Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Whatever you're doing, it's working...

“Have respect for yourself, and patience and compassion. With these, you can handle anything.” ~Jack Kornfield

I've been consistently hearing two comments recently:

"Whatever you're doing, it's working..." AND "You're getting so skinny! Stop losing weight." 

Being that walking to / from work and some light yoga are my only forms of exercise right now, the weight I've lost is more directly tied to the food I'm eating. I am sensitive to the weight loss - not because I think I look unhealthy or because people have commented, but because it's been a big transition which requires an eating balance moving forward. I remind myself occasionally that I didn't lose 20 lbs by eating lettuce for every meal or fasting until I was starving. Instead, it was a combination of increasing my intake of  fruits / vegetables / seeds / nuts and decreasing my intake of dairy / meat / refined sugars / processed foods. I don't feel hungry all day and I don't feel weak or exhausted. In fact, I feel great and think that my body has settled into it's natural weight range. Now: to maintain that weight!

I've been reading up more on healthy fats - not low-fat or diet food options, not the saturated / trans fats lurking in processed foods, but the monounsaturated / polyunsaturated fats which are a part of any diet (they help your body absorb nutrients). I've been seeing that while moderation is still important regardless of your fat intake, it also matters what type of fat you're consuming. Options for plant-based healthy fats may include:

  • Olives / Olive oil
  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
I was late to jump on the nuts / seeds bandwagon. Growing up I ate a processed version of peanut butter, but more likely than not avoided other nuts (processed or whole). I never considered eating seeds! Now, I eat a combination of Chia, Sunflower, and Pumpkin seeds, as well as Almonds and Walnuts (and almond butter!). I've been seeing tons of recipes for cashew spreads, which also seem intriguing. Like this one! 

How do you make sure you're getting enough fats in your diet? 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Always something new

Every time I have an appointment at the holistic doctor, I come away with new things to try.

This week: another tweaked diet and the knowledge that I have a strong reaction to pollen (not surprising, but I'm happy to have it confirmed). After all of my excitement about lessened allergy symptoms, I noticed over the past 1.5 weeks that my eyes were getting redder and more itchy and there didn't seem to be any end in sight. Sigh. This is around the time last year when my allergies became unbearable, so all in all these more mild symptoms are an improvement. Still, I want them gone.
Image via Leo Michels

The doctor suggested I take Stinging Nettle to help offset the allergies naturally. Some research suggests that the nettle has the ability to reduce the amount of histamine the body produces in response to an allergen - we'll see! What's interesting about the holistic approach, is that he tested my body's reactions to a few variations of Stinging Nettle supplements and one responded much better than the others (many were combinations of different extracts). In this way, saying that I should take Stinging Nettle is not enough and had I done my own research and picked a brand, who knows if it would have made a difference. His muscle testing technique allowed him to see what particular variation would work best with my system, so I'll see how it goes.

As for the tweaked diet, we're still figuring out what my trigger foods are and what can help my skin stay clear for good. All the progress I've made is still in place, though: food allergies have not returned; the candida has not returned; my liver has cleansed itself. As such, I'm now trying a more Ayurveda-influenced diet for doshic imbalance. I'm following the Pitta diet, which mainly avoids foods which are too salty, spicy, or sour, including hard cheeses, red meat, and fried food. Here's an interesting blog I found which goes into more detail about the Pitta dosha. I'm willing to keep tweaking my diet, especially since I can still eat some of my favorites like quinoa, sweet potatoes, and apples. Some favorites I'll have to give up for the next few weeks: tomatoes, onions, garlic, spinach. I've stepped away from Chia seeds and Almonds for the next few weeks and am trying Sunflower seeds and Pumpkin seeds instead - delicious.

Every time my diet changes a bit, I need to try new foods and new food combinations and I've been pleasantly surprised at how satisfying (and full of protein!) seeds and nuts can be. I had a simple, completely raw lunch today of mixed lettuce, cut up pear, and sunflower / pumpkin seeds. I feel full, which would not have been the case a number of months ago. Half the battle, I'm learning, is just a matter of shifting focus. :)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hectic Living

To say that my life is busy right now is an extreme understatement. Eric and I are moving soon and life at work is focused around getting a grant out the door. Weddings, birthdays, graduations, other celebrations - not only am I strapped for time physically, but my mental time for research, cooking experiments, and keeping up with a steady, healthy routine is diminished. It's easy to see how healthy habits can slip out the door as soon as you get busy. So, how do we combat this? First and foremost, it's important to identify and stick to a set of priorities: what main goals must you stick with no matter what? 
Here is my list of top 5 priorities when my life gets insane: 
  1. Have vegetable juice for breakfast: Juicing makes me feel great in the morning and gives my body the nutrients it needs to face the day. Easy on the digestive system, full of important vitamins, energy-producing - sometimes I really want something else, like pancakes and bacon, but I just remember how good I feel and power through. I only skip juicing when it becomes impossible due to travel. 
  2. Eat a raw lunch when possible: It's quick enough to throw together salad ingredients for lunch, and it's frankly exactly what our bodies want anyway. Today for lunch I had kale, walnuts, chia seeds, strawberries, and grape tomatoes. Why raw? Because high heat cooking can destroy or diminish important enzymes and nutrients - while I'm not pursuing a fully raw diet, I often aim to eat raw foods up until dinner time as a means of maximizing my food choices. 
  3. Stretch for 10 minutes per day: When you're busy and tired, exercising is often what gets left behind. I'm definitely guilty sometimes of skipping yoga so I have time to cook or do errands. I do walk roughly 2 miles a day on my commute, but the longer you go without stretching, the harder it can be to start up the habit again. Can you do 10 minutes? I've been experimenting with 10 minutes of stretching directly after I get home, as it doesn't seem to happen if I wait any longer. 
  4. Sleep: Our bodies need sleep to heal and regenerate. My mind needs sleep to calm down. Yet, I never seem to go to bed until after 11pm, with a daily wake up at 5:45am. In our new apartment, my goal is to have no technology in the bedroom (no TVs, no computers) as a means of creating a more calming environment and removing the distractions. . 
  5. Don't indulge: This past weekend I was at a party and decided to indulge in some of my old favorites: a glass of wine, a meatball sandwich, and salad with dressing / cheese. I can't prove that this combination generated a note-worthy reaction, but I spent much of Sunday feeling tired, feverish, and congested. Point taken. Whenever I'm feeling emotionally or physically depleted, one if my ingrained instincts is to reach for the comfort of certain foods and sweets. This is not to say that I'll never have another glass of wine or a piece of chocolate, but it is to say that cravings lurk below the surface no matter how long you've been eating well. Pay attention and indulge in small, more strategic quantities.