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Your well-oiled machine (how to cleanse without doing a “cleanse”, and why to bother)

January 30, 2013 in Healthy Eating

There’s a lot of hype about cleansing, and for good reason. It’s sparked real optimism about our ability to heal ourselves with something as nourishing as real food.  It’s fed the notion that “wellness” has become trendy and full of quackery.  It’s also ignited fierce debates about eating disorders disguised as healthy or “detoxifying” practices. 

I’ve done both the home-made cleanses and the “expert” delivery versions for the last ten years.  Some have felt terrific, others really depleting.  One I did in university involved large green pills that made me smell like a jungle.  That one ended quite quickly.  Live and learn!  I even started a group cleanse routine at the office of a large bank I worked at in New York.  Yes, I would like a high five for that last one.  There is nothing like a committed group of skeptics on a juice cleanse!

Three to five day juice-only “feasts” are intended to help you release toxins built up in your system from poor diet and environmental pollutants, to give your digestive system a bit of a breather, and to kick-start a healthier diet.  Many find that a good cleanse improves digestion, increases energy, improves mood, mental focus, and sleep issues, and eliminates cravings for things like caffeine and sugar (which overstimulate your adrenals and cause inflammation, respectively).  Not to mention producing the dewy youthful glow raw food enthusiasts are famous for. 

Like anything else, the only way to know if something is going to work for you is to try it and pay attention to how you feel.

These practices are perfect if you don’t want to do a full cleanse right now, but want to support your body to do what it does best – heal itself.

  1. Start each day with hot water with a big wedge of lemon. 
  2. This is so easy and you get a lot of mileage for very little time or money.  It stimulates digestion gently – kind of like waking up to a nice gong alarm clock or a gentle sunrise, instead of a slap in the face (a.k.a. coffee, cereal, or nothing).  Your skin will thank you, and so will your liver.  Consider it a very cheap facial.

  3. Double your intake of vegetables.  If you don’t already, make them organic.  An easy way to do this is to add things like spinach, sprouts or kale into a smoothie.  Combined with lemon, banana or pineapple, it’ll still taste like a fruit smoothie.  This will save you hours and hours of chewing vegetables, which you will never do anyway.  Another option is to have a Mediterranean breakfast that includes chopped cucumbers, tomatoes and parsley.  
  4. Cut out processed carbohydrates and sugars.  If it comes in a package, is pasta, or bread, it’s probably in this category.  With this one you really have to bite the bullet (or not bite it), because it can be tough.  It’s also rewarding in the very short term, and the long term. This stuff is clogging up your system, yielding two-hour cycles of fatigue and hunger, increasing inflammation in your entire body, impeding digestion, increasing your risk for diabetes, and making you fat.  This is a slippery slope – it’s hard to eat just one.
  5. Drink more water, and drink it earlier in the day than you usually do.  This will keep you from that evening thirst that inevitably leads to a 3 am, mid-sleep trip to the loo.  Flush your system, manage cravings, and sleep soundly through the night.
  6. Swap out at least some of your coffee for green tea.  I know you’ve heard this one before.  This is not exactly moving to a monastery, so calm down before rejecting this one.  It’s just an experiment to see how things go exchanging adrenal overstimulation for some tasty anti-oxidants, and you still get your caffeine.
  7. Enjoy organic green juice once or twice a day.  This is not the same as #2.  This is actually in addition to eating all those vegetables.  Green juice has no fiber, and if it’s fresh (which it should be), the bioavailability of the potent nutrients created by mother nature is the best you can ingest.  In my book this is the liquid gold of the food world. Note that green smoothies (like Odwalla and Naked) are often made weeks ago, and have a lot of sugars.  You want the fresh organic stuff from a juice bar, or your own juicer.  If you’ve never tried it, what are you waiting for?  
  8. Sweat or scrub once a day, any way you like.  This can mean a run, a yoga class, dancing in your living room (or with your office door closed), playing squash, a body scrub or a quick addition to your shower protocol.  Help your lymph system along, and stimulate endorphins while you’re at it.
  9. Let go of what doesn’t serve you.  Something probably came to mind as soon as you read this, and it’s not a coincidence.  However small it may seem, release thoughts, relationships or habits that are out of alignment with your authentic self.  This can be as simple as a long exhale.  It can also be much more complicated.  Start small and see what happens.

If you find it hard to start or maintain any of these practices, ask yourself why.  What are you doing instead?  What would it mean if you cared for yourself this well?  What might you release if your body wasn’t weighed down with suboptimal nutrition?

Your body is the one you have for life.  It’s smarter than “you” are, and if it’s clogged with environmental toxins and addicted to caffeine, processed foods and sugar, you’re not going to be able to tune into the wisdom you’re embodying right now.  You are so wise.  Choose a few or all of these practices, and give yourself the support you deserve.

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Cold and Flu 911

January 22, 2013 in Physical Health

So many people have asked me about this subject this season!  Home remedies to the rescue.
The good news is that getting sick a couple of times a year means that your immune system is working.  Hallelujah!  You just don’t want to be sick for more than a couple of days – it’s a drag.  You already know that if you’re reading this.  Here are a few practices that make a big difference:
1) Garlic and honey
Done right, this will not give you garlic breath – or make you smell like garlic at all!  Crush a few garlic cloves in a garlic press and leave it until it bubbles, which should be about a minute. This releases garlic’s own defense mechanism against attacks by pests, called allicin.  That’s the compound that is antibacterial and anti-fungal, and it only comes out if you mash that garlic up.  It’s a defense mechanism, after all.  Mix the pressed garlic with some raw honey (or whatever honey you have at home) to make a paste.  This is your magic remedy.  Take a baby-finger-nail size of it on the back of your tongue, washed down with a glass of water that isn’t cold (you should have stopped drinking cold water by now…).  Repeat every couple of hours.  Go ahead – do it at work, your co-workers will thank you for this tip, and for getting rid of your cold so they can stop being afraid of you.
2) Body scrubbing
Your cardiovascular system has a pump (your heart), to keep things moving.  Your lymph system doesn’t.  This is where body scrubbing comes in (exercise too, especially yoga).  Using either a dry brush before you get in the shower, or a wet one in the shower, go to town on your skin from head to toe, until you’re red and tingly.  Give extra attention to your lymph nodes, which are on the sides of your neck under each ear, in each armpit, and in that deep crease where your thigh meets your torso.  This helps your lymphatic system move and drains out toxins, kind of like a good sweat. It also gives you glowing skin and improves the appearance of cellulite!  Repeat daily to boost immunity.  I do it every morning, and it’s totally invigorating.
3) Hot ginger tea
Use the fresh stuff.  If you happen to have a high speed blender, like a Vitamix, throw about two inches of peeled ginger in with some hot water and honey, blend, and enjoy the most soothing spicy drink of all time.  If not, boil the same amount for at least 15 minutes to make a tea. You can add some honey if you like, or some fresh lemon juice.  Ginger has been used for so many things in Eastern medicine for thousands of years – from colds and flu, to menstrual cramps, to digestive issues and nausea.  These days people are even linking it to improved cardiovascular health!  It’s always in my kitchen.
There are so many immunity boosting tips, but these three are my favorites.  Obviously rest, vitamins (more on those later) and plenty of water go a long way.
Let me know how it goes!  Here’s to your good health.
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What am I doing here??

January 15, 2013 in Inspiration

A wise friend once told me that mind and body don’t always agree, but body is always right.  I intuitively knew that to be true – kind of like a baby won’t eat food that’s gone off, without contemplating why.  Babies are genius in that they don’t contemplate.  I kept looking for explanations anyway.  I didn’t want a baby answer, I wanted the opus on why this was so.  I wanted the Professor’s explanation.  I wanted proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  I looked with yoga.  I looked with body-centered therapy.  I looked with chakra healing, Chinese medicine and aryuveda.  I looked using food as medicine.  All of this looking yielded a lot of explanations, and all of them were right.  

I also looked on Wall Street.  I was there anyway, being the most serious lawyer I could be.  I arrived that first day of work bursting with excitement (the serious kind), and looked around at my incoming class of one hundred and thirty eager beavers: bright, motivated, enthusiastic, spirited, and pretty good looking for law nerds.  Good looking in that we were all in our twenties, and most of us had just had a good break since school, spent the summer outside, the men looked mostly manly, and the women had curves.  We had all just moved to New York City, the one that doesn’t sleep, the one that can do anything for you anytime, that playground for adults.  I had arrived!  I thought, naively.  This is going to be fantastic.  In many ways, it was.  My mind was having the time of her life!  The cases I worked on were out of a movie or textbook, I was learning a ton, and I discovered that I could survive on a minuscule amount of sleep.

My body, however, was barely keeping up.  I wasn’t the only one, and less than a year later I took stock of the health of my co-veterans, not to mention our bosses.  The men had turned pear shaped.  Many women had irregular periods (yes, we talk about this), and those who had been there the longest actually looked kind of like men.  Prozac and Wellbutrin – and the depression they “treat” – were normal.  Sleeping pills and alcohol were normal.  Broken relationships were normal.  High blood pressure was normal.  Bring stressed out and unhappy was normal.  Everyone was kind of grey, literally.  There were so many signs from the body that things were out of whack, but no one was listening.  The soul fires of the people I spent most of my time with had dimmed, big time.  So had mine, and the evidence was all over my life.

It took a while to integrate what I’d been studying, religiously, in the non-lawyer part of my life.  What exactly was the disagreement between mind and body, and how could I fix it and keep my day job?  Was my gig of lawyer by day and yoga teacher by night fun for me and dinner party conversation for everyone else, or was there something more to it?  Was I supposed to bail and move to an ashram?

The way we work – and the way we live while we work – is a kind of epidemic.  A totally unnecessary, habitual, gratuitous epidemic that keeps us from doing our best work, and from living happy healthy lives.  It’s not natural to not be shining your light.  Your body has probably let you know that something isn’t working, and your mission is to pay attention.  Soul fire isn’t something you can just turn on if you ignore it for too long, and you can’t really live without it.

What inspires me (and you too, I hope) is that change is much, much easier than you’d think.  It’s a breath, a stretch, an intention.  Go easy on yourself and check back here – I’d like to see that twenty-something smile back on your face.  That’s why I’m here.

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