Considering a Plant Based Diet

The Year of Health has become even more important with my husbands unexpected heart attack and need to quadruple bypass surgery. As he recovers from a surgery, that seems inconceivable to me, we are researching what we need to do to protect him from having to go through anything like this again. We also want to protect our son from being where his dad is in 30 years. The genetic risk lives on chromosome 19. I learned this this week. The idea that a 15 yearly boy has to be tested for high cholesterol is mind boggling to me. We had already dubbed 2020 as our “Year of Health” even before this event. Now it is even more important for our whole family.

Diet and exercise seem to be the two areas where we can make an impact. We had committed to at least 10,000 steps a day and 52 hikes this year. We may need to do some urban hiking to make this work. Today instead of the hike we had planned, Marty took his first walk down the hall on the intensive care unit. We may have to double up on hikes later in the year to make our 52, but we will get there.

As soon as my brother heard about Marty’s heart attack he suggested a plant based diet. My brother follows this type of diet and it prevented him from needing to be on medication for his cholesterol. It also probably prevented him from a fate similar to Marty’s, as we have family history of hear disease. I have been pescatarian since 2011. I travel for work so have been hesitant to give up dairy, eggs, and fish. Marty eats what I cook but when he eats separate from me, he eats the typical American diet. Wanting to protect our family from having this ever happen to anyone we love again, got us seriously looking at plant based diets. My 9 years eating things without legs has taught me how to cook some amazing meat free dishes. I am confident that I can bring this to the next level. But, does a plant based diet really work?

We started research by watching some documentaries on Netflix. What the HealthFork over Knife, and The Game Changers provided us with information that was so surprising. A friend recommended a YouTube Channel Krocks in the Kitchen, which led us to another one called, The Jardoui Family. The YouTube channels provide some great ideas as well as wonderful inspired recipes. The host of The Jardoui Family shared her story and it was just as my brother had said. eating a plant based diet restored health and prevented the need for the Statin drugs that are often used to reduce cholesterol. It confirmed what the documentaries had said.

Can we do this? Sure, why not! Planning ahead and cooking for ourselves will be key in being successful on a diet like this. More and more restaurants are offering plant based food. In the Twin Cities we have The Herbivorious Butcher, which has wonderful options.  When I first stopped eating animals back in 2011, I just tried it and thought, “I will see how long I can do this”. Now, 9 years later, I am looking at taking the next step for my health and the health of my family.

May you always have good health. I love you!

If you have any fabulous plant based recipes  or information you would like to share, please post them in the comments. Thank you. If you want a natural way to improve your health, I recommend you watch the documentaries.

 

Purpose Driven Life

A friend recently reached out to me, to ask if she could interview me for a class she was taking. The class is from the U of M: Center for Spirituality and Healing called “Living on Purpose.”  She told me; “I chose to interview you as I feel you live your purpose and play the role of mentor for many of us in our group, whether or not this is a conscious decision or just comes naturally”.  I want to share this interview, as I feel a purpose driven life is something many of us want and struggle with. It has been especially challenging for me after my daughter was shot. I felt lost but this interview help me remember to live a purpose driven life. You may even want to answer these questions for yourselves.

1)  How would you describe a purpose-filled or purpose-driven life, in general?

Everyday we have choices to make. Choices about how we show up. Do we walk into work cranky or do we come in with an intention to light up the space we occupy? We have choices about how we care for our body. Do we fill it up with processed food (full of sugar) or do we consume whole fresh foods? We have choices about how we spend our “so very” valuable time. Do we get home in the evening and just veg out in front of the TV or do we do mindful practices, Like enjoy friends and family or work on creative projects? I think living a purposeful life is about making choices and not just doing what might be easy or routine, something which we all become accustomed to, from time to time. Somedays you will fall into routine or make choices that are not in alignment with your purpose. Other days you will make choices that make your soul sing! 

2)   Share 2-3 examples of parts of your life that are very satisfying, give you a sense of purpose and fulfillment.  This could be related to family, work, leisure, hobby or anything that you are passionate about.  What’s the history behind this part of your life?  How does this make you feel when you are engaged in this aspect of your life?

I feel great purpose in teaching and sharing information. This makes its way into many aspects of my life. Time with my grandchildren, my work, and my holistic practices. As you know, I facilitate the gathering once a month. Additionally I volunteer as a speaker, at a public high school, to share what holistic healing is with the students there. I was asked to speak specifically about Reiki and the Chakras, but the kids have so many great questions, that we talked about a lot of different things in the course of the class. When opportunities arise with friends and family; I will share knowledge, wisdom, or practices with them, that I think may be helpful. Recently a friend was telling me about some hip, leg, and foot pain she was having. I asked if she had any type of mediation or relaxation practice. She said she did not, although she felt mediation might be helpful but didn’t really know how to mediate. I facilitated a progressive relaxation with her. We started with some yogic breathing; taking deep belly breaths. She later told me she had never breathed like that and found it very helpful. We then progressively relaxed the muscles of her body, starting at the top of the head and worked down her body. She shared that she found it a helpful practice and has continued to do it. 

A coworker recently shared that she had a lot of work and personal stress going on in her life. I shared a free 21 day mediation experience with her that Deepak Chopra was offering. 

I think there is a a fear of the unknown. When I see little opportunities to share bits of knowledge, various mindful techniques, or a more natural or healthy practice that can improve health; I will take the chance to share and see if the person might be open or willing to learn about a different way of being. If they are not open, I drop it. It is not my intention to force things on others or make them uncomfortable. But there are people out there who are hungry for information. I was once that person who stumbled onto a book which started an awakening in me; from that day forward I was seeking teachers, knowledge, and my whole world changed in ways I could not have anticipated. 

Another area, that I feel strongly is a part of my purpose, is to bring joy and leave spaces a little brighter than they were before I arrived. I watched how my grandmother would enter a room and leave the room brighter than when she had entered. She just lit up the whole space. I have aspired to be like her in that way. I want to share a smile with a stranger, leave any group a bit happier than they were when I arrived, provide calm when I enter a stressed environment, and just make the world I touch a little brighter. There are days I fail at this but there are other days that I hope I create a chain reaction. Sharing joy with this person who shares joy with the next, and so on. 

3)  Is there anything you do on a regular basis to help you be more purposeful in your life?  If so, please describe.

I look for signs and messages. Whether this is a blue jay on my garden gate, drawing a tarot card, seeing a star (which reminds me to see the joy in my life right now), hearing a song, or having something be brought up 3 times; I am always on the lookout for ways in which the Divine is keeping me on my path. 

Mediation is something I always aspire to keep a part of my daily practice. There have been times in my life where mindfulness has not played as large a role as I would like. But today, is a new day, and an opportunity to begin again. 

Acceptance is another purposeful action. Accept others for who they are and where they are at in their journey. This has to also be acceptance for myself. I work to not “should” myself. I am not perfect and everyday I am not going to be the perfect version of what I aspire to be. I have to accept my humanness without getting stuck there. I have to accept that some days I could do better and continue to live forward, trying to be a better version of myself each day. 

4)  What is your recommendation to me for creating a more meaningful and purpose-filled life, both in general and on a day-to-day basis?

Set an intention for each day or practice in your life. Maybe it is just an intention to find more peace in this day or start a daily practice (whether it be drumming, yoga, self reiki, or jogging) with the intention of being more mindful. Intentions are powerful and they increase the power in anything we are already doing. 

Do not be hard on yourself. Know that no day is going to be perfect. Some days you will do better and other days you not be the person you aspire to be. That is okay. We learn from those times we fail. Think about a child learning to spell, it is the words they get wrong and have to practice again and again, that will become the most firmly planted into their mind. It is the same for us when trying to live a purposeful life. Those areas that we struggle with are the ones we will embrace (and know) the best. 

Share your wisdom with those who need to hear it. What we teach, we learn on a deeper level. When you see others who could benefit from something you have been through, offer them some tidbit from your experience. Then be willing to accept if they are able to hear what you have to share or not.

5)  Is there anything else you would like to add?

Trust your soul to guide you. When you feel that push, listen. You have a beautiful light! Your gifts will benefit many people. Fear can be crippling, especially when you live differently from the norm. You don’t have to share everything about yourself with others to be authentic or live a purposeful life. You can let out little glimpses of yourself to people who you feel it may help or you feel safe with.  

Not everyone you meet is a support person for you. Know who those support people are. Those whom you can be fully authentic with. The others are people on your path who may benefit by seeing you live your purpose filled life and getting a peek at the bright light that is you. 

 

I hope that this has inspired you to live your own purpose driven life. I love you!

Health – Don’t Take It for Granted

It is so easy when you are healthy to think you will always be so. I have been lucky enough to live a life where I took my health for granted, most of the time. After two family members where hospitalized 8 month apart, to the day, I am given a wake up call as to the importance of appreciating and taking care of your health.

The morning of the 5th day, in the year I had dubbed “The Year of Health”, my husband woke up with chest pain. I had no idea the events that were about to begin unfolding. My husband is a healthy, active man. We hike, he shovels snow for 8 houses in the winter, takes the stairs over the elevator and is focused about getting his 10,000 steps a day. I never imagined that under the surface this insidious disease was slowly but continually preparing to change our lives.

What I thought would be a trip to the ER to “be safe rather than sorry” turned our world upside. My 50 year old husband had had a heart attack. We kept our chins up; positive thoughts bring about positive results. We were sure that, during the procedure to assess what was going on with the vessels that supply blood to the heart, the doctors would be able to put stents in to repair the blockages. Once again we were shocked. The amount of disease that was found requires a quadruple bypass to repair. Family history was one of the factors, which was shared, as a reason why there would be this level of disease in a man this age.

As we await his surgery, I think how can this be true of my strong and active husband. I just always took it for granted that we would both remain healthy and be able to continue our active lifestyle, traveling, hiking, camping, and kayaking. I know that this surgery is a second chance. I know that it gives us a chance to start again. He will have new healthy vessels on his heart. Though we can not change the family history, we can work together through diet and exercise to make modification that will help to keep this disease at bay. Making these adjustments in our lifestyle will be our way of saying, “Thank you” everyday for our health. Appreciating, whatever level of health we currently have and continually striving to reach the next level of health available to us. Whatever that may be.

I am grateful for the health we have today. I am grateful for the even better level of health we will have in the future. I will never again take my health or that of my family for granted.

May you appreciate your health, at whatever level it is at. I wish you every happiness. I love you!

10 Steps to Get Stuff Done!

Do you ever have those days that you feel blah – you just have no get up and go. There is plenty of things you could be doing, maybe even things you feel you”should” be doing. How do you push past this and get moving.

1. Allow yourself to rest. Maybe you just need a break. Take some time for yourself. Go sit in the garden with a cup of tea or take a hot bath with a great novel.

2. Make a list. I personally love lists- just ask my kids. I love being able to mark things off. I use and orange pen or highlighter to mark off what is done. Orange is a color that helps you feel productive.

3. Try doing something easy. Once you have a list to work with pick the small things so you can mark something off. You could even put “make list” on the list and then you have something to mark off right away.

4. Start with some you enjoy. Sometime starting with the creative project or at least a task that seems fun will help you get up and get moving

5. Turn on some music! When I have tasks such and cleaning that do not require a lot of thinking I like fast paced played at a higher volume. If I am doing something that I need to concentrate on I like quiet more peaceful music. I find it helps me focus to play tunes.

6. Choose a reward. How many things do you need to get done in order to get a treat? Pick smaller rewards for smaller numbers of items completed and have a grand reward at the end of the list. (Although having everything done and off you plate may be reward enough).

7. Clean or organize your space. If you have a clean and organized space to work you mind will also be less distracted and less cluttered.

8. Stay hydrated. You will feel better and you will find you brain is better lubricated. Plus if you keep sipping on some water you will have to go to the bathroom which will keep you moving and give you little breaks during checking off your tasks.

10. Celebrate- hooray you did it! Brag about all you accomplished – post on social media, tell your friends, celebrate with a family meal at the end of the day.

It is amazing how the momentum can get going and suddenly you will notice you don’t feel so blah any more.

Have fun checking off those tasks my friends. I wish you a life full of completed “to do” lists! I love you!

2020: The Year of Health

I may sound cliche to start the new year focused on health and it certainly is not new for me, but it is different this time. Let me tell you why.

In the past my focus was to loose weight. I would make a New Year’s resolution to exercise and get thin but the motivation was really vanity. I didn’t understand how powerful mind, body and spirit wellness was back then. The resolution would last 2, maybe 3 months and then I would fade back into my old patterns of behavior. Today I no longer make resolutions; instead I make a list of new year’s manifestations. These manifestation can be anything I want to come into my life in the new year. I decided 2020 would be a year of health.

My year of health manifestation list has a lofty number of health related items I want to enhance my life. They are mind, body, and spirit related, for one cannot successfully be well without balance in all these areas.

It is day 4 in my year of health and I already feel a shift in my mood. I find myself making healthy decisions and I keep slowly incorporating items to bring about overall wellness.

On Jan 1st, I started the day hungover from a New Year’s Eve party I attended. I find this very embarrassing to admit to. So, my first healthy initiatives were to give up alcohol and sugar. Next I went back to intermittent fasting. This is an eating strategy that limits the time you can eat during the day. It has many health benefits but my primary use of it is weight loss. I have gained about 30 pounds in the last 4 years and it is affecting my energy level and ability to do things. Losing weight is not about vanity for me this time. It is about being comfortable hiking, having the energy to kayak and reclaiming my connection with my body as a divine being.

Then I decided to start tracking what I eat. This is about mindfulness. So now I know what I am putting into my body and why. I am using the “My Fitness Pal” app to do so; although there are so many apps that can help you with it. I have anemia, so it helps me track my iron intake, something that is important for me as a pescatarian. I also find that tracking what I eat, makes me less likely to do the mindless noshing that can occur when I am bored.

Yesterday I decided to start drinking 1/2 my body weight in ounces of water. I feel this is helping purify my body from all the toxic things I have put into her in the past. Also, yesterday I recommitted to moving my body. Getting at least 10,000 steps a day. I even started running a little again. I plan to improve my fitness condition in order to participate in 5K events. I really enjoyed these in the past. My daughter, Liz, and I have also done a couple 1/2 marathons together and we are toying with the idea of committing to do another one of these.

Today I am starting on my commitment of “52 Hikes” during 2020. I have seen others make a commitment to this in the past, but never got on board because of the frozen tundra where I live. I know I feel better when I get outside and be “in” nature, so this is another part of the mind and spirit commitment for me.

My husband and I continue our pursuit towards financial wellness. Yoga and meditation are on my list of items to incorporate. I find that adding (a little) something new daily is helping me stay motivated and not feel overwhelmed. I’m just slowly incorporating, the items I want, into my year of wellness.

I know it is only day 4 but I already feel clearer and  more upbeat. I am more connected with my body and the aches and pains are starting to subside. I have lost 4 pounds and even reclaimed my right to be a runner.

Would you like to join me on my journey into the year of health?

Come along! It won’t always be easy but it will be totally worth it!

I love you! May your year bring you every happiness.

Oh Sugar Sugar; 11 reasons to decrease your sugar intake.

Do you have a sweet tooth? Me too! I have alternated over the years between eating a lot of sugar to eating little to no sugar at all. I know that I feel a lot better when I do not eat sweets but it sure does taste good. I find that knowing the reasons behind decreasing something can have a big impact on staying motivated to pass it by; even when others are partaking. Below are 11 reasons to really consider decreasing your sugar intake.

Let me clarify. I am not talking about natural sugars like honey, fruit, or real maple syrup. I am talking about processed sugar made from Sugar Cane or Sugar Beets. I have found that replacing processed sugar in receipts with Stevia, Honey, and real Maple Syrup helps when you want a sweet treat or to serve a dessert but not all the other affects.

 

Reasons to decrease sugar intake

Inflammatory – Sugar can cause an inflammatory response. I notice that I have joint pain when I eat sugar. Decreasing the intake of this inflammatory substance can almost completely relieve my pain. This is my number one biggest reason why I try to avoid sugar in my diet.

Addictive – There are lots of studies out there about the addictive nature of sugar. Some people think it may be even as addictive as Cocaine. What I do know is the more sugar I eat, the more sugar I want. It takes me about 3-5 days, without having sugar, for the cravings to decrease.

Empty calories – Sugar has no nutritional value other than the carbohydrates. These are a fast energy source, but if we do not need them, they are stored as fat.  If you are making choices in the foods you get your calories from, then I urge you to choose foods with more nutritional value.

Blood sugar effect – Eating sugar spikes your blood glucose levels. In people with properly functioning pancreases, insulin is released to regulate the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood stream. This spike in blood sugar levels can cause problems even for people without diabetes. For me, the spike triggers my body to release insulin, which does too good of a job removing the glucose from my blood stream and I end up getting low blood glucose levels. This causes me to feel woozy and have trouble concentrating.

Cognitive function  – There are some studies which suggest that sugar can cause fogginess in the brain. Sugar intake has been linked to forgetfulness and trouble concentrating. This is ironic when you think about how many student will reach for a candy bar for that little pick me up to keep studying.

Blood pressure and heart disease – There are many complications to the the cardiac and circulatory systems that diabetic people face. There are studies out there that show that, even for people without diabetes, increased sugar intake can cause elevated blood pressure as well as strain to the heart.

Depression – Some studies are showing a link between sugar and depression. Others are saying that inflammation increases depression and we already know sugar causes increased inflammation. 

Cancer – Sugar feeds cancer. This alone is a good reason to avoid excess intake of this sweet poison.

Hunger – Because of sugars effects on the blood glucose levels, it can cause a continual rise and fall and when blood sugar levels fall, we feel hungry again. Because of this it is easy to get into a cycle of eating sugar again and again throughout the day because of the effects it has to continually cause us to feel hungry. Eating less sugar will reduce those feelings of hunger.

Money – By not spending money on sweet treats, which make us hungry repeatedly through out the day, we will save money. There are lots of great natural foods to put that money towards, that will not cause the repeated need to munch and save you money in the long run.

Immune system – Sugar affects the functioning of our white blood cells. These are the cells that rush in when an invader gets into the body to fight off infections. If we are eating a lot of sugar, and causing these cells to be sluggish, we are risking increased illnesses.

All of these reasons and we didn’t even talk about tooth decay! Ultimately, whether you decide sugar is thumbs up or thumbs down for you, do your own research. Know the facts about what that cupcake might cost you or how it could affect you in the long term. Ultimately life is full of choices and luckily we all get to make our own. I, personally, am choosing to not have sugar as one of the choices of what I put in my body. At least most of the time, no one is perfect after all.

Thank you for reading my blog today. I love you. May you make the food choices that are right for you.

 

Nature Is All Around Us

I live in the city even though I am a nature girl at heart. As I was driving through downtown Minneapolis, on my way to work this morning, I noticed the sunrise reflected on the glass of the downtown sky scrapers. It was stunning and it helped me to realize Nature is all around us.

As a girl who loves nature, I sometimes feel that living in the city keeps me away from my beloved forests, but then I take the time to notice there are wonderful ways for me to experience the outdoors without having to take a drive to the countryside. The trees and shrubs along the side of the road, showing off their autumn color,  are one way we are blessed with beauty. The squirrels, who are busy putting on their winter fat, are little bits of the wild that we can enjoy. If we just take the time to look around, there are so many amazing little gifts that the plants and animals offer us, even within the hustle and bustle of the metropolis.

Winter is coming to the Twin Cities, where I live. I find it difficult to get out into the natural world in the winter because the cold weather does not agree with me. I have purchased snow pants, good quality winter boots, hats and gloves; all with the intention of making sure I continue to get outside and experience the wild and fresh air all winter long. This must be a mindful decision on my part. It is not natural for me to want to venture out into the frosty cold. I have learned that when I push through and get out there, even if it is just to walk around the block, seeing the sky and feeling the wind on my cheeks makes me a better and happier person.

Are you like me? Do you feel better when you have more playtime with Mother Nature? How do you incorporate her into you everyday life? It is too easy to think that you need time to drive to the bluffs and go hiking, or take the kayaks to the river to get out there. Maybe just enjoying this gorgeous world we live in is as simple as noticing the sunrise or sunset. Maybe watching the fluffy clouds float by, or the even fluffier squirrel in the tree, can help sustain us until a deep journey into the wild is available.

Thank you for reading my blog today. I love you. May you find the beauty you need in your everyday life.