Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Unhealthy habits: the holidays exposed.

Another year of the holidays.  Another year has passed and a new one to come.  Some will be celebrating a year of breakthrough, success, and happiness.  Others will be battling regret, loss, hurt, and disappointment.  And mostly, we will all have a mixture of all of the previously stated.

It is not necessarily what happens in our lives, but how we cope that determines health or lack of health.  Some people in order to cope, will binge eat, binge drink, and avoid talking to certain people in their lives, especially during the holidays.  Others will take a run, eat a salad, and juice to maintain energy and optimism.

How are healthy habits formed and unhealthy habits avoided?  It is not so easy and just deciding.  Sometimes it is about will power.  And sometimes we are more complicated than muscling through in a sheer act of steel will power.

One unhealthy "habit" that I would like to focus on would be the habit of people-pleasing.  Yes, you heard me, people-pleasing.  And I call it a habit because a habit is something that just seems to happen out of nowhere, with no actual decision, like we just fall into something or we just innately do what we deem necessary in a given situation with virtually no forethought.

In the past, I have been chronically late.  Why would you say that I have been chronically late?  Well, I would see someone and need to talk and say hi.  Or someone would call and I just couldn't get off the call because they "needed me."  Or I was in an appointment with someone who needed to talk deeply about something and I just couldn't leave them a crumbling mess on the floor, I had to stick it out and be late for the next appointment or the next person.

People pleasers tend to have the following in common with each other:

1.  In a given social or work obligation, it is very difficult for the people pleaser to say "no" out of fear of disapproval or rejection from the person asking for the appointment, task to be done, or social outing to be committed to.  Instead of saying no, people pleasers will just say "oh that sounds amazing, I will do my best to be there!"  People pleasers will avoid any sense of confrontation and will just avoid committing but sound amazingly positive, leaving the person thinking that they are definitely committed only to find out later that the people pleaser was just scared of saying no.

2.  People pleasers tend to not have a lot of time for themselves because they are over-committed/overextended/over-involved.  They don't have time to work-out, don't have time to cook, don't have time to journal or think.  They have to be involved, they have to fulfill other people's expectations and don't even know what their own expectations are in a relationship whether work, social, or familial.

3.  People pleasers may have different reasons why they people please even though the outcome seems the same.  Some people pleasers are afraid of people's response.  They struggle with fear.  Some people pleasers derive satisfaction or pleasure from being needed and they get a rush of fulfillment when they live life as the "martyr," giving up everything that they want for the happiness of everyone else.  Some people pleasers fear rejection.  They don't want to be rejected by people.  They feel a need to maintain synergy and balance in relationships.  If they feel someone pull back in a relationship, they freak out and cannot handle the space.  Some people pleasers are co-dependent and do not know how to function outside of the context of doing something or being around people.  Alone time is non-existent.

What people pleasers lack more than anything is a lack of identity or a lack of purpose.  People pleasers need to let go of the over attachment to routines and people "needing them."  People pleasers would do well to take a sabbatical and find an island to move to for year with no responsibilities, no family obligations, and no work obligations.  And for a year, people pleasers could work on getting to know themselves and figuring out what makes them tick and what needs to be unraveled and what needs to be discovered.

We all could do with a lot of self-discovery, spiritual discovery, heart, soul, and spirit growth.  In America, we are swept into a system of business, of busy routines, and of the knee jerk reaction of pleasing people.

We are in such a deep-rooted fear of man that everything we do, think, or say, is to protect the response or the other individual or a fear that we may offend someone.  To the point that people will spend over $30,000 in order to please everyone involved and to not let anyone feel "left out" or not acknowledged.

Think about your conversations, your social interactions, and about you day to day comings and goings.  How much of what you are doing is coming from the core of you?  How much of what you do is exactly what you want to be doing each and every day?  How much of your day is authentically YOU?  And how much is meeting expectations and obligations given from other people outside yourself?

Who said that you have to buy a house that you can't afford, buy a car that you can't afford, and life your life chasing money to pay for everything that you have already bought on credit and that you need to catch up to?  Who said that you have to ignore your own needs and the needs of your health to fulfill the demands of day to day?  Who said that you have to stay at a job that you hate just so that you can receive a paycheck every 2 weeks?

We are living in fear day after day after day.  When will we break free from fear and live free, to the fullest, and in the most authentic way?

I encourage you in this holiday season to examine your motives and your goals and how much of your life is authentic to you as an individual.  Maybe you don't really know who you are.  At least you are being honest and realizing that you need to discover who you are.  Whether you are 15 or 40 or 60 years old, it is never to late to discover who you are.  We all have a need to find our identity and discover who we are.

Our lives are becoming too disjointed and disconnected because we are not connected to the core of who we are.  We are not listening to our hearts and to the core of our beings to find what we need.  We are hopelessly distracted by TV, Internet, phones, technology, work, and money.  We have forgotten how to be a person, we have forgotten how to breath, and most off all we have forgotten how to have peace.

Let's break free from people pleasing this year and find authenticity.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

“Don’t swim like goldfish, you might die.”

Swimming upstream can get tiring.  I remember owning several goldfish in my life.  Goldfish were content to just float.  I don’t remember them trying to paddle too much with their little baby fins.  I don’t know what would have happened to my goldfish if I put them in a rushing, gushing river with rocks and snakes and all the craziness.  It would have not been pretty.  The goldfish would have been swept away into oblivion.

Unfortunately, my longest living goldfish (2 years!) died in a tragic bowel cleaning gone wrong:  toxic chemicals or “suds” remaining in the bowel led to an overdose of the “suds.”  Classic goldfish mistake.  To make matters worse, it was my aunt and uncle and cousins who were babysitting my goldfish while my family was on vacation that killed the poor unsuspecting goldfish.  They didn’t understand the importance of this goldfish or the significance of this goldfish living for so long. 

I have few regrets in my life.  But the goldfish, this may be one of them.  I should’ve taken the goldfish with me on my vacation, but alas, I trusted someone else without any emotional attachment to the fish. 

Classic mistake #2. 

Moving on.  I like to swim against stream.  It is fun.  It is difficult.  It can make me super angry at times and it can make me exhilarated at times as well.  Depends on the day, depends on the moment.

I wonder which fish are the best at swimming upstream.  Sharks, whales, snakes (are they considered fish in rivers?   Probably not), craw fish, oysters, lobsters, lizards, porcupines (how did they get in the water?), shrimp (bottom-feeders, probably didn’t make it upstream), salmon (wait, what are they doing there?  Oh yeah, they are eating GMOed corn and being farm-raised, awesome.), etc.etc…

I doubt that the salmon being fed GMOed corn swim that well in general.  They probably just get so fat that they start to float and look like balloon fish, extremely large floating goldfish with a pale pinkish frown all over their skin. 

It is interesting.  I would like to interview our animals, fish, and land to find out how they feel about the recent developments in America (the last 50 years or so).  I can imagine the corn-fed salmon crying hysterically, lamenting about the move from salt water to water with no salt and corn floating everywhere.  It must be strange.  Or maybe they don't think, so it doesn’t matter (we should involve PETA in this conversation). 

Well, we think so it could matter to us.  If we learn to swim upstream in a challenging country to be healthy, perhaps the tide could change.  It is possible.  Or we could continue with little pockets of health, fighting to survive the industrialization of a country and a food industry. 

One thing that disturbed me this week may or may not disturb you.  But at least let’s think.  I was having a conversation with a person whose brother-in-law has cancer and has been given by the doctor 19 months to live, with the current medications that have been prescribed.  I recommended some natural remedies, food and whole food supplements.  When I got back to the individual about her brother-in-law’s thoughts, she told me that he was scared to try anything new or to deviate from the doctor’s instructions.  I was dumbfounded. 

How could this even be possible that this is where we have gotten in our beliefs and thought processes about health in America?  People are actually more scared to eat food in food form or to eat food in blended up food form than they are to pop synthetic, man-made, prescription drugs (that kills over 100,000 people per year with properly prescribed medications, not overdoses).

I am still dumbfounded.  The guy (who is young, probably 40’s or 50’s) would rather follow his doctor’s instructions after his doctor told him he probably would still die in 19 months following the protocol that was given, than a “risk-taking” protocol of food and whole food supplements (that may I add, has never ever killed anyone or never actually could kill anyone because it is food).

This is super challenging for me as a Nutritional Therapist.  Because I am scared for our country, for the millions of people who are simply doing what there doctor says and not exploring every possible option out there and not pursuing health through lifestyle changes, diet, minimizing stress, whole foods supplements, loving people, living for a higher purpose, and finding time to soak in the sun.

Simple things that can make a big difference in the quality and quantity of our lives.

Another crazy and disturbing thing that happened this week:  I saw a sign for an assisted living center for elderly people 55+…since when has the elderly population become 55+??  And who decided this?  55 years of age should be the prime of someone’s life, where they are in the prime of their career and flourishing!!!!  Not retiring and dying in an assisted living facility (remember the cultures that we discussed where it is normal to live well into 100 years of age with no medications and no health aliments to speak of?  It is possible!!). 

Let’s stop floating like goldfish that usually live less than 1 year (my fish was the only exception that I know to this rule).  Instead, let’s learn to swim upstream and figure out the things that we need to do to move counter-culturally so that we can live to our potential of quality and quantity!

We can do it! 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

"When in Rome, do as the Romans do"

“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”  This is my favorite way to travel.  When I go to a country, I want to breathe the way that they breathe, I want to sing the way that they sing, and if they dance the cha-cha-cha, I will be cha-cha’ing all the way to my hotel room.  This is the best way to learn, I believe, the differences in cultures so that you can expand and grow in the ways that you need to in order to become a more authentic, defined individual.    

Lately, I have been thinking about how life has changed in America.  Not like I have personal experience living in America 100 years ago, but I can imagine how much life has changed. 

I can even remember to my time in high school up until now how much our lives have changed.  I remember typing a paper on a typewriter in high school.  I remember going to college and having a desktop computer and having to sit in my room in order to do my papers.  I don’t remember having technology attached to my ear, hip, and shoulder. 

I don’t remember ever seeing lawnmowers that mowed by themselves, or computers as small as a phone, or seeing my dad using a snow blower.  I remember the days of rakes, shovels, desktop computers, and landline phones.  I remember NOT owning a phone in middle school and actually using a pay phone or the school phone in order to call my mother.

I remember growing up and playing outside, playing with my dog, climbing a tree.  I remember imagining people and places and creating stories with my friends.  I remember playing with Barbie’s, coloring, and creating art projects that my mother would judge and give prizes.

Now as I look around at our children, my friends, and myself all I see is humanity drowning in technology.  And we wonder why we are not healthy and why we are not happy….true social connections have become about a computer or Facebook.  Celebrating a birthday means receiving 400 messages on my Facebook page and maybe 1 phone call from my friend who actually makes the effort to call me instead of Facebook me.

It is a strange phenomenon and I wonder how we break free from the vicious cycle that seems to just suck us in until we are caught up in a technology sand storm that does not relent until we cannot feel as a normal human being feels.  We become like machines, we become like the technology that we feed on every day. 

And what does this have to do with health?  With my health, with your health?  It has everything to do with our mentality, our emotional connections, and our ability to breathe, to laugh, to play, and to be human. 

Also, in all the longevity cultures that I have studied, daily physical activity was a huge part of their longevity secret.  Some of the oldest Italian men lived as shepherds and walked miles every day.  A lot of the oldest people in longevity cultures worked in their own gardens every day, weeding, planting, and maintaining the food that they would be eating.

If I think of a typical day in the life of an American, it would be:  wake up to phone alarm, check text messages and message back, turn on computer and check email, eat breakfast, jump in the car and go to work, sit on a computer all day, jump in car and come home, eat dinner, watch TV, go to bed.  Somewhere in the mix of things we may mow the lawn (with a riding lawn mower, or we will pay the kid down the block, or we will buy a fancy automatic mower that moves and mows on its own), we may get rid of snow using the following avenues (snow blower, pay the kid down the block, or a shovel)…the vast majority of people would shovel last and chose the other options first. 

The funny thing is that most of us would work the gym into our schedule.  We mow our lawn by sitting on a tractor that mows for us and then we rush off to the gym to fit in a workout or we complain that we don’t have time in our day to workout.

What if we found ways to fit in “working out” into our daily schedules?  What if we found ways to move daily by making things harder instead of easier?  Let’s sell the snow blower and invest in a back-friendly shovel and shovel instead of going to the gym.  Or, let’s sell the riding law mower and buy a push mower and mow instead of going to the gym.

Most of the people in longevity cultures never owned a membership to a gym.  In fact, if someone built a gym and tried to gain members, they would go bankrupt fast because the people in these longevity cultures would not understand the purpose of a gym for all the physical labor that they are doing day in and day out.

I know that the saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”  However, sometimes the Romans would die early for doing stupid things and if I want to plan to be healthy and live long, I may want to rebel against the “Roman” way of life and live an authentic life, caring for my physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Nicoya, Costa Rica

The last Blue Zone that we are going to look at is Nicoya, Costa Rica.   In Nicoya, Panchita tends to her garden every day, doing her daily chores, and preparing food for herself and her son.  Looking at Panchita, you would think that she was 70 years old, and a robust 70 at that.  Panchita is very agile and busy every day.  She feels great purpose in seeing her grandchildren grow and making sure that her family is doing well. 

Panchita is 100 years old and one of the many centurions in Nicoya, Costa Rica.  She is outside every day and receiving vitamin D from the sunshine.  Vitamin D is a common deficiency that I see every day with my clients in Minnesota.  In the summer, sunblock keeps our body from absorbing vitamin D.  I usually recommend at least 20 minutes a day in the sun without sunblock so that your body can absorb Vitamin D.  Vitamin D is not found in a lot of foods and is best absorbed from the sun. 

For food, Panchita prepares traditional, non-processed food every day.  She makes tortillas from fortified maize (not at all like our genetically modified corn in America), beans, and uses vegetables from her garden.  It is interesting that every Blue Zone has a different diet that contributes to longevity, but the common denominator is traditional, non-processed food.  In America, most people would say that “traditional” American food is hamburgers, potatoes, fries, and pizza.  This is not quite the traditional cuisine that we should be aiming for in our plan to increase our capacity for longevity.

Panchita eats a heavy, full breakfast, while in the evening she eats a very light dinner.  This is a common custom to Nicoya.  Eating a light meal helps the body to detoxify and restore health while sleeping.  Eating a heavy meal right before sleeping can cause sleep disturbances and interfere with the body’s ability to heal and restore during sleep. 

Panchita’s mentality and perspective on food is “food gives life.”  She focusing on the life-giving properties of food and not on the gratification of taste buds or fulfilling a certain craving.  If you think about your perspective and mentality on food and how you eat, it tends to lead you towards a healthy lifestyle or an unhealthy lifestyle.  It is so important that we shift our thinking and beliefs about food so that we can move towards a healthy mentality of eating. 

The last “secret” to health in Nicoya, is the amazing mineral-rich water that is found everywhere.  Their water supply has not been tainted or changed and contains the minerals needed for optimal health.  Unfortunately, in America, most of our water has been “supplemented” with chlorine and fluoride, which can negatively affect the quality and health of the water. 

In Nicoya, we can learn to eat more traditional, non-processed food, to gain Vitamin D from the sunshine, to shift our belief system about food, to focus on our families, find mineral rich water sources, and to have daily purpose to living.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sardinia, Italy

In other cultures, elders are revered and looked to for wisdom and understanding.  The knowledge of elders is valued as much as a rich inheritance for a young person. 

Through studying and looking at Blue Zones, cultures where people are living past 100 years old with no medications and no real aliments or health complaints, I come to see that American culture has come up wanting in the aging process.

It seems that we fear aging and fear plays into the dysfunction and deterioration of the aging process.  What we fear becomes us and may come upon us.  It is important that we believe that we can be healthy that we can possess health.

From the belief that we can possess health, we will be empowered to take action in order to take care of our health.  We will pay attention to what we eat, learn what we should look for in food, we will exercise, rest, and eat for health and not for enjoyment or pleasure.

Don’t get me wrong, healthful eating tastes great….but our taste buds have become skewed and have grown accustomed to processed foods, sweets, and unhealthy fats.  We have more and more food cravings, which show our deficiencies rather than our health and functionality. 

Let’s look at one of the blue zones and see what we can learn.  The first blue zone I will have us look at is Sardinia, Italy.  In Sardinia, there are many people living past the age of 100 in a healthful manner.  For example, Mr. Mura is 102 years old and lives at home with his 65-year old daughter.   

Mr. Mura is a staple in their household and he is celebrated as other elders are in Sardinia.  Mr. Mura gives wisdom and insight and helps with the daily activities of the household.  When he was younger (like 80 years old), he worked as a shepherd, caring for sheep and goats.  Mr. Mura, as well as many elders in Sardinia, derive a great sense of purpose out of building their family and pouring into the generations.  This helps to give them a will to live because of the great purpose and meaning that they find in their family.

Also, in Sardinia, they are not too serious about life.  They know how to laugh and enjoy their lives.  Mr. Mura is no exception.  He keeps a light, humorous stance on many things that happen in life.    Sardonic humor has its roots in this Italian city.   

Two of their most healing foods are their fermented foods as well as their raw dairy.  They enjoy raw goats milk, cheeses, and raw sheep’s milk as well.  Their diet consists of nutrient dense foods that are not processed in any way.  They eat off the land and eat what is given to them in nature.

America has had an influence, however, and some of the younger generations who are adopting American lifestyles are gaining weight and struggling with many of the same health problems facing Americans.

To sum up, in Sardinia and from the life of Mr. Mura, we learn the importance of having meaning in life, incorporating daily exercise, eating raw and fermented foods, as well as finding the time to laugh and enjoy living!

Next week, we will explore a few more Blue Zones to learn how to incorporate lifestyle changes to our own lives that will help increase our longevity and quality of life.