Wednesday, December 9

It's the Holidays, Here Comes the Sweet Stuff!

Cravings for sweets aren't always a bad thing. It's true that often when we are craving sweets it is because of some other need that is going unfulfilled; many needs both emotional and physical will present themselves as a craving for sugar when really it is that we are lonely, or restless, or bored, or tired, or over-caffeinated, or dehydrated, or have eaten too much protein or fat and are trying to balance it out. All of these needs can be perceived as a strong desire for sweets. Unfortunately, many people respond to such cravings by going for processed, refined sugars and sweet foods, which act like a drug in the body by making the body want more while also straining the body's resources even further and resulting in more cravings, thus becoming a viscous cycle. This is why it seems impossible to avoid the candy bowl or the cookie plate once you've caved in and had a nibble.

However, it is natural for our bodies and palates to seek out sweetness in foods, so it's good to satisfy that desire- but it is important to do so with natural, wholesome, unrefined foods. Wholesome sweet foods benefit the liver as well as the spleen-pancreas, while also giving us a sense of satisfaction and well being: the "sweetness of life". They key is to pay attention to quality and amount. Some often overlooked healthy sources of sweetness are sweet vegetables such as sweet potatoes, sweet squashes like kabocha (green pumpkin), acorn, butternut and pumpkin, carrots, rutabaga, parsnips and beets, as well as a plethora of fruits. At this time of year, avoid tropical fruits that can be too sugary and cooling for our winter systems- instead opt for fruits such as pears, peaches, apples, berries, cherries, and melons, which are lower on the glycemic index (meaning they cause less of a surge in your blood sugar) and can be grown in locales most similar to where we live.

Aside from fruits and veggies, experiment with making life sweet using all natural, wholesome sweeteners such as pure maple syrup, brown rice syrup (a little-known but wonderful and healthful condiment), barley malt syrup, honey or agave nectar. Try drizzling one of these sweeteners over toasted nuts mixed with raisins, or heat up some leftover brown rice or other grain and add a sprinkling of nuts, a shake of cinnamon, and a drizzle of one of these delicious sweeteners for a warming, substantial sweet snack.

Also, rather than thinking of desire for sweets as something only satiated by snacks and desserts, bring sweetness into your main course meals. "Sweet" is one of the tastes our bodies are programmed to want naturally, so when we include the sweet taste IN our meal, we are less inclined to go for dessert or sweet snacks later. For example, tonight I will be making aduki beans (small, red beans that lend themselves well to sweet flavor) cooked together with chunks of sweet, tender acorn squash and sweetened with a little bit of pure maple syrup, served over a bed of quinoa with sauteed garlic green beans on the side. After a meal as sweet as that, who needs dessert?

Interested in finding out more about what foods are right for your own body and why? Looking for personalized information and support to help you change your eating and lifestyle choices in order to achieve your own specific goals for health and wellness? Contact me to set up a consultation:

Tuesday, December 1

Surviving the Holidays

Greetings Everyone!

With Thanksgiving now behind us and Christmas looming ahead, take a moment to check in with how you are treating your body this year. You've all seen the articles, recipes, tips and to-do lists that are aimed at helping you to stay healthier and avoid temptation during the holidays, but the first step is to just become aware of how you are living in your body. Do you feel that you are inside your body at all? Are you noticing it's patterns and rhythms, what makes it feel good and what makes it feel bad, and what makes it feel really awful? Are you paying attention to the emotional effects of neglecting your body and it's needs?

When I was at home for Thanksgiving vacation, my father said something in jest that struck a chord in me. In reference to all of the typical holiday overindulging, he said "Our poor tummies. We put them through so much." He was joking, but there is a profound truth in what he said: our bodies are working around the clock to keep us moving, breathing, digesting, processing, and living. Our digestive system plays a huge role in that, because food is the fuel for all of our bodily needs, and the digestive system is responsible for taking that food and converting it into energy, as well as satisfaction and a sense of comfort. Yet often, especially at this time of year, we treat eating as a sensory free-for-all and throw any concern about what we are feeding our bodies out the window. Our "tummies" are left to contend with more sugar, fat, processed/refined foods, and way more calories than they can process healthfully. The result is sluggishness, weight gain, decreased energy, heightened stress, and seemingly inevitable feelings of despair and failure.

However, we can decide to make a change. There are many things we can do in our day to day lives to create a healthier holiday time for ourselves, and I will be posting about them in the coming weeks. But for the time being, make that most important step: Slow down and take a moment to check in with yourself, and with your body. Appreciate it for all that it does for you to keep you going in your life, and be aware of how your choices affect it's processes- not only physically, but emotionally. Actually BE in your body. It sounds obvious, but it isn't- most people are going throughout their day living completely up in their heads. Instead, get to know what it feels like to be inside your body by moving your awareness there, and see how it feels- simply take a moment, and practice sending your awareness there- once you become used to it, it will come much more easily. When we are in our bodies, we can be aware of our emotional and physical states and what we need to do to satisfy our needs, rather than constantly being distracted by the noise and chatter in our heads that promotes the quick fix and the sensory indulgence. This is the first and most crucial step to making health and food choices that will support you physically and emotionally, and fulfill your body's needs. The more in your body you are, the easier it becomes to intuitively make choices that will sustain and support you, not deplete and defeat you.

So, notice where last week's indulgences have perhaps caused some negative side effects, either physically or emotionally; or, conversely, notice how that run outside or meditation session or yoga class or new healthy vegetable recipe or restraint around the pie over the holiday helped you to feel more balanced, centered, healthy, and just plain good in your body. At this time of year above all, we must remember that everything we do it a choice, and we have no one but ourselves to hold responsible for the outcome of those choices. Let that idea empower rather than intimidate you: your health, fitness, weight, and well being; it is all in your hands, even at this challenging time of year. And the first step is awareness.

Check back in often over the next few weeks for tips and tidbits to help you soldier through the holiday season healthfully and happily!

Interested in finding out more about what foods are right for your own body and why? Looking for personalized information and support to help you change your eating and lifestyle choices in order to achieve your own specific goals for health and wellness? Contact me to set up a consultation: