Monthly Archives: January 2013

Let’s talk about stress, baby. Let’s talk about you and me. (Part One)

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Let’s talk about all the good things and that bad things it may be.  Let’s talk about stress.

Thank you Salt n’ Peppah.

How tired are you of thinking about stress?  Hearing about it?  Managing it?  Eliminating it?  Yada yada, blah blah.

One of the most difficult aspects of our modern, technologically driven life is that we tend to believe that everything functions the way our devices do.  Binary code.  Something is either one thing or it’s the other.  

So, the story you’ve probably heard is that stress bad.  No stress good.

The truth of the universe in which we are gloriously enmeshed is that it is a both/and place.  Stress is both good and bad.  

It’s been years since massage school.  More than a decade in human years and I haven’t thought about the actual Hans Selye created word of “eustress” since then.  But, the concept has been on my mind quite a bit.  When I created Nourishing Freedom’s basic aspects of health, I deliberately designated one of them to the “appropriate level of stress” for the individual.  

“Eu-” is the prefix used in Science to designate “true or good”.  Your cells are eukaryotic because they have a nucleus.  So, they’re “true” cells.  Sorry, prokaryotes.  You’re such posers.  (JK!  You’re awesome and my mitochondria remembers when we used to chill together in the primordial soup!)  With that little tangent, “eustress” is the good stress that we experience.  

Whoa. Good stress?  Of course.  When you get back to the actual understanding that stress is pretty much anything that requires a response from the body, you see that you are constantly experiencing stressors.  A drop in temperature is a stressor, having to get out of bed in the morning is a stressor, exercise is a stressor (yeah, I said it!), someone saying your name in a crowd is a stressor, ad infinitum.  “Stress” is the conversation, constant and uninterrupted, that you are having with your environment.

For clarity, I hope that you understand that EVERYTHING is your environment.  We have tossed the word around so much that with environment we tend to think of trees and dying rivers and little animals that our grandchildren won’t know.  Your environment, though, is everything from the shampoo that you use (or don’t…go no ‘poo, go no ‘poo, GO!) to the paint colors that you choose to cover your walls in to that unfortunate bag of Doritos that  you scarfed last night at midnight after one too many Big Bang Theory downloads on YouTube.  It’s the humming of your refrigerator and the howling of the wind through the pine trees.  It is the uncertainty of a moon-less night and the amount of sunlight you bathe in during the day.  It’s the feeling of the wool sweater on your skin to the loud neighbors that just can’t seem to get along.  Your environment is the people you touch or walk past during your day and the animals that share the park with you on your lunch break.  It is the pace at which you run or the sway with which you dance.  All of these things are your environment and the dialogue between you and it is so intimate that it really should be called by its 19th century name for talking intently: intercourse.

That conversation, for our purposes, is what stress actually is.  If the environment is the call, we are the response.  Since we have the capacity (as does every other living thing) to impact its environment) we are the call and the environment is the response.  And that communion is stress.  

How do you feel about stress now?

Hopefully a little differently.  It doesn’t seem to be quite so….nefarious, does it?

Good.  Because you know what the MAJOR difference between stress (the bad stuff) and eustress (the good stuff)?  Our perception.  That’s it.  

I will grant you this.  The amount of stressors and demands for response that we often have in an average day are inhuman and inhumane.  Our bodies DO struggle to keep up with the constancy of the permeating barrage.  It does overwhelm.  Or, we allow it to. 

There is a lovely path to walk with stress when we take a playful approach to it.  It’s invigorating to find the right thread of conversation with our environment.  As any conversation, it does take two, but all it takes is one person to alter the tone of the conversation, or the topic, and the conversation is now different.  You CAN have a screaming match with your environment.  Of course, you can.  You have that authority.  You also accept the responsibility of the fallout of that.  Some of them might be chronic exhaustion, horrible digestive pain and issues, hair loss, migraines, body pain.  You are also able to speak tenderly with your environment, find mutually beneficial solutions to things.  So, this street is particularly congested at 5:30 so I can take the back road.  Or I really enjoy the buzz I get from working hard on a project or a couple weeks and the decadence that comes with doing nothing for a whole week.  

You may find that some amazing solutions can be found when you stop arguing with your environment.  When you stop and listen, you may hear some things you didn’t even know.  

 

 

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Liver Two Ways

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I really miss living in my little cabin in the woods EXCEPT for now having a fully functioning kitchen!!!  I have been having a blast cooking.  I decided that it’s high time to bring some recipes to this blog about nourishing ourselves.  Kinda makes obvious sense, huh?

When we make the shift from eating to feel full to eating to feel FED, the amount of nutrition that our food gives us becomes very important.  Liver is a wonderful way to FEED the body.

I had it two different ways this weekend, both delicious.  (If really nutrient dense food is new to you, you may want to work up to the first recipe.  There is a complexity and intensity of flavor that comes along with dense nutrition that may be surprising.)

Liver Chocolate Smoothie

Yep, that’s what I said.

Ingredients:

1 oz of raw liver

1/4 frozen cherries (or a little more and feel free to use a different fruit)

unsweetened cocoa powder (1/2-1 1/2 Tbspns)

1 1/12 cups liquid (I used chaga tea.  You can use coconut milk, nettle infusion, coconut water, or anything else you want.)

Put everything together and blend.

Drink and feel like a total badass because you just drank raw liver.

*Feel free to spend the rest of the day grunting and not washing your pits.  You’re a wild one!

Pan-Seared Liver with Butternut Squash

This one takes planning.  I had my smoothie Saturday morning and put the rest of the liver (about 4 ounces) in a glass dish, covered with water, threw in a large pinch of salt and let it sit until Sunday morning.  You don’t have to let it soak so long.  An hour minimum, though, is nice.

Other things you’ll need:

For liver (per person):

1/4 of a red onion, sliced thin

1/4-1/2 favorite mushrooms, sliced thin

1 small apple, peeled and sliced thin

1 Tbspn apple cider vinegar

1-2 Tbspns Fat of choice (I used tallow that I rendered myself like a big girl!)  Coconut oil, butter, ghee, bacon grease are all good options.  NO “vegetable” oils please.  And, olive oil is meant to be enjoyed unheated.

1/2 Tbspn really nice whole grain mustard (Maille makes my absolute favorite!)

For squash (per person):

1/4 butternut squash, peeled and julienned (fancy way of saying cut to look like skinny fries)

1-2 Tbspns spice mixture of choice

1 1/2 Tbspns fat of choice (see above)

This is all very easy to actually do.  It’s taking me more time to type it up, actually!

First, start with the squash.

1. Preheat your oven to 400.

2. Lay the squash in a baking dish with some space between each piece.  Sprinkle spices and fat generously and salt if there isn’t any in your mixture.

3. Pop in oven for about 30-45 minutes, checking once halfway through to stir.  This helps to evenly distribute the fat.

4. When you’re about 10 minutes from being ready with the squash, heat a skillet.

5. Add in your fat.

6. Pop the onions in first and stir frequently until they’re translucent.

7. Add apples and mushrooms.  Stir until nicely browned.

8. Add the ACV (that’s how fancy people say apple cider vinegar).

9. Let it cook for about 1 minute.

*Now, here’s the tricky part.  Liver does NOT do well sitting around after it’s cooked.  You want to be shoveling it into your maw as soon as possible after applying heat.  It gets chewy and the only good Chewy is a Wookiee.  (Boom…a Star Wars reference in a liver recipe?  The force is SO with me.)  This means that you want to pull the squash and plate it before you even put the liver in the pan.

I know it sounds tricky but the other thing about liver is that it doesn’t like to be crowded.  (Liver is quite the diva, isn’t it?)

10. So, remove the sauteed onion mixture from the skillet and set it aside.

When the squash is ready (and it should be about……now.), pull it out.

Now, you’re ready for the piece de resistance.

11. In your empty, hot skillet, lay down the pieces of pre-soaked liver.  You WANT to hear some sizzling.  If you don’t, your skillet is not hot enough.

12. 30 seconds per side is more than plenty for the liver.

13. Plate it quickly, covered and smothered with the squash and the onion/apple/mushrooms and crown it with a little mustard.

*Wash your pits and talk all eruditely and stuff.  That was a downright gourmet experience!

Reader Questions – Cycles and chocolate

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Emily writes:
 
1. On the sweet-tooth: First why do I get seriously poignant cravings for sweets right before I start my period? There are generally certain times of the month when my sweet-tooth kicks into high gear. What’s with that? Second, is it possible to have a genetic predisposition to be addicted to chocolate? 
 
2. Relatedly, is a small portion of dark-chocoalte a day a healthy indulgence or just one of those things women tell themselves to keep worse indulgences at bay?
 
Ah, menstrual cycles and carb cravings.  First, a question back at you.  Do you only have intense sugar cravings before your period?  If not, you may be a little carb focused in your metabolism.  If you only crave sugar before your period, your serotonin levels may have something to do with that..  The body does use carbs directly on the serotonin pathway. But, vice versa, the level of serotonin acts on your body’s release of insulin and cravings for glucose.  There is also a connection between the rise in estrogen and a drop in blood sugar as well as a drop in serotonin.  (There has long been the understanding that serotonin is our “feel good” chemical and that is what we often call it.  The reality is a little less cut and dry.  There isn’t necessarily a direct correlation between serotonin levels and feeling good, but I digress.)  In other words, you’re perfectly  normal.  I have found in my experience, the less sugar I eat and the more fat-adapted I have become, the far less dramatic are my cravings.  The cravings would be best met with sweet potatoes, sushi, berries, and full fat dairy if you don’t have a problem digesting them.  And, of course, chocolate.
 
Full disclosure:  Emily, I know your mother, so I would not be at all surprised if the very real dependence on chocolate be a phenomic expression of your genome.  
 
Now, question 2.  
 
Chocolate has been used as a part of the human diet for a very long time.  However, it has been traditionally used for rituals, for royalty, and most often unsweetened, mixed with spices.  It is a fermented food.  (Yep, it is.)  It is brimming over with anti-oxidants (which can decrease photo-sensitivity) and helps to reduce systemic inflammation.  It also helps with blood flow which means that your brain is more alert.  Then, there is theobromine, which is often touted as an aphrodaesiac.  (Might have a little something to do with the increased blood flow? 🙂 )
 
It has less caffeine than coffee and has the added benefit of being chewable (unless you’re drinking Haitian coffee properly made so your spoon stands up).  
There are only a couple things to know when it comes to chocolate.  
 
1.  They are not all equal.  Sorry, Hershey’s, but step up your game!  Go for dark.  The darker the better.  I eat a couple squares of 100% cacao almost daily.  I don’t think that anything below 85% is much good except as a rare and special treat.  (I know, it sounds nuts and takes some time to work up to.  I actually had 95% a couple weeks ago and found it far too sweet!)  I also keep unsweetened cocoa powder around to use in my smoothies and to make hot chocolate.  (I always make this in the more traditional way using several warming herbs, like ginger, cinnamon and sometimes cayenne.) 
 
2.  Theobromine in extremely high doses can be toxic.  So, chocolate can be a healthy PART of the diet, not the whole diet.  Although….I wouldn’t mind risking it.
 
3.  For anyone with the herpes virus, chocolate can be irritating and lead to outbreaks.  
 
4.  If you’re particularly sensitive to caffeine or are adrenally exhausted, I’d slow my flow with the chocolate.  
 
5. High heels making us look better is something that women have totally made up to keep worse “indulgences” (like butt implants…NO…JUST…NO) at bay, but eating chocolate on the regular?  That’s for real.
 
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Power vs Authority

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TThere has been a lot going on in the Nourishing Freedom world.  A lot of things that I’m getting more and more excited about.  (Excited and terrified often feel similar in the body, by the way, so I’m choosing to label it excitement.  Is anything scarier than having dreams become reality?)

One of those things has been doing some interviews, very casually right now as practice for the formal “real” ones that are coming quickly my way.  Listening back to them, I have noticed that I use the word authority like Madonna used to use trashy lace in the 80s.  I don’t use the word power.

I was born and raised under a dictatorship.  I grew up in that same dictatorship until I was 13 years old. (It’s no coincidence to me that we use the word regime to describe a dictatorship and it is the french word for diet.) After that, the country’s leadership changed as frequently as the aforementioned Diva.  Power is easily gained through manipulation, intimidation, bullying, money changing hands, bulk, strength, and so many other avenues.  I am sensitive to using power as a decent health model.

I am a post-wellness coach.  Wellness and the current health model is all about power.  Power over the body.  Trick it.  Hack it.  Bully it.  Buy it out.  Intimidate it.  Make it do what you want it to do through whatever means necessary.  Impose standards of perfection upon it that it can’t meet and then punish it when it can’t (and it can’t) meet those standards.  Purify it.  Clean it out.  Cleanse it.  Cleanse it.  Cleanse it.  It becomes a microcosm of the atrocities of ethnic cleansing.  Exert the power of an idealized, impossible purity onto the body and cleanse it of all hints of filth.

In short, we are living in an age where “health” is something of a totalitarian regime inflicted onto the body.  Health is a power that we try to control that winds up controlling us.

Authority, however, has always rung a little different to my ears.  I have known many, many people with very little power but with great authority.  I grant someone authority because they have earned my respect.  I acknowledge someone’s authority on a subject because they’ve done the work.  Authority is grounded in knowledge and in admiration.

When someone speaks from a position of authority, I listen and learn.  When someone speaks from their power, I listen but don’t trust a word.  With authority comes a knowing, deep and steady, that recognizes humility as valuable.  With power also comes a knowing: that power is fragile and can disappear in an instant and must be gripped through any means necessary.

There is a shift that happens when you start nourishing yourself, start nourishing your body.  It is a recognition of fragility.  It is the acceptance that our minds change, our thoughts flitter, that ideas are malleable.  These are the playthings of power.

The shift from power over the body to the recognition of the authority OF the body is one of the most radical paradigm shifts that one can undertake in their lifetime.  You will not have authority OVER the body.  This is difficult for us to accept, this humility before the body.  It is not comfortable to know that when my body says something loud and clear, it KNOWS.  It has the knowledge.  Your thoughts and perceptions about your body have been used to exert power over you by getting you to impose that power over it yourself.  The transformation that can be experienced by rebelling against this power structure and returning the authority to your body is something I could write pages and pages about but unless you go through it, it’s nearly impossible to get you to understand the depth, height, width of it.

In practical terms, health is sleeping when your body is tired.  It is eating in the way your body needs.  It is moving when your muscles beg for it and being still when you need to rest.  But, this is not on a schedule that someone decides on molding you to, it is by learning to respect the authority of your body.  What this means is that each of us will have a life that is unique to us but also just the same as everyone else that has a human body.  The details will glitter.  The particulars will dance in a one of a kind light but we will share all the joy and abundance that it really means to be a human animal.

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the mythology of the happy new you

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Happy New Year everyone!

I have been gone from the blog for a long time.  Of course, after every vacation, I feel that I need a vacation.

During my time away from here, a lot of things have changed.  I took the decision to emphasize speaking as part of my service offerings this year, I found an apartment in a new town, I will be saying goodbye to the sweetest little cabin in the woods ever that my son and I made livable, I ate a lot of cheese, and I realized how very, very much I hate being sick.  I’ve had a cold that just won’t go away but the lack of sleep and the holiday festivities don’t help with that (nor did all that cheese!).

Last night, after downing a healthy dose of magnesium and sleepy herb tea, I had a great night’s sleep.  I woke up this morning knowing what I wanted to talk to you about: the happy new you crap that springs up around this time every year.

I have nothing against changes and the daily habitual movement towards more vibrant health, more rational and expansive thought, ever more profound respect of the bodies that we each are.  In fact, I’ve pretty much devoted my life to this.  HOWEVER, it is the underlying message of the new year/new you mantra that rubs me the very wrong way.

Reading between the lines of this is a very calculated way of getting you to feel a lot of discontent.  Resolve this year, finally, to just not be you anymore.  Because, “you” is not enough.  “You” is not good.  “You” is not flashy, sexy, skinny, stylish, productive, fit, valid enough.  “You” is quite simple, flawed.  Throw it out.  Get a new “You”.

Oh, trust me, I get the allure.  I had the flashing insight a couple years ago that my greatest addiction is “starting over”.  It’s very much part of the diet mentality.  Monday morning I will just START OVER.  By, Friday I was binging on everything in sight because Monday-Thursday I had set up impossible standards.  But, that golden promise of Monday morning, the shiny perfection that would be my life started then.  Amplify that expectation by a gajillion and you have the Happy New Year/Happy New You myth.

This will be the year that you have the whitest teeth, the sharpest collar bones, the perkiest butt, the best job, the cleanest house, the most romantic relationship and the most fulfilling friendships.  (My resolution was to always have the flattest stomach!  My body shape simply will never allow for that.  I have a broad ribcage and a high waist…literally will never have the flattest stomach!)  I just feel exhausted thinking about all that pressure we’ve just put on ourselves.

1.  There’s nothing wrong with you.  Nothing.  

2. Is having collar bones sharp enough to give paper cuts in the office really one of your cherished values?  Is it possible that it’s important to you because you have been brainwashed by the diet/fashion industry to even want them?

3. How do you really want to spend your time this year?  Depriving yourself of pleasure so you can feel that you are meeting a group of strangers sitting in a board room’s expectations or nourishing yourself into greater and greater freedom?

The difference between the new you myth and the nourishing freedom way of life is that in my way of thinking, you already are the source of your greatest wisdom.  Yep, that old, shabby you that’s knocking around your un-flashy life is the greatest treasure that you have.  Nor did you have to spend a dime for it.  The body that you may find less than: not thin enough, not strong enough, not…enough, has more to teach you than any upper level college course, more than pursuing your doctorate.  It KNOWS.

The secret to empowered change is to honor your body.  Listen to it.  Respect it.  Give it want it needs and what it wants.

It may take some time to accomplish this.  We live in a world that trains us to be deaf to ourselves.  It actively has a vested interest in insuring that you are completely cut off from everything that you really know in your bones to be true and replaces it all with mirages.  My job as a coach is to act as a facilitator, as a guide on the incredibly fascinating and enriching path back to yourself.  Yes, you will most likely change your appearance, you will most likely change how your clothes fit.  You will most definitely change how you feel.  You will change your health.  You will change the way you process things.  Most profoundly, you will change your perspective and all the external noise will no longer apply to you.  You will find an inexhaustible font of joy.  You will find the true source of wealth.  And, it’s right there, in the oldest you.

So…Happy Ancient You!

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