One Night Only, That's All You have To Spare

Want to eat healthier, have more time to yourself, a less messy kitchen clean up and save a little dough??? Then why not try Meatless Monday's, a trend in introducing more veggies into the average meat eaters diet as well as reducing meat's impact on the environment. Going meat-less for even 1 night a week has so many positive implications that it is a wonder more people aren't doing it. 

For one it decreases your carbon foot print; meat production uses up a lot of energy due to the farming methods used by cattle farmers not to mention the energy used to transport the meat. Going meatless also improves your health as eating more of a plant based diet can reduce the propensity of diabetes, heart attack, high cholesterol and blood pressure by lowering your consumption of saturated fat. Meatless meals for the most part are quick to prepare and will have you out of the kitchen quicker. I know I enjoy not having to scrub meat encrusted pots. In 30 minutes or less you can have a delicious meal of sauteed veggies atop quinoa leaving you more time to relax after a long day of work. Meatless meals are also cheaper to prepare and can save you money at the market, leaving you more cash in your pocket in these recessionary times.

As a vegan I am a proponent of eating vegetables and would love for more people to be eating healthfully through plant based diets even if for one night.

I challenge you to reduce your meat consumption for one night. Try Meatless Mondays and let me know your experience.

Don't Be Too Sweet

Do not be fooled by all these artificial sweeteners that claim to be better for you than the real thing. Many of them lure people with there advertisements of being low or no calories and promise not to spike your blood sugar levels like the real thing. Natural sugar comes from the sugar cane plant and while not healthy in large quantities it is still better for you than the other stuff.

Hear me out I am in no way encouraging that people eat cane sugar any more than I would encourage eating a high fat diet, I am saying however that if you are going to to eat sugar it might as well be one that is naturally occurring on earth and not created chemically in a lab. Many of the artificial sugars on the market cause cancer and death in lab rats. While humans are not rats I am still wary of anything that can potentially cause harm to any life form.

If you have a sweet tooth and are looking for less harmful sweeteners I encourage looking into these:
  • stevia
  • agave
  • maple sugar
All the above mentioned sweeteners are plant based and naturally occurring unlike 'corn sugar' aka high fructose corn syrup (but that is a whole other blog for another day).

Please know that having a 'sweet tooth' and indulging yourself in candy, cookies, pies, soda and refined carbohydrates can very well lead you down the road to 'diabesity' (diabetes and obesity). Limiting your sugar intake is wise, as sugar is addictive;the more you have it, the more you want it. While I know it's unrealistic for most to swear off sugar in any form I do encourage natural sources of it and small quantities.


I like My Hummus Preservative Free Thank You!!!

There is definitely a reason I choose to cook all my own food and rarely eat out. The longer I live a vegan existence the more efficient my body becomes at recognizing insidious invaders like preservatives, additives and pesticides that may unintentionally pass my palate.

I recently discovered a certain brand of hummus (that shall remain nameless) in an effort to extend shelf life (I assume) has added a preservative that my tummy didn't like, and let's just say I paid for the hummus twice. My very attuned body also broke out in hives. 

The take away message here is: eat food that is as natural and close to its original state as possible and don't think because a food is 'healthy' that the company that is packaging it cares as much about what goes into it as you do. Food companies unfortunately are in the money making business and not in the keeping you healthy business. I admonish you all to read labels very carefully even if you have been eating a certain product for years you never now when there might me an ingredient change. If you have the capacity to cook for yourself, definitely take the time to prepare your own meals; your connection to how you nourish yourself is extremely important. Needless to say the next time I eat hummus it will be made by me and preservative and additive free.



Prevention is Better Than Cure

With the change in the season, the levels of stress people are experiencing and crappy diets, immune systems are down and the rate of catching colds are up. In order not to fall prey I am boning up on vitamin C, water, green leafy vegetables and getting some fresh air so I can to minimize my chances of my body being an incubator for the cold virus. Here are some simple but effective things you can do to minimize your chances of 'catching' a cold:
  • Get 8 hours of sleep a night.
  • Drink half you body weight in water (ex: 125 lbs/2 =62.5/8(amt of ounces in a cup of water)=7.8 or 8 cups of water).
  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables (at least 9 servings per day).
  • Wash your hands with soap and water throughout the day and especially after going to the bathroom.
  • Get proper ventilation in your home, office and car. Colds are less likely to thrive in areas where there is good air ventilation.
  • Manage your stress. High stress levels are shown to compromise your immune system.
  • Minimize contact with individuals whom exhibit cold symptoms.
It all seems like common sense, however when crazy work schedules force you to reach for coffee and redbull to keep you going, the weekends begin and end in late night partying, fast food is convenient, and fresh air is lacking in most living environments, I would have to take the stance that the common becomes less so. Prevention is definitely better than cure so nip it in the bud before it can flourish.

What are things you do to maintain optimal health?

Altering your Mood Through Smell

Every morning before I leave for work I make sure to pat on some essential oils that are not only going to have me smelling good but create a mood. Whether I want to be pepped up, calmed down, have my sanity restored or attain clarity I can always count on aromatherapy to assist me in reaching that particular state. According to the article 'Scents & Scensibility' by Lindsy Van Gelder in the November issue of Whole Living, "Smell is the most evocative of the five senses, which means fragrance is more than just a luxury,it's a pipeline to memory and mood".

In addition to my burgeoning meditation practice I often burn nag champa incense, or dab a bit of lavender oil on my pulse point and inhale deeply to decompress from a rough day. The smells create a sense of balance for me and allow me to shift to a more positive place in my mind. Here are some of my favorite essential oils and their benefits:

  • Bergamot-balancing, regenerating
  • Clary Sage-antidepressant, anti-anxiety, uplifting
  • Grapefruit- aids mood swings, relieves nervous exhaustion and stress
  • Lavender- antidepressant,calming, rejuvenating, enhances the immune system
  • Patchouli- sedative in low doses, stimulating in high doses, aphrodisiac
  • Peppermint- uplifting, clearing, refreshing, mental stimulant
  • Rose- antidepressant, sedative, effective in aiding grief, sadness and feminine complaints
  • Sandalwood- antidepressant, aphrodisiac, aids nervous tension & anxiety
Use essential oils singularly or in blends. Create your own signature scent and carry it around with you to create whatever mood you choose at any time of the day.

What are your favorite scents and what positive mood do they cultivate for you?

Disclaimer: Remember essential oils are concentrated so use them diluted in carrier oils. Never put them directly on your skin and keep them out of the way of heat and light.


Tips on Picking a Doctor

As a proponent of wellness I absolutely believe being healthy is important and having a relationship with a knowledgable health professional is paramount. I  am displeased unfortunately with the way some allopathic (M.D.'s) doctor's are forced to work with their clients; which I suspect is driven by insurance companies and the biling of services. Many times care is driven by cash flow which means the more patients are seen the more the doctor can potentially make. Taking too much time out to assess a patient from a holistic viewpoint may be too costly. While I get it, it doesn't mean I like it. I read a great little book last year that shared some tips on how to choose your doctor and want to share that information with you my beloved audience.

Tips on how to choose your doctor taken from What Your Doctor Won't (or Can't) Tell You: Doctors, hospitals, drugs & insurance- what you need to know to take charge of your own health care by Evan S. Levine, MD:
  • Call the physician's office- If the staff picks up in a timely fashion it's telling as to if they are attentive and cordial. Ask the staff where the doctor trained in residency, went to school and whether he is board certified. Check medical school ranking. Find out out what hospital he admits to. If you are not happy with the staff's response move on.
  • Meet and talk to the doctor- If you are unhappy with his demeanor or mannerisms, if he is unkempt, or if you are uncomfortable either go see or ask for another doctor. If the office is dirty, walk out before meeting the doctor.
  • Disregard all advertisements- As they may be misleading.
  • Do not call 800 numbers at the local hospital in your search for a doctor.
  • If you end up in a hospital where your physician does not work, do not automatically accept the physician assigned to you. Have the staff call your doctor and see if he can suggest someone.
  • Only accept someone else's advice about their physician if you feel your friend has done his or her homework.
  • When your doctor sends you to a specialist, always ask him for two different recommendations.
  • Never wait in an office for more than an hour.
  • Make sure the physician accepts your insurance.
  • If you have no insurance or only have medicaid, go to a clinic at a University Medical Center.
I hope these tips prove to be helpful. Print them out and keep them in your mind the next time you may have to choose a health care provider.

Are you ADHD or Just Having Trouble With These 5 Things?

I find myself at times not being able to concentrate on any one thing. Being a slight hypochondriac I diagnosed myself with ADHD...lol! while ADHD is a real condition, I neglected to take into consideration these 5 things that according to health.com can lead to individuals having trouble concentrating.

The 5 Reasons people have trouble concentrating:
  1. Technology overload
  2. Lack of sleep
  3. Poor job ssatisfaction
  4. Too much stress
  5. Too Little Exercise
After looking closer at my life and assessing my levels of stress I had to admit that I was guilty of 4 of the 5 items outlined in the article and I had to laugh at my hasty diagnosis of ADHD. My focus is to make certain I stop emailing, answering calls and checking Facebook before bed, getting enough sleep so I wake up refreshed, not worrying too much about everything, getting out of the office at lunch time to get fresh air and go for a nice long walk and making certain not to stay at work too late so I can attend my dance classes.

What are you committed to doing so that you are able to be present and more focused in your daily life? What do you have to do less of to ensure that happens?


How Do You Feed Yourself?

My efforts at creating balance and being centered are fueled by good intentions, however my best attempts are thwarted as I become overwhelmed. This week my mind was spinning so fast that I was left dizzy with emotions and a bit drained. My day job as a licensed Social Worker at times weighs heavily on me and causes me to feel in over my head as I empathize with others and wade through a packed schedule. When the weekends approach I hardly get any relief as I have many 'other' things to do.

The good part is that once I get to that point I am forced to re-evaluate in order to calibrate myself and come back to the middle. What most effects my wellness is not what I am eating, but what's eating me. If I don't take the time to meditate and process after a busy day of counseling I come home and eat out of anxiety and a need for comfort rather than out of being genuinely hungry. When I am doing late nights at the office and become too tired to get my workouts in is when my understanding of being 'nourished' becomes more clear. Being nourished is more than eating healthfully but chatting with friends, taking a scenic walk, doing yoga and expending creative energy.

We all know what we need to feel whole, renewed and fulfilled even if we don't follow through with those tasks. I encourage you to feed your passions and explore your whole self ; to create opportunities to be feed from a (w)holistic viewpoint. Wellness is not balanced if you are eating organic fruits and veggies but are experiencing toxic emotions.

Take a minute to evaluate your life and see how you can incorporate better routines to nourish your mind, body and spirit and let me know what you do to (w)holistically nourish yourself ?


Embracing Community

If you are anything like me you probably have chosen the lone ranger route;doing things solo. While my m.o. veres toward individualism, I have challenged myself to embrace community. Though I am no where near where I'd like to be in terms of the whole embracing process (most likely because I don't like being vulnerable) I have been pleasantly surprised by what I've gotten out of being a 'member'.

You may wonder, what the heck this has to do with wellness, and my response dear friends is: EVERYTHING!! Mental health studies have shown that belonging to a community and having a sense of connection helps ward off depression,especially for women; which has everything to do with wellness.

I challenge you like I've challenged myself to join a community today, whether that be a group fitness class, a book club, a community garden, or getting together with friends for regular potlucks. You'll  be formulating healthy relationships, securing good mental health and fostering wellness through these support systems.

Happy joining!!!!


Are You Eating Whole Foods or Just a Whole Lot of Food???

With so much talk about whole foods I thought I would clarify what they are. A whole food is a real food that nature creates that has all its edible parts intact. A whole food has only 1 ingredient and that is itself.
Some examples of whole foods are:
  • Beans
  • Fresh fruits
  • Fresh Vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
Foods that have fluorescent colors, are found in boxes and wrapped in plastic bags are usually not whole. If the rice is not brown it is no longer whole because its been stripped of it's fiber. Processed food and food with preservatives are not whole. Our bodies are designed to eat whole foods, when we eat foods that are fragmented our bodies recognize that and then eat more to compensate for the loss. In other words our bodies will crave what it is missing. If you find yourself overeating or not feeling satisfied after a meal evaluate whether you are eating whole foods or just a whole lot of food.

Is the Key to Health all in Our Minds?

As an avid reader and health buff I have read a good number of health and wellness books. Most of them focus on the physical, however wellness is more than that so it was refreshing to see in Donna Gates' book, Recovering Your Health & Rebuilding Your Immunity: The Body Ecology Diet, that she makes the connection to the emotional side of cleansing and healing. She alludes to visualization, affirmations and prayer as techniques to strengthen our immune systems and enhance the cleansing and healing process in our bodies. She states,"If we try to heal our bodies but remain angry, stressed, or guilty in our minds, the healing will take longer & be more difficult. But if we cleanse our minds of negative, impure thoughts & emotions, replacing them with joy, love, trust, the physical cleansing & healing will be easier and more fulfilling.

What are your thoughts on the ideology of detoxing your mind in order to have a healthier body?

12 Fruits and Veggies to Buy Organically

I eat organically grown produce because I don't appreciate the usage of pesticides and their damaging effects on my body and the earth. While I make that choice I do understand that circumstances such as the cost can make it a less appealing choice for others. My suggestion is to seek out farmer's markets where the cost is often lower or to buy the so called dirty dozen organically. The dirty dozen are the 12 fruits and veggies that are most contaminated by pesticides. According to the daily green the consumer's guide to the green revolution, the new list of the dirty dozen is as follows:

1. Celery
2. Peaches
3. Berries (strawberries, blueberries, etc...)
4. Apples
5. Nectarines
6. Bell peppers
7. Leafy greens (spinach, kale, etc..)
8. Cherries
9. Potatoes
10. Grapes
11. Carrots
12. Tomatoes


Water Does a Body Good

I find it extremely disheartening that most people are not drinking enough pure water but are are instead being tricked into believing that they can get their required eight glasses of water by substituting liquids such as coffee, tea, diet soda, vitamin water, gatorade and crystal light. It is not surprising that there is an increase of illnesses; water is integral in transporting nutrients throughout our bodies and cleansing our blood. The key to health is drinking pure water. The fact that we can survive for months without food but only a few days without water is telling.

Below is a short list compiled by Men's Health of 5 of the most unhealthy drinks being consumed:

5. Worst "Healthy" Drink
Glaceau VitaminWater (any flavor 20oz bottle)
130 calories, 33 grams of sugar.
Vitamins and water might seem like a good idea but what they don't advertise is that this water contains nearly as much calories and sugar as a can of soda. It should be no surprise that this stuff is made by The Coca-Cola Company.

4. Worst Juice Imposter
Arizona Kiwi Strawberry (23.5 oz can)
360 calories, 84 grams of sugar.
These bottles which are just 5 percent juice cost 99 cents which makes them one of the cheapest source of empty calories in the country.

3. Worst Smoothie
Jamba Juice Peanut Butter Moo'd Power Smoothie (30 oz)
169 grams of sugar, 30 grams of fat
Whether you call it a smoothie or a milk shake, it has more sugar than a bag of chocolate chips.

2. Worst Summer Cocktail
Pina Colada
625 calories, 75 grams of sugar
Because of the super sweet pineapple juice and fatty coconut milk, the only wise thing to consume here may be the garnish. Try a lime daiquiri or mojito instead and save 400 calories.

1. The Unhealthiest Drink In America
Baskin Robbin's Large Heath Bar Shake (32. oz)
2,310 calories, 266 grams of sugar, 108 grams of fat
73 ingredients go into this milk shake.
66 teaspoons of sugar.
11 Heath bars equal the calories in this shake
8-12 minutes to consume this drink.
240 minutes on a treadmill running at a moderate pace to burn it off.


Start…Finish Stronger.

There are going to be times when we are not going to want to do the things that we know we need to do like working out. We put working out on the back burner because we don’t like it, it takes up too much time, or because we don’t see immediate results.
The other day I was feeling tired and did not want to get on my yoga mat but thankfully I had a date with my accountability partner so it made it less easy to back out. In yoga you are supposed to center your mind and practice presence and instead I was thinking I would rather be taking a nap, however I continued to breath and do the asanas and miraculously by the time I completed the second series of sun salutations I was happy that I did not listen to my “feelings”, telling me that I would be better off doing something else. By the end I felt invigorated, relaxed and calm. I know I would not have felt that way had I not done it.
I believe every time we accomplish something even when we don’t want to do it; it creates a powerful memory in our minds. That memory is something we can call upon at other times we don’t what to do something and it will empower us to get it done. If you know you will feel better at the end the start may be difficult but the finish will make you stronger.

Where Are Your Priorities???

Where do you fall in your list of priorities? Are you some where on the bottom of the list among the things that you will eventually get to or are you on the top? Many times we put ourselves last because of job, family and social responsibilities. We believe that putting ourselves first is being selfish or that we can catch up on the things we need to do for ourselves at anytime. Anytime then gets pushed further and further away until it ends up being no time. We make no time for ourselves and then wonder why we feel resentful, tired and plan old burnt out. You wouldn’t dream of neglecting your friends or family like that, so why neglect the most important person in your life like that?

It may seem like a foreign concept but you are the most important person in your life. You were created to be the best you, you can be and you have to master that task before you can help others to be that same thing for themselves. I learned a while ago that one can not give from an empty vessel. Stop worrying about everyone and everything else for a minute and put yourself on the top of the list. For some that may not be so easy because you have a spouse, kids, a demanding job, but trust me once you start to put yourself first your spouse and kids will see a difference and your work productivity will increase.

Schedule some you time, write it down in your planner and honor that time and make everyone else honor that time too. Turn off your blackberry, cell phone, home phone and any other gadgetry you own that will detract from you working out, taking a bath, meditating or going for a walk and enjoy being a priority.

Once you start making yourself a priority, others will to. Remember we teach others how to treat us so if we don’t place value in our time and ourselves we can’t expect others to either.

Thought for the day: What time is the best time for me to have ‘me time’ everyday?

Change Your Mind ,Change Your Life

“Change your mind, change your life”, a saying a friend would quote, has become my personal mantra. Our perspective on situations and things plays a big role in the way we both handle and deal with them. Too many times we begin a mission of working out and dieting to look like somebody (usually a celebrity) that does not have our body type, or we start on a fad diet because it worked for so and so; though that individual does not have the same needs and body chemistry that we do. We need to decide to change our minds from the messages that we are feed from the media that in order to be healthy we have to look a certain way.

True wellness doesn’t have only one look. Wellness looks like the elderly woman who does tai chi at the local community center, the middle aged woman who walks with her co-worker during her lunch break, the college student who takes aerobics classes at the fitness center and makes better meal choices at the food court, the man who in conjunction with weight lifting decides to try yoga, the woman who does zumba a few times a week to reduce her stress levels as well as her waistline and the couple who walks around the neighborhood with their children after dinner. To be well you do not have to be a muscle bound man or a size “0” woman. The belief that you do have stymied the best of efforts after working out and eating “right” does not produce those miraculous results.

The concept of biodiversity as seen in nature can be applied to health and wellness. If every flower was a rose that would be pretty boring, so thankfully we have daffodils, carnations, lilies, azaleas, and tulips. Roses don’t worry about being lilies and carnations don’t curse themselves because they aren’t tulips, so lets bloom into the beautiful flower we each were created to be and stop trying to fit into a mold that is not our size. Enjoy your life by changing your mind about what you “should” look like and focus on being your best self.