Mindful Eating

How many times have you heard “You are what you eat”?
How many times have you thought, “I deserve this cookie.”

How many times have you told yourself, “I’ll eat better tomorrow. Monday, I’ll go on that cleanse.”
Fighting back and fourth between “Treat Yo Self” and “My body is a temple”.

I cannot tell you how much guilt and shame encompasses something so powerful and nurturing as food. We have grown up being told what to eat, how much to eat, what to avoid, what not to avoid, and yet- most of it was a lie.

We have walked away from intuitive and mindful eating because whatever we want is now at our fingertips. We can literally order from most restaurants and have it DELIVERED to our homes without having to leave our couch. It’s no wonder we are so sick!

Hunters and gatherers consumed food based on seasons. They consumed food that they had to work for, that they cherished, that they even prayed over. Their food was from the land. Natural and untouched. Food was nutrient rich and grew in the sunlight with pure air and water. Women used more and more natural resources to create and amplify the richness in their meats and berries. Men took every useable piece they could from their kill to pay respects and remain resourceful because they knew how important it was.

Disease did not exist like it does today. There were no such epidemics like obesity, ADD or allergies. Throughout the years man kind had it’s ups and downs with their resources and therefore nutrition suffered. Now, having more people than we can sustain, we have turned to science to feed the masses.

 

So it’s no wonder our nutrition is failing. Our food is no longer pure and our choices are made upon money. If you want something nutrient rich and untouched, it’s going to cost you. If you want to feed your family and are on limited income, your health will suffer. Although food is looked at as a necessary resource AND something most of us can grab quickly, it is also killing us.

Imagine a fish tank. It’s clean, clear, and filled with life swimming all around inside. The fish are vibrant. The plants are rich in nutrients and the water cycling through the pipes is fresh and filled with oxygen. Everything is working swimmingly (heh…) and you rarely need to clean it because everything has it’s purpose and is working well with one another.

Now in that fish tank, you introduce a cheap fish food. It says fish food so why wouldn’t the fish like it? Turns out it consists of chemicals, fibers, and foreign ingredients that fish have never eaten before. Once consumed, the fish start to get sick. Their PH is off in their feces, therefore it begins to kill the plants and the water starts to turn. When the water starts to become filled with bacteria, algae begins to grow. The glass starts to get a little green and the cleaner fish can’t keep up because they're not used to this type of algae nor does it taste good. Over time, the tank becomes polluted, pipes clog, fish die, and the once beautiful cycle of fresh water is stagnant. Sound familiar?

Food doesn’t always have to cost you. Making better choices and substituting your favorite go-to’s can be easy with the right research. If you begin to groan thinking about creating a new habit of eating healthy, would you rather groan about your hefty medical bill as well? Food has the ability to heal or harm you. Eating clean, rich, non-inflammatory foods is the health preventative we all need. Supplements, education, information, and learning how our body works is the criteria to live a better life. Eat mindfully. Slow down. One tiny little choice at a time. Changing your eating habits will not happen over night. So don’t freak out. Just give it a little more thought and see the bigger picture of what you are doing to your body. And remember, you are supposed to feel WELL. So EAT well. SLEEP well. LOVE well. I assure you over time, your body will TREAT you WELL.

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The hidden ingredient which could be wreaking havoc on your health

Photo courtesy of celiac.org

Photo courtesy of celiac.org

Gaining weight or having a hard time shedding pounds? Do you feel you eat pretty consciously yet you're still not reaching your health goals? You may want to consider the amount of sugar you're consuming daily. Many advertised "health foods" tend to be full of hidden sugar, which causes a number of health issues!

A longterm increased consumption of sugar doesn't just add to our waistlines, it can also cause some pretty serious health complications. High sugar intake is linked to diseases including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, certain cancers, Alzheimer's, and premature aging (And let's be honest, we all want to delay wrinkles setting in!). Sadly, sugar is considered to be the most addictive substances on the planet. Try quitting - you'll understand. 

So how much should you consume per day? The American Heart Association recommends the following:

  • Women: 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons)
  • Men: 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons)

To give some perspective, one can of soda has about 39 grams or just over 9 teaspoons of sugar! That means that just one soda will set you over the limit here! Yet the average American consumes 82 grams or 19.5 teaspoons per day! No wonder more than a third of our country suffers from obesity!

I always thought of myself as a pretty enlightened consumer when it came to knowing what exactly I was eating. I've read food labels since I was a teenager. But to be completely honest, I was mostly checking to make sure foods were gluten free and not full of chemicals or "food-like" ingredients. Turns out, I was completely skipping over the fact that sugar seems to be in most of the things I was eating!

It was during my time in acupuncture school when I was receiving a treatment in the school clinic, that a fellow student asked what my sugar intake was like. He thought that perhaps some of the imbalances going on in my body could be resolved my decreasing my sugar intake. He said to me "believe it or not, sugar is found in just about everything." At that time I thought, "I think I'd know if I was over-consuming sugar." Typical response from someone in the health field right? We always think we know everything. Needless to say, I went home and started to assess the foods I was consuming day to day. Sure enough, I was finding sugar everywhere! In my almond milk, marinara sauce, salad dressings, protein bars, you name it! This was the beginning of a totally new way of thinking for me.

I quickly started to realize that there were many other names for sugar, which is the very reason I was missing it.  I suggest reading labels on food packaging to determine whether or not there is sugar added. Unfortunately, you're unlikely to find the word "sugar" in the ingredients list. There are over 60 different names for sugar! Some of the more common names you'll find on labels are:

  • Cane juice
  • Corn syrup/High fructose corn syrup
  • Dehydrated cane juice
  • Dextrin
  • Dextrose (anything with '-ose' behind it!)
  • Fruit juice/Fruit juice concentrate
  • Granulated sugar
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltose
  • Rice syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Evaporated cane juice

Some foods that are typically high in sugar include cereals, sauces/salad dressings, soups, granola bars, breads and juices (I suggest avoiding fruit juices all together if you can). Just about anything that is prepackaged and more highly processed is more likely to have sugar in it, not to mention other ingredients that I'm amazed pass as edible. It's never a bad idea to consume more whole foods. You can easily accomplish this by avoiding the aisles in the center of the grocery store and sticking to the produce and meat departments. When you can recognize a food in its original form - you're doing it right! And I promise, your body will thank you!

Back to Health Basics

When it comes to health, many people in our culture want a quick fix, a magic pill or a new fad diet to fix all of their problems. We want to be told by our trusted health practitioner that a new prescription, an herbal supplement or vitamin or mineral will do the trick. It is estimated that Americans spent $374 billion last year on prescription medications and $21 billion on supplements. Most of the time, health is really simple. We can create huge change in the way we feel simply by assessing some basic but essential aspects of our lives. 

When I find myself not feeling well, whether my energy is low, my mood is bad, or maybe my stomach is not feeling great, I always start with the basics. I ask myself: 

  • How am I eating lately? Have I had enough water today?
  • How much sleep am I getting? Am I getting to bed early enough?
  • How has my exercise routine been? Do I need to change what I'm doing? Has it been too long since my last workout?
  • Have I been outside lately? When was my last hike or backpacking trip?
  • When was my last acupuncture session? The last time I had a massage?

So, take a moment and assess how you've been feeling lately. What can you do TODAY to take better care of yourself? Maybe it's a simple walk by the river this afternoon or attending a yoga class tonight. Maybe you'll make yourself a dinner with fresh vegetables tonight and get to bed an hour early. Sometimes, it really doesn't take much. 

Treat your body kindly - it's the only one you'll get!

6 Steps to Protect Against Colds & Flu Naturally

Autumn is in full effect here in Northern California. Leaves are changing color, days are getting shorter, and we've even had quite a bit of rain! This is the time of year it is especially important to focus on boosting immune function. 

Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine take a preventative approach to health. This means taking steps to improve your health before you get sick! This year, consider incorporating these few tips into your daily practices to boost your immune system and avoid getting sick.

  1. Avoid sugary foods. High sugar intake is known to lower the body's immunity. One Loma Linda University study showed that intake of the same amount of sugar found in one soda (100g) significantly inhibited the function of phagocytes (the white blood cells which engulf harmful bacteria) for up to 5 hours after ingestion!
  2. Get 30 minutes of sun exposure a day without sunscreen or supplement with Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a key component in immune health. Study after study shows that a low serum Vitamin D level significantly increases your chances of getting sick, among many other health issues.
  3. Make sleep a priority. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep per night for adults age 18-64. It has been shown that chronic sleep loss is a risk factor for immune system impairment. 
  4. Manage stress. This requires taking some "you time". Do something healthy to help you shut off your mind and get a break from the monotony and constant doing. Take up daily meditation or breathing exercises, incorporate yoga practices into your life, schedule a massage! 
  5. Exercise. We all know that exercise is key to good health. Exercise can effect immunity directly by improving blood circulation, allowing the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body and its tissues freely to do their job efficiently.
  6. Keep up with your acupuncture maintenance care. Acupuncture is incredibly effective at increasing the functioning of the immune system (this study demonstrates how a single acupuncture treatment improves immune function for 72 hours and continued treatment does so for even longer).

Follow these 6 easy steps and you may save yourself a couple of not-so-fun days. Who has time to get sick anyway?!