5 (+1) Ways to Simplify Your Health

Health and Wellness Basics

5 (+1) ways to simplify your health.

If you were inspired by the new year to make some changes, that’s great! If you are having a hard time sticking with healthier habits have a look at these time-tested basics for feeling good in your body.

My hope in sharing these tips with you is to help you cut through the enormous and ever-changing health, weight loss, and lifestyle advice out there.

I’ve been a student and seeker of health, personal growth, and healing since my teens. There wasn’t a diet, fitness fad, or New Age technique that I didn’t try through my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. From crystals to cranial-sacral therapy, there are a lot of ways to heal your body and soul.

When I started massage school (in 1979) massage parlours were frequently in the news. When I told people I was going to massage school, they would ask me, “Do your parents know?” As a fresh-faced, outdoorsy 20 yr. old (and 5 ft tall), I didn’t look like I worked in a parlour, nor did I fit any of the Bond movie masseuse stereotypes – muscular swedish woman or geisha.

I had never had a massage before going to school, and remember the day I got up the nerve to ask a class-mate what “holistic” meant. We all have to start somewhere on the path to taking charge of our well-being.

The lessons I learned as a massage therapist about the healing power of touch, the connection between emotions and disease, the mind and body connection, nutrition, self-care, movement, breathing, and rest are still the basics to living as a well-being.

Here are my best picks for staying and getting well.

5 (+1) ways to have a solid foundation for feeling and looking well.

1) Get a massage. 
There are many physical and psychological benefits to massage. But, it has to feel good…duh. I’ve had many clients tell me how they tried massage but it was uncomfortable. The most frequent complaints: it was too painful, or the room was cold. Talk to your therapist if you are not comfortable.

You are the expert on your body. And, you are not obligated to chat with your therapist. Many people have told me that their massage therapist talks too much so it’s not relaxing. Allow yourself time and space to be quiet and let your mind drift.

2) Breathe.
It’s the first and last thing we do in this life. Pay attention to your breath. Learning how to use your breath is one of the simplest and most effective de-stressors you can find. Breathing gently in and out through your nose will calm and centre you. It keeps you present when your mind is dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.

3) Stretch.
There’s an old saying “flexible spine, flexible mind”. When your body feels more open and you move with more ease…your brain will follow. “But I’m not flexible…” I’ve heard this lot but it’s not a reason not to stretch. It means that you can’t compare yourself or waste time getting frustrated with yourself. Get down on the floor and move your joints through whatever range of motion you have while watching TV. Take 5 minutes. Breathe gently while you stretch.

4) Hydrate with water. 
Drink the cleanest water you can find, i.e. avoid plastic bottles.
But, don’t obsess about it. I’m not sure that guzzling down massive amounts of water in order to reach a set amount is healthy for any body…nor does it feel very good.

5) Fix the emotional stuff.
All the health food and exercise in the world won’t help if you are chronically stressed and unhappy. Smoothies and yoga can certainly help you cope and keep you going. But, spending everyday in a toxic work environment will erode your health. If your relationships drain you and leave you feeling badly about yourself, then kale will only go so far.

And…Green Smoothies.
Green smoothies are a new addition to my wellness toolbox and they are a keeper. These are homemade and very basic. They usually consist of: a green (kale, spinach, swiss chard), ginger, lime, apple, water. Sometimes I throw in parsley, tumeric, or use a pear or blackberries. I drink it alone so all that good stuff doesn’t have to compete with anything else. 

Of course this is more advice, and I did say there is a ton of health advice out there already. But I have been around the health and wellness block, and these 5 will make a tangible difference in getting you to the healthiest version of yourself.
 
Here’s to simple health to be your Best Self,

Helen

What holiday stress + eating can teach you about weight loss

What holiday stress + eating can teach you about weight loss

Are you breathing a sigh of relief that the holidays have passed?

When you have food and body issues, this time of year can bring it all to a head. Yes, everyone is busy; but if you use food to cope with life and relationships then you feel even more overwhelmed. To add insult to injury is the added expectation of “looking good” for all the social events. Yikes!

At this time of year family and relationship dynamics are front and centre. Expectations to spend time with family and decisions about who to spend time with can create a lot of anxiety. Families often bring up mixed feelings – there can be love and support…but also judgement and criticism. There are patterns of behaviour that are both comforting and crazy-making. Confusing right?
If you are a people-pleaser and perfectionist the holiday season can push all your buttons as you juggle the many expectations you feel from yourself and others.

This past holiday season is the perfect storm of emotional stress and focus on food. It can take all the joy out of what can be a beautiful and deeply spiritual time of year when you are preoccupied with trying not to eat too much…but, food is how you cope.

So, what can you do?

I often hear clients say that they know they eat when they are stressed. This “stress + eating” behaviour is so automatic for many of us we don’t give it a closer look.  It becomes a fact of life – “I eat when I’m stressed.”

Crisis equals opportunity. I truly believe in taking this philosophical stance when times are tough.

If the holidays were a stress-eating fest, and you feel heavy and depressed, or if you are summoning your New Year resolve to “get back on track” after all the binge eating….use this time to get the insight you need to both lose weight and feel emotionally well.

Believe me, when you get what is happening in the moments that you turn to food it will profoundly effect your ability to change your eating behaviours.

Take 5 minutes and grab a pen and paper.  This short exercise will empower you.

Step 1
Look back over the holidays and pick a situation where you were eating because you felt stressed.

  • Did you fill up with sugary food to give you energy while doing last minute shopping?
  • Did you hang out at the buffet table eating instead of talking to people?
  • Did you measure yourself to others and start feeling “not good enough”…so focused on food?
  • Did you eat to make others feel comfortable? Not wanting to hurt their feelings by saying “no” to something you didn’t want to eat.

Step 2
Freeze frame the moment you were turning to food and name the feeling.

Were you tired, anxious, depressed, lonely, jealous, angry, or helpless?

There is a lot of power in naming the feeling. Instead of having uncomfortable sensations in your body that you numb, you give them meaning. Naming the sensation makes it more concrete and enables you to address the real issue.
Step 3
“Meet the need instead of feed the need”.

If you can name what you are feeling, you have a starting point for solving the situation. If you feel anger, then usually there is something that you perceive as being unfair. From there you have options as to how to deal with the “unfairness”.

Learning how to identify feelings and meet your needs is far more satisfying then eating. You feel so much better about yourself for taking care of yourself instead of mindlessly consuming calories.

As you practice listening to your feelings and naming them it gets easier and becomes automatic to pay attention to your feelings when you notice yourself unconsciously eating.

Let me know if you find this helpful, or if you need more support with this practice.

Here’s to honouring your feelings in 2014!

Helen

Binge Control

Binge Control

A Feminine Path Solution.

“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.”

                                                                      Friedrich Nietzsche

Dear Feminine Path Community,

I really do think about you and your personal struggle, and how I can support you to be free of body and food angst. I started to write on the subject of bingeing earlier in the week and here it is…Halloween, so this could be timely.

Bingeing. Whether it’s food, drinks, shopping, or self-pity (yes, you can “binge” on thought habits), a binge feels out of control – like it has a life of it’s own.

Everyone will have their own combination of triggers, situations, feelings, sensations and thoughts that go into that tipping point of mindless eating (I’ll stick with food here but you can apply this awareness to any binge behaviour).

Here are the most common reasons for bingeing:

Expectations to only eat “good” food or “be good”. Having a lot of rules and judgements about what you “should” eat is unrealistic, unfair and puts a lot of pressure on you…and anything under pressure eventually explodes.

Escape. This can be escape from a feeling, a person, a situation, even from yourself. When you believe you have no way out, eating serves as an exit and can give you sense of control.

Rebellion. This can seem similar to having “expectations to be good”, but, it has the intention of taking control. It starts with “I’ll show you!” or “No one will tell me what to do!”. Compared to trying to be good and stay in control.

Bingeing feels good on some level. It is wild and chaotic. We all need that feeling and expression at times.  As women and mothers we have a daily need to be in control in order to run our homes and work life. We hear a lot about the need for balance and time management…all true, but also confining.

Chaos is a sign of health and if you are curious how, check out this article by M.D. Larry Dossey, http://noetic.org/noetic/issue-six-january/chaos-and-disorder-why-we-need-them/ .

We need both chaos and control. There again is the importance of allowing the Feminine (chaos) in balance with the Masculine (control).

Here are 3 ways to lessen bingeing:

  • In the moment of a binge, try to compassionately bring yourself around by seeing if this is an act of releasing the pressure of expectations, escaping, or rebelling.
  • Write down 3 expectations you have that come from yourself or from others (specific people or society). These can be “shoulds” about eating, your body, or in your life. Ask yourself if food is helping you to escape or to rebel against these expectations.
  • Write down one way you can take control of your need for chaos.  Do you have an activity that energizes you in a positive way – dancing, painting, spending time with friends that make you laugh wildly, or playing music.

Even though I call this philosophy the Feminine Path to Wellness, I’m always surprised at the ways the influence of the Feminine is at play in our struggle with food and our body.

Bingeing may be meeting a number of needs. Doesn’t it feel better to be kinder to yourself and be curious about the meaning and purpose of your behaviour? With practice you will be able to lessen the need to binge because you are taking action in giving yourself some healthy self-expression.

Until next time…

Be Wild and Be Well,

Helen

Comfort + Food

 


Same picture, new lesson. It’s the little heart that sometimes appears in my beloved cappucinno in the morning after the first sip. I used it in my last blog Self-love is the new black.

That image represents what might be the #1 reason for weight issues, emotional eating, and the painful trap that you are stuck in.

Come Fall the words “Comfort Food” appear on magazine covers, recipes, cooking shows, and in conversations; it seems everywhere. But recently I had a huge “ah ha” when it comes to this friendly phrase.

BTW – This may be the most helpful insight that I can offer if you have been trying to either lose weight, stop emotional eating, and feel happy with your self and your life.

First, I’m not recommending that you stop eating the food that conjures up feeling safe, nurtured, held, and loved.

Why?

Because we need to feel safe, nurtured, held and loved.

That is the power of food.  Some of that power comes from the chemical cascade that communicates between our digestive system and brain when we eat. Carbohydrates increase tryptophan which produces serotonin a neurotransmitter thought to enhance well-being and happiness.

Our sense of smell and the olfactory system is another instant source of vivid memories. With one sniff of cinnamon apple pie, hot cocoa, or fresh baked bread you instantly feel warm and fuzzy…simple “aroma” therapy!

When I looked up the origin of the word comfort, I came across all the ways that food packs it’s emotional power. Going back to the 1200’s, comfort has meant: “feeling of relief”, “in a state of tranquil enjoyment”, “solace”, “source of alleviation or relief”, “to cheer up or console” and “to strengthen much”.

This last one sparked a memory for me of high school. JuJubes were my “strength” when studying for exams. “Pen, paper, books, bag of jujubes and I was ready.”

When you are eating to comfort yourself you mindlessly slip into meeting an emotional, psychological or physical need. It’s a perfect fit. Except that it keeps you stuck with extra weight and impacts your overall well-being.

If you use food to feel better you may never reach for what you truly need. 

I know I’m repeating myself, but becoming aware of this pattern will liberate you. 

Here’s my suggestion and remember I’m not telling you to stop eating comfort food. 

Step One:

The next time you are reaching for, or, talking about needing some comfort food – name the need that you are meeting. Without any judgement or guilt just name it. Is it solace, relief, love, or mental strength that you are really after?

This moment of mindfulness will allow you to acknowledge either something you need that you are not getting. Maybe it’s missing form your life entirely or just lately. 

Step Two:

Find a way to meet that need. Is it rest? Is it a trusted friend? Is it delegating? Is it learning to say No? I guarantee that if you are able to address the motivation for the “comfort eating” you will do much less of it.

If you are celebrating Thanksgiving you will be sitting down to a big hit of tryptophan in your turkey – feeling sleepy?  This weekend is a celebration and feast of “comfort foods” and a great time to try this mindful eating technique.

Wishing you comfort in your relationships, play, and pursuits.

With gratitude always,

Helen

(ps apologies for grammar and spelling – I wanted you to have this before the holiday weekend)

 

Self-love is the new black

               

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This is what I get in my cappuccino on many mornings…I’m not kidding. Last Spring I started taking pictures of the little heart that appeared in my cup after the first sip. I thought it was neat…but didn’t take it as a “sign”.

Until it happened again this morning….

Two nights ago the “90 day Feminine Path to Weight Loss Group” met at my office. It was very exciting! We danced…yes danced, went over the program philosophy, talked about going deep, moving with awareness and kindness, and learning to nourish with food, goals, relationships, creativity, and self-love!

The message that I kept repeating to them was about love. Love yourself now; love yourself into the person you want to be.

It’s such a simple message, but oh so hard to do. When you are use to self-blame, “not good enough” talk, and the “comparing and despairing” talk, that becomes the norm. It’s like white noise that plays in your head, but it is so harmful to the core of your being.

This is what I shared with the group and what I had to learn for myself.  Getting a handle on this habit was the beginning of the end of my body-food struggle.

1. Become aware of any negative or hateful self-talk and stop it.

2. When ever you catch yourself saying something unkind to yourself – notice it and stop it. And, don’t beat yourself up for beating yourself up. Be patient with yourself.

3. Breathe.

4. Be the kindest, most nurturing person you can be with yourself.

You can’t change what was said to you or what happened in the past that caused or contributed to your present view of yourself. If you learned to stuff emotions, had to rely on food for comfort, or internalized the anger around you – it that was not your fault.

However, right now, you are the only one who can change your self-talk. Envision your most loved up version of yourself.

Weight loss happens when you love yourself instead of numb yourself with food (booze, busy- ness, work, shopping or the internet).

I’m no purist or perfectionist about all this. There’s room for a bit mindless eating and other habits of avoidance or distraction. Just don’t judge yourself for being human or hang on to habits that make you unhappy.

So why did I call this “Self-love is the new black”?

At the end of the day even if the diet and exercise program works for you, self-love is still what will make you feel and look beautiful. You never tire of it. It’s always in.

Rest – the secret to weight loss and wellness

Many of us put a lot of thought and energy into being healthy. Even if we are not working out or eating right, we read articles, buy books, go online, set intentions, set goals, etc.

Getting healthy is often one more thing on the “to-do” list. Most women I know…actually all women I know, are not complaining that they are bored. Overwhelmed…yes…bored…no.

My mission as a wellness coach is to make health, well-being, and fitness, simple…especially for women. So, If getting healthy feels like work…

my #1 weight loss + wellness tip is to add rest into your life…yes, rest.

I can hear you either laughing or getting indignant. But continue reading and I’ll tell you why it may be far better then squeezing in a workout.

I get it. I really do. I’m a mom with a toddler, have a business and an elderly parent. I’m not talking about doing more. I’m talking about doing less. This tip runs counter to most advice on losing weight and getting fit.

Many years ago the thought of reading a book in the afternoon was just not an option. My wonderful doctor even warned me, “if you don’t rest when you’re well and healthy, you get to rest when you’re sick and miserable.”

It was great advice. And like all great advice…it’s not enough to just hear it. The messages to “work hard” and “be productive” are in the fabric of our culture. Besides, I liked getting things accomplished and burning calories was always on my to-do list.

It took getting very sick – not being able to be in 5th gear all the time – to make me, finally experience the ease of being in 3rd gear. And, lo and behold…I stayed fit by doing less.

I discovered something that I had never read in articles on weight loss. Since I didn’t push myself so much, I didn’t need as many sweets and treats to keep going. Doesn’t that make sense?

Also, I allowed myself the state of rest. Mentally, I wasn’t “shoulding on myself” all the time. Constantly riding yourself with “shoulds” and expectations creates a chronic state of stress that drives up cortisol (a stress-related hormone). Emotional stress such as guilt, lingering pain from past hurts, and self-destructive habits also influence cortisol levels.

Dr. Christiane Northrup M.D., http://drnorthrup.com is an incredible source of information on women’s health. You can read more on the health effects of chronically high cortisol, such as: weight gain, low mood, suppressed immune function, fatigue, insomnia, low sex drive, and muscle and bone loss.

I’m listing these symptoms for awareness not to scare you. I don’t believe that fear is a useful motivator…it just creates more stress.

Teaching a Feminine Path to health means I advise my clients to go against ways of doing that are the norm our culture. These women learn that losing weight and feeling healthier is easier and more enjoyable when you balance the feminine and the masculine.

Summer is coming. Here’s an opportunity to get in some rest and go with the flow of the season. Pretend you live in one of those sane countries (France or Italy), or tropical climates, that make rest a part of the day.

One more thing. It has to be true rest. No list-making in your head. No guilt. It doesn’t count if you are beating yourself up for lying down.

And finally, if you need permission and “de-guilting” call or email me. I would be happy to ease your mind and tell you what I’m not doing today.

Here’s to wellness with ease,

Helen