I’ve been thinking about which direction I want to take this blog. My mission is to show people how to use food to HEAL their bodies from preventable illnesses.
About 95% of the people who will read my blog will have grown up with Western medicine. Don’t get me wrong, there have been INCREDIBLE innovation in this area… 100 years ago, reattaching a severed hand would be impossible, but now it happens regularly.
The down side of Western medicine is that it is too focused on treating one symptom at a time. Ayurveda, on the other hand, notices when small aspects of your life is out of balance and corrects the issue BEFORE it progresses into a chronic illness.
So, from now on, I’ll use a combination of modern science to explain the ancient healing art of Ayurveda. One quick example is the issue of heartburn. Anyone who has dealt with this knows that it’s a fiery feeling in your throat and it often happens when you eat too much spicy food.
Western medicine would either conclude that you need a pill to fight those symptoms or cut out spicy food altogether. Ayurveda, however, would say simply add more water to any spicy meal you eat and maybe have it once a week so your body can properly burn off the excess heat.
I hope y’all enjoy this new path I’m taking and with every blog post you’ll have one great tip you can include in your life to optimize your health.
For the past couple of weeks, I have been trying to determine the best way to open the discussion about Ayurveda. Then it hit me – we are in the middle of vata season, so it is the perfect time to explain this dosha!
In a previous blog, I gave an overview of the three doshas. You can read it here, but let’s dive into vata.
Understanding the basics of Ayurveda
Ayurveda is simply the science of life on earth and the doshas represent the combinations of the 5 main elements in humans. Those five elements are:
Ether: space. This element is lighter than air – think about astronauts – they are floating through ether.
Vata dosha explained
Vata is the combination of ether and air, and if translated from Sanskrit, means wind and movement. As you can see from the picture above, that most of the aspects of the vata body type are related to movement in some way. While movement is good, having too much of this dosha can be a bad thing. Let’s look at how vata reveals itself in different aspects of a person’s life.
Physical components of vata
One of the easiest ways to recognize that vata is your prominent dosha is to look at your frame. Most vatas will have a light frame and will have a tough time gaining weight. Other physical signs include:
Thin, dry hair
Cold hands and feet
Quick bursts of energy
Sleep is light
When in balance, vatas can use these characteristics to their advantage. A sign of this is increased productivity at work or home. Becoming unbalanced, however, has serious repercussions such as:
Mental components of vata
People who have vata as their dominant dosha are extraordinary because they are very creative, energetic and can spark conversation with almost anyone about anything. Energy is constantly flowing through them.
When there is too much vata in your body, however, you experience things like:
Anxiety (thoughts moving too much),
Talkativeness (do you know anyone who talks non-stop?),
Memory issues (trying to take in too much information at once and nothing sticks).
Taming vata imbalances through nutrition
The great thing about Ayurveda is that not only does tell us about the doshas, it gives us the information we need to remain in balance and live the best life possible!
Remember that vata is wind and wind moves best when there is very little to interfere with it. So, logically, the best way to tame vata is to put obstacles in its path. Here are some food groups that effectively block excessive vata activity:
Nuts: cashews, walnuts, almonds, etc. all contain healthy fats that can stop excess vata in your body
Lean meats: organic, family farmed beef, chicken and fish contain protein that fill you up, preventing excess air from wrecking havoc on your body
Healthy oils: if aren’t a fan of eating nuts, adding healthy oils to your meals, like olive and coconut, initiate the same grounding feeling as nuts would
Dairy: low fat and full fat dairy foods are another great option. You’ll also get the calcium to strengthen your bones!
Warming spices: spices that have a hearing effect – you know when you eat them and your body suddenly feels warmer – are perfect for vata imbalances. Ginger, cayenne pepper, turmeric and red pepper flakes are great starting points.
Now that you have a deeper understanding of how the Vata dosha impacts your body, you can take small steps to to regain and maintain optimal health! Combining any of the foods mentioned above is also a good tool. Try a warm cup of milk with ginger and turmeric, if you don’t want a full meal.
What are some of the ways you can think of to balance any excess vata you are experiencing?
Another year is just beginning and I absolutely LOVE the idea of giving up all desires to be skinny. Honestly, it is completely overrated, even if you’re overweight. American culture has trained us to think that any excess body weight means you are overweight, which if not true at all! From this day forward, I suggest telling yourself that you are making changes to become the healthiest you for you. Forget what society expects! You DESERVE the gift of health.
You all know that I am a firm believer in the ancient healing art of Ayurveda. Following this ancient medicinal system, we are taught to treat our body with reverence. Your body’s are a reflection of our current health. All of your past decisions have made you who you are today. Embrace the lessons you’ve learned from them and use them to move into a healthier lifestyle.
Remember that even if you aren’t in perfect health, you are just as worthy of self-love as a body builder!
Before my enlightenment
Throughout my teens, I followed so many diets in an attempt to look like my best friend who was much skinnier than me. I never took into account that my bones were thicker than hers, which meant I SHOULD NOT look the same as her. Fast forward to my twenties. I became friends with many “overweight” people who were doing things I couldn’t; my best friend from college played on our school’s rugby team. She ate junk food on occasion, but more often than not she would eat mostly healthy foods. This is where I picked up my theory on how to eat to mold your ideal body!
Life preparing me for my enlightenment
This idea stayed with me long after we left college, but it didn’t click completely until I was living on my own in Philadelphia, PA. One sunny April day in 2013, I decided to walk to my local library. On my way there, my sneaker got caught in a crack in the sidewalk and I fell hard on my knees. While my knee injury wasn’t too bad, there was another lesson in store for me. About two weeks after my knees got better, I started having uncontrollable back spasms. They were so intense that when I went to my mother’s orthopedic surgeon to try to figure out what was wrong, that he couldn’t even touch me without extreme pain!
He ordered a number of different tests to decipher what was wrong but every test came back with negative results. His only conclusion was that my body had locked up from the intensity of the fall to protect me from something, and he was ABSOLUTELY RIGHT! He then told me to go home and get as much rest as possible.
After seeing this doctor, I made it my mission to take as much time to rest as I possibly could. Not only that, I realized that I should use this down time to make healthier food choices. Before my accident, I ate fast food multiple times a day. Since I could barely move around my apartment, let alone go downstairs to pick up food from a local restaurant, I brought into my home yogurt, instant oatmeal, protein shakes, et cetera – anything that was easy to make so I didn’t aggravate my injury.
After a few weeks of following this meal plan, my family started asking me questions about my workout regimen. They were concerned that I had been ignoring my doctor and working out. When I told them that the only thing I was doing was making better food choices, they were shocked. My sister even came over one day to check up on me. When she saw that my refrigerator was full of everything I had told her, she went home and left me to recover.
By the end of my recovery, I had lost 30 pounds, with NO EXERCISE!! To date, I’ve lost about 85 in total and I NEVER diet.
What’s the lesson for you in all this?
I’m telling you my story to reinforce the idea that with this new year, you should make a resolution to become a healthier you in small steps. You have developed your current eating habits over the previous months and years of your life – you can’t expect lasting results to come from drastic changes. Food is our first and best medicine for creating a healthier body.
I began this blog as a reminder that you have to love your body, regardless of what shape it’s in. When you love your body exactly for how it is, the easier it will be to make small, positive changes. My story is a testament to that fact. Millions of people start popular diets every day, have success in the beginning and then gain it all back… Why? If a diet is so great, why can’t people stay on them for life, or at the very least maintain the weight they’ve lost?
The truth is: consistency is the biggest piece of the puzzle. I’ve been way off track with this – my mother’s death took me by surprise and I gave myself permission to eat whatever I wanted because of the depression that set in after losing her. From this day forward, I vow to do better for myself…. Especially because my mom believed wholeheartedly in what I do!
In order to achieve this goal, I must remember that small, yet constant improvement and upgrades to my current preferences is my keystone to finishing the health journey I started back in 2013.
Neither you or I can do intermittent health care. Healthy eating must happen daily. Aside from occasional “free meals,” we have to eat to nourish and maintain our bodies. It is an odd thing that has happened in our society where food intake is such a social and pleasure thing instead of a way to fuel our bodies.
So the conclusion is there is nothing wrong with always being aware of what we do to stay slim and strong and healthy. We should love ourselves for who we are on the inside but also love the potential we have; both inner and outer and always strive to live up to it.
Is your life feeling out of balance? Mine sure has been lately, but I am determined to adjust to my new reality ASAP. I can’t wait to use these tools to help me get there 😊🕉️💖
Balance is referred to in different ways, depending on which organization or expert you look to:
IIN calls it primary foods
Maslow called it a hierarchy of needs
Anthony Robbins called it a wheel
I call it a pie.
It doesn’t matter what we use as criteria. When it comes to experiencing balance in our lives, we all have certain needs that need to be filled throughout our lives. And the more balanced our fulfillment of these needs, the smoother our boat will sail and the closer to balance we will get.
Whatever we call it, it all comes down to balance. If our life is not in balance then we are in trouble.
Self actualization (morality, creativity, problem solving
learning, lack of prejudice and acceptance of facts)
Esteem (self esteem, confidence, respect)
Love and belonging (friendship, family and intimacy)
Safety (security of body, health, family, property, employment, resources and morality)
Physiological (breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis, excretion)
Everyone can rank these in a different order of importance. At the same time, we may each rank them differently at different times in our lives. What is certain? If one of the above is lacking and another is over emphasized, then we are out of balance.
Anthony Robbins does an exercise with a wheel representing career, physical, spiritual and financial. We have to rank each by “how it is going.” Visually we are able to see, for example, that we are doing great financially and physically, but perhaps not spiritually or career-wise. If we are out of balance, our wheel will not roll.
The Institute for Integrative Nutrition calls it “primary foods.” Outside our triangle of nutrition is a circle that consists of relationship, spirituality, career and physical activity.
The truth is, we can fix what we eat. We can eat more greens and get rid of processed foods, but if we don’t take care of the other areas of our life, we will still not experience balanced health and happiness. You can be completely healthy with your diet yet still feel imbalanced.
To help you see the topics more clearly, take a look at the following basic needs and ways of fulfillment.
Self Actualization (morality, creativity, problem solving, learning, lack of prejudice and an acceptance of facts)
•Prayer, Thoughtfulness, Meditation
Esteem (self esteem, confidence, respect)
Love and Belonging (friendship, family and intimacy)
Safety (security of body, health, family, property, employment, resources and morality)
•Environmental impact on health and well being through design (ex. bringing nature into the home, healthy light, smart space)
Camu Camu Berry
oJuicing vs. Blending
oNuts and Seeds
•Exercise and fitness
•Water, the amount and cleanliness
•Intimacy as a physical need
•Amount and quality of sleep
•Bodily function, sight, hearing, pain
•Illness and healing
We will be adding to this and focusing on each topic as total wellness. Look forward to future blogs on each line item and broken down even further for more tips on how to improve the quality of our lives. If anyone has any categories they would add to each need, please comment below.
Every day I hear some new theory about the dangers of simple carbohydrates. While I understand what the experts are trying to do, they forget that these foods exist in nature for a reason, and it’s in our best interest to find out why!
As I mentioned in my previous blog, I have been dealing with a cold – mainly a scratchy throat and a cough. It is annoying to be sick, but about two days into this, I realized that there could be some good to come out of my misery. And I finally realized what it is: to help people understand the BENEFITS of simple carbohydrates!
Yes, you read that right – there are benefits to eating simple carbohydrates.
What do carbohydrates do?
Carbs, as you may know are the easiest macronutrient for your body to break down and use for energy. When you’re not recovering from a cold, limiting them (especially the simple ones – white bread, rice, cake, etc.) is a great way to get healthy and stay healthy. If you do get sick, however, the number of simple carbs you eat every day should double or triple, depending on the severity of your symptoms!
Why should you double/triple the simple carbs you eat?
Did I freak you out by telling you to double your carb intake? Good, that means you’re open to hearing why.
Carbohydrates are an important part of your healthy life because they contain three of the most vital elements our bodies are made of: carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. In this instance, hydrogen is the key element.
Hydrogen and ATP production
Anyone with a background in biology will tell you that ATP is the body’s energy source. This molecule captures the chemical energy that was produced as your body broke down the food you ate and distributes that new energy to the cells that need it most.
This is transfer of energy is done through the influx of hydrogen ions, which the precursor to ATP needs in order to build more of this crucial enzyme. So, the more carbohydrates you eat when you’re sick, the more hydrogen can be used to create more ATP and the more energy your body will have to fight off the infection so you can feel better faster!!!
Think about the last time you were sick and how much food you ate. How did you feel on an empty stomach versus a full one?
During these last few days, I was utterly miserable when I didn’t have much food to eat. I would have to take two or three cough drops an hour to calm my cough. However, when I went to the grocery store and bought some carb-heavy comfort foods and gave myself time to rest after eating I noticed my symptoms became less severe.
What do you think about my theory of doubling or tripling your carbohydrate intake when you’re sick?
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, breathing from your diaphragm is one of the best things you can do to improve your health (and it’s truly a quick fix!). Doing so will help your body heal itself from a variety of issues, like anxiety, shortness of breath, heart issues (by bringing in more oxygen), and so much more!
In order to re-train your body to do this, you need to know if you are suffering from one of the three common breath holding patterns. In this post, we’ll cover chest breathing – specifically what it is, how it affects your body and how to correct the issue.
Before we delve into the topic, it’s good to see what this pattern looks like. Here’s a great illustration from Buzzle.
How does someone chest breathe?
As I mentioned earlier, chest breathing is a normal part how the body functions, but it should only be used as a last resort. Think about what happens when you find yourself in a scary situation. Do you find yourself taking short, incomplete breaths, making it harder and harder for you to you to fully catch your breath? That is EXACTLY what chest breathing is and it can have some seriously negative health repercussions. Let’s look at a few of them.
What does chest breathing do to your mind and body?
Breathing from your chest is a natural thing to do when we’re in a state of fear, that’s why many people do not see a problem with this way of breathing. However, following this pattern for an extended period of time, rather than breathing from your diaphragm can cause several health problems.
Chronic upper body tension. When you force yourself to breathe through your chest, rather than starting at your belly, the secondary respiratory muscles get used instead of the primary ones. When the secondary muscles are forced to be used more often than necessary, it is very likely that they will tire quickly and be sure to alert you that they don’t want to be used improperly!
Digestive issues. Constantly holding in your stomach prevents the organs in your abdomen from getting adequate circulation. This, in turn, prevents the body from having the ability to release the toxins it prevented your body from absorbing, especially through excretion.
Weight loss/gain. Digestive issues don’t just effect your ability to go to the bathroom, it plays directly into your weight loss efforts. One of the most common digestive issues is constipation. Yes, this is kind of a gross subject, but it is extremely important to improving your health. You know that when you are constipated, you aren’t able to poop as often as you should. This is bad because when you poop, your body is essentially expelling the bad things that it cannot use. If you aren’t able to do so regularly, your body loses the ability to absorb key nutrients – that’s right, nutrient absorption happens in the digestive tract – which prevents you from achieving your weight loss goals.
Heart issues. As discussed in my previous post on diaphragmatic breathing, the heart is directly tied to the way you breathe, because of the oxygen it has access to. When you breathe from your chest, your lungs cannot fully expand, which prevents the body from getting the maximum amount of oxygen it needs to perform at its best.. This is important to keep in mind because the heart pumps oxygenated blood to different parts of the body and if there isn’t enough oxygen, the heart will react by pumping harder to try to deliver more oxygenated blood, creating a vicious cycle of harder work for itself.
Chest breathing doesn’t just impact your mental health, it is sometimes caused by mental distress. In order to better help those who suffer from this unhealthy breathing pattern, it is wise to examine the underlying cause and treat that rather than focusing on the after effects.
Chest breathing usually starts when you are in a stressful situation, again, because it is a survival mechanism humans have developed over the years. Now that we know why this breathing pattern occurs, it’s important to understand how our modern lives contribute to the problem.
Men and women are equally vulnerable to dealing with this, but for different reasons. In America, men are expected to be able to handle anything and everything that comes their way without complaining. How ridiculous is that!?
Women, on the other hand, tend to become chest breathers because of the unrealistic standard of beauty in the United States. From a young age, girls are taught that having ample breasts and a small waist is the ideal body type, which is the perfect pressure cooker for chest breathing!
Now that we know WHY men and women are susceptible to chest breathing, we can see create tools that help undo this pattern.
Fixing the problem
Chest breathing is an easy issue to correct, if you give yourself the time to practice these tools:
Take 3 to 5 minutes every day and consciously try to get the belly to expand when you inhale and contract when you exhale. Do this for three to five breaths, then take step back and see how you feel
SLOW DOWN – since chest breathing is triggered by anxiety-inducing situations, take time each day to purposefully slow down and think about the good people and things you have in your life. It sounds trite, but trust me, it is one of the best solutions available!
Give away any clothes that are too small for you. While you may think that the smaller clothes will motivate you to be the healthiest version of yourself, it is trapping your body in an unhealthy breathing pattern. I know when I take off clothes that are too tight I feel better instantly!
Chest breathing is a common problem that can be easily resolved with time and patience with yourself (this is important!). Even if you can only practice correct breathing for 5 minutes a day, it is so worth the effort, and your body will thank you in many different ways.
I’d love to hear what you think of this breathing pattern and/or if you’ve tried the correcting exercises.
In my last post about the 8 limbs of yoga, I explained the yamas, or a general moral code of how to treat others. Equally as important are the niyamas, or the principles that guide how you treat yourself! This is an amazing illustration from Five Pillars Yoga:
What exactly is niyama?
The niyamas are the observations we make in our lives. Every time something happens, we either get a good or bad feeling about it. The niyamas are our guides for ensuring that great feelings are flowing through our hearts and minds as often as humanly possible.
Sauca: cleanliness, purity. What happens when you wake up each morning? Do you feel excited to see what the day holds? This is the principle of sauca – allowing yourself to see the infinite possibilities of what lies ahead.
Santosa: contentment. Have you ever taken time to reflect on something you’ve done in the past and agonized over what you could have done differently if you had the wisdom you are blessed with now? DON’T!! Santosa is the principle of forgiveness. You may not have acted in a way you are proud of today, but if you use that memory to create a better version of yourself, those past indiscretions are serving a greater purpose.
Tapas: practicing with zeal and discipline. Did your mom ever tell you that you should do everything to the best of your ability, regardless of the task? That is the essence of tapas! When you give your all to a task, it usually brings great rewards. I can’t tell you how many times I have agonized over how to improve a homework assignment, only to have my professor give me a stellar review of it. The old saying is right, you get what you give.
Swadhyaya: self-study. Knowing yourself is one of the most powerful tools you can use to improve your life, especially when you are trying to get healthy, whether it’s physical or mental. We’re in the perfect season to discuss physical health… All of the Halloween candy, quickly followed by Thanksgiving and Christmas meals used to be a time where I gave up trying to lose weight, but you don’t have to (with my help)! I love eating all of the comfort foods on the Thanksgiving table and I would drink my mom’s homemade lemonade/iced tea like it was water. Rather than forcing myself to give everything up, I made one promise to myself, alternate a small glass of mom’s lemonade with a tall glass of water. When I did this, I noticed that if I went to get another helping of a comfort food, I took two spoonfuls instead of three or four. I’ve been using this trick ever since to enjoy the holiday meals WITHOUT the weight gain 😊
Isvara pradihana: surrender. This is related to santosa. When you’ve realized that you have done something you aren’t proud of – like overeating – take a step back and tell yourself that it’s OK and make a promise to do better next time. It does absolutely no good to beat yourselves up. This is a huge lesson to learn, but the more you practice it, it’ll become second nature before you know it!
Now that you have a better understanding of the niyamas, which ones do you feel you need to work on?
Hi everyone! I’m so sorry I haven’t been very active lately. The last few weeks have been pretty bad since my mother got very sick and died last Sunday. Her death is the hardest thing I’ve ever been through, but I am determined to honor her memory with amazing content.