Archive for June, 2014

Clean Eating Challenge: Part II, report after pre-challenge trial

I spent three days without refined sugar, and ate very simply. And I loved it.

There were challenging moments, of course: the moments when I wanted to reach for the tub of ice cream (just before bed), or stop by a bakery (around 3pm).

Helpful things/ thoughts that helped deter me from following through my habits and cravings:

1. Accountability – because I told the world that I was going to do this pre-challenge, I had to stick to it.

2. Distraction – they were three busy days at my practice. You guys kept me well distracted!

3. Green juice and Kombucha – drinks that quench thirst and eliminate cravings. Plus they were nutritious and delicious

4. Previous success – I knew that I had gone through periods of no sugar before. Remembering my previous success helped me continue forward.

5. Ear seeds – these are placed on specific points on the ear acupuncture points. They help curve cravings and stimulate metabolism.

Some lessons learned:

1. Preparation is key. 

I was mostly prepared with the staples: grains, vegetables, eggs, juicing materials. But busy days gave me less time to prep the actual meals. That’s why I kept things simple (brown rice, nuts, avocado, banana with almond butter). It would have been helpful if I had prepared a few things ahead of time and just had them as a go-to after a busy day.

2. Take advantage of locally made simple foods.

Farmers Markets and Natural Markets can come in handy. I found the dip that was delicious and served me well as a snack with some cut up vegetables. There are several other options as well. As long as they are minimally processed, made by humans, and contain no refined sugar or additives, they will fit the challenge well.

 

3. You could eat out! 

It’s possible to go to a restaurant during this challenge. I went to Aladdin’s in Bexley and had a great simple meal. Of course it’s best to make your own food so you know exactly what goes into the preparation. But we’ve got to be flexible, too. As long as you are mindful of what you order, I’d say, go have fun with your family and friends. Preferably, not for every meal.

The Conclusion: I really enjoyed the three days of eating clean and simple. It made me feel lighter, and much more mindful of what I was putting into my body. I look forward to doing it again with you all at the end of July.

I will be some drafting guidelines, and offering simple recipes for all interested in the challenge. Stay tuned!

In good health,

Kit

P.S. I will be posting many useful information about the challenge on the Facebook page. If you have not done so, please go and LIKE the page so that you stay up to date! I will also be creating a Clean Eating Challenge group for us to support one another.

Clean-Eating-Challenge Part I: What, Why and When

This coming week, I will be doing a three day pre-Clean Eating Challenge trial to prepare for the 7-day Challenge at the end of July. Specifically it will be the week of July 26 – August 2.

I was so pleased to see that many of you are interested in joining me!

(Goodies from my garden. Yes, pansies are edible!)

A few things about the challenge, so we are on the same page:

  • It is not a diet, a cleanse, or a weight loss plan.
  • It is meant to be for me, and those of you who are interested in being more mindful about what and how we eat.
  • It is meant to eliminate refined sugar, and processed foods.
  • It follows the seven simple words from Michael Pollan’s book, Food Rules: EAT FOOD. NOT TOO MUCH. MOSTLY PLANTS.

I am working on the DO EAT and DON’T EAT lists, and I am also gathering some simple recipes that may inspire you to incorporate into the July challenge.

Why am I doing this?

Mostly, it is because I have a sweet tooth! And I’d like to clean up my eating habits, and hope to make it part of my daily choices for good.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to say goodbye to sweet things forever. I love food. Life is too short to set strict limitations to things that bring about small pleasures.

But I also know how detrimental too much sugar, and processed foods can be to our health and well-being. I know this scientifically, philosophically, and I also know it personally.

This past April, in solidarity with my Catholic husband, our family gave up dessert (any sweet treats) during Lent. Forty plus days of no dessert between or after meals was going to be challenging, I knew that. The first week was super tough. The familiar craving that came after having something savory was like a loud annoying car alarm in my head. My sensitivity to the surroundings increased: everywhere I looked, there was something that could be categorized as ‘dessert’. It was everywhere, in drugstores, at gas stations, every isle of the supermarket. Even at natural food stores or farmers markets where you’d think most foods should be healthful, the same delicious sweet ingredients made themselves present: chocolate, cookies, muffins, cakes, and more chocolate.

Sugar was (and is) everywhere.

It took many days of saying NO, of averting my eyes, of distracting myself. It helped so much that I had three other human beings depending on my honesty. I was faced with accountability. With the help of acupuncture, exercise, and a lot of will power, the cravings decreased. And then diminished. When that happened, I felt like I could conquer the world.

Well, maybe not totally.

But I definitely had more energy. The 3pm energy slump disappeared. My clothes felt loser. I lost less hair in the shower.

I don’t think it’s coincidence. My eating habits really shifted! At that point, it became clear that “You are what you eat” is not merely a cliché.

 

(Brown rice will be one of my staples)

I am excited to re-live those non-dessert days again. This time, it will be even cleaner. No refined sugar. No processed anything. I plan to follow a lot of Michael Pollan’s advice in his book, Food Rules. I will share some of them with you as we progress. I will be posting updates regularly on Facebook, and there will be many more blog posts to come.

I hope you will join me in this challenge. It works a lot better when we do it together. And you never know, maybe we can all conquer the world, together.

In good health,

Kit

Stress: How it can harm the body, and how acupuncture can help

The word ‘stress’ as we know it today did not exist before 1936 when Hungarian scientist, Hans Selye, defined the term as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”.  Stress can be many different things for different people (and not all stress is negative). But we all experience some degree of stress frequently, usually as unpleasant experiences.

Acute stressful situations cause the body to respond with the ‘fight-flight’ biological mechanism to protect the most vital organs by kicking into survival mode. Stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) get released into the bloodstream causing physiological changes: increased heart rate, shallow breathing, increased alertness, etc. When the stressful situation passes, the body relaxes and the hormone levels return to normal.

For people who suffer from chronic stress, however, these hormones are persistently elevated. This can result in long term serious health conditions. For instance, high levels of adrenaline can cause high blood pressure, increasing the risks of heart attacks or strokes. Chronic high levels of cortisol can increase appetite, and result in obesity.  Untreated chronic stress can also induce anxiety, depression, insomnia, muscle pain, and a weakened immune system.

Research has shown that several modalities can help combat stress: relaxation techniques, meditation, exercise, and social support to name a few. Acupuncture is one of the complementary therapies proved to be effective at reducing the stress response in the body. Up until now, we have not quite understood the mechanisms of action of how acupuncture works on stress reduction.

A recent study at Georgetown University begins to shed light. The study works with four groups of rats: one group had no stress and no acupuncture, one group was put under stress for an hour with no acupuncture, one group was under stress and received ‘sham’ acupuncture (a random point), and one group was under stress and received proper acupuncture treatments (electroacupuncture at ST-36). Stress hormones and blood proteins were measured from each group.

 

So far, the study is showing that acupuncture is effective at blocking the chronic, stress-induced elevations of stress hormones. Ladan Eshkevari, the study’s lead author confirms that “our growing body of evidence points to acupuncture’s protective effect against the stress response.”

Dr. Eshkevari recently gave an interview about this particular study. If you have sometime, I’d recommend that you have a listen here.

Even though it may be impossible to equate Chinese Medicine to Western Medicine, I think it is very exciting that we can now get a glimpse of some physiological changes as a result of acupuncture therapy.

Now we just need to figure out what is actually going on when we feel like we are ‘floating’ after a treatment…

In good health,

Kit

 

(Photos taken at Lake Tekapo, South Island, New Zealand — one of the most stress-free places on earth!)

An Urban Gardener in Bexley : how a resident uses his green thumb

My neighbor, Chuck Waterman, grows his own vegetables in a very small space between his garage and the alley. Mr. Waterman’s intensive cultivation is a joy and an envy to all the passerby who dream that someday they could produce such beautiful looking foods in their own backyard. I am one of them, that is for sure.

After 4 summers of seeing his tireless work, and obvious joy that he gets out of what he considers his ‘hobby’, I was so excited to finally ask him some questions. I hope you will be inspired to grow some of your own foods for yourself and your family. It really does not take much space or energy to produce the best tasting vegetables right in your own home.

Thank you, Mr. Waterman, for sharing your story!

When did you start growing vegetables? 

My Mom gave me a little corner of her garden when I was 7, that was my first gardening adventure. How did you get started? After hoeing and weeding my little plot of Ohio clay back then I planted some beans, some Punch’n’Gro tomato plants that I started from seed, and some pumpkin seeds.  Although the work was abundant and the harvest minimal, I was proud of what I had done, and became a lifelong gardener.

When did you turn your back alley area into a productive garden? 

In 1986 we razed our old garage on the alley and built an addition to the house with an attached garage.  Although the old driveway and garage foundation were removed, the soil underneath was terrible – hardpack clay with limestone rock mixed in.  I didn’t need more grass, so to deal with the poor soil I built 2 – 100 sq. ft. raised beds with pressure treated 2x8s and filled them with mostly peat, a little topsoil and sand, and an annual helping of compost from yard and kitchen waste.  A couple of years ago when I was about to retire I added two more raised beds.

What goes into preparing for the garden? 

Year ’round I make compost, from leaves in the fall, grass clippings in the spring, and kitchen waste all of the time.  Starting in January I decide what and how much I’ll grow, check out all the new designer veggies in the seed catalogues, and then start my cole crops indoors.  After a few dry days in March I till compost in the boxes and start planting peas and cole crops on or around St. Patrick’s Day – it seems like an appropriate day to begin, what with all the green beer and such.

  

What do you grow, and what are your favorite things to grow. 

I love da maters!  I have 17 tomato plants this year and 7 varieties.  Other crops include cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts and kale, 7 kinds of lettuce, swiss chard, snap peas, pole beans, peppers, eggplant and summer and winter squash varieties.  On the fruity side I grow table grapes, strawberries, blueberries, figs and paw paws, and my herb garden has parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, oregano, basil, tarragon, mint and cilantro.

Any tips for vegetable gardeners in Bexley? 

Gardening in Bexley can be challenging, I find I’m always battling the 4 “Ss” – space, shade, soil and squirrels (and a host of other freeloaders!)  But it can be rewarding, and tasty, too! Any special things you do that help your garden grow better each year?  Once you find that sunny corner of your yard to use for veggies there is nothing better to make it productive than to start working on the quality of the soil.  Every year I add compost, balance the pH, try to stay organic to encourage beneficial worms, spiders and insects, and rotate what I plant to avoid depleting nutrients.

Tell us a little bit about your Bexley history.

We moved to Bexley and our current home in 1980, raised our 4 kids here, and now some of them are coming “home” to Bexley, my oldest son and his family and my daughter are both Bexley residents.

Could you share with us some of your habits that keep you healthy? 

Garden, of course! I also eat what I grow, bicycle, walk, volunteer at Legal Aid, hang out with friends and family. I enjoy a glass of wine, a beer, or a nice cold martini now and then. Oh, and I picked mostly healthy ancestors!

A little space can go a long way. I am sure some of you have your own garden stories as well. Please feel free to share with them here, or you can post stories on our facebook page! I’d love to see how your garden grows.

In good health,
Kit