A fasting mimicking diet assists in recharging your body by enhancing metabolism benefiting your entire system.

5) Eating when stressed. This is a biggie as well. Eating when you’re stressed means you’re not tasting the food and you’re not really honoring the process of nourishing yourself. You need to make eating a meal into a sacred experience. If you are stressed you may be eating on the run or eating too much of the wrong things. Your cortisol and adrenal hormones become activated and often interfere with digestion. Wait until you’re calmer allowing yourself to appreciate your food and your whole nourishing experience that much more.

6) Eating out of boredom. Even though it’s not exactly stress eating it’s similar to it in that you end up  eating many of the wrong foods, you’re snacking more and possibly over eating. Find other activities that interest you and soon you’ll find food is the furthest thing from your mind. You’ll be getting filled up in other ways. Exercise, a good conversation, a good book, going to the beach are all good examples of enjoyable activities.

7) Eating for entertainment. Food is meant to nourish you and give you the nutrients you need to function it’s not intended to be an entertainment experience. Not to say that food cannot be interesting, tasty, delicious and an experience that all your senses can be involved in. Involving all your senses is exactly how eating should be. You should be totally connected to the food you’re eating and, again, make it a sacred experience. However when you’re looking for fun and excitement in your food and in your daily eating habits you’re not really tasting the food. So slow down, taste and enjoy.

Discover How to Change your Bad Habits Part II

 

  • The brain wants everything to be efficient and automated
  • The brain doesn’t want to have to go through a difficult mental process every time it decides to do something.
  • The brain always asks “how fast can we do this?”
  • Our routine needs to be dismantled to create a new habit
  • You can’t just get rid of an old habit and be done with it. There’s a void that the brain wants to fill immediately with a replacement

Consider the Habit Loop 
– the 4 Elements of a Behavior
  1. Cue – time of day you do a particular habit. This environmental cue reminds the brain that this habit you are trying to change is what you will automatically go towards. However, at this point there exists an opportunity to ask yourself – what can I choose instead?
  2. Craving – is the discontent this cue creates. It’s a feeling or emotion of “I want to relieve this discontent or discomfort”. The brain has a craving it wants to alleviate. So instead of the pleasure of that chocolate cake how about creating the feel good chemicals like endorphins when exercising or oxytocin when connecting with others.
  3. Response – You  first get a cue, then you have a craving. Next your brain feels unsettled, so it chooses a particular action. You (your brain) may initially choose something not satisfying your craving so you choose something else to build the right brain response.
  4. Reward – once your craving is adequately met you feel a sense of satisfaction. You have now been able to relieve the stress you were feeling in your craving state. The result is that the craving is gone and your discontent is gone.

Creating a New Habit
  • Re-create new cues and tell your brain that it’s OK to change
  • You can make changes with small steps – 10 minute workouts or a small dietary change
  • By starting small you can in fact make a big difference
  • When you decide to start making changes you may need help – a coach or support group
  • You need to practice over and over again
  • Change + reward = habit

Celebrate your Small Wins

Here’s an example of a substitution for a Craving
  • You crave chocolate so you find an alternative. Maybe melt chocolate and dip some fruit into it – kind of like a fondue. Or have a chocolate protein shake in the morning. Know that you are actually craving the flavor of the chocolate and not actually chocolate.
  • With this fruit example we used above you will get the added benefit of healthy fiber, pectin, and bio-flavonoids and with the protein shake you will have additional protein and other valuable nutrients

Make it Small
  • Unfortunately, our culture works against us – the message is you should want fast, bigger and better i.e. – Biggest Loser, extreme sports
  • Small wins will sustain you day in and day out
  • Want a doughnut eat a handful of almonds instead. Or modify have 1 doughnut once per week or every 2 weeks  rather than daily or freeze them for future or give them away. Eventually the craving will go away.
  • Frequency of making a that one small change will soon develop into a habit further down the road

Drama Sells
  • Lose 50 lbs. in 4 weeks
  • Overnight results don’t last
  • You want something to work longterm
  • 5 pound sustained weight loss is better than the yo-yo cycle of gaining and losing and gaining again
  • Build a foundation of small wins

All or Nothing Mindset
  • Gain and cycle often makes you feel like a failure
  • Stopping consistent weight gain is something to focus on every day
  • During a crisis it’s the perfect time to incorporate a small and slow step strategy
  • Change evolves it doesn’t happen all of a sudden
  • Ask yourself did your past experience of using an all or nothing approach work for you
  • So often when a new diet or exercise program is started within 2 or 3 weeks most people quit
  • Change One Thing at a Time whether its exercising for three days per week or adding a salad to your day, or getting to bed an hour earlier, shutting off your computer two hours before bedtime, or eating dinner earlier. All you have to do is just Pick One.


True Change Evolves It Doesn’t Happen Overnight

Create a New Cue
  • How can I start craving this new habit?
  • How can I make my new habit attractive?
  • Get one new behavior under your belt by sticking with it and then go onto the next one
  • Making one change at a time builds your confidence
  • Incorporate small and doable steps
  • Connect your new habit with something meaningful
  • Get to the root of why you want to make the change in the first place – more energy, save money, less stress, be more clear-headed, reduce heart attack risk etc.
  • Small actions build confidence and motivation

Don’t Beat Yourself up if:
  • You’re not getting as quick results you had hoped for but you’re moving in the right direction
  • You’re not being perfect
  • You feel like quitting
  • No need to judge yourself just decide to hang in there no matter what

Good luck on your road to making the changes that will enhance your life today.

Dreaming of Carbs?

 Have you ever dreamed about things you can’t have? One of my clients had an experience when she first started her weight loss program with me. Here is our conversation.

She wrote:
Last night I dreamt of rice pilaf, buttermilk biscuits, and pancakes. Is that normal? I know I miss eating carbohydrates, but I’d hope to have a reprieve from that longing when I sleep. Any ideas of what might be going on? Could there be a chemical deficiency making me crave carbohydrates? I know there are obvious psychological needs. I find those foods comforting, but could there be a supplement I could take that would release the same comfort chemicals in my brain that carbohydrates do?

My response:
It is very common to dream or think about things that you feel you “can’t” eat, drink, or have while changing a possibly addictive behavior. The “forbidden food syndrome” I call it. It becomes more of a mental/emotional “weaning off” process. In many ways you are actually satisfying this particular craving while in your dream state. However, taking a serotonin balancing formula such as 5 HTP or GABA might be a good thing to add. When you say these foods are providing comfort, what is it that you need comfort for at this time? Are you exhausted, anxious, or unhappy about something? If we can pinpoint it, then I could make the best recommendation for you.

Her response:
Good to know it’s not unusual to dream about food. I thought only starving people in third world countries would do that; however, I get that my mind is just offloading old behavior. I think the comfort the food and specifically the carbs provide is certainty. I’ve been searching for a new home lately, which of course requires a lot of energy and can be a bit stressful. Today, I put in an offer on a house and now we are starting the negotiation process—more uncertainty. Even though some part of me knows it will all work out, I’m still feeling anxiety. I think it can be common to seek comfort when you are fearful, scared, or uncertain. Nothing unusual.

My response:
Yes, maybe common to seek comfort; however, it doesn’t necessarily have to come from food or having a drink. You can take other comforting activities, thoughts, and actions, so you feel nurtured, comforted, and loved. How about a hot bath, a massage or foot rub (yes, go ahead and ask your husband), or maybe a funny movie or a good book. How about writing down your thoughts and feelings in your private and sacred journal, or calling a friend to share, laugh, and cry. We often go towards food when we are feeling lonely, sad, or anxious. Whatever you can do to stop your addictive pattern the better. Instead of going to the fridge or raiding the cupboard, how about a nice cup of tea and curling up in your bed and read that satisfying novel you’ve been wanting to start. Break it up and do something new.

I wanted to share this with you this week. I believe many of you have been faced with similar issues in the past and I thought my conversation with this particular client could help.

Stay cool and stay well!

(c) Monika Klein, B.S., C.N. is an award winning clinical nutritionist and weight loss expert. Monika is the “Compassionate and Practical Nutrition and Lifestyle Coach.” Her company, Coaching For Health, offers life transforming weight loss and wellness programs, classes and products throughout the world. To learn more about Monika’s services and programs, visit www.coachingforhealth.com.