Tuesday, November 17, 2009


On the path to change, there are many different roads to take, and many different people offering you advice. How do you know what to do? Who to listen to when you need advice? It's hard to know where to go when the path that you've always been on hasn't been working for you. It's nearly impossible to re-frame a seemingly bad situation into a story that motivates you to strive for change.

The first step to change is developing self-awareness. You need to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. You need to be aware of your habits. What you have been doing well, and what you haven't been able to do yet. It's harder than it sounds. Sometimes you have a different picture of yourself that might be the truthful. You may think that your unhealthy habits aren't a big deal. But deep down, you know that they conflict with your long-term health. Right now, it might seem overwhelming to try and change the habits that have gotten you to where you are today. Plus, its hard to know how to change, even when you know that you need to. And that's ok.

One easy way to identify some things that might help you is to examine people around you, or even people you don't know. When you see a person that you envy, or a person that you would like to emulate...take a mental note of why you see that person in a positive light. Then try to brainstorm how they achieve that quality.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Molecules of Emotion

I've been reading Molecules of Emotion by Candace Pert. Molecules of Emotion is Candace's autobiography that details the life of a prominent scientist at the National Institute of Health. Her research career involves the biochemical interactions between the body and the mind--effectively proving not only do your thoughts impact your physical health, but that your physical health can impact your mental health as well. In her book she tells us about her big a-ha moment concerning the age-old question of how emotions transform the body, either creating disease or healing it, maintaining health or undermining it. "Why, it's both! It's not either/or; in fact, it's both and neither! Its simultaneous--a two-way street."

This revelation so powerful, because it shows the link between our external environment and our internal environment. They are one and the same. It also links the importance of what we put in our bodies, i.e. food and drink. There is no way to nourish yourself in only one area of your life. Even the best doctors cannot cure lung cancer patients who still smoke, nor can a pill reverse 50 years of poor dietary habits that have led to heart disease. Modern medicine can buy you more time, but it cannot promote good health.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Sometimes it gets difficult for me to muster the energy to do the right thing, especially when in comes to nourishing myself. There are always days when I don't have the energy to prepare a full meal, or even to go food shopping. So how do I find the motivation to get myself nourished, even when I'm not feeling up to the challenge?
Usually it takes me a while. I'm not the best at motivating myself. In fact, I'm much better at motivating other people. Sometimes when I get home I'm tired and can't find the strength to eat. I usually lay down and take a nap. But it is self defeating because I just wake up later, even hungrier than before. So what is it that I can do to change my mind and get myself where I need to be?
Sometimes just plugging in the stereo and getting some good songs on the radio is the only way for me to drag myself into the kitchen. The other thing that motivates me is the knowledge of what didn't work before. It helps to think back about every other time that I've talked myself out of nourishing myself...only to have to step up later and do even more work to repair myself.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Sometimes, I forget to breathe. It happens when I get stressed out, my whole chest tightens up and I start to take short rapid breaths. Which in turn makes me even more stressed out. I try to notice when this is happening. If I notice in time, I will "hit the pause button" and do a breathing exercise. So naturally, this means that I end up doing breathing exercises at least 5 times a day...

Now usually I just do these exercises on my own. They're really simple, they don't take much time, and I don't tell anyone that I'm doing them. It never occurred to me to share my breathing exercises with others. And frankly, the idea of telling other people how to do these exercises really frightened me. I'm not the kind of person that likes to stand up in front of a group of stressed out people and try to get them to calm down. All of that changed on Tuesday night.

Tuesday night was stressful. I was giving a talk about breast cancer prevention to a group of women. But in the half hour before I started my talk, two men at the gym where I work got into a really ugly fight that ended with one of them being taken away in a police car. So I didn't have time to set up properly (on account of being too scared to go into the gym.)

Then of course, having a group of women come together to discuss breast cancer (no one wants to get breast cancer) was really increasing my anxiety level. As the talk got underway, and I discussed risk factors, and ways to prevent breast cancer...I could sense the energy in the room getting more and more stressed out. Because really, who wants to think about the many ways to get cancer...yuck!

So I led everyone in a simple breathing exercise, which I'd never done before. All you do is breathe in slowly for five seconds, then hold your breath for 5-7 seconds, and exhale as slowly as you can (about 7 seconds or more.) Then repeat it a few times.

Well, you wouldn't believe how everyone calmed down after that, myself included. The talk went great, and everyone learned a lot. We shared a healthy meal of cancer preventing foods like salmon, kale, and beets.

Because I'm a nutritionist, I like being able to incorporate mindfulness and nourishing food into everything I do. Tuesday night really brought both of these things together. I hope everyone enjoyed the talk as much I I enjoyed giving it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Making the Time

"Notice how if you can make some time early in the day for being, with no agenda, it can change the quality of the rest of your day."

--Jon Kabat Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are

As I wake up in the morning, I always try to make time to eat breakfast. This is trickier than it seems. Some people need a "grab-and go" type of breakfast. My boyfriend cooks 2 eggs on the stove and makes some toast and then takes it on the bus while he commutes, all before 6 am. He gets his protein and sets up his day right (although I'd like to see a few more fruits and veggies with his meal.) But I don't think that he gets the full benefits from a mindfully eaten breakfast.

On the other hand, I have no need to commute anywhere before the sun comes up. This allows me to make a choice. I can choose to stay in bed and get some extra sleep or I can get up early to cook some healthy breakfast, and spend the time to eat it mindfully. I'll admit it: there are a lot of days where I sleep later than I'd like. But then again, there are some days where I get up early.

Yesterday I got up early and reheated some soup in the fridge, by eating leftovers I could allow myself the time to sit and eat it without rushing. My intention was to get to the gym before my 8 am class, but that didn't happen (maybe I was a little too unhurried with my breakfast). Instead, I took a quick walk around the neighborhood and enjoyed the cool fall morning sunrise. I set my day up right. My relaxed and prepared mental state came in handy when I got a phone call from a friend who needed a ride unexpectedly. So l ended up leaving the house earlier than I had planned. I was able to be flexible and accommodate my friend's request because I had already set my day up in such a way that I didn't need to be in a rush. I got a great feeling from being able to help my friend get to school and still be on time, with a full stomach and a little fresh air and exercise already done.

Sometimes taking a few minutes at the beginning of the day can really make the difference between a truly "frazzled" day and a calm one. Even on days that I feel as though "there isn't time for breakfast" I try to make time. Its important. Its just as important to be ready and calm for your day as it is to be on time, or to make sure you pack a lunch. Even if you can't find the time to eat breakfast, take an extra minute to enjoy your coffee and just breathe until you feel ready to give the day your best effort.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Today is an adventure

Try seeing your life this very day as a journey and as an adventure.

Where are you going?
What are you seeking?
Where are you now?
What stage of the journey have you come to?
If your life were a book, what would you call it today?
What would you entitle the chapter you are in right now?
Are you stuck here in certain ways?
Can you be fully open to all of the energies at your disposal at this point?
Note that this journey is uniquely yours. No one else's.
So the path has to be your own.

--Exerpt from Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Developing awareness is one of the most challenging aspects of mindfulness. We are always aware of people that we perceive as "better" than ourselves. People with nicer cars, people with better organizational skills and matching accessories. It's so easy to feel jealousy for the things that we don't have. We constantly judge ourselves as unworthy. Visions of good and bad, better and best haunt our daily lives. We pay attention to the needs of others. We pay attention to the silent needs of daily living: the need to wash the dishes and take out the trash. We pay attention to the speed limit, the parking time limits, the traffic lights, the memos, the emails, and the unwritten rules. And we ignore ourselves. We ignore the inner fires that drive us as they burn down into ashes. We ignore the internal alarm clock telling us to wake up and enjoy this moment.

So, how can we re-develop our awareness, motivation, and our internal fires? It's not easy. I'm struggling to answer the questions posed above. In fact, it would be easier to have someone else answer them for me. Then I could judge their answers as right or wrong. Close or far away. But that would defeat the purpose of the exercise--there is no internal growth our nourishment when you let other people do what is rightfully your own task. You could say that I'm going down the line but I'm sitting on the sidelines today--I'm resting and thinking, storing up some strength. You could say that I'm seeking trust and intimacy. But right now, I feel stuck and I feel afraid of the unknowns. What if my plans don't work out? What if I run out of money and end up living in a van down by the river? What if everything works out how I want it to, but I'm still unhappy with the outcome?

I'm in the chaotic state of my journey. This is the place where I want deny the powerful forces that threw me into chaos in the first place. Unfortunately, denial is not an option, and there is no turning around. I do feel stuck in it, and I know for certain that I'm not using all the energies at my disposal. I guess my challenge is to make peace with the way my adventure is unfolding right now.

That's where I am. I'm still having trouble seeing my current situation as an adventure. I feel like the adventure is out there, but its not in me right now.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Early Morning

In contrast to the usual morning rush, I found myself with some extra time this morning. So when I have an extra hour, I immediately think about cooking a big breakfast. Initially I thought that I wasn't very hungry, just tired and groggy. I thought about skipping breakfast and doing something else with my free time. But I managed to make myself some tea, 2 eggs and sauteed Chines spinach. Guess what...I was hungry! My hungriness was just manifesting itself as a tired brain fog at such an early hour. Now I'm energized and ready to begin a day of challenges (like biking 10.5 miles to school!)

It can be difficult and confusing to interpret your level of hunger when you are busy working or just plain tired. But now I realize that it is still important to nourish yourself, even if you aren't sure that you need it at the time. The bottom line: you always need to be generous to yourself, even when you're feeling pretty good. That means eating well and taking a few minutes to appreciate the food and the sunrise and the stillness of the morning. Growth and transformation is a continuous process that requires fuel all the time, not just on weekends, or days when you're starting to feel sick or tired. It's always better to err on the side of giving yourself more, so that you'll have the power to get through the times when you can't be as generous to yourself.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Keep knocking

"Keep knocking, and the joy inside
will eventually open a window
and look out to see who's there."


Hale Sofia Schatz uses this quote to open her chapter on the daily practice of nourishing ourselves. She acknowledges how this simple practice of feeding ourselves daily can cause an incredible amount of confusion and anxiety. This chapter of the book aims to guide the reader into eating patterns that are more balanced and nourishing. "Instead of being bewildered in front of that open fridge, you can learn how to feed yourself exactly what you need...not what your mind thinks you should have, not what your sweet tooth craves, not what your loneliness longs for, not what's easiest to grab, but what your spirit needs to grow and thrive in this body."

I wish that I could say that I followed her suggestions everyday. In my world, there are good weeks and bad weeks. Sometimes I make up big pots of soups and curries to nourish myself all week. In the summer, I find it harder to prepare fresh meals, because they tend to spoil quickly. So sometimes I choose what easier. Today my meals included some nourishing choices: yogurt with fresh local blueberries and ground flax; and some not nourishing choices: cliff bars for lunch. I had time this afternoon to choose to eat a nourishing lunch. But somehow the cliff bars were just easier. I need to "keep knocking" and keep working to get to the heart of nourishment.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Transformational Nourishment

In her book, If the Buddha Came to Dinner, Hale Sofia Schatz brings up the idea of tranformational nourishment. Transformational nourishment is the process of transforming habitual, constricting patterns and behaviors into nourishing practices that encourage growth and development. She says that the key to transformational nourishment is awareness. It turns food and eating into a daily practice for becoming physically, emotionally, and spiritually aware.

She talks about how it is natural for us to continually grow, change, and create. So our natural state is one of growth and change. Unfortunately, sometimes we get stuck along the way, and the foods that keep us stuck are sweet, sticky, highly refined foods that perpetuate a sedentary existence. Schatz says that these foods tend to trap us in places where we feel resistant to change.

Schatz says that when we are clear about our intention of how we want to develop, the foods that propel us forward are usually the ones that we don't crave. I think that she means that "addictions" to food can hamper our personal growth, the same way that drug or alcohol addictions can hamper our lives. The idea of being stuck in a pattern that retards personal growth is very powerful, and its very easy to do. Maybe its your job, or spouse, or your own way of looking at the world that can get you stuck in these patterns. But eventually your body and soul are ready to grow and change again, which will eventually compel you into action.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Wake Up Call

I'm continuing to read If the Buddha Came to Dinner, and almost every paragraph in the book inspires me. In the previous chapter, Hale talked about "pruning" the soul to get ready for new growth. Next, she talks about the "wake-up call." She's talking about the call for change, the call to realize that we must respect and nourish all parts of ourselves with awareness. She talks about worrying about what happens if that call doesn't come, or if we aren't ready when it does come. She likens this "wake-up call" to an alarm clock. "Sometimes the alarm buzzes and we can respond immediately. Other times, we hit snooze. When that happens, the call will come again--you can definitely count on it buzzing again sometime in the future."

The idea that our soul will keep calling and reminding us to take time to nourish ourselves made a profound impact on me. There are some days when I'm too busy to eat mindfully, enjoy the good weather, get to the gym, or spend time with friends. Some days I simply feel too stressed out to take the time for myself, and I wonder if I am missing out. Missing out on life, or the meaning of life, or worrying that I don't even know what I'm missing.

Hale reminds me that if our soul needs nourishment, it will be there when we are finally able to nourish it. It's not a "one-time only" deal--I won't miss out on my spiritual growth if I have to send emails in the morning instead of meditating. Our soul will always be there when we are. And she allows us to be gentle with ourselves in case the call comes and we aren't ready to answer yet...just like the snooze on my alarm, the buzzer will go off again.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I've been reading a book about mindful eating called If the Buddha Came to Dinner by Hale Sofia Schatz. Schatz likens emotional growth to gardening, saying that you have to "prune" in order to grow. She wants you to clear out the dead matter to make room for new growth...and urges clients to do some "internal pruning to clear out parts of their lives that aren't nourishing them." What a great concept--spring cleaning for your soul. And apparently both physical and spiritual pruning are fine...so cleaning out the closets can be good for your emotions too.

I started to examine what kind of things I have been "pruning" to make room for new growth. I identified a few spaces that were empty already, such as the spot in the morning where I wasn't eating breakfast. This is a great opportunity to stop reading the internet and cook myself a nourishing breakfast. But there are harder choices too when we decide to "prune." What about bad habits? What about people in your life that leave you emotionally drained? Is it possible to prune the biggest patches of dead matter in your life? I can pull a few emotional "weeds" here and there, but the idea of making major changes seems daunting. Do I need an emotional weedwacker or backhoe to get rid of these parts? If so, can I rent it from my local Spiritual Home Depot? I can already think of some major changes that I need to make in order to be truly mindful, yet I have no idea how to make it happen--how to cut back until you see the signs of life among the seemingly dead undergrowth.

I suppose that its just one step at a time, one foot in front of the other. I cleaned out my closets and put some unused items on craigslist to be sold. That's a small step. I get up and go out in the fresh air to exercise. That's another step. I bought my favorite green tea to nourish myself. Now hopefully I can get through some bigger changes in the same way.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mindful Eating Part 2

Here I am, typing a post about mindful eating while snacking on a bowl of cherries! (They're delicious) Even though I am not in a rush today, I simply cannot separate eating from other activities. I took some time earlier today to reflect on why I tend to eat and work in front of the computer. I think that one reason is that eating by yourself (I'm home alone) can seem lonely at first. This morning I ate breakfast (mindfully) and although I was sitting alone at the kitchen table, I realized that there were birds chirping right outside my window to keep me company. The more I sat and listened, the less lonely I felt.

The other reason is that I feel more productive when I do two things at once. For example, I empty the dishwasher and talk to my sister on the phone, or I listen to a lecture at school and do my homework on the computer. This multi-tasking skill can come in handy, especially at work when the phone is ringing, emails need to be answered, and there are 3 people asking you questions. However, it is impossible to do your best work when you are distracted. I may get more items crossed off of my to-do list when I multi-task, but I definitely don't get the satisfaction of a job well done. I usually leave work worrying that I misspelled words in an email, or gave someone incorrect instructions. It's true that I was able to handle all of the requests at once, and most of the time I don't make mistakes. But I don't feel confident that the work was my best. This can be true of eating too. By rushing and multi-tasking, your body forgets to enjoy the food. Perhaps this is why fast-food tastes good. We get it in our cars and eat it on the way home. There are too many distractions (traffic, kids, radio) to even taste or enjoy the food we put in our mouths.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mindful Eating Part 1

As you know, I've been reading up on mindful eating. Basically, mindful eating is the practice of slowing down to enjoy and savor your food. The most important things to know for practicing mindful eating are:
1. Don't multi-task while eating. (No driving, TV watching, reading, etc)
2. Allow yourself to taste and savor your food.
3. Enjoy!

I am a notorious multi-tasker, and before I started reading these books I would usually eat breakfast over my laptop reading all the news for the day. I find it hard to sit still and just focus on my food. However, I've realized that my multi-tasking habit was really causing me to just shovel food into my mouth without even tasting it. I didn't take time to appreciate the different flavors and textures, even though I had taken the time to prepare a healthy breakfast.

For example, I just made up a bowl of low-fat plain yogurt, fresh sliced peaches, ground flax, and honey. Yet somehow, as I sat down to enjoy the yummy dish, I ended up just spooning into my mouth and swallowing without tasting anything. After I noticed that I couldn't taste the honey, I slowed down and took one bite at a time. I chewed and swallowed one bite without lifting my spoon for the second bite. Taking these few extra seconds gave me enough time to enjoy all the flavors in the ripe peach and honey. It was great!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

It's Finally Summer!

Wow! Its already mid -July, and I feel like summer has just started. I've spent the last few weeks completing finals for the year and wrapping up some big projects, and now I am really for a little summer downtime. I've picked up a few books to read this summer including "If the Buddha Came to Dinner" by Hale Sofia=Schatz, and "Eating the Moment" By Pavel G. Somov. I'm excited to delve into these books and get a better understanding of mindful eating and the mind-body connection.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Did you know?

I don't drink much caffeine because it makes me too jittery, but I love tea that can give a "pick-me-up" when I need it! Organic India makes a great herbal tea called Tulsi. Tulsi has an energizing effect--similar to caffeine, but not nearly as strong. It has a mild herbal taste, and it never gets bitter--even if you leave it steeping for too long.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Eating Organic on a Budget

Salon.com had a great feature today about an author who succeeded at eating sustainable, organic, local, ethical food on the government minimum of $248 per month for 2 adults.


The author, Siobhan Phillips, bought all of her food items (including spices and oils) with $1.20 to spare for the month. She noted that her biggest challenge was buying meat and dairy. She did manage to buy a small free-range chicken for about $9 and one pound of local ground beef for about $6, knowing that this, along with some sustainable canned fish would sustain her for the month. She also conceded that there was very little dairy in the menu. Siobhan claimed to enjoy her new cooking routine--once she adjusted to the time commitment, which included preparing dried beans, making homemade tortillas, etc. She said that it was easier to stick to her budget because she had the benefit of a flexible schedule--something not afforded to many people--which allowed her more time to shop for and prepare foods.

As a nutritionist, I would love her shopping list, because I wonder how many fresh fruits and veggies she was able to eat. As you may know, using tons of legumes and grains are a great way to stretch grocery dollars, but it is difficult to include the recommended amounts of fresh fruits and veggies--especially organic ones, when you are on a really strict budget.

I don't buy always buy organic food, because of the prices of organic fruits and veggies. I choose organic grains and legumes when possible because they are still inexpensive and have a positive effect on the environment. There is a wonderful list called "the dirty dozen" which shows the foods that are most important to buy organic because of their high pesticide content. I've included the list from organic.org below, so that if you are trying to make hard choices about what veggies to buy organic, you can put your money to the best use.

12 Most Contaminated:
Sweet Bell Peppers
Grapes (Imported)

12 Least Contaminated:
Sweet Corn (Frozen)
Sweet Peas (Frozen)
Kiwi Fruit

Sunday, April 12, 2009


I'm starting my first apartment garden this year. So far I have sprouted some basil and lettuce from seed. They will live on the windowsills in my apartment, since I don't have any outdoor space here. I'm hoping to grow enough basil to enjoy all summer long with fresh tomatoes and homemade pizza!