2016

Zion Nat'l Park, Columbine

Articles

For your reading pleasure and learning–a variety of optimal health and well-being articles.

Holiday Survival: Eat Well, Eat Smart!

Do you equate the holidays with food free-for-all time? Is it possible to enjoy, yet survive, holiday eating? Can you maintain your commitment to optimal health through the holidays? Yes! With a little forethought and awareness, you can eat well, eat smart, and enjoy the holidays. These sensible tips are my holiday gift to you.

Remember the basics:

  • Eat 5 small meals per day. This approach to food is recommended to maintain efficient metabolism and minimize hunger, allowing for healthful food decision-making. You know what happens when you become ravenous—you will eat any and all food put in front of you!
  • Choose from the plant foods. The carbohydrates from grains, beans, legumes, vegetables and fruit are filling. They will take up room in your stomach, perhaps diminishing the chances of choosing high fat or processed foods. Not to mention the many physical health benefits of eating plant foods, such as the antioxidant, mineral, and vitamin properties.
  • Drink plenty of water. Water can be filling, and again, this may diminish hunger and allow for healthful food decision-making. You can dilute juice drinks with water, which will lower the amount of sugar and calories you take in. If you are partying, I recommend alternating water with alcoholic beverages—to prevent overdoing the alcohol as well as decrease your simple carbohydrate and calorie intake (and minimize the morning after headache…).

Survival Skills:

  • Nibble on a healthy fat, 10 minutes prior to sitting down to a meal or leaving for a party to activate the satiation hormone. Examples are 1 ounce of nuts, ¼ avocado, or 1 teaspoon of nut butter; the richness of the fat, as well as the time it takes to digest, will again, displace feeling hungry and allow for healthful food choices later.
  • Plan ahead, balancing your food intake for the day. If you are going to a party in the evening, choose well for your two earlier small meals and small in-between-meal snacks. If you have had an indulgent family holiday breakfast, eat lean and light for the remainder of the day.
  • Arrive with a success strategy, which will allow you the permission to splurge, but to do so with intention and awareness.
  • State a positive affirmation prior to arriving at the party or family dinner. Consider “I will nurture my health and eat well” or ”I intend to enjoy small tastes of my favorite foods”. Positive affirmations are very powerful and will influence the outcome of your choices.
  • There is no need to deprive yourself! You might however, cruise the buffet table before taking a plate, to increase your chances for choosing wisely. Use a small plate, and take small tastes of several well-chosen foods.
  • Select what you eat wisely. Combine protein and carbohydrates, such as veggies, bean salad, grain casserole, cheese, smoked fish, and chicken skewers from the buffet table. Eat these foods prior to considering desserts.
  • Bring a healthy dish to share, increasing your chance to eat well.
  • Move away from the buffet table. This will minimize the temptation to keep nibbling. My formula is: standing + talking + laughing + nibbling = overeating.
  • Sit down to eat. Create a meal mentality. Eat slowly, savoring the distinct flavors and textures. That old adage to put your fork down between bites really does work!
  • Eggnog and punch or any beverages with alcohol, when consumed sensibly are perfectly reasonable holiday choices. If you have 2 generous portions of eggnog however, you might consider modifying the food choices you make later in the evening, or better yet, have a couple of small sips of eggnog, eat well at the party, and enjoy a glass of red wine with your meal!
  • Wait at least 15 minutes before selecting dessert. This trick will allow time for your brain to catch up with your stomach. You might get lucky and realize that you are not hungry for dessert! If you do have dessert, take a small piece of whatever you choose, and eat it slowly, savoring the flavor.
  • Be prepared with a cheerful retort or two when the hostess, or your mother, tries to give you seconds: “What a fabulous meal, I am so satisfied”… or “Thank you, I am taking a break to make more room”…
  • Brush your teeth! After you have eaten slowly, and have enjoyed each bite on your small plate, excuse yourself to the bathroom. You will change the flora of your mouth and feel less inclined to eat more food. This works! (I carry a travel toothbrush and paste with me, always!)
  • If it is in your house, it will end up in your mouth! Do yourself a favor and leave the goodies to be enjoyed at the party, restaurant, or someone else’s house.
  • Cultivate mindfulness to balance holiday stress. Find alternative self-soothing techniques such as intentional relaxation or regular physical activity.
Happy Holidays!    

The impact of plastics on hormonal and brain function in children

Early Puberty, Hypospadias, and Behavior Disorders in children related to exposure to Phthalates, via food and food containers, plastic toys, and skin care products (this was the original title, but it seemed too intense upon editing...) After much reading and research, I sat and thought about this particular writing segment with trepidation. I returned time and again to the science, to the surprisingly scant literature regarding Phthalates (pronounced f-thalates—get familiar with the pronunciation—this is a very important issue), and felt queasy and worried and nearly overwhelmed.

Why, you wonder? I don't want to be an alarmist, but...

I have learned a lot over the years about processed foods, the corporate greed that drives the sales and distribution of less-than-real food, and the misinformation that is perpetuated by those corporations who produce these foods and food products. While I know that there is much that I still don’t know, I am crushed by the new learnings I have gained this past week about Phthalates. And I wonder how to share what I’ve learned with others, without inviting angst and guilt, yet I clearly wish to educate the masses and raise a call to action.

Where to begin…?

I do believe that back in the day when companies were moving quickly and making great strides in development of products that would bring a heightened convenience to our lives, that good intentions were what drove the exciting discoveries of new uses of man-made synthetics and chemicals. The scientists of the day weren’t diabolically planning to bring us disease and to compromise our health. I do believe now however, that there is a suppression of the evidence regarding the potential harm from this largely unregulated exposure to synthetics and chemicals, complete with a greed element involved. There have been small scientific studies of the potential health hazards related to the relentless exposure we face, and we do not know enough at this time, yet the corporations producing these products continue to assure us of the safety of their synthetics and chemicals—even as they permeate the food chain. I am talking about Phthalates, a group of chemicals used in the manufacturing of plastics and plastic products. Imagine the thrill those early scientists must have experienced when it was discovered that Phthalates enhanced the manufacturing of plastics by making plastic products more flexible. Many millions of pounds of Phthalates are produced each year and 95% of Americans have measurable levels of Phthalates in their urine. Phthalates are found in:
  • plastic food and beverage containers
  • coating on pills
  • vinyl flooring and carpet
  • pesticides (which means they then enter into the food chain)
  • skin care products [think baby lotions, ointments, and shampoo]
  • medical supplies (IV tubing and bags, gloves, NG tubes…studies show that neonates are exposed at five-times higher the allowed daily tolerable intake—how ironic and scary is that?)
  • electrical cords
  • your car dashboard
  • laundry detergent and
  • insect repellent, just to name a few sources of our continual exposure.

Endocrine Disruptors

Perhaps most distressing is the strong correlation noted between exposure to Phthalates, known as “endocrine disruptors”, both in utero and via our daily food chain exposure. Much of the scientific analysis yields a “might increase the risk, and needs further studying” summary as the science addresses the increased incidence of asthma and allergies, ADHD, early puberty, sexual organ malformation and fertility issues—all noted in the most precious of humans, our children. Somewhere along the way,  a concern was raised regarding the risks associated with a continuous exposure to Phthalates, leading to the invention of a modified product--a low-molecular weight version Phthalates. Their low-molecular weight allowed for the assumption that these next-gen Phthalates were safer than their predecessors, and the newer version was added by the barrel-full to the skin care products used for both children and adults. The most recent data indicates that the continuous and cumulative exposure to the low-molecular weight Phthalates, has in fact, more of an endocrine disruptor effect, especially in-utero.

Early puberty

Look around at the boys and girls in our families and communities. There is evidence, although not definitive, to suggest that exposure to the “endocrine disruptors” found in many household plastics, body care products, and cleaning products has an influence over the age at which boys and girls enter into puberty. This is one of those areas that scientists agree that further studies are warranted. How about we get started on those studies? Early puberty is linked to increased risk for breast cancer as one concern, and there is much dialogue in the world of pediatric social science regarding the correlation of early puberty with early and unsafe sexual behavior. As a side note, obesity is another contributor to early onset puberty. The correlation to an increased intake of High Fructose Corn Syrup is strong, and I will cover that in another writing session. I’m feeling too emotionally overwhelmed from these two days of research into Phthalates to dive into HFCS for the moment…But, it's important to point out here that there is a suspected correlation between exposure to Phthalates and Insulin Resistance, which is a precursor to obesity...so the cycle continues regardless of how you look at it.

Hypospadias

Hypospadias is a condition in which the urethra within the penis of a male fetus is not properly developed, rendering the urethra to be improperly positioned away from the tip of the penis, requiring surgical repair. This occurs in 1 in 125 boys. Oh my gosh. This is a horrifying and unacceptable rate of incidence, in my opinion. “The CDC's analysis of the changes in the frequency of hypospadias in the United States revealed a striking pattern: the rate has more than doubled since 1970. Indeed by 1993, hypospadias was detected in one out of every 125 boys born in the United States.” Holy Moly, what a terrible statistic. And that there is a whisper of a chance that this increased incidence is related to exposure in utero to Phthalates is mind boggling. Per the CDC report, “the percentage of severe cases has increased over this time period, suggesting that other explanations should be sought.” SHOULD be sought? Pardon me, but how about if we start that information seeking right this very minute? Please and thank you.

ADHD

Everyone has heard of ADHD, a now common health concern for preschool and school-aged children, the incidence for which has risen exponentially over the decades. Is this merely a coincidence that as the exposure to chemicals in children has increased, so has the incidence of ADHD? This, from an NIH review of the literature, “CONCLUSION: The present study showed a strong positive association between phthalate metabolites in urine and symptoms of ADHD among school-age children.” Clearly there are other contributing causes to the increased incidence of ADHD [think: preservatives, food dyes, too much sugar especially of the HFCS variety, and violent TV shows--this is my opinion of course, as the definitive science is not present at this time, but I am willing to trust my intuition on this]. But the fact that in utero and during the precious infant/toddler years, there is a known correlation between brain development/behavior issues and Phthalates is simply unacceptable.

A Call To Action

Bottom line summary, from my heart: Do I want to wait—for either definitive evidence that there is a direct connection or do I want to follow my intuition that strongly tells me that there is enough correlation already in existence to direct me away from plastics, especially those used to hold food, as well as pesticide-laden produce to minimize my exposure to Phthalates? As consumers, and especially those of you with children or thinking of having children, it seems especially prudent to research your food sources, minimize your use of plastics in the kitchen as well as in your home wherever possible, and to raise your voice actively by sharing your concerns with your family and friends, as well as with the companies that produce these products. Next up is the research required into the hair and body care products that I personally use so I can determine whether I will keep or toss them…

Do Words Matter?

“What you Think, you become What you Feel, you attract What you Imagine, you create”. —Buddha

I came upon this quote several years ago and, using a fancy font, I printed it onto card stock, complete with a swirly backdrop, framed it, and gave it to my then teenage son, as a reminder of the power of words. He used strong words in a matter-of-fact manner—such as hate, bad, and stupid—that had a big impact in regards to the type of energy connected to those words. I had already chosen by that point in my life to let go of those less-than-positive words, and when I heard them from him, they sounded “jangly” to my ears—and to my heart.  The less often I used this genre of words, the more noticeable they became when used by others. This quote of truth, from Buddha, can be referenced to both spoken words and to the words that live in our head. The words we choose to use are habitual, which means that we can use them consciously and/or choose to not use them.  It takes intention and practice to allow uplifting words to dominate your vocabulary. Our choices in regards to what we Think, Feel, and Imagine, are reflected in what we manifest in our daily life. Furthermore, the words we use to capture our thoughts, our feelings, and what we imagine, set the tone for the manner with which we affect the world. Words that express optimism, receptivity, joy, gratitude, love, acceptance, and forgiveness create a very different reaction than words of righteousness, indignation, fear, regret, and blame. The reaction to which I am referring is our own internal reaction as well as that of those people who are within our sphere. There is even the sentiment that the energy emanating from the words we speak and think can affect the balance of all living beings. When your words express confidence, success will follow. Words of tolerance lead to harmony. Words of gratitude bring joy. And you can figure out the stark contrast of the responses to their antonyms: doubt, prejudice, and entitlement… Recently, at a meeting of Business & Professional Women of Nevada County, at which I was presiding as the President of the organization, I made a declaration about words.  Our meetings include an activity called “Good Dollar / Bad Dollar” – a fun way to share a slice of our personal lives, as well as to add a few dollars to our kitty money. It may have seemed trivial when, at that meeting, I purposefully modified the title to “Good Dollar / Interesting Dollar”. This is just one small example of how a word changes the way I perceive a situation. An “interesting” occurrence offers the opportunity for learning and growth, regardless of the outcome, and connotes a sense of observation.  A “bad” occurrence implies absoluteness of negativity, with an attached sense of judgment. Words are central to the Coaching for Optimal Health practice that I share with the world. For instance, when a client exclaims, “I have got to start exercising”, I will invite that client to shift those words to “I get to start exercising” – a subtle shift of words, with a huge impact on the way the brain responds to that exclamation. When we “have to” undertake an idea or activity, it is perceived as a burden, yet when we “get to” contemplate that very same idea or activity, it is perceived as an opportunity with endless possibilities.  The perception of a burden triggers the fight or flight response, which will minimize the likelihood of that desired outcome coming to fruition, whereas when we approach an idea or activity with optimism, all things are possible. Words do matter.

Celebrate Your Heart–February is Heart Month!

We know this: eating well, exercise, and relaxation are integral aspects of optimal heart health. What does that look like for you? How do you bring balance into your daily life to include a satisfying effectiveness in your personal and/or professional environment--as well as the essentials: shopping for and cooking healthful meals, moving your body on a regular basis, and cultivating a routine quieting/self-soothing practice?

Each of us will take care of our physical and emotional hearts in our own way, using our unique perspectives, priorities, and resources to cultivate the balance that will support our heart health. This individuality fits in to the framework of the essentials. Eating well, shopping locally, and avoiding processed foods are topics that are adequately covered in other areas of my website as well as many other external sources; I am inviting you, in this article, to contemplate the opportunities around fitness, quieting, and positivity.

Routine fitness is important. It need not be Olympic effort, it's the duration of each session and the frequency with which you exercise that is relevant. Choose an activity that is pleasurable, comfortable, and convenient, and one that can be done for (ultimately) 30-minutes non-stop, and 4 - 6 times per week. Individualized exercise programs are determined by current level of fitness and general health considerations.

Your physical heart health is benefitted by eating well and exercising regularly, yet there is a greater value to nurturing your emotional heart health. Studies validate that feelings of joy, contentment, and gratitude are associated with a commitment to being well, which leads to healthful daily life choices. The same studies demonstrate that feelings of anger, sadness, loneliness, and resentment are closely linked with unhealthy daily life choices and ultimately, with disease.

That's powerful medicine—within your thoughts and emotions lays the ability to change your physiology. Experiencing daily joy and gratitude is a practice...and the more often it is invited and its presence acknowledged, the more familiar of a perspective that will become. Within this experience, the physical body responds by decreasing catecholamines (stress hormones), lowering systemic inflammation, softening blood vessel to lower blood pressure, slowing down the heartbeat, and changing brain activity from busy/hectic to quiet/relaxed. That shift in our physiology, related to the positivity of joy and gratitude, creates the pleasant-to-navigate path to optimal health and well-being.

Celebrate your heart: move through the day with mindfulness, sit quietly, express gratitude, share blessings, and honor your physical self with nourishing foods and activities. Because your heart matters!

What is REAL food, really?

Eating real food simply means making choices from plant and animal foods that have been cultivated using methods that are minimally intrusive. Choosing vegetables and fruit, whole grains, legumes and beans, and animal proteins that have not been exposed to man-made chemicals, food coloring, or GMO techniques in the planting, growing, or post-harvest stages further defines REAL food.

All foods are available in this healthful, nourishing, and delicious REAL form. All foods are available in a less healthful, less nourishing, and perhaps less delicious PROCESSED form as well. I am not talking about organic so much as I am referring to foods that, once taken from the land and are being made ready for market, have been laden with salt and other sodium-based preservatives and flavorings, added food dyes, sugars (both real and artificial varieties), and fats--simply to "enhance" the shelf life, flavor, and marketability.

Sometimes REAL food may seem to be a bit more expensive at the grocery store than the more processed version; if this is your perspective, I urge you to consider the long-term expense of your health and well-being...investing your resources and forethought into bringing home health promoting foods as opposed to health depleting foods--now--will provide a benefit to you in the future.

Imagine this: a small plate that is filled 1/2 with fabulous veggies, 1/4 with a whole grain or other starch, and 1/4 with a sustainably raised animal protein. And then, for dessert: a baked pear, a 2-inch square of apple crisp, or a 1/3 cup serving of whole milk organic ice cream...Yum!

Making a conscious decision to avoid commercially processed meats (filled with colorings and high doses of sodium, not to mention growth hormones and antibiotics), veggies and fruits that have sweeteners, salt, or preservatives added, and factory-made desserts loaded with high fructose corn syrup and/or partially hydrogenated oils will get you on the road to eating REAL food. Travel wisely!

5 Tips for Managing the Holiday Goodie(s) Temptation

1.    Accept the fact that in your workplace and friends’ homes, on the counter tops at local markets, and just about everywhere, there will be bowls of candy, plates of cookies and fudge, and a plethora of pot-luck celebrations. It’s not about avoiding these temptations; it’s about creating a success plan that combines pleasure with honoring your health goals and well-being intentions. Give yourself permission to celebrate the season, and know that you can bring balance to your decision-making.

2.    Savor the Flavor! I am especially fond of this mindful approach to holiday splurges.  It’s simple: there’s a plate of homemade fudge at your office reception desk. They are made-from-scratch and chock-full of wholesome ingredients. These cubes of sweetness are likely cut into small squares because they are so rich, but if not, you can make your first mindful decision to cut a tablespoon-size piece. Take it back to your desk or to the break room. Cut it into 10 tiny pieces. Tiny. Admire the bounty of delight in front of you. Lean down to inhale the heavenly aroma. Take the first small piece and place it on your tongue, allowing it to begin to melt. You can see where I’m going with this—you are making the piece of fudge into a sensuous sensory experience, you are inviting your brain to participate by stimulating your senses: Sight, look at ALL those tiny pieces of fudge! Smell, rich, chocolate-y, nutty; Taste, as your tongue comes alive; Sound, as you exclaim your delight! Your brain will be infused with pleasure! Wait 5 minutes to repeat the sensory experience again. And again. And again, until over the course of an hour or more, you have fully engaged in the mindful enjoyment of eating a small piece of fudge. NOTE: imagine the contrast of grabbing a few pieces of fudge as you walk by the plate and take them back to your desk. As your emails load, you pop the entire first piece in your mouth, mildly aware of how good it tastes, prompting you to gobble the second piece, and possibly the third. Within 5 minutes, you’ve eaten three chunks of fudge, your brain has not been invited to the party, diminishing the experience of absolute sensory pleasure, and leaving room for more…and more.  See the difference?

3.    Visualize your success. Before you go to a party, or walk up the stairs to your office, or go to the salon to have your hair cut, see yourself as relaxed and confident. Know your intention: to enjoy yourself while staying true to your health and well-being commitments. A positive affirmation comes in handy here; “I am looking forward to mindfully savoring the foods and treats that I choose well”, or “I will eat and enjoy the veggies and salads that are on the table, then I will decide on what treats to savor.”

4.    Express gratitude, for the abundance of food that is available to you, and more importantly, express thanks to yourself for the savoring of the foods you have mindfully chosen. Say to yourself, “Thank you for taking time to eat that fudge slowly; I like your intention to take care during the holidays”, or even, “Hey, way to go!”. Every time your brain receives positive affirmation for a behavior, you are reinforcing the happy experience, and are more likely to choose that behavior again!

5.    Move your body regularly—walk, pedal, swim, skate, whatever is appealing and available to you. Ramping up your metabolism throughout the year is beneficial, and during the holiday season you will find it even more so. When you exercise regularly, having the occasional mindful splurge will not have as big of an impact as it could if your schedule doesn’t include routine physical activity.

Happy Holidays!

Spring Into Healthy Eating

Spring is upon us! Asparagus is back, so are strawberries—it’s time to start thinking about how to welcome the change of the seasons with a fresh approach to cooking. Chili, soup, and stew are not as appealing when the trees are budding, as they are when the branches are bare.

Planning ahead is the key to success when it comes to eating well.  The warmer temperatures and longer days are marvelous reasons to incorporate the practice of taking 90 minutes a week to prepare food for the upcoming week. Dust off and clean up the BBQ for grilling veggies and fruit to be used later in casseroles, salads, sandwiches and salsas. (of course, you can use the broiler as well—it’s more convenient!). Think: peppers, asparagus, squash, pineapple, tomatoes, garlic, eggplant, onions, just about any of your favorite fruit or veggies… when you add one or three to a pot of quinoa or barley, throw in some white beans, fresh parsley, and sprinkle with feta cheese, you’ve got a light, healthful, and delicious spring or summer dinner.

Stay tuned for recipes and yummy eating ideas!

“Robin brings dedication, focus, passion, and intellect to whatever endeavor she is pursuing. She does not just talk about good health, she practices it thoroughly every day of her life. When she talks to clients about healthy lifestyle choices, they are able to see the effects of healthy choices by observing the woman in front of them!”
Arthur S., Client

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