Health and Wellness Through Movement and Nutrition

I gave a talk this morning 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 going to make 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. 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 work part time, and Dr. Anne Marie Colbin, who I’ve had the pleasure of hearing lecture at The Institute of Integrative Nutrition where I am completing my studies as a health 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. Dr. Anne Marie Colbin, is an award-winning leader in the field of natural health, and a highly sought-after lecturer and wellness consultant…. and she is funny. Colbin is Founder and CEO of the Natural Gourmet. They are both prolific writers and they 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.

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 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 the perimeter of a grocery store and at open air or farmer’s markets 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, 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!

Time to Garden

I am inspired with the warming weather and the Flower Moon we had this week. Driving home on Wednesday night that beautiful moon was just beginning to peak over the Green Mountains in Bennington Vermont and it was breathtaking. This is a borrowed photo as my iphone couldn’t do the moon justice. It now truly feels like spring is here and so we can begin to plant our vegetable and flower gardens.

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To inspire me even more this week I found this beauty growing in the window at the Vermont Arts Exchange http://www.vtartxchange.org/. Being a native Californian, I am accustomed to seeing fresh produce year round in some form. But to find a fully ripe tomato in Vermont in mid May is such a gift. After all we had snow on the ground less than a month ago!

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I’m telling you the truth, right in Vermont, right now mid May there are these lovely tomatoes ready to eat! Planted in large buckets along the back wall of the multiuse art room at the Arts Exchange are growing 10 foot high tomato plants like these. I have had the pleasure of watching them grow since February.

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So now I have to find my organic seeds and plants at various farmer’s markets and gardening shops. I like High Mowing Seeds http://www.highmowingseeds.com/ they have come through for me in past years and are fairly local in Wolcott, Vermont. So far I’ve planted my first round of snow peas which is my favorite to grow (and eat). I also plan to grow green beans, kale, summer and zucchini squash, lettuce and cherry tomatoes. My garden is small but it manages to produce a good amount of produce each year. This is an example of one of my recent harvests.

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So with all the fresh produce to look forward to I am searching for new recipes to add to my website. I made this one last night and it was delightful.

6 cups baby spring greens

½ cup crumbled goat cheese

½ cup dried cranberries

1 cup toasted walnuts

1 shallot minced

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

¼ olive oil

Salt/pepper to taste

Well I’m heading outside to see what kind of gardening I can get done before the three days of rain arrive.

“It was such a pleasure to sink one’s hands into the Earth, to feel at one’s fingertips the possibilities of the new season.” Kate Morton author of The Forgotten Garden.

Blessed Be

 

 

On Living

Smile, breathe and go slowly

Thich Nhat Hanh

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As we venture out each day to do whatever it is that we do it is good to be grounded in some type of mindful practice. When we take the time to truly pay attention to our body and how we interact with the world, we can learn how to live richer, fuller lives. I start each day with a moment of gratitude. Waking in the morning reminds me that I am simply thankful for being here to greet another day and all the day will bring.

This weekend I completed basic training in EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, http://www.emdrhap.org/content/what-is-emdr/. This is a form of psychotherapy developed by Francine Shapiro that has been documented to be very effective with symptoms related to trauma. In order to become an EMDR therapist you must experience it first hand and so today I find myself even more mindful than usual….and this is a very good thing!

I am mindful that in my personal business @ Kira’s Kitchen I have several programs about to begin and that means I have lots of work to do. There was a time that the knowledge of all that needed to get done would have sent me into a tailspin. Now I am able to just acknowledge the tasks, line them up and plug away until they are complete. Seems simple enough right? For each of us the answer is different and so we each get to decide for ourselves.

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I am also mindful that I love both my jobs as a Holistic Health Coach and as a Clinician. What a blessing that is in life to love the work we do! Now that hasn’t always been the case. At some point in my life I made a decision to live with purpose, to do things that feed my body and soul while offering something meaningful to the world around me. The difference now is that I can appreciate where that mantra has brought me and I can be grateful that I’m here.

And so I will keep this blog post short. I love the comments and feedback my followers share and enjoy the good work you are all doing as well. To be blessed with good work, good health and so many wonderful people in my life who I love and I believe love me (even on those truly impossible days) is a gift that keeps giving. It allows me to take on the world and be as courageous as I need to be.

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~ “Freedom is not given to us by anyone; we have to cultivate it ourselves. It is a daily practice… No one can prevent you from being aware of each step you take or each breath in and breath out.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Be Well

Smile in this Moment

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~ “It is possible to live happily in the here and now. So many conditions of happiness are available—more than enough for you to be happy right now. You don’t have to run into the future in order to get more.” ~

Thich Nhat Hanh

mom, Kristen & Hannah

An abundance of natural beauty surrounds us every day…..take time to notice and honor natures gifts.

Pat Stacy 17 mile drive

AND…..in this sweet life we are blessed with many lovely people to love, who make us smile…..remember to cherish them

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AND if you love to eat well you will be even happier…of this I am sure! Try this recipe for an uplifting experience.

French Lentils with Toasted Walnuts and Goat Cheese

Ingredients: 6 servings – very easy recipe from the Food Channel, http://www.foodnetwork.com/healthy/packages/healthy-every-week.html with some of my adjustments – only 300 calories per serving!

1 cup du Puy Lentils, rinsed and soaked for 4-6 hours

1.5 cups vegetable broth

1 bay leaf

1 fresh thyme sprig

2 tablespoon olive oil

1 large red onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 carrots thinly sliced

2 stalks celery thinly sliced

Teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Pinch sea salt

¼ cup toasted walnuts

4 ounces goat cheese

2 inch piece kombu soaked for 5 minutes

Place kombu in a saucepan and cover with the lentils. Add the vegetable broth to cover lentils. If you need to add a bit more during cooking that is fine. Bring to boil and then reduce heat to simmer, cook for 30 – 40 minutes until all liquid is cooked out and the lentils are tender.

While the lentils are cooking, heat olive oil in large skillet and saute the onion, carrots and celery until the onions are translucent, and the carrots and celery are crisp. Add the minced garlic and continue cooking for 1 minute. Add the balsamic vinegar to vegetable at the end of cooking and blend for about 1 minute.

When the lentils are cooked toss them with the vegetable mixture. Sprinkle the lentil mixture with chopped toasted walnuts and goat cheese and serve.

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Take a moment each day to simply be present in your body and smile sweetly…..it is very good for you and everyone around you!

Be well

Springtime and EMDR

It is a lovely sunny day here in Massachusetts with the temperature promising to reach the mid 30s. It makes me smile when I think how fixated we New Englanders are on the weather…but when you manage to smile through the winter here I think you earn some bragging rights. We have seen many days this year when the temperature did not make it out of the single digits. That kind of prolonged cold can take the pep out of your walk. Winter carries a quiet beauty I would not want to miss but it is time for warmer weather now.

I had the blessing this past weekend of attending an EMDR part 1 (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) training in Hamden CT. with two of my dear colleagues. (EMDR) is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. EMDR is a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches. It requires the practitioner to use intuitive skills along with traditional practice. It speaks to me as a healer. http://emdria2.affiniscape.com/index.cfm.

Being so close to Long Island Sound made me wish for Spring even more. The training was fantastic and my brain is literally full to bursting with new information to help others. When we return for the part 2 training it will be late April and Spring will be fully sharing her gifts.

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It’s time to start thinking about how my menu will begin to shift from the colder, quieter winter to vibrant, lively spring foods. This daylily is one of my favorite to show her pretty face in the late spring. I am so looking forward to spring and the new life she brings. My yard is beckoning to me to come play in the soil and return the Koi to the pond for the warmer season. It’s time to plan what will be planted in the vegetable garden and dream about which perennials will show their pretty faces first.

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One dish that I plan to prepare with some of my Health Coaching clients this weekend will be:

Bitter Greens with Shallots.

Particularly good in the spring when young greens can be found in abundance, this quick broth-sauté is cleansing for the lymph system and liver. It is blood building and a great overall tonic for the digestive system as well. Try using mustard, dandelion, arugula,  turnip, broccoli rabe, baby kale or baby collards. Serve as a side dish or toss with whole wheat pasta or soba noodles. It only takes 10 minutes to prepare and cook this dish and there are many health benefits.
Ingredients:
1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 large shallot, sliced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

½ pound young greens, cut into 1-inch strips

½ cup vegetable stock

2 teaspoons tamari

Preparation:

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallot and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.Add greens, and toss gently to begin wilting them.

Add stock and tamari. Continue cooking until broth has reduced by about half and greens are tender, another 4 minutes.

Serve with remaining liquid drizzled over greens.

I may even serve some of my homemade organic Dandelion Wine with the meal. I can’t wait to get cooking!

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Peace is Every Step

Peace is every step

The shining red sun is my heart.

Each flower smiles with me.

How green, how fresh all that grows.

How cool the wind blows.

Peace is every step.

It turns the endless path to joy.

Thich Nhat Hanh

 

Be Well

  

A Winter’s Afternoon

ice cycles

White-Eyes

In winter

 all the singing is in
         the tops of the trees
             where the wind-bird
with its white eyes
    shoves and pushes
         among the branches.
             Like any of us
he wants to go to sleep,
    but he’s restless—
         he has an idea,
             and slowly it unfolds
from under his beating wings
    as long as he stays awake.
         But his big, round music, after all,
             is too breathy to last.
So, it’s over.
    In the pine-crown
         he makes his nest,
             he’s done all he can.
I don’t know the name of this bird,
    I only imagine his glittering beak
         tucked in a white wing
             while the clouds—
which he has summoned
    from the north—
         which he has taught
             to be mild, and silent—
thicken, and begin to fall
    into the world below
         like stars, or the feathers
               of some unimaginable bird
that loves us,
    that is asleep now, and silent—
         that has turned itself
             into snow.
Mary Oliver
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Spring is coming. The light is changing and the days are slowly lengthening. Stay warm as this cold descends upon us again and remember it will soon be spring! Make a delightful soup or stew to stay warm and feed your whole being. This is a real comfort food soup and so easy to make.

Buckwheat Soba Noodles in Broth

1 lb buckwheat soba noodles

½ cup shoyu

½ teaspoon ginger

1 cup finely chopped leak

2 cups water

2 cardomon pods

1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

½ cup shredded nori

In a medium saucepan, fry the leeks until they are tender.

Combine water, shoyu, ginger, cardomon in pot with leeks and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, bring to a simmer for approximately 15 minutes.

Add buckwheat soba noodles and cook until noodles are tender – about 5-7 minutes.

Sprinkle the sesame seeds and nori over top of soup and serve immediately

 

Peace and Brightest Blessings

Nostalgia and New Adventures

Have you ever had a nostalgic experience while enjoying a completely new adventure? Ah it is grand! Yesterday, I had a most delightful day that started with traveling to Connecticut with two of the loveliest women on Earth. We met while participating in the Macrobiotic Level 2A program at Kushi Institute earlier this month. The two on the right of the photo below were my traveling companions, Nandi from India, and Stefania from Italy.

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We were on our way to have acupuncture treatments with Dr. Shunyu Li, OMD, NCCAOM, L.Ac. whose practice just happens to be in Branford CT! http://acupuncturists.healthprofs.com/cam/name/Shunyu

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Now you might ask what the big deal is about Branford CT…and I would respond that I lived there for 5-6 years in my early 20s when I was studying pottery and herbal arts. It was a truly magical time in my life which I had not reflected on for many years until this trip. I was surprised how much things had changed in Branford, in fact, I could not find Bittersweet Farm where I studied pottery or my grandparents old home on Route 1 as it is so developed now. We did eventually find Dr Li’s office however, he was waiting at the door for us and greeted us warmly.

This was my first acupuncture treatment and so I found it very comforting to travel with women who had some insight into what I might expect. It was also wonderful to learn more about both Italy and India from the perspective of these wise women. We discussed food, of course, all we KI students talk incessantly about clean, healing foods.

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After our acupuncture treatment Stefania and brought Nandi to the train station in New Haven and then found our way to the Stony Creek town dock to have a little picnic looking out on The Thimble Islands and Long Island Sound. It was a beautiful, sunny day in the low 50s and we smiled at the contrast of the sound and the snow that met the water.

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We then took a drive from Stony Creek along route 146 to Guilford and found Tuttles Point where I was married and had lived with my former husband prior to moving to Vermont to start our family. Things had not changed much on the point and the house we lived in was still there!

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It wasn’t a fancy house by any means but the flooding of memories from that time in my life filled me with such joy. And to be sharing this excursion with Stefania who seemed to enjoy every stop we made was the joining of nostalgia and new adventure!

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Today I am filled with such peace and energy for cooking. I made this tofu stir fry this morning (I started out to make a scramble but this is where it wanted to go and so I followed). Dr. Li suggested no animal protein for at least 24 hours following my acupuncture treatment so my Sunday eggs are off the table.

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The stir fry was quite simple to make. Cut up firm tofu (I used Bridge tofu https://www.facebook.com/thebridgetofu which is local and delicious) because when traveling yesterday we stopped in Middletown CT where this tofu is made. Then marinate the tofu in shoyu, fresh ground ginger and lime juice while preparing the vegetable. I used carrot, daikon, burdock, red onion, shiitake mushrooms, green, red and yellow peppers, fresh ginger and broccoli.

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Then using safflower oil stir fry the tofu keeping aside the remaining shoyu for about 4-5 minutes until browned. Remove the tofu and add a little more oil to stir fry the vegetables until tender but not soft. Mix together with tofu add remaining shoyu and small amount of water and arrowroot to make clear glaze. Top with toasted sesame seeds.

Simple and delicious!

Peace and Brightest Blessings