Cooking as Meditation

How many of you cook on a regular basis anymore?  Do you find it easier to grab a meal on the run?  How do you feel after eating this way?  Are you satisfied?  Do you feel good?

As a society we have lost the desire and art of cooking.  Somehow our world has become one where fast food and fast eating is the norm.  There is a misconception that it is cheaper to eat fast food than preparing a meal at home and that it is equally healthy.  Both of these are inaccurate.

For me cooking is relaxing; a sort of meditation if you will.  At the end of a busy day I get home and look forward to spending time in the kitchen slicing vegetables, creating delicious sauces, grilling or baking.  It provides a great sense of accomplishment and keeps me in the moment while I am preparing.  Plus I know exactly everything that goes into what I am eating.  In fact most (if not all) of the ingredients don’t have labels.  They come exactly as they are grown.  The result is delicious, satisfying food both in my body and for my soul.  The additional reward is sitting down with family or friends to relax and enjoy this meal.  The conversation that goes along with relaxing at home rather than being rushed to eat out is an even greater reward.

Think about it.  It is great way to enjoy family time.   Pull out all the ingredients and give everyone a part in creating the dinner.  Talk about your day together.  Chopping, stirring, and creating.   Talking will come more naturally when you are moving than sitting on the couch staring at each other.  Make it a time for even exchange of conversation between all of you.  Laugh, be silly and be creative.  After the meal is made sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labor together.

The need for this type of eating and connecting is that much more important in our fast paced life than ever.  In America our population as a whole is 65% obese or overweight and much of this comes from what we eat, how it is made, where we eat it and how unconscious we are when we eat it.

The recognition of this has gone beyond the health conscious population in our country.  Even our doctors know very little about nutrition and how to prepare healthy meals, yet these are some of the people we rely upon to give us advice.  This is changing as is indicated by The Tulane University of Medicine, one of 16 medical schools with a licensed chef as one of their instructors.  In an effort to educate future doctors, medical schools are adopting a designated program to teach not only nutrition but how to cook.

Here are a couple of great excerpts from an article on Tulane University of Medicine:

Dr. Timothy Harlan, known in the food media world as Dr. Gourmet, is also executive director at the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane. Harlan says the program isn’t just about helping students understand nutrition. The focus is on practical talk about food. Harlan wants Tulane-educated doctors to be able to teach their patients everyday skills in how to cook, what to cook and why…

“We know from the literature that when people go home and start cooking from real ingredients for themselves that their health improves,” Harlan says.

Isn’t it time to start cooking yourself?  The meals don’t need to be complicated or take hours.  These are more misconceptions.  I have prepared a delicious meal in no time at all and the process of preparing it has calmed me, brought me more into the moment and prepared my body to get out of the fast pace of the day to one that can relax and fully enjoy the delicious meal.

If you are interested in a few easy meals, simply look through my ‘Recipe of the Month’ section of my blog.

To your health,

Julie

Miraculous Magnesium

swiss chard 1.11.16

As I was harvesting some Swiss chard from my winter garden this morning, it reminded me of how often overlooked and yet valuable the mineral magnesium is.  I realize this isn’t something we think about on a regular basis yet it is not only an essential mineral in our diet but we often tend to be deficient in it.

Magnesium is such a major player in our health.  It is the single most important mineral for maintaining proper electrical balance and is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body.

It is estimated that 60%-80% of Americans aren’t getting enough magnesium in their diet due to lack of vegetables, poor food choices and farming practices.  Supplementation is definitely something to consider and yet the first step really should come from our diet.  Amongst the best sources of magnesium are leafy green vegetables, seeds, nuts and legumes.  Here are some of the top foods:

  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Cashews
  • Summer squash like zucchini or crookneck
  • Avocados
  • Black beans

As for the benefits of magnesium, there are plenty:

  • Creates and maintains bone health
    • 50%-60% of magnesium is stored in the bone and consequently plays a significant role in bone metabolism
    • Adequate magnesium in your diet improves bone mineral density
  • Enables energy production as it is a vital component in the production of ATP, a high energy molecule found in every cell
    • Low levels of magnesium can be one of the factors in low energy or fatigue
  • Maintains a healthy nervous system by working with calcium in forming an electrical current
    • Low levels can result in anxiety, irritability, agitation, insomnia and confusion
  • It is a vital nutrient in the prevention of chronic inflammation as it modulates cellular events involved in inflammation
    • Studies indicate that low levels of chronic inflammation are the cause of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and more
  • Enhances control of blood sugars
    • Magnesium is a co-factor in over 100 enzymes involved in controlling blood sugar and glucose metabolism

Magnesium is becoming more and more recognized as a vital macro nutrient that we just don’t get enough of.  Even medical researchers are recommending increasing the RDA to almost double current amounts.

To start you in the direction of adding magnesium to your diet, here is an easy and delicious salad that will give you lots of magnesium.  Quantities are not listed as they will vary based on the number of people enjoying this delicious salad.

Dressing:

  • 3 parts Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 part Champagne Vinegar or high quality, aged Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 tsp or more Fish Sauce*
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Place above ingredients in a jar with fitted lid.  Shake thoroughly.

Salad:

  • Swiss chard, ribs removed
  • Kale, ribs removed
  • Parsley leaves
  • Spinach
  • Pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • Avocado, sliced
  • Red bell pepper, cut to desired shape
  • Zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • Dried apricots cut into long strips

Clean and tear into bite size pieces the first 4 greens and place in salad bowl.  Drizzle salad dressing on, mix and set aside for at least 30 minutes.  Note:  Since these leafy greens are a bit tougher than regular lettuce, this will allow them time to soften and get sweeter.

After 30 minutes add the balance of the ingredients and toss salad.  Serve and enjoy!

*Fish sauce is found in most markets in the Asian section and provides the dressing with umami, a savory taste.  You don’t need to use a lot.  It will have no ‘fish’ taste and yet will give the dressing a more rounded, pleasant taste.  Try it, you‘ll love it!

This is just one way to add some wonderful healthy food sources of magnesium into your daily routine.  Be creative and see how you can start adding more to make 2016 be even a healthier year!

In health,

Julie

 

 

 

It’s the little things that can have a lasting effect…

Often at the beginning of a new year we set health goals.  As we start to make those changes to enhance our current state of health, the list can be overwhelming of all the things to be addressed.  For me it is always easier to add small, reasonable changes into my current lifestyle that I can easily adopt and can have a long term impact on my health.

The first of those I would like to talk about is the benefits of using a tongue scraper.  For many this is a foreign thought.  In fact many people don’t even know what it is!  Let’s start with some of the main benefits of using one daily:

  • Removes waste products or toxins that have built up on the tongue from the continuous digestion process that occurs throughout the night
  • Decreases halitosis or bad breath
  • Increases the sense of taste thus enhancing the flavors in food and potentially reducing cravings such as sugar
  • Enhances digestion and boosts the immune system
  • Provides insight as to your state of health

Using a tongue scraper takes less than a minute.  It is best to use it first thing in the morning after you have gotten out of bed before eating or drinking anything.  Gently scrape the entire surface of the tongue 7 to 14 times, cleaning the scraper with fresh water in between each stroke.  Rinse your mouth with water after you are finished and that’s it, you are done and ready to start your day!

There are many types of scrapers on the market.   I think the ideal are ones made of stainless steel rather than plastic.  They should be large enough to cover your entire tongue with each stroke, such as this one:

tongue scraper

Tongue scrapers cost about $8.00.  Banyan Botanicals makes one and has a short video of how to use it.  They are also available at Amazon.

The other benefit to this daily ritual is becoming more aware of your current state of health.  As mentioned our tongue is an indicator of what is happening inside our body, especially related to digestion.  Here are just a few examples:

  • A tongue that has a white coating tends to show too much mucous in the diet, often meaning too much dairy is being consumed
  • A tongue with cracks, especially down the middle, can show digestive and malabsorption issues
  • A red tongue can be an indication of vitamin deficiencies

As you start to use the scraper daily, note how your tongue is looking.  It will remind you of how you feel, when you tend to overeat certain foods (such as dairy products), and encourage you to take steps towards being healthier.

Tongue diagnosis is an integral part of assessing an individuals’ health practiced both in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and in Ayurvedic medicine.  If you would like to learn more, there are several websites that discuss this in detail or you can always consult a practitioner in your area to learn more about your overall health as indicated by the health of your tongue.

So give the tongue scraper a try for several months.  See if you don’t find subtle health benefits coming your way!

To your health in 2016!

Julie

 

 

Getting back to my passion

Life changes and along with it can come a change in type of work.  For me it took me away from a lifelong passion to educate people about health and healthy lifestyles.  I learned many things along the way including how much I value health and that it will always be a major factor in my life. I also learned that work is just work unless you have a true passion for what you are doing and consequently I am moving back towards my path of teaching.

It also taught me how stressful situations constantly challenge the innate desire to be healthy.  I am often stuck by the busy-ness of everyone’s life and the compromises of health that come with it – poor eating habits, less exercise, no quiet time, and more.

As I looked at my own life getting busier and busier, I found some things I refused to give up at any cost.  These choices have enabled me to keep feeling healthy even in the craziest of times.  There are several things that I refuse to give up for the sake of busy-ness.  In order, here are my top three priorities:

Always eat a healthy breakfast

For me this means cooking up a bunch of vegetables and having some form of protein be it eggs, chicken or fish.  It is actually super easy to do and requires little time.  I realize this seems like a horrible thought to many people but the advantage is huge!  Here are just a few benefits:

  1. Improved concentration and mental performance
  2. Stabilizing blood sugar levels resulting in less cravings and better food choices throughout the balance of the day
  3. Better physical conditioning
  4. A tendency to maintain weight easier or even assist with weight loss

Drink enough water

I am continually amazed at how few people actually consume water throughout the day.  Although we get some water from our foods, many things can take water away such as coffee, caffeinated tea, soda, exercise and dry climate.  Making sure you have enough is vital.  I feel that getting ½ my body weight in ounces daily is still best and consequently carry a 20+ ounce BPA free refillable bottle of water with me wherever I go, making sure to drink at least 3 full bottles per day.  Here are just a few benefits:

  1. Lubricating joints
  2. Metabolism of fats and maintaining muscle tone
  3. Aids in digestion and transportation of nutrients to the cells
  4. Maintains health of every cell in the body

Exercise

Stress is a major factor in life anymore and one of the best ways to reduce stress is through regular exercise.  I know when I get a healthy workout in at least 4-5 times per week I feel so much better!  The key is finding your rhythm and not compromising.  For me this means first thing in the morning as I know myself well enough that if I don’t get out and do it then, I will come up with every excuse under the sun as to why I can’t fit it in later that day.  The list of benefits is endless.  Here are a few key ones:

  1. Improves mood
  2. Boosts energy
  3. Controls weight
  4. Reduces chance for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases and many more!

As mentioned, these are the top three items that never get compromised regardless of my schedule.

What are your top three?

In health,

Julie

Live inspired: Be radically alive

Ali Schultz Butterfly Collage

I have the fortune of coming across many amazing people in my life.  These connections remind me that health, as we all know, come from many avenues and only creates a complete model of health from the combination thereof.  On a recent occasion I have had the pleasure of working with an amazing woman who has inspired me and offered me a perspective on health that I forget about and yet it is a part of me and most likely you. 

 I wanted to share her perspective and ideas as a means of adding to the many ways in which health comes to us.

 Enjoy!

 Julie

Live inspired: Be radically alive

by Allison Schultz

As beings in constant communion with the world, all we need is to let our experience rush in and fill us up – to live richly in all the details and textures. The innate joy in the fullness of your presence is there, waiting for you to feel it. When you live in touch with the deep wellspring of lifeforce pulsing within and align with your soul purpose, you glow from the inside out. This is what it means to live an inspired life.  

When what you do aligns with what you want and where you’re going, good things happen, as if the universe opens up to you. But all too often, I find people stuck in a fog of unknowing, often with ideas that need a place to land – or a plan for success.

“You always go for what you want. You’re so clear,” my mom would always say to me. “How do you know?” she would ask.

“I just know,” I would reply with little explanation, a shrug and a smile. The clarity was a full-bodied knowing – and a sense of the pull coming from where I was headed, bodying forth into a future that was calling me into it – even if I didn’t have a mental understanding of what that notion was.

Any artist will tell you that the impetus for creation comes from an ambiguous place and unfolds before them in the process – but it’s about trusting that first core gut intuition that creates space for great art. But you have to be listening and ready for the messages.

Knowing what you want requires clarity of thought and the ability to sit with yourself, to know yourself in a way that your heart’s song sings loud and clear, and you can trust your inner compass. It starts with getting in touch with everything in life that lights you up and turns you on and makes you come ALIVE.

Whenever I feel stuck or lackluster in the ‘zest for life’ department, I spruce things up with a subversively simple exercise of fearless creative play to let my whole self love what it loves by making a collage or vision board.  When I look back through the big vision boards that I’ve made, I see notable themes – no matter what magazines are at my disposal. Each time, there is more refinement and more of a reflection of where I’m currently at – and what my hopes for the future are at that moment in time and space.

Since 2009, I’ve been keeping a manifest journal – starting with a black hardcover book with blank pages – and pouring into it all my thoughts, visions, dreams, fragments from the day, inspirations, to-do lists and mini-collages.  This process has its own sort of magic that lends itself to the personal process of transformation – and the planting bed for grounding ideas in the world. In this way, the whole book (or set of books) becomes one continuous manifesting exercise.

The vision board process is nothing new. It is, however, a wonderfully accessible medium for fearless play in the creative space that can reconnect you to all that you love in the world. And if the intentions behind the experience are set, the process is fuel for igniting positive change. As a montage of clippings from magazines of images that grab your attention and text that speaks to you, vision boards can be a reminder of what lights your fire, can make you smile and light you up from the inside out.

Whenever I need to create something, to shift energy or get out of my headspace I always turn to the stack of magazines until I have collected enough images to make play in the pages of my journal. I’m always amazed at what happens just by giving myself time to listen to that inner voice. When I look back over the seemingly random collage of text and image fragments, I read it like a soul map with a regained sense of affirmation and clarity – and most often new insights that create a positive shift towards what I want or where I want to be.

Like life itself, the process of creating is what is important and can be used to facilitate a myriad of results.

–       a space for creative play
–       to shift or spark creative energies
–       to create space for focusing on intentions
–       to realign with what lights your fire
–       as an exercise in starting and finishing a creative project, fearlessly
–       to see just what the soul has to say in the space between…

There is much magic in that space of play and creativity if you allow your self to bask in that space often and give yourself the time to feel what makes you come alive as you tune into the rhythm of your own heart. As Howard Thurman said: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Your best life ever is waiting for you to step into it, to be filled with it and to dare to be radically alive. What are you waiting for? I put together The Inspiration Book to jump-start the process. You can download it here

Happy Manifesting.

One More Thought on Jack LaLanne…

As I was speaking with one of my long time clients and friend, I realized that not everyone really knows about all the amazing things that Jack LaLanne brought to the world of health and fitness.  He, my client, still runs about 5 days a week for an hour plus and just celebrated his 68th birthday.  He too is a picture of fitness.

I told him about some of the amazing feats Jack did for his birthdays and he was astounded to learn that at the age of 70, Jack:

  • Handcuffed, shackled and fighting strong winds and currents, towed 70 boats with 70 people from the Queen’s Way Bridge in the Long Beach Harbor to the Queen Mary, 1 ½ miles.

This was just one of many!

In an attempt to inspire you yet again, I am offering you the following video:

Last, if you would like to see the list of feats Jack LaLanne accomplished, GO TO HIS WEBSITE NOW!!

To your health and happiness!

Julie

In Honor of Jack LaLanne

I was first introduced to health and exercise when I joined a Jack LaLanne Health Spa at 16 years old.  In looking back I really don’t know what made me do that but it did start me on the path to health I have been on every since. 

Over the years I would reflect on Jack and his teachings.  As I have gotten older I have tried to motivate other people in considering to choose health as an alternative way of living.  I had dreams of teaching health in corporations in hopes that people would see that eating well really isn’t that difficult and yet the rewards are great.  I even emailed Jack LaLanne last year to see how he inspires others.  I was told to just keep on the path.

I was struck, in going to his website at that time, by how he essentially was preaching the same basic nutrition advice 50 years ago that is still true today – eat real food and exercise regularly.  Times really haven’t changed in what is healthy for us and yes it does take discipline but is so worth it!

So in honor of Jack and a life filled with the desire to motivate others to live a healthy full life, I salute him.  Here are just two videos showing just how amazing he really was…