health

Today is National Food Day! Really!

food, health, nutrition, self care, wellness

National Food Day is observed annually on October 24. One of the targets that Food Day aims to help people is to “Eat Real,” which is defined by them as “cutting back on sugar drinks, overly salted packaged foods and fatty, factory-farmed meats in favor of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and sustainably raised protein.”  National Food Day involves some of the country’s most prominent food activists, united by a vision of food that can be healthy, affordable and produced with care for the environment, farm animals and the people who grow, harvest and serve it.

In 2012, there were 3,200 events taking place from community festivals to a national conference in Washington, D.C. to thousands of school activities.

HOW TO OBSERVE

Enjoy some of your favorite healthy foods and use #NationalFoodDay to post on social media.

HISTORY

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) initiated National Food Day 2011. It is a nationwide celebration of healthy, affordable and sustainably produced food and a grassroots campaign for better food policies.  This project builds throughout the year and culminates on October 24 of each year.

How to Move Out of a Dietary Rut

health, nutrition, weight, wellness

Why is it that despite so many interesting foods in the world, we sometimes fall into a dietary rut? My family recognized how busy we all are and our health was suffering.  We constantly passed each other coming and going, rarely joined together for a meal, and the grocery list was non existent. I found myself stopping at the grocery sporadically picking up what I could remember, and noticed I was buying the same things.  For busy working families, lapsing into a boring menu routine may be due to a lack of time, planning, or know-how. Unfortunately, a lack of variety and a reliance on convenience foods come with unappetizing pitfalls.

The risks of a dietary rut

Eating the same foods frequently deprives you of the flavors and textures that make meals adventures and help you be a  healthy eater. It also limits nutrient intake. “You need a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. In order to get them, you need to eat different types of fresh foods every day,” says Teresa Fung, adjunct professor in the nutrition department at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Those nutrients should come from fresh vegetables and fruits, lean proteins, legumes (beans and lentils), nuts and seeds, healthy fats (avocados, olive oil), and low-fat dairy products.

Relying on prepackaged food or takeout meals can subject you to unhealthy ingredients like refined carbohydrates; saturated or trans fats; high amounts of salt; and lots of calories, preservatives, and additives. An unhealthy diet is associated with an increased risk for many chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and cancer.

Easy ways to bust the dietary rut

Fortunately, breaking out of a dietary rut isn’t hard.

  1.   Get variety elsewhere. A lot of grocery stores have a good number of healthy, prepared foods, and you can pay by the ounce. Prepare the protein at home (like fish or chicken) and buying the side dishes — vegetables, whole grains, or salads — to bring home. Make it something you wouldn’t normally eat.
  2.  Be adventurous. Try something unusual at least every other week. Make it yourself or get it from a restaurant. Caution: focus on vegetables or protein, and avoid anything with a lot of butter or cream. Need ideas? Pick a country and look up traditional dishes and recipes on the Internet.
  3.  Try a subscription meal kit. You choose the menu on a website, and the premeasured, fresh ingredients arrive at your door. Go for something with lots of vegetables and whole grains, and a chunk of protein. There are many meal kit services. Two of the biggest are Hello Fresh and Blue Apron. Prices per person, per meal, range from $10 to $12.
  4.  Cook in batches. Cook once or twice a week and eat leftovers in between. Make a large entree (like white bean soup), broil several chicken breasts, or cook a few side dishes (like brown rice, quinoa, or cooked spinach) that can be eaten throughout the week. It’s easier to cook 14 carrots in one day than two carrots per day for seven days in a row.
  5.  Get your kids in on it. They’ll be more inclined to eat it if they helped prepare it.

A few more tips

We finally realized that the key to variety in our family meals was planning and shared responsibility.  Now, in about half an hour on the weekend, we come up with healthy, interesting menus and shopping lists for the week.

We take turns or work together making dinner, and we batch-cook a lot of meals.

We recognized our challenges and agreed to try making changes, together. I’m not the only one planning meals and grocery shopping, we agreed to eat together at least once per week and get back on the health track!

Why losing weight is so hard and gaining weight is so easy.

health, nutrition, self care, therapy, Uncategorized, weight, wellness

You just enjoyed the holidays and come to find out that you gained 5 pounds. In your disbelief, you quickly curse the Weight Gods for being so cruel. Sound familiar? This was me the last couple of months. A little cookie baking, eating the holiday yummies, packed it on quick. This inspired me to discuss the seemingly unbalanced equation of weight gain vs. weight loss, the facts that surround the issue and how losing the 5 pounds feels so much harder than gaining them:

FACT 1 – It is Simple Math: To maintain your ideal weight, you need to eat as many calories as you burn in one day. The balanced equation looks like this:

Calories Eaten = Basal Metabolic Rate + Physical Activity

If what you eat equals more than what your body uses, you will gain weight. In the situation of a holiday, it is likely that you eat more unhealthy food than normal and possibly get less exercise, resulting in an imbalanced equation, with a higher number of calories on the eaten side than on the burned side. That imbalance over the course of a few days can easily represent a few pounds.

FACT 2 – A Pound is a Pound is a Pound: One pound of body mass represents 3,500 calories. Regardless, if you are trying to lose a pound or gain a pound, the pound will always represent 3,500 calories. So, if you eat 3,500 calories more than your body requires, you will gain 1 pound. Similarly, if you eat 3,500 calories less than your body requires, you will lose 1 pound.

FACT 3 – Exercise is Weight Discriminating: Whether you are 120 pounds or 175 pounds, you will gain one pound from eating 3,500 calories more than you need. Unfortunately, this doesn’t hold true for burning calories. How much you weigh actually dictates how many calories you burn per hour. The more you weigh, the more you burn, and as a result, the easier it is to lose the pound…sound crazy? It is true.

FACT 4 – Aging Contributes to Weight Gain: As if aging doesn’t contribute enough to unfavorable things, it also contributes to weight gain. As we get older, our metabolism slows down, requiring us to need less food and calories. If you don’t modify your caloric intake as you get older to reflect this change in metabolism, you will start to see weight gain.

The Bad News: Unfortunately, eating an extra couple of unhealthy snacks or drinking a few extra glasses of wine can happen in a blink of an eye. However, the time and energy required to burn off those calories takes a lot more effort. We have provided a chart on what 1,000 calories looks like on both sides in the chart below (remember, it is 3,500 calories that make up a pound).

The Good News: Whether it is rapid or slow weight gain that you have experienced, losing the extra weight can be tackled through two avenues (and should be): calorie reduction and exercise. Choosing to lose weight through both calorie reduction and exercise will accelerate the process. If for seven days you burn 200 extra calories through exercise and reduce your food intake by 300 calories each day, you will lose that extra pound. Further, it is a lot easier than trying to either reduce your caloric intake by 3,500 calories (which is physically impossible) or burning an extra 3,500 calories during exercise (which takes a ridiculous amount of time and energy).

What you Can Do: Assess whether your weight gain was a rapid gain due to atypical behavior (E.g., vacationing) or a longer-term gain. If it was a rapid gain, there is a good chance you will lose the weight by returning to your normal habits. You might have to be a little strict for a day or two, but you shouldn’t feel like a major overhaul is in order. If, however, you have gained the weight over a period of time, assess your habits and think about what has changed in your life. Have you stopped exercising? Have you let your eating habits go? Have you hit a milestone birthday? Once you can assess the reality of your situation, remember the equation: to maintain balance, burn the calories you eat.

 

ELM Mental Wellness Nutrition Counseling is in depth and lifelong. It begins with multiple assessments including family history of eating patterns and health risk, habits-routines-rituals, emotional connection with food. Changing our dietary patterns is grueling. I help clients with meal planning and shopping, self monitoring, goal setting, stimulus control, problem solving, cognitive restructuring, and relapse prevention to move toward a state of lifetime optimal health.

 

Secrets for a Wellness Inspired Holiday Season

Exercise, health, holiday, mental health, positive thinking, self care, stress, Uncategorized, weight, wellness

‘Tis the season to spend time with friends, family, and loved ones – and to celebrate, indulge, and be merry.

But, the holiday cheer can also invite quite a setback in your mind-body health goals and wellness routine.  To avoid the stress and weight gain of the season – and remain light in your mind and body – follow my guide to indulge, without losing your healthy edge.

Let me show you how to:

  • EAT healthy and in moderation.
  • MOVE your body, stretch, and get your heart rate up.
  • DE-STRESS and balance your emotions during the busy chaos of the holidays.

How do you enjoy the holiday season without falling into the trap of weight gain, sugar crashes, and poor choices?  Sticking to a healthy plan is important.  However, depriving yourself of certain foods can have negative results.  Restrictive eating can lead to binge eating as well as disliking healthy foods by associating them with something you ‘have’ to do.  When it’s time to pile food on your plate, eat what you know you love, guilt free, but keep this advice in mind:

  • If smaller plates are an option, use them. You’ll fill larger plates just because room is available.  Second trips are better than overeating on the first round.
  • If you’re trying something new, only take a bite-size portion.
  • Eat a snack before you arrive so you aren’t at the onset of the feast.
  • You fall in love with your Aunt’s new dessert and even though you’re too full to enjoy it, you’re tempted to have a second portion. Instead of grabbing the last bite in fear of not eating it again until next year, ask her to email the recipe out to the whole family for those who can’t wait another year.

 

Maintain an Exercise Plan

Holiday gatherings often consist of sitting, eating, talking, drinking, and more eating.  We often find ourselves sitting for longer periods of time because we enjoy the conversation.  Your legs want to move, the food is on the counter, and off you go for food you’re not even hungry for.

This year, try some of these actions with the family to reduce the march to the kitchen:

  • Go for a 5-10 minute walk after each meal to aid digestion. Increase that walk to 15 minutes after every meal to help lower blood sugar levels, especially after eating holiday sweets.  You may be surprised at those who will join you for your walk!
  • Run/walk the stairs in your home.
  • Organize a family yoga session, check out YouTube sessions’.
  • Go for a family hike.
  • Bring a board game to the family feast. Although you’re still sitting, this can provide some excitement and victory movement.  Plus, it’ better than just eating.
  • Shovel snow
  • Ice skate
  • Make snow angels
  • Dance to Christmas music
  • Walk the neighborhood or mall to see the holiday decorations.

 

Stress and fatigue are often unwelcome guests during the holiday season.  Stress might join you while cooking a holiday meal, decorating your house in preparation for a party, or shopping at a crowded mall.  It can manifest as aches and pains, prevent you from sleeping through the night, and dampen your spirits during the holidays.  You can beat back stress, and the inevitable fatigue it causes on your body.

Focus on the Positive – bring your attention to the experiences you most enjoy about the holidays.  Try going into each holiday gathering or interaction with a positive and loving intention.  It’s easier to maintain a positive attitude when you arrive in that mental state.

Spend Time Outdoors in Nature – spending time outdoors in nature can help enhance mental clarity, energize your mind and body, and connect you to your loved ones as well as the environment.

Let Go of the Past – pretend you are a newcomer to your own family.  Approach them with curiosity and excitement.  Forget past transgressions, arguments, tears.  You are not condoning past wrongs by letting them go; you are just saying they cannot hurt you anymore.

Take Time for Yourself – the holidays can be a time when we put everyone else’s needs first.  It’s easy to lose yourself in the chaos of the season.  Take some time to reflect on what practices you do to keep you balanced and peaceful throughout the year and make sure to adhere to them when things get crazy.

Stay in the Present – what is the best gift you could give to yourself and others at your holiday gathering?  Being present.  Cultivate appreciation for your friends and family in your life at the moment.

Hold realistic Expectations – if you become frustrated that the holidays aren’t going according to plan, remember there is no such thing as a perfect family or perfect holiday.  What can you learn and how can you grow from your family?

Maintain Your Routine – as much as possible, maintain your typical sleeping, eating, and exercise schedules.  Your vitality can be weakened by changes in routine, which can lead to feelings of anxiety or irritation.

Make Clear Requests – your friends and family won’t know what’s important to you unless you voice it.  Clearly stating your needs can help to reduce holiday stress and develop closer family ties.

Practice Gratitude – gratitude is a powerful force that you can use to expand your happiness, improve your health, and – you guessed it – help you cope with stress.  Organize a time when your family sits down to share what they love about the holidays, or about individual members of the family.

Say Cheese – no one can deny the mind-body connection.  So, it you’re looking for a way out of stress, you’ll need to smile more.  Organize a family photo shoot or make sure to have your camera on-hand when everyone first arrives to the holiday meal, gathering, or party.  Capture those first hugs, ask for the best grins, and snap all those treasured moments.  You can revisit them mid-year to remember how great the holidays can actually be.

Make Restful Sleep a Priority – good quality rest is one of the pillars of healthy living.  In rhythm with the sun going down and birds flocking to their nests, we should also go to sleep early, ideally before 10pm.  If you are a late riser, try shifting your bedtime closer to 10pm by 15 minutes per night.  This will give you the time to enjoy nature’s early morning calm, ever-more important during the stressful holiday season.

The Secret to making your holiday inspiring is actually quite simple.  Be inspiring yourself.  As with any change, you must be the change you want to see in others.

All of us at ELM Mental Wellness wish you and your family a Safe, Happy, Inspiring Holiday Season!

 

 

 

How to Nourish your body so you can eliminate anxiety.

emotion, health, mental health, nutrition, stress, Uncategorized, wellness

There are many possible causes of anxiety, from trauma to medication side effects.  Many medical conditions also mimic symptoms of anxiety: thyroid disorders, and other hormonal imbalances, diabetes, asthma, epilepsy, and heart conditions.  “Much of our increasing emotional distress stems from easily correctable malfunctions in our brain and body chemistry-malfunctions that are primarily the result of critical, unmet nutritional needs,” The Mood Cure, Julia Ross (2004,3).

Improved nutrition, lifestyle changes, exercise, stress reduction techniques, supplements, and mind-body practices are all part of a natural approach to anxiety and other mood problems.  James Lake, integrative psychiatrist and author of Textbook of Integrative Mental Health (2007), supports these methods for mild to moderate mental health symptoms, as do many other holistic practitioners and researchers.

Why use a natural approach? Perhaps you already feel strongly about taking a natural approach to health whenever possible and want to learn more.  Or maybe your anxiety was so severe and you were so desperate that you turned to medications, but now they aren’t working as well or as expected, or perhaps they do help but you don’t like some of the side effects.  Perhaps you know deep down that addressing the root cause is the way to go.  Whatever the reason, if you’re looking for natural options for combating anxiety, you’ve come to the right place.

Using natural approaches in the form of foods and nutrients can address the root cause of your anxiety, alleviate symptoms, and keep them from returning.  For example, if your anxiety is due to a vitamin B6 deficiency, it makes the most sense to boost your levels of vitamin B6.  This will also help raise your levels of serotonin, which could improve your mood, sleep, cravings, and, for women, PMS symptoms.  It would also be important to look at why your vitamin B6 is low to start with.  Maybe you aren’t getting enough in your diet, aren’t digesting well, are under a great deal of stress, or have depleted levels from taking birth control pills.  This is just one example of a nutrient deficiency that can contribute to anxiety.

Good-quality food is the number one priority.  Taking supplemental nutrients to correct imbalances is ideally a short-term approach.  The exceptions would be if you have an inherited tendency to low levels of some nutrients, or you can’t or won’t take steps to ease high levels of stress.

It’s also important to remember that we are all unique, with individual biochemistry, imbalances, and life circumstances.  There isn’t a one-size-fits-all magic solution, even among natural approaches. By eating better, reducing stress, and addressing any nutritional imbalances, you’ll also see an overall improvement in your general health and well-being.

Eating real, whole, good quality food is the foundation of my work, and any program to prevent and alleviate mental health issues such as anxiety, obsessive tendencies, worry, panic attacks, and depression, as well as maintain optimal mental health. This approach, combined with eating according to your own unique needs, will help calm your anxious mind.

How Opposite Day will improve your Health.

creativity, health, learning, mental health, problem solving, self care, stress, therapy, Uncategorized, wellness

Ever feel stuck in a rut–doing the same thing day in and day out? Then, take advice from Seinfeld’s George Costanza and do the opposite of what you normally do. It can be as simple as taking a different route to work or seeing a movie you normally wouldn’t be interested in. Often, we can be too judgmental or too set in our ways to give something new a try. If you tend to jam-pack your schedule with events and activities, try scheduling in some quiet time at home. If you are more of a homebody, try something more adventurous that you normally wouldn’t do. You never know what you might discover if you start making yourself get out of your comfort zone. Intellectual Wellness is achieved through self-directed behavior focused on learning. Any activity that inspires and stimulates your willingness, desire and intent to learn, explore and expand your mind intellectually in any way supports healthy Intellectual Wellness. It also means being free intellectually to learn something new.

Intellectual Wellness is also about your willingness and curiosity to acquire new information, while continuously seeking out new challenges to expand and improve your knowledge and skills. This often develops a sense of awareness and satisfaction. Some people find it gratifying to share their skills and knowledge with others.

Research studies show that maintaining a healthy level of Intellectual Wellness helps keep the brain-mind cognition healthy.

Few Questions to check your intellectual wellness:

  • I am interested in learning new things.
  • I enjoy attending lectures, plays, musical performances, museums, galleries, and/or libraries.
  • I enjoy creative and stimulating mental activities/games.
  • I make an effort to improve my verbal and written skills.
  • I am able to analyze, synthesize, and see more than one side of an issue.

 

Methods to grow your intellectual wellness:

  • Continuously exercise your mind while remaining clam and tranquil.
  • Create development by continuously acquiring, applying, and expressing positive and constructive critical thinking.
  • Keep an active mind through mental activity stimulation.
  • Open to new ideas.
  • Be motivated to master new skills and seeking out new challenges.
  • Develop and maintain a continuous sense of humor, creativity, and curiosity.
  • Reach your own correct decision, make up your own mind, in your own interest when there is a choice or a problem.
  • Reading is one of the great ways to learn.
  • Start a new hobby.

We don’t have to spend hours on our Intellectual Wellness each and every day to reap significant benefits. Just a few minutes a day, several days a week will get the job done. Intellectual Wellness is the wellness aspect that adds extra spark to our lives, and if we take on these projects with a sense of adventure, we’ll notice an amazing difference in no time!

It is better to stretch and challenge our minds with intellectual and creative pursuits than to become self-satisfied and unproductive.  It is better to identify potential problems and choose appropriate courses of action based on available information than to wait, worry, and contend with major concerns later. national wellness institute

Basically, if you’re learning something new, you’re focusing on your Intellectual Wellness!

Traveling the ELM Mental Wellness path, we’ll explore issues related to problem solving, creativity, and learning. As you develop your intellectual curiosity, you’ll actively strive to expand and challenge your mind by learning to value vision, wonder, and lifelong learning.