Winter Self-Care

Some thoughts on self-care for the winter season.

The body often needs time to come back into balance after the stress of the holidays from social pressures and expectations, not to mention less sleep and more treats than the body is used to. Refined sugars and flours take a toll on the body, and that combined with eating less of the healthy vegetables you usually consume can put a strain on the immune system.  Sugar is also an immune suppressant, so when you’re eating more sugar, combined with more stress, less healthy veggies, and less sleep, it’s sort of the perfect storm for the body.  It doesn’t mean the body can’t come gracefully back into balance, but it may need some extra special care to get there.  

Now is a good time to get extra sleep, eat plenty of nourishing foods, such as fresh veggies and soups, broths, seafood, organ meats, cultured foods, and maybe take a few supplements to help you get back in balance.  Also make sure to drink enough water, even if you aren’t noticing being as thirsty as in warm weather.  I will sometimes fill a thermos with hot water in the morning and sip from it throughout the day.  

I take vitamin C and D regularly in the winter, and will add zinc sometimes, and B6&12 (if I’m not eating much liver or nutritional yeast).  Even though it is often the time when many folks start a new exercise regime, this is also a time when the body likes to rest and repair, using this season of long, cold nights to do some extra deep healing work. So it’s a good time to rest more than feels normal… and then I often don’t come down with a cold to make me slow down. I really like to check with my body about what it has the energy for, especially once the weather starts to get cold. 

What would it be like to listen to the body’s desire to cuddle up by the fire with a good book, or snuggle in with a movie, or gather with loved ones for games and good cheer?  Bundle up and get out in the sunshine (or wind and rain) and fresh air for a walk when you feel you have extra energy to burn. 

One more simple thing is to sing yourself a little song: “every little cell in my body is happy, every little cell in my body is well”.

Calendula in November

November Calendula

November Calendula

The bright orange of the sacral chakra, Svadhisthana, is my color for the day.

sunshine calendula

butternut-pumpkin pudding,

with orange egg yolks,

baked in a steam bath

whippoorwill farm carrot, raw bite, right out of the bag — the sweetest thing ever

getting ready for stock-making.

mom’s down vest when she stopped by

for a cup of ginger tea

on the vermilion couch.

Sweet fall carrots

Calendula, the common marigold, wears the orange of the second chakra.  Svadhisthana, the sacral chakra, is the center of passion and pleasure.  The place where creativity is born.  Where feelings arise from.  The home of sensuality, intimacy and connection.  This energy center, alive with the element of water, is a place from which movement and transformation arises.

This chakra is the location of some of the challenges that I am exploring at the moment.  How do I let myself be expressed in my physical being?  How do I let my creativity flow?  I am finding that the relationship between the root chakra (which relates to having basic needs met) and the sacral chakra is a dynamic one.  It is not only that I need to have my basic needs met in order to feel safe enough to freely express myself creatively.  I think it may also be just as important to let my creativity flow in order to be able to take care of myself and meet my basic needs.  This means there must be movement in order to feel safety.

It makes me think of the way that when you ride a bicycle, you must move forward at a decent speed in order not to fall over.  Staying still, in interactions with a bicycle, is not necessarily the safest place to be.  And what if it’s true that humans were designed to move?  So when I am paralyzed with fear, and feel scared for my life (how will I make a living, what is my purpose?), and I have the instinct to stay still, I am not necessarily doing what is best for my life as a whole.  My life needs some movement.  Even if it is scary.

Sacral Chakra Affirmations

(from http://www.chakra-anatomy.com)

I love and enjoy my body.
I have healthy boundaries.
I am open to experiencing the present moment through my senses.
I am passionate.
I feel pleasure and abundance with every breath I take.
I nourish my body with healthy food and clean water.
I know how to take care of my needs.
I value and respect my body.
I am open to touch and closeness.
I allow myself to experience pleasure.
My sexuality is sacred.
Emotions are the language of my soul.
I take good care of my physical body.
I am at peace.

Back on the subject of calendula, I use this calendula flower essence tincture from Floracopeia every morning. It “supports personal empowerment, receptivity and internal comfort, especially in communication dynamics. Supports digestive and skin health.”

orange/water/spiral

orange/water/spiral

Paleo Resources

Paleo Cookbooks:

Well Fed and Well Fed 2 by Melissa Joulwan

The Ancestral Table by Russ Crandall

The Slim Palate Paleo Cookbook by Joshua Weissman

The Paleo Chef by Pete Evans

Against All Grain by Danielle Walker

Nom Nom Paleo: Food For Humans by Michelle Tam, and a link to her bookshelf full of awesome cookbooks and other paleo/primal resources.

The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook, and by Elana Amsterdam

Eat Raw Not Cooked by Stacy Stowers (this is a raw food cook-book, and while I don’t think that a raw diet is healthy for everyone, she’s got a lot of great whole-food, grain-free and dairy-free recipes in here.  And beautiful photos :-)

ZenBelly Cookbook by Simone Miller – She is my new cooking hero.  I love her story, her recipes, and what she is up to now.

Other Cookbooks I love:

Fast, Fresh and Green by Susie Middleton (I’m not a huge fan of all the oils she chooses but this is a great place to learn a bunch of different delicious vegetable cooking methods)

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon

Paleo Resource books:

The Paleo Approach by Sarah Ballantyne

The Paleo Cure by Chris Kresser

The Paleo Solution by Rob Wolff

Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman

Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfillipo

Online Recipe Resources:

Chris Kresser’s Paleo Recipe Generator – I haven’t tried this out yet, but if you want access to a whole lot of paleo recipes, and you’d like to let someone else do your meal planning and make your shopping this, this seems like a reasonable deal for a great service — just $9.95 a month (and no, I don’t get a percentage :-)

Online Healthy Eating Resources:

The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen

Fae’s Fabulously Festive Kale Salad

Sweet fall carrots

a tub of freshly harvested carrots, gleaned in the fall from Morning Glory Farm

My dear friend, mentor and acupuncturist, Fae Kontje-Gibbs, co-hosts Thanksgiving dinner with an old friend and when she made this salad last year it was a huge hit. So, on the menu it went again this year.  I helped her to prepare the salad this past November, shredding mountains of carrots and juicing many limes, and since then I have been hooked.  The colors, textures and flavors are all fabulous, not to mention its nutrient-dense ingredients.

Fae and I have a similar way in the kitchen–we often don’t measure with cups and spoons; instead we measure with our eyes, our hands, our tongues and our good old sixth sense.  Quantities are approximate.  Work with what you have and don’t be afraid to experiment.  The key to the dressing is balancing sour and salt with the sweet of the currants (or raisins, or whatever dried fruit you have on hand), and using enough good extra virgin olive oil to make the dish satisfying and also to help your body absorb the good stuff in the veggies.  Use organic produce if you can, especially the kale and carrots.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (or more if you’d like) dried currants

a few tablespoons of fresh citrus juice lemon, lime, grapefruit or tangerine, or a combination of all three, with at least one lemon or lime.  You can substitute champagne- or rice wine- or apple cider vinegar for the sour citrus if necessary.

A bunch of carrots, shredded…about 2-3 cups.  It’s fun to use multi-colored carrots if available.

a bunch of kale, washed, pulled from stems and torn into bite size pieces.

1-2 grapefruits, peeled and “supremed” (the fleshy sections are cut away from the membranes )– my addition to the salad.

extra virgin olive oil

sea salt to taste

Directions:

Soak currants in citrus juice.  Toss shredded carrots with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and some salt and then massage in the kale–think carrot salad with a generous portion of kale for color and texture, as opposed to kale salad with some shredded carrots.  Add the currants and juice and toss to combine.  Season to taste with salt and more lemon or lime juice.  Gently mix in grapefruit sections.  Serve immediately, or let rest as long as overnight–chilled and covered.  Test seasoning again before serving; if needed, spruce up with a bit more lemon or lime juice and a touch of salt.

Enjoy!

Medjool Date Muffins filled with Maple Chevre

Medjool Date Muffin with Maple Chevre

 

It is New Year’s eve,  and I am flipping through my binder of recipes and when I come across a recipe for date pastries that I had copied from a beautiful library book with recipes for baked goods from around the world.  I consider attempting a gluten-free version of the pastry dough, and then I remember a muffin recipe I’d gotten years ago from a friend in Portland, ME.  A chevre-filled muffin studded with dried fruit that we’d made during one of my visits to that dear city.

For the last few days of the year 2014, I had a craving for dates.  Not the kind of date where you meet a stranger for dinner, nor the kind of date you choose for a flight to warmer climes… Nope, I had been yearning for the rich, buttery, deep sweetness of a medjool date.  And I wanted it warm, and a little gooey, with moist, buttery crumb surrounding it.

I pull out the falling-apart old recipe book I’d started at age 13; a notebook that used to have a blue, card-stock cover on which I had written this quote: “Animals are my friends and I don’t eat my friends” (conveniently that page fell off around the same time I started eating animal flesh).  The first entry in the book is for carob chip cookies because it was around that time when my mom and I started investigating the blood type diet, and being type Os, carob was supposedly a better option than chocolate.  Although I loved carob, and that particular switch was easy for me, at the time I apparently wasn’t quite ready to adopt the rest of the recommendations for the Type-O diet, which included eating lots of animal (protein).  It wasn’t until at least ten years later that I finally released myself from the vegetarian diet I had been raised on, and fed myself more of what my body really wanted to eat.  Today, though, what it really wants is not meat, but DATES!

Food writer Susan Russo describes them perfectly, “Medjool dates are deep amber-brown and have a slightly crinkly skin that shimmers from natural sugar crystals. Bite into one, and your teeth sink into satisfyingly sticky flesh that tastes of rich caramel, hints of wild honey and a touch of cinnamon. Melt-in-your-mouth Medjools are so luscious they taste as if they have been warmed in an oven.” from NPR’s “Kitchen Window” series.

Flipping through faded pages, I find the muffin recipe and it actually calls for dried figs. I figure it will work just as well with dates, and I set the book out on the kitchen table ready for brunch on New Year’s Day.  The first day of January 2015 arrives clear and bright, and making my way to the kitchen, I tie on my favorite green apron.  I pull out the magical medjool dates, homemade chèvre and goat milk kefir, Pamela’s gluten-free baking mix, Massachusetts maple syrup, coconut palm sugar, Green Island Farm eggs, a meyer lemon–fresh from a friend in Florida, un-bleached parchment jumbo muffin papers…and I get baking!

Recipe: Medjool Date Muffins filled with Maple Chèvre

Mix together and set aside:

1/2 C. plain chèvre (homemade if you have it)

1 t. meyer (or regular) lemon zest

1 T. real maple syrup

1/2 t. vanilla

Sift together:

2 C. plus 1 T. Pamela’s Gluten Free Baking Mix

1/4 t. fine sea salt

1 t. coconut flour (or an extra Tablespoon baking mix)

Beat together:

2 jumbo eggs, or 2 large eggs plus one extra white

1/2 C. coconut palm sugar

1/3 C. olive oil (or melted coconut oil)

1 C. goat milk kefir (or buttermilk)

1 C. pitted and chopped medjool dates (or dried figs)

Preheat oven to 425°.  Line nine jumbo or twelve regular sized muffin tins with unbleached papers, or oil thoroughly.  Make chèvre mixture.  Pit and chop dates.  Sift dry ingredients in to mixing bowl. Beat wet ingredients together with sugar and then mix wet into dry. Fold dates into batter, making sure to separate clumps as you add them.  Spoon batter into muffin tins.  Top each one with a teaspoon of chèvre mixture (which should sink into center of muffin as it bakes) and bake for 15-20 minutes until tops are golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for 5-10 minutes in tins before moving to a wire rack.  Serve to people you love.

Sharing muffins with friends at Slip Away Farm!

Sharing muffins with friends at Slip Away Farm!

 

When carrots become candy on day #8

One of the coolest things I have found about not eating refined foods, and minimal carbohydrates, is that my taste buds come back alive.  I will bite into a carrot, or sweet pepper and have the experience of it being SWEET.  Like the kind of sweet that I sometimes desire after a meal, or when I’m feeling low energy.  I also begin to find food in general, even when prepared very simply, seriously delicious again;  I find myself eating the most basic meals with “enjoyment, gusto and pleasure”, as Geneen Roth recommends we do in her eating guidelines for healing from compulsive and emotional eating issues.  And of course you don’t have to be healing from eating issues to enjoy eating that way!

I said that I would talk a bit about the other things I’m eating/taking to support my health.  On a daily basis I currently take Vit C (1000mg), Vit D (2-4,000 iu), Vit B6 (200mg), zinc (50mg), magnesium (2oomg, and more when I’m in the last week of my moon cycle), a concentrated fish oil called “OmegaBrite” (for mood), and lavender oil capsules called “Lavela WS 1265” (for anxiety). [These are the supplements and amounts I have found to be supportive for me right now.  Please don’t assume they will also be the right ones or amounts for you.  You can work with your health practitioner to determine that.  Also,  just to be clear, I don’t live my life and make my choices based only on scientific evidence.  I appreciate the information science as to offer, but for me it is not the bottom line.  My intuition is what I trust above all else.  Though I am a certified health coach, I am not medically trained, and I don’t have “solid evidence” to support everything I share on this blog, but I have been experimenting with food and health for the last 20 years, and I’m happy to share what I have found.]

For anti-inflammatory support, I recently began consuming 1-2 teaspoons of turmeric, with a bit of black pepper and some fat to help with absorption–I’ll often put them all in a mug of warm chicken or beef broth with a bit of sea salt–I eat at least 1 teaspoon of un-refined sea salt per day for essential minerals.  Fresh ginger is also good for reducing inflammation, and I’ll grate it into my broth, or sauté it with veggies.    I include lots of healthy fats, and for me, those are primarily coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, some nuts and seeds (soaked and dried), eggs, fish, and pastured meat and poultry.  I’m still determining whether raw, organic grass-fed cow or goat dairy has a happy place in my diet.

I usually eat at least a couple of tablespoons daily of a lacto-fermented food, such as sauerkraut or kimchi (though I’ve been off the kimchi for the moment because I made my current batch with pepper which is a nightshade).  And I start the day with a coconut oil swish for about 20 minutes, called “oil pulling”.  I just swish about 1 teaspoon of coconut, sesame or olive oil in my mouth for 15 to 20 minutes, and then spit in trash or outside–not down the sink, and then rinse with warm water.  It has many benefits including gum/teeth health, pleasant breath, digestive support, and may also help to remove toxins from the body that have landed in the mouth.  I do it because it feels good, my dentist recommended it, and it makes my breath feel fresh.  I often follow it with a glass of warm water with lemon juice and a touch of sea salt.  And lots of warm water through out the day.

Other things in my morning routine, though not edible, are meditation, yoga, writing, walking, reading, swimming in the ocean (my last swim was 10/30/14…brr!) and dry-skin brushing–this is good for helping move lymph (part of the body’s detoxification system) through the body.  I use a long-handled bath brush with natural bristles, and I always work towards my heart with each stroke because the main lymph ducts are located in the upper chest.  Although I usually don’t get to include all of these every day, along with real food, they are some of the tools that truly make my life work.

 

Experiments don’t always go as planned…day #7

Sometimes I bite off more than I can chew. Or, not chew as the case may be. Last week I got excited to clean up my diet with an eye on reducing inflammation. My heel pain had come back, I was feeling sluggish and having all sorts of cravings. And then, while I was at it, I figured I might as well do an elimination diet at the same time to determine whether there are any other foods besides grains, sugar and nightshades that give me trouble. I figured I would check some of the usual suspects such as eggs, dairy, and nuts. I also eat a lot of coconut oil, and while I’m pretty sure it agrees with me, I thought it would be a good time to take a little break from it as well.

My understanding of an elimination diet is to eat a very clean diet for a few days to a few weeks–as long as it takes for symptoms to clear up. Once you are not experiencing symptoms then you can try adding foods back in, one at a time, and see if you get a reaction. There’s a specific way to do this that is most effective and it includes eating a certain amount of only that one food and waiting a certain period of time.  At this moment, I don’t remember the details, so I’m going to have to look them up.

What I am remembering about myself as I take on this experiment is that I don’t particularly like to follow directions when I am experimenting. I like to try things out, but I don’t generally have the patience or attention span to record my results for more than a few days and I get bored with procedures. This is why I have never had much success with elimination diets in the past.

Luckily for me, there are other ways to find out if a certain food is causing issues for me…like allergy testing, muscle testing (applied kinesiology), and medical intuitives! I have used the latter two resources in the past, and I think, for me, they are the way to go.  I am interested in the possibility of getting some lab food-sensitivity testing done as well, because they now have some very detailed tests, specifically for wheat/gluten and dairy.  I think it might be interesting to know exactly what I am reacting to in those foods.

So far, I’ve been feeling lighter, and slightly less inflamed, but have really struggled to get enough fat in order to feel satiated, and like my brain has the food it needs.  I haven’t been eating late at night, and have been waking feeling alert and ready to go.  My heel pain is still hanging on.

 

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