Health and Wellness Through Movement and Nutrition

I gave a talk at The Unitarian Universalist church of Pittsfield. It was part of a larger conversation about Health and Wellness Through Movement and Nutrition. It was fun to partner up with the church administrator, Kas Maroney who offers strength training and other exercise classes. I will add an excerpt from the service for your reading pleasure.

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Mike Adams, author, investigative journalist and educator is quoted as saying

…“Today, more than 95% of all chronic disease is caused by food choice, toxic food ingredients, nutritional deficiencies and lack of physical exercise.” –

So how does nutrition contribute to having energy to do the things we like to do? Seems like a silly question doesn’t it. After all food and water are our life source, we all understand on some level that we can’t live without them. But it’s surprising how many people, including medical practitioners truly don’t consider the impact nutrition has on our health. When was the last time your doctor said “go home make a cup of tea (without sugar please) and vegetable barley soup and then go to bed early to catch up on your rest?” Rather we tend to believe and trust that there is a magic pill or medical procedure that can address whatever health issue arises. Therefore we don’t have to give much thought to how we eat and live our lives. In essence, we don’t have to take much responsibility in assuring we have good health because that’s someone else’s job.

We live in a society where the idea of health is that you reach a certain age and your health begins to fail. We expect to become ill throughout our lives with common ailments such as flu or cold and many of us grow up believing that due to our genetics we will develop whatever ailment has plagued our family of origin. The science to support this thinking is sketchy at times and often funded by pharmaceutical companies who are making killing on our fears. It has become our cultural or societal norm to be bombarded by advertisements for the next wonder drug and then we find ourselves calling our doctors to ask if it is right for us, never mind the often times harmful side effects. The good news is there is a simpler, less dangerous solution that can in fact improve health and vitality at any age. The truth is nutrition and lifestyle have everything to do with how healthy we are regardless of our genetics.

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The student prepared feast at Kushi Institute’s Macrobiotic Leadership Program Level Ceremony!

The growing chatter out there about eating healthy whole foods or real foods for health can get a bit confusing, however. Go into any book store and you will find numerous books on the topic and some contradict the one you just read. That has more to do with competing interests than it does with good information. Many of these books offer good solid information that really needs to be considered if we are to reduce the growing health crisis we experience not only here in the United States with diabetes, obesity, cancer and heart disease, but now in many other regions of the world where diet has changed and moved away from the foods that were traditionally eaten.

Two of my favorite authors on the subject of healing through food include, Dr. Neal Barnard who I’ve eaten lunch with when he was visiting the Kushi Institute where I worked part time, and Dr. Anne Marie Colbin, who I’ve had the pleasure of hearing lecture at The Institute of Integrative Nutrition where I studied to become a Holistic Health and Nutrition Coach. These authors are among many authorities on gaining good health through diet. They have taken the time to learn and experience what a nutritious balanced diet can do for our overall good health.

Dr. Barnard is the founder and president of The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and is one of the leading advocates of health, nutrition and higher standards in research.

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Dr. Anne Marie Colbin, was an award-winning leader in the field of natural health, and a highly sought-after lecturer and wellness consultant…. and she was incredibly funny. Colbin was Founder and CEO of the Natural Gourmet in New York City. They are both prolific writers and speak the truth as is supported by good research. I think one of the best outlines written explaining good food and how to approach it was written by Dr. Colbin. Sadly, Dr. Colbin passed away in April of 2015.

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In her book, “Food and Healing” Anne Marie Colbin outlines seven criteria for food selection which I believe helps us really think about how to find the foods we need for good health and energy. I want to share an excerpt from the book that details these seven criteria. She starts with:

Whole: as nature provides them, with all their edible parts (grains with their bran and germ, apples with their skin – if not waxed) cooked raw vegetables and fruits rather than juices or vitamin pills. Whole foods Colbin says supply all of nature’s nutrients in a team, as well as providing us with the life energy of the food.

Fresh, natural, real, organically grown: meaning not canned, not frozen, certainly not irradiated or genetically engineered, free from chemical additives, colorings or preservatives. The foods we choose should be the real thing, full of their life energy, not imitations (such as margarine or artificial sweeteners) which invariably turn out to have some health damaging effect. Organically grown foods not only have been proven to have higher nutrients, but also taste far superior to the commercially grown kind.

Seasonal: To be in harmony with our environment, it is a very good idea to choose summery foods in the summer, wintery foods in the winter. Fruits and vegetables in season are cheaper and do not lose nutrients like foods that have been transported long distances. They also taste better. In addition seasonal eating means salads and fruit in the summer and soups and stews in the winter. On the whole, most people do eat this way instinctively. However, with the advent of refrigeration, freezer trucks, and worldwide transportation we can get raspberries in December and yams in July.  We also ignore this natural order when we go on restricted diets, such as raw food and juice regimes, which require us to eat lots of fruits and vegetables in the winter or cooked salty macrobiotic meals in the summer. With these diets we go out of sync with our environment, and we might feel cold in the winter, or cranky and depressed in the summer.

Local: Local produce is fresher, tastes better and is more nutritious because it is picked riper and does not lose nutrients in travel. The best restaurants in the country have discovered this and make an effort to obtain the freshest organically grown local foods, which they consider top quality.

In Harmony with Tradition: We should pay attention to what our ancestors ate and incorporate those foods into our diet where ever possible, maybe with some modifications (less salt, less fat, less sugar) For example, our staple grain will taste more appropriate if our ancestors ate it as well – barley and oats from the British Iles, Rye and wheat from Europe, Kasha from Eastern Europe and Russia, millet, teff and sorghum from Africa, millet and rice from Asia, corn and quinoa from the Americas.

Balanced: It’s important to make sure there is enough protein, carbohydrates, fat, and micronutrients in our diet as a whole, and to pay attention to the expansive/contractive, acid/alkaline and the five phase theory system. For aesthetics it is also important to include foods with a variety of flavors, colors and textures.

 Delicious: There is no point in eating “healthy” food if it doesn’t taste good. Besides, our taste buds can guide us, when encountering whole, real natural foods, to what we need and what we don’t need …and we’d do well to listen.

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The movement toward eating better is now thought to include a return to what our ancestors ate meaning eating foods grown closer to home in more natural circumstances. It also means getting rid of the sugary processed foods that are quite literally killing us. What we are learning in the nutrition field is that the closer the food we eat is to its natural form the better it is for us. My new food mantra is “if it contains more than a couple ingredients it’s probably not good for me.” I shop carefully and with a plan at the grocery store and try to source food at open air or farmer’s markets or directly from a farm when possible. I read labels incessantly and in reducing my sugar and processed food intake have greatly improved my health.

In my health coaching practice I begin by suggesting clients reduce or refrain from eating the following foods: sugar, white flour and other gluten products, animal proteins, processed foods, as well as alcohol and tobacco and in some cases soy products. This simple starting point has assisted many others in achieving their health goals. Though the recommendations are simple the practice is not always so simple. We are used to sweet and salty foods that don’t necessarily taste like the food they mimic. So it is important to be patient with yourself and have someone in it with you who can support you to reach optimal health.

I close today with this quote from Hippocrates:

Everyone has a doctor in him or her; we just have to help it in its work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well. Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food.

                                           Be Well!

Leanne

Kiraskitchen5@gmail.com

The Politics of Food..What is at Risk?

Kira's Good Eats Kitchen

In this very politically charged world we are living in it is hard for me, as a Certified Holistic Health and Nutrition Educator/Counselor to ignore the politics of food. The access to good food is critical for all people in reaching their optimal health and well-being. Without good food we know that we are less likely to be successful in what we endeavor to do in life.

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I am very fortunate in that I have access to good food, grown often very close to where I live. Food that is grown organically or with great care to avoid a multitude of pesticides. I also have jobs that I love at Vermont School for Girls and Southern Vermont College. I work with thoughtful people who seem to enjoy and support the work I do. And I have my private practice as a Holistic Health and Nutrition Educator/Counselor which every day teaches…

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Food And Mood – The Gut Brain Connection Expanded

Kira's Good Eats Kitchen

There is a lot of noise out thereabout the gut-brain connection as it relates to our health. We are learning so much more about how a healthy gutcan greatly influence our health. Research in the fields of neuropharmacology& neuroscienceare revealing just how important it is for us to maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria in order to achieve homeostasis within our body (and our gut)thus experiencing optimalhealth.This bacteria is known as our microbiome.The human microbiome is the totality of microorganisms and their collective genetic material present in or around the human body.

Michael Spector, an American journalist and staff writerfor New Yorker magazine wrote the following about the human microbiome. “We are inhabited by as many as ten thousand bacterial species, these cells outnumber those which we consider our own by ten to one, and weigh, all told, about three pounds-the same as our brain. Together, they are referred…

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Spice Up Your Life

Spice up your life

Kira's Good Eats Kitchen

It’s no secret that spices have wonderful flavor, adding much to our culinary palette. But did you know that spices have more to offer than taste, in fact in some cultures spices are highly valued for their medicinal benefits. With cold and flu season approaching it seems like a good time to explore spices for flavor and for health.

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Indian, Chinese and many Indigenous people use herbs and spices for various health needs. Turmeric (Curcuma Langa) for instance, is touted as a super food with multiple health benefits. A member of the ginger family, it is native to Asia and used in Pakistani and Indian recipes as a staple spice. Along with its delightful taste, turmeric is one of the highest sources for beta-carotene due to its curcumin content. Its also noted with containing strong antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-arthritic and anti-inflammatory qualities and is known to strengthen the nervous system. There is a great deal of interest…

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On Being Empty

My brilliant and thoughtful daughter

Adulthood is Terriffying

Church wasn’t a major element in my young life; both of my parents, recovering from Catholic upbringings, were lax in my siblings’ and my religious education. This allowed me to grow up with a curiosity and affection toward my spirit and its position in the universe, rather than the humiliation or confusion that a more strict religious childhood might have projected onto that relationship.

My mother did bring me to church with her, but it was a Unitarian congregation where most members were more interested in political and social activism than spreading the Good News, and although I attended Sunday school, the classes were focused on researching different world religions, volunteering within the community, and openly discussing our earnest and naive explorations of the spirituality each of our young heads was just beginning to wrap itself around. I was never once told what to believe. Rather, I was given opportunities…

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For the birds: Attracting Orioles

More fun facts from Olsen Farm

Olsen Farm

Orioles are beautiful birds with an amazing song and bright, sunny plumage. These stunning birds LOVE sweet blossoms and fruit, particularly oranges.

To attract these beauties to your yard you could simply stick orange slices out on posts in the yard, or you can make a decorative treat with sliced oranges with these simple steps.

What you will need:

fresh oranges

sharp knife

2-3 inch twigs

string or twine, cut in 12-15 inch lengths

a skewer or knitting needle (I used a knitting needle)

1. Slice oranges in half

2. Cut a few 2-3 inch twig bits

IMG_3317I used willow trigs because they are plentiful in our yard and are flexible

3. Use a sharp knife to cut a small nick in the center of each twig, as shown below

4. Wrap string or twine around nick in center of each twig and tie securely

5. Use skewer or knitting…

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A Pretty Long History of Personal Humiliation

❤️ My lovely and talented daughter Hannah!

Adulthood is Terriffying

Back in elementary school, 94% of the time I spent with my friends was occupied by dressing up as and/or pretending to be theSpice Girls(it was the late ’90s and I was 12, okay??!).

I always wanted to be Scary Spice, the “wacky black one,” who I related to on account of her wackiness, and whose blackness didn’t really seem like a good enough reason to disqualify me from playing her inliving room reenactments of scenes fromSpice World.

My friends never reacted the way 12-year-olds pretending to be sexy British pop stars seemed like they should react when I volunteered to be Scary Spice. And by that I mean, they didn’t giggleand/or throw up a peace sign and/or pop on a British accent for a forced “Girl powah!”

There was something discernibly awkward about the laughter from the visibly uncomfortable psudeo-Spices around me. Or at least,I felt

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