Monthly Archives: January 2017

Motivational Monday: Love, Life, Balance

“I learned again and again in my life, until you get your own act together, you’re not ready for Big Love.  What you are ready for is one of those codependent relationships where you desperately need a partner.”  ~ Bruce H. Lipton

It’s not officially February, but it will be this week.  Seeing it’s a short month, I thought we could get started.  I will be focused on Love, Life, Balance for a monthly wellness theme.

Bruce H. Lipton, PhD, possibly most known for authoring The Biology of Belief:  Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter, & Miracles, is actually a biologist by trade, but has proved to be both scientific and inspirational in reminding us to place emphasis on the role beliefs and perceptions have with respect to our overall physiological health.

One of his subtle reminders (or perhaps not that subtle…) seemed like a great place to start to intertwine the role of “love” into our daily lives, perspective, balance of our many priorities, and our overall health.  Keep following this month for further wellness motivation, insight, and sometimes a little fun centered around this theme.

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Wellness Wednesday: Lessons from the Blue Zones

This month, I have been focusing on community ties with respect to social well-being.  There are numerous studies assessing associations between social connectivity and circumstances with respect to health outcomes.

In fact, social determinants for health, is a hot button topic within current health policy.  On a broad perspective, these determinants fall under three primary categories; 1) social institutions, 2) surroundings, and 3) social relationships (Anderson, et al, 2003).

One of the most compelling projects that has further illustrated this construct is the Blue Zone Project.  Originating out of the work from a National Geographic investigative journalist and researcher, Dan Buettner,  the project as a whole has taken an anthropological approach paired with methodology from epidemiology.

The project inspired a movement and has been referred to by many leaders in the field of lifestyle health.  Various activities to build out some form of a Blue Zone like attributes to communities have been initiated across the U.S. through workplace wellness service providers, government grants, and other community-based initiatives.

Although the majority of us do not live in a “true” Blue Zone, the project does present certain qualitative factors for all of us to consider.  In layman’s terms, it helps us consider actionable areas in our lives by revealing the characteristics of those living within an official Blue Zone.

In application, the project presents us with 9 key themes for living a life most suited for good health and longevity; regular natural movement, purpose, stress reduction (“down shift” methods), 80% rule in terms of eating to only 4/5th fullness, heavy intake of plant based foods, low-moderate consumption of quality wine, sense of belonging, prioritizing loved ones first, and associating with the “tribe”, ie social circles (Buettner, 2016).

It is the last three areas that align well to my monthly theme.  They are both inspirational and scientific.  To elaborate further;

Belong – essentially, find your faith and the respective group to help support you in it.  This may not be a traditional religion, but there should be principles that mimic various world religions including unity, moral conduct, and regular, consistent social congregation.

Loved Ones First – nurture yourself AND familial relations.  In some cases, this may also include the “family you create for yourself”, meaning certain close friends.  Consider a plan to take care of aging parents and loved ones while relishing in the many wisdom-based lessons they can provide you.  In some form or capacity, find at least one life partner.

Right Tribe – ever hear of the New York Times article, “Are your friends making you fat?”, which focuses on socialization with relation to health behaviors (Thompson, 2009)?  Although I don’t love the actual title of this due to potential stigmatization, the concept within presents some truth.  Align yourself to those who are willing to practice healthy behaviors and, in return, inspire those around you through your commitment to do the same.

I might also add that intertwining “purpose” into the three concepts above can have a dynamic effect.  Your sense of purpose can help lead you in the behaviors associated to social constructs AND your exploration of social relationships can also further support your definition of purpose.

In lifestyle practice, this could translate to identifying your daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly intentions.  There are a whole host of mind-body tactics to help you do this as well as effectively planning methodology.  For those that might need a little help with this, please check out my professional website.

REFERENCES:

Anderson, L.M., Scrimshaw, S.C., Fullilove, M.T, and Fielding, J.E. (2003). The Community Guide’s Model for Linking the Social Environment to Health. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 24(3S), 12-20.

Buettner, D. (2016, Nov 10). Power 9, Reverse Engineering Longevity. Retrieved from Blue Zones: https://www.bluezones.com/2016/11/power-9/.

Thompson, C. (2009, Sep 10). Are Your Friends Making You Fat? New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/13/magazine/13contagion-t.html.

“Live, Teach, Relish”

Naturally the start of a new year brings about thoughts about the future and perhaps a little planning.  This year my planning brought about three core themes;

Live – perhaps my version of “walk the walk”.  For me this is the continued practice of living healthful and conscientious while remaining most considerate of others.

Teach – part of my personal and professional goals are to always remain scientific and rely on this principle to develop tools that help others implement simple, action-oriented lifestyle solutions centered on their health and well-being.

Relish – in consideration of positive psychology, this concept may best be described as an intention.  It is a great synthesizing term for taking in all the aspects daily life provides while finding the places to experience joy and gratefulness.

This year I had a little help to visualize my goals and objectives.  Last year I had the fortune to meet the amazing team behind ALV Coaching.  Representing a mission driven for-profit business, the talent behind ALV is certainly visionary embracing the meaning of Ama La Vida; “love life”.  Be sure to check them out this year.  Below is my Manifesto, a tool they implemented for 2017.

my-2017-manifesto_ashleya

Wellness Wednesday: It’s Winter in the U.S. Are You Missing Fresh Produce?

I’m going to let you in on a nutrition “do”…  when it comes to produce, quality most certainly matters!  So what’s the “do”?  Quite simply, seek education of the options, weigh them, then make the commitment to select the best options.

There is a plethora of things that can affect nutrient composition and density ranging from the mineral composition of the substrate it was grown in, the time it was picked as compared to the degree of ripeness, to how long it transported before getting to your plate.  These variables matter.

If you are dependent on super markets or corner stores to provide your produce, then you might find it challenging to pick the best options, particularly over cooler winter months.  Therefore, it’s good to have an idea of what is in season.  It will likely cost less and may be available through local sources which could be indicative that it was picked riper and shipped much less in distance.

According to Fruits & Veggies More Matters, winter is a great time for options such as certain cruciferous options such as Brussels sprouts, Collard greens, and Kale.  It can also be prime time for Sweet potatoes, Squash, Turnips, Dates, and Pomegranates (n.d.).  No wonder these are staple to holiday meals!

The Fresh Everyday Produce website also highlights Oranges, Grapefruit, and Cranberries (2012).  Finally, one other special mention is Greatist blog post “The Best Winter Fruits and Vegetables to Eat This Winter” for highlighting by cool or warm climates (Breene, 2013).

You may also consider what you can grow on your own.  An article on Off The Grid News highlighted different ways to grow Broccoli, Cabbage, and Cauliflower all year long without a garden (Cash, n.d.).

Modern technology is also on our side.  With the explosion of aeroponic and aquaponic methods paired with the local food movement, at home options are popping up every where and growers are investing in the systems to “up” the quality of what is available in grocery settings as well.

Personally, I’m partial to the Tower Garden.  Have you seen these things?  Available for outdoor or indoor use, the aeroponic system grows fresh produce faster, uses less water, and requires less space as compared to traditional farming methods.  Also, when given the right low-maintenance care, it can produce much more abundance for the dollars you put in as opposed to purchasing in stores.  Add one to your living environment and you might just make friends with those neighbors!!!

Nourishment through adequate nutrition from whole food sources is imperative for all seasons and it’s easy to get off track in winter.  Hopefully you can now say you know more about the what, where, and how to stay on track in terms of fresh produce.

References:

Breene, S. (2013, Dec 9). The Best Fruits and Vegetables to Eat This Winter. Retrieved from Greatist: http://greatist.com/health/seasonal-winter-produce-guide.

Cash, P. (n.d.). 3 Vegetables You Can Grow All Winter … Even Without A Garden. Retrieved from Off the Grid News: http://www.offthegridnews.com/survival-gardening-2/3-vegetables-you-can-grow-all-winter-even-without-a-garden/.

Fresh Everyday: What’s in Season. (2012). Retrieved from Fresh Everyday Produce: http://fresheverydayproduce.com/in-season/.

What Fruits and Vegetables Are In Season During Winter? (n.d.). Retrieved from Fruits & Veggies More Matters: http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/whats-in-season-winter.

Other Mentions:

Not Just Another Weight Loss Story: Journey Through Integrative Care

Guess what?  “I’ve lost weight!”

Isn’t there a slight bitter sweet element when your social media feed reflects all kinds of before and after pictures for those who have taken off a few pounds.  In one sentiment, it’s a “woo hoo” for that person while another reaction is more likely “grumble, grumble… skip over it”, correct?

Weight loss is a huge business.  Let me say that again “HUGE”.  A few statistics I have used in writing business cases for the US market include;

  • Over 1/3 of children, including those of teenage years, are classified as overweight or obese (Ogden, et al, 2012).
  • According to the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, 108 million Americans are on a diet and the overwhelming trend is for those who diet to gain back the weight in under a year (2016).

Furthermore, chronic disease data associated to overweight and obesity also reflect data such as follows;

  • Worldwide diabetes prevalence is estimated at 347 million and, within this total, 1 in 10 adults are affected further increasing their risk for cardiovascular related diseases or incidents, such as stroke (Danaei, et al, 2011 & World Health Organization, 2013). Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death, while mental health disorders are among the top 20 leading causes of disability worldwide (World Health Organization, 2013).
  • An estimated 80% of cardiovascular diseases and 33% of cancers can be prevented through lifestyle measures alone. Specific cancers, such as cervical (100%) and lung (71%), have even better odds of prevention (World Health Organization, 2013 & Ott, et al, 2011).

While a snap shot of autoimmune conditions in the US is reflected by the following;

  • Conditions associated to autoimmunity have escalated over 23 million in America surpassing prevalence rates for cancers and heart diseases (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2016).
  • Autoimmune disease and conditions represents an estimate $100 billion in direct health care costs annually (American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, 2014-2016).

Marketers may or may not be savvy to root causes to disease or conditions, but they definitely know the numbers that can further support a business.  In addition, those representing “weight loss” products are encouraged to flaunt their results as a social media marketing strategy.  The reality is few of these supplementary products arrive to market with the foundation of independent, peer-reviewed and well-designed clinical studies in humans.  As a health researcher, I have been well aware of this.

My story is a little bit different.  Growing up, I was always the skinny kid.  In fact, in high school, I was repeatedly “checked in on” for being anorexic when the reality was I simply did not put on excess weight despite how I ate.  To some, this may have seemed fortunate.

However, my status significantly changed in my late 20’s and I was subsequently diagnosed with an under-active thyroid.  I had studied nutritional science for many years, remained active, and was trained in fitness management.  Upon diagnosis, I followed standard care protocol and began taking synthetic thyroid supplementation (levothyroxine).  Yet, I could not develop a plan through eating and physical activity to maintain consistent weight loss or consistency in my body weight at all.  I sought help from other trainers and professionals assuming I was missing something.  However, as it seemed, no one could help me.

In reality, I was missing something.  My body had begun autoimmune dysfunction.  As many of you already know, a few years ago, I was preliminary diagnosed as Mixed Connective Tissue Disease and a positive ANA, then later confirmed Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.

…and so, my journey down topic specific health research around autoimmune conditions and respective care protocols took flight.  I quickly transitioned to integrative care approaches for my own treatment and became both a student and an active participant.

Over the last few years, I have learned seemingly a lifetime’s scope of knowledge providing much more depth to any academic degree or credential I hold.  I have learned how to truly support and nourish my body through lifestyle protocols.

In some cases, this does require appropriate, scientifically supported whole-food nutrition supplementation.  This can further boost specific phytochemical activity which initiates a whole host of activity beginning at the cellular level.  (Reach out to me personally for further information).

This spring, I will celebrate my 3-year anniversary of formal diagnosis, but I am also happy to announce that have I returned to my ideal weight and been able to maintain it.  There have been no gimmicks or “calorie busting” products.  The results have been a combination of solid self-advocacy for my health, building a professional team of support, using sound, scientific driven decision making for lifestyle choices (while making them), and, most importantly, having a positive attitude.  Also, as a practitioner, I began training in integrative and functional approaches.

Late last year, I started to feel more energetic in endurance activity.  It had been quite some time since I felt this.  It nearly whomped me over the head one day when a work out I would have previously dreaded the process of getting through was seemingly easier.  As a former athlete and life-long fitness enthusiast, this made me feel a little more like “me” again.

Going forward in 2017, I hope to get a little more sculpt and tone back for a more visible transformation.  I am also looking forward to extending my support to help more people.  Keep following me as I work to do this!

References:

American Autoimmune Related Disease Association. (2014-2016). Autoimmune Info, The Common Thread. Retrieved from AARDA – American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association: http://www.aarda.org/autoimmune-information/the-common-thread/.

Danaei, G. et al. (2011, Jul 2). National, regional, and global trends in fasting plasma glucose and diabetes prevalence since 1980: systematic analysis of health examination surveys and epidemiological studies with 370 country-years and 2·7 million participants. Lancet, 378(9785), 31-40. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60679-X.

Institute for the Psychology of Eating. (2016). Skyrocket Your Career by Joining the World’s Most Advanced Movement In Health and Nutrition Coaching. Retrieved from Institute for the Psychology of Eating, The World’s Largest School in Nutritional Psychology: http://lp.psychologyofeating.com/fd-epcc-sales-page/?utm_campaign=ACTIVE-OPT-INS(all)::EPCC-FunnelDash-Funnel-(4-Part-Video-Series+Report+Webinar+Push-to-Apply+Push-to-Enroll-$1000-off)&utm_medium=email&utm_source=email-automated&utm_content=consult-confi.

Ogden, C. L. et al. (2012, Feb 1). Prevalence of obesity and trends in body mass index among US children and adolescents, 1999-2010. Journal of American Medical Association, 307(5), 483-490. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.40.

Ott, J. J. et al. (2011, Jun). Global cancer incidence and mortality caused by behavior and infection. Journal of Public Health, 33(2), 223-233. doi:10.1093/pubmed/fdq076.

US Department of Health & Human Services. (2016, Jan 5). Health & Research Topics, Autoimmune Diseases. Retrieved from National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/autoimmune/pages/default.aspx.

World Health Organization, The (WHO). (2013). 10 Facts of the State of Global Health. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/global_burden/facts/en/index3.html.

Wellness Wednesday: 5 Ways to use Jarred & Frozen Fresh Foods in Winter!

Many generations have relied heavily on “canning” food and I am not referring to metal canned items lining shelves in an average modern grocery store.  Yes, mason jars reigned.  Once upon a time, preserving food in this way from the various harvest seasons allowed for produce to be enjoyed across the cold, non-harvest months.

Thankfully, consumer trends have seemed to revive a likening for the jars.  Some of this is fashion, however also, at least I feel, a returned interest to classic and “clean” recipes (and packaging methods) has further instigated.

Somehow, I have turned into my grandmother and became a collector of what I deem “re-usable” glass jars.  Pickle jars are often fantastic, but I have re-used the jars from coconut oil, mustard, and tomato products stored in glass among other things.  I had so many greens last summer and fall that I started chopping them up into jars and freezing them for winter.  At one point, I counted 17!

NOTE – be careful which jars you freeze as some designs are not good for this and will break in the freezer…  I have learned this the hard way!  Therefore, for any foods that take more preparation, please use good, sturdy mason jars such Ball or Kerr.

This all brings me to my point…  Jarred or stored away foods are great for winter recipe planning.  Now, if you are like me and have an abundance of frozen greens, you have great sustenance for smoothies or soups.  However other “good ideas” are fruits, jarred tomatoes or juice, stocks, and purees (my CSA actually puts pureed squash in freezer bags for winter share deliveries).

In fact, using the correct preservation methods, you can make a fair amount that is shelf stable versus frozen or refrigerated.  It’s a great way to get in a few of the things you might miss over the winter months (or will pay an arm and a leg for at a grocery store).

My top 5 are:

Tomatoes – I can use about any type of prepared tomato (diced, stewed, juiced, etc) for a hearty cooked dish; soups, curries, stews & chili’s, & layered baked dishes just to name a few.

Pickled Anything & Krauted Foods – Did you know that the term “pickles” is not just for cucumbers?  Thankfully some savvy farm to table restaurants are reviving this notion and so should you.  Just about any farm, fresh vegetable can be pickled.  If you have followed my posts for a while, it is incredibly easy to pickle using vinegar and water with desired herbs and seasonings.  Making a Kraut isn’t all that hard either and how about the probiotic boost it will give you!

Fresh Herbs – There are some technical methods online for “how” to do this, but I typically just freeze them in small packs in order to use as needed.  If you have a wonderful indoor growing system, then this may not be useful, but if you don’t have room for one, freezing the excess in summer and fall is a good back up plan.

Greens – You guessed it.  Why let those fresh nutrient rich options go to waste?  Frozen, they can be used in most any stove-top dish; stir-fries, soups, sautés, etc.  I have even thrown excess lettuce in the freezer to later add to smoothies.

Fruit Preserves – This is a guilty pleasure and not something I would recommend for your daily plan.  I probably go through less than ½ a dozen jars of preserves a year and they are small.  However, it’s a winter treat that I can use for oatmeal crisps, with nut butters, drizzled over banana “ice cream”, or simply by the spoon.