Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Maybe I’ll make some tea first and read….no hot chocolate. Hot chocolate! What is the weather? The computer knows. And from there it is a click on Facebook and People.com only to find that 30 minutes or more have already elapsed.
Meditation. Yes...…meditation. I walk back into my room and light two candles Then…my seat? No, I make the bed, pet the dog, brush my teeth, put my contact lenses in, brush my hair and change into gym/walking the dog clothes. More time has passed. How is it that I’ve been awake and up for more than an hour already? How is it that I’ve been so “busy” and it is barely 6 AM? Why is my mind so very equally quick and inquisitive, thoughts running at the speed of a car fast moving on a parkway?
Sit. All you have to do is sit. I oblige, setting the timer for 30 minutes. My back straight, legs crossed in a half lotus pose, fingers in a grounding mudra I begin to breathe, watching my breath go in and out in a long, deep fluid motion . Then I notice it. My head is itchy. My head is so very itchy that it is all I can do to not reach up and smack the top side with high force and great speed. Wait, I’m no longer focused upon my breath…now it is all about the prickly feeling that I simply want to scratch…s-c-r-a-t-c-h…..SCRATCH. I don’t.
I breathe and begin to add mantra to the breath to take my mind off….everything. All else that is rivaling me to lunatic proportions of distraction. Ah, wait….it’s working. Is it working? Am I one with my breath? Has my mind subsided? No, there it is again. What does the day look like? It will be a good one. I look forward to walking the dog. We can go more than two miles today. Troy will like that. What was the temperature? I forget. If it is below 30 degrees I’ll put his lighter coat on him.
Wait…..follow my breath…inhale through my nose. Exhale through my nose. Deep, long, fluid breaths. Ah, there is that itch again. Wait the dog is up. He is standing in front of my face breathing on me. Can I follow his breath? We didn’t brush his teeth last night. We need to do that today. Inhale, two, three, four, five….exhale two, three, four, five….inhale two, three, wait…the timer’s going off? Already? How did 30 minutes go by so very quickly?
I stand. The end. Or, really... the beginning.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
I admit that my reaction was and continues to be a bit Grinch-like. It's a combination of things. First, as someone who tries to live free and in the moment, tangible reminders that the mainstream flow averages a few weeks ahead makes me frustrated. When I attempt to let go some, and not have a relationship to it, I find I'm still holding on and a wave of sadness washes over me. Sigh.
How about a focus on the time at hand? Thanksgiving=a national celebration around gratitude. Collectively, if everyone centered in on this element I can only imagine the co-created effect. I believe that reverberation to be extraordinary.
So here is my Thanksgiving wish upon a star. Take a few moments to stop and actually smell the evergreen tree. Stand in the appreciation of all in this very nano-second. THAT becomes the gift.....not those things purchased and wrapped and delivered and generally stressed over for one reason or another. Showing up in each moment is the present. Literally!
Monday, May 10, 2010
I’m not much of a fruit eater….save for my beloved bananas--until summertime. This is a pretty on target statement if you are eating with the seasons because here in the northeast no fruit grows in the wintertime. Yet even as a nutrition counselor who believes in whole, clean foods and who loves to eat locally I admit that I don’t know a lot about the fruit growing process. In other words, I’ll tell you why to eat a blueberry and where to buy a blueberry. However I can’t tell you how to grow a blueberry….or asparagus, Swiss chard, pea shoots or a beet, for that matter.
Though, I know a farmer who can tell you. About the fruit and a couple of vegetables, anyway. He tells me and has taken me through the process more than one time. However I haven’t had my notebook and while it makes sense in the moment…..I have not retained enough information except to say that you can begin to pick blueberries in July and finish in early August. I do remember that they are best eaten in the field. However that information, along with a Metro Card, gets you on the subway and not really any other place!
I do want to focus on the food growing process though. Most people don’t think about it enough. They get into their cars, head toward the supermarket, walk through the parking lot and in through the automatic door, get hit with a blast of air conditioning and pull boxes off shelves and out of frozen cases. They then drive home and place the boxes on their pantry shelves and in their refrigerators and say they have bought food.
The farm stands and farmer’s markets are beginning soon….some as early as this weekend. The food buying process through this venue is a bit more colorful and dimensional. An added plus is that you actually get to speak with the farmers. Really. Most of the time those selling you that bunch of arugula, the dandelion greens, the celery root and/or the free range chickens really are part of the entire process.
The farmers get up at, or before, dawn. The logistics of creating and sustaining a viable crop would make the average event producer shudder. The “to do” list of things includes turning the soil and irrigating the plants. Then there are a range of “fires” that may need to put out at any time, having to do with weather and wind patterns, among other things. The number of scenarios that can come up during a typical “day at the office”, a.ka. in the field, would make the average corporate executive quake from anxiety.
While our government places cash subsidy in crops such as corn and wheat, where is the help for the fruit and vegetable growers? Why does a large company, such as Monsanto get to affect farmers and long.-standing techniques? And when the average family sees that purchasing a head of broccoli in a supermarket is more expensive then a hamburger, fries and drink at a fast-food restaurant something is wrong.
Sigh. It’s food for thought for today. And while the blueberries won’t be ripe for the picking for a few more months, remember that they are high in antioxidants and are great in a muffin.
Here’s a recipe for some blueberry muffins. If it’s too hot to use it soon, remember those blueberries can be frozen so that you can have a taste of summer in the dead of next winter.
Happy Blueberry Muffins
2 cups blueberries
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
1 ¼ cup of spelt/almond or brown rice flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup of olive oil
Pinch of Celtic Sea Salt
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees
-Use olive oil or butter inside your muffin tins.
-Add wet ingredients to a medium side bowl with blueberries
-Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl
-Pour wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients
-Fill muffin tins.
-Bake for 30 or so minutes/until toothpick comes out dry.
Healthy recipes, and nutritional values of foods that are healthy and taste great are just some of what is covered when clients work with me. If you’d like to learn more or schedule a nutrition consultation with me please refer to my website www.wholebodyworks.net
Monday, April 26, 2010
Most dogs eat grass when their stomachs are upset. Mine just simply loves the taste of the fresh leafy greens. When I first adopted him a few years ago I just thought that he was trying to gain points as he listened to me telling clients about the benefits of eating leafy greens. I would ask them to liken the greens to a feather duster going through their bodies (sweeping out all those toxins and moving the digestive process along well...) While I sometimes wonder if he ever got the meaning behind the visualization, and impressed as I am to have a dog that eats leafy greens daily, I mostly marvel at the overall adventure each morning walk brings.....greens both included and aside.
Troy notices every new scent, every flower that has come up out of the earth and all baby critters that scatter by. We make our way up a country road that is in a constant state of bountiful transformation. Trees, bushes, barns, horses and even mailboxes are illuminated in a show-stopping way because of the light, an element that makes the Hudson Valley so special. I notice the growth through Troy's eyes that are gently yet intently training my own to simply notice and appreciate. Breathing in the progression each day brings.
The phrase "take time to smell the flowers" is one that Troy takes very seriously. Once his sniffer is placed on something making its' way out of the earth he's like...well, a dog with a bone. However Troy actually cares more about the smell of the spring earth after a rainstorm, the aroma of a patch of grass after a baby bunny hops off of it and the fragrance of a flowering tree then that of a bone, ball or treat. He would be a great naturalist as he loves to spend time in nature exploring and sharing his finds with you, from a deep place of admiration and knowledge. He is never calmer or more at peace then after time outdoors, curiosity satisfied after recognizing the value and beauty of growth.
So as the days get longer and the leafy greens grow, I note my cravings for kale . (By the way it has the most calcium of all the leafy greens.) For my canine it's the roadside grass glistening with morning dew. Soon the farmer's markets will open their "doors" and we can stand in positive reception of the harvest magic that is made. I will.
If you want to know more about which (leafy) greens will best support your own body and/or if you choose to focus more on your health via your stress management aids, and would like some support, you can contact me via my website: www.wholebodyworks.net.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Usually I’m a sweet, creamy person when it comes to food and texture. When I’m looking for comfort or company or entertainment or fun it’s about the sugar. However every once in a blue moon I need to crunch. My crunch doesn’t have to be salty but it has to be plentiful (aka: LARGE bowl). I needed to crunch tonight. Oftentimes crunch is something we do to quell anger, abate anxiety….relieve tension. But it’s not often recognized as such. I recognized it though. It's that state of awareness I'm always talking about. Me attempting to walk my talk.
I wrote all of the above a week ago. At the time I stopped writing I hadn’t mentioned the tequila. You see I had made myself a large bowl of organic popcorn, popped in my favorite pot with some beautiful extra virgin olive oil because I just needed to crunch. Back in nutrition school they taught us what the crunch “craving” is representative of. I mentioned it above. Since I’m usually aware of the reason I turn to food, I understood that on that evening last week I was pretty darn frustrated about a plethora of things. Stomping around the house was doing me no good. And, I didn’t want to take my own wellness advice to go off and journal, run a bath, manicure my nails, watch a movie or call a friend. All of these activities oftentimes do make me feel better , give me the same sated feeling as the food would provide , and give me a chance to separate the forest from the trees, so to speak, in understanding where I was at.
So while I was waiting for the pop to occur to my corn I put a little tequila on ice and began to drink it. Yep, I was pretty frustrated. And I did think…hey I should at least try and blog on this while I’m in the moment. But by the time I got through the large bowl of popcorn and the (tiny, really) bowl of tequila—well, needless to say the blog post didn’t get completed.
So what makes us turn to food (and drink) when things get intolerable? Usually it’s a combination of not wanting to feel the feelings that are coming up inside of us and being uncomfortable, in general, with those feelings. So, we stuff them with food. We wash them away with drink. We numb and we veil.
What we really need to do is twist and shout. Yes, literally moving our bodies will help relieve emotional stress and strain. This can be done as The Beatles intended in their song…..by dancing an (aggravating) evening away. Or, it can be done by literally twisting/tightening our bodies and then releasing them, which will alleviate strain and strife.
And, really, nothing beats actually shouting. It took me a long time to use this one myself. I withdrew from anger for years and years because I witnessed the negative consequences of it growing up. But expressing anger in a pure and honest way really moves it right out of your body. What I will sometimes do is take my car to a quiet spot, turn it off, close all the windows and scream at the top of my lungs. I scared myself the first few times I did this. I’m generally not one to yell. Then once I got the hang of how GOOD it made me feel I started recommending it to clients. Try it next time you’re hopping mad. You’ll see.
Now the night of the popcorn and tequila I wasn’t mad. It was pure nuisance because I had a problem I had been attempting to solve for awhile and nothing I tried was working. The popcorn really was for my irritation. While the crunching moved me through the exasperation I really didn’t like the way I was feeling. In the moment I felt in the state of failure, malfunction and pure stoppage. I felt ashamed and shame is definitely a feeling that I haven’t learned to embrace. It’s a shadow. You know that saying about being afraid of your own shadow? Well, there it was. We all have ALL feelings. Those we are not in touch with and/or reject don’t go away. They lurk in the shadows, sometimes just waiting to pounce. So, I had some tequila which made the shadow evaporate for awhile. And I ended up having a relaxing night and a solid wellness blog post too. In the light of the morning things appeared much more encouraging. I felt optimistic and more assured.
Now before you stop reading this and go off to make your own bowl of (organic) popcorn and tequila and start telling people that the nutrition and wellness counselor recommended the combination as a sure cure for wiling away the worries please let me finish with two key elements: awareness and choice.
I was really clear about what I was feeling (like it or not) and choices that I had to deal with the feelings the situation brought about. In this instance, I chose the popcorn and the tequila. And I’m self-satisfied enough to write about it. More than a decade ago I may have made that choice but without the understanding and full comprehension of other options to connect and how food/drink can be used to fill a void. I also know that I do not have an addictive personality (a bit obsessive, yes, addictive...no.) And with a number of friends and clients in 12-step programs, I have a deep respect for the choice to not drink (or drug) they make each day. If a similar situation were to occur for me next week, I may make that same choice with the same knowledge again. Or, I might choose the warm bath and conversation with a friend instead.
Staying in the moment—even when the moment sucks—affords options regarding next maneuvers. It also provides a more direct road of wellness in knowing yourself. I find that’s delicious.
If you'd like some support around cravings...be it sweet, salty, one that is texture driven, etc., I offer telephone sessions and can be reached via my website: www.wholebodyworks.net
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Okay, that was a bit of a rant and rave. But I couldn't help it. I recently watched the first two installments of the ABC-TV reality series back-to-back. At various junctures, it had me laughing, crying and mostly cheering Jamie Oliver on. In fact at one point I was so excited that I fantasized I had joined Jamie on his Food Revolution. When my breathing got back to normal I realized I had......only I was doing it through this blog, through my website, through my teleclasses and teleworkshops and all my in person groups and one-on-one work. I left the television series to him!
Anyway, the premise for this show focuses on the success Oliver has had in reforming the British lunch system in schools. His changes convinced the British government to spend one billion dollars to overhaul the school meal programs. His task at hand here in the US is to start a similar Food Revolution beginning with the town of Huntington, West Virginia, a city that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has deemed as one of the most obese cities in the nation. The main challenge is to work on having fresh meals cooked--and even more challenging--eaten by the children on one elementary school. These kids, between the ages of 5-11, have taste buds already so trained on chemicalized, white-flour and sugar-laden meals that don't include many vegetables (unless you include french fries cooked in non-healthy oils) that these addictive, nutrient-depleted meals are the basis for their food/energy source 180 or so days of the year. And they like it. We learn that what they are eating outside of the school meal programs aren't getting much better points for quality. In tandem to this situation, Oliver is also working privately with one family comprised of a mother, father, two young boys and a four year old girl--all extremely overweight from their processed food diet.
From boxed potatoes (that have an inch of so more ingredients on the box after the word potatoes--most unpronounceable) to the serving of only sugar-filled chocolate and strawberry "milk"and including the ridiculous, militant USDA guidelines for things like two servings of bread to be included in every meal served at schools, it is a sad wonder to watch. My first thought was questioning how more people "in charge" aren't correlating hyperactive, attention-deficit and other learning and behavioral issues to all the foods made in a lab that the children are eating. Of course this questioning was rhetorical. The reason I believe that these correlations aren't being made is because the decision makers are eating poorly themselves. Simply, they no longer think clearly so they are not able to appropriately put two and two together. This is the stuff that really does bring me to tears. It's NOT rocket science, folks. It's common sense.
A few months back I blogged about an amazing documentary called "Food, Inc." (Which is now out on DVD and available for rental through Net Flix and your local video store.) Food Revolution is another step in this wake-up call regarding what we classify as food. The show is available to anyone with the ABC-TV network or a computer (You can stream episodes.) I urge you to check it out and expect it to be of particular interest to parents of school age children. But honestly it is my prayer that it is of interest to everyone who eats food and who shops at conventional supermarkets in the USA. It clearly and succinctly show where we collectively as a nation are headed if something huge doesn't change. A key needed change is in the way we are feeding our youth.
In the March 15th issue of Time magazine writer Vivienne Walt wrote a piece on French schools and the amazing time and care given around meal time. Her son, at age three, was being served meals that include an hors d'oevre, salad, main course, cheese plate and dessert. In addition, parents were sent home menus so that they were aware of what the children were eating--with no repeat dishes over a 32 day period. Included with this were suggestions to the parents for evening meals to better balance out the nutritional values encompassed within a day. Voila!
This is the stuff that gets me excited regarding what I have the privilege of doing for a living these days. Jamie, I've not braved the school systems, I'm leaving that to you, many of my colleagues and First Lady Michelle Obama as she takes on the cause of childhood obesity. While I have a handful of young men and women that I work with, I am mostly taking on the adult population. It's my hope to continue to be the alarm clock waking up the decision makers today. Let's make a nation of healthier folks that aren't relying on pharmaceuticals to change their health status. Everything you eat becomes your tissues, blood, organs, thoughts, feelings and actions. Quality counts.
Before I step down from my soap box today, here are a few things you can do to easily make a change or two for yourself:
1. Make leafy green vegetables a definite menu choice in one, if not two, meals a day. They are like a feather duster going through your body, clearing out the toxins and keeping your body running efficiently and smoothly.
2. Stop the white stuff insanity. This means all the white flour items --pasta, rice, breads, cakes, cookies, pies. There are amazing brown rice, quinoa and other multi-grain pastas on the market. Brown rice and alternative flours--coconut and almond to name two--make for a more nutrient-dense and delicious baked good.
3. Eat real, live food that doesn't come in a box. This is bottom line. It doesn't get any clearer than this.
4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. I never can resist that one.
If you are interested in any of my in person or teleclass-driven workshops on common-sense driven nutrition and wellness, if you have a group you'd be interested in having me come and speak to on ways to shop, cook, eat and feel better and/or if you'd be interested in setting up a one-on-one in person or phone consult, please contact me through my website: www.wholebodyworks.net.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
I have the pleasure of teaching some movement classes a few times a week, mostly yoga, in a sweet studio in the town over from where I live. The proprietor keeps energy bars around for clients who, I suppose, want a quick pick me up between working out and doing the rest of their lives. When I’m in this studio space I’m a movement teacher and not a nutrition/wellness counselor. So my impulse to pick the basket of bars up and toss them right out the door needs to be restrained. Though the other day I could barely stop myself. I took one. It’s sitting right here next to me all smug and happy, thinking that it got me and I’m actually planning on consuming it. Ha! I admit I want to smash it to smithereens.
Instead I am going to out it. It is a Special K bar from those folks at Kellogg who want you to believe that you can control your weight, even lose some, by eating their products. As you have heard me mention before, my platform is whole foods eating. This means that for the most part the food is fresh, does not contain many ingredients—if packaged at all, perhaps five to seven—and all of them are able to be pronounced and recognized. Most of the time whole foods do not come in a box or package. So, this—and most “energy bars”-- drive me crazy because they are laden with not whole, clean ingredients. And the consumer is being sold a bill of goods that is as phony as the artificial coloring put in them. The Special K bar, that is the bane of my existence in this blog post, has nearly an inch–long listing of ingredients with various forms of (refined) sugar noted throughout with some crummy oils thrown in too. I started to list them here for you but I got so bored that I lost interest and didn’t wish to read what I had written. So, the likelihood that you would wish to do so was pretty much slim to none. You are welcome.
So this concept of an energy bar as a snack that will take you forward is something that, for the most part, I don’t buy….literally or figuratively. In my opinion, here’s why:
1) If you want long-lasting sustainable energy the way to get it is to eat a whole food—something that doesn’t come in a box or a package. Something with five to seven ingredients in it where all of the ingredients are whole, complete, easy to pronounce, spell and define. If you are struggling through the ingredient list imagine how your body feels trying to digest it.
2) You really don’t want sugar to be a part of the ingredient list of the foods you are consuming if you are making an attempt at eating healthily. And, if there is a sweetener, having a natural one (i.e maple syrup, honey) not something white/refined is the ticket. Also, if there is a sweetener, you’d ideally like it to be at the end of the ingredient list because ingredients are named based on the most content found in the product, first, and the least product in the content, second.
3) Eating bars like this commercially sold one do absolutely nothing positive for your body. The amount of sugars and not great quality oils alone will slow your metabolism down, sink your energy (after an initial sugar high), possibly bring your spirit/mood down and make you want to eat more because of the addictiveness of the ingredients.
So what’s a gal or fellow to do here? Well, on the run foods that work well run the gamut from bananas, raw nuts, and baked sweet potatoes to hard boiled eggs, roasted chicken breasts and olives, hummus, guacamole and raw/cooked vegetables to dip too. Try them and see how you do. It all travels well. I know because I often travel with some, if not all, of the above noted items.
But let’s say you’re traveling by plane, wanting to keep something other than nuts in your bag or the glove compartment of your car and every so often just want the “treat” of a bar.
Well, hold on to your hats, folks. If you managed to follow along this far you will be surprised and possibly shocked that I’m actually going to recommend two versions of energy/protein bars here Yes, even after everything just written. I know, I know. You didn’t know that was coming. Surprise! .I LOVE BOTH OF THEM because they are truly products that will keep your energy sustainable, assist in keeping blood sugar levels even, provide solid nutrients , satisfy hunger and snack attacks and they taste great too.
The first, if you are in the New York City/five borough area, is an amazing product called NOSHIES. It was started by a fellow nutrition/wellness counselor, who is also a top notch personal trainer. She was determined to come up with a version of an “energy bar” that really filled the bill on all levels, NOSHIES ingredients are organic, nutritionally balanced, and taste beyond delicious. And, to boot, creator of NOSHIES—Deb Duby—believes that our health and also that the health of the environment are mutually dependent on one another, so packaging that is PCB free and recyclable. Some of it is biodegradable.
NOSHIES are rich in protein, complex carbs, omega 3 fats, fiber and antioxidants. They are also wheat free, soy free, flour free, refined sugar free, artificial sugar, color and flavor free, preservative free AND three flavors are nut free . There are seven flavors and all I’ll say is my favorite is peanut butter chocolate chip. They come in round truffle-like, bite-size balls. So, saying that eating them truly IS a ball, is not out of context here! Orders can be taken by contacting Debra Duby, 917-968-8288, firstname.lastname@example.org. I bet if you can’t get to Brooklyn or Manhattan she’ll ship to you. Tell her I sent you.
The second recommendation , YOU BAR, lets you create (and name!) your own bar. I get a silly kick out of this because growing up with the name Mela I didn’t often see key chains, kiddie bicycle license plates or stickers with my name on it. So the idea of a Mela Bar of sorts tickles me. I do like seeing my name on the wrapper.
YOU BAR was borne in 2006 by mother-son founders, Ava Bise and Anthony Flynn. They had been making their own “protein bars” at home to meet their taste, health and allergy needs. They loved eating their own bars so much that they took a chance that there was a market of folks out there who would appreciate clean, high quality bars that customers’ could customize according to their own taste/needs. YOU BAR provides ingredient choices that are whole, clean, many organic and quite nutrient-dense . As you order via their website, they provide you with an opportunity to know both the caloric intent and (way more important to note, folks) the nutrition value of the bar before placing your order. Each individually wrapped bar also reiterates all of this nutrition information. The company has expanded into shakes, cookies and trail mixes too. However their original product of the “energy” bars are where I’d like you to place your effort at this point. Like NOSHIES they, too, are hand-made, fresh-to-order.
And to conclude, thank you Kellog for providing me with a platform to mention true food products that really serve the consumers health and well being. Take note, will ya? Maybe hang around Deb, Ava and Anthony for awhile and take note how it’s really done. That’s the ticket.
My nutrition/counseling work covers healthy snacking and eating on the go among other areas that folks usually in need of getting some support with. My work is in person in the New York area and by phone everywhere else on the globe. You can contact me via my website: www.wholebodyworks.net, via this blog or by e mailing Mela@wholebodyworks.net