Embodied, Empowered, Beautiful: Finding Your Authenticity

Never mind what you've heard day-in-and-day-out from well-intentioned, or not, friends, family, media, etc. Things like who you’re supposed to be, how you’re supposed to be, what you’re supposed to be doing with your life, how you’re supposed to look, what clothing size you’re supposed to fit into.

Forget all that. At least for the moment. Re-focus. Center yourself. Then complete the following sentences:

• I feel beautiful when…

•I feel strong when…

•I feel bold when…

•I feel brave when…

•I feel sexy when…

•I feel peaceful when…

•I feel happy when…

•I feel like me when…

Take your time. Ponder. Reflect. And, take back your power irrespective of what others say.  

That is easier said than done, I know. From childhood, girls are trained to be of service to others. As we grow up, it’s often hard to keep our focus on us. That might be considered selfish by some. Feel brave though and disagree with them. Being in touch with your inner and outer selves will connect you to your authentic self and to becoming your own anchor.

Stand up boldly and ask: What’s my vision for myself? What do I want for myself? How is that different from who/where I am today? What can I do to make myself and my life more of how I’d like to be and live?

You may not have all the answers right now But, start making time to pay attention to yourself. Irrespective of what others think. Without their permission. Take back your power. Own it.

Does this mean you’ll need to be brave? Perhaps, but brave you is always beautiful. Be bold. You are here for a purpose. Find out what that is. Irrespective of your body size, you can shape the internal, hidden you. And when you do that, you can also shape and add to the world. But, it begins first with the real, empowered, and beautiful you coming to life.

Light your candle, flex your biceps, and shine your brilliant light.

 

 

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'Achieving You' to Make Peace With Your Body

Falling into the life lull of tranquility and safety is intoxicating. Throughout human history, and the history of just about everything living and breathing, survival has been key. If we didn’t survive as a species or individually, nothing would quite matter. In our daily lives today, if we are lucky enough to achieve a reliable state of being, then other life things hopefully will come into play.

These other life things are hard to recognize or even be aware of at times. They matter tremendously though and take a bit of deliberate thought and inner soul search to discover them. Having awareness is quite challenging due to the intoxicating impact of life safety. After all, if we’re safe, why rock the boat?

How do we evolve from a place of safety to a state of exquisite happiness? For starters, we need to identify and pursue our inner dreams and longings which represent our soul selves. What is our mission or purpose? Who are we? How do we want to feel? How do we want to contribute to the world? Are we happy in our current lives?

For many, when these other things are ignored, we can carry a lot of hurt, anger, rage, shame, guilt, depression, anxiety, etc. inside. We may have a safe lifestyle, but living hurts. One way to deal with these difficult feeling states is to eat, temporarily covering up how we feel. Over time, as many of us know, overeating and binge eating can take place causing our bodies to grow and suffer.

People are convinced the most important way to transform their body from larger to average size is through dieting and exercising. While I agree eating more nourishing meals with pleasure is preferable to chronic junk food consumption, this is only one piece to this multi-faceted situation. I quite frankly suggest we start addressing body re-shaping by going well beyond skin deep.

If you could have your life EXACTLY the way you would like, would it be different than your current one now? If yes, how? Would you/your:

•Primary relationship have different dynamics

•Job/Career change

•Housing be different

•Location of where you live be elsewhere

•Health increase

•Relationships with specific people or in general change

•Pursue new or old interests/hobbies

•Require feeling more secure financially.

If you answer yes to any of the above, the next question is, how would those things to be different? How would you want them to be? Be as specific as possible. How would things be in your life which would reflect the real, inner you? Finally, what can you do to effect change in the life areas you would like? Again, be as specific as possible. Consider short-term objectives, long-term goals and plans of action for either.

You may find addressing areas in your life that are causing discontent is actually the very first step to start to achieving you. And, achieving you and inner contentment will go a very long way to healing your relationship with yourself, food, eating and your body.

 

 

Finding Your Best Feature

Most all of us have something about our bodies we dislike. Here's a list off some typical negative-body complaints:

 • I'm too fat/too skinny

• I'm too tall/too short

• I hate my nose/hate my lips

• My hair is too curly/I hate being bald

• My skin is too light/too dark

• My feet are ugly

• My butt is fat

• My breasts are too small/too large

• My penis is too small

• My stomach sticks out.

I could go on, but I won't. I'm sure you get the picture. We're experts at denouncing our bodies and on focusing acutely on our perceived flaws.

Here's my suggestion. Take several long, deep relaxing breaths. Try to feel a sense of calm. Now, look in the mirror. You may be tempted to immediately go on the attack against your body. But, wait. Let this time be different. The task here is to look at yourself and find your best feature. "What?", you scream, "I can't do that!! I don't have a best feature!" 

Yes, actually you do. Keep breathing slowly and deeply. Is it your soulful, smiling eyes? Your heart-shaped lips? Your strong arms/legs? Your nose, ears, hands, smile, etc.? Be honest with yourself and show off a feature about your body that you like. Now, whatever it takes for today, highlight that feature. Style/cut your hair, do your nails, put on makeup, dress in an outfit you love. Afterwards, bask in the beauty that is uniquely your own. 1

While looking in that mirror, love yourself as deeply as you can even for just today. Deep breath, ahhhhhhhh. Long-lasting healing can only take place when we drop the self-attack and choose warmth and self-embrace in its place. 

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1 R. Molinary, Beautiful You, A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance, pg. 96. Berkeley: Seal Press, 2010.



beautiful you ~ a daily guide to Radical Self-Acceptance by Rosie Molinary

Book Review

by Susan D'Addario, LCSW, Certified Eating Psychology Coach and Licensed HeartMath® Coach

I have a slew of health improvement books at home covering a vast variety of wellness topics and conversations. This is the first that I've chosen to not only reference but to actually review. For the record: I love beautiful you, a daily guide to Radical Self-Acceptance by Rosie Molinary! This is a must have for anyone challenged in any way by their body image.

beautiful you is an easy to read book that offers daily self-esteem suggestions and challenges. Many self-esteem issues can remain hidden and go unrecognized. What's so great about Ms. Molinary’s listings is that they help to focus on areas that can hurt us and need TLC. 

Of course, we all won't relate to every single daily item listed. (She offers 365 daily listings to cover the full year.) I can almost guarantee though that many of the challenges listed will touch the vast majority of readers struggling to believe in their beauty.

With each daily topic, Ms. Molinary proposes we try to see/experience things in a different light by answering self-reflective questions and/or participating in a suggested exercise. Eventually, with genuine attempts to experiment with the topics and their accompanying assignments, one can start to get out of his or her own head and put old, hurtful beliefs into realistic perspectives. The author also guides us to see beyond ourselves. She invites all to become a member of a greater, healthier and larger community in which we reach out and contribute our beauty and gifts to others in need.

Here are just five of Ms. Molinary’s daily guides. The other 360 are marvelous ones as well!

 **************************************************************************************************

  1. Consider how you feel about yourself - Answer these questions: How do you feel about yourself? Why is that the case? What will a healthy sense of self and a healthy life give to you?
  2. Consider how body image has impacted your life - Answer these questions: How has your body image impacted your daily life and outlook? What have been your challenges and triumphs with body image over time? What have you denied and allowed yourself because of your sense of your appearance? What have you gained or lost because of your body image?
  3. Consider your vision - Answer these questions: What is your vision for yourself? What do you wish for yourself? How is that different from who you are or where you are today? What do you think would make you feel more confident?
  4. Realize that your dissatisfaction is not all about your body - When you accept this thought, what comes to mind? What is your dissatisfaction really about? What is it trying to tell you? What part of your life could you address to foster more overall contentment? 
  5. Engage in the world - Want to feel better about yourself? Investing your time in esteemable acts can do more for your self-esteem than trying the latest mascara or buying skinny jeans. Why measure your worth, or lack thereof, through self-loathing of your weight, hair, body shape, skin color, etc.? Instead, through specific actions, engage in the world in a deliberate way, making both you and the world feel better. Volunteering for a local charity is one example. Begin by reflecting on the admirable acts you already do in your life.

*********************************************************************************

 If you’d like to discuss this book more, drop me a line. I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can order your copy here.

PS - I am not an affiliate of Ms. Molinary’s nor do I receive any type of compensation related to this review. My opinions and this review are exclusively mine and are shared for the sole purpose of promoting great health and joy. Blessings!

Beautiful Olive Oyl, Beautiful Me – Part 3

Welcome back to the story of my struggles with eating, food, my body, and self-esteem! Despite being The HealthShrink, I’ve had plenty of long-term challenges in my relationship with food over the years. Back and forth, losing weight, gaining weight, losing self-esteem, and, then gaining some esteem back. That was the problem though. My inner feelings with regard to whether I was a good person or not, a success vs. a failure, pretty vs. ugly, smart vs. stupid, valuable vs. insignificant, etc., were all tied up into a gigantic knot over my body size.

I know my experiences are not necessarily unique. So many of us have had this same difficult struggle  supporting and believing in ourselves. It’s too easy to get off the ‘truth trail’ and led astray onto the ‘road of nonsense’. What’s the ‘road of nonsense’? Believing we’re not good enough exactly as we are today. Thinking we need to lose weight to increase our goodness and overall appeal. Looking for love and acceptance from others before we even grant it to ourselves.

We’ve all grown up in a society that puts enormous pressure on how things are supposed to be. And, that includes us and how we’re supposed to be. I was striving to fit in and wasn’t quite sure how to do so. I didn’t possess the correct body equipment – no long, blonde, straight hair, flat-chested, muscular, no blue eyes, not thin enough, etc. How could I ever be beautiful? I believed I might as well give up, accept my shortcomings, and feel miserable forever. In short, I was not enough of some things and too much of other things. I’m sure you can relate.

I persisted for the ‘truth trail’, as I hope you will. I learned a lot about food in general. Sugar, I read and was told, is equivalent to public enemy #1. It does a whole bunch of bad for our bodies, and is super addictive to boot. Yes, addictive, like cocaine, heroin, alcohol, nicotine, etc. According to studies done with rats, sugar appears to be even more addicting than cocaine! And, you can 100% count on the food industry knowing this. They also know that if sugar, fat, and salt are combined and added into a processed food, that our brains start shooting endorphins and dopamine before we even take our first bite!

I discovered I was pre-diabetic and have, over time, curbed my sugar intake a lot. That also applies to carbs like bread, pasta, pizza, cakes, and more. Did you know that moments after you take a bite of bread that it converts to sugar? It does, and now you know.

I was also diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an auto-immune disorder which attacks the thyroid. I’ve learned with any auto-immune disease that it’s best to stay away from gluten. I happen to be extremely sensitive to gluten, so stay away I have. That’s been another process.

Do you love cheese? I do! Do you have a hard time not eating cheese once you start? Me too! I began working with functional medicine doctors, and with testing, discovered my brain is highly reactive to the casomorphins₁ in cheese. This means that when I eat cheese specifically, my brain fires up in the same way it does with sugar and gluten. In short, I’m addicted to cheese. The casomorphins have an opioid impact. Who knew?

I’m aware of this situation and when I eat cheese even to this day, frequently I overeat. But, the difference is now I don’t become infuriated with myself for indulging. I take it with a grain of salt and know that the cheese binge will go on for only a short period of time. And, I like to look at the big picture. In the grand scheme of things, overeating cheese here and there is okay. I’m still valuable, lovable, and beautiful. So are you!

What I’ve done with this information, is to slowly but surely, upgrade the quality of my food and eat nutritiously. I go out of my way to prepare meals I thoroughly enjoy though. I don’t contribute many dollars to the food industry’s processed ‘carbage’ and sweets. I feel good about that! I also don’t buy much cheese, and when I do, it’s cheese made from grass-fed, pasture-raised animals. I feel proud and empowered over cleaning up my act and becoming much more informed.

I continue to work-out, but with less severity. My work-outs take into consideration that I have Hashimoto’s, which is energy depleting. I’ve also incorporated much breathing work into my work-outs creating an East/West blend of influences. Most of all, I try to have fun when I move. I don’t believe that working-out can only happen in a gym. Whether I walk about in the City, climb 8 flight of stairs to see my doctor, bike the neighborhood, play volleyball, tennis, etc., all is healthy, pleasurable movement. This has been key to my healing and feeling better in touch with, and more mindful about, my body.

Besides learning about healthy food and body movement, the biggest change in my relationship with food, eating, and my body, was allowing myself to truly love myself as I am right now. I believe in myself much more, I respect myself, and, I really like who I’ve become. I care about people and try to help them when in pain. When I can do or say something that enhances how another feels and/or perceives, I feel great!

I don’t look to my body shape or others for self-esteem. I get that from inside. I’m more relaxed about what I eat because I’ve weaned myself off addictive junk foods. And now that I’m more confident, I can and do eat a goody here and there. When I do though, it’s with calm and mindfulness vs. lack of attention and then angst.

In summary, I’m happy with myself short, brown hair and all. I’ve given up trying to be someone else’s ‘perfect’. I’m really enjoying my life now as it unfolds. I’m focused on growth, learning, and evolution. I also tremendously respect and appreciate my body. It is the temple for my soul. Your body is the temple for your soul. At this point in my life, I wholeheartedly embrace, “Beautiful Olive Oyl, Beautiful Me!” Hallelujah!

₁Protein fragments derived from the digestion of the milk protein, casein.

 

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Beautiful Olive Oyl, Ugly Me - Part 2

At now 58-years old, my relationship with my body, eating, food, and spirit have changed and evolved enormously. I have high hopes for continued evolution and I welcome future growth. Let me cut to the chase and then back pedal. The biggest change in how I eat, relate to food, and feel about my body is directly connected to how I feel about myself from the inside out. By focusing more on the actual me, the me-soul that is inside, and less stressing, fussing, and obsession with how I look on the outside, I’ve reached a place of inner calm and acceptance.

Of course, it makes sense that so many of us are externally focused. There is an enormous amount of pressure from Hollywood, glamour magazines, social media, and more to look a certain way. That way usually means, if you’re a woman, thin with shapely breasts, long blond hair, pretty face, etc. For a man it implies being tall, muscular, lean, and handsome. Most of us strive to achieve the ‘look’, sometimes without even realizing the pressure we put on ourselves for perfection. If we get close to the ‘look’, we may have a ‘false, positive sense’ of feeling good. When we’re far from the ‘look’ we frequently can feel down, dejected, lonely, angry, and ‘not normal’ or less than. How sad, really.

We’ve been led way off course. I certainly was. Growing up and into adult-hood, I frequently suffered from low self-esteem. I was far from the desired Barbie look. I had brown, curly hair, brown eyes, was flat-chested, and very muscular. When I overate, the weight went directly to my buttocks and thighs. I also wasn’t intuitive initially about how to wear make-up or put together an attractive outfit. In college, I wanted to change. That was when I went on the quasi starvation diet. As you know from part 1 of this article, at the time I received praise galore. I felt pretty great, or so I thought. At some point, 2 college friends, without my asking, came to my assistance and helped me with my hair style and a bit of make-up. I received more rounds of applause.

Now please, don’t get me wrong. Dressing nicely, (I’m not implying expensively), and taking care of our grooming and overall looks with clothing, etc. is great. It’s fine to carry ourselves with a sense of pride. The problem though was I was getting too much of my good self-feeling from others’ approval. For me, in my relationship with food, eating, my body, and myself, it was an internal, quiet battle between loving to eat vs. wanting to be loved. My love for eating was out of control and my need to be loved was as hungry. When I was overweight, I felt inadequate, less than, and not worthy of love. Instead, at pencil thin and very hungry 113lbs. I felt loved, but starved.

What did it take for me to pull together self-love with a nourishing relationship with food, eating, and a healthy, authentic body size? It’s been quite a journey! From my 20s through to my late 40s, my eating went up and down as did my body size. There were times I was very happy with my weight. I went to the gym daily, got toned, and slimmed down. Then things would happen and my gym visits disappeared. I’d start to eat extra again and consumed a lot of fast food and processed food junk. Of course, my weight would creep steadily back up.

 I always seemed to be in a struggle with my body. Sometimes I felt good, other times I felt embarrassed, ugly, and less than. My efforts to have the body size I wanted were stop-and-go. I’d go to the gym frequently, sometimes for up to a year, but eventually I’d stop. My eating style was equally uneven and up-and-down. There were long periods when I ate too much and a lot of junk, while other times I deprived myself of eating enough. During the periods when I wasn’t working out and/or eating anything I wanted, and my weight came back on and more, I would be very down on myself. In short, for decades I was on a low self-esteem teeter totter and trying to feel better from the outside in.

At 50 years-old, I was again working out this time with a new personal trainer. I was again getting back on track body shape wise. It finally occurred to me that getting involved with a nutritionist might also be of value. I was right. The nutritionist gave me insight to healthy foods, meals, methods of cooking, portions, etc. My weight and body fat dropped significantly. I went from 160lbs. to approximately 132lbs. I also had a consistent 16% body fat composition reading which falls within female athlete range. Wow! I was an athlete in my younger days so that made me feel pretty darn proud. I still wasn’t Barbie but having come out as a lesbian years earlier, I made peace with not being Barbie-esque. (I’m assuming of course that Barbie wasn’t a lesbian.)

So, I brought together working out with eating healthy, real food in proper portions. That in fact made a difference for quite a while. But, I wasn’t out of the woods just yet. There was more to discover and accomplish. Please tune in next time for the exciting and eye-opening Part 3 of “Beautiful Olive Oyl, Ugly Me”.

 

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Breath, Mindfulness, Eating, and Our Health

As you may recall, I attended a week long workshop in August at the Cape Cod Institute called Breath-Body-Mind Techniques for Stress-Resilience and Well-Being” by Richard Brown, MD and Pat Gerbarg, MD. I loved this seminar! It wasn’t just about what I learned – which was great, but how I felt after class each day – which was at least equally great!

The course was composed of science info regarding the health impact on people who practice 5-second breaths-per- minute (bpm), aka – coherent breathing, for 20-minutes daily, as well as experiential hands on breathing practice with accompanying slow, healing body movement ala qigong.

According to this course’s presenters and their related research, daily coherent breathing changes our almost chronic stress status, (sympathetic nervous system), to the relaxation/safe state (parasympathetic). Essentially, one inhales gently and slowly for a 5-count, then exhales equally slowly for a second count of 5 bpm. It is during the easy, slow, gentle release of the breath that our vagus nerve is impacted. This nerve extends to the brain and gut and promotes feelings of safety and goodness. I can absolutely vouch for the aftermath 'goodness of feel' which lasts for hours.

As you may have already guessed, this coherent breathing technique, if practiced daily, can impact our state of health as well as our body size. Just as a reminder, reducing our cortisol and insulin levels, (which occurs during the relaxation response), stops the breakdown of our lean body tissue and fat storage. Drs. Brown and Gerbarg also described a study they conducted on multiple subjects with regard to food cravings, i.e., chocolate, both prior and after coherent breathing.

Of course, breathing is enormously helpful and valuable to us. I think though that coherent breathing coupled with active, deliberate mindfulness is phenomenally helpful in multiple ways including how we’re feeling, what we’re thinking, what we say, our state of health, our body size and improving our relationship with eating and food, reducing stress and increasing resilience, pain reduction, sleep challenges, anger control, and more.

I’ve spoken a bit about mindfulness in the past. What is it exactly? “Mindfulness is paying attention to something, in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”₁ Coherent breathing slows us down and helps move us into a safe, place which builds our resilience over time. Mindfulness allows us to really get distractions and noise out of the way so we may truly focus on us through in through. The focus is non-judgmental so negativity, self-deprecation, etc. is not in this calmer, healthier picture.  

I plan to revisit this topic of mindfulness in future articles, but I’d like to close here with a piece of a passage from a terrific little book I found during my recent stay at the Cape. The book is, “How to Eat”, by Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, and the passage is called “Mindful Eating.” I can’t recommend this book strongly enough for warming and appreciative mindful considerations when eating or interacting with food in any way. I think you’ll love it as well!

One last brief note. Since September 17th, is National Eat an Apple Day, I leave you with a smile, slow, gentle, deeper breaths, fewer racing thoughts, more mindfulness, appreciation, health, love, and delicious apple awareness. Namaste for now my friends!

 

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1.        Kabat-Zinn, J. Mindfulness-based interventions in context: Past, present, and future. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 2003; 10: 144-156.

2.        Hahn, T.N. (2014). How to Eat. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.

 

A Special Day

While vacationing recently at Pine Lake Manor in the Catskill Mountains with my extended family, this day stood out among the others with its wide variety of highs/healings, and lows/depletions. It represents the ups and downs of life, while supporting mindful efforts to seek out healing, inner-peace, fun, resilience, and love. Take a look.

Tuesday, July 19th

• 9:30am – Outdoor, lawn Yoga with Samantha Jo – It was a stunningly beautiful morning. The temperature was in the 70s, humidity was low. There was peace and quiet in the air with only the soft rustling of the leaves in the background. There were about 10 of us cousins spread out on the green grass. Shade was nearby.

I’d taken some, but not many, yoga sessions in the past. I stopped when I injured my groin muscle in a class. Today, several years later, I felt like giving yoga another go. So, I did. Samantha, our leader, was absolutely wonderful. She was gentle in direction, respectful of people’s body limitations, and helpful in cueing us into position. There was no sense of rush. Possibly the best part for me was Samantha’s spiritual presence using words to guide and move us towards internal freedom, body opening, trust, loosening, healing, and empowerment.  

 I recommend Samantha very highly! Check out her on-line program here.

• 1:30pm- Hike: Kaaterskills Falls, Hunter, NY (Eastern Catskill Mountains) – As I’ve gotten older, one of my desires has been to take up hiking/nature walking. I’ve developed a real love and interest to move in nature. In June, I bought my very first pair of hiking shoes; Merrill’s to be exact. Despite searching on-line via Meet Up for organized hikes, my schedule wasn’t cooperating. Today, instead, the stars aligned. Unbeknownst to me, our Cousin Melanie suggested we do a family hike, and Cousin Frank took care of the rest. How lucky was I?

Kaaterskills Falls is beautiful. The area hosts the highest 2-tier waterfall (260 feet) in New York State! I really enjoyed this hike! With regard to the challenge, the trail was for beginners but was certainly more than a flat-level nature walk. We hiked over rocks and under tree branches to the waterfalls. The surrounding greenery was beautiful and peaceful. The trail suited me well.  I felt invigorated and playful. Outdoors, nature, movement, fresh air, loved ones. Life is good!

• 7pm – Cousins’ Wine/Cheese & Parfait Party - My spouse, Janet and I, have organized this get-together outside our Pine Lake room on multiple occasions over the past several years. Everyone chips in for beer, wine, sparkling water, cheese, crackers, fruit, chips, salsa, and more. Of course, the spread was not nutritionally the healthiest, but when foods are eaten with joy and low stress, even traditionally “unhealthy” grub will nurture us. As I’ve commented before, but this bears repeating, the poison is in the dose. Would I eat this stuff every day? Nope. Do I munch on goodies on occasion? Yesiree! I munch, enjoy, and appreciate!

This year’s party was extra special for 2 reasons.

A)      We held the event after dinner. As a result, a new feature, dessert, was added to the menu which became the rage of the eve. Parfaits! Easy, old-fashioned, and a crowd-pleaser for sure.

(For those who may be wondering, no, I personally did not partake in the parfait frenzy because I’m a dedicated gluten-free eater. Otherwise, though, you betcha!)

Recipe

Cousins’ Help-Yourself Parfait

Preparation (1 minute)

▫ Add 1-2 broken lady fingers into an 8 ounce cup – (cup should be short and wide mouthed)

▫ Throw in 2 tablespoons of mixed berries – Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries- whichever you enjoy!

▫ Give a generous squirt/dollop of whipped cream

▫ Place a thin cookie inside the parfait, (to the side of the cup looks pretty!)

Hint: We used pieces of cannoli shells with powdered sugar for the cookie.

▫ Grab your spoon and dig in!

 B)       We played a game together! As adults, we frequently become skilled at chatting with others in social settings. Unfortunately, we seem to forget how to play. What was our group game? Simple. Everyone in the circle took a turn, 1-by-1, and said their name, and what they did or what was going on in their current, everyday life. The kicker though was this. We were also told to share 1 thing about ourselves we believed people in the group didn’t know about us. (And, many of us have known one another from childhood.) This thing could be small or large. But, the revelation would be meaningful to the sharer in some way. It would also be something we would be happy for others to know about us.

 Result: Initially people were a bit hesitant to participate. The game was kicked off none-the-less. Everyone shared their ‘unknown life piece’ about themselves with the group. Members listened, were enthralled, supportive, and spontaneously applauded upon completion of each individual's story. Smiles abounded. The game, in short, was a smashing success. More than 1 person came up to me afterwards and expressed their enjoyment and interest in hearing what others had to say. This game/play felt meaningful, satisfying, and enriching.

 (FYI: What did Janet and I share? Janet told the group she had recently taken an upholstery class and made a beautiful ottoman from scratch. She’s proud and has photos of her masterpiece. As for me, I had recently taken several acting and singing classes through Meet Up. Everyone was really surprised and had no idea I’d wanted to do both for years. How about you?)

• 11:30pm- Aunt Elvira in a crisis – Our 87-year old aunt arrived at Pine Lake Manor over the weekend with a case of laryngitis. She didn’t feel sick, just couldn’t talk. By this day though, Tuesday, July 19th, she developed a consistent cough. Aunt Elvira went to bed early that evening. By the late night though, an ambulance was called.

To make a long, arduous, and extremely stressful story a bit shorter, our beloved aunt was ultimately diagnosed with bacterial meningitis! As I’m sure you can imagine, this was horrifying news.

 It’s now 11-days after the fact. Aunt Elvira is still in the hospital receiving treatment and recovering. There have been ups and downs in her status during this time. We are all waiting anxiously, but patiently, for her to heal as much as possible. Time will let us know what’s to be. Despite her age, our aunt is a very strong lady, (always has been). I hope with my heart to see her again as intact as possible.

My Gratitude Notation: The benefit of these types of crises is how they can bring together loved ones and draw out strength, hope, and compassion. My aunt’s illness has given me a chance to reminisce and appreciate her in ways I haven’t done for too long. Of course I know I love her. But, it’s similar to other things in life. When we have something or someone which is a constant, it’s very easy to take it all for granted and forget about the blessings that abound with that person.

Thanks to my aunt and her illness, I’ve now slowed down and am mindfully thinking of her and appreciating all she has done for me and our family at-large all these years. She has been a backbone of the family always. Aunt Elvira has thrown many parties for us and is always happy to be part of the family. She continues to cook love for her adult children and grandchildren. Lentil soup is just one of her specialties. And, (I write this with a big smile), Aunt Elvira is famous for telephoning and singing, ‘Happy Birthday’, to each of us every year. That makes my day, so special, indeed!

With appreciation and love, God bless you dear Aunt. Get well soon! Xoxo

 

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Beautiful Olive Oyl, Ugly Me, Part 1

As I have frequently pointed out, “It’s important to change not only what we eat, (clean, single-ingredient foods including grass-fed, pasture-raised, wild, organic, local, in season, gluten-free), how we eat, (in the Relaxation Mode, non-distracted, slowed down, observing bio-circadian-nutrition rhythm), but also to address and enhance our relationship with food, eating, appetite, body-image, and ourselves.

In today’s article, I share my own experiences and relationship with eating, body-image, and myself in my younger years. In Part 2 of this series I focus on the evolution of my relationship with eating, food, appetite, my body, and my spirit.

My Background

Once upon a time…I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and as much as I wanted.

As a very young child though, I was skinny and a very picky eater. I ate small portions and I didn’t like most foods. I almost never finished what was only my plate. I complained frequently that I was, “full,” and I didn’t want any more to eat. Back in those days, the only food my mother could count on me to eat with gusto was her spaghetti and meatballs. I also remember loving sweets and chocolate ice cream. Somehow, my belly always had room for Carvel and Pied Piper.

Growing up in an Italian-American household meant we had pasta for dinner, with “gravy meat” – meatballs, sausage, beef, and whatever other type of meat was cooked in the sauce, between 3-4 times a week without fail. Bread was always nearby to wipe up any remaining sauce on the dish. Homemade chicken soup was always served on Monday evenings, which was great, but also included a bowl filled with broken-up spaghetti into which the soup was poured.

Of course, being American, I loved to snack. In childhood, coming home from school, I’d be greeted with varying treats including a large round black-and-white cookie, Hostess Pink Snowballs, Drake’s chocolate cupcakes, and other delectables. In fact, for breakfast day-in and day-out, I’d eat Entenmann’s coffee cheesecake, cinnamon danish, crullers, and whatever else was on the table. Lunch was something hot at school, though not necessarily nutritious, or I’d bring a sandwich filled with processed luncheon meats on white bread.

Things of course, didn’t get better in my later teen years. Now having the freedom to go out at night, my friends and I would meet, and one of our favorite ways to spend a Friday or Saturday evening together was to blast the music, drink some beer, and eat 2 large pieces of Sicilian pizza, (the square-shaped, heavier pizza.)

Self-Starvation for Love

You can imagine how as a skinny kid started I started putting on the pounds once I entered puberty. More than one person shared their unsolicited opinion with me that my hips and thighs were getting, “fat.” In college, I reversed everything fairly quickly by simply cutting my food calorie intake drastically. I went from 152 lbs. to 113 lbs. I did this all while playing on the college softball team. Imagine trying to perform athletically, attend classes, write papers, and study for exams, all while existing on a super low, quasi-anorexic calorie count.

 I ate very little, and I started having strong cravings to chew. Eating yogurt every morning for breakfast caused me to miss chewing.  I switched from yogurt to eating a dry, plain bagel in the mornings. I also enjoyed chewing on a piece of baked chicken or something similar for dinner. Nothing else. At least I had some chewing satisfaction. It never dawned on me that I was extremely deprived nutritionally.

Not very glamorous, healthy, logical, or sexy I’d say. I was miserable, but I kept it up because I continued to get positive praise from those around me. “You look great!” “How’d you do it?” “Keep it up!” The comments on one hand made me feel good about my body. On the other hand, they made me feel worse about how I must have looked to people before I started to starve myself. I felt friends, classmates, and even some family members, not only preferred my thin-as-a-rail look, but that they also liked me more. I became an Olive Oyl look alike and somehow that made me much more lovable.

Considering my Options

As you may have guessed, this lack of eating didn’t last forever. Thankfully. At least I can say, “thankfully,” now 40 years later. But, back then, it was a dilemma and I perceived my options as limited, and saw them accordingly:

Scenario 1: Don’t eat, lose weight, feel tired, sluggish, down, but get a rush from the positive attention and feedback of others. I could even feel somewhat attractive.

Scenario 2: Eat, overeat, love what I was eating, but feel overly full and uncomfortable in my body. Plus, suffer from a sense of rejection, and thereby, renewed low self-esteem. Never feeling good enough.

Ugh! It’s hard and painful even to look back on how things used to be. In hindsight, it’s amazing that in the mental/emotional states I was in, and how I perceived things in my life and in the world-at -large, I would ever have been able to change my relationship with food, eating, and myself. Time went on however, and with touch-and-go efforts, authentic healing eventually started to tip-toe in my direction.

Please tune in next month to read about how I dealt with the above dilemmas and more as life progressed.

If you liked this article, please share it with your friends, family, and colleagues.

Also, if you’d like to add your comment below, please feel free. I love to hear about your thoughts and experiences!

 

The Biggest Winner

After the release of my May e-newsletter, From The HealthShrink, I received the following note from a dedicated reader, Anne. She was inspired to write after reading a front page article in New York Times on 5/2/16, entitled, “That Lost Weight? The Body Finds It,” by Gina Rolata.

 Here’s Anne’s note and my response:

 Hi Susan.

Thanks for the newsletter, which I look forward to reading.  Did you see the article in today's Times about how difficult it is to keep weight off?  Quite depressing, actually.  A topic for another edition!

Thanks,

Anne L.

Good morning Anne,

Nice to hear from you! Yes, the article in the Times is telling the truth. It’s what I’ve been saying all along; stats show 97% of us who lose weight will gain it all back and more usually within 2 years. The Biggest Loser is no exception. The reason for that is fairly simple.

This reality show, like most of us, continues to operate under the misguided weight loss guise of calories-in /calories-out and excessive exercise. The truth is, this is a trick. We can very, very rarely maintain weight loss acquired this way. Restricting our food and calorie intake is an unnatural and even punishing way to live. Eventually our brain will send out very strong hunger messages and craves for food. Most of us become miserable and ultimately, we give up, give in and eat. Then, quite often, we start to feel guilty, angry, and hopeless.

As long as we’re alive, eating is actually normal. Self-induced starvation is not. In reality, our brain is just doing its job when it makes our metabolism sluggish to counteract the reduction in food consumption. This is the brain’s way to protect us and our survival.

In my view Anne, most of us are still way too focused on calories and calorie reduction. This strategy to lose weight will at best bring temporary weight loss results. At worst, and what is not often spoken about, is that we risk harming our metabolism in the long-run to lose weight in the short run. Sad, but true.

When we deprive ourselves of calories, the brain interprets this as threatening, a famine perhaps. The brain with all the best of intentions will deliberately slow down our metabolism to help us to survive the “famine”. The problem that has been unveiled is even when we go off a low-calorie eating plan, frequently our metabolisms do not bounce back to where they were before we began the diet. After the fact, we burn calories more slowly which means we generally not only re-gain all the lost weight, but chances are, we end up weighing more than before.

Losing weight and body re-shaping for the long-term is really about managing our hormones. I’m not saying we should eat as much as we want endlessly. I am saying though we should never be hungry. Ever.

It’s honestly more a matter of eating the foods that enhance and nourish us overall while not raising our insulin levels too high. In fact, eating styles high in healthy fat, moderate in protein, very heavy in vegetables, and limited sugar/starches are the way to go in my mind. Also, the cleaner the food, (pasture-raised, grass-fed, free-range, wild, organic, local, and seasonal) is more often than not the much better way to go.

As per my May e-newsletter, avocado is just one wonderful, healthy fat. Other types of healthy fat include: coconuts, olives, nuts, seeds, fat from healthy, clean land animals, (beef, lamb, poultry, bison, elk, boar, pork, etc.) and fish, (wild salmon, cod, sardines, anchovies), ghee, grass-fed butter, cacao butter, olive oil,  macadamia nut oil, avocado oil, and 85% or higher raw, organic chocolate.

Forgive me for expanding here, but I’d hate to leave out the importance of doing our best to reduce stress while eating and throughout the day. Chronic angst and pressure will put us into Stress Mode Dominance which activates the release of cortisol, a stress hormone. Cortisol will cause us to gain fat, and it will undermine our attempts to reduce weight, even if we're eating the healthiest foods out there.

In essence, long-lasting good health and body re-shaping are not about eating as little as possible, (reacting to food as though it were the enemy and best avoided), and working-out as hard we can. Instead, slowing ourselves down and embracing food, our ally, and trusting in it to bring us health, pleasure, and emotional warmth is the honest path to re-gaining our authentic bodies. Great tasting, smelling, beautiful looking, quality food, when eaten with calm, mindfulness, and appreciation will never let us down.

It really is time to turn “The Biggest Loser” myth right-side up, and re-write that claim-to-fame to, “The Biggest Winner”.  I hope this brings some clarity to what you’ve read in the NY Times article Anne. Thanks for writing in!

Warmly,

Susan

If you haven’t seen the article I’ve referred to above, you can find it here. Let me know if you have any comments on it as well.

Enjoyed this blog article? Then please pass it on to your friends, family, and colleagues who may enjoy it as well.

Thanks!

 

April = Stress Awareness Month

I very frequently speak about the importance and need of getting into the relaxation response (vs. being in the stress mode) as a way to gain overall health and authentic body size. Simply put, when we’re stressed, our body releases insulin, a fat storage hormone, and cortisol, a stress hormone. Together the 2 set the stage for increased body fat and decreased lean tissue.

Now there’s nothing particularly evil about cortisol whatsoever. In fact, without it, we’d have difficulties surviving. It makes us move fast in every sense of the word when there is actual or perceived danger or threat. Certainly, in great part, after some 200,000 years our human species is alive and around to this day thanks to cortisol.

The problem of course arises when we don’t get out of the stress mode. If we’re chronically in the sympathetic nervous system response, (stressed), our body, mind, spirit, and overall good sense of being will become worn out and depleted. Fact: Sad, but true, too many of us are chronically stressed. And stress can be so on-going, that more often than not we don’t recognize how out of sorts we are. Or, if we do recognize we’re stressed out, we make light of it or accept that that’s just how things are or have to be.

Well I don’t accept that. The truth of the matter is, too much stress not only challenges our body and body-size, but it also can have a huge impact on our work and relationships. It’s just not an optimal way to live and I believe we all deserve better. That’s why, not too long ago, I took this really awesome training on building personal resilience with the Institute of HeartMath®. As a Licensed HeartMath® Certified Coach I can tell you that there are very effective science-based techniques that can help us to de-stress in the moment from challenging situations, both large or small. Seriously!

HeartMath® is a focused and practical program combining personalized coaching (that would be me) with tools to help you self-regulate your body’s response to stress and build resilience. What you can expect to gain using HeartMath®?

• More resilience and vitality

• Overall sense of well-being

• Mental clarity and focus

• Improved relationships

• Increased composure in challenging situations

• More effective communications

• Better sleep

• Less fatigue

• Reduced worry, overwhelm, and feelings of anxiousness

Sounds quite excellent, I know. If you’re interested in learning more about HeartMath® and how it can help you, check out the related video and article I’ve included below. If you have any questions or comments on this topic, please feel free to let me know.

Hello Again - April 2016

So glad to be back with our April Resilience Issue where you can count on more exciting information all with good health, calm, body comfort, and love in mind!

There are 2 big themes going on this month and it was hard to pick just 1 to follow. So, I didn’t. I went with both. But, before getting into that, let me mention something super exciting. I’ve just moved to a new office after a decade long of being where I was. I can’t tell you how excited I am to be changing digs. The new space continues to be in the Upper Westside of Manhattan. I’m now on Columbus Ave at 67th Street very nearby Lincoln Center. It’s a convenient location and the neighborhood is bustling. I’m actually right across the street from WABC so I’ll keep an eye out for hot-off-the-press news stories! At any rate, our feature banner image above is of me signing my new office contract. As my dear friend and website designer/master Rafael DeArce of dRC Online says, “Change is good.” Well, good works for me!

Now, back to the themes I mentioned above. Theme #1: April = Stress Awareness Month. This is supremely important as an appropriate amount of stress in our lives is fine, but being stuck in a chronically stressed state (which most of us are sometimes without even realizing it) is extremely detrimental to us physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. Moreover, when we habitually operate in Sympathetic Nervous System dominance (stressed state) our bodies will ultimately gain fat irrespective of exercise and/or healthy eating.

Consequently, look for This Month’s article April = Stress Awareness Month. In this piece, I write about a particular way, the HeartMath® way, that can not only help get us out of stress, but can also lead to increases in our overall, long-term resilience. This is about discovering techniques to help get us into coherence, re-charge our depleted batteries, and operate more efficiently and effectively. I could go on and on, but I won’t. That’s why I’ve included a short video and lengthier article for you to find out more about HeartMath® and building personal resilience. As a Licensend HeartMath® Certified Coach, I’d be happy to respond to any questions you may have in this regard. (The timing of this topic is also perfect given Tax Day comes knocking at our doors on the 15th. Yikes!

Theme #2: April 22nd is Earth Day – You can find this referenced in What’s New. Earth Day has an enormous pull for me because I love, appreciate, and want to keep our beautiful planet as green as possible. Also though, I am a believer and practitioner of earthing or grounding which involves having direct skin contact with the earth. By being grounded with Mother Earth, we actually place ourselves in a position of receiving a variety of health benefits. I’m imagining you’re thinking this sounds kind of wild. If so, before coming to a firm conclusion, please check out our Feature Article Earth Embrace. You might indeed become intrigued by this alternative health practice.  PS National Arbor Day on the 29th is also near and dear to my heart. I love a nature walk in the park surrounded by trees, grass, flowers, and blue skies.

Because I enjoy sipping on warm tea, (it brings me calm) I wanted to share my Ginger Root Tea Time Nourishing Recipe with you. Given this month’s resilience theme, it seemed like the perfect time to post this simple to make, healing tonic. I have this homemade tea almost daily and I’ve come to really enjoy it. I hope it brings you as much satisfaction as it does me.

Before closing my friends, I just wanted to mention again how much fun I have making in-person presentations. I had the honor of returning for the 3rd time to Gotham Volleyball’s Health & Wellness seminar with Bump, Set, Eat, this time giving players cutting edge info on how to gain and maintain energy and fierceness both on the court and in life.

I also am delighted to be returning to Christopher Street Financial’s Words & Wines Seminar with Them’s the Fats in May. You can read more about that in What’s New? If you wanted to stop by and listen up, that would be terrific. Just make sure to RSVP. Of course and without a doubt, I’d be equally pleased to come to your business, group, etc. and offer a FREE presentation to you and yours. If interested, let me know here.

Moreover, as I’ve mentioned last month, you can find me at a table/booth at the Nutrition Aesthetics Vitality Efficacy Life (NAVEL) Expo in Manhattan on Sat. May 14th & in Long Island on Sun. May15th. Look below for details and mark that date!  
Phew my friends, there’s so much going on that I think I need to take a break now. I sincerely hope you enjoy this issue! As always, I’m here to respond to any and all of your questions and comments. Until next month,

All the best in good health!

March,2016: National Women's History Month

I think it appropriate to take a moment to thank Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony who worked together for 50 years, (1851- 1902), on behalf of American women to have the same rights as men. Their National American Woman Suffrage Association, started in 1869, focused on getting women the right to vote. And, both of these women worked really hard together for equality for women beyond having the right to vote. Other causes included allowing girls to study the same subjects as boys, equal pay at the work place, and permitting married women to maintain control over the money they earned, (previously a woman’s salary went to her husband).

Let me note as well that neither of these women were typical bathing suit beauties. Thank goodness, that short-coming, (note sarcasm here), didn’t get in their way of making huge and important changes for women in the USA. I’m terribly grateful for what they did and for how they persevered. I’m equally relieved that there were fewer social media pressures on them, (compared to today), with regard to having to have a perfectly shaped body and the struggles and lost time that go with that.

Unfortunately, for so many women today, the struggles around our bodies and body image are almost endless. We can be as successful as anyone in our careers, and earn a whole bunch of money, but the endless media messages always focus on the way we look. Body size, clothing, make-up, hair, the list goes on and on. We struggle day-in and day-out attempting to be perfect and believe that acceptance and love will be ours once we have the perfect body. Of course, many come to realize that even with a smaller body, our internal happiness doesn’t necessarily increase at all.  We also should remain on alert because more often than not, right around the corner of perfectionism lies anger and self-abuse. We sure can become very angry at ourselves for indulging in a meal or dessert, can't we?

I’m mentioning all this to put our lives and goals into perspective. While being healthy and comfortable in our body is important and appropriate, there are far more important things in life, or there should be, than walking around with the perfect body.  (And, whomever has given definition to a woman’s perfect body size and how that individual or group has acquired this unparalleled authority, I simply don’t know. Nor care.)

Far more important to explore in my mind are soulful, philosophical questions. Who am I inside? What am I here to do? How do I want to live? What can I do that will make me happy? How can I make a positive difference in the world? What is my gift? Whom do I need to forgive in order to heal? These are just some of the questions worth considering. But, back to our foremothers above and all their accomplishments. Their body sizes and ours make up just 1 element in the complex picture of who we are. (This is contrary to what the social media and advertising industries would have us believe, of course.)

Authentic, soul beauty and love are always first and foremost to be found on the inside. The real us lies deep within waiting and hoping that someday we may come out just as we are and be heard and loved. It would be a wise and loving gesture to lay down the perfectionistic sword and reach out instead for a loving embrace. Self-acceptance and love always heal.

 

 

Chocolate Benevolence!

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, it’s time when many select a loving gift for a dear friend, colleague, relative or significant other. I completely support this old-fashioned, thoughtful and giving tradition as it promotes healthy hormone release and well-being for both the giver and receiver. While roses and jewelry are always on the Top-10 Hit List for demonstrations of our Valentine affections, giving chocolate is ever popular as well. And, when a clean version of the beloved cacao bean is used, I LOVE the idea of gifting chocolate to a Valentine! In short, the right kind of chocolate is not only delicious but provides us with numerous health benefits as well.

Here’s what I mean.

Clean Chocolate

For starters, as coffee comes from a coffee bean, chocolate is derived from a cacao bean. When I refer to clean cacao, I mean an organic cacao bean which will eventually lead to organic chocolate. The other piece to clean has to do with the percentage of cacao versus sugar that there is in a dark chocolate bar. I’m terribly sorry to say this but milk chocolate, white chocolate and all those inexpensive chocolate bars DO NOT contain cacao and consequently DO NOT have health benefits. If you’re a milk chocolate lover, keep reading and try not to despair. Grant you, dark chocolate is an acquired taste. (I know. I’m a former milk chocolate lover.) But, by easing into dark chocolate over the course of time, our taste buds will adjust to this less sweet, yet still delicious and benevolent treat!

Now-a-days, it can be pretty easy to read the packaging on a chocolate bar. A 70% dark chocolate bar simply means that there is 70% chocolate to 30% sugar. Likewise, an 85% dark chocolate bar, (which I eat and suggest everyone eventually give a try), has 85% chocolate or cocoa and 15% sugar.  (Please note, there is no milk in either of these.) As great as healthy chocolate is for us, (which I will go over in a moment), excess sugar will undo those very benefits. When it comes to chocolate consumption, it always behooves us to make it healthy dark chocolate!

Dark Chocolate Conversion

If you currently enjoy a chocolate bar containing 45% or lower cacao, consider increasing the chocolate percentage by 10% at a time. Experiment and go from 45% cacao to 55%-60% chocolate. Get used to that higher level of cacao and reduced sugar. Once your taste buds have adjusted, try it again. Same way. Go from 60% cacao to 70% and so on. Take your time and melt into the experience. This is a much friendlier way for us to gain health benefits from our chocolate habits and pleasures.

The Pros of Dark, Organic Chocolate (1)

• Increased Anti-oxidants – Anti-oxidants are our friends and move around in our body eating up harmful free radicals. Free radicals can lead to cancer, heart disease and other illnesses. So, having more friendly and protecting anti-oxidants in our bodies is in our best interest!

• Increased Anti-Inflammatory Properties – Reduced systemic inflammation in our body means lowering the risk of developing diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and other inflammatory conditions. Works for me!

• Cardiovascular Benefits – There is reduced hypertension, (lower of blood pressure), and prevention of fat-like substances in the bloodstream to clog our arteries when we eat dark chocolate. Also, when we reduce the blood’s ability to clot, we may also reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

My Preferred Chocolate Bar

I’ve experimented with a variety of chocolate bars. As time has gone on, I’ve been able to eat bars containing higher percentage of cacao with ease. Please bear in mind though, even when eating 1 serving from a regular 3.5-ounce dark chocolate 85% bar, (12 pieces of the 30 small squares making up the bar), we are consuming a bit more than 1 teaspoon of sugar. So, eat with gusto, pleasure and gratitude, but be mindful about sticking to the suggested serving size. Of course, chocolate can trigger and addictive response, so if this is your case, it may be in your best interest, to eat dark chocolate sparingly.

Currently, GREEN & BLACK’S Organic 85% Cacao Bar is #1 on my favorites list. Here’s why:

• There are only 3 ingredients in this bar – Cocoa, cane sugar, and vanilla are the sole bar ingredients! With any processed food, the fewer the ingredients, the better for our health!

Another bonus: I recognize and can pronounce all the ingredients. Fantastic!

• Every ingredient is organic!

• All ingredients were traded in compliance with Fairtrade Standards. This means fairer trading conditions and opportunities are extended for producers in developing countries to invest in their businesses and communities for a sustainable future.

• The bar is made in Poland. Generally speaking, Europe has higher standards for mold levels.

Chocolate made in Europe therefore has less chance of being moldy. FYI – Always store your chocolate in the refrigerator or freezer as the mold will continue to grow.(2)

• It’s easily accessible – Whether buying on-line or at your neighborhood health food store, Whole Foods, etc. I’ve never had any trouble locating this bar. Additionally, by joining Thrive Market, you can purchase this bar and other healthy items at a significant discount.

There you have it my friends! Feel free to give the pleasure and benevolence of dark chocolate to your loved ones and yourself on Valentine’s Day and all year round. Your body, heart and mind will feel very cared for and loved!

If you’ve enjoyed this article, feel free to share it with your friends, family, colleagues and Valentines! If you have any comments, please leave them below! Thanks!

1 Kelley, D. CNC (2014) Attention: Chocolate Lovers, 12/16/15, from http://www.ledger-dispatch.com/news/attention-chocolate-lovers

2 Asprey, D. (2012) What Dr. Mercola Didn’t Say About Dark Chocolate & Cardiovascular Diseases, 1/10/16 from http://www.bulletproofexec.com/what-dr-mercola-didnt-say-about-dark-chocolate

A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture

Joyous Kwanzaa Dec.26th-Jan.1st : Inaugurated in 1965 by Maulana Karenga, Kwanzaa is the first holiday created to help African-Americans reconnect with their African cultural and historical heritage. The name Kwanzaa actually derives from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, meaning first fruits of the harvest. There are 7 principles of Kwanzaa or Nguzo Saba and each is dedicated to 1 of the 7 days of this holiday. Check them out:

¥ Unity - To strive and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
¥ Self-Determination - To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.
¥ Collective Work and Responsibility - To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together.
¥ Cooperative Economics - To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.
¥ Purpose - To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
¥ Creativity - To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
¥ Faith – To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

As I read over these
7 principles, I am struck by how they reflect and speak to helping one’s community, supporting self, honoring family, teachers, leaders, working hard to achieve benefits for oneself and one’s community and believing in now and in the future for better things to come. These words and principles touch my heart with their good intention and positivity. Moreover, children are included in the Kwanzaa ceremonies during which respect and gratitude are given to one’s ancestors. Wonderfully, at the end of the multiple ceremonies, a family/community feast follows.

I just love what Kwanzaa’s all about! In addition to the pleasure family, friendships and social connections can bring,
studies show that those who isolate actually carry the same increased mortality risks as those who smoke and/or consume excessive alcohol! Moreover, beyond supporting our physical health, belonging to a group or community can add to our sense of identity.

If it were up to the terrorists, we’d all be hiding, insecure, fearful and become non-trusting of everyone and thing. Let’s not let that happen!
We are hard-wired for meaningful connections. It’s what helped our caveman ancestors to survive and thrive and not much has changed since. Therefore, getting connected, staying connected and giving back to our respective communities is a lesson well-learned during this Joyous Kwanzaa season!

To Scale or Not to Scale!

Food is good. Food is healing. We absolutely need to eat to stay alive! So then what is actually harmful to our psyche and threatens to damage our relationship with the gift of food, eating and having a healthy appetite? Scale addiction!

There are many of us, myself included, who have been led around by the scale and that dreaded or revered number that pops up. Whether, "I lost 2 lbs. Great! I'm psyched!" Or, "Oh no, I've put on weight! I'm so upset! I'm not going to eat today." We let the scale and that number tell us how we're going to feel and subsequently behave. And, some of us can get so obsessed with the scale that were on it daily or multiple times a day. 

Here's a message for the holidays and beyond. Stay off the scale! At least every day. Throw it away even. Seriously. What actual value is there in having a number flash in front of our face indicating that our weight has gone up or down but says nothing about why the number has changed? "More fat? Definitely." "Water weight? Could be." "Increased muscle tone? Hmmm. Never thought of that."

We really can get much better information about our body when we focus on ourselves and how we feel inside. Strong, heavy, light, energetic, tired, bloated, comfortable - our bodies give us a lot of information if we listen. Also, we can easily know what's going on with regard to our body shape by paying attention to how we feel in our clothes. "Shirt button is getting tighter. Okay, I can cut back on the holiday desserts." "Wow, I'm in my skinny jeans. It's been awhile!"  Your body tells the real deal.

In short, no scale should have the power to:

  • Dictate how loveable we are
  • Tell us what kind of mood we're going to be in
  • Get in the way of our relationship with food
  • Decipher our worthiness
  • Interfere in our deep relationship with ourself
  • Bring us down
  • Set the stage for the kind of day and attitude we're going to have
  • Shame, infuriate, guilt, humiliate or frustrate us
  • Convince us that we're a failure or weakling
  • Give us a false sense of inferiority or superiority
  • Allow us to judge ourselves or others hurtfully
  • Be the backbone for our self-esteem or lack thereof
  • Replace unconditional love

In my mind, the only type of scale that would have any real value is one that could accurately measure our:

  • Heart
  • Soul
  • Genuineness
  • Kindness
  • Integrity
  • Humanity
  • Wisdom
  • Love

Now, that would be a scale worth using! 

 

If you enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends, family and colleagues! Also, feel free to write in your comments below. Thanks! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Weigh, New Year's Resolution!

 

It's holiday season. What most of us can realistically expect is that we're going to eat more than usual. It's just part of how we celebrate. And, we're going to gain weight. No shock.

Of course, many will make the all too familiar, "I'm going to diet" or "I'm going to join a gym", resolutions to start off the new year. Great intentions! My input though: if we really want to lose weight once and for all, let's stop doing the same old, same old and let's start doing something radically new. Now, that's a resolution that peaks my interest!

Honestly, I'm guessing most of us have done the low-calorie, tasteless, starvation diet thing and/or excessive exercise routine more than once. Sure, we can lose weight, but for how long? And at what cost? (97% of us who lose weight will gain it all back and more within 2 years.)

I propose that instead of looking exclusively outside of ourselves for weight loss answers, let's first look inside by asking and addressing the following questions. (Please take your time with these and answer as fully and with as much detail as you can.)

1) How do I feel in general? (Happy, optimistic, calm, proud, appreciated, satisfied, and/or frustrated, down, fearful, anxious, angry, lonely, etc.) 

2) How do I feel about my life thus far? (What am I happy about and what am I not okay with up until this point?) 

3) How would things look/be if I could have/live my life exactly as I'd like? 

Now, on a scale of 1 - 5, (where 1 = not happy at all and 5 = couldn't be better), how do I rate the following areas in my life:

🔸Family - (The one I grew up with):

🔸Friends:

🔸Relationship - (Boyfriend/Girlfriend or Spouse. If you're single, rate that):

🔸Children - (If you don't have children, rate how you feel about that):

🔸Job/Career:

🔸School: 

🔸Housing:

🔸Legal:

 🔸Finances/Money:

🔸Health:

🔸Sexuality:

🔸Spirituality:

🔸Deaths/Losses: 

🔸Community/Group connections:

🔸Pleasure/Fun:

🔸Other Challenges/Satisfactions:

Okay, your turn. You ask, "What about how I feel about my weight and body size? Shouldn't I rate that too? And, shouldn't we be talking about what to eat, dieting, exercising, and all those kinds of things?? In fact, what in the world do any of the life areas above have to do with my losing weight???"

Of course it's important to look at how we feel about our eating, weight and body size. No disagreement whatsoever. BUT, all too frequently the way we try to lose weight is to simply starve ourselves and/or to excessively work-out. We NEVER stop to address how we FEEL INSIDE about our lives. And becoming aware of and working through undigested issues/situations matters tremendously if we want our weight loss to stay off. 

I know the fitness and weight loss industries have us trained to look outside ourselves for the ultimate getting-in-shape solutions. I also know Hollywood, models, social media and the whole glamour world have us feeling as though we're less than and that we don't quite measure up.

Well, it's time for a truth announcement. There can never be a personal victory when chasing the illusion of perfection. This, (perfectionism), is an overly worn-out path that ultimately tires us out, defeats and leads us astray from our own wonderful uniqueness and genuineness.

That's us, you and me and who we really are that I'm referring to. We're not Hollywood. In actuality, it's much healthier, honest and mature for us to search INSIDE for our soul meaning, health and authentic beautiful body. (And the definition of beautiful body is extremely subjective and definitely in the eye of the beholder. Femaie beauty does not by default refer to being skinny nor in the masculine sense is body beauty all about the buff-factor.) 

So, sorry for this longer than usual post. I just felt like nipping at the bud any and all of our intentions to lose weight for the upcoming new year in the same old, tired way. And, just to confirm, a lot of times when we feel hungry, it's not because we need to eat. That kind of hunger frequently has a lot more to do with feeling empty on the inside. So, we mistakenly fill up on food, (usually junk food, high in carbs), which brings temporary relief only.

Unfortunately, the eating solution to fill up and not feel, causes us to gain weight which further adds to our stress. But if we simply drop calories and exercise more without addressing our inner hurts and what's causing us to want/crave food, we will not keep up the diet nor work-out schedule. No way. No how. At least not 97% of us. 

Want to lose weight? Go ahead. First though, look at all of you and support those areas in your life that need to be supported. Allow yourself to really assess how you're doing and then make moves/take risks that can bring about meaningful and necessary change(s).

Focusing our efforts here, first, will eventually move us out of the stress response. Reducing stress will automatically lower insulin and cortisol hormones which goes hand-in-hand with weight loss. Moreover, implementing strategies other than eating to handle current difficult life situations will satiate much of our hunger.

By putting the above long-term plan into action, we set the stage for lifetime changes/shifts that come from the inside and have everything to do with us. More health, happiness and authentic body size await.

Now that we have the essentials down, I'm all ears to discuss eating, addictive type foods, food balance and quality and the best times of day to eat for optimal nutrition, wellness and weight! In the meantime, congratulations to all those considering giving themselves a chance to shine and to relax, rewire, reshape!

If you'd like more information about the above and/or how I work, let me know. Happy New Year!

 

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Thank You Abenakis!

Thanksgiving, 11/ 26 - November is the month in the USA for giving thanks! We all know the tradition dates way back to 1612 when the first settlers or Pilgrims celebrated a successful corn harvest with the Abenaki Native Americans, (it was the Abenakis who taught the Pilgrims how to cultivate corn, extract sap from trees, catch fish and avoid poisonous fish. Giving thanks!) I especially enjoy Thanksgiving. Despite the frequently chilled temperatures here in the Northeast and other parts of the States, it’s a time when the heart can warm.  

Unlike most holidays, Thanksgiving is not bound to a specific religion or heritage. Anyone who identifies as American can jump in and share in the feeling of gratitude and warmth. People travel for miles to be with family and friends for the festivities.
M*A*C*Y’s throws its annual Thanksgiving Day Parade for the public to enjoy! Turkey trots abound from town-to-town. People open their homes and host wonderful dinners with the standard fare: turkey, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, corn, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.

I started thinking, as great as
Thanksgiving is maybe it’s not sufficient to give thanks only 1 time a year. Maybe there’s enough going on in our lives to be grateful and thankful for each month of the year! Hmmm! So, I’ve come up with my own Giving Thanks list for 2015 which I’ve decided to share with you.

I’m thankful for...

Jan • Janet and I celebrating our 2nd year wedding anniversary after being together for 20 years.
Feb • Having our dog, Rosie, with us for 1 year now. (She is my very first dog ever!)
Mar • Re-kindling a friendship with Paola who found me on social media.
Apr • Presenting in
Christopher Street Financial’s ‘Words & Wine’ seminar.
May • Graduating from the life-altering
Institute for the Psychology of Eating.
Jun • Launching the first
From The HealthShrink e-Newsletter.
Jul • Memories of my dearly, departed father, Daniel, on his birthday.
Aug • Enjoying an especially fun
Mystery Date at the Dream Hotel with Janet.
Sep • My beautiful and wonderful mother, Ann, who turned 89 years-old.
Oct • Presenting in Gotham Volleyball’s Health & Wellness series.
Nov • Visiting loved ones in Italy as well as sharing Thanksgiving with my family in the USA.
Dec • Graduating from the heart-felt, heart-breath, HeartMath Institute.

Compiling this list was actually a thoughtful, heart-warming exercise. I recommend you consider coming up with your own. Giving thanks never felt so good!

Coming Out in Italy!

 

My spouse Janet and I just returned from a beautiful 11-day trip to Italy. We traveled fairly extensively by train and visited Venice, Florence, Viareggio, (a very pretty Tuscan town in the Italian Riviera), Cinque Terre, (5 antique towns built into cliffs overlooking the sea), a natural hot springs spa near Siena and Southern Italy in my maternal grandparents hometown, Santeramo in Colle in the province of Bari, (the heel portion of this boot-shaped land.) We also visited other beautiful and historic places with my Southern-Italian relatives, but I'll leave that for another time.

What made this visit extra special? Of course, the country is beautiful but that's nothing new. We'd both been to Italy before and have come to anticipate its beauty. Also, the weather was beyond spectacular! Everyday was sunny and in the low to mid-70s. Even the Italians were amazed by the very atypical, balmy November forecast. While it was extremely sweet to be able to walk around each day in light sweaters that was more the icing on the cake of this very special sojourn.

How about the food you ask? Wasn't that special? Absolutely, yes! Italians throughout Italy offer exquisitely prepared cuisine specific to their region. We ate 1 delicious meal after another whether at restaurants or in people's homes. Another plus in Italy is they are extremely gluten-free friendly! What a relief it was to simply mention that I avoid foods containing gluten. Everyone understood immediately and did their utmost to accommodate. And the food taste and quality remained stellar! Despite the exceptional, gluten-free fare, this still does not rank as the #1 factor of what made this trip extra-ordinary.

What was it then if not the beauty of the country, the outstanding weather or the phenomenal gluten-free meals? Quite simply, the people. Both friends and family were amazingly embracing. Now, on 1 hand even the warmth everyone showed us was wonderful, but nothing new. The Italians are warm people. What was different then?

This was the first trip Janet and I made to Italy not only as an "out-of-the-closet" couple but as married to boot! For as long as I've been "out" as a lesbian, (almost 30 years now), trust me when I share that I had a bit of a knot in my gut going back to Italy with Janet as my spouse! What would my relatives think, especially those down South many of whom I assumed might be unable to accept the real me/us?

Long story short, they accepted us with love and open arms. Everyone wanted us to eat in their homes. They all were extremely warm, open, friendly, loving and supportive! Even 84 year-old cousin Lucia at the end of our visit grabbed both our hands in hers and said, "Voletevi bene!" ("Love yourselves well!") My heart still fills with overwhelm as I recall her supportive words!

Result: The knot in my gut untied. My breath became more free-flowing. Cortisol, the anxiety hormone which depletes muscle and generates fat, went way down. We had fun, walked tons in gorgeous weather visiting 1 wonderful family after another, ate fantastically well and overall had a marvelous time. And as I've written countless times before, reducing stress, adding pleasure, company, joyful movement and clean food can all lead to body re-shaping.

Did it for me? Yep! I knew before I even returned home that my pants were getting roomier. And, in fact I had lost 4lbs. Without trying and with zero focus on wanting to lose weight. My weight loss just unfolded in a natural way.

Message: Let's all look deeply inside ourselves for what may be bothering, upsetting, stressing, angering, and/or hurting us in any way. There may be 1 thing or multiple issues. The issue may be from the far past or as recent as today. Whatever you hone in on, try to address it in some way other than eating. Talk to someone you trust, get involved in a support group, connect with a professional. Just don't go on doing the same old-same old, i.e., chronic on/off dieting and then becoming even more down when you don't get or can't maintain the weight results you want.

Carrying more weight than we need is not a weight issue at all. Rather, it's a symptom of something else going on inside of us if we choose to listen. Enough exchanging emotional eating with deprivation dieting! Instead, let's listen to and observe our body's messages. It's time for all of us to "come-out" from under the overcoat of alleged fat-cell protection. Yes, it's high time to be and live life as our real selves. Now that's truly extra special!

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends/family. Also, if you have any comments, I'd love to hear them! Thanks!