How You Stay Healthy in a Life Crisis

sad face2A longtime GSG reader came to my 12 Steps to Whole Foods class recently. (Which I’m teaching again on June 6. In Orem, Utah.) She’s just been hit with a double whammy—literally the two biggest life stressors there are, all at once. An unfaithful spouse and consequent divorce…and loss of a full-term baby.

She’s depressed, devastated—and those around her have no idea what to say. Or how to support. Her children are reeling, too.

My background as a therapist (my advanced degree is in social work) merges with my nutrition background, which merge with my own similar challenges in life. That explains my next comments…..

She asked me how I survived my own crisis related to losses much like hers. I told her, “The main thing is, I never let go of my nutrition, and some basic self-care. Sure, take care of the kids, but put the oxygen mask on yourself first! Yoga is non-negotiable. Ditto running. So is a daily quart of green smoothie, and no free-fall into junk food hell. Show up at social events. Even if you’re not feeling it…just go anyway. You’ll get through it, and be happy again—and those things will help. Depression lies to you and tells you it’s permanent. There IS happiness on the other side of this, and I found it, and so will you. It’s just hard to visualize it right now.”

self careI checked out with her if she’s doing X, Y, and Z, to make sure she’s functional instead of spiraling downward, and I learned she’s let go of some important self-care that will get her through. I asked her if, before she went to bed that night, would she just text me that she made a list of the things she’d LIKE to be doing, if she weren’t so depressed.

She did so, that night. It’s a starter step.

I’ve been through those biggest life stressors—divorce, and loss of a child. (Though mine were just several miscarriages—not loss of a full term baby. It’s also important to note I wasn’t married to a cheater, and my divorce was my choice. Thus, both of her losses dwarf my own, not that anyone wants to compare. Hard to imagine hers as worse, since both were devastating for me. My heart is hurting, for this GreenSmoothieGirl friend.)

I hope you’ll take note of this, if you’re suffering, too. I’ve climbed out of some of the hardest things people go through, things I’ve talked about on this blog, and things I haven’t. The mighty little green smoothie has everything to do with HOW.

love yourselfI hope when life hits you hard—as it does, now and then—that you tend to these important things:

  1. Your self-care is more important now than ever.
  2. Always get your endorphins—break a sweat every day, however that looks for you.
  3. Do yoga. Period. I mean it. You’re literally wringing toxins out of your nervous system.
  4. Pray, or meditate, or both.
  5. Drink a quart of green smoothie a day—more greens, less fruit.
  6. Avoid sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and other things that exacerbate depression.
  7. Find things to be grateful for, and turn your thoughts to those, every day.

If you’re in a really tough place, right now, please make a list of this kind of coping, rebuilding, and self-love stuff you know you need to be doing. Tape it to your mirror and don’t take it down until you’re doing all of it.

LOVE to you. I’m praying for you.

15 Ways I Optimize Health and Energy Every Day—Besides Good Food! (part 2 of 4)

yoga-poses-text1. YOGA!

It changed my life. I’m more flexible at 46 than I was at 16. But yoga has done more for me than that. It has helped me quiet my mind and tune in to the most elemental things: breathing, and just “being.” I have also seen improvements in spinal, joint, ligament flexibility and dexterity. Yoga opens energy meridians, improves brain function, decreases risk of injury, and elevates mood. It makes you feel youthful, more athletic, more sexual, and more joyous!

I don’t just do an hour-long yoga practice, with an instructor, three times a week. I do it in airports and on airplanes, too. Just for a few minutes. I’m often upside down in an inversion, when I’m talking on the phone. Lately, my work philosophy is: sit less, do yoga more.

There are more ways than just yoga to connect your body, mind, and spirit. Tai Chi, Pilates, meditation, and many other practices. Yoga is my personal favorite, and there are so many kinds, to explore. My favorite, when I take the time and am willing to stand in a puddle of my own sweat for 90 minutes, is Bikram Yoga (“hot yoga”). You’ll never feel more amazing than 20 minutes after Bikram Yoga.

Namaste.

2. CONTROL MY THOUGHTS AND SPEECH.

control thoughtEmotionally healthy people are physically healthy people. And emotionally healthy people don’t nurse grudges, don’t spend their social time with people cataloging the ways others have wronged them or the hurts of the past. I’m not saying I—or any emotionally healthy person—doesn’t ever feel, or act, negatively. (I’ve literally never seen my own father in a bad mood, or talking about negative things. But I also feel he doesn’t PROCESS negative things, which is where we get important clarity.)

In my case, I just minimize negatives I’m a fan of MOVING ON. I’ve felt gloomy for a few hours at a time. Never longer. If a dark cloud comes on the horizon, I make note of it, I don’t rush it out of the sky, and I’m willing to sit with it.

But I look for, expect, even require, the blue sky on the other side of it.

My health requires that.

I refuse to allow a week or year of my life to be destroyed—by a dark mood, by the poor choices of others, or by negative events of the past. If I have a bad day, I don’t climb in bed and brood. I work—solve problems. Or I go skiing, or for a bike ride, because in the great outdoors, I’ve learned I find more clarity of thought, and more joy.

If I am feeling troubled, I use a thought process to work through it. I remind myself, “It’s just a feeling!” And, “Luckily, all feelings are temporary.” I dig, to find out out why I’m having the negative or intense feeling or thought. I give it some space, sit with it if it’s demanding attention, without judgment. If I’m having trouble figuring it out, I talk with someone who knows me well, and they help me to decode it.

But if the feeling is hijacking my happiness, I give it wide berth, don’t let it take over. I want my attention back on stuff that makes me happy, not sad.

I actively cultivate happiness and hope with what I listen to and spend my time doing.

I’m careful with what I do with my mind. I don’t let it go to low places. I haven’t watched TV in five years. I don’t look at pornography or watch dark or scary movies. I do read books. Fiction and non-fiction. Fiction by Annie Lamott, Jodi Picoult, Michael Chabon, Ayn Rand, and many more favorites. I take on challenges, spend time with and talk to people I love, discipline my thoughts and feelings away from pointlessly “spinning in circles.”

I write, solve problems, collaborate with others, and just generally work—a lot. Because I love my work and consider it a blessing to have meaningful work.

3. CLEAN WATER—HAVE IT EVERYWHERE.

clean waterI had a water feature in the entry of my last home. I love oceans, and rain, and putting my feet in rivers, and taking a bath after a hard workout, as well as gliding through frozen snow on skis – just thinking about water recycling in the atmosphere. I am made up of more than 70 percent water, and so I drink it all day long to bathe my cells and flush out kidneys, liver, and colon. Especially I drink two glasses of water when I wake up in the morning dehydrated. I do not drink it with meals, where it dilutes gastric juices, but rather, between meals.

I try to drink clean, alkaline water, and have it with me everywhere I go. People who drink lots of water are much less likely to overeat.

4.  DETOXIFY REGULARLY.

When I come back from a vacation trip, or if I had a not-so-great Saturday night restaurant meal with friends, I spend a day, or several, letting my body rest and clean itself. That is, I drink mostly green smoothies and fresh vegetable juices.

I skip a meal pretty often, never breakfast, but often dinner. Sometimes I’ll eat all raw plant food for several days. Sometimes a whole day of  nothing but watermelon. Or a whole day of nothing but green smoothies.

I get in my sauna often and do the GreenSmoothieGirl Detox twice a year.

I try to pay attention to my body’s need to repair, from any insult or injury or overwork. Horse owners know that it is unwise to ride their animals hard and then put them away without sufficient cooling down. If I have an extreme workout, which I occasionally do, I slow down afterward to help my body recover properly.

5.  SURROUND YOURSELF WITH EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE.

rumiHave you heard that you tend to have the average income of the 5 people you hang around with most? I believe, too, that we eat similarly to those we are closest to. We think similar thoughts and have similar feelings. We are either lifted up, or pulled down, by those we allow to be closest to us. Who are the five people closest to you—and do they add energy, or drain it?

I’m protective of my physical and emotional health, so I seek out people who make me want to be my best self, and try to give that to them. I love to be around people who are trying to be THEIR best selves; growing, learning, reading. I enjoy exploring  principles, goals, science, faith, questions, and new knowledge with my friends, rather than gossip and idle small talk.

And, although I have friends who struggle, whom I try to help—I minimize contact with people who consistently bleed energy and don’t choose to progress.

My next posts are the remaining 10 DAILY PRACTICES that I believe lead to HEALTH AND ENERGY!

 

Just take a deep breath!

At the Budwig Clinic, as in many holistic cancer treatment centers all over the world I’ve studied at, there is a great deal of focus on bringing oxygen into the body. (Cancer can’t stand O2 molecules!)

One thing Dr. Jenkins teaches, as the director of the clinic in Spain, is to take 30 deep breaths a day. I have found that because I’m an adrenaline and productivity junkie—always trying to do 17 tasks at once—when I tune in, I find that I’m always breathing very shallowly. Yoga has helped me become more aware, and breathe deeply more often. At least during yoga.

When I’m running, if I get a side ache, I immediately take a few very deep breaths, and the pain goes away. It’s a lack of oxygen that causes it, so infusion of oxygen solves it.

Dr. Jenkins’ advice has provoked me to find a time during the day, when I’m driving, or working at the computer, to just take a few minutes to breathe. Here’s how you do it:

Breathe IN through the nose. Take in as much air as you possibly can—hold it a second—then take one last gulp! (Turns out you CAN take a bit more in!)

This helps you expand your lungs, and clear stale, dead gases in there, making way for fresh oxygen. (Best to do your deep breathing outside in clean air, then, although that’s not always possible.)

Put your hand on your belly, as you breathe, and make sure your expansion is in the diaphragm, below your ribs, rather than up in your chest. Feel the diaphragm expand, push out, under your hand.

Then, through the mouth now, exhale. It’ll take you several seconds, maybe even 10 seconds. To the very bottom, where you can’t push out ANY more air. Be very conscious and tune into how that feels.

Then, when you can’t exhale any more, push out just one more gust of air. WOW, you just cleaned out some toxic energy that your giant queue of emails, or your obnoxious co-worker, or your lazy chore-avoidant teenager has caused!

Now do it again. 29 more times.

You will feel amazing. You’ll wonder why you don’t do this EVERY day. Stress melts away, feels suddenly manageable.

Get addicted to this. It’ll change your life, reduce your cancer risk, and help you manage stress. Find a time you can do it every day, when you’re doing something else. Going for a walk, driving to work, lying in bed talking yourself into getting out of bed. All great times to practice this new habit.

You already know to do it. I’m just reminding you!

A cup of joe…..friend or foe?

I’ve mentioned that I grew up not drinking milk and still never do. So why has my bone density “off the chart” for a 20-year old even though I’m mid-forties? I’ve been tested multiple times now using different tests. I don’t know, but these are my guesses. They’re based on what the literature says about what affects bone density:

  1. I do regular weight bearing exercise (I’m hit or miss with weights, but I do a ton of yoga)
  2. I don’t drink soda
  3. I have strong vitamin D levels (it’s a hormone as much as a vitamin) from both sunshine and supplements / sea vegetables
  4. I get a lot of highly bioavailable calcium from greens (by the way, chia seed has five times more calcium useable by your body, than dairy does)

Here’s another thing I don’t do, though, that may have a major impact:

  1. I don’t drink coffee

Yeah, sorry. The coffee thing really has to go, too.

I am doing a speaking tour in July with Dr. Rashid Buttar, bestselling author of 9 Steps to Keep the Doctor Away. (I found him in my cancer studies.) Another doc who is horrified by the fact that his profession has degenerated into almost exclusively drug pushers, and refuses to participate.

We’ll be in Raleigh and Charlotte NC, Atlanta GA, and Columbia SC. He’s about the most colorful doc I’ve worked with so far (and that’s saying a lot because Dr. Tom Lodi is one-of-a-kind)!

Dr. Buttar says in his book that he’d rather have his patients drink a glass of red wine every few days than a cup of coffee in the morning. (Keep in mind he has never tasted alcohol, himself.)

You want caffeine, he says? Get caffeine pills from the drugstore. (He writes this facetiously, and I repeat it with the same intent. Caffeine is a terrible idea. But the point is, if the vehicle you drink to get your caffeine fix is packed with carcinogens, there’s a more direct and less toxic way to deliver that stimulant to your bloodstream.)

Coffee, he says, contains 208 different acids.

Keep in mind—since we’ve been thinking about alkaline water this week, right?—that your body has to expend a lot of energy and resources to neutralize acids. It takes 20 pounds of alkaline to neutralize 1 pound of acid, according to the reigning expert on pH balance in health and nutrition, Dr. Robert O. Young.

And, Dr. Buttar points out, when you shift your body towards acidic—and coffee likely deserves to make a Top Ten list for Most Acidic Foods—you predispose yourself to all the diseases everyone dreads. Because acidic environments are the perfect disease climates.

Osteoporosis. Cancer. Arthritis. Degenerative nerve diseases. Heart disease.

Arthritis for regular coffee drinkers is pretty much inevitable—but earlier rather than later.

So coffee drinkers are wondering, what do I replace coffee with? There is a brewed dark chocolate drink you can make, that is out in health food stores now. It’s called Crio Bru. Anybody else have ideas? I’m kinda useless here because except for an occasional raw kombucha, I don’t really drink anything besides water.

(Kristin has recently committed to her brother to quit Diet Pepsi once and for all, and she shared with one of you last week here in blog comments, that she’s created the “party in her mouth” with naturally sweetened green tea, and chia added. That’s been working for her.

Don’t give up if the first substitute you try doesn’t do it for ya. Something will. Don’t quit till you’ve kicked the demon to the curb for good.

The latest green smoothie debate! part 1 of 3

Dear GreenSmoothieGirl:

Somebody on the internet says they don’t recommend green smoothies because apparently the fiber is too broken down. And the fruit causes blood sugar to spike. Please prove them wrong so I can keep enjoying them.

—Carly

Answer:   We have gotten this question several times this week, via email, but with at least three different sources saying that. The three sources are Caldwell Esselstyn (one of my heroes), a nutritionist, and a new diet plan.

Every time something becomes wildly popular, like green smoothies have, there is eventually a backlash. This happens with everything, from science to religion to pop culture. Critics spring up and evaluate the original claims of a new product, trend, or habit. And through the free flow of information, the truth emerges, although many people are frustrated and become disillusioned before that occurs.

An example is that this week, Matthew forwarded me a link to a five-page New York Times article, as he often does, regarding the dangers of yoga, the serious injuries that can result.   (My take-away, by the way, is not to push yourself in yoga class for the sake of your ego, or hold poses for long periods of time or do the uber-daring ones that push limits. I personally like to warm my muscles up with a little cardio before yoga, too.)

GSG reader Carly asked me to prove her source wrong saying that green smoothies are bad. I’m more likely to be able to do that than the doubters are, as I’ve not seen any data to support the idea that blending greens is not helpful—or even harmful.

My research with 175 green smoothie drinkers, published in The Green Smoothies Diet, shows 95.4% stating there was a noticeably positive impact on their health or quality of life, simply from drinking green smoothies regularly.

The top three health benefits reported were more energy (85%), improved digestion (79.5%), fewer cravings for sweets and processed foods (65%), more positive/stable mood (54%), weight loss (50%), and improvement in skin tone (50%).

If someone has real data on how fiber is “destroyed” in green smoothies, please point me to it. Matter can be neither created nor destroyed. The fiber didn’t go anywhere. The soluble fiber still turns to gel during digestion and slows digestion and impact on the blood sugar of the fruit (or other sugars you may eat with the meal). That soluble fiber binds to bile and removes it.

Insoluble fiber is blended, and could possibly be less effective at sweeping the GI tract, but it is still there, binding to bile increasing stool bulk.

More on this tomorrow.

Taking stock of progress….part 1 of 2

Last night I went to Zumba with Matthew, as I often do, and he talked me into staying late for yoga afterwards. I’d already worked out that morning, then played my last league tennis match of the season mid-day. We were already planning to be in another yoga class, at another gym, early the next morning. The point is—I didn’t really need or even want to do yoga!

But I stayed, and something really cool happened.

When I first started doing yoga 5 years ago, I found holding the Plank really daunting. I couldn’t do it for 60 seconds. Now Plank makes me yawn. Five minutes straight, in Plank? Eh.

I was also so intimidated by balance poses where only the hands are on the floor. I’d see people doing them and tell myself that there was NO WAY–because I was the ridiculous spaz in gymnastics when I was a kid. Couldn’t even do a cartwheel. For a while, then, I didn’t even try Crow, Side Crow, etc.

After a year or two, I found myself doing all those balance poses. And holding them for 30 seconds or more. I can almost do the splits. I can go into a full squat on the floor with my feet touching each other. I can do Plow with most of my legs over my head in complete contact with the floor behind me. I could never have done any of these things when I was 16 years old.

There’s just one thing I had never done. A headstand. Never even tried it! It looked hard and scary.

Anyway, after my long day, late last night, I was in Crow and found myself accidentally tipping forward. The top of my head was on my mat, and my whole body was in the perfect pose to lift into a headstand–knees on my elbows.

So I did. And I held it for a couple of seconds before toppling on my back—THWAT!!–right next to Matthew, startling him and making a bunch of people near me laugh out loud.

So this morning, we went to the other yoga class, and I found myself in the same position. I lifted into a headstand and just held it, perfectly. For close to a minute.

Isn’t this just the way of life?

We keep doing the right thing, keep practicing, messing up sometimes, and sometimes we don’t even notice how massive our progress has been! Because it was so gradual. This morning I had the elated thought, “OMG! I am kinda good at yoga!” (I never realized it….I was still in that beginner’s place of thinking of the things I couldn’t do, or hadn’t tried, and comparing myself to the teacher.)

What does this have to do with our whole-foods lifestyle, yours and mine? Well, you can think about that, but I’ll write about it tomorrow.