Yes, you read that subject line right. Chocolate is good for you! In fact, pure, raw cacao (pronounced cuh-COW; the proper name for pure chocolate) is the number one antioxidant food on the planet. Pound for pound, cacao is richer in antioxidants than blueberries, red wine, or black and green teas! And we all gotta admit; chocolate makes us feel good! That's because cacao acts to increase the levels of specific stress relieving neurotransmitters in our brain, such as serotonin, endorphins, phenylethylamine (PEAs), and anandamide.  Anandamide is known as the "bliss chemical" because it is released by the brain when we are feeling happy! And studies have shown quite consistently that dark chocolate particularly, with a cocoa content of at least 70%, reduces oxidative stress and improves vascular and platelet function. 


So yes, chocolate, in it's purest form,  is a health food. But as with anything, you can have too much of a good thing. The key is to eat minimally processed raw cacao in small amounts; just enough to receive the health-boosting qualities and leave you with that 'blissed-out' feeling.

All chocolate is initially made from cacao, which is the edible part of the cocoa bean after it has been harvested. The unfortunate part is that most commercial chocolate bars have 
low levels of cacao in comparison to the amount of  sugars, milk fat, and artificial flavorings they contain. What's wrong with adding a little of that stuff to the mix, you may ask? Well for starters, most of the health promoting properties are destroyed by cooking, processing, and refining. Additionally, dairy products actually block the absorption of antioxidants in chocolate. So now the question is... what do I need to look  for in health-promoting chocolate?

Keep in mind that 'chocolate' does not equal cacao bean, nor vice-versa. Look  for 100% organic cocoa powder or cacao nibs from a company that minimally processes the cocoa to ensure that the health properties are retained, or choose only high cacao percentage dark chocolate bars (typically at least 70% cacao content or higher), also from a high-quality provider. And don't forget to make sure it's fair trade certified too!
 
 
I'm proud to say that I didn't gain the dreaded 'freshmen 15' in college. Nope, not me...I waited until I got out of college and started my first real job to reach that milestone! Working at a busy orthopedic outpatient therapy clinic, we were fortunate to have many grateful patients walk through our doors every day. And just how does the grateful patient show their appreciation? Through food of course! The break room of the clinic was always stocked full of danishes, muffins, bagels, cakes, cookies, brownies, pastries, you name it. If it had sugar and flour in it, it was in our break room, and it had my name all over it. It wasn't until a fellow co-worker remarked to me one day, "You're getting a little belly there, Lori" that I realized what my untamable sweet tooth was doing to me. 

Even while training for my first marathon, I managed to gain weight (and I'm not talking about muscle folks, I'm talking about fat). I would like to say that I was quickly snapped back to reality and banished my sugar addiction, by putting a quick end to it right then and there. But that wouldn't make for much of story. Instead, I experimented with the grapefruit diet, the cardiac diet, the high protein diet, the 'skipping breakfast diet' and even the Kellogg's diet (this was my favorite, you ate two meals of Kellogg's cereal, and then one large meal of regular food each day for two weeks and you were 'guaranteed' to lose at least 5 pounds!). But none of these worked in the long run. It wasn't until I changed jobs that I  was able to drop my 'freshmen 15'. I was out of the war zone and I wasn't forced to fight my temptations on a daily basis. But I knew deep down I hadn't really won, and it was a battle that I would continue to fight. So far I figured it was Sugar 1, Lori 0. But eventually, I came out victorious...

My transition occured when I started eating more nutrient rich foods, and focused on what I should eat, rather than on what I SHOULDN'T. The good stuff began to crowd out the bad, until one day I walked by my favorite cookies at Whole Foods and realized that I truly didn't want to rip open the bag and devour them. Yes, this was a pivotal moment. It wasn't just self control or mind over matter. It was a true transformation in my taste buds. I realized just how far I had come this past December when in one day I was tempted with the ghosts of sugar past, multiple times. I am a practicing home health PT, and my first client of the day offered me a nice warm cup of hot chooclate, complete with those tiny marshmallow-like sugarladen things on top. No thanks, I said, and I really meant it. There was nothing tempting to me about that drink, even on this cold (read: 60 degrees and sunny) winter day in Southern California. Next stop, I was offered a large peanut butter filled chocolate bar. This used to be my downfall...peanut butter and chocolate! But to my surprise my body didn't even tell me this processed candy sounded appetizing in the least. This was a true miracle, coming from a girl who used to take a spoonful of peanut butter and dip it into a bag of chocolate chips for a sweet snack. Now what about by the end of the day, when I was really getting hungry and I walked into my next patient's home to be greeted by the sweet smell of cake, and a moist, decadent looking cupcake being offered to me on the spot? I checked in for a response... NOTHING. I did not have any desire to eat the cupcake!

I attribute my victorious outcome over sugar to a gradual change in my taste buds that happened once I began replacing empty calories, and sugar laden, processed junk with nutrient dense, fiber rich, blood sugar stabilizing foods. I can say with the utmost truth that I do not feel deprived in the least, and I have never felt better. Do I have a little sweet snack every now again? Sure I do. But I don't spiral out of control, nor do I get on the sugar roller coaster with one sight of a chocolate chip cookie. I eat what I want, when I want... but the crazy thing is I want the sweet stuff less and less. Once you realize that you have control over food, and that it doesn't control you, and you can enjoy it soooo much more!

Want to learn how to tame YOUR sweet tooth? Join my 21 day sugar cleanse.
 
 
I can vividly remember the first time I tried to tackle running Cowles Mountain (at 1592 ft, it's the highest point in the city of San Diego). I started off feeling pretty strong, and I noticed a skinny man just ahead of me, wearing Levi's and high tops. I figured I would blow past him in a few switchbacks. Fast forward half a mile later and he was almost out of my sight...but he was ahead of me! I struggled up the trail, but found myself frequently slowing down to a walk in order to catch my breath and give my legs a rest. Each time I felt sufficiently recovered, I would plug along again to push my way up to the peak. When I finally arrived at the top, I was rewarded with a high five from the elusive blue jeans runner. "Good job" he said. I was embarrassed. "Oh no, I was awful!" I corrected him. "How do you do it?!" I asked. He told me he was watching me as I pushed my way up the mountain, and then he gave me some advice that I really took to heart...

"You were trying too hard," he told me. "I saw that you kept speeding up and then slowing down. You were making it more difficult than it is. I'm not fast and I'm not the strongest runner, but I can run this mountain and so can you. Once you do it once, you'll do it every time. Guaranteed." He advised me to slow down a bit, to take shorter, lighter steps, and to not get so caught up in my speed. I took his advice. It took me two more attempts, but by the second time, I made it to the top of the mountain without stopping to walk! And he was right, I did it every time after that.

So what made it so easy? What was this 'magic' I had found that allowed me to tackle a challenging run with relative ease? The answer I came up with was reaffirmed when I read the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.  I realized that the ease comes with the intention behind the effort. In Kevin Costner terms, it's about doing it 'for the love of the game'. So often we go for a run, spend an hour at the gym, or take a fitness class, because we feel it's necessary in order to look good. It becomes a check on our lengthy to-do list. It becomes a chore. As McDougall explains, as a child, were you ever TOLD to run? No way! You were always on the run; you had to be told to slow down! You ran because it felt good. It's as we get older, and we start to become entrenched in the expectations of society and what we should look like, that exercise becomes a duty instead of a delight. McDougall believes that running is our birthright, and our bodies crave movement. He tells the story of ultra-runners who cover distances of 150+ miles, and then cross the finish line with no glory, no recognition, no notoriety. They run races because it gives them joy, and that is precisely what enables them to do it. I suggest we broaden this theory on running to all forms of activity. Whether you feel good when you run, walk, practice yoga, lift weights, or even just take the stairs, do it because it makes you feel good. Not because you want to end up with a tight butt, or drop a few pounds, or fit into your skinny jeans. Sure those are great perks, and it is certainly a tribute to your health to stay fit, but let the reason for the sport stem from somewhere deeper. When you let go of expectations, and just allow yourself to engage in the pure bliss of the activity, it can become effortless.

So why did I make it up the mountain? I made it because I let go of any expectations, and instead I simply took pleasure in the movement. I let my feet feel light and easy, and I used the time as a meditation rather than a struggle. It also helped that each week I passed my mentor in blue jeans somewhere along the trail, and each time he would give me a knowing smile and a high five!

If you find yourself fighting to get out the door to exercise, my advice is simple: Don't make it about the exterior results; just do what you love. Remember, regardless of your size, weight, shape, height, or fitness level, we were all BORN TO RUN!



 
 
Picture
We all have our own personal fears, and the times when we overcome our fears can be so gratifying. Sometimes our fears keep us confined, and limit us from growing and changing and learning. When we face our fears head on, and better yet conquer them, we are left with a sense of accomplishment and gratification that is priceless. But sometimes we need a little guidance, or a helping hand, to get past our limiting beliefs and move out into the realm of the seemingly impossible. A mentor can serve an excellent role in this regard. A mentor does not judge, but instead holds certain beliefs, and has the knowledge and experience to teach you the skills that will enable to reach your goals. I view myself as a mentor when it comes to my health coaching practice. I have information, and my objective is to translate it as wisdom and guidance to help my clients achieve their goals. The world is full of information, but sometimes we just need that extra push that can only come from someone who has walked the same path.

Picture
I had a taste of this first-hand last weekend when I experienced outdoor mountain climbing for the first time. Our guides, Nate and Chris, were the perfect example of what mentors should be. They were obviously very skilled in the art of mountain climbing, and so I looked to them with confidence to guide me through this daunting undertaking. What I found the most beneficial was the way they pushed me out my comfort zone. I have to admit, it was certainly a little scary being hundreds of feet from the ground, on the side of a mountain, and having to think about the decision of where to place my foot next and not slip and fall. There times I wanted to give up. There were times when my arms were fatigued and I was frustrated. There were times when I looked down and made the connection of what I was doing, and just wanted to be back on solid ground. I would yell down. "Ok, I want to get down now!" and they would shout back, "Don't give up Lori. Take a rest. Shake your arms out. Take a look around and think about it. It will be worth it when you reach the top".  This was a little irritating at first, because I REALLY wanted to get down! But I tried to be a good student, and took their advice. And when I reached the top of my last climb, my arms and legs were fatigued, but my pride was as strong as ever. I couldn't have done it without them. Sure, I physically did it on my own, but without that extra push and words of encouragement, I would have given up, and I would have never know how it felt to have that sense of accomplishment otherwise. That feeling has always been, and still remains, the goal I hope to achieve for my clients as well.

 
 
For most of us, the evening is our downtime, where can relax and unwind from the events of the day. Many of us also utilize the evening to get caught up on other responsibilities, such as bill paying, emails, homework, etc. The problem we often run into is that as we multi-task, or even just watch our favorite shows, we are simultaneously eating. This unconscious eating can easily result in a massive intake of calories, which can quickly sabotage even our best efforts from the day. Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that many people attempt to restrict caloric intake during the day, for weight loss, by doing things such as skipping breakfast, having a small lunch, or even skipping lunch altogether. Binging in the evening is much more likely to occur when meals have been skipped or severely restricted. In general, people who spread their meals throughout the day seem to be better able to control their eating habits in the evening. 

Our digestive fires are the strongest mid day, while the evening is the time when our bodies' janitor, the liver, wants to get work to clean and detoxify. For this reason, it would make sense to eat your heaviest meal at lunch, and to keep dinner fairly light. The liver can't do its best work when energy is being utilized for other digestive processes. Additionally, eating large amounts of food late in the evening can result in indigestion and poor sleep. This leaves a person tired the next day, which often results in food cravings, especially in the form of sugar, as the body seeks a quick energy boost. Sleep is also a regulator of two hormones that affect appetite, leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is a hormone that signals satiety and suppress food intake, while ghrelin stimulates appetite and fat production. When a person is sleep deprived, the level of leptin drops and the level of ghrelin increases. This of course results in abnormal hunger. And so the combination of late night eating and lack of sleep can add up to a vicious cycle of late night binges, lack of adequate sleep, uncontrolled snacking, late night binges, and so on!

So how can you break free of this cycle? First start by taking steps to become a more 'conscious eater':
  • Create a calm environment, by eating in silence, or play relaxing music;  you may even want to light a candle.
  • Chew your food slowly, and take time to really taste and enjoy each bite.
  • Put your fork down while you chew.
  • Consider eating with chopsticks when feasible.
  • Turn off the television, and avoid other distractions, such as being on a computer or talking on the phone.
Other ways to avoid late night bingeing are by planning some diversions for the evening, but make sure that you DON'T include food in these activities. Some suggestions may be reading a book or taking a pet for a walk. It is also beneficial to create a calming evening routine to prepare you for a good night's rest. Turn off your computer at least an hour before bed, and NEVER take 'work' into bed. Your mind needs some time to be still so that you can drift off to sleep free of anxiety and stress. 

And here's an added bonus to creating these recommended good habits: According to John Robbins new book, "The New Good Life", people spend an extra $208 annually for every hour of television watched per week. (I can only assume this is largely due to all the food unconsciously swallowed while vegging in front of the tv). That means that conscious eating will not only help you to lose weight, it will help you save money too!


 

Go Local

07/27/2010

2 Comments

 

This past month my fabulous friend Reese and I enjoyed a beautiful Saturday afternoon at a local organic farm, La Milpa. Once a month, the owners of this farm graciously host a free open house where a potluck dinner is enjoyed. It is followed by live music, and then a movie under the stars viewed from a haystack seat under the oak trees, with a glass of wine in hand. Now that's my idea of a perfect night! The beauty of this event is that it brings together people from all over San Diego county to learn where their food comes from, meet others with a similar passion for sustainable food, and most noteworthy, leave with a deeper knowledge of the importance of eating local.
Picture
During our visit, there were so many delicious items, as everyone brings a dish to share. Pizzas are cooked in an outdoor wood-fired oven. The owner of the farm makes homemade pizza dough, and then tops it with fresh veggies and non-dairy Daiya cheese. It was the best pizza I have had in a long, long time!

La Milpa grows organic vegetables, greens and herbs, which they deliver to local restaurants, community supported agriculture members (CSAs), and sell at the San Diego farmer’s markets. La Milpa is owned by a family that is passionate about the land, healthy eating, and educating others.

Picture
One of the owners of La Milpa treated us to a tour of the farm, as he explained the many benefits of supporting local agriculture:

YOU'LL GET EXCEPTIONAL TASTE AND FRESHNESS.
Local food is fresher and tastes better than food shipped long distances from other states or countries. Local farmers can offer produce varieties bred for taste and freshness rather than for shipping and long shelf life. Fresh, local fruits and vegetables also retain more nutrients than produce shipped hundreds of miles. When you eat local food, you are getting food much more rich in vitamins and minerals, in addition to the great taste. 

YOU'LL STRENGTHEN YOUR LOCAL ECONOMY.
Buying local food keeps your dollars circulating in your community. Getting to know the farmers who grow your food builds relationships based on understanding and trust, the foundation of strong communities.

YOU'LL SUPPORT ENDANGERED FAMILY FARMS.
There's never been a more critical time to support your farming neighbors. With each local food purchase, you ensure that more of your money spent on food goes to the farmer.

YOU'LL SAFEGUARD YOUR FAMILY'S HEALTH. 
 Knowing where your food comes from and how it is grown or raised enables you to choose safe food from farmers who avoid or reduce their use of chemicals, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, or genetically modified seed in their operations. Buy food from local farmers you trust.

YOU'LL PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT
 Local food doesn't have to travel far. This reduces carbon dioxide emissions and packing materials. Buying local food also helps to make farming more profitable and selling farmland for development less attractive. 



Picture
Some easy ways to support your local farms are:
-Buy local at your grocery store, and encourage your grocer to support local farms. Look at label for county of origin so that you be sure to choose local whenever possible.
-Eat food that is in season. Do you really need to have certain foods ALL year long? When you eat in season often you are forced to step outside of your comfort zone and try new foods, and that is always a good thing!
-Shop at farmer's markets or join a CSA (find one near you here)

Remember, when you buy local food, you cast a vote with your dollar. This vote ensures that family farms in your community will continue to thrive and that healthy, flavorful, plentiful food will be available for future generations.

 
 
As the summer begins, most people start thinking about slathering on the sunblock when they will be spending outdoors, in order to protect themselves from a sunburn, and of course skin cancer. While it is prudent to avoid baking yourself in the sun and ended up looking like a lobster (and in severe pain), the sun’s rays have many benefits that you should consider taking full advantage of.

Although too much sun can lead to skin cancer, the Vitamin D that is activated by the sun actually is cancer preventative in many ways. It acts as a signal to let your body know when cells need to die! Cell overgrowth is basically cancer, and so by alerting old cells to die off, the sunshine helps protect us from cancer.

Many people take calcium supplements, but don’t realize that too much supplementation can have detrimental effects. How about getting your calcium naturally? You certainly won’t overdose if you go this route. There are plentiful amounts of calcium in leafy greens, and their calcium uptake can be promoted by 5% by mixing in a little Vit D courtesy of our yellow friend in the sky. So go eat a yummy salad and then lie out on the beach… doctors orders :)

Of course there may be times when you will be exposing yourself to high amounts of sun, and need a little protection. In that case, you want to look for products that are natural, or as close to natural as possible. Keep in mind that anything you slather on your skin is absorbed into your bloodstream. So a sunscreen full of ingredients you can’t pronounce is not what you want to coating your precious body with. Oxybenzine is present in many sunscreens, and fortunately it’s not a carcinogen.. that is, not until it is exposed to the sun! Yep, that’s right. Once you use it for the purpose it was intended for in the product, it becomes carcinogenic!

Did you know that due to FDA terminology, only synthetic substances can be labeled with an SPF factor?? That means that natural products, like red raspberry seed oil which has an SPF equivalent of 25, cannot tout that claim on their packaging. So if you see an SPF rating on a product, you can be sure that it is not ’all natural’.

So what to do? When you need to protect yourself from overdosing on those warming rays, look for sunscreen with zinc oxide, and mostly natural ingredients. You can check the safety of a product at www.cosmeticsdatabase.com or HERE.

Also, check out www.livinglibations.com for a product called “Everbody Loves the Sunshine”. This is an ALL natural product (thus no SPF rating) that gives your skin rich oils and nutrients to work WITH the sun, not against it!

Now, get off your computer and go soak up the sun!!!

 
 
You can be using the best cosmetics out there, but you still may not be giving your skin what it needs to reach its full potential. To truly nourish your skin and achieve a radiant, youthful glow, proper nutrition and adequate hydration are key! When it comes to healthy-looking skin, nutrition beats cosmetics hands down. So what is your skin starving for?

Water is crucial! Dehydration leaves skin looking dry and wrinkled. Most of you probably know this already, but one more thing to keep in mind is that water you drink has to be clean!!! The best source of natural water is from a natural spring. If you live near one, you can bottle your own for free. If you don't have this good fortune, I think the next best thing is having a water filter in your home. This allows you to bottle your water from home, instead of buying plastic bottles that create waste AND often contain toxic chemicals in the plastic. Other great sources of water are the naturally occurring water in fresh, raw fruits and vegetables, and my personal favorite... coconut juice!!

Zinc is an important mineral that is vital for skin repair (it also is an important nutrient for prostate health). Pumpkin seeds are a potent source of zinc. They can easily be snuck in to your daily diet by sprinkling them on your morning oatmeal, or topping off your salad with a handful of raw seeds.

Finally, raw, live foods naturally support vibrant living skin. Consuming raw juices, or foods, on a daily basis is the quickest way to transform your skin. When I eat more raw foods, I notice a difference within just one day! It's truly miraculous! On the other hand, dead foods, such as fried food and animal products, often lead to breakouts and rapid skin aging. 

So drink your water, get your zinc, eat your veggies, and enjoy the free beauty products that nature made for you and your skin craves!
 
 

Inflammation is believed by many to be the root cause of many diseases and disorders, such as diabetes, heart disease, and even obesity. To some degree, inflammation is a necessary part of our bodies healing process. But all too often, and mostly due to poor diet, the inflammatory response grows too strong.The food we eat every day plays a critical role in the inflammatory balance within our system. Read on to learn about three foods that will ease the inflammatory fires in your body:

1. Apple Cider Vinegar: ACV contains acetic acid, which is beneficial in a few ways. First, it helps the body more efficiently absorb iron. This is crucial as iron is an important mineral in the oxygen carrying molecules hemoglobin and myoglobin. Boosting oxygen levels increases both energy production and detoxification processes. The Acetic acid and active enzymes within the ACV also help the body metabolize protein and absorb the amino acids more effectively. This is a critical step for building healthy hormones and enzymes and repairing tissue. Through these mechanisms, ACV helps to recover from injury, excessive exercise, and states of chronic pain. Additionally, better enzymatic function will increase energy and sense of well-being. ACV is an acid on the outside of our body, but has an alkaline effect when it is digested within our body. This is the best of both worlds. As an acid it is a powerful sterilizer that is great for improving the quality of our skin & hair. Within the body, ACV balances our overall pH by providing alkaline buffering minerals in ionic potassium and magnesium. This benefit enhances overall energy production and detoxification processes. Be sure to purchase your ACV completely raw and unpasteurized.



2. Turmeric: This powerhouse is the 4th highest anti-oxidant rich herb The major ingredient curcumin is what gives turmeric its characteristic orange color. The curcuminoids within turmeric are said to be 5-8 times stronger at scavenging free radicals than Vitamin C & E. They help to cleanse & nourish your skin while balancing the skin`s natural microflora that protects you from infections. Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory. Additionally, curcuminoids have been labeled by many as some of the most powerful cancer fighting substances on the planet.


3. Oregano: Oregano is also extraordinarily high in antioxidant activity, ranking in as the 3rd highest herb. The primary anti-oxidant components are phenolic acids and flavonoids. Oregano oil has incredible anti-bacterial functions due to its high content of thymol, a powerful phenol. Additionally, oregano has been found to be the most effective substance against MRSA staph infections, beating out the 18 currently used anti-biotics in a recent study. Oregano oil has been classically used as a disinfectant, an aid for ear, nose, & throat/respiratory infections, candida, and any sort of bacterial or viral conditions. Additionally, it works to suppress inflammatory mediators and cancer cell production. Oregano oil is more potent than the dried herb; however, the dried version still contains many powerful health benefits.





Information courtesy of Naturalnews.com

 
 
There are many detoxification programs, and the one that suits you best will vary depending on your individual needs. Many programs follow a 7-day schedule because it takes the body some time to clean the blood. For my clients I often recommend a 3-7 day raw and/or juice fast (drinking and eating only fresh fruit and vegetable juices and water) as an effective way to release toxins. However, this type of detox should only be taken on with some education of the detox process. Still, there are many simple ways that you can cleanse your body daily through diet, supplements and lifestyle practices...

10 Simple Ways to Help Your Body Detoxify

1. Eat plenty of fiber, including brown rice and organically-grown fresh fruits and vegetables. Beets, radishes, artichokes, cabbage, broccoli, spirulina, chlorella, and seaweed are excellent detoxifying foods.

2. Cleanse and protect the liver by taking herbs such as dandelion root, burdock and milk thistle, and drinking green tea.

3. Take vitamin C, in whole foods or supplement form. This helps the body produce glutathione, a liver compound that drives away toxins.

4. Drink at least 2 quarts of water daily.

5. 
Breathe deeply to allow oxygen to circulate more completely through your system.

6. Transform your 
stress by emphasizing positive emotions, instead of dwelling on the negative.

7. Practice hydrotherapy by taking a very hot shower for five minutes, allowing the water to run on your back. Follow with cold water for 30 seconds. Do this three times, and then get into bed for 30 minutes.

8. Sweat in a sauna so your body can eliminate wastes through perspiration.

9. Dry-brush your skin or try 
detoxifying patches or  detox foot spas / foot baths to remove toxins through your pores. Special brushes are available at natural products stores. 

10. EXERCISE!!!! This is one of the very best ways to detox. Do what resonates with you...run, practice yoga, go for a brisk walk, or even jump rope. When you you enjoy yourself during exercise, the benefits are even greater!!