Monday, November 29, 2010

“Happiness is nothing but total relaxation”…

…as was quoted on my Yogi tea bag tag this morning. But why is it so hard to relax? Or maybe it’s just me that has this problem? It’s the same battle that I’ve been trying to conquer for the past two months. There just isn’t enough time in the day to keep up with everything so when I do get a free moment, I immediately schedule something productive to fill the time. Great for getting things done, not so great for giving myself a break, and everyone needs a break.

So this Thanksgiving I decided to finally give myself a break (I’ve been known to make a list of goals before a vacation). No Teux Deux list, no catching up on emails, no worrying about my grown-up responsibilities, time to just be. I had meaningful conversations with the people I was with, slept until I wasn’t tired anymore, got lost on a long run, ate without guilt, laughed and played with little kids, and generally just slowed down and had fun, sans productivity.

Come Monday, I’m surprised that I was able to jump back into work and all of my nagging responsibilities as easily as I did, but it makes sense. I feel rested and recharged so I have more energy to devote to these tasks. When I’m burnt out and running on empty even the tiniest to-do item can feel monumental. I think everyone could benefit from the principles of the Sabbath Manifesto, and it's definitely a practice that I'm going to work into my normal routine.

Moral of the story: Your time-off affects your time-on so take a minute to take a minute when you can.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Eating a Delicious Meal is One of Life’s Greatest Joys

I was reminded of this during the 3 days that I was choking down heaping piles of unseasoned lentils and steamed beets. It was less noticeable how disappointing mealtime had become during the weekdays when I was distracted by work, but I really noticed what a huge role food plays in my enjoyment of life when Friday night rolled around. No going out to dinner to celebrate the end of a long week, no meeting up with friends to unwind over a glass of wine, in other words: no fun. I spent my Friday night trying to muster up the energy (which was waning at this point) to make my “dinner” while I watched 16 and Pregnant with Laura, who was enjoying a glass of wine and a real dinner. F.

So, what was the point of this again, I wondered? What are the real benefits of a detox? The proponents of a detox diet claim that it’s benefits are to: reduce the amount of toxins and pollution that enter our body, improve immune function, cleanse our digestive tract, and purify the blood. However, none of this is scientifically proven and there’s little evidence that they actually do what they claim to. So is it a waste of time then?

While detoxing did lessen my enjoyment of food (read: life), it was an overall positive experience. Even though I did have a faint hunger pang that remained with me for the full 3 days, I generally felt good: energetic, light, and clear minded. Depriving myself of eating whatever I wanted all the time made it all the more enjoyable when I did start to eat normally again too. Really though, it was a good little kick to snap me out of the bad eating habits I had been falling into.

So, what now? This week has been all about practicing my dad’s “Everything in Moderation” philosophy and easing back into normal, healthy eating without giving in to my guilty pleasures. I’ve also been keeping a food journal and noting everything I eat and how it makes me feel to see if any patterns arise. A food journal is also a good way (for people like me especially) to prevent yourself from overindulging. If I’ve been eating good all day and want to splurge on some cookies that someone left in the office kitchen, I might think twice if I have to account for it.

A few healthy food switch suggestions from Whole Living:

Sweet potatoes to white potatoes
Croutons to walnuts
Mayonnaise to avocado
Milk chocolate to dark chocolate
Iceburg lettuce to romaine lettuce
Cream cheese to almond butter
White flour to whole wheat flour
Vegetable oil to canola oil
Sour cream to yogurt

But there’s a lot more to wellness than nutrition so my next posts will be more focused on other aspects of well being and Whole Living. More to come…

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Detox Day 1: Is this what mental clarity feels like or am I just lightheaded?

I just finished a delicious dinner of plain brown rice mixed with unseasoned lentils, topped with steamed beets and kale: Welcome to Detox Day 1.

Since the detox shopping from Whole Living seemed unnecessarily extensive, I decided to nix that version and do a three-day cleanse that I did a few years back. This one is very simple and all of the ingredients I needed for it cost me around $30. Much better. Here’s the rundown:

Do-It-Yourself Detox

For a week leading up to this simplified, moderate three-day cleanse, created by Cathy Wong, N.D., gradually reduce your intake of sugar and artificial sweeteners, white flour, dairy, alcohol, salt, and caffeine while increasing your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. Throughout each day of the cleanse, aim to drink at least 8 cups of water and do moderate exercise.

Upon Waking: A cup of hot water with lemon; meditate for 10 minutes

Breakfast: Smoothie (1 cup berries, 1 cup rice or almond milk, 1 scoop protein powder) or 3/4 cup oatmeal and 1 cup berries; green or black tea with lemon

Snack: 10 unsalted raw almonds and one small organic apple or pear

Lunch: Three ounces organic chicken or turkey, or 1 cup legumes; 1/2 cup brown rice or quinoa; 1 cup boiled swiss chard

Snack: Celery and carrot sticks with 2 tablespoons hummus

Dinner: 1 cup steamed beets over 3/4 cup brown rice; 1 cup boiled kale; and 1 cup green, black, or herbal tea with lemon.

Before Bed: 1 cup hot water with lemon

I can’t say that I’ve had any satisfaction from eating today, but I do feel a lot more satiated than I thought I would, and there is this strange sense of mental clarity that I remember from when I did this detox the first time.

Feeling good though, on to Day 2...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Today my Inner Strength Yoga Studio newsletter was all about wellness and since that's the focus of my lent this month, I thought I'd share:

I've been taught and discovered in my life that stress comes from making things that are really not important very important. Not willing to let go of the past, holding on to things, not placing them into the appropriate perspective and over analyzing always adds to our stress.

Wellness is now proven to be a very important quality to cultivate. There is a distinct difference between health, fitness and wellness. "Health" according to the surgeon General is, "The absence of disease." You and I know that there are people out there that don't have a "disease" but are completely unhealthy. Fitness is defined as, "The state or condition of being fit; suitability or appropriateness." Fitness means different things to different people. Depending on our stage of life our fitness levels or "suitability or appropriateness" varies greatly. Building muscle for high school athletics, dance or outdoor activities may be an appropriate motive in one stage of life where sustaining or gaining bone mass and maintaining a youthful flexibility as to keep up with the grand kids may be another motive for fitness.

So the question remains. What does it mean to be well? What does it mean to be well to you? According to yogic thought wellness comes from practices that bring you to optimal states of mind, body and emotions. The key word here is "practices". Everything we do is a practice. Brushing our teeth is a practice, worrying about weather you're in the right job or not is a practice, letting the person in your life know every single morning that you love and appreciate them is a practice. I'd like to challenge you in this moment to stop and think of the reasons why you must practice wellness. Perhaps it's for stress management, deeper understanding of our selves, to be a living example for our kids, patients, clients, family or for general fitness?

I believe wellness takes your health and fitness a bit deeper. Many of us engage in yoga seeking health and fitness benefits and soon realize it touches every aspect of our lives. It challenges our beliefs, strengthens our will, and supports us throughout the joys and sorrows of our daily life. Through our practice, we find we become kinder to ourselves, more forgiving toward others, and tolerant of our own imperfections. These are the qualities of wellness that are available to you on the mat.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Detox Shopping List

Oh wow, I was under the impression that detox week was going to be a cheap grocery week. Wrong! Here's my shopping list to cover 4 days of detox meals:


* Soy-free almond milk, 1-1/2 cups
* Coconut water, 1/2 cup
* Agave syrup, 2 to 4 teaspoons
* Ice for smoothies (to total 1-1/2 cup)
* Pure or distilled water (at least 7 cups)
* Herbal tea (caffeine-free, to replace regular tea or coffee intake)

Fruits and Vegetables

* Kale, 1-3 leaves
* Swiss chard, 1-3 leaves
* Watercress leaves, 1 cup
* Baby spinach, 1 serving (to serve with almond chicken)
* Broccoli, 1 head + 1 cup florets
* Snap Peas, 1 cup
* Baby Bok Choy, 1 cup
* White cabbage, 1/2 head
* Fennel, 4 bulbs
* Zucchini, 1 cup
* Capers, 1 tablespoon
* White onion, 1/4 medium
* Scallions, 3
* Shallot, 1
* Small beet, 1
* Cucumbers, 3-1/2
* Carrots, 4
* Celery, 3 stalks
* Avocados, 1-1/4
* Mango, 1/2 cup chunks
* Green apples, 2
* Frozen peaches, 2 cups
* Pineapple, 2 cups
* Lemons, at least 3
* Lime, 1
* Other raw vegetables (for snacks)
* Fresh berries (for snacks)

Animal Protein

* Striped bass, 2 5-ounce portions
* Chicken breasts (boneless, skinless, organic), 3
* Salmon filets (wild, skinless), 2

Herbs, Spices, and Seasonings

* Italian parsley
* Sea salt
* Extra virgin olive oil
* Mint leaves
* Sesame oil
* Garlic, 3 cloves
* Ginger, 1/4 cup sliced
* Nama shoyu or wheat-free tamari
* Cardamom, 4 pods or 2 teaspoons ground
* Sprouts or cilantro (for garnish)
* Chopped herbs
* White-wine vinegar (or lemon juice)

Nuts and Grains

* Steamed brown rice, 2 cups (optional, to serve with striped bass)
* Pine nuts, 1/4 cup
* 100% Buckwheat noodles, 1 packet (to make about 2 cups when cooked)
* Almond butter, 1/2 cup
* Almonds (roasted, unsalted), 1/2 cup + more for snacks

Saturday, November 6, 2010

More of the Same (in a good way)

About a week into October I realized that trying to achieve perfect life balance in a month might be a pretty tall order. Even after four weeks of will power and determination, TeuxDeux lists and yoga classes, I’m still finding it hard to fit it all in (me and everyone else, I suppose). That being said, I’m going to keep going with October’s lent into November and see how I’m feeling by the end of this month. I’m not expecting a solution by lent’s end, just a little more insight on how to get a few steps closer.

That being said, I needed something to give me a push in the right direction so I consulted my favorite resource, Whole Living. I’ve been subscribing to their magazine for years now (it’s awesome), and while perusing their website this week I rediscovered their 28 Day Whole Body Action Plan and decided to sign myself up. Starting on Monday, I’ll be detoxing, journaling, exercising and all around just making steps towards living a more healthy and balanced life. I’m not really sure what I'm going to do about Thanksgiving (which happens to fall right in the middle of the challenge) but I'm sure I can work out some sort of compromise with myself.

Another thing that I’m planning on trying out this month is observing a weekly day of rest, a sort of technology and responsibility detox. I stumbled upon this website, The Sabbath Manifesto, and I couldn’t agree more with the concept of it. An excerpt from their site:

The Sabbath Manifesto was developed in the same spirit as the Slow Movement, slow food, slow living, by a small group of artists, writers, filmmakers and media professionals who, while not particularly religious, felt a collective need to fight back against our increasingly fast-paced way of living. The idea is to take time off, deadlines and paperwork be damned.

In the Manifesto, we’ve adapted our ancestors’ rituals by carving out one day per week to unwind, unplug, relax, reflect, get outdoors, get with loved ones and, if we’re lucky, get some booty, too. The ten principles are to be observed one day per week, from sunset to sunset. We invite you to practice, challenge and/or help shape what we’re creating.

Amen. Happy November!