meditation...no brain dump

Today started off like most days - coffee, breakfast, alone time, frantically trying to pull material for this week's blog post. I'm hoping to write about SAD - or season affective disorder. This may potentially change, but as of right now this is the plan. 

While sitting in front of my laptop looking for material, I realize what I most need is a little undoing. I need to step away and meditate. Great idea!

So, I go to my favorite spot, set my meditation timer and start...

But then things go a little something like this: okay, settle, breathe, start counting 1 for breath in, 2 for breath out...repeat. Oh, but I haven't thought enough about the topic I'm going to write about this week. I certainly have had my fair share of SAD over the years. But remember that one year when you first started meditating in January? Was that a bad winter? You had an 8 week rigorous meditation schedule and that kinda helped, no? January, January...that's when my brother slipped on ice and nearly broke his knee...right right...oh and my brother in law had a similar injury to his wrist though a few years after...damn snow...I really don't like winter...but my kids do..they love snow. But there there's all that shoveling...thank god I don't do it. My poor husband's back must kill him...our driveway is so damn long...breathe, 1 deep breath in....2 deep breath out. Fuck, what is going on? I just want to sit here and clear my head for a bit....

Then....silence. 

Meditation isn't necessarily about being able to clear your mind of all thoughts. Well perhaps some forms of mediation, but the one I generally practice is the one where I don't attach to thoughts...I notice them but just let them glide by without hooking a story on to them.

But today I was able to go to that place...the place where nothingness exists and where I feel a deep rest and restoration take place in even the few minutes of non thinking. 

I'm no stranger to meditation. I've been practicing on and off since 2002. I know how to go to the place that rips me away from the constant chatter in my mind and allows me to just exist if only for a brief moment...but it takes time and patience and and it takes letting go...and on some very lucky days, this happens...

don't cry over spilled wine

Last week, my husband and I took our son to see a play. It was a first for him but more than a first, it was something just for him. Ever since our daughter was born, it's been challenging finding one on one time with just him. I suppose that's one of the drawbacks of being a sibling. So the evening was for him...

It was a lovely night - the play was showing in an old theater, with creaky floors, a faint musky scent and a phantom of the opera feel to it. So as my eyes explored the space itself, people all around, I caught a glimpse of the sign that said WINE, BEER, WATER. Obviously it was my lucky day! It's been a long time since I've been to a play and clearly wasn't aware that wine is something you could have while enjoying the arts. Bubbling over with joy, I made my way over. We got our drinks and popcorn and made our way over to our seats. 

I watched excitement and anticipation play on my son's face as he wildly shoved popcorn into his mouth. With minutes to go until show time, I changed positions and knocked the entire glass of wine all over my pants, shirt, jacket and shoes. I felt the flush of embarrassment rise from my stomach and quickly engulf my face in what felt like flames. People stared, my clothes were wet, I smelled horrible and had an almost 2 hour show ahead of me. Too embarrassed to go clean myself, I'd hoped my body, about 200 degrees warmer from shame, would at least dry part of it. Thoughts of "how could you"? and "that was so stupid" and "now I have to sit here covered in wine", kept playing through my head. 

But then something happened. It was an acceptance of sorts. An acceptance that unpredictable shit happens to us. My tendency to run away from discomfort just didn't work in that moment...I had no choice, I had to just experience it and let it move through me. It ended up being a great show. My son beamed with happiness and as I'd predicted, most of the wine dried by the time we left, leaving me only with a post college party smell. But somehow I felt ecstatic. Maybe even more so than I would have been had I not spilled an entire glass of wine on myself....

moods

I walk into work - the office buzzing with life. It's a huge open space where most people can see you coming and going. I'm in a rather dismal mood...didn't sleep well and just want to slither across the floor and get to my cube unnoticed. Some days I just can't force myself to smile or be as friendly as I normally am. My face looks artificial when trying - almost hurts. When I have shitty days like these, the noise of the office is amplified, burning my ears. 

But then I put my headphones in and I lose myself to Victoria Legrand's sweet, dark voice - melodic and dreamy. Music often rescues me from myself. Dark moods suck but the good thing is they do eventually pass. There are certain times of the month when I can feel myself enter this dark tunnel and don't necessarily hate it. Perhaps on some level even revel in it a little. 

Thank you hormones for making me your puppet. You own me. 

somedays...

I forget to breathe...not literally but figuratively. Everything seems like a never-ending pile of shit I have to get to. Somehow weeks/months have passed by and I've forgotten to stop and apprecaite the life that's passing me by. It's truly unfair to let these moments go by without giving them the proper acknowledgment. Sometimes I wonder, is it me? Is everyone like this? Am I alone in feeling like I'm speeding through life at supersonic speeds, the world a blur as I zoom by? I don't know...

This ordinary moment as I sit here watching the cursor rhythmically blink will be a cherished memory some day. My son playing next to me, my daughter sleeping...a quiet November Sunday. It's all going to be "the good old days" someday, but for now, it just is. Perhaps it's just the human condition...

water

I've been dealing with a crazy cold that swept through my house last week. One thing I royally neglected while sick, was my water intake. I know how important drinking adequate amounts of water is, but when you feel like garbage, drinking water doesn't always work out well.

But I felt a drastic difference once I started increasing it back to about 3 liters a day. Amazing how just one tiny change like this can improve everything in your body...guess it may have something to do with the whole thing of being made up of 80% water?? ;-) 

So, pay attention to your water intake...it may take you from feeling like shit to not and that my friends is always a good thing!

walk, don't sprint there...

This is the advice I received this morning from a fellow food blogger friend, who's been insightful and helpful along this crazy journey of blogging.

I started this project for fun and wanting to help people understand that there is a way to make a change and it doesn't require that you abandon your life and start over in order to do so. However, in the process of doing this, I see myself getting caught up in the "shoulds". I should be posting more, I should be doing more, I should be cooking more, I should, should, should. When the shoulds step in, I step back and ask what's really going on here? 

The keeping up with the "fill in the blank" is a symptom of modern day society. I feel it now more than ever. Ironically enough, I started this blog because I believe we need to calm down a little and just focus on stuff that's actually important. I don't want to lose sight of that. After all, when you basically create your own work (on top of your actual work), there are no limits to how much you can do and that can be dangerous. 

So what I will do is slow down and walk for a while, work on keeping the "should-ing beast" at bay and focus on how I can serve others while also serving myself.   

shitty shoes make for shitty days

I have this pair of shoes I consider relatively "cute". Simple, flat, black - got them at Forever 21, forever ago. And every single time I wear them, I curse myself for doing so. They pinch my feet, are incredibly uncomfortable, yet enough time passes between wears that I forget how much I hate them. I actually convince myself that I was delusional for thinking them to be uncomfortable. "Couldn't have been that bad", right? 

If you're a woman and wear flat shoes that cost like $10, without socks, you know you're in for a treat. So tonight when I get home from work, I am determined to get rid of them once and for all. And meanwhile I will just walk around barefoot at work. I didn't paint my nails - scratch that. 

nuance is everything

While we've been hearing more and more that fat is not the enemy, there are many that continue to reach for studies that have not been properly designed, as proof. Some of these studies which cite that fat can significantly reduce the gut microbiotoa, only focus on fat as having an effect on gut health. However, we really need to question the type of fat we are talking about. 

Study design that wants to have an outcome that shows that fat is indeed going to lower gut flora, will not mention the types of fats individuals are eating. If we're talking about eating McDonald's, fried and processed foods high in vegetable oils and overly processed meats etc, then I'm going to 100% agree that, eating this way will negatively impact the microbiome. But what about the individuals who are consuming grass fed meats, good quality sources of fat from nuts, seeds, avocados and healthy olive and coconut oils, while consuming ample amount of fermentable fiber from vegetables and fruits? 

This is where nuance comes into play. We cannot lump it all into the fat category. This is why designing nutrition studies with humans is going to be a challenge. Subjects cannot be kept and observed for something like 5-10 years to see the changes their bodies go through long term. But what we can do is at least publish data correctly and ensure that some of these nuances are not left out as they can make or break a paper and in turn influence how studies are interpreted by the masses.

the art of saying i'm sorry

A co-worker of mine suddenly lost her best friend and maid of honor due to a stroke at the age of 30. This really hit me hard. I cannot say enough about how horribly sad I am for her. This led me to think about life (which I do often), its fragility and how in a split second everything we know as normal could change. 

This also made me think of the petty arguments people have that often takes place within families, couples, etc. Pride often gets in the way of saying "I'm sorry". I truly don't like unfinished arguments, unfinished anything. I need resolutions. I care deeply about my relationship with the ones I love, even if sometimes we can disagree. 

 Even if I know full well that I'm right, I will try to at least find a way to middle ground of understanding. Talking things out can do miracles, if people can put pride aside and simply listen and empathize. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a pushover, but if I care enough about a relationship, I will do what it takes to fix whatever whatever is broken because you never know where life can take you. We can only hope to live a healthy and fulfilling life but you never want to live with wishing you had just said "I'm sorry". 

obsession with healthy eating

Being health conscious is a good thing. Becoming obsessed with a specific diet and the rules it enforces may have a deeper impact on our psychological and social well being. I listened to a podcast this morning where a woman described her fear of food. She was worried about what too much kale would do to her and also worried about what too little would. She suffered from orthorexia. 

When we start to eat strictly for nutrients and worry excessively about what these will do or not do for us, we lose the connection and pleasure which revolves around food. And let's not confuse the pleasure of preparing a good meal that's also nutritious with pounding away a half dozen donuts. After all, both can bring pleasure.

For thousands of years people have gathered around to enjoy and share food. Food is something that unites families and friends. One thing I hope my children will experience is the appreciation for preparing and enjoying real food without getting too caught up in the disturbing relationship some people have with food (more on this another time...as a relationship with food is not with food but with feelings/thoughts)

Despite the fact that I eat according to what feels good for my gut, abstaining from all gluten and dairy and only eating properly prepared grains, and not too often, the rest of my family does not. I don't deprive them of these things. I want them to be able to make decisions for themselves. My children eat everything I cook and make sure to have plenty of options for them. I'm realistic about the world we live in and know that they're going make choices for themselves one day. What I do control is the amount of packaged food that enters my house, which is very minimal. 

All I can hope for is to model cooking and eating real food and worry less about this diet or that diet. 

i'm kind of okay

Blogging is interesting. It makes me realize more and more that I no longer care how people view me. At first I felt really guarded and careful about what I wrote and how I came across but it's sort of liberating to just be okay with exactly who I am. I've noticed a shift in myself in the last few months, particularly since my life has become somewhat open to the public. Every August as I inch my way to another birthday I review things and look at where my life is. I can truly say my only regret so far is that I didn't dance more. Regrets are useless unless you can learn something from them. Growth doesn't come from being stuck in the past but using whatever snippet of wisdom that experience can teach you and keep going.

All things considered, life is pretty short, yet very few of us stop and think about the bigger picture. The mundane shit can often get the best of us and we're often stuck in the "this is the way things will always be" view. Here's why I bring this up.

Back in March I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. I suffered silently for months, trying to ignore that I was in an emotional hell. I love and loved my kids beyond measure but everything was difficult and the crying was relentless. I always put on a happy face and marched on until I just sunk and had to ask for help. It's not easy asking for help and sure as hell not easy admitting that you have postpartum depression to myself or others. After all, there's such a stigma around it. People assume you hate your kids and want to jump off a bridge. Not the case for me at all.

I just wasn't myself. My hormones were a complete mess and I did not recognize the person I had become. So some trusty Zoloft came in handy for a few months and definitely helped but after I embarked on my journey to change things, I decided it just wasn't for me and went the natural route by taking care of my hormones, supplementing with the right nutrients and healing my gut (first and foremost). And you know what? I've not felt this good in years. I may be getting older but my outlook is different and every day is really a possibility for something (that's not just bullshit talk).

Raising children is hard, I don't sleep much, chaos is all around me, but for the most part things are alright and I'm alright and at the end of the day that's really all that matters. 

 

oh internet...

So I have a blog...you might be reading this so please stay...or don't. Your choice. The internet is crazy, no it really is. Do you know that the average person spends about 15 seconds per page??? There is so much out there that sometimes I truly don't know what to do with all the information overload. It's a lot. Research takes me down crazy rabbit holes. Then there is the need to keep up with the Instagram and Facebook Jones'. Makes a person feel bad about themselves because someone somewhere is going to be a thousand times better than you in every aspect, leaving you to feel like shit about yourself.

So you want to work harder, do better, dedicate more time, right? Well maybe or maybe you could just close your computer and get outside and reconnect to the person that you are, just as you are. It's okay, the internet is designed to make you feel bad about yourself, designed to make you doubt who you are. We're all feeling it. Even the people with the best of the best feel shitty about something. It's how it is. So when things get ugly, close your laptop, put down your phone and turn on some music or get outside. Simple as that. You'll feel better. 

social media free sunday

Ever since I started blogging I've kind of lost my mind. Between cooking, research, writing, taking photos, keeping up with social media and then oh, my real life, holy shit. It's a lot. It's a lot more than I had anticipated. Mainly what makes it tricky is my need for checking social media. I went from being a very private person, who shared very little, to now sharing quite a bit. Probably considerably less than some, but still, a lot for me. 

The thing about social media is that it really gets to the addictive parts of our brains. Every little like, or comment, gives us a little hit of dopamine. We crave it, we rely on it to get us through the day.

So today was the day that I decided to stay off of it completely. Was it difficult? Uhm, sort of? I guess in some ways, but also liberating in others. It was nice to just say no completely and give myself a break and fully be present in my life. And you know what? It was a good day. I mean, I truly felt present. In it. My life. While I think social media is great for connecting and reaching like minded people with common interests, I have to find a way to keep it in balance. Dedicate specific times and stay off of it at others. Prior to starting a blog I was very good at it but the itch is stronger than ever now. Just have to work on this like everything else.

 

stressing over numbers

Now that I'm pretty entrenched into the health and wellness world, I've seen some things I really like but others too that I'm not a fan of at all. These things mainly involve the obsessing over numbers. 

Making sure everything is aligned in order to achieve optimal health is wonderful. Eating in a way that resonates with you as an individual, that allows you to have energy and feel good in your own skin is fantastic. All about it. But the trend of chasing after numbers makes me a bit weary. It seems to me that it's just a stone's throw away from a disorder. Now of course, this is just my opinion. 

I own a tracking device and used it for about a year or so back in 2014. What I found was that I was mostly obsessing over the numbers. I mean, pacing around in my living room in order to hit 10,000 steps at 10pm? Come on! That seems a bit ridiculous...and it was. I took it off and decided I was done with it. I didn't like the person I became. I was focused on the numbers throughout the whole day instead of just living in tune with my body and my life. Instead of getting outside to walk a little during work because it was actually good for me, I did it for the sake of the numbers. That 10,000 steps reward. 

And from what I'm seeing out there, that's just the tip of the iceberg. 

My thoughts on this are simple: if you are compulsively checking numbers as they relate to health, you're going add more stress to your life. At least that was the case for me. If you can do the numbers thing and look at it as a guide as opposed to the end all be all, then by all means, go for it. For me, it didn't work out...

 

should things be this difficult?

I don't know if it's a cultural thing but it seems that most people believe they have to struggle in order to achieve some sort of happiness. You know, work long hours, finish difficult projects, don't take any breaks. It seems like just about everyone has lost touch with their playful side. When I look at my children, who find wonder in the simplest of things, get lost in play, I wonder at what point did we establish that play and pleasure are not really part of the adult life? And if they are, do we look down on them as not being adult like? Is it just me? Maybe it is, but most adults seem unhappy. Everyone walks around sort of depleted and unfulfilled. This begs the question, what would we need to be happier and more at ease? Is it money, is it time? Both? Something else?

I think a lot of it starts with structured schooling. From very early on, we expect children to sit still and learn in a class room where they are to obey for 6-8 hours a day while learning abstract concepts that have little relevancy to their lives. This carries on into adulthood with most people working desk jobs where they are expected to complete tasks for 8-10 hours a day.  

But how did this all start? Before the industrial revolution, things were not structured the way they are today. School essentially prepared most people for work. Ringing of the bell is after all the equivalent of clocking in. Should this way of schooling and working still be applied to today's world? Is it still relevant? Technology changed with the times but our way of schooling and working (with the exception of entrepreneurial work) has not. What would it take to change things? Give something else a shot? We may just be able to have healthier, happier people if we questioned some of the fundamental ways we do things today. 

messing up recipes is a real bummer

So for you the 3 readers that will be checking out this page..oh 4 sorry, 4 readers, today I blew it with a recipe. I was so excited, totally thought I nailed it but made some pretty dry muffins. My husband deemed them, "almost good". I was disappointed as ingredients are not cheap and my time is especially not cheap but after sulking for a bit, I dusted the flour off my shoulder (get it, get it???) oh Jay Z, you sill got it. Anyway, back to the muffins that I butchered. I decided to play around more and came up with a new version of what I made earlier and upgraded them from one way to three ways! As I'm writing this, they're in the oven. They're a slight chance that I will be posting another entry stating that I screwed up batch #2. But no matter, it's the journey right? I was thinking, with the wasted ingredients, I probably could have bought like 2.5 Kombuchas? Maybe 3? 

my eyes burn...

Despite the fact that I'm wearing my snazzy blue light glasses, it's been a long day and my eyes are tired. But I wanted to write down the fact that I'm 3 days deep into being completely grain free and my god has it made a difference. Now again, going gluten and dairy free has made an enormous difference but I wanted to see if grains could be to blame for me just not getting to where I would like to be despite the adjustments I've made in my life. 

The truth is I have no pain, the bloating is gone, the discomfort is gone and I've been calmer, more relaxed all around. This small change has touched on many areas but I don't want to jump the gun as it's only been 3 days. I have to be fair and give it time. 

That does it for me...eyes are closing...need to listen to my body and close the laptop...

about sleep...

I went into some detail on the importance of sleep in this article. In a very interesting interview I listened to today with a sleep expert who elaborated on how to sleep smarter not just "more", which we're told to do. Some takeaways were: 

  • make sure you get at least 4 solid sleep cycles, so the absolute bare minimum would translate to about 6 hours of sleep, which is the absolute very least. Sad do say that's pretty much where I am most of the time. Having small kids will do that but it comes with the territory so I do what I can..
  • keep your bedroom around 68 degrees. You may or may not love the idea but the body truly needs cooler temperature at night as most of the repair in the body takes place when your body temperature has dropped. 
  • along the same line, wear comfortable clothing or no clothing at all. Again this ties in with being able to allow the body to reduce the temperature. 
  • in order to optimize sleep, get outside between the hours of 6am and 8:30 am. Exposure to light early in the morning has an effect on sleep by balancing cortisol levels. 
  • additionally exercising in the morning even for a few minutes, can help stabilize cortisol levels and will optimize sleep

Anyway, these are some added ideas to the article I have written on sleep. Speaking of sleep...it's creeping up to 10pm...must get sleep...

 

i love this stuff...

I've always liked helping people. It's just in my nature. Anytime anyone has asked for help or advice, I've always felt really driven to support them in whatever way possible. I never really questioned it. Maybe it makes me feel good or maybe it fills an un-met need. Either way...

Putting hours and hours into this site on top of my regular job and caring for kids has left me relatively depleted. Some days I doubt myself and question whether I can keep going at this speed. And then something happens. Someone asks me something about diet and nutrition or lifestyle and it seems like I come alive and feel overjoyed in wanting to share everything I know. Not necessarily dogmatically telling them this is what they need to do, but providing insight into some of the research I've read, what's worked for me, etc. I love this stuff. I want to talk about it all day every day. It drives me and makes me want to learn more. 

So even on shitty, low days when I question everything and am tired and cranky, I try to remind myself that it's worth it if it reaches just one single person.

low carb high fat all day

Don't worry, I'm not about to jump on the keto bandwagon but there's something to be said about low cab, high fat. I had my standard breakfast but didn't finish it all as my stomach felt pretty shitty so I decided to go low carb no grain at all all day and see what happens. Miraculously, I wasn't really hungry and didn't need to snack much. I had no cravings, lots of energy and experienced little to no brain fog.

Last week, I made the mistake of not incorporating enough fat when I had a similar day and ended up feeling like total shit, headache, brain fog..overall garbage. At this point in my life, it would be difficult to go all ketogenic but there's definitely something to it. I'm very comfortable in the almost paleo space and I'll be toying around with this further customizing as I go...

As I'm delving deeper in my health journey I'm starting to understand more than I ever have and look at the body in a whole new light on a holistic but also cellular level. All with new found respect. The mechanisms that are in place to help us function, do need to be kept in balance and once we find whatever that balance means to us, we will find optimal health. There are nuances here at play but nuances are often not too sexy and people always look for the all or nothing solution...the magic pill that will change everything. I'm going to be doing a future post on balance and what it means and doesn't mean but for now I'll just say that I was thoroughly impressed with how my body reacted to foods I gave it today and how impressively good I felt by tweaking things just a little.

Okay that's it for now...