for Urban Professionals & Other Skeptics in a Rush
This post also appears in the Huffington Post.
Last week a client came over for dinner with her family. She is a law firm partner, a graduate student, a mother and totally clueless in the kitchen. This post is for her and for those of you who also want some kitchen literacy, if only to be able to use it in a pinch. I promise this is all easier than you think, takes less time, and like everything else from Curated Wellness, is cherry-picked to give you maximum impact with minimal effort.
The day of the dinner had been a hectic one for us, topped off with a teething toddler who didn’t sleep much during the previous night. Work was busy, the house was a mess and I didn’t think twice about putting a gorgeous dinner on the table in under 30 minutes. I’m not Martha Stewart, but I know how to make dining a nearly effortless pleasure. In about five minutes from now, you will too.
There are no recipes here but my top 10 tips for being able to make a healthy beautiful meal easily and without going for a big shop, because who needs to add that to a busy day…
You’ve got this. Bon appetit!
Around this time of year, there is a race to that December 31 finish line. Projects to complete, targets to meet, people to see, cards to write, presents to get, holidays to organize, summer clothes to put away, winter clothes to find…the list goes on. It’s only November and already my to-do list and wine consumption have both doubled. At the same time, there is less daylight each day, and around us, hibernation abounds. We knew this when the leaves transformed into fall splendour, and yet we kept going at full pace.
Other than summer, which is rightly a religion in Canada, we pretend that we don’t have seasons. Somehow, we think, heated seats and other modern conveniences, like lightbulbs, will allow us to continue as if nothing is happening. Then the first flurry comes, and it’s undeniable. We trudge on through winter in our parkas, and try to get to Florida, or farther south. Some of us even delight in the crisp air and silvery snow, getting out into the cold to ski or take the kids out sledding. You winter people – you really live in the right place!
Our needs are different at this time of year than they were just a few short months ago, and paying attention to them can make the difference between a cozy winter and a marathon of colds and overwhelm. Vitamin D levels dip as sunshine hours are a distant memory, hydration plummets as heating use increases, and we start to really feel the weight of things in our lives that we don’t love. Targeted self-care that supports the seasonal transition is a great way to ease into winter, with grace.
This list of practices to support yourself is meant to be read like a menu; in the spirit of letting it be easy, I invite you to choose from it what you like, instead of trying to do it all.
There are a few spaces left in the YogaBe + CPD Skinny on burnout workshop happening next Wednesday! This December 3, 11am-1:30pm at YogaBe, the first yoga studio on Toronto’s PATH, located at MetroCentre, 200 Wellington Street W, PATH level. $185+HST secures your place, and includes a 45-minute yoga class led by studio director Laura Baron, a delicious vegan and gluten free lunch from Kupfert & Kim, and a 90-minute CPD-accredited workshop with yours truly about the Skinny on Burnout (1.5 Professionalism Hours for Ontario Lawyers). You can reserve your spot online right here. Please join us, and pass this information on to a lawyer in need – he or she will thank you.
Notice anything different? The updated look and feel of curatedwellness.ca is thanks to the creativity and tech savvy of development and communications expert Elyse Power. In the spirit of letting it be easy, have her create or recreate your website, a.k.a. portal to the world. For a taster (literally) of her unique brand of user-friendly what-you-didn’t-know-you-needed, try this robotic meal designer that finds recipes for the three random things in your fridge.
Enjoy! May the best of the season shine in your life.
One of the best perks of the work I do at Curated Wellness is getting to co-create with inspired entrepreneurs. The passion that goes into birthing a new venture brings us some of the most enriching experiences and products – and YogaBe, Toronto’s first yoga studio on the PATH, is one such creation. Its founder, Laura Baron, is a former Bay Street litigator, whose yogi tendencies compelled her to create the studio that Toronto’s financial district can now enjoy.
Together, we are offering an exceptional experience for Toronto lawyers to rejuvenate, learn, and earn those end-of-year CPD professionalism credits. The program will be hosted at YogaBe’s convenient downtown studio in the MetroCentre, on Wednesday, December 3rd. It includes a 45-minute, all-level yoga class led by Laura, a healthy lunch from PATH eatery Kupfert & Kim, and a 90-minute Curated Wellness workshop on practical strategies to manage stress and promote wellbeing called The Skinny on Burnout.
WHAT: YogaBe + CPD: The Skinny on Burnout
WHEN: Wednesday, December 3, 2014
11:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
WHERE: YogaBe Studio, 200 Wellington Street West, PATH Level, MetroCentre
COST: $185.00 + hst
Reserve your space online: yogabe.ca/CPD
We hope to see you there!
Pass this on to a lawyer friend in need, they will thank you.
March 22, 2013 in Physical Health
There are powerful anti-inflammatories on the market, and I hope you never have to take any of them. You may be able to decrease inflammation by changing your diet.
Now you’ll notice if you look at just about any diet around (with the exception of Atkins), that they all suggest eating more fruits and vegetables, less meat, and even less processed carbohydrates and refined sugars. That’s because these are excellent guidelines, whatever name the diet is given! If you remember nothing else, start there.
An “anti-inflammatory” diet adds on a few more specific recommendations:
As ever, the only way to know if this will work for you is to try it. Here’s a sample daily menu to give you some ideas about how to try on this anti-inflammatory way of eating.
None other than my favorite “brown” smoothie, which if you are not hooked on yet, you will be soon. Swirl in some lemon fish oil (I know that sounds awful, but if your back really hurts, why not try it for a week and see how you feel?).
Hearty salad with roasted root vegetables (diced, tossed in olive oil and sea salt, and roasted the night before, or even a few days before, at 375 for 45 minutes), your favorite raw greens, whole cooked spelt or quinoa, walnuts, and an olive-oil based dressing (olive oil, lemon and a little dijon make a great home made dressing).
Mediterranean lentil soup, wild salmon or black cod with maple miso and oranges, love my greens salad with hempseeds and olive oil-flax oil dressing. This menu calls for some recipes…
Excellent Lentil soup
Ingredients: 1 onion, 1 shallot, 1 cup red lentils, ½ cup short grain brown rice, 4tbsp olive oil, 6 cups vegetable stock, 2 tsp ground cumin, 1 lemon. I think the shallot takes this one over the top.
Maple-miso glazed fish
Ingredients: fatty fish filet of your choice, 1/3 cup miso, 1 tbsp maple syrup, ½ shallot, 1 inch piece of ginger, 1 orange.
Love me and my greens salad
Ingredients: your favorite salad greens, microgreens, sprouts, avocado, baby cucumber, hemp seeds, flax oil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pepper, fresh cilantro, fresh mint.
If you’re paying attention, you know that this is installment number 3 of 5 on back pain. I’ve got two more practices that I hope will have a positive impact on your back, your mood, and your life. In that order.
March 20, 2013 in Physical Health
#2 Sit on an exercise ball at your desk.
Wait! Before you succumb to the picture in your mind of your colleagues laughing hysterically as they walk by your office (or cubicle), consider this. I was that woman at a large financial institution in New York City. My colleagues had come to expect this type of health voodoo thing from me, so it was just a matter of degree. I shamelessly sat on my exercise ball, enjoying tremendous relief from back pain, strengthening my core, and doing what only the strong do best: starting a little health revolution by example.
When it’s obvious that you’re feeling good, people become curious about how and why – they want to feel good too! I ended up running their health and wellness program, and you can read some testimonials on my website about how that changed lives and organizational spirit where I worked. So…read on and get ready to work with healthier, happier people (and be one too).
Spending long stints at your desk is a primary cause of low back pain, however good your posture is, or expensive your chair is. We tend to slouch at our desks, relaxing core muscles, collapsing into the hips and low back, arching our shoulders and neck forward, and keeping hip flexors compressed for extended periods of time. While a post-it style reminder to yourself to maintain good posture may help a little, sitting on an exercise ball provides a physical reminder so that you can focus on your work, and not on a clutter of post-its. It’s also better for your body.
No matter how much counter-stretching and counter-strengthening you do at the gym or in yoga, you spend a lot more time at your desk. Spend it well. Sitting on an exercise ball forces you to keep your core engaged instead of collapsed, and encourages constant gentle movement (since the ball rolls) so that hip flexors, low back, hips, and thighs stay mobile throughout the day. Some people even find that their nervous snacking habit turns into a subtle movement one, meaning that mindless desk-snacking is replaced with a core-strengthening and hip-liberating movement practice.
It’s also pretty fun, and having fun generally leads to being more creative. You may find yourself rocking out from time to time, taking a sponteanous movement moment.
I don’t recommend abandoning your desk chair entirely right away, because it takes time to build up the endurance to be able to sit up straight all day. As often as you can, slide that desk chair over and sit on your shiny new exercise ball. When you need to slouch, switch back and take a rest. Eventually you’ll be sitting up straight for longer, standing taller, and noticing that your abdominal muscles are more toned.
Go for basics. Do not get the exercise ball with a chair attachment, but a firm exercise ball that is free to roll, without a lumbar support, at the height recommended for your height (all the websites that sell exercise balls have height guidelines). I suggest getting an “anti-burst” one, not because of burst rates for regular exercise balls, but because they are only marginally more expensive, and it seems worth the extra few dollars to not embarrass yourself at the office (or in front of yourself if you work from home).
Finally, if you’re in a private office or particularly collegial work environment, enjoy the ultimate desk-stretch of walking your feet forward and arching your back over the ball (see photo). This is the opposite of how you position your body at a desk and should feel excellent – just in case you can’t make it to yoga or the gym that day.
Did this tip help you? Please let me know! I would love to hear from you by email: rachel[at]rachelschipper[dot]com.
Could this information help someone you know? Please pass it on.
This is part 2 of a 5-part series on back pain relief, offering one practice a day for 5 days.
March 19, 2013 in Physical Health
Unpleasant as it may be, back pain is your body’s way of letting you know that something isn’t working. Figuring out what that something is, though, is a lot easier said than done. No one likes to hear this about physical sensation or illness, but the idea that you can tune into your body and live with greater harmony and ease is incredibly empowering.
I struggled with back pain for a decade, and it started to creep into other muscles in my body. It was scary. It was also kind of embarrassing, because here I was an early embracer of “new age” wellness practices, teaching and practicing a vigorous style of vinyasa yoga, and committed to the idea of the emotional body – meaning that unexpressed feelings create blockage or sensation in the body, needing expression to restore a fluid flow of energy in the body. So those days when I woke up, in my late twenties, and felt too stiff to elegantly get out of bed, hurt both my ego and my sense of wellbeing. I also felt helpless, as I know those struggling with chronic pain often do.
I tried everything. More yoga. Less yoga. Regular massage. Epsom salts baths. Acupuncture. Working through emotional issues I thought might be manifesting in low back spasm. Free movement to let my body decide how to move itself to heal. High heels. Flats. Orthotics. Dietary changes. Sleeping positions with multiple pillows as supports (very sexy). Ointments and oils. Heat and cold packs. Back-pain guru books. Taking short regular walks at work, limiting my sitting time to 30-minute increments. An orthopedic chair cover. Painkillers.
Sometimes I’d have relief, but I was always flirting with the resurgence of such incredible discomfort that it might put me in a bad mood or make it difficult for me to concentrate, or even send shooting pain up my spine one day when I just wanted to get up from my desk. There were some days when it wasn’t just my back – my whole body felt stiff and brittle. I didn’t want to go though one day this way, never mind the rest of my life!
I now have no back pain or muscle stiffness. Not monthly, not after or during exercise, not when I wake up. Every body is different, and the only way to know if something will work for yours is to try it.
I’m so excited to share this series of practices to alleviate back pain with you. In this mini-series I’ll be focusing on five practices that had the biggest impact on my back pain and muscle stiffness. Tune in daily to learn about the next practice, or sign up for Curated Enlightenment to get it delivered to your inbox.
#1: Heading the list is taking magnesium glycinate, twice a day, every day.
(A side note about vitamins: They don’t work if you buy them and don’t take them. They also don’t work if you only take them some of the time. You need to take them daily to see and feel the results.)
We associate magnesium with old age and bowel regularity, but this key supplement, brought to my attention by the absolutely brilliant biochemist, immunologist and cell biologist Aileen Burford-Mason, contributes to much more than your morning bathroom routine. Among its many essential roles in your body, magnesium relaxes your muscles, countering calcium, which causes muscles to contract. Magnesium is also a key player in the production of collagen, in metabolism, and contributes to improved sleep quality. In her excellent book, Eat Well Age Better, Burford-Mason calls this mineral an “energetic multi-tasker…the most important mineral in the body.”
Magnesium is also quite difficult to get enough of in your diet, and is generally not in the ideal proportion for your body in calcium-magnesium supplements or in multivitamins, making pure magnesium supplements essential. About 65% of Canadians are magnesium deficient, with symptoms ranging from muscle soreness or cramping, to constipation, to high blood pressure.
To find your base dose, Burford-Mason suggests “titrating to bowel tolerance”. This involves starting with 100mg of magnesium glycinate (not citrate) in the morning, and then increasing your dose by 50mg every three days, alternating adding the extra 50mg morning and night every three days. For example, days 1-3 take 100mg in the morning; days 4-6 take 100mg in the morning and 50mg at night; days 7-9 take 150mg in the morning at 50 mg at night…and so on.
Continue until you have two to three healthy bowel movements per day (you read that right!). That is your base dose. It’s not the same for everyone, and it’s not the same for you all the time. Your body leaches more magnesium when you’re stressed (measurable in your urine), so you might need to increase your dose if you have a big project or meeting, or other heightened stress in your life. However, seeing the impact that magnesium has on many body functions, from metabolism, to stress, sleep and muscle spasm at your base dose will give you a great base line from which to read your body to know if you need more or less in special circumstances.
Consult your doctor for concerns about any interaction with other medications or specific questions about magneiusm and your body.
If you think this might help someone you know, pass it on!
January 22, 2013 in Physical Health
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