Rest

The Ultimate 2016 Cleanse

As featured on Huffington Post Now that we are two weeks into 2016, past the juice cleanse cayenne pepper detox coffee enema phase, it’s time to get real about making some lasting lifestyle changes. Sure, maybe your karma was through the roof and your toxins were at an all time low when you were subsisting solely on tinctures of carrot mango dandelion essence, but can you really commit to living next door to a cold press juice joint for the rest of your life? And let’s be honest, after a week on a liquid-only purge, do you truly feel like you’re “basking in a post-cleanse glow” or are you now binging on crunchy chips and salty cheese and frantically airing out your bathroom?

Right. Now you’re left trying to figure out how to transition back into real life, with all the daily challenges that come with it. And here’s the real buzz kill. All the overpriced low glycemic gluten free organic elixirs that you just tortured yourself with for the past 3-7 days were only temporary – the karma, the toxins, the glow, gone. The second you popped that first nacho in your mouth, it was over. Back to pre-cleanse internal disaster area.

But, rejoice, all is not lost! You have grown! Despite the migraines, cramping, and five packages of toilet paper, you have started on a really important journey to wellbeing. Don’t give up on all the healthy habits you have jumpstarted this past week, even if you never want to down another green smoothie again. Lasting change can truly happen. A three day cleanse isn’t going to heal you forever. But, there are long-term strategies that will.

So, as a guide back to sanity (…and solid food…) here are four ideas for true lifetime cleansing.

Warning – these tips are crazy simple and yet super hard to implement. They take your whole life to get right. But, with dedication and determination, they will work.

  1. Stop dieting: Diets don’t work. Actually, they work for a few months, and then you gain the weight back, no matter what diet you go on. In fact, recent studies show that if you are normal weight and diet anyway, your body has a tendency to regain more fat than had been lost in a “fat overshoot” correction by your metabolism. Instead, start crowding out the crap in your diet with real food, not diet food - fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean meats and fish. These foods have not only been shown to result in weight loss, but also have incredible health benefits that will truly bring out your lasting inner glow!
  1. Drink Responsibly (or not at all): After the amount of pickling you did to your liver over the holidays, maybe your go-to detox was a dry-January. If so, vow to make the long term change in your drinking habits from weekend booze-hound to either a committed one to two drinks per day or forever-teetotaler. While zero to moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to reduce rates of some diseases, hitting it hard only on the weekends has the complete opposite effect. So lay off the Friday-Saturday benders, and instead, start buying and savoring a couple gentle pours of a good red (…or stick to tea).
  1. Move your body: While what you put in your mouth certainly is critical, physical activity has an equally important effect on overall health, no matter what weight you are. And it doesn’t make any difference what you do, as long as you do something! Go to yoga. Do cartwheels. Take the dog for a walk. Hit the gym. Run intervals up mountains. Just do whatever makes you happy and keeps you coming back for more.
  1. Let all that other –ish go: If you truly want to wring yourself out from the inside, stop dwelling on all the negative crap in your life. Instead, sit quietly with yourself a few minutes every day and practice mindfully focusing on the positive moments. This mindfulness meditation has been shown to slow cellular aging by lengthening protective DNA factors called telomeres. That’s a much more impactful and scientific approach to successful aging than a questionable and overpriced online kit for a colon cleanse.

As it turns out, health doesn’t come in 3-day spurts of righteousness. Wellness takes practice and commitment, every single day. It doesn’t come in a bottle or a pill or test tube. True health requires a realization that moderation actually is the shiny and sexy alternative -- that the latest purification regimen is fleeting, a distraction that draws your attention away from the true elements of healthfulness. Wellness comes with the understanding that oatmeal, bananas, and taking the stairs indeed are the path to the promised land, not simply a boring sermon. So, rather than wasting money and precious time on temporary fixes guaranteed to bring about bliss and immortality, take the inimitable long view. Walk to the grocery store for some good old-fashioned apples and oranges, taking note of one or two things that make you smile in the world around you.

As featured on Huffington Post

When East Meets West: Separating Science from Woo

My work toes the line of health related subjects to which many lay claim -- food, exercise, behavior, wellness. Scientists, dietitians, personal trainers, nutritionists, yogis, exercise physiologists, healers, physical therapists, chiropractors, medical doctors, bloggers. Vaccines, juicing, acupuncture, pesticides, massage, supplements, wine, cleansing, intervals, gluten. How do you know who's right? Doctors? Bloggers? Researchers? Healers?

Holistic Healing

I do work and research on lifestyle as medicine. I truly and honestly believe that eating the right food, moving your body, sleeping well, and taking stress out of your life are essential to health. But, I'm also a scientist, and I know that modern medicine -- vaccines, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, blood pressure and cholesterol medication -- keep us healthy and alive. They are necessary in the treatment of illness, not simply the prevention of it.

Is there room for both? Of course. And we should embrace the combination of evidence-based natural health remedies AND modern disease treatments. I believe the best thing we can do is take what we have, what we know works, and blend the East with the West. But this doesn't mean we latch on to every tincture, herbal supplement, and naturopathic therapy (...oil pulling, I'm looking at you...). Nor does it mean we treat every runny nose with amoxicillin.

An example: I have been sick for the past three weeks. I don't mean sniffle, sniffle, sick. I mean, green snot everywhere, coughing all night, raging headache, no voice kind of sick. It's been a b*tch. It's also a virus, which means there's no pharmaceutical that can treat it. BUT, there are some promising natural remedies -- elderberry, garlic, and oregano have all been shown to exhibit anti-viral properties (although the evidence is pretty weak). However in my pathetic  and desperate state, off to Whole Foods I trudged (through 7ft of snow) to drop $65 dollars on extracts and pills. BUT, because I am a person of science with professional responsibilities, I can't rely simply on nasty tasting herbal pills to work their maybe-magic. I also went next door to CVS and bought some Advil with Pseudoephedrine -- because my head was pounding, my sinuses were completely clogged and I needed something to take the edge off. East. Meet. West.

East Meets West

Another (tragic) example: Over the summer, a friend burned herself. Bad. Grabbed a hot cookie sheet from the oven with no mitt on. While running her hand under cold water, it had already started to blister. Using her good hand, she implored the facebook universe for a "natural" remedy to what seemed like a 2nd degree burn. She specifically stated that she did not want any modern medicine. The responses were wide and varied - ice, salves, creams, tinctures, ointments, dietary supplements. As I read the posts, I started to wonder two things: 1) Why didn't my friend want a modern remedy for an injury that could potentially get ugly (especially if she induced an infection from these "natural remedies"), and 2) Where the hell were these people getting their information about all of these potions?

Now I'm all for a good dose of witch hazel on a pimple or some chicken soup for your cold, but this irrational fear of scientific progress and complete regression to witchcraft has got to stop. Using modern medicine -- when you need it -- is why so many of us live long, healthy lives today. It's why we can live with, and through, diseases that would have previously killed us. In an effort to return to our ancient roots, we may be seriously hurting ourselves in the process. Between anti-vaccination campaigns, treating cancer with raw food, or cleansing the liver, this anti-science, anti-medicine campaign has gone off the rails. People, we are smarter than this and we need to stop letting our fears dictate our actions. What's more, we need to stop feeling guilty and ashamed when we turn to modern medicine. Yes, we distrust of the pharmaceutical industry. Do they do sh*tty things? Unfortunately, sometimes they do. But, on the whole, their products keep you alive. ALIVE.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQZ2UeOTO3I

I know that if you get cancer, you should get chemo or radiation. I know that in order to prevent measles, you should get your MMR vaccine. In know that to avoid infection of your burn, you should use an antibiotic cream. Is it a perfect system? Does it work 100% of the time? No. Nothing possibly could. We live in the real world.

But, in a world where we used to die from papercuts and now kill ourselves with fast-food induced heart disease, I would say we need to start looking at how and why we use food, herbs, and drugs. Imagine you ate a perfect diet, exercised every day, slept 8 hours a night, and were never stressed...and STILL got a massive bacterial infection because you stepped on a piece of dirty glass. Would you take an antibiotic? Or would you take your chances on self-healing and oregano oil? If you got cancer, would you go to an oncologist? Or would you roll the dice with raw organic broccoli alone?

I think you should trust the science. Because, the consensus of data will point you in the direction of health -- and that is better than any ancient promise, guilty feelings, or big-pharma distrust. Don't ignore or deny science because someone on google said vitamins can prevent Measles. (They can't, but Vitamin A can enhance the effect of the vaccine).  Take your elderberry extract when you get a cold-virus, but take the Advil and Pseudoephedrine too. Because you have better things to do than wait around for supplement companies to fill the vacuum of pharmaceutical companies.

 

We found the Silver Bullet...

We know. We know what is killing us. We know how to prevent 80% of all chronic disease. Diabetes, Heart Disease, Obesity. We know where 84% of all health care dollars are spent. And we know how to stop it. But. We. Don't.

We know the five things that will save people:

  • moving
  • eating well
  • dealing with stress
  • sleeping
  • not smoking

They are the silver bullets. THE SILVER BULLETS. Yet, half of Americans don't exercise, one third of Americans don't eat fruit or vegetables, and 1 out of five Americans smoke. Our doctors aren't educated on exercise or nutrition, the USDA is mocked and ridiculed, the blog-o-sphere is ripe with "experts" and anecdotal recommendations.

Those of us that care, argue the merits of paleo vs vegan vs Mediterranean. We huff and puff over intervals vs long distance vs strength training. We push mindfulness and meditation, on the highways of facebook and twitter and instagram. We post pictures of harder, better, faster, stronger. Meanwhile, cardiovascular disease is costing us $315 billion, cancer $157 billion, diabetes $245 billion, obesity $147 billion and smoking $289 billion. BILLIONS.

We are sick, and getting sicker. Yet, rather than treat the root cause, we spend BILLIONS on treating the symptoms. Metformin, statins, anti-depressants, beta-blockers. Just to fight the inevitable. Bandaids.

Mozaffarian et al, Circulation, 2008

People, there is a better way. And, it's free. And it's going to take some grit and determination. And it is our only hope. But in order to make it happen, we have to stop fighting and come together. Doctors, scientists, personal trainers, nutritionists, health coaches, policy makers. We know how to keep people healthy. And we need to start working together.

In a recent lecture at a class I'm teaching at the Harvard Extension school Dr. David Katz said it best, "We need to stop looking at the differences in all these diets that work, and rather look at what they have in common. Habitual intake of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains...has the power to decrease 80% of chronic disease. Let us unite and tell the world that WE KNOW ENOUGH to keep people healthy". WE KNOW ENOUGH.

We know that lifestyle changes work BETTER THAN DRUGS for preventing diabetes.

DPP

We know that healthy lifestyle behaviors (not smoking, healthy BMI, exercising, and a diet rich in fruits/veggie/whole grains) prevent 80% of chronic disease. EIGHTY PERCENT.

Lifestyle Factors

We know that the key ingredients to a healthful diet include foods that are not processed, lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and some high quality meat and fish. Who cares if the cave men ate it or someone in Italy is drowning in olive oil?! If it's not in a package, is mostly plants, and you cooked it at home. EAT IT.

cooking

We know that sitting is terrible for you and that we need to move around! Just walk! WALK.

Walk

We know everyone's lives are stressful. If we could all give it up, move to a beautiful mountain-side retreat and leave it all behind we would. But we can't. So, we need to learn how to unplug and cope. STRESS RESILIENCE.

optimal-stress

Instead, we scare people. We make them think nutrients are killing them and that exercise is too hard or unattainable. We use flashy labels to get people to eat our "healthy take on an organic processed block of crap" or guzzle down our "highly processed all natural life sustaining drinks". We embrace more, more, more, now, now, now. All in a quest to find the silver bullet. Enough already! We already have the silver bullet! And it's not sexy or flashy or in a shiny package.

It is beautifully simple.

We know. We know movement is essential. We know food in its natural form is healthiest. We know sleep and stress management are crucial. We know. So let's do it. Let's unite and spread that simple message.

Because, we know.

 

Gratitude.

Thanksgiving. Walmart. 6am. Shopping. Turkey. Stuffing. Stuffed. Football. Apple Pie. Wine. Leftovers.

black thursday

No. This year, I did things differently.

Small. Family. Fish. Snow. Quiet. Gratitude.

Gratitude.

A virtue of the ancients. According to Peterson and Seligman, a higher level virtue of transcendence. In one of my favorite books of all time, The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt extols the importance of gratitude in modern life.

The key, is finding a level of gratitude in the deeds of every day. According to the think tank Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life at The The University of California, Berkeley,

Gratitude is foundational to well-being and mental health throughout the life span. In the past few years, there has been an accumulation of scientific evidence showing how gratitude contributes to psychological and social well-being. A growing body of research has documented the wide array of psychological, physical, and relational benefits associated with gratitude from childhood to old age.

From forming fulfilling personal relationships, to encouraging successful work partnerships, to raising children, to maintaining romantic intimacy, finding gratefulness is essential.

Health-Benefits-of-Gratitude1

I'm not religious at all, and you don't need to be in order to practice gratitude. But,  regardless of spiritual inclination, I believe a Benedictine Monk, Brother David Steindl-Rast, of the Greater Good sums the idea up best:

Gratitude is the spontaneous response of a healthy body and mind to life. We should not expect it from a person who suffers in mind or body. With training, however, one can learn to focus on “opportunity” as the gift within every given moment. This attitude towards life always improves the situation. Even in times of sickness, someone who habitually practices grateful living will look for the opportunity that a given moment offers and use it creatively.

I take this lesson into my Thanksgiving weekend.

Black Friday (er, Thursday?) and 6am shopping is not Thanksgiving. Stuffing yourself silly and falling asleep on the couch is not Thanksgiving. Watching football until your eyes are blurry from HD overdrive is not Thanksgiving.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucrM3TLLJRs

Thanksgiving IS gratitude. Being grateful for the loves in your life, the earth under your feet, and the food on your table. I have so much to be thankful for and THAT is Thanksgiving.

gratitude

Finding a #Rest Area.

It's been a while since I wrote a "rest" post, but I was so inspired by Ariana Huffington's commencement speech at Smith College that I feel as though it is imperative. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=UJ25qEHgcM4

As a young person, I loved to read. I would read and read and read. For hours. It drove my parents completely insane. I'm honestly not sure if it was because they thought that I should be vacuuming the hallway or emptying the dishwasher or simply playing outside...but, it made them bonkers. As a result, and in combination with the immense pressure I feel now as an adult to SUCCEED, I have a sh*t of a time relaxing.

I feel immense guilt when I sit on the couch and while away in a good book...or take a nap...or just be quiet by myself.  It's as if I'm wasting minutes...seconds that I will never get back. Time that I could have been reading journal articles, or writing manuscripts, or composing blog posts, or exercising. What is that??!! Why are we so programmed to work? To run errands, and do chores, and be "productive"? It's not right and it's making us sick.

In her speech to the Smithies, Ariana said,

"Here's [a] fact that will likely be no surprise to you: the Millennial Generation, aka you, is the most stressed generation of all, outranking Baby Boomers and the gently euphemistic "Matures." Right now, America's workplace culture is practically fueled by stress, sleep-deprivation, and burnout."

Why? Because we believe that in order to be successful, we need to work our a**es off. Constantly at our edge. At work, in the gym, in our marriages and relationships, with our friendships, on our smartphones and ipads and macbooks...there is never a time when we check out. Because we've been told that is simply what it takes to survive in the world today.

...and I'm not talking about being busy. As it turns out, being busy seems to actually make us happier.  Doing all the things that help to move us forward in life is important and gratifying. What I'm talking about is not being able to shut off when we have a minute. We constantly feel compelled to check and answer email, or update our online status, or check in with the tragedies of the world. Even when we go on vacation we tweet and facebook and instagram. We leave "away messages" on our email accounts, but in reality, we're still checking them. It's truly a problem. Because this long term exposure to stress can actually rewire our brains to continuously be in a state of stress, whether or not you are behind your desk or lounging on the beach.

beach-traffic-stress-relax-summer-seasonal-ecards-someecards

I am not immune to this insanity. I got up this SUNDAY morning (on a holiday weekend), drove my husband to the airport at 6am (for work), came home and cleaned my house, taught a spin class, answered a crap-load of emails, went grocery shopping and to Home Depot, planted the herbs I got at the store (without really paying attention to how cool they are), and then...at about 4pm, sat down on the couch with the pups and  a new book (ironically, a book about yoga) and just tried to relax. No dice...my mind was racing, my guilt over doing "nothing" was raging.

I was thinking...should I go to yoga to chill out?  And then I was thinking...wait, what??!! You're sitting on the couch, snuggled to two of the warmest little nuggets in the world, and you want to leave this to go work out (for the second time today?!) because you need to calm down?  Something is not right in Denmark, folks.

The problem is, I know what I'm doing to myself.  I understand that being mindful, and getting enough sleep, and paying attention to the little things is essential.  And, I'm trying...!  It's just SO hard to do that, on top of everything else. Yet, I also know that I have to.

So, what am I going to do about it?  Two things:

1) Cook.

Not to worry...I'm not going to start binging on comfort food. I'm talking about taking time this week to search for recipes, buy fresh and healthful ingredients, and unwinding in the kitchen. I cook pretty much every night, but lately I've been on total auto-pilot. Easy quick meals that I don't have to pay a lot of attention to whipping together. But, this week, I will reset that pattern. I know it's not sitting with my feet up, but right now it's the best I can do. I'm not at a point, either mentally or within my daily schedule, that I can just stop.  But, I can spend time mindfully working ingredients from the earth in my kitchen. Making sure that I pay attention to the plants, chopping thoughtfully, mixing intently, and tasting fully. A culinary exercise in mindfulness.

Mindful Eating

2) Make a plan for true rest.

Right now, I can't take a vacation. I can't go away for the weekend. I don't have the time or the funds. And that's ok. There is a time for it all. As summer approaches, I can make a plan for escape. In fact, it's already in motion. My goal is to spend as many long weekends as possible at our new house in VT between the months of June-August. Now, even this isn't going to be rest in the literal sense. I'm not going to be lounging around on those weekends. This "new" house is in fact very old and has a lot of work to be done. But, it will be a place of refuge and relative quiet.  A place to unplug from the work that will certainly be there when we get home  (because there is no internet or cell phone service). A place to be grateful for the opportunity that same hard work has given us.

And this disconnecting, I believe, is so key. As Ariana said in her speech, the constantly wired way we live today is not working.

...it’s not working for anyone. It’s not working for women, it's not working for men, it's not working for polar bears, it's not working for the cicadas that are apparently about to emerge and swarm us. It's only truly working for those who make pharmaceuticals for stress, diabetes, heart disease, sleeplessness and high blood pressure.

So, even if it's only through chopping basil and mindfully contemplating the impossible intricacies of mixing oil and vinegar for dressing...I will unplug. Because I have to. I have to practice it now, so that I'm ready to truly be still and quiet in the coming months. Because if I don't....if we don't...no matter how many hours we work, or how much money we make, or how many papers we publish, we are not whole and well. The rewiring of stress patterns in our brains is proof. It is a major shift, but shift we must. Because this constant overstimulation and overstress is unsustainable. We must #Rest.

 Rest Here