Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Personal Philosophy on Wellness

Tonight I want to write about my personal philosophy on wellness.  First I must start with what I believe to be the number one most important contributing factor to wellness:  Happiness.

I achieve happiness by simply this:  Doing What Feels Good.  This is not to be confused with doing what feels good in the moment.  Doing What Feels Good has to also feel good when done in front of your Grandma...  This applies to cooking a good meal, making an incredible pie at the peak of the season, choosing a career that makes you feel good about yourself, choosing a mate that makes you really happy not just fills the hole in your heart at the particular moment.  It also helps if he votes and is a productive citizen, or at least that's what my Aunt Moni says.  I digress. 

Looking at each decision you are presented with and asking yourself, what choice is going to make me really happy?  You ask yourself this, make an intentional decision, and poof - you are happy.  Repeat over and over and you approach long term happiness, or maybe even... deep satisfaction.  Deep satisfaction is what allows for inner peace (or that smug/sweet serene smile you see yoga on instructors) but that's a level I'm not yet qualified to expound upon.

All I know is that sleeping well at night is impossible having made choices during the day that didn't make you feel good.  From over-eating to having an affair - both will keep you up at night.

Once you have the Happiness thing working, the other two factors are Food and Exercise.  My philosphy on food is also very simple:  Don't snack between meals and Don't eat sugar unless it's really worth it.  Having three meals causes you to partake in intentional eating... thinking about what you really want, preparing it, and sitting down to enjoy it.  This guideline prevents me from succombing to the urge to help the kids finish their plate and nibble every time anyone else nibbles.  (Don't most of us have a deeply ingrained need to do this??)  But all those snacky calories don't actually provide almost any satisfaction or pleasure, in fact snacking is usually mindless and much less satisfying than arriving hungry to a beautiful meal.

And for the second part... allowing yourself to eat anything awesome is really nice.  Why should you deprive yourself of something truly great?  That just doesn't make sense, plus is conflicts with the Central Happiness Strategy outlined above.  And sometimes when a great foodie opportunity comes along, like a caramel pastry on the street in Costa Rica or an ice cream stand visit on a hot day... these are things that bring great happiness, and great happiness brings great health... even if it does come with some calories.

Again, two bites of incredible sherbert before bed bring great happiness.  A big bowl every night brings quite the opposite.  Everybody knows this, but we ALL forget it.  Ah well.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cholestorol and the humble little Vitamin called "C"

I read an incredible article recently in Well Being Journal (online) about heart health and how vastly misunderstood this issue actually is.  This is a fascinating topic and I am truly flabbergasted at how we have been miseducated on this topic.  Time to hear the other side of the story - the story the nutritionalists and wholistics want you to hear... a story very different than the Statin-drug makers have been telling us.

But FIRST... I have been very busy.  I have been recalibrating my two-year-old... again.  Three months or so ago, we transitioned him into his much-anticipated big boy bed.  A beep-beep one, no less.  He took to it beautifully and we never missed a moment of bedtime bliss, consistently racking 12-hour nights and 2-hour naps without so much as a peep.  The bliss ended five days ago when he suddenly refused to fall asleep without mom or dad laying next to him.  Thus began the mommy creep...

Laying there quietly until he falls asleep, I wait.  He is relaxed but I am tense, waiting for just the right moment to make my move.  I get one arm out of bed.  Then I move a leg.  Then half my body positioned over the edge.  Then hold that pose for five more minutes because he rolled over and said in the world's sweetest voice, "I love you mommy."  Ten minutes later, finally I am free from the bed.  Then I begin the Catherine Zita-Jones acrobatic escape through the imagined laser beams to reach the door.  Once there, I must traverse the threshold without creaking the hinge.  Curse my husbands name for missing the WD-40, and if I'm lucky, I'm out.

Ah!!  This couldn't go on!  I was exhausted, our child was appeased but not happy like he used to be.  So today I had enough of the Fockerizing, I was ready to be firm.  I gave him a loving talk about how it was going to be, comforted him for five minutes, and then left the room and held the door shut while he wailed at the top of his lungs while pulling on the door.  After three minutes, went back in, five minutes of comfort.  Another attempt, hold the door shut, more screaming.  After five minutes, went back in to comfort.  Went out a third time - and POOF, just as my Babywise books promised he would, he went back in to bed and whimpered for a minute and fell sound asleep.  By himself.  The whole endeavor took all of 20 minutes.

So I am here to assure you that you have a choice, should you ever face this problem (which my Waldorf School moms assure me EVERY 2-year-old eventually does)... you can continue crawling across your child's floor like GI Jane, or stand up and be the mom. 

By the way, if you haven't read the Babywise books, I strongly encourage you to do so.  Everything they teach worked beautifully for me and many others I know.  Especially the first book. Babywise The second two I found a tad strict on just a few topics, but still, they have a point...

So now that I have restored peace in my house, I can sit down and write about the next topic on my list.  Heart Health.  This is most helpful in taking care of the other two-year-old in my house ... my husband.  When we first met, he had been on Lipitor for a couple of years already, having been told his cholestorol was a little high and having lost a brother to heart attack... naturally, he was concerned enough to listen to his doctor's recommendation of the drug.  I had heard enough from my wholistic sources to know that statin drugs have VERY serious side effects, and have never been proven to reduce the risk of Death from heart attack.  ALL they have been proven to do is reduce Cholesterol.  So if you believe cholesterol is bad, then I suppose statin drugs work.  But still, they do not reduce the risk of death. 

Here is a quick rundown on the side effects of statin drugs.

People who take statins have suffered ravaging health consequences, including permanent damage to their liver, muscles and nervous system. Statins can cause:  Nausea, Irritability and short tempers, Hostility, Homicidal impulses, Rapid loss of mental clarity, Amnesia, Kidney failure, Diarrhea, Muscle aching and weakness,Tingling or cramping in the legs, Inability to walk, Problems sleeping, Constipation, Impaired muscle formation, Erectile dysfunction, Temperature regulation problems, Nerve damage, Mental confusion, Liver damage and abnormalities, Neuropathy, Destruction of CoQ10, a vital nutrient for health. Learn more:

Even CBS News reported on the "Mind-Boggling Effects of Statin Drugs", as they called their feature article, which describes CBS's Jim Matthews experience with just five weeks of the drugs.  Read more here.
On to the paradigm-shifting news as provided (in summary) by the Wellness Journal.  Basically this is the gist:  We have been misunderstanding just exactly what the term "heart disease" really means.  Previous to now I think most of us believed that heart disease meant a hardening of the arteries caused by a buildup of nasty plaque deposited there because of an excess of fat and cholesterol due to diet that accumulate in the arteries and eventually cause heart attacks.  Am I right?
This is actually NOT the case.  Apparently what happens is the arteries get hard, as in stiff and inflexible, and over time this hardness means they don't expand and contract with ease anymore (which they must do because their job is to pump under high pressure).  This hardening is due to a lack of nutrients in the body, from lack of good nutrition - specifically from chonic lack of vitamin C.  Once they get too hard, what happens is tiny cracks begin to form in the "pipes", if you will, and what the body must do is patch these cracks with whatever sticky patching materials it has available.  So, it deposits "plaque," a mixture of cholesterol, lipoprotein-a and calcium, into these cracks in order to prevent the blood from leaking out everywhere and killing you immediately.  What I'm saying is the plaque is not the problem, it's the hardening and subsequent cracking that's the problem.

And that's why lowering your cholesterol doesn't actually affect your heart's health.
Fore the whole article go to  It basically says that heart disease is akin to a chronic low-grade form of scurvy, which if you recall, is a deadly condition caused by vitamin C difficiency.  My friends, vitamin C does MUCH more than ward of colds and flu.  It is absolutely essential for your heart. 
So all the FEAR around fat, cholesterol, even calcium-scoring is actually completely mis-guided. It is not the cholesterol that's killing us, it's our diets.  Let's recap:  Being overweight is bad.  Having a poor diet high in trans fat foods is bad.  (Trans fats are from hydrogenated oils and are found in french fries, regular peanut butter, and processed foods).  More on good fats vs. bad fats here.  But... eating full fat/good fat foods is NOT at all bad.  In fact, fat grams are not bad.  Teenage girls of the world, can you hear me?  FAT GRAMS ARE NOT BAD!  And neither is cholesterol.
Back to the topic at hand.  What can you do NOW to prevent heart disease?  You can begin by understanding and embracing Vitamin C.  Many animals' bodies can produce vitamin C independently.  Humans can not.  Humans have to eat it in their food and eat it often.  Vitamin C can not be stored so it has to be taken frequently and consistently.  Fortunately Vitamin C is found in nearly ALL fruits and vegetables, and even many meats.  Think about it.... fruits, vegetables, and meat - the foods our ancestors used to eat.  The foods we were meant to eat.

Now I'm not saying you shouldn't also eat lots of other wonderful foods, like good bread and olive oil or the bountiful and beautiful world of dairy... but I am saying you need to eat your fruits and vegetables, and do so regularly.  (Days living on Luna bars and diet coke are not acceptable...) 

Also it is probably a good idea (read: no-brainer) that you should take some vitamin C and/or multivitamin supplements.  Everyday.  My husband drinks an Emergen-C every morning, after his coffee, and I also give him and the children multivitamins and always extra Vitamin C.  These are extremely easy things to do for yourself and your family and can work wonders on your long-term health and longevity.

If you are dealing with advancing cases of heart disease, please understand that this article is not making light of the situation by incorporating a bit of humor.  This is a very serious and I highly recommend you read this whole article or do much more research on the topic because they provides an entire list of the vitamins recommended to reverse heart disease that work in conjunction with Vitamin C, including Rutin, L-Lysine, L-Proline, Vitamin E, Magnesium, Co-Enzyme Q10, Vitamin K, Copper, Zinc, B-complex, and Omega-3 fats.  You can read up on Linus Pauling Therapy who wrote How to Live Longer and Feel Better and who himself takes 18 grams (18,000 mg) of Vitamin C a day.
The bottom line is if you've been lax on taking your vitamins and your husband groans when you hand them to him.... keep doing it.  There's good reason to do so.  You're not only boosting your immune system by taking your vitamins and eating fruit & veggies, you're seriously protecting your heart.

More on the role of Vitamin C in the body can be read here:

I'll leave you today with a picture of my son's famous "Bulldogger face", which he showed me often this last week during our bedtime battles.  Hard to keep a straight face when I'm staring into this one!  I am so proud of his accomplishment today.  It wasn't easy for either of us, but after two peaceful hours, I got my work done and he got his rest.  Happy mommy and happy boy.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Why I began this Blog

Six years ago, on a balcony overlooking Lake Como, Italy, my cousin Jenifer and I were nearing the end of a 8-week shoestring trip through Europe.  In preparing ourselves to re-enter reality, we decided to sit down and write some goals for ourselves - our "Top 10 by 2010" list.  She was younger than I, and at 22 (bless her boy-crazy heart) her list included things like own copper cookware and spend New Year's Eve in Paris.  I was feeling a deeper longing, with two months of my biggest concern being "Should I check email at the internet cafe before or after laying on the beach drinking cappucino and smoking Marb lights."  Yikes... I promise you that lasted a very isolated 8 weeks and never happened again.

As for my list, which I gave to her for safe-keeping as she gave me hers to be stashed away in our travel journal until the Summer of 2010, which seemed an infathomably long 5 years away...  (Ah, how long 5 years looks to a 20-something or someone who hasn't watched kids grow up...)  My list included things like pursue a meaningful career in a freelance capacity and marry my soulmate.  Deep... The final goal on my list... #10... and the only one I hadn't accomplished by the time we opened those envelopes last summer.... the one I'd been unable to get clear on and what made me feel "stuck in mud."  That goal was very broad but very elusive.  It said simply:  WRITE SOMETHING.

I considered a memoir of my childhood experiences which included growing up (from preschool to highschool) with my whole world focused on my mother's 10-year battle with breast cancer.  But I wasn't able to take that on... too heavy, too daunting.  I've thought about children's books, but that vision hasn't fully come together yet.  But then a few days ago, on my Mother's would-be Birthday, as a matter of fact, I began to feel inspired and suddenly felt overflowing with information that almost had to be shared.  And then I opened the Hummus.


I've never seen a sticker on a Hummus lid before.  It struck me as hilarious; and as I laughed, I marveled at the Universe.  So funny!  So true.  I had to begin.

And it's with this intention - to begin to share - all the things I learned those many early years chasing non-traditional, alternative approaches to a cure (which have come in very handy as I have faced my own serious health issues) and the many things I learn each day about how to nurture my family and protect their health, that I write this blog.

Much of my inspiration also comes from my Grandma, who at the age of 87 is still actively pursuing her best health.  She never stops reading on health topics, relies almost entirely on nutrition (and chiropractic) as medicine, is constantly referencing Adelle Davis, she takes her vitamins religiously, even at the Olive Garden when we go to lunch - and true to her generous heart, she always brings some for me. 

You'll find that I am not over-the-top on my wellness pursuit.  I enjoy a dinner of steak and carmelized onions, yes, with bleu cheese and red wine.  I drink coffee with heavy whipping cream.  I love ice cream and baking.  I am not perfect and I am do not want to be.  I get really excited about good food.  But above all, I love being healthy, feeling good, and knowing that I am doing everything I can to keep it that way - so I can be here for myself, and for my family. 

Happy Birthday Mom, and Happy Birthday Me.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Summer Popsicles that Pack a (Protein) Punch

I am too horrified by what I might find to add up the total grams of sugar my 2-year-old consumes on a given summer day.  Between the megabowls of fruit and the constant pleading for popsicles, I wouldn't be surprised if the number would be rather much higher than I'd like.  But as much as I am a health-nut in many ways, I am also into making my family happy.  And nothing makes my family happy like a big bowl of a watermelon and a fresh batch of "mommy-popsicles," as they call them.  ("Daddy popsicles" are the store-bought kind... which as awesome as my popsicles are, they do still ask for... ah well, everything has it's place.)

Anyhow, I have my secrets - as all good moms do - and I find a way to get nutrition in where they're least likely to detect it.  Like in baked goods, smoothies, sauces, and of course, popsicles.  The secret weapon I have come to LOVE LOVE LOVE is called VitaShake and it's made by Sunrider.  (more on this later)  It's an herbal food (whatever that means) and has an ingredients list that really impresses me.  Prior to this time, I have left it at that - impressed - and also confused and baffled at what all those roots, seeds, and herbs could be.  Today I decided to research a few in order to share with you just exactly why I suggest this powder as a healthy and worthwhile additive to my family's diet. 

Starting at the top, the first ingredient is Coix Lacryma-Jobi.  Say what?  Here's a summary of what I read on this plant.  It's an herb that drains dampness, basically, and is said to be beneficial to the digestive system as well as the spleen and the lungs.  It is native to the East Indies but is also found in Hawaii and other places.  It clears damp heat (in chinese medicine, dampness and damp heat is not good and is associated with excess phlegm, abdominal bloating, lack of thirst or appetite, and stiffness/achiness, and low-energy, more on chinese medicine terms ) and if you want to read more about this herb in particular, an exhaustive source is found here: Coix-Lacryma-Jobi.

Ok, so what else is in this little packet?  Soy protein.  Well there's a can of worms I've been waiting to open.  I'm happy to finally sit here and do the reseach because in the last year or two the "Soy Alert" that has been circulating got even me, an avid tofu-lover, questioning whether soy is healthy or dangerous.  I found this to be the best synopsis of the topic, and I must say, I'm happy to hear it:

Do soybeans cause cancer?
It is true that "overcooked" soy does contain "carcinogenic" compounds. When soy is extruded through high temperature, high-pressure steam nozzles to form what is called "textured vegetable protein - TVP for short", this form of processing renders the soy "meat substitute" carcinogenic or cancer causing. TVP is what is used in soy dogs and soy burgers, and should be avoided.

What about roasted soybeans?
Whole soybeans are high in plant fat. If soybeans are roasted to eat as soy nuts, the heat alters the fat and makes it a trans-fatty acid, which causes both cancer and heart disease. As roasted soy nuts sit on the shelf or in the cupboard in storage, the oils are becoming more and more rancid and carcinogenic. AVOID roasted soybeans.

I have breast cancer, and I've been told I cannot have soy!
It is true that soy is a "phyto-estrogen" food, which means it contains substances that have hormone-like components. However, their estrogen strength is 1/1000th that of the body's own stronger estrogens. Therefore, you want to load your digestive system with quality controlled raw soy powder, because these weaker estrogens will block the estrogen receptor sites from receiving your body's own stronger estrogens and therefore be very protective against estrogen fed cancer.
Source:  Dr. Richard Brouse at

To wrap up on the Soy good vs. evil topic, the rest of my research concludes all soy is definitely not created equal.  Only organic, non-GMO soy is acceptable at the very least.  Also how it is processed and prepared is very important in maintaining it's healthful properties, but this is hard to determine from most supermarket packaging.  This is why you should buy any soy protein powder from a reputable health food store and check with their staff for a recommendation on a brand.  This is why I choose Sunrider because I have read all about their food-processing practices and trust in their product.  Shaklee is another good one.

Still wrapping up on Soy, a synopsis of the benefits is as follows:  It's main benefit is in lowering total cholesterol and bad-cholesterol (LDLs) and prevents narrowing of the arteries.... so much so that the U.S. FDA has even approved a statement about their effectiveness in reducing the risk of heart disease, when combined with a diet low in saturated fats. (1999)  Soy protein may also prevent breast and prostate cancer, increase immunity, and anti-oxidize against trans fats.  Ok, that about settles it for me.  Soy processed and pumped into mainstream foods as filler and substitues:  BAD.  Soy in the form of organic, sprouted or raw tofu is good, edamame is still good (phew), and soy protein powders from a reputable source are a great nutritional supplement to add to your family's diet.  (Anyone have anything to say on this topic?  Please do weigh in.)

In the interest of brevity, and getting to the pictures of those mouth-watering popsicles... here's the rest of the fascinating ingredients in my VitaShake powder.  Chinese Yam, Fox Nut Seed, Lotus Seed, Lotus Root, Calcium Carbonate, Chromium, Selenium, magnesium, various vitamins including Bs, D, and K, minerals, and trace minerals.  One whole packet has 95 calories, 3g of fiber and only 5g of sugar.  Enjoy!

Makes 4 popsicles and 1 smoothie for immediate gratification:
  • 1 packet VitaShake (in Strawberry)
  • 1 cup fresh organic bing cherries, pitted with love
  • 3/4 pint leftover organic black cherry gelato, melted slightly
  • A scoop of Nancy's whole milk plain yogurt, for zip
  • Coconut water, as needed to liquify

Little ones are sure to enjoy.  And you can feel good about knowing that the sweet treat they're enjoying is well worth the sugar splurge.  A good thing for us, because we do so love to splurge.

Learning lesson...  Don't pit the cherries directly OVER the bowl of the blender.  Eventually you're bound to accidentally throw pits into the blender... and not find them.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cilantro, the Superhero of Garnishes

Ever wondered how much mercury you have in your body?  This is not a standard test one receives at their annual checkup, but with all we know about heavy metal toxicity... what's a girl to do?  Mercury in our food and environment is a major topic of concern and really any accumulation in the body is detrimental to health.  Here is the best synopsis of the dangers of Mercury-toxicity that I found in my research.

Common Heavy Metals: Effects and Sources:  Mercury
Any amount of mercury exposure results in beginning degeneration of the brain (cognitive and memory impairment, irritability, insomnia), peripheral numbness and weakness, compromised vision and hearing, immune suppression, gastrointestinal dysfunction, birth defects, hypothyroidism, and asthma. Ultimately, the initial degeneration of nerve tissues can result in neurodegenerative diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis.    Sources of exposure: Amalgam dental fillings (50% mercury) are the biggest offender. Other sources include vaccines, contaminated fish (especially tuna and swordfish), some laxatives, many inks for printers and tattoos, many types of cosmetics including nail polish, solvents and drugs, and much of our public water supply.

Yikes, so basically we are all carrying around some mercury in who-knows-what levels.  I, for one, had half a dozen mercury fillings as a kid (which I had removed at age 25 and replaced with porcelain ones), ate tuna melts more regularly than I care to admit, have shuffled many a printed paper, drank my fair share of municipal water... and wouldn't be caught dead without painted toes... in other words, I've lived a pretty typical life.  The incredible thing is apparently we don't have to live with it forever, or pay for expensive kits that claim to reduce levels.  All we have to do is eat cilantro.

In doses of just two tablespoons per day, cilantro is supposedly able to help remove mercury from the body by acting as a chelating agent for the harmful substance.  (pronounced "key-late-ing") It binds with the mercury and mobilizes it from it's hiding place, then escorts it out of the body.  Some sites say its most effective lightly cooked (note: not cooked to the bejeezus) so I've tried it as a tea.  In the summer, I make jars of iced tea in various wondeful flavors, so today I added a bunch of cilantro stems to one quart jar plus two tea bags of Yogi Seven-Berry Antioxidant tea.  Very nice indeed.

Others suggest making it into a pesto, to spread or shmear on anything.  Here's a recipe I like. cilantro pesto  I think I got at least a tablespoon onto this amazing sandwich...
And another tablespoon in this incredible summer salad made with corn, tomato, yellow beets, carmelized onion, goat feta, navy beans, and of course - cilantro.  This salad keeps in the fridge for a couple of days, so make lots and have often.

The moral of this story is Cilantro is a total Superhero!  Toss it in things, with things, on things... just make sure to eat it - what an enjoyable and delicious positive step on the path to better health.  Bon ap!