Crisis Mode

Life has a funny way of tossing the unexpected at us. There is always the potential for something to derail us from our goals. Getting derailed can be very disheartening, and, sometimes, it can even be devastating. The tricky part is getting back on track, pave a new path, or even to set new goals. The biggest challenge is letting go of those goals after you’ve invested a lot of your energy, emotion, and time into them. It can be pretty damn depressing. However, I have learned that it’s naive to put all your energy into only one goal and expect happiness. Why? Because life happens, and as a friend of mine says, ‘life doesn’t ask permission’, it just keeps charging forward. Charging forward is my mantra these days. Being in my own crisis mode, the very least I can do for now is to keep moving forward and set new goals for happiness and health.

This past summer I was hit hard with a tragic family crisis. Unfortunately the end of this crisis is completely unknown, unless I walk away, which I’m not ready to do yet. It’s been an ongoing nightmare. It’s affected nearly every aspect of my life, and, due to the intense stress, it has been inching in on my health. Being a Master Nut, I know how to heal myself in theory. I also know first-hand how easy it is to slip down that slippery slope and make unhealthy choices.  My greens intake decreased significantly, I haven’t been cooking for myself very much at all. I’ve noticed the physical effects: headaches have returned, sleep isn’t as sound, joints ache more, and depression threatens. But wouldn’t all this be because of stress? Yes, definitely. However, stress works a very specific chemical process in our body that robs us of nutrients, affects hormonal feedback loops, and further causes crisis on the body’s systems, which results in a plethora of symptoms, far greater what I’ve listed already.

Break the cycle.

My approach is to chip away at the unhealthy habits, bit by bit, and add in a healthy habit. Just the idea of diving back into cooking all my meals again, on top of everything else I’m managing: not helpful and even more stressful. I’m requiring very little, manageable rules:  one thing at a time. This week, for example, I have been ignoring all else and adding in more water. I tell myself I can do/eat whatever, but I have to finish the pitcher of water on the counter. Next weekend, I will work on the cooking and plan to make a big pot of stew I can have for the week. Bit by bit, I take manageable bites.

Forgiveness.

Knowing what I know about nutrition and how stress affects the body, I am my biggest critique, which also, is stressful. The other step of this process is to let go and forgive myself. The damage from the cookies I ate will be plenty reminder to myself (migraines), no need to berate myself on top of it all, right? It’s easy to tell someone to ‘take care’ of themselves, but much harder to actually follow up on that.

First steps.

These are the most important nutritional steps for me to take, to get out of this crisis mode and get back to better health. Hopefully they offer some help for your own crisis, or even nutritional ruts we often slip into.

  1. Take supplements. Supplements are critical right now, since I’ve been eating poorly. These will give me some bare minimum nutrients (especially for brain chemistry) to keep on top of everything. If my mind is in the game, the rest will follow.
  2. Drink more water. Being essential, this will give my body the building blocks to utilize any good nutrients I take in and help flush out toxins from stress and poor food choices. Being well hydrated will also help keep my sugar cravings down to a dull meow.
  3. Eat more greens. Greens have exponential amounts of needed phytonutrients (plant-based nutrients) that the body uses to function and thrive. As much as some (self included) would like to live off cookies, potatoes, and meat, it’s not enough to keep the body working at optimal levels. Getting enough phytonutrients, feeding the body the nutrients it needs, will also help kill cravings.
  4. Cook food. This is not only a way to get better nutrition, but it’s also a form of self-appreciation, a mental health exercise (use that brain and feed it good stuff).  It is also much easier on the wallet than eating out every day.

What have you done in the face of your own crisis? How have you helped pull yourself back up again, and thrive? What other tools do you have to deal with life’s challenges?

Forward we march

Post detox. My cravings were anxiously waiting for the end of the 21-day detox; the end arrived, and well, meh. I wasn’t so interested in binging, splurging, indulging, or otherwise reverting back to where I was. Yes, this is a good feeling. The feedback from the other detoxers is also exciting. The level of compliance varied, but so did the individual goals. Any change we can make toward eating more health-supportive foods is a great accomplishment. Here are the most common results from the fellowship:

  • Cut out some processed foods and drank less soda/alcohol
  • 100% compliant with the protocols
  • Increased energy levels
  • Weight lost (5-15lbs!)
  • More real food intake
  • Less processed food intake
  • Cholesterol levels were cut
  • Tummy aches, sinus issues, were eliminated
  • Sleep was deeper and more restful

Those were just a few of the most common results of this detox. But the one I love most of all: awareness. Awareness was increased around foods that heal and foods that make us sick, stuffed up, and inflamed. Of course, a detox isn’t the answer to all that causes ill, but it can be a start. It can help give the liver a break so that it can function better. Bigger issues can take longer to heal and require specific nutrients, and lots of patience.

My next personal challenge: 20 yoga classes at my local studio in April. I’ve been out of practice for a couple months, too laden down by work, school, other work, pups, life. But I’m going to take advantage of this sense of commitment and get back to it! It’s all part of the equation to live long, strong, and energetically.

What is your personal challenge this month?

Day 21. The beginning.

21/21

Congratulations! We did it. We made it to the top. Just be careful on the way down, it’s easy to get off course (trust me, I’ve been there, I know: nutritionally and on the mountain). But it was all good and lessons were learned, good times were had. I hope my experience has helped you on your journey. I’m hoping to do some shorter group cleanses this summer, and another 21-day detox this fall. Keep your eyes open!

On top of the world!

On top of the world!

Now we start, having giving ourselves a liver reboot, cleansed the body of processed foods and sugar. It feels good! What nutritional goals do you have for this summer?

Day 19.

19/21

Tick tock. Tick tock. GO CLOCK GO! Spring is attempting to overwhelm me with fresh air, sunshine, and warmth. The mighty seducer is also trying to pull me from my work and get my fingers in the dirt, my feet on the trail, and my soul outside. How do you fight that? Don’t. Just go.

I’ve been reflecting on the past three weeks and I realized I’ve gotten more work, projects, and assignments done than the previous 3 months combined. Of course, part of that is due to the dramatic increase of my work load this past month (if it’s got to get done, a way will be found to get it done, right?). However, I’m sure not having to drag my over sugared self around helped considerably. My energy levels have gone up and sleep has been so beautifully delicious (sorry, Spring, there is another lover, Sleep) on this detox.

My big garden is also looking at me with puppy eyes, ‘Come play in the dirt! Let’s get our grow on!’ It was such a thrill last summer (first season with my big front-yard garden) to go out and collect food, right before I made dinner. Gardens make it easier for us to eat more veggies and, consequently, help teach kids about real food; kids tend to eat their veggies more when they participate in the growing, weeding, and harvesting process. The upside is limitless. Gardening is the most sustainable thing we can do for the planet. Period. And wonderful phytonutrients we get from vegetables, is one of the best things we can do for our bodies. Period.

Blank canvas

Blank canvas

My mom taught me (she’s still trying, some things I’m slow at picking up) that we can grow food in just about any container there is. So far I have only tested this minimally, but I have seen food grown in a crazy variety of containers: trellis tomato plants on a small balcony, old re-purposed dressers, buckets, cinder blocks. It’s endless. As long as the plants get the right amount of light, soil nutrients, and water: we get FOOD!

Do you have a garden? How do you garden? In the city, on a farm, in the kitchen (grow sprouts on the kitchen counter!)

Counter top grown sprouts

Counter-top grown sprouts

Day 14.

14/21

This time next will be our last day on the detox. I’m already missing it. Sniff. Sniff. Someone asked me about breakfast ideas on this detox. In this culture, we’re very focused on refined carbohydrates (bread, cereal, pastries) and eggs. The unfortunate issue with this traditional American breakfast is that it doesn’t provide much in the way of nutrient-dense foods and much needed phytonutrients. Refined carbohydrates will drain the body of energy by flooding it with sugar. Sugar doesn’t do much good, especially when it’s not attached to fiber, protein, good fats, and phytonutrients.

Breakfast sets up our metabolism for the day, shouldn’t we give it the best tools to work with? There is absolutely no reason not to have stew for breakfast. Or soup. Or a big salad with fresh greens, nuts, avocados, maybe some left over roasted chicken. Or a burrito in a brown rice tortilla with black beans, shredded cabbage, avocado, and salsa. Or, one of my favorites, the lovely green smoothie: pear, kale, red lettuce, lime juice, coconut water, blueberries, chia seeds, and half a cucumber. These nutrient dense options provide us with a big burst of nutrition at the most important meal of the day.

Num num num.

breakfast

What’s your favorite non-typical breakfast?

Day 9.

9/21

The days are flying by. Spring is tomorrow. My garden is in need of some prep work. School work is piled high (understatement). Work is thankfully a bit slow this week. I’ve got nothing planned to cook today. I juiced this morning (beets, cucumber, lemon, pear, parsley, celery, carrots). I’m going to see what creative things I can do with my left over roasted chicken.

There’s something so fundamental for me about roasting a chicken, picking off the meat for another meal, making stock with the carcass, using that stock to make yet another meal. The original recycling. I like food that is nutrient dense and has many uses. Like the gardening cycle of planting, harvesting, eating, composting, planting. It’s beautiful in its simplicity. (simplicity = the theory, not necessarily the work, I’m still figuring that part out!)

Can't wait for summer's garden!

Can’t wait for summer’s garden!

Stress was my original motivator behind this detox. I’m happy to report, I feel like I have a much greater handle on my stressors than I did before the detox. Sugar (and this includes alcohol) is not a friend to stress. We may reach for it  when we’re stressed, but the biochemical pathways lead right to illness. Illness can range from a cold to chronic fatigue, tummy ache, painful joints, weight gain. Pretty much anything the immune system has under it’s control can be harmed by physical (including nutrition) and/or psychological (work, finances, relationships) stress. They both activate our sympathetic nervous system, which triggers our adrenals to get to work releasing hormones. Those hormones are designed to help us fight an attacking lion. Too much of these adrenal hormones and all hell breaks loose in the body (see above, about the immune system).

This week, I’m going to focus on psychological stress management, now that the nutritional stress has been removed from my body. More long walks with the pups, get my bum to yoga class, and even try some of the guided mediation I was taught once upon a long time ago. The goal, other than to get good and calm amid my life storm, is to get out of the sympathetic nervous system’s hormonal cascade and allow my parasympathetic nervous system to heal, digest, and be calm.

Om.

Day 7.

7/21

One full week! The group has been reporting better detox symptoms (less headaches, brain fog). It sounds like most have been compliant, too. This is great and warms my heart so very much. It was a rough week for some, especially with the caffeine withdrawals. But, alas, perseverance and good food have won out. Forward we march to better health and habits.

I had a delicious, slightly more bitter juice this morning: 1 small beet, 1 pear, 2 celery stalks, 2 small carrots, 1 lemon, and about 1″ of ginger. I had that with a side of garlicy guacamole and some flax seed crackers. Breakfast! My juicer hasn’t seen this much action ever. I’m happy to be getting some work out of it.

Now I’m off to take the crazy pups and myself for a nice long walk. Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Eat good greens!

Jones & Indy

Jones & Indy

Day 6.

6/21

Ahhhh, the weekend. I woke up feeling pretty normal today. My energy was about normal, too. Although, last night I really wanted to dunk my whole head in a big vat of wine. Happily, I got past it. One nice benefit of eating mostly really well, is when you do go off your personal crack (for me: wine, chocolate, and a few processed foods), the withdrawal isn’t too bad. The body likes being given good nutrients. It likes getting a break from nutritional stress. But, some times it can feel like an open wound. In order to heal it, we first have to clean out the dirt and rocks imbedded in there, and that can hurt. We clean it anyway, because we know we have to for it to heal safely and without infection. Our bodies and what we put into them are not that dissimilar. Some times we need to clean out the dirt and rocks, so we don’t get sick.

I almost walked right passed these, but stopped to take a picture.

Justins peanut butter cupsThe abundance alone made me pause, not to mention this is one of my favorite chocolate treats. Favorite according to my ignorant tastes buds, not favorite from a nutritional point of view. They’ve got some pretty unsavory ingredients that are not health supportive, disruptive even. Before this detox, I was able to see past that for the allure of the dark chocolate, peanut butter, with a-touch-of-sea-salt to dance on my taste buds (and they are local, which I support. Hey, if you’re going to indulge, at least pick a locally made indulgence!). Happily, today, I looked at them and really only saw the destructive side, not the craving. I’m happy to leave those behind for good after this detox.

Today I had a smoothie with berries and some frozen peaches (that I got out west and froze last summer), congee soup (so simple, yet so good, happy to eat lots of this), juiced (beets, celery, apple, kale), and some nuts to snack on. Kombucha, water, tea.

The juice-pulp crackers didn’t happen last night. I have so much left over soup, cooked quinoa, and guacamole, that I can’t cook anything new right now. How about you? Has anyone tried a good detox-approved recipe?

Cheers!

Scale me no more!

Dear Scale,

You no longer dictate what my day will be like, or how I’ll feel about myself. You never controlled how my clothes fit. You never made my meals or made me feel strong or healthy. You can F**K OFF scale.  I am free of you. It was hard to quit you, I was tempted more than once to pull you out of the back of the closet and check in. I turn to myself now, to check how I feel. I ask my gut and my head “Hey Gut, Hey Head, how do you feel today? Feeling good? Then awesome! Feeling bad? Well, let’s fix that!” Green smoothies are my current best medicine for days when I feel brain foggy or feel a bug trying to latch on. They’re packed full of all those thousands of phytonutrients that science still hasn’t fully identified, but science does know they make us better (magic!). Bug be gone, shoo! Go hang out with my Scale for all I care, just not here, no room, too much good green stuffs.

I tried on a pair of my jeans recently, which I have been ignoring lately. Hey! They fit! Yippie! My jeans fit, my gut feels GOOD, my head isn’t plagued with headaches every day, migraines every couple weeks. I know how to keep illness away. I am off all my medications for allergies, hormones, sadness, achy parts, and I’ve gained super powers. Well, ok, that last part is a stretch. But I feel that way sometimes. I had some guests recently, they were all sick with colds. I pumped them full of good stuff all week, and didn’t even consider I might ‘catch’ what they had. I didn’t. I never do. Or very rarely do, it’s been a long time. If I get sick next week even, that’ll be the first time in years. My ‘illnesses’ used to show up as headaches, brain conditions, mostly. But, I have to stay on top of it; I have to eat lots of greens (basically, not exclusively, of course, but those are the easy to NOT get, and the  most important to load up on) and some smart supplements, and, voilà, good to go. If I get off that regime and eat sugar and drink wine (my weaknesses), I start to feel like poo again.

So, my not-so-dear Scale, I really don’t care about you anymore. I’ve got much more important things by which to judge myself: shiny skin, healthy bones, strong heart, and happy outlook.  In the immortal words of the Bill the Cat:

Very Sincerely,

Mariah

Feed me, Seymour! FEED ME!

Sadly, one very important point has been neglected more and more as the standard American diet (aka S.A.D.) dives into processed, refined, genetically modified foods: how we feel. How does food make you feel? These days we tend to eat more to satisfy cravings, hunger, emotional stress than to heal our bodies and enjoy feeling good. Think about how food makes you feel, not just emotionally, but physically. Do you feel energized and happy, restored, revitalized after a meal or a snack? Do old aches feel better? Do you sleep better?

It’s taken me a long time to make the connection between food and how I feel, and as long to make adjustments to my own diet. Not just physically but emotionally. Food is more than something fun and tasty to shove in our mouths, it provides essential, vital nutrients to make us function well, and not get sick. How long has it been since you last got sick? If it’s less than a year ago, something is not functioning well. Nutrition could very well be the reason: an irritation or a deficiency in most cases.

Making changes to eat better is not easy. I’ve been there, I know intimately the processes. When I gave up gluten I had mini panic attacks, “where will i get carbs for running?!” I had considered myself a ‘really good’ eater back then, too. Nope. There was so much to be improved on to feel better. Fortunately, I stuck with it, continued to evaluate and make changes, and today am feeling tremendously better.

Best (or worse, depending on your view point) is that I didn’t even realize how bad I was feeling previously. I had learned to live with low energy, brain fog, headaches, endless mix of digestive issue. That was my ‘normal’. Doctors didn’t have any revolutionary diagnosis for me to play with, just meds to help with the symptoms. In the end, it was my diet that was the culprit.

My friend Aly picking up a massive purple cabbage from my garden.

If you look to your skin, your GI tract, your mind, your energy; is that how you envision your ideal ‘normal’ to be? Do you wonder if something can be done? What are you feeding your body?

Ahh, the sweet stuff! CRACK!

How do I break my sugar habit? I’ve been getting this question a lot lately. I’m thrilled that my message of “SUGAR IS BAD! BAD! BAD!” is getting through to those around me. If asked one thing to cut from our diet: Sugar.  Big bad: refined sugar, wheat (any refined grains), high fructose corn syrup, agave syrup, etc. Honey is a border line one. In moderation it’s ok, as it at least offers some trace nutrients.

Sugar, the Big Bad, has many disguises that have thickly woven into the standard American diet over the past 50-60 years especially. The biggest disguise, I think, is wheat. Yes, even whole wheat. It has a higher glycemic index than a candy bar. Here are some more common places the Big Bad likes to slip into our systems: sauces, salad dressings, protein/performance bars, applesauce, cereals, Starbucks drinks, smoothies, protein powder, peanut butter, soup, medications, processed/frozen foods, milk, cheese, fruit juices, pretty much just about anything in a package. Don’t think artificial sweeteners are the answer either; they are equally bad, if not worse. They affect our brain chemistry, taste sensors, and appetite control centers.

Why, do you ask, is it the Big Bad? Isn’t it a natural, all-American product? Yes it is an all-American product. Natural, definitely not. It’s been so overly processed that sugar has been compared to cocaine, and not just in texture, but how it affects the body (and I’m just talkin’ about the white refined sugar; corn, rice, etc. syrups are even more refined/processed).  Check out the movie Hungry for a Change.

Sugar is deficient in nutrients. Processed sweet foods contain calories with no other nutrients, aka empty calories.  Other than the ones your parents and dentist warned you about, dental caries (bacteria in the mouth ferment sugar and produce an acid that dissolves tooth enamel), dental plaque (gummy mass of bacteria that grows on teeth; builds up depends on chemistry of saliva and genetics), tooth decay (starches and sugars begin breaking down to sugars in the mount), there are physiological effects it has on every system in our bodies: immune, cardiovascular, reproductive, neurological, etc.

Sugar and its effects. Don’t feel too bad about yourself at this point. Sugar creates cravings that are psychological.  There is a chemical reason behind these cravings. Sugar causes big spikes and big dips in serotonin. Serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter essential to brain function, levels are responsible for our moods, i.e., mellow, peaceful, relaxed.  It also, if in balance, increases impulse control, allowing you to ‘just say no’ (to that piece of cake). Low levels of serotonin are shown in depression cases, craving simple carbohydrates, the later which helps tryptophan move thru the blood brain barrier to make serotonin. By eating too much sugar, substituting nutrient dense foods with sugar, we are creating a vicious cycle (among other potentially very hazardous conditions) that messes with our brain chemistry, leaving us depressed, waiting for that next fix of goodness. Then dropping down to bottom again. Repeat. Great book on this topic, if you want more information is Potatoes Not Prozac, simple solutions to sugar sensitivities, by Kathleen DesMaisons, PhD, Addictive Nutrition.

What’s going on elsewhere? Here are some bullets on what sugar does to us.

  • Suppresses the immune system
  • Upsets the body’s mineral balance, chromium and copper deficiency
  • Causes kidney damage
  • Reduces HDLs (good cholesterol)
  • Causes inflammation in the body and increases blood pH, which is the source of many of the big illnesses we face today (vs back in the late 1800s, we were a lot less sick then than now): cancer of the breast, ovaries, intestines, prostate, and rectum.
  • Can cause/exacerbate (inflammation again) arthritis, asthma, candida, gallstones, hermorrhoids, varicose veins, increase cholesterol, cause food allergies, contribute to eczema in children
  • Interferes with absorption of calcium and magnesium.
  • Weakens eyesight
  • Produces an over-acid stomach
  • Raises adrenaline levels in children
  • Causes tooth decay and periodontal disease
  • Contributes to aging (inflammation, again)
  • Leads to anxiety, difficulty concentrating (kids and adults)
  • Leads to insulin resistance, leptin resistance, diabetes

Now, how to kick the habit? You can go cold turkey. I did that once, on a dare, gave up sugar for a year. And it was right between Halloween and Thanksgiving. NOT EASY! Kind of close to hell, actually. But I’m stubborn, so couldn’t lose the bet. I had a serious sugar addiction, and as addictions go, I still do. But I keep it under control. And the best way I’ve found to that is education and action. When I have a craving, I think about what I’ve eaten. Cravings, of any sort, are a sign of some nutrient deficiency.  Here are some tips and guides for gradually kicking the habit or going cold turkey.

  • Be aware of what you’re eating. Read labels, pick products that have less or no added sugar.
  • Drink more water, get more fiber. No brainer? Maybe. But we need to flush out the bad stuff and these two lovelies are the studs that can get the job done.
  • Try crowding the sugars out: fill your bowls and plates with nutrient dense foods. Aim for a minimum of 8 servings of vegetables a day (shocking how hard that might actually be). Green smoothies are a very quick way to do this. See my post on green smoothies: http://mariahehlert.com/2012/03/11/green-smoothie-101/
  • Pay attention to how you FEEL. A good friend said, after all the diets, numerous nutritionists, that only one of them ever asked how she FELT after eating crap food vs good food. You will notice a difference. Eventually you’ll become so sensitive that you’ll feel the sugar spike in your system from a few crackers (gluten free even).
  • Add bitter. Add bitter foods, our taste buds adjust to what we eat. Add in foods that taste bitter. Gradually! I started having lemon juice in my water when I learned how beautifully it helps the liver out and to help balance blood pH (=healthy. Good.). However, it was so bitter, I couldn’t stick to it. Next I tried a little lemon juice in warm water. That did the trick. After a couple weeks, I was able to add crazy amounts to my cold water. Added benefit to this: your tastes buds come alive! You’re able to taste flavors that you weren’t able to previously (masked by the sweetness).
  • Chew longer. Chewing combines digestive enzymes in your mouth with your food, and guess what? The food turns sweeter with this action. Chemistry is cool. So eventually that bitter veggie will start to not only have flavor, but taste kind of sa-weeeeeeet.
  • Craving replacements: Fruits are initially a good grab when a craving hits. Sugars from complex carbs such as vegetables, legumes, fruits come in a natural nutrient-dense package of fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.  All things our bodies need.
  • Exercise. Aside from the plethora of benefits of exercise, this will also help brain chemistry, which will help keep cravings at bay, and help flush out toxins from sugar (detox).

Nutrient dense foods. In the end, we need to fill our bodies with what they need most: nutrients. Not empty calories that harm us. A diet made up of nutrient dense foods exclusively (think veggies, fruits, well-raised animal protein, seeds, nuts) is not only therapeutic, but promotes longevity, energy, and that all-over good feeling. When we are getting what we need, the cravings will go away, as will excess weight.

Good luck, fight the good fight! Let me know if you have any other tips!

Bad days

Sunshine. Flowers. Happy people. Puppies. Rainbows. Bliss. Loving friends & family. Good food. Mountains. Restful sleep. Sore muscles. Deep breathing. Respect. Creativity. Resourcefulness. Quiet beaches. Productivity. Storms. Down time. Nice breeze, warm day. Kindness.

Mountains. Trails. Beauty.

All of that, does not a bad day make.

As we all know, ‘shit happens.’ Yesterday was not a great day for me. This whole week actually has been a bit of a struggle. One of the most important goals of mine in starting a business, going to school full time, working full time, training a baby dog, competing in dog sports with my other pup, and training for my own races (more of a sanity move than anything) is to continue to practice what I preach. I want to improve my health and ingrain good lifetime habits.

My strategy right now: reassess, reattack. Our bodies never stop working for us, no matter how much crap we stuff into them, the organism of our body never stops trying to keep us alive and well. I can not give up on working to support my body either. But stress, comfort food, stress, emotions, stress, delicious blocks of cheese and tasty wine in large quantities sometimes get the better of my sensibilities.

I came across this picture and really love the idea. Take an empty jar, fill it with notes of good things that have happened. Read all the good things on New Year’s Eve. I’m going to set up my own jar today.

Good Things Jar

What are your strategies for staying on track, eating well, and managing stress?

I hope you all have a GOOD DAY.

August Garden

It’s August. Hot. Dry. But the garden, thanks to the drip irrigation installed, is thriving. I’ve had some issues with bugs and fungus, but so far, not too bad for my first, big ‘real’ garden. I’ve gotten such an abundance of produce that my friends can’t even keep up (and I don’t think I can eat another bite of zucchini for a while). Since I haven’t had the time to can or freeze anything (maybe next year I’ll be better organized and prepared), I found a local food pantry serving low income families near me I can donate the extra too. It’s a nice way to help my community and I’ve made fellow gardener contacts. YAY.

Per request, garden picture updates.

Cosmos along the fence line

Red cabbage. It’s so pretty, I don’t want to harvest it!

Big Beautiful Joico Sunflowers

I can’t remember what kind of pepper this is (or maybe there’s something wrong w/ it). HA! TOO MANY PLANTS (a good problem)

Side view

Alternate view

How is your garden doing?

Summit Salad!

I love hiking mountains. I love living in Colorado. There’s so much wonderful playground.

My two hiking buddies, Beth and Indigo, watching the sun rise as we ascend.

Hiking with dietary restrictions and standards is challenging. I don’t eat sandwiches, which seem to be the general standard to pack to the summit for lunch. Every time I go out, I struggle in this area. I have taken protein bars (gluten, dairy, corn free), nuts, dried fruit. But it’s still tough. How many protein bars can you eat before you’re REALLY sick of eating them? Doesn’t take me too long.

Back at my house, I’m getting ready for our mountain adventure, and the thought came to me: salad. Why not? It’s not going to take up much room and I have a big pack, so there’s always some extra room for winter hiking, more layers. The salad isn’t going to weigh much more than a bunch of protein bars. And unlike running, I don’t have to worry about eating as I’m moving. We usually take a nice break when we summit, to chow down, recover some, and take several million pictures.

Me, Beth, and Indigo, our 15th summit of one of Colorado’s 14k’ mountain tops (Indy’s 10th)

Hence, the Summit Salad was born! I have made it for two big (and very long) hikes now. Beth even took the hint (guilt? envy?) and made one for the pictured hike of Belford & Oxford mountains. It was fantastic. Refreshing, delicious, colorful, and perfectly filling. There was no ‘gut brick’ feeling, which can follow dense protein bars. Why didn’t I think of this before? Real food. On the trail, with real food. Perfect! So what was in my delicious, awesome salad? Here’s a picture of mine (loaded with nutrients, naturally, and good portions of protein, fat, carbohydrates), but you can put anything that tickles your fancy in yours.

Yummy fuel!

Summit Salad 

  • 1/2-1c roasted sweet potato, cubed
  • 1/4-1/2c black beans
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • sesame seeds
  • mixed greens
  • parsley
  • cilantro
  • sprouts (any kind!)

I used a little plastic to-go dressing holder for my dressing, so the lettuce didn’t get soaked. Put all the ingredients in a tupperware container. Toss in pack. Hit the trail.  Smile. Take lots of pictures.

What are your favorite real food trail treats?

Say whaaa?!? Detox?

Yep. Detox. Otherwise known as using food as medicine, to heal.

Our bodies have natural buffer systems in place to processes daily toxins (breathing, exercise–lactic acid, acidic foods). The more we consume processed foods, refined sugars, refined grains, alcohol, the less we manage stress, the greater our bodies (specifically the liver) have to work to detoxify and maintain our required blood pH (7.35-7.40). Stress has a major roll in the ‘toxifying’ process. Stress creates cortisol levels that increases acid in the blood, aids in raising blood sugar levels, suppresses the immune system, and decreases bone formation. This is good if you’re in a fight or flight situation and need the increased adrenaline levels. However, constant stress can and will cause a lot of damage to our bodies: poor digestion, sleeplessness, weight gain, illness, disease, and so much more, the list is very long.

Detoxifying is not some hippy dippy idea or extreme diet fad (although, there are many out there with this name). The more abuse we do and the more crap we put into our bodies, the harder our systems have to work to equalize and ‘detoxify’. The harder our bodies are working, the more stress is put on our bodies, and the more energy is taken away from other systems:  nervous, immune, digestion, repair, etc. (get the picture?).

For optimal function and health (moving, breathing, athletics, brain health, disease free, joints, fertility, strong immune system) and increased energy (body doesn’t have to work as hard = more energy), incorporate a detox routine and help out your one and only bod!

How? You can do what works for you: Add detoxifying foods &/OR remove toxic foods (and lifestyle habits).

1. Eat, or better yet, juice (hits your system faster) foods that will assist this process. Powerhouse detoxifiers: celery, lemons, cucumbers, parsley, cilantro, KALE, beets, garlic, sea vegetables, almonds. Hmm, green smoothie?  Drink more WATER, WATER, WATER. Green tea, too. My personal favorite (which I didn’t like it initially) is warm water with some lemon juice in the morning. I’ve now moved on to lemon juice in all my water. Even when hiking or running. It’s an easy way to add an extra boost to help out my systems. Breath. Taking slow deep breaths helps two-fold. It helps kick in your parasympathetic nervous system (relax, digest, heal) and also gives your body a good dose of clean oxygen, which is required for cellular function. Practice stretching, yoga, and yes, even mediation will do the same job. A short note on meditation: you don’t have to sit facing a wall for hours every day to get the benefits (though, that can be pretty amazing, if you can work up to that level). An easy entry into mediation, I’ve found, is to find a yoga studio, ask instructors if they offer ‘guided’ mediation. Even just learning a few tools (mental exercises) to do before going to bed at night or to start the day off can be a huge help in relieve stress and balance blood pH levels.

2. Remove the processed foods and alcohol from your diet, eat whole foods. Stay clear of alcohol (no brainer), drugs (again, a no brainer), corn, high weekly servings of red meat, refined sugar, wheat (yes, even whole wheat, which has a higher glycemic index than a snickers bar). Remove major stress triggers from you life, if you can.

Be healthy, very healthy, feel good, feel energized. Start by adding a few foods or practices into your daily routine. Start with small steps so you’re not overwhelmed, such as lemon juice in your water or tea, taking a minute at the desk, or during your day to take a few deep breaths.

Here’s a picture of a cucumber, lemon, celery, and parsley juice I made. I am not used to this level of bitter/tart (yes, you can ‘build up’ to tastes), so I watered it down. Next time I will only use half a lemon and maybe a sweet fruit, i.e., pear or an apple.

Help heal (aka ‘detox’) your body with food.

Oh, Green Garden! How do you grow?

How, when, and how much!

I’m still working on getting my garden installed in my front yard.

The master plan is to turn my front yard (approximately 1200 sq ft) into a community supported garden (aka CSA, “A” for agriculture). So far I’m running into monetary issues, and soon time constraints. I’ve had many options presented on the install part; but in the end, being the newbie that I am, I need someone to hold my hand through the first year and make sure I have quality soil to start with. I’m still waiting on quotes from some local companies that specialize in just that: installing big ole gardens to make produce. I absolutely LOVE that there are so many local small businesses dedicated to helping people grow food for themselves and others.

There’s nothing we can do that is more sustainable than growing our own food. There are no fossil fuels used to transport produce across the country (or planet). Absolutely everything is useable and/or reusable (take from the soil, return back to the soil). The nutrient impact of garden food is significantly greater than even organically grown produce from the natural foods store down the street: the longer the time from harvest to table, the more nutrients loss; the shorter the time from harvest to table, the greater the nutrient impact.

Nutrients? Yes! Nutrients! Believe it or not, we really do need them. Not getting enough clean (toxic free) nutrients leads directly to disease, illness, pain, neurological and physical ‘malfunctions,’ and eventually death. Getting enough beautiful rich, clean nutrients will lead directly to a much great quality of life, resistance and prevention of disease, illness, etc., and help us feel energized, strong, vibrant, and healthy.

All this ties to my master plan: Education. Healing. Community.

Education: always ongoing. I’m studying to be a Nutrition Therapist. I’m getting educated and simultaneously educating. Healing. Ditto. And, yes, food can replace pharma for health, veggies heal. Taking care of oneself through healthy meals, cooking, being aware can heal and promote healing in others (contagious HEALTH!). Community? How do I bring this together and create a community? Insert my garden.

Hopefully soon I will have the appropriate estimates, supplies, good fortune, and labor to get the garden started. That will about render me about broke. Plants cost money too. Starting seeds is too much for this greenhorn this year, plus, I’d love to see the execution of step 2. How do I get the people and plants involved in this process? Easy! And Fun! Here’s my Step 2:

  1. Install garden.
  2. Make a planting plan.
  3. Publish plan.
  4. Have a party (pretty good so far, eh?).
  5. Everyone brings a plant (or more) off the list.
  6. Plant the plants.
  7. I take care of the plants, garden.
  8. We all enjoy the harvest.

The cost to my friends is $5-$20/each. It saves me hundreds of dollars. There is a risk that I might kill plants. But hopefully I won’t end any plant life, other than pesky weeds. The harvest that comes from all of this will be shared by all. I’m also going to set up a compost in the front (discreetly off to the side, naturally) for ‘returns’. Bring a bucket, pick up (or just pick!) your veggies, drop off veggie waste for the future fertility of the soil.  The cost to me is greater, however. Getting the garden started and maintaining it. But that’s part of my education. If (or when, could take a season or two) I’m successful, I can then start teaching others how to make their own garden; even if it’s just a container in a window.

Stay tuned for an update on the garden, and hopefully a plant list to pick from!

Thoughts? Suggestions? (also accepting prayers, hopes, & well wishes!).

Joyful spirits

I was reminded last night of the power of happiness and feeding our inner child. Bam! Bam is a 98-year old woman, master gardener in Golden, Colorado. I met her through her grandson, a good friend from back in the day. I instantly understood his admiration for her. She lives in the little house she raised her five children, still works her land, albeit with some help, and makes silly jokes left right and center. She has a joyful soul. She appreciates what’s good around her and still holds a healthy touch of sarcasm to any conversation. It’s hard to not feel more elevated around her. I think these are all the ingredients to her good health. We can all eat well and exercise, but do we indulge in playfulness? I sometimes think my own silly indulgences are strange, weird, especially for a 40-year old woman. But last night confirmed to me how important silly can be! I was reminded how nurturing our inner kids can keep us in the moment, relieves stress, and just as importantly, make ourselves and others giggle.

My mother has always encouraged play, at every age. Dancing, singing, skipping, making messes with paint, crayons. Often when my aunts get together there is singing and goofiness without any fear of judgment (except maybe from us ‘kids’, which was wisely ignored by them). Laughter and tears from laughter generally follow. That warm feeling enters, love. I remember rolling my eyes at them when I was young, seeking camaraderie in this with my cousins. The best part is now my cousins and I do the same thing when we are together. My puppy, a forever joyful soul, reminds me of the fun in lighthearted goofiness (even if she is very, very serious about her play, border collie!). After running around the kitchen island playing toy keep away or chase with her, which I would probably be blushing if anyone caught me doing this, I am always, always smiling. Maybe I won’t hide it so much going forward. Laugh, scoff, join in, it’s all good! Very good. Wink.

Smiling at the rising sun.