Natural-Born Health

the site of historic boy's fort. georgia, in the fall.

the site of historic boy's fort. georgia, in the fall.

In my backyard growing up, we had a huge pine island in the center of green grass. Beyond that, woods went on for what seemed like miles. On the right side of the yard was Boys Fort, the left, across our neighbor’s yard, was Girl’s. I remember running from one side to the other  (maybe with a water balloon) to the other side of the grass to infiltrate enemy territory. If I try,  I can still remember those days very well - the way the grass felt on my ankles and how dirt was cold to the touch. I remember belonging to the mess, feeling comfortable covered in sweat and the faint smell of the Earth.

Now, I live in Brooklyn. And while beautiful in a different way, nature is harder to come by. Outside my door are miles of sidewalk, not mysterious woods with solemn trees and crunchy leaves. Now there’s green growing in small patches and you have to walk a bit to find a piece large enough to sprawl out on.

It’s crazy, but there may actually be some validating science to that carefree, connected feeling well all had as children. And it’s enough that, in the name of wellness, we should all probably quit adulting for a few minutes to lay in the grass and feel the blades between our gown-up toes.

It’s an activity called, “Grounding,” or “Earthing,” and while it sounds as basic as it gets, the science is a bit trickier. The thought is that our bodies need to connect to the negatively charged Earth, and our current lifestyle has removed this connection. With traditional footwear, houses, elevated beds, and city life, our direct contact with the Earth’s electrons has become close to non-existent.

The science is still up for debate and the studies aren’t extensive, but the case is mounting for grounding as a viable health tool. Small studies show this technique may have some pretty significant effects. It was shown that various study participants slept better, had increased thyroid function, increased immune response, reduced pain and inflammation, and lower cortisol levels. That’s not too shabby for such a simple and easy health practice.

While the science may not be enough to make us immediately buy a grounding mat on Amazon Prime, (mats are a more convenient, in-home way to get exposure to those electrons), it’s definitely worth it to take time to get back to nature. Try taking your shoes off in the grass, walking through the woods, or even just sitting on a bench in the park. No one can argue against nature having some serious healthy powers. Not to mention, it’s a helluva lot cheaper than expensive spa treatments and prescription drugs.

See you in the park.

You Are Here.

“Where do I start?”

This is one of the most debilitating statements of all time. It halts all action before an inkling of traction has a chance. And these days, I think it’s harder than ever to find the starting line.

Overwhelm is real. Information is everywhere. And life is a lot. Not to mention, the state of the world and the political climate we live in weigh heavily on the body and mind.

But here’s one thing that I know – if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else. It’s imperative that you prioritize your own wellbeing. I truly believe the world depends on it.

Do you find yourself unsure of how to begin getting healthy? I promise it doesn’t have to be as hard as it seems. Get ready for this brilliant nugget of wisdom…drumroll please….

Just start somewhere. Anywhere. It really doesn’t matter.

Decide. And do it.

So, wake up and drink a glass of water. Take a probiotic supplement every day. Walk around the block tomorrow night. Cook dinner with lots of vegetables. Take a week off of drinking alcohol. Try a yoga class. Write a gratitude list. Clean out one corner of clutter... just pick one.

The point is not to start in the "right" place or in the "best" way.  The point is just to simply start.

Somewhere.

Anywhere.

Small shifts have the ability to move mountains. Habits aren’t made overnight and they aren’t made all at once. A lifestyle is developed, not imposed.

So, start here. Pick any healthy action that fits into your current life and actually do it.

And, as much as I’m struggling with this sentiment myself, the same applies for the state of the world. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the stories on the news and don’t know what to do, apply the same logic - small shifts can move mountains.

Smile at a stranger. You never know where the avalanche starts.

Should You Eat Gluten?

Eating gluten-free is the trendiest thing since skinny jeans. The number of gluten-free food products are growing on grocery store shelves at a rapid rate and gluten-free cafés are popping up all over the world.

But still, a lot of people who shun gluten don’t even have a clue what it really is. (in case you want a good laugh, watch this video) And the fact that it’s become such a trend doesn’t paint the dietary choice in good light.

But the truth is that for some, avoidance makes a lot of sense – and not just for those with celiac disease (people that are afflicted with celiac must avoid gluten like the plague. Any contact with the stuff and their body goes into full-on allergic reaction mode and it can cause irreparable damages to the small intestine. No. Bueno.)

But the rest of us? You might wonder what the hell we’re giving up gluten for?

There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to the diet industry’s newest scapegoat. Some claim that gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, is responsible for all of our health woes, while others say it’s just a trend and a matter of false science. As with many studies and opinions in the wellness world, the mixed messages are worse than a Tinder relationship in NYC.

So, what the heck?! Why all the confusing info? Well, the human bod is a tricky place. Some researchers believe that those people aided by a gluten-free diet could actually have nothing to do with gluten at all. They may just be responding positively to the absence of a group of carbohydrates called FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols… whew).

BUT, here’s where I call BS on the FODMAP theory – I’ve personally gone on a FODMAP free diet, and these carbohydrates are found in SO many places. Many everyday ingredients such as onions, garlic, and soy contain them. So, the idea that the elimination of bread and those other gluten containing products is supposed to correlate with a FODMAP issue sounds fishy to me. Let me tell you, compared to a FODMAP-free diet, eating gluten-free is kind of a walk in the park. Try eating out anywhere while avoiding onion and garlic… it’s very, very difficult.

Unfortunately, it gets a bit more confusing. Many think that to be gluten sensitive you have to feel a reaction immediately – like those with celiac. But, it’s not that simple. Gluten is a pretty inflammatory food to some systems, therefore, you could be doing some damage in the form of inflammation that might take some time to notice.

In addition, some studies show that non-celiac gluten sensitivity may worsen conditions such as IBS, Fibromyalgia, allergies, Eczema, Depression, Multiple Sclerosis, and even Autism (among others). So you could miss the sensitivity because certain already-existing ailments are simply being exacerbated by ingesting the protein.

Soooo, do you or don’t you?! I'd like to say the answer is a simple one... But I can't. Personally, I think that there’s another culprit for many of our health hiccups than an individual ingredient that’s been present in foods like wheat for thousands of years. More likely, our own modern bodily systems are to blame. Broken down and weakened, they need healing. Our guts need mending (leaky gut syndrome is real), bacterial imbalances need tending-to, and inflammation needs calming.

This should be more empowering than overwhelming. This means that many of us have the ability to heal and recover from chronic ailments.

I have seen people without celiac completely reduce chronic digestive issues, heal life-long skin conditions, and lose lingering extra pounds from an avoidance of gluten. Everyone won’t have the same result, but if you’re not feeling well, you have to start somewhere. You always have to start somewhere. And it may not be a life sentence! Once your body heals, you may be able to reintroduce gluten and other foods with little to no problem.

Here’s my advice if you remove gluten from your diet and you feel better… great! Keep it up! I don’t care that some lab test can’t figure out your complex bodily system and break it down into a nice little box checked on a sheet of paper.

But, let’s be clear, that doesn’t mean subsisting on stupid-expensive boxes of gluten-free cookies and well packaged loaves of gluten-free bread. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is as good as whole, natural foods. Try gluten-free grains like brown rice, quinoa, and amaranth. Load up on vegetables, healthy fats, and protein. And then… See how you feel. Pay attention. Keep a diary. Record your mood, your digestive experience, your skin changes, and even your clarity of thought. Nothing is too small to notice.

The advances in modern science are truly incredible, but sometimes, nothing can tell you more than the information living in your own body.

So, should you eat gluten? The answer isn’t that simple. But if you’re curious about trying it or transitioning to a fully gluten-free diet in the healthiest way possible, let’s chat! I’d be happy to help. 

All good things,

Sarah.

 

Power Struggle

I don’t care who you are or what box you marked on your election ballot, I think it’s safe to say that we’re all war torn and weakened by this election season. And for us younger generations, the subsequent dissent is unlike what we’ve ever seen or felt before. It doesn’t help that it doesn’t look like it’s ending any time soon…

This sort of heavy atmosphere weighs hard on our wellbeing. The stress of our own intense opinions mixed with the constant noise and vibration from the world is a lot to handle. And, because of this, it seems our search for comfort food and outside soothers is at an all time high. Here are two, very simple examples I, personally, saw this past week:

  1. I pulled a muscle in my back and finally broke down and decided to book a massage. (self-care is hard for me too, sometimes) I called Saturday morning, and asked for an appointment. Almost as if she couldn’t believe it herself, she said, “I’m so sorry. We’re actually booked up through next week.” After a google click mess, and a few more unsuccessful attempts at appointments, I finally found an eastern body-work office in midtown with good yelp reviews and an open time-slot. I made my appointment and was on my way. During the massage, I could hear the protesters outside the window as they marched the lengths of Manhattan streets. Outside the door of my private room, I heard the voice of another masseuse say, “I’ve been busier this week than any other this year," she said. "I honestly think it might be the election.”
  2.  Our corner coffee shop is a hit-or-miss kind of place. The kind of place you love for just that reason. Chatty baristas sometimes forget your order, the food is good, but slow to come, and the colorful cast of characters keeps things interesting. Our friend behind the counter put last week’s carb intake into poignant perspective – “We seriously never sell out of bagels. On our busiest, most hung-over Sunday, we’ll get low, but we never run out. Wednesday after the election, we sold out in just under 2 hours.

That's real folks. Point being: we’re tired. We’re looking for rest for our bodies and happy feels from our foods. I get it. It’s natural and it’s real. And, believe it or not, I think it’s healthy.

I think a lot of other things going on are healthy, too. Protesting is healthy. Voicing your opinion, whatever it may be, is healthy. Finding comfort is healthy.

Take care of yourself. Find quiet time. Turn off your devices, maybe for the first time ever, outside of being on an airplane. Shut out the noise of the world for a little while. Calm down your nervous system and intentionally relax every muscle in your body. Shut. Down.

And then, when you’re ready and you power all those devices back up, remember that silence is never very far away. 

 

 

A Healthier Kind of Holiday

It’s getting chillier. Boots are coming out of storage. While I’m busy planning my Thanksgiving dinner and trying to remember how to style sweaters, other overachievers are already hanging twinkle lights. Silently, I curse those people unwilling to live in the moment and savor the current, pumpkin-spiced season. Though secretly, all the while, the hypocrite in me starts to jump ahead thinking about the upcoming new year.

Throughout my time health coaching, I’ve noticed that there’s a trend – avoid or put-off all thoughts of an improved life until, about, 10am on Jan 1st. Then, go balls-to-the-wall with unreasonable fitness regimens, strict diets, and self loathing until, roughly, Feb 1st, when inevitably, the sudden self-imposed high demands of new year’s goals beat the spirit. Hopes are abandoned, along with resolutions, due to an increased sense of overwhelm.

And we do this. Every. Single. Year.

If you identify, I have one question. What if, this year, you didn’t do that? What if you stopped, decided to live your life in balance with a focus on finding health, instead of achieving a smaller pant size.

Look, I’m all about goals. I’m even all about new year’s resolutions. But even more important than either of those things, is the fact that you have to have a reasonable plan as to how to get there.

It is very common to feel the stress of the holiday season, not just from the pressure of finding the right gift, but from the temptations that are prevalent. It’s normal to feel anxiety and fear when thinking about the inevitable feasts that will be eaten and sweets that will be available. To wonder how indulging will negatively affect the goals that we’re trying to accomplish.

But the thing is, it doesn’t have to be that way. Stress and worry are unnecessary and simply add to the pressure. You can enjoy the season, eat the cookies, drink the nog, and still come out ahead. You can wake up on January 1st with a clear mind and high self esteem, and even better, it can continue well past February’s traditional resolution failures.

Holiday Brussels.

Holiday Brussels.

With a stressful season immanent, now is actually one of the best times to commit to a new mindset. But not in the way most usually do. Don’t worry about the ways in which your life will be thrown off kilter in the coming months, instead, dedicate yourself to making the time to take care of yourself amid the mess. Schedule in easy workouts (simple walks will do), pull 3-ingredient recipes for nights you come home and don’t want to cook. Put caps on the number of drinks you’ll have at certain parties and commit to water between each one. Vow to immerse yourself in conversation at holiday gatherings, not just hang by the dessert table. Focus on what you WILL do, not what you won’t. Don’t avoid the cake, have a small slice, move on in life, and celebrate the season.

If you’re concerned about the upcoming months and need help navigating, please reach out! I’ve got a holiday special for the months of November/December that includes email/text support, personalized goals, and holiday cooking ideas. You don’t have to go it alone.

You can definitely enjoy the holiday with no harm done.

All good things,

Sarah.

 

 

Chili: A recipe for all the fall feels

Comfort food is the best this time of year. Warm, hearty meals provide us with a cozy sense and help us get into the seasonal spirit. There are plenty of feel-good foods that provide tons of nutritional nuggets, antioxidants, and healthy goodness.

Try making this super healthy fall festival in a bowl! And it can be re-purposed a million creative ways to keep you fed, both physically and mentally.

Super Simple Chili

This recipe can be adapted in a hundred different ways. Add any veggies you like, kick out any ones you don’t. Use Chicken Sausage instead of Ground Turkey,make it vegetarian,  spice it up with red pepper. Even a dash of cinnamon, or cocoa powder can produce a different delicious version.

Ingredients:

1 Clove Garlic

1 Onion, diced

2 Bell Peppers (any color), diced

1 can Crushed Tomatoes

1 lb Ground Turkey

1 can Black Beans (rinsed, drained)

1 can White Beans or Chickpeas (rinsed, drained)

½ bottle Beer (or a dash of Red Wine) *optional

2 Tbsp Chilli Powder

½ Tbsp Cumin

Instructions:

In a sauté pan, cook ground turkey in olive oil until mostly cooked through.

While the turkey is cooking, heat garlic, onion, and bell peppers in a large pot until mostly soft. Add in crushed tomatoes, black and white beans, chili powder and cumin. Add in the Turkey. Heat until a slight simmer and cover for 15 min. Add in beer to achieve desired consistency, and simmer for another 5 min. Salt and Pepper to taste.

Serve in a bowl with avocado and lime juice. Other options include over pasta or corn bread. In a tortilla. Or over eggs for a breakfast option.

Enjoy this low calorie, healthy, but definitely hearty meal throughout the winter months. It’s great for a one-pot crowd pleaser when entertaining, as well! Hello football season…

Peanut's the Sauce.

Spicy Peanut Slaw

Step 1. Make this.

Step 2. Smother it on errything...

Peanuts have gotten a bad rap in the past few years. As the paleo diet gained traction and notoriety, the poor peanut got the boot from the “healthy” list. Anti-pb’s yell about aflatoxins (a fungus that can grow on peanuts) and Omega 6’s (inflammatory fatty acids), but for all of us balanced health freaks out there (a few of us do exist), there’s a lot of good that can come from the little legume.

Generally speaking, if you aren’t allergic or intolerant to peanuts, it’s probably totally fine to eat peanuts and peanut butter. That said, it can be a trigger food for some, too. So if you can’t control yourself around the stuff, best to keep it out of the house until you balance hormones and get your cravings in check. And if you are partaking in peanuts, don’t buy the butter with added crap. The label should say Peanuts. …and maybe a little salt. AND THAT’S IT.

Now that we’ve cleared that up. You should make this sauce. And you should put it on everything.

Peanut’s the Sauce

Ingredients:

1 tbsp Peanut butter

Small Drizzle Honey

3 Tbsp Low sodium soy sauce (or gluten free tamari)

1 garlic clove, minced

Juice of 1 lime

Red pepper flakes

1 tbsp Rice vinegar

Water to thin

Stick it all in a bowl and stir it up!

I use this on cabbage slaw mix, chicken, even sweet potato hash.

If you can think it, you can eat it. Go (pea)nuts!

Chips are for Chumps

Let’s break down the scientific reason we love chips

Processed foods are scientifically engineered to be hyper-palatable. This means that they are made to elicit an incredibly pleasurable response in the brain of the consumer, one that is far beyond natural. They urge the body to produce unusually large amounts of feel-good hormones during digestion that natural foods would never do.

Turns out, there’s something to be said about calling something a “comfort food.”

In addition, these brain responses keep us coming back for more. They have addictive qualities, and processed food manufacturers are keen to this notion. They spend lots of money to find the winning recipe with the exact ratio of salt, sugar, and fat to keep that brain-response high. Therefore, we keep eating more, which means we’re buying more.

Now, I’m not advocating hyper-palatability, but if you are a lover of processed foods and are looking to cut back (which I very much hope you do), there are ways to make tasty treats that are WAY healthier. And to find pleasure in eating without the unhealthy, messy side effects.

SO, want all the crunch and none of the trans-fat and chemicals? I have answers.

The Dip Dilemma

Dip is fun. It’s an interactive food. Great for parties and apps. And, done right, it can even provide you with some serious health benefits. Guac is good and good for you. Hummus is healthy and delicious. And whip up some black beans, spices, and lime juice for a healthy tex-mex version, too.

Tired of your traditional chip/dip alternatives? Well, move over baby carrots, there's a new dipper in town. Enter: Jicama.

Tons of Vitamin C and Fiber, a great source of Vitamin E and folate, phytonutrients, and minerals, Jicama is a crunchy and refreshing alternative to traditional (and tired) veggie dippers.

Here’s how

  • Buy the globe-shaped root from the grocery or farmer’s market (avoid the leaves! They’re poisonous).
  • Peel the bulb with a veggie peeler
  • Chop up the white flesh into sticks for dipping!

Add a sprinkle of sea salt for the same crunch/salt combo that traditional chips give, without all the yuck. You’ve got a seriously healthy snack that will keep you full and happy.

Dip away.

Hummus, with Jicama and Cucumber

Hummus, with Jicama and Cucumber

 

 

 

Newsflash: You Will Fail.

I know what you’re thinking – what a terrible health coach! She’s the worst.

But here’s why the fact that you will fail is the best news you’ll hear all day:

Whether you believe it now or not, it's true - at some point along the way to living healthfully, you will do something that you wish you hadn’t done. Accepting that fact, and then practicing self-compassion when it happens is your NUMBER ONE tool for long-term success.

·      I used to think that if I wasn’t losing weight, I must not be trying hard enough.

·      I used to think that if I weighed myself, an unfavorable number would make me eat less the next day.

·      I used to think that being hard on myself would get me the results I wanted.

But what really happened was, I spent a lot of time living in a moderate state of crazy, counting calories, working out endlessly, starving, with a busted metabolism.

I’m all about setting goals. I believe in having a clear vision of a realistic, but ideal future. I do think one should be flexible, but knowing what you’re working towards is definitely motivation. No argument there.

But, punishing yourself every time you make a decision that’s not 100% in-line with making that vision become reality, is not motivation.

One of the biggest reasons people are averse to self-compassion is the worry that it leads to self-indulgence - you give yourself an inch and you’ll take a mile. We think discipline and hand-slaps are what keep us in-line. But what if that’s a societal condition we’ve all been taught to believe as adults? You wouldn’t punish a child for eating too many cookies, because you care about them. You don't want them to feel badly about a very human mistake. Why not apply the same principles to yourself?

The idea behind self-compassion isn’t that you’re continually giving yourself a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card. Many studies show that forgiving yourself leads to taking responsibility for your actions without feeling overwhelmed by negative emotions. Then, instead of going further down that rabbit hole, self-compassion leads to empowerment and greater success in the future.

But self-punishment isn’t an easy habit to break! Don’t beat yourself up for having negative feelings (see how this is a slippery slope??). Self-compassion is a practice, not an overnight achievement, and it requires a continual coming-back.

And that’s okay.

Ready for a compassionate health program that teaches you how to live a healthier lifestyle? Check out the upcoming dates of This is Not a Detox here.

Happy and Healthy things!

Sarah.

Decisions, Decisions

The first thing you must do is decide.

It is that simple, and that difficult.

When it seems we've been dealt an unfortunate hand, victim mentality sets in more easily than not. But the reality is that just standing in the mess will not help to get you out of it. That is just the simple logic. But, trust me, I do know how difficult it can be...

I remember how low I felt when it happened to me, back when I was sick my body was failing me in ways I couldn't understand. I remember ducking into an alley in midtown Manhattan to cry after leaving yet another frustrating doctor’s appointment. I remember how small I felt when handfuls of my hair would fall out in the shower, and curling up in pain next to a toilet in the bathroom of a dermatologist's office after my scalp was subsequently shot full of cortisone. I remember waking in the middle of night to a searing stomach ache and spending hours in the bathroom when I so desperately wanted to sleep. And I very viscerally remember feeling heavy in self-loathing, wondering why it was all happening to me.

Many doctors told me that I had to accept the way that I was feeling, that there was really nothing to be done. But something told me not to believe them. I refused to take the antidepressants they threw at me for no reason, and I refused the severe courses of antibiotics that had no apparent target.

Instead, I remember deciding to take care of myself.

I chose to get hopeful from all of the information I found while researching, rather than overwhelmed. I took screen shots of every wellness center that I passed - tried acupuncture, meditation, and took up yoga. I sat on the exam table of a very wacky and absent minded holistic doctor, and I made the very clear decision to trust his unconventional mind.

I actively chose to put in work and to heal myself. And without that decision, the last few years of my life would have looked very different. 

I would have missed out on trips and vacations, relationships, and nights out with friends. I wouldn’t have started the businesses that I did or be as motivated as I am to teach others what I know. I would probably still be sick. And maybe, even, sicker. And I would definitely still be stuck feeling sorry and very overwhelmed.

There are a lot of factors that contribute to health - genetics, past history, life's given circumstances -  but they matter much less if the decision is made to take care of yourself. No, it isn’t easy. But, then again, neither is being unwell.

Become empowered. Make the decision. Choose to put in the work. You CAN do it.

Trust me. It’s the best decision I've ever made.