Thursday, May 24, 2012

6 Reasons Why Eating Locally is a Holistic Practice

This is the time of year when the farmer’s markets start popping up and depending on where you are, you may have access to quite a variety of produce and locally produced foods.  And while sometimes it’s much easier to run into the grocery store for the items you need, there are some real benefits to visiting a local farmer or an outdoor market:

1.  Freshness - since the produce is locally grown, you can bet that it’s not only fresh, but picked at its peak so that it has the greatest abundance of nutrients possible.  Much of the produce found in the large grocery stores is picked long before it’s ripe and then travels long distances.  Sometimes they’re also treated with chemicals to ripen them on the trip.

2.  Seasonal Eating - These days, we have access to everything around the globe, which means it’s easy to make a tropical fruit salad in winter, or even have access to quinoa from South America.  When we eat locally produced, seasonal foods, though, we live in harmony with nature and give our bodies what they need naturally.   Here in New England, spring and summer are the times to eat early greens and berries, and they’re naturally detoxifying and cooling, which is exactly what our bodies need in the hot weather.  Root vegetables that are in season in the fall and winter naturally add more warmth to the body.  

3.  Getting to Know Your Farmer - Buying your produce at a farmer’s market give you an opportunity to get to know your farmers and their farming practices.  For example, I’ve spoken to several farmers about pesticide treatment.  Most have told me that they practice integrative pest management, which means that their fields are inspected regularly and then only treated for a specific bug or disease if and when necessary.  One farmer in Boston explained to me that they must often treat their apple trees after the greenhouses in Canada open up, because they release spores into the air that travel hundreds of miles and infect their trees.  When you understand how and why a farmer is raising their produce, you can make more educated decisions about the food you spend your money on and eat.

4.  Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) - Many farms now offer CSAs, meaning that members of the community can pay a one-time fee to receive a basket of produce and locally crafted foods on a weekly basis.  The nice thing about this is that you’ll be given what’s fresh and coming up at the time.  In addition, you’re investing in the success of the farm, which is a win-win situation for everyone.  The more support the farms can get, the more likely they’ll survive and be there to offer the best quality produce you can get.

5.  Reducing Your Carbon Footprint - Produce that is grown and sold locally on smaller farms requires less fuel for transportation and potentially less petrochemical fertilizers that are often required for large-scale growth.  This helps us all reduce energy consumption in a way that has a direct benefit on our health.

6.  Fostering a Sense of Community - By supporting your farmers, you help strengthen the local community and meet like-minded people in the process.  We all want to belong to something and supporting local farms isn’t limited to farmer’s markets or CSAs.  Today, many farms team with local and popular restaurants to host “chef-to-table” or “farm-to-table” dinners that feature the farm’s ripe produce as well as other local fare.  I attended one at Starlight Garden Farms in Durham, CT that offered a seven-course meal and was set out in the open field of tomato plants.   The food, the atmosphere, the conversation, all made for a memorable event.

To find farmer’s markets in your area, visit Local Harvest, where you can also find farms and their offerings as well as purchase farm-produced products from their online store. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Testimonial of Hope

While I’m always talking about the benefits of a health coaching program, I thought I would let you hear from one of my clients what working with me has done for her.  Laura is someone who decided that she was ready to make a commitment to her health, for herself as well as for her family.  In a little over three months, her transformation has been remarkable and she shares her story below:

Four months ago, I decided I was sick and tired of being sick and tired (and 30 pounds overweight).   I had swung back and forth between utilizing a lemon-maple syrup detox to the Atkins diet, always reverting back to eating the things I shouldn’t because it was a holiday, or someone’s birthday, or a wedding, or the Fall (who doesn’t like comfort foods in the Fall!), or the sky was blue today or it was raining.  I always found a reason for comforting myself with food – and knew without a doubt that one bite would lead to weeks of bad habits…I would refer to sugar being like crack to me (no – I never did crack!)  I would always justify what I was doing to myself and decide that “It’s the weekend – I might as well enjoy it and start over on Monday”.  So many Mondays came and went, and the result was my deteriorating health, confidence, and well-being.

I changed myself over to a more “whole foods / organic / no preservative” way of eating and lost 7 pounds, but I still wasn’t feeling good and was very frustrated with the amount of arthritic pain I was experiencing at only 46 years of age.  I felt like I was 86!  This was keeping me from fully enjoying life, including what one would consider normal activities with my husband, children, and grandchildren.  Climbing a flight of stairs winded me.  My legs would ache and my heart would pound. I woke each morning with pain in my back (inherited degenerative spine) and significant pain in my hips and ankles.  I would literally shuffle to the bathroom like someone twice my age.  Everything hurt – and I was tired of it.  If this was how I felt at 46 – what would the next 30-40 years bring?  Would I even be here in 30-40 years?  I honestly wondered (and worried).

I was on the phone one day, complaining about the things that were getting in the way of my getting in better shape.  My friend mentioned that she had a friend who was a nutritionist, and that she had done a detoxification program with her that she thought might be beneficial to me.  My friend gave me Linda’s contact information, and that was the beginning of a real transformation in my life.  Truly, working with Linda and utilizing the guidance she provided has most certainly added years to my life, and more importantly, life to my years.

After speaking with Linda for my one hour consultation, I knew I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I felt my health was worth the investment, and I owed it to myself and my family to give it a try. 

Within the first two months of working with Linda, I had dropped an additional 15 pounds and no longer required blood pressure medication.  I believe this to be far more important than the weight loss. I noticed that, despite still hurting in the morning, I awoke looking forward to my day.  More of the clothes in my closet were fitting, and people were noticing not just the weight loss, but that I looked healthy and had more energy.

While I was feeling better, had lost some weight and gotten off the blood pressure medication, I was still dealing with the issues of the arthritis, and this was frustrating to me.  Talking through this with Linda, we decided that it could be beneficial for me to go through her detoxification program. While I was no longer taking narcotic pain medication, I’d been on a lot of narcotic pain medications over the years for Fibromyalgia and following several difficult surgeries (spinal fusion and two shoulder surgeries).  Years of being in pain and on medication could not have been good for my liver, and Linda explained that sometimes our bodies hold onto this, causing a myriad of health issues.  If the detoxification program could be helpful in dealing with the arthritis, I was willing to try anything and signed up for the 28 day detox.

I am in week three of the detox as I write this testimonial.  I have lost a total of 27 pounds (20 since starting with Linda).  What is most significant about the detox is that I have absolutely no joint or muscle pain.  Funny – it suddenly struck me in the middle of week two that my pain was completely gone.  I could get up in the morning and walk down the stairs normally (not sideways to ease the hip pain like before the detox) and get the coffee instead of having to shower first just to limber up my joints.  I no longer shuffle, my ankles do not hurt and I wake up each morning pain-free.

I am completely gluten free – and I believe this to be the largest contributor to the change in my health.  While I was not having any stomach issues relating to gluten, it was most definitely responsible for the inflammatory response in my body, resulting in significant pain. Once I stopped putting all of the garbage in, my palate became much more sensitive and I could taste the natural sweetness of whole foods!

I believe I have found the way my body wants me to eat.  I can’t even imagine going back to my old habits and ways of eating.  I really appreciate that I am no longer living to eat, but eating to live.  There is a very big difference. Food no longer consumes my thinking.

I am now 47 years old.  My husband and I have thirteen very energetic grandchildren, whom I want to be around to enjoy for years to come.  The pictures included with this testimonial say it all. There’s one from last Fall on a motorcycle ride to Lake George.  You can see the weight I was holding onto.  I felt even worse than I looked.  The other pictures are recent…with a couple of my grandchildren, of course.  I no longer look tired and worn out – nor do I feel it!

It’s my hope in writing this testimonial that others will have hope and that you will realize your health is worth it.  Three months is not an exorbitant amount of time.  You can do anything for three months.  I say three months because I knew that was enough time for me to determine whether or not the program was having an impact on me and then make an educated decision about moving forward.  I’ve since decided to continue with Linda for a bit while I finish out the detox program.  It has been worth every moment and every cent. 

While everyone’s story is different, Laura’s demonstrates that with determination, it is possible to turn around your physical health.  If poor health is preventing you from doing the things you want to do, please make a commitment to yourself to change that.   I can help you get on a path to healthier eating and lifestyle habits that will increase your energy, help you shed unwanted weight, reverse the effects of lifestyle diseases, and improve your mood.  It will change your life…

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Lessons From Nutella

I was recently reading about the two women who sued the makers of Nutella for false advertising.  One woman won $3.5 million in a class action lawsuit with the opportunity for anyone to file a claim for up to $20. 

On one hand, this may be a wake-up call for food manufacturers to stop advertising false claims about their products and that would be a good thing.  Packaged/processed foods frequently carry labels that say “all natural”, “heart healthy”, “may help lower the risk of heart disease”, etc., yet there are very few, if any processed foods that are healthy in any way, shape, or form. 

As consumers, though, there are a couple of points to remember when shopping for groceries that make lawsuits like this totally unnecessary and eventually obsolete:

Firstly, my knee jerk reaction to this lawsuit was similar to how I felt about the woman who burned herself with McDonald’s hot coffee and was awarded millions: where’s the personal responsibility?

One woman claimed that she only learned through friends what ingredients were in Nutella.  Yet, the label clearly states the ingredients.  If you’re not familiar with how to read a food label, the ingredients are listed in order of highest to lowest amounts.  Nutella’s first ingredient is sugar, which immediately makes it unhealthy.

Second, most health conscious consumers carefully read food labels to understand exactly what they’re putting into their bodies.  The winner of the lawsuit said that if she read all the labels when grocery shopping, it would take her four hours to shop.

The easiest way to reduce the amount of time spent reading labels and the fastest path to better health through diet is to avoid buying foods with labels and health claims.  A head of broccoli doesn’t come with a label explaining that it’s full of fiber, low in sodium and fat, or loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients - but it is. 

Ultimately, we are responsible for our diets, and those of our children, by the food choices we make.  We must be our own food detectives to understand exactly what we’re spending our money on and eating and the less we choose processed foods, the healthier we’ll be and less of a demand there will be for it.  As Michael Pollan says, “Vote with your fork.”   How you spend your money on food is the most powerful way to change our processed food system.

I understand that is difficult to change your eating habits overnight and most of us, it’s a slow process.  Processed foods are made to look, taste, and feel wonderful, but that’s where the goodness ends.   However, as you venture away from processed foods and focus on more real, whole foods, you’ll notice that your palette will evolve, and you’ll find that you enjoy processed foods less and less.  

Image courtesy of Suat Eman

Homemade Chocolate Nut Spread

If you’re a Nutella fan, you can very quickly whip up a batch of a healthier version with ingredients you may now have in your kitchen.  I posted a similar recipe several months ago.  However, as tempted as you may be to want to eat this with a spoon, it still has sugar and is a concentrated source of calories.  Still, it has s nice texture and it’s delicious on vegetables, especially celery!

1 cup all natural nut butter, such as peanut or almond
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup real maple syrup
1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 T vanilla
½ t salt

Add the ingredients to a food processor and process until smooth.  Scrape the sides halfway through for complete blending.  Use as a spread or dip and store in an airtight container in the fridge.