Here are lucky 13 random facts that you don’t know about me!
I just returned from two wild and wonderful weeks in Zimbabwe. I was able to connect with wildlife, work out with friends, and get a glimpse of life on the amazing continent of Africa. Part of the trip was “business” (this is in quotes because Body & Soul fitness is my passion and leading exercise routines and speaking can hardly be considered work); the other part was pleasure—visiting game parks and animal sanctuaries.
As a health coach and Wise Traditions podcaster, I was naturally very curious about the dietary habits of the people of Zimbabwe. My time was spent primarily in Harare and its immediate environs, so I wasn’t able to look into all of the local diets and customs. However, I can tell you what I noticed while staying with friends and sharing meals together. They showed me, more than told me, about their food habits and what I witnessed warmed my heart.
- Vegetable gardens
- Backdoor chickens (yes, they call them “backdoor” not “backyard” chickens)
- Eggs from said chickens for breakfast (w/ bacon as a side) or hard-boiled eggs for lunch
- Hearty soups made with chicken stock and vegetables for dinner
- Plentiful vegetables (from their own gardens) such as zucchini, squash, spinach
- Home-brewed kombucha and fermented drinks (like kefir) available at farmers markets
- Said-same farmers markets selling fresh organic (or at least local) foods several days a week all around Harare
It was clear that many Zimbabweans were intimately linked to the land. I asked my friends about it and they explained that in 2008 the country hit a devastating low point. The economy tanked. It was at that time that people of every socio-economic class began turning to their own devices for sustenance. They could not rely on produce being kept in stock at their local shops, since imports were down and farms were being overtaken by the government. They had to rely on themselves. This was the year many middle-class and upper middle-class families began planting vegetable gardens and keeping backdoor chickens.
Today, Zimbabwe is still struggling, going through yet another economic crisis. Their currency had devalued so much, every purchase required millions of Zim dollars. The government has issued bond notes recently to stabilize the situation, but cash of any kind is still in short supply. People must wait in long lines in the hopes of getting bond notes or American currency.
Despite the chaos, or maybe because of it, I saw wise traditions at play at virtually every turn. From the most modest residents selling produce by the side of the road, to the more privileged buying it or simply growing their own, it is clear that real food plays an important role in Zimbabwe. “Homemade” and “farm-fresh” are not buzzwords but more of a way of life here.
This is not to say that there are no big food corporations promoting their own products, threatening the real food movement. Fizzy drinks (sodas) are promoted all over the landscape. Billboards tout margarine and vegetable oils as “heart healthy.” Fast food restaurants are marketed as modern and hip.
And yet, the sight of those backdoor chickens, clucking and pecking in every home I visited, gave me hope that wise traditions may still win the day in Zim. Because real food is what's cooking in Zim today!
Hilda Labrada Gore is the producer and host of the Wise Traditions podcast found on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play Music, iHeart Radio, tunein, YouTube and at westonaprice.org. She is the DC metro regional director for Body & Soul Fitness and a certified integrative nutrition health coach. She lives in DC with her husband and children, their cat, Mia, and their dog, Summer.
A friend of mine eats ghee with every meal. I used to feel sorry for her, considering ghee to be nothing more than a poor substitute for butter. I knew next to nothing about it, truth be told, but was somehow under the impression that she had been simply swept up in some new foodie trend. Little did I know that ghee is simply the fat part of butter (i.e., clarified butter) and that it has been made and consumed for thousands of years, particularly in India and Asia! Its health benefits are well-documented in ancient Sanskrit textbooks, and more and more people are rediscovering its benefits today. It is replete with vitamin A which benefits, among other things, our eyesight, and it has other properties that are rejuvenating, increase our longevity, and strength and immunity. Not only is it beneficial but it also is a vehicle, helping other nutrients get assimilated more easily into our body.
Sandeep Agarwal is from India, where ghee is used liberally. He is an expert on the subject. His great-great-grandfather even started a ghee business in 1889. But living in the U.S., he had bought into the U.S. public health recommendations that saturated fat was to be avoided, so he shunned ghee and other fatty foods. But when his young son began to struggle with a health crisis, Sandeep began searching for an answer to resolve his health. This is when he came upon the Weston A. Price Foundation. And when he began applying the Wise Traditions principles to his family’s diet, he saw his son’s health improve and that’s when he began to realize that he needed to get back to his own roots.
Today he embraces ghee…and fat…and raw milk, along with other organic, natural foods and spices. He is a graduate of David Winston’s Center for Herbal Studies’ two-year herbalist training program and one-year graduate program. He has spoken at Ayurvedic conferences in the USA and India. He is passionate about helping everyone to learn about the benefits of eating organic, healing, natural, traditional foods.
Listen to our conversation “On fat, raw milk, & ghee,” and you will learn:
- the changes he made to his family’s diet that improved his son’s health
- the process for making ghee
- the benefits of ghee
- the chemical composition of butter and of ghee, and how they compare
- why ghee is a good choice for people with dairy sensitivities and for those on the GAPS diet
- what the ancient texts say about raw milk and other healing practices
- about Ayurveda, the ancient Indian healing science which is 5000 years old and about its textbooks (written in Sanskrit)
- the concept of ojaf (immunity) in ayurvedic tradition
- how and why he and his wife started their PureIndianFoods business
- how ghee is a top food recommended for immunity-boosting
- why he believes ghee is growing in popularity as a “fat of choice”
If none of this convinces you to try ghee, you just need to give your tastebuds the treat! I’ve bought this huge tub and started cooking with it like there’s no tomorrow. (But, of course, there will be a tomorrow, thanks to ghee’s longevity-enhancing properties.)
*** Hilda Labrada Gore is a health coach and the host of the Wise Traditions podcast (found on iTunes, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and at westonaprice.org). She is also the DC chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation. Get to know Hilda and her approach to health by visiting her website chispainc.com.
Razi Berry was extremely fatigued in her twenties. I don't mean she was just run-down or exhausted from stress or work. (We all get there sometimes.) Razi was tired at the cellular level, or what some of us call "bone-tired." In her own words, she says she was like “a wind-up doll that constantly needed winding.” She was struggling with fatigue, pain, hair loss, infertility, and more. At one point the doctors diagnosed her with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue and they suggested she go on disability. At age 25, this was akin to a "life sentence" which Razi simply could not accept. She decided, instead, to became her own “health detective” and look for solutions to restore her health. This is when she took two steps that made all the difference.
- She made lifestyle changes that drastically improved her health. These included eating more animal products (including organ meats), breathing more deeply, and getting sufficient sleep.
- She found naturopathic medicine that turned her health trajectory around. The naturopathic approach deals with the whole person (not just certain ailments or body parts). There is a focus on the healing power of nature and finding and treating the cause of sickness, not the symptoms.
Listen to her full story on #34 "Tired of being tired" and you'll hear:
- just how sick Razi was
- the improvements she saw with these two steps
- the principles of naturopathic medicine
- specific naturopathic therapies, including hot/cold showers, and wet socks
- the myth of “side” effects
- how the skin is a mirror of your health
- how Razi continues to maintain her health today
- her most important advice on how to approach your own wellness
Today, Razi is the publisher of "Naturopathic Doctor News & Review" and she maintains the Naturopathic health site, while also homeschooling her daughters. She obviously has energy and health to spare. Razi will inspire you to take your own steps to move from bone-tired to robust, and brimming with health! The first step for you may just be listening to this episode!
*** Hilda Labrada Gore is a health coach and the host of the Wise Traditions podcast (found on iTunes, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and at westonaprice.org). She is also the DC chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation.
In the 1930s, researcher and dentist Dr. Weston A. Price traveled around the world to find the healthiest people with the best teeth. He had seen images of such people in “National Geographic” magazine but he wondered if they actually existed. So he took a voyage, determined to find out for himself. Everywhere he went, Dr. Price noticed that those who ate their traditional diets (cheese and milk in Switzerland, seal oil in Alaska, and so on) were healthy, fertile and vibrant. And, yes, they resembled those traditional people groups featured in “National Geographic!” They had beautiful straight teeth, with very little incidence of decay. But he also found that those who had access to so-called “modern” western foods (including refined flours and sugars) suffered tooth decay and health issues. There was a clear pattern that tied wellness to diet. When Dr. Price came to Kenya, he noted that it was no exception. He met tribal people who were extremely healthy and who had broad faces with straight teeth with little evidence of cavities or infections. But among those whose diets had changed, he saw compromised health and teeth that were cavity-filled.
When I traveled to Kenya last year (and just last month), I wondered myself what I would find. I’m not a dentist or a researcher, but I had the next best thing going for me. I connected with Maasai community leader Dickson Ole Gisa and got to speak with him first-hand. I wondered what changes he had noted over the years and if Dr. Price's findings were playing out in his community. Indeed, Dickson had witnessed some of the very things Dr. Price recorded so many years ago. I take it back. He had not only witnessed the dietary changes and the corresponding health repercussions for his people, he had actually lived through them!
Dickson lives in Oiti, a Maasai village in Kenya, near the border of Tanzania. It is rather remote and yet he admits “The diet is changing tremendously.” When he first heard of the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) and its Wise Traditions principles based on Dr. Price’s findings, it made perfect sense to him. He immediately contacted WAPF, saying, “Please send someone over. We are all getting sick. I have diabetes. My wife has asthma….” So this is how I came to connect with him, as an envoy of WAPF, as a friend, and as the Wise Traditions podcast host. In this capacity, I am now able to share with you one conversation with Dickson from my visit this past month. You will certainly be fascinated by Dickson’s stories, as I was.
In “A Maasai story,” you will learn:
- what Dickson ate as a child (including the game his father hunted to feed his family)
- the Maasai traditional diet
- the allure of “foreign foods” like soda, juice, oils
- how the changing diet is impacting the Maasai’s health
- how pregnant women are “selective” in terms of the food they eat
- traditions related to childbirth
- about a special book written by the first Maasai scholar which records all of the cultural traditions of the people
- how “civilization” and “education” are shaping Maasai dietary choices
- the very changes Dickson's own family have made to return to traditional foods
- how Dickson is spreading the news of Wise Traditions
- the community’s response to WAPF principles and ideas
I have learned from Dickson, among other things, that one person can make a difference in their community. It starts in our own backyards. I want to continue to take steps to "practically apply" (as Dickson says) what I believe---in terms of food, faith, and life. If I do this, or rather, if we do this, we will certainly impact our villages, communities, and the whole world for the better! Don't you agree?
P.S. If you enjoy this episode, please share it with others. And if you want to support Dickson’s outreach and efforts to help his people regain their health through a return to nourishing traditional foods, go to westonaprice.org and click on “Get involved.” Then click on the “donate” button and give the amount of your choice to the “overseas outreach” initiative.
Hilda Labrada Gore is a health coach and the host of the Wise Traditions podcast (found on iTunes, Stitcher and at westonaprice.org). She is also the DC chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation.
In the movie, "Little Miss Sunshine" Steve Carrell's character, Frank, pointedly yells at his niece, "Fat makes you fat." He was trying to shame the young girl into changing her order at a diner. For decades, the U.S. government was sending Americans the same message--warning us to steer clear of fat, and practically shaming us for craving it. They said it was linked to heart disease. So the public heeded the warning, but health issues--obesity, chronic conditions, and, yes, heart disease--continued to rise despite compliance with the recommendations. In recent years, the government and even the conventional medical community has begun to pivot, actually recommending that we eat fats for our well-being. But which are the best fats? And how much should we be eating?
Enter Chris Masterjohn, assistant professor of Health and Nutrition Sciences at Brooklyn College in New York. Chris has a PhD in Nutritional Sciences and is a brilliant person to discuss such a topic. And so we did, on the Wise Traditions podcast. Yes, we chewed the fat...about fat! Give a listen to episode #28: Fat does a body good.
Here are some of the things you'll learn.
- how fat helps your body run
- moving from fear of fat toward freedom
- how to eat to fuel your body's needs
- how to figure out what diet (and percentage of fat) will work best for your particular body
- what sources of fats have been eaten over the course of human history
- how our diet has shifted away from animal fats to oils like soybean, canola, sunflower, safflower, corn, and cottonseed
- how this shift may be the cause of many of modern diseases
- the difference between saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fats
- the definition of essential fatty acids
- the role of cholesterol (and what numbers could be a red flag)
- a recommendation for a certain type of health care practitioner
Chris concluded our conversation with a surprising suggestion for what to do to achieve optimal health. (To learn more from Chris, check out "The Daily Lipid" or follow him on social media @chrismasterjohn.)
As we wrapped up our talk, I walked away with some new insights and with a conviction that was stronger than ever: fat does many things for us, but it most certainly does NOT make us fat, no matter what the movies (or other media) may tell us!
*** Hilda Labrada Gore is a health coach and the host of the Wise Traditions podcast (found on iTunes, Stitcher and at westonaprice.org). She is also the DC chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation.
On the t.v. show "The Biggest Loser," people lose drastic amounts of weight in dramatic fashion, only to gain it back when they are off the air and the cameras are gone. Dramatic is the right word for it. It is a t.v. show, made to entertain. Those who produce it are interested in ratings, certainly not in the health of the participants. They "help" them lose weight, all right, but in all the wrong ways for all of the wrong reasons. But contestants sign up to be on the show, nonetheless, grasping at the slim hope that they might become slim, in actuality. It's easy to understand their desperation. Richard Morris could certainly relate. For him, walking to work was akin to hiking Mount Everest. He would huff and puff and sweat up a storm and it was only a few blocks away from his place in New York City! He was in terrible shape. No surprise. The man weighed over 400 lbs. Dieting? Hed been there, done that....in his own words, "a million and one" times. The only thing they were good for was packing on the pounds (after some initial unsustainable weight loss).
Richard was pre-diabetic and struggling with asthma and high blood pressure. Every day he woke up asking himself, "Is today the day I die?"
This is Richard today. Yes, as you can ascertain, he has undergone a complete transformation! He is in excellent shape, as are his wife and two daughters. He works a job and runs a family farm. And in his spare time, he runs spartan races!
Be inspired by his story in this half-hour episode entitled A life unburdened.
What You’ll Learn
- How Richard gained so much weight in the first place
- The role his family's poverty played in their food choices when he was growing up
- What diets he tried and why they failed him
- Richard's a-ha moment that led him to leave dieting behind
- What first steps he took to rid his home of processed foods
- What foods they bought (and where they bought them) as they switched to eating real food
- What happened when he flirted (briefly) with the idea of eating the old way
- How the Weston A. Price Foundation resources played a part in his transformation
- The role of cooking in his life
- How his daughter's early puberty was reversed through real food
- How he got into obstacle course racing
Links & Resources
About Richard Morris
Richard Morris worked in IT, but now lives a life that is drastically different. Richard lives in Virginia, running his farm, running spartan races and running in the human race, in brave and new ways!
If you enjoy the podcast episode, please share it on FB or Twitter. And leave Wise Traditions a review on iTunes which gives important stories like Richard's a broader platform!
This is a blog post full of questions. Which is funny because so far I have only made a statement. Or two. Or three. But, just wait, they're coming.... I recently interviewed Leslie Manookian, the writer and producer of the award-winning documentary "The Greater Good." Leslie was at the peak of her career as a business executive on Wall Street when she began asking herself some serious questions about the direction of her life, and about conventional medicine. You see, her health began to fail, and it led to her to start questioning her assumptions about all of the above and eventually led her to start questioning vaccines.
In today's group-think mindset, this is anathema. But I promise you, this woman is no fringe, anti-science loony. She's smart. She has an MBA from the University of Chicago, a BA from Middlebury College, and M.L.C.Hom from Lakeland College of Homeopathy. She began investigating homeopathy when conventional medicine could no longer help her. It benefited her so much that she decided to study it. In so doing, she began learning about the risks and unintended consequences of vaccines.
Our conversation got me asking some questions of my own.
Why is the vaccine schedule so intense for infants (25 doses by 15 months of age)?
Could this schedule have anything to do with the rise of ADD, allergies, autism and other chronic conditions?
Why do vaccines include metals (mercury, aluminum) and adjuncts that disrupt our body and brain functions?
If vaccines are as safe as they are purported to be, why do the vaccine manufacturers need blanket immunity from any prosecution or economic liability?
Didn't a CDC whistleblower confess that he (and others) scrubbed the data, to make it appear that there was not a link between vaccines and autism? If so, why the cover-up? And where is the public outcry in response?
What other options do we have to protect people from life-threatening or crippling diseases?
And, finally, why are all people who ask questions about vaccines labeled as lunatics?
It seems to me that when it comes to your health (or your children's health), it is smart to ask questions.
Listen to Leslie's story on this podcast episode, Vaccines: what's all the fuss about? and see if it doesn't prompt you to formulate questions of your own. And if you're not willing to listen to it, I challenge you to ask yourself why.
April Fool's Day is a great day to talk about the word "sustainable." I see it everywhere I turn these days; it's laughable. I fully expect the gas station tomorrow to have a sign up saying "Fill up here: sustainable gas from organic oil wells!" It has been overused to the point where it's unclear what it's even referring to anymore. (This is ironic since the definition includes "allowing for continual reuse.")
But sustainability is no joke. The idea is to live in such a way that you can keep at it. To treat this earth in such a way that it can last a long time. To care for your belongings in such a way that you get the most out of them. In effect, to tread lightly so that you can keep treading.
I interviewed farmer Jesse Straight from Whiffletree Farm (in Warrenton Virginia) about his take on the term. I loved his answer!
“Sustainable farming is beneficial to all of the parties involved. It’s beneficial to the animals’ health, the land’s health, the eaters’ health. It’s beneficial to the farmer in terms of giving them a noble and sustainable way to live and to support their family and it’s beneficial to the community.”
I don't have a farm but Jesse inspired me with his response. (To be further inspired, listen to his podcast interview: Straight talk from a farmer.)
I want to live sustainably, according to his definition, don't you? I want to live so as to benefit everyone around me (including me)! I want to be ready for continual re-use! How can I be an asset at home, at work, at church, in the neighborhood, the city, and the world? It's a big list, a tall order. The only way to be of any use, anywhere, is to find balance in my own life first. A hectic pace, a frantic lifestyle will lead to my being worn out and unable to live a life in the plus column, that much I know.
So like a runner in a marathon, I try to pace myself so that I can best meet the day's demands. I eat well and exercise often. I pray, sing, and connect frequently with friends and family. I keep my house clean (more or less) and make decent meals for us and our guests. These activities keep me afloat and are generally a part of what sustains me. But there are other areas of my life that threaten to drag me down and wear me out. I tend to work at a rather constant pace, so I have to discipline myself to turn off the computer an hour before bed. I struggle to hit the hay before the clock strikes midnight. And I know I need more time outside to get refreshed and re-energized.
My short-term sustainability goals almost certainly looks different than Jesse's (and probably yours) but our long-term goal is the same. We want to be well, balancing our work and play, rest and service, so that we can benefit the lives we touch. Instead of being labeled "good for nothing," we are all aiming to be good for something!
What does a sustainable life look like for you? And what do you need to work on, to get there?
This truism applies to our relationship with food and health, as well. Everybody wants to be healthy, but nobody wants to change what they're eating. So, yes, it's true: people want to have their cake and eat it too.
I get it. Habits are hard to break. Certain treats feel like rewards after a long week at the office or at home! But everything worthwhile requires some effort and sacrifice. I see the same students in my Body & Soul exercise classes week after week. They could be doing anything else: sleeping in, gardening, taking care of errands, you name it. But they show up time and again, sacrificing other things to commit themselves to movement. And their bodies are the better for it.
Maybe it seems easier with exercise because everyone knows it is good for you. There is agreement. But with food, how do you decide which diet is best?
Here's something most every diet agrees on (at least those that are not trying to sell you special powders or products). Ultra-processed foods are to be avoided. What do I mean by ultra-processed? These are foods that are de-natured and refined, foods whose nutritional content has been stripped or changed so that it no longer nourishes us as it would have in its original form. Just this past week, the University of Sao Paolo and Tufts University released a study that indicated that 50% of the American diet is made up of such foods. And these processed foods make up 90% of the sugar intake of Americans. No wonder we are sick and tired!
Some people call this "clean eating" because you are getting away from the junk that is sold as food. To step away from these processed foods, we've got to shop the perimeter of the supermarket. Let's fill our carts with food without labels. We can find this kind of food at farmer's markets, too. Or we can get farm deliveries or join a buying club. Maybe it's time to garden. For our health, though, we must begin to do whatever we can to avoid these overly manipulated foods and oils with extra additives, preservatives, colorings, flavorings, and sugar.
It will take effort, so in a sense it may feel like you are dying at first. But soon you will reap the reward of "health heaven." Trust me. Heaven is for real.
P.S. If you're ready to take the plunge but need more inspiration and how-to's, listen to this podcast episode "No refined or denatured foods" with Sally Fallon Morell, the head of the Weston A. Price Foundation.
“Every diet that has been marketed to us since the beginning is just the same nasty betraying boyfriend with a different face. And when it fails, the boyfriend (a/k/a diet) looks at you and says ‘Oh, it’s your fault. There’s something wrong with you!’” I have been a foodie and a health coach for years, but this is the first time I have ever heard anyone liken dieting to dating bad boys. Adrienne Hew is like that, though. She is a nutritionist who speaks her mind and what comes out is often outlandish and provocative. Not surprisingly, she is known as the “nutrition heretic.” She is not a bespectacled preach-y uptight kind of nutritionist who wags her finger at you when you eat a morsel of some forbidden food. Nope, Adrienne is the exact opposite. She has an easy laugh, a non-judgmental spirit, and she makes you think, rather than feel like you need to slink away.
A diet like a bad boyfriend? When that idea came up during our recent podcast discussion, it got me thinking. And the more I thought about it, the more I could see the parallels between dieting and dating.
Stage 1: Infatuation. The flirting commences. You hear about him. You google him. Butterflies are starting to take flight. You consider the possibilities. You’re excited, enticed. This one has potential to be THE one.
Stage 2: Dating. You’re holding hands. You are willing to put up with his “quirks” in the hope that it all pan out. You are telling people about him, as you pass on the bread basket at the restaurant. You are trying to convince yourself that your fatigue has to do with work and not with the relationship wearing thin (no pun intended).
Stage 3: Going steady. Reality hits like a splash of (zero-calorie!) cold water. You’re giving it a try, but this is trying you. It’s not half as fun as it seemed at the start. You feel like you’re dying. This is the opposite of what you imagined. Straight up, it is a pain, and is very unrewarding.
Stage 4: The breakup. You hate to admit it, but the time has come. It's over. This relationship is going nowhere. It was super promising at first, but the end result was that every. single. promise. was broken and now you’re left holding the bag (of low-fat “natural” chips). You’re embarrassed that it didn’t work out and secretly wonder if it was your own fault (as he said, when he walked out the door). You’re feel like if you had only tried harder, or a bit longer, maybe things would have ended differently.
Can you identify with any of this? If so, click here to listen to A fresh take on real food. Adrienne has simple, practical ideas for checking out of diet "heartbreak hotel." It's time to have a steady, wonderful relationship with food, leaving the bad boys in the dust (under the refrigerator).
Just when you thought you had everything unwrapped, there’s one more present for you: the Wise Traditions podcast!
The podcast is wrapped up in brown paper (and tied up with string) on its way to us all in just a few days! If we could track it with an app, it would appear as saying "shipped." Now we're awaiting delivery from the iTunes truck!
This podcast is going to be a wonderful topper to all the gifts you received this past holiday season. And it's going to be one that you will come back to again and again. You are simply, absolutely, unequivocally going to LOVE it!
You'll get three episodes right off the bat---an interview with the President of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Sally Fallon Morell. She talks about the foundation's core principles and why they are so committed to educating the public about the healthy traditions of our ancestors. We also talk to farmer and veterinarian Will Winter. He has a brilliant mind, and a straight-forward way of talking that makes the most complicated matters related to life and health (and climate change) sound simple! And finally, we talk to Dr. Tom Cowan, a holistic doctor who wraps up the interview by saying "Don't believe me. Don't believe anybody!" Talk about unconventional!
All three of these episodes will be available as soon as the podcast arrives and, thereafter, 30-minute podcast episodes will be released once a week. You will be able to find them on iTunes (search for "Wise Traditions" under "Podcasts") and on the westonaprice.org website (click on "New! Podcast" on the side bar). Each episode will be entertaining, informative, and helpful. And, of course, you will be able to share them at the click of a mouse.
I simply can’t WAIT for you to check out these episodes and all those that follow. The minute they go "live" you will know. I will post about it here and you will see social media light up with excerpts, pictures, and more!
Hooray for an extra little present that is one-size-fits-all! And here's to a happy and healthy 2016 for all of us!
Last weekend, I went to see "The Martian" with Matt Damon. (Point of clarification: he plays the protagonist, Mark Watney, in the movie; he did not accompany me to the showing). I was expecting to be entertained by the movie; I did not expect to be inspired. But I definitely was!
Here are five out-of-this-world health tips from the movie!
- Farming is critical to survival. My high school had a club called Future Farmers of America. Even back then, I was like, "Whaaat?!" I didn't understand what the club was about, nor why anyone would even think about joining it. Farming seemed so foreign to me, a young suburban girl who only went to farms in October...for hayrides. Now, all grown up, I realize that food doesn't magically appear in my neighborhood grocery store. It has to come from somewhere. For us to be able to eat, someone somewhere has to cultivate land, tend to crops, care for animals. Farming is critical to our survival. Mark Watney figured this out pretty quickly, too!
- Passion and purpose makes everything worthwhile. With death a possibility at every turn, Mark sent a message to his parents. “I am dying for something bigger, more beautiful and greater than me." What are we committed to? What are we living for? Is it "bigger, more beautiful, and greater" than we are? If so, it will certainly be worth living and dying for. If not, begin to seek out possibilities. What cause or movement moves you? Passion and purpose turn the most grey, dull life into one that is vibrant, colorful, and pulsing with possibilities!
- Spice up your life. I confess that I have a tendency to stick to the tried and true garlic and onions to spice up my dishes. When I'm feeling adventurous, I'll add a dash of cumin. But I am slowly and surely learning to expand my "spice life" horizons. I recently discovered turmeric, a wonder spice that has been used for millennia in India. It has been identified as a help in fighting cancer, improving eyesight, and reducing joint inflammation, among other benefits. Spoiler alert: desperate for seasonings, Mark pulverizes some painkillers and puts them on his potatoes. Don't let this be you! Spicing up your life with real life-giving spices will not only improve your health but also please your palate!
- Never, never, never give up - Mark faced obstacle after obstacle, challenge after challenge. If he had given up early on, that would've been the end of the movie (and I would have felt short-changed)! Instead, he soldiered on. Happily, he didn't have to tackle all of the obstacles at once. He faced them head on, one by one. This should be our approach as well. When I feel particularly overwhelmed or out of control, I clean my kitchen (or my living room). If one room is clean in my house, and if at least one thing is done, it gives me the sense that maybe I can do the next (bigger) thing, too. The idea is to keep pressing on, and not try to take on too much at once. Just put one foot in front of the other (and pray to God you do not get caught up in a Martian wind storm!)
- Remember you are not alone - Though separated by miles (light years?), Mark turns to his friends for support, words of encouragement, and a laugh or two. We need each other desperately here on earth, too, don't we? When we feel all alone, we must resist the temptation to cocoon. When we push ourselves to reach out to a friend, their words of reassurance can go far in restoring our perspective and hope. (My own daughter did this for me just yesterday, when I was in a low spot.) Speaking of reaching out, prayer is another wonderful way to reach out for help. Mark utters a prayer out loud, at one moment in his journey. I'm pretty sure there were lots of unuttered prayers going on, too.
Did you see this movie? What did you think? What movies have you seen that have inspired you, health-wise or other-wise?
I just got my oil changed. I had a coupon so I was psyched up. “I’m going to save $8.00!” When all was said and done, though, my grand total was over $150. (The oil change included a new cabin air filter, tire rotation, and more.) The oil change company tossed in a free car wash, but I was still experiencing sticker shock. I couldn't help but wonder if I'd been hoodwinked into spending more than necessary.
As I was stewing over the hefty price tag, the service manager came up to me and said, “If you are good to your car, it will be good to you." Obviously this was a line intended to make me feel better, but, to my surprise, it actually worked. He had a good point. If we neglect oil changes and regular maintenance we put our car at risk. We may be penny-wise but pound-foolish. Cars that are not maintained well seem okay in the short-run but in the long-run, they become sluggish and eventually irreparably damaged.
When it comes to eating and our health, there is a similar relationship. If we feed ourselves on the cheap, with foods that fill but don't nourish us, we will save money in the short-run but we will later pay the price with our diminishing health. Conversely, if we fill ourselves with the best food we can afford, including, yes, organic veggies and fruit, and hormone-free and antibiotic-free meats, we will pay more up front, but we save ourselves the pain (often physical) and expense of health care costs.
When we look at our food budget, we forget to take this into account. It is expensive to eat well. You will spend more in the short-term. Your wallet will feel the pinch. But would you rather feel pain now, monetarily, or later, both physically and monetarily? This is why I say that conventional food is more expensive than organic. One costs more at the register, but there are hidden, more serious, costs with the other.
Conventional veggies and fruit are grown with pesticides sprayed on them (and sometimes are even genetically modified to contain pesticides). Pesticides are bug-killers and chemicals meant to kill aren't good for any living beings. Packaged and processed foods contain preservatives, colorings, and flavorings that our bodies cannot recognize or assimilate easily. Non-food products in our food are difficult for our bodies to digest and can hurt us, from the inside out.
What do you think? Am I off base here? Is conventional more costly than organic, really? Do you agree or disagree? I'm eager to hear your thoughts!
On the street, I cringe when I see a mother on her cell phone while she completely ignores the baby right in front of her. Maybe she’s the nanny and not the mother? Regardless, no sooner do I pronounce judgment against her in the courtroom of my mind, than I am on my own device, turning a deaf ear and a blind eye to the people and life around me.
Our devices stupefy us. We sit in front of them for hours on end, at work or play. From stay-at-home moms, to students, to CEOs, we are all tempted to put real life on hold as we give our full attention to the dazzling and demanding virtual show. Spoken words and true connections are like droplets of rain on a water-resistant slicker. They sit on the surface but do not penetrate our hearts. We are impervious to what is going on around us.
And it’s not just our devices that distract us from real life. Busyness also numbs us to reality. We are pinballs, careering from one event to the next, especially this time of year---do you feel me, moms of elementary-aged children? We need a moment. But we are like frantic and harried vacationers, so eager to make our destination that we barrel through quaint small towns, missing their charm (and what we could learn if we adopted their pace).
We are hypnotized by the illusion of connection (with our devices) and self-importance and efficiency (with our penchant for busyness). How do we snap out of our self-induced trance? Below are four simple ways to refresh our spirits and reconnect with real life.
- Come up for air - …in small ways. Put an “end time” on your work, like an expiration date on a carton of milk. My sister is a champ at this. She leaves the office at a pre-determined time, regardless of how many emails are in her inbox, and I’m pretty sure she has thousands! She also chooses not to access her work remotely once she gets home, even though there is obviously MUCH to do. She comes up for air every time she does this and it allows her to connect with her husband, children, and friends, in a way she couldn’t otherwise. I want to be like my younger sister when I grow up. Give yourself a grown up “time out." It’s a gift, though, not a punishment. Take a break for 5-10 minutes every hour or so. Whether you’re at home, folding laundry, or at your desk churning out emails. I've used the timer on my iPhone to remind me to take a little walk or do something different for a few minutes. It gives me a clearer mind when I return to the task at hand. …and in big ways. A family vacation rocks but don’t wait for that. If possible, look for pockets in your schedule to take a mini get-away of some sort. My husband and I went to Winchester, Virginia for an overnight recently. It was no Hawaii, but, hey, it served its purpose. We got off the treadmill and caught our breath and connected with each other.
- Attach – As we detach from our devices and busyness, we find room to attach to something positive---a person or pastime that we enjoy. Set up a mini date with someone close to home or a friend that you love but haven’t seen for months. Pick up your phone (for a second) and give them a ring! Return to a hobby that fell by the wayside---knitting, tennis, reading. Detaching gives you the gift of time you didn’t have before! Use it to attach to something more life-giving!
- Read a book (esp. a good one) – Summer is made for this! It can be an educational book or one that is simply an escape. I’m reading two very different books right now. “Gone girl” has nothing to do with my life (thank goodness) but it’s very entertaining. And “The good and beautiful God” is fantastic and super inspirational---with tons of tips for self-care and spiritual growth. Audiobooks come in handy, too, to get your mind off your burdens while you commute or tend to simple tasks around the house.
- Eat "clean" for a day (or a week) – This is a surprising way to lessen the load of stress that you may be carrying! Adjusting your diet for a day is a simple way to detox (without the ambitious undertaking of making smoothies that require ingredients from a rainforest in Brazil). Find a friend and do this together, if you want accountability. For 24 hours, avoid processed foods (snacks in bags, meals in boxes) and buy fresh (from a farmer’s market, if possible). Don’t eat out for the allotted time period, either. You should feel a natural energy boost. You will also 1) save money and 2) feel better.
Notice that the acronym for these simple steps is C.A.R.E. When we step away from our devices and the busyness of life, we are caring for ourselves and therefore better equipped to care for others and meet the rigors of our day-to-day lives. Let me know how it goes for you when you implement these simple steps! I care.
I would be in the middle of my morning workout and then it would hit me. Uh-oh. I’d start to feel suddenly weak, slightly light-headed. My blood sugar was dipping. It was if the needle on my gas tank had abruptly moved from F to E. I would pause the music so I could take a couple of bites from my power bar. Even though I'd eaten breakfast, this scene played out time and time again during my morning exercise class. I just figured I was one of those people who had to eat frequently.
But then a friend of mine told me about a way of eating based on a book called “Nourishing Traditions”. She had had some serious health concerns and she had met the author, Sally Fallon, at some kind of health fair. Sally was literally "glowing," according to my friend. She was a testament to her diet. She radiated vibrant health.
At this point in my life, I hadn’t really given much thought into what I put into my body. I mean, I'd do the obvious: pick Kix over more sugary cereals for the kids, choose juice over sodas, etc. but I primarily regarded food as something to fill up the tank, nothing more.
Still, I checked out “Nourishing Traditions” and it intrigued me. Sally based this textbook/cookbook on the principles of a dentist, Weston A. Price. In the 1930s, Dr. Price took a trip around the world to find the people who had the best teeth---broad smiles, straight, uncrowded teeth and no cavities. What he discovered was that the people who had the best teeth were also the ones with the strongest constitutions. They were well, robust, healthy people. But they weren’t clumped together in one part of the world. He found people who were well all around the world---in northern climes, in Africa, on islands, etc.
What did these people groups eat? Even though their diets were varied (depending on if they lived by the water or inland, the climate, food sources, etc.) they had certain things in common:
- The healthiest people ate the foods of their ancestors---whole, real food. They did not have “westernized” diets--highly processed/packaged with food colorings, additives and partially hydrogenated oils, refined flours, sugars, etc.
- They all had fermented foods as part of their diet (like kimchi, sauerkraut, curtido, pickles, and so on)
- they all ate animal foods (fish, fowl, mammals, insects, and the like), and some portion of it raw
- they all used the bones of the animal and often used it for broth
- their diets were high in fat, and naturally-occurring vitamins and minerals
As a Christian, I value the religious traditions of those who have walked this earth before me. This book helped me to see that there were valuable lessons to be found in the diets of the past, as well. I realized that food was more than fuel to keep me going---it was designed to nourish and strengthen my body at the deepest levels, and to help it function optimally.
I started experimenting with my own diet, following some of the "Nourishing Tradition" principles. For breakfast, rather than having my usual cereal drizzled with a smidge of milk and a few berries, I began eating (and serving my family) eggs, bacon, and cheese. We would have tortillas with peanut butter, bananas, yogurt. To my surprise, no one was complaining or missing Cheerios or mini-wheats! And, lo and behold, I no longer had to interrupt my morning workout for a quick power bar snack. As a matter of fact, I was finding I could last much longer between meals without feeling the dreaded blood sugar dip. And I was feeling satiated in a way I hadn’t before. No wonder Sally was glowing!
I was sold. This little book (I call it "little" as a term of affection; it's actually quite a hefty tome!) revolutionized my relationship with food. It propelled me into the study of nutrition and the field of health coaching. For more information on "Nourishing Traditions" or the Weston Price Foundation, go to www.westonaprice.org.
And please let me know what books you've read that have impacted your food choices and health!
I'm at work and doing fine. Cookies are on the first floor. I know this because I spotted them earlier. I turned my nose up at them at 10:30 a.m. But now it's just after 3 and I suddenly feel like I'm in the Hunger Games and if I don't get sustenance NOW, I won't be able to help Peeta back in the cave. I race down the stairs and make a bee-line for the kitchen. Living up to a college nickname of Hoover Hilda--yes, a friend dubbed me H.H. when he saw me consume two sno balls in under 2 minutes--I quickly inhale the cookie and whatever isn't tied down within a three-foot radius of the platter by the fridge.
I feel okay in the moment. Hunger has temporarily subsided. But it's not too long before I begin to experience that unhappy "food hangover" feeling---that mix of regret and that "I-really-shouldn't-have-eaten-that" sentiment. It's followed by anger at myself and a headache or stomach-ache or both. I feel bloated, unhappy. I'm not satisfied physically or emotionally.
I don't like that feeling. I want to make choices that leave me happy today and happy tomorrow, too.
I have been in both places--food-hangover-ville and panza-llena-corazon-contento land (full stomach, happy heart). I'd rather be in the latter. Here's what helps me get there.
1. Planning ahead. Granted, it takes a little work ahead of time, but the payoff is worth it, for me and my family. Going to a day-long conference? Skip the predictably sticky pastries and processed muffins offered mid-morning. Bring your own nuts, cheese, or beef jerky. Going on a business trip? Avoid the pricey (and mediocre) airport food by taking some trail mix or hardboiled eggs with you. I went to see "Interstellar" this week (it's mind-blowing--go see it) and I packed homemade popcorn for me and the fam (click on link for recipe) and, of course, kombucha. What I prepare is tasty and nutritious---a far cry from the aforementioned sno balls.
2. Eating at least three meals a day. I know it happens; people skip meals all the time. Work can get overwhelming and you hardly feel you have time to breathe, let alone grab a bite. My daughter Cristina and I were in NYC recently (see vid for the big picture, literally) and we stopped in a little bakery around 6 p.m. just to take the weight off of our feet. A man in a business suit seated next to us was eating a pastry and swearing to his colleague that it was his first meal of the day. I felt so sorry for him! Not only was he only just getting around to eating but he was eating mostly sugar and refined flour. I make eating regularly a priority so that I won't get so ravenous that I'll make poor choices.
3. Getting the biggest bang for my buck. There are moments when I'm out and about and I'm unprepared. Hunger strikes and I'm getting that H.H. feeling. At work this week, we were celebrating a coworker's birthday. On the cart were cupcakes alongside cups of fruit. Either could easily immediately gratify a sweet tooth. But I knew only one would satisfy on a deeper level. I went for the fruit. Whenever I'm faced with a choice like this, I "upgrade." I go for what's closest to real. I'll choose seltzer with lime over the Sprite, cheese over the cheese-flavored Doritos, etc.
Following these tips makes me feel like this:
Sometimes we get selective amnesia and forget what a poor food choice will do to us. That sno ball is whispering your name and you succumb to its charms. Hey, it happens! Whatever you do, don't condemn yourself. That only makes the hangover worse, emotion-wise. Healthy habits take time to build. Just breathe, forgive yourself and move on. And remember for the next time:
Right around the time we begin decking the halls for upcoming holidays, we can get run-down, stressed, and suddenly susceptible to colds, viruses and God-forbid, the flu! Two of my four kids have already started struggling with cold symptoms lately---one was struggling with a sore throat yesterday, the other told me she woke up with the sniffles this morning. A friend sympathized with me over the phone today, "Oh, yeah, when the weather changes, that's when these things kick in."
I beg to differ. It doesn't have to be like this! Just because something is common doesn't mean it's natural or supposed to be that way. It gets cold, so we catch colds? I don't think so!
As the weather turns colder, I suggest being pro-active to boost your immune system. Follow these tips on a regular basis and you may not encounter a sniffle or cold-like symptom for years. (I'm living proof!) If you do find yourself sniffling or experiencing a tickle in the back of your throat, spring into action with these SIX TIPS TO AVOID GETTING SICK (imagine an announcer saying this, in a rich baritone voice, with a demolition derby echo, for effect)!
1. Eat whole, real foods - When food is fresh, it is teeming with the nutrients your body needs. Packaged food on shelves is teeming with a lot of other stuff that your body doesn't need: preservatives to prolong its shelf life, artificial coloring and flavoring so it tastes as if it were fresh, etc. Like a sports car, give your body the best fuel and it will run more efficiently. Avoid fast food and stuff that comes in a box or can. And if you feel like the people at McD's know your order by heart, take heart! An upcoming post will focus on how to take steps toward slow food (as opposed to fast food).
2. Avoid sugar - Everyone is becoming more aware of the dangers of sugar, but did you know that it's a robber? When you ingest sugar, it basically inhibits the performance of your white cells, which are the ones that fight damaging bacteria. It's as if the sugar were tying the cells' arms behind their backs, limiting their capacity to battle the bad guys. It doesn't fight fair. Don't let it get in the ring, if you can help it. When you start to feel sick, avoid sodas, candies, sweet treats, and even store-bought soup and crackers (that often have added sugar)! You'll give the white cells a fighting chance of staving off that cold!
3. Stay hydrated - This is not just a summertime "thing." Our bodies are 60% water. Consider water a lubricant of sorts, that keeps your muscles and bones working without a hitch.
4. Rest - Stress is a huge immune-surpressor. Study after study implicates stress as a major factor in a wide variety of illnesses, including heart disease! Make sure to breathe deeply and regularly. Find ways to de-stress, read a good book, go for a walk, and, yes, obvi, go to sleep early!
5. Exercise - Seems like the exact opposite of number 4, but there is a time and a place for everything. Rest has its moment. So should exercise. Exercise is one of the top de-stressors. You might feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, but when you get on your bike, or start dancing in that Dance Blast class, your body feels suddenly free and unburdened. You get happy right down to your cells! And happy cells are healthy cells!
6. Cod liver oil - Last but not least! Yes, granny was right! This dietary supplement has been used for centuries and it's not difficult to understand why. Cod liver oil is chock-full of vitamins A and D and is a natural mood-booster. It helps your brain function optimally and has multiple documented healing properties. I'm a fan! It's one of the few supplements I take daily. I take several capsules or drink it in liquid form (gulp). It isn't pleasant at first, but you can get used to it. I recommend the Green Pastures fermented brand. It's the "gold standard" of cod liver oils.
A bonus tip is to eat raw garlic (also good for keeping vampires at bay) or drink raw apple cider vinegar. These are handy to have in your virus-fighting arsenal. Both have a broad spectrum of health benefits ranging from protecting your heart to helping you reach a healthy weight!
Some of these tips may seem old-fashioned, but I see them as tried and true. Let Rudolph sport the red nose this season! Stay well!