What is balance?

I am a wellness educator. I know the right vitamins and supplements to take, and I know what foods to eat for optimal health. I know meditating each day helps keep my mood stable and immune system strong. I know that daily exercise outside will expose me to sunlight and fresh air, and that when I don’t get outside I start to go a little off the rails.

I know that if I try to do everything and be everything to everyone in my world, it feels good at the time but I pay for it dearly later on. Whether it’s with exhaustion, exasperation, or worse, it always comes back to bite me.

Recently I had six week stretch of time that was truly the busiest and most frenetic I’ve ever experienced. I loved most of it. I loved being productive, I loved that the golf events business I’ve been building experienced a surge of activity and that my business partner and I took the challenge and succeeded (and exceeded). I love that my daughter started a new adventure in high school and not only dove right into being involved and enthusiastic, but also made the tennis team (requiring a lot of parental involvement in the form of rides and a cheering section). I love that my wellness business is thriving and growing, too.

What I didn’t love: spending wayyyyyyy too much time sitting in a car. Whether battling traffic or sitting in the parking lot waiting for tennis practice to let out, it left me feeling cooped up and caged. I tried to set up my car to be comforting and useful, even putting a lavender essential oil diffuser in the vent. It helped to a certain extent but didn’t change that I was putting hundreds of miles in every few days. Not healthy for anyone.

I didn’t love being unwilling to let myself off the hook a little bit for doing all the same things I would under “normal” circumstances. I still expected myself to make dinners (failed), attend all the tennis matches (mixed), and be a completely present parent for my daughter’s first month of high school (probably not great). I don’t love that I threw everything I knew about self care and nutrition out the window. It felt a little freeing at the time, but as with most unhealthy practices, it ultimately wasn’t a good choice.

The result of all of this was feeling totally burnt out. Depleted. And sick. When everything wrapped up at the same time: my daughter’s tennis season, a big multi-year co-chair volunteer job, and the three golf tournaments in a row, I thought I would feel a sense of accomplishment and freedom. Instead I just felt…nothing. A classic sign of burnout.

The takeaway from this is NOT to scale back my work. No way. I love what I’m doing and I want MORE jobs, not less. Rather, it’s to stay mindful of the things I know will help me feel balanced and healthy when the flurry of activity comes to a halt. Meditation. Acupuncture. Walks with my dog. Good nutrition. Sleep. Yoga. ASKING FOR HELP. And setting good, old fashioned boundaries on what I’m willing to do. It’s my responsibility to set those boundaries, and like many women, I find it difficult to do. Luckily, life isn’t slowing down and I will have endless opportunities to practice these skills. Maybe, someday, I might even find balance.

I put a call out to my social media community for their thoughts on achieving balance, and this is what I heard. If anything, it was really comforting to know that we have all experienced similar challenges, and I hope you find it helpful, too. Here are a few responses:

“Healthy food, adequate sleep, moving my body and laughs/time with those I love (aka Crappy Dinner Party!)” — Deanna (my amazing friend and neighbor)

” I don’t think true balance is achievable. I feel like I have to intentionally take inventory of my priorities and what may need more of my attention on a particular day/week/month. I gave up trying to “have it all” a LONG time ago because it was making me crazy. Of course my children are my #1, but if I’m not working we don’t have the financial resources we also need as a family. Giving yourself grace as a working parent is also important because let’s face it, you’re going to get some things wrong. If we can give ourselves some forgiveness and bring a healthy dose of a sense of humor, we can navigate the “close to balance” goal in a more enjoyable way!” – Stacy

“(You) must be prepared to let go of things and be clear about boundaries to get close to work toward balance— always a work in progress tho!” – Molly

Please respond below with your thoughts on finding balance. Is it achievable? How do you approach it?

Thoughts From The Sick Bed

Even the healthiest people get sick. I fell ill with the flu 10 days ago and am just now getting out of bed and starting to feel better. My doctors tell me if I hadn’t received the flu shot, I would very likely be hospitalized with complications.

I do “everything right”. I get a lot of exercise, I take my supplements, I eat very healthy, I get 8-9 hours of sleep a night, I meditate, I enjoy lots of nourishing relationships. Sometimes, even with all of that, you just get sick.
I’m telling you this because a lot of holistic nutritionists and wellness practitioners sell people on this notion that if you just do all the “right things”, you will be invincible. That if you just cut out all sugar, or go gluten free, or go vegan, or go paleo, or any number of other things, you won’t ever get sick. That is nonsense. We are human and human bodies sometimes break down, get sick, or get injured.

Someone from my cohort yesterday told me not to eat any fruit whatsoever and stop all my supplements because they “feed the pathogen”. This is such utter nonsense. When I asked for studies to back up her claims she went radio silent. It makes me angry that someone out there is peddling this psuedo-science.

Bottom line: be careful when seeking wellness information and guidance. Look for real, honest-to-goodness scientific studies and papers to back up any claims. If something doesn’t sound right, follow that instinct. And if you ever have any questions, reach out to me. I like nothing better than to provide science based wellness advice.

In the meantime, I’m following doctor’s orders to rest. I’m going to eat lots of fruits and vegetables (they are full of vitamins and minerals, fiber, vitamin c, and other anti-inflammatory compounds). I’m going to get acupuncture today, and I’m staying hydrated. Sometimes, time is the best medicine.

Favorite Podcasts For The New Year

I love a good podcast. I’m going through a phase right now where I just want to learn as much as possible about how to improve my daily life, whether through exercise, mindfulness, life hacks, or any number of “self improvement” type actions. I specifically am attracted to podcasts that are short and sweet. I’ve given up or severely restricted most social media and it has freed up my brain for so much more useful information. Which means I’ve been listening to podcasts like crazy lately! Below are my current five favorites, plus one that I’m excited to start listening to when it premiers later this month.

Last summer I binged on what to this day is one of my most favorite of all podcasts, Happier In Hollywood. It’s hosted by two female television writers who have been writing partners since high school. While some of what they cover is lighthearted and fluffy (like how to find the perfect black purse), they are also full of excellent job, life, fitness, nutrition, and other advice that I find so useful. They have great guests. And it’s just really fun to boot.

Happier in Hollywood is an offshoot of the Happier podcast by Gretchen Rubin. Gretchen is a writer who researches happiness and her books The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, to name a few, might sound familiar. Her podcast is also chock full of advice, all of which is designed to help you maximize your happiness quotient.

I recently discovered The Magic Pill, a podcast hosted by a Harvard Medical School physician and a health journalist. Each snippet (they are all around 8 minutes or so) is full of great information geared to inspire us to make exercise a regular part of our life. We learn the science behind exercise and all the other benefits. This is a 21 day podcast in which each day you receive an email with that day’s episode. It’s fast, it’s fun and it’s full of great info.

NPR’s Life Kit has a similar podcast called Exercise: Learn to Love It (Or At Least Like It) and it’s similarly endearing. The first episode features Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s personal trainer. It’s about 20-ish minutes long, which is the perfect amount of time to go for a brisk walk while listening.

NPR’s Life Kit also has a new podcast called Eat Your Way To A Healthier Life which premiers in mid January. I’m including it here because the promo sounds great and I’m really excited for it. I also really respond to measured, scientifically-backed nutrition advice that isn’t sensationalistic.

And lastly, I will be listening intently to Side Hustle School. For anyone who has a “side hustle” (aka: a second venture beyond your full time job or something else you do on the side even if you don’t have a full time job that provides extra income and can help satisfy your entrepreneur cravings) or anyone who aspires to have a side hustle, this is a great podcast. Most episodes are 10 minutes or less and all are full of great insight and advice.

One more fun tidbit: if you have a podcast you love and want to introduce someone to it, you can use the Gift of Podcast free printable. It’s great for people in your life who don’t know how to use podcasts, as the printable gives step by step instructions. There’s also a spot for you to write the name of the podcast as well as why you recommend it. I put one in my husband and daughter’s stockings this year.

What are your favorite podcasts? Comment in the section below!

Should You Drink Celery Juice?

celery

A friend reached out to me recently asking if she should be drinking celery juice. She had read about all of the health benefits and wanted to know if I recommended it and if she should jump on the celery juice bandwagon.

Have you heard about this newest trend? The actress Busy Phillips (whom I love for her honesty on social media about all kinds of issues ranging from parenting to body image and more) posted in January about her commitment to drinking it every day. She said “Apparently it’s supposed to do all of these wonderful things for you and something with Gwyneth Paltrow and I don’t know but I’m on board,” she said, laughing. “So now I’m drinking celery juice. It’s really good.”

Ok, back up a second. Gwyneth Paltrow’s website Goop has received all kinds of press regarding her health advice, much of which is not supported by science. In fact, there has been such a backlash that she recently committed to hiring a fact checker for all the claims her website makes. This article is an absolute must read for anyone who follows Gwyneth Paltrow’s advice or even is a little interested in her Goop empire. It’s titled, “How  Goop’s haters made Gwyneth Paltrow’s company worth $250 Million”.

This is all to say that even as a holistic nutrition consultant (with a healthy dose of skepticism for any outlandish claims), I wouldn’t necessarily recommend drinking celery juice. Why? First of all, it’s very very bitter. Why punish yourself? Secondly, no one food is a magic bullet. Yes, celery is a very healthy veggie with fiber, folate, vitamin K, and potassium. It’s a powerful antioxidant. But so are a lot of vegetables. What I would recommend is eating celery in its whole form so that you do get the fiber along with it. Put it in a green smoothie so you get some other flavors and nutrients in there. Eat it with some peanut butter for a healthy snack that contains the magic trio of fats, carbohydrates, and protein. And if you really want a green juice, combine it with some other green veggies so you are mixing your nutrients instead of focusing on just one source. I like the Suja Uber Greens Organic juice which has cucumber, celery, grapefruit, green chard, spinach, parsley, mint tea and more. I buy them from Costco for a reasonable price and when I feel like having a green juice I reach for one of those. They have only 5 grams of sugar per bottle, which is important to note because a lot of green juices contain fruit juices and up to 48 grams of sugar per bottle.

My final thoughts on the matter: be wary of outlandish health claims. While drinking celery juice won’t hurt you, I don’t believe there is anything magical about it. If it makes you feel good, have some celery. But if you are suffering trying to choke down a glass of celery juice, give yourself a break and eat it with a healthy dip instead.

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Giant Scallions

This summer I am in a CSA share with my good friend Shawn. In case you didn’t know, CSA is short for Community Supported Agriculture. You buy a seasonal “share” from a local farm and each week you receive a box of produce (or cheese or whatever that farm specializes in). If you want to learn more and find a farm near you, click here. Anyway, we both have families of three so our boxes get split up very evenly and it’s a nice way to try new fruits and veggies. For instance, in yesterday’s box there were a smattering of gooseberries, which I had never tried. That was fun.

Also in yesterday’s box were the most gigantic scallions (also known as green onions) I have ever seen. One of these scallions probably equals four or five store-bought scallions. I got very excited because I adore green onions in any format. In fact, when I was a child, my grandma used to serve them raw on her veggie plate at her annual backyard BBQ and I would gladly gobble them up. I pity the fool who smelled my breath after that.

scallions
Giant scallions from the CSA

Onions are a powerful source of antioxidants and are part of the Allium family (along with garlic). They are rich in anti-cancer compounds called phenols and flavanoids. They are also rich in alliinase which is believed to be heart protective. They are anti-inflammatory and overall a very healthy food to add to your regular diet.

I got a little overwhelmed with the size and quantity of the scallions yesterday so I asked on my Cultivate Wellness Facebook page for cooking ideas and got some great ones. I thought that I would compile and share some of them here so you, too, can be empowered in your scallion cooking journey.

How about Tessa’s idea to make some Afghan Dumplings with Lamb Kofta and Yogurt Sauce?

Maria says “My favorite way to cook green onions is in a cast iron skillet with olive oil, salt and lemon pepper! I do it on a medium/high ( depending on your stove) you want the onions to break down and get a little char! It’s about a 10 min cooking time.”

Lara suggested adding them to a batch of cold Potato Leek Soup (I can get on board with that! Plus we got potatoes in our box this week, too).

Allison wrote that she was using her CSA scallions to make a Minty Orzo Salad with Grilled Beef. That recipe isn’t available online but here’s one that looks ah-mazing.

Sally used her giant scallions to make Crab Cakes. I do love a crab cake.

Molly likes to make Smitten Kitchen’s Spicy Green Onion Slaw recipe, which looks absolutely delicious. I love a slaw in any form.

How fun that so many people participate in a CSA?! At least a couple of the readers who chimed in with ideas got their giant scallions this week too. I love that.

If you have a favorite scallion/green onion recipe, please leave it in the comments! Happy cooking!

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Life Hack: The Daily Dozen App

I recently discovered an app I really think is great called The Daily Dozen. On it is a list of foods you should be eating every single day, with spaces for a checkmark next however many servings of that food you should be having. For instance, there’s three spaces next to beans, one space next to berries, and two spaces next to greens. You can check in to the app throughout the day to keep track of the “superfoods” you’re eating and over time, hopefully you’ll have trained yourself to put the healthiest foods first in your diet.

There’s a section for grains on there, and I think that’s important to note. A lot of people avoid grains these days because they believe they are inflammatory or cause weight gain. Here’s what I know about whole grains (I’m talking about things like brown rice, oats, and barley here, not Froot Loops with “whole grains”). Eating whole grains is associated with lower risks of diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol. Read here  for more information on whole grains and heart disease. Read here for more on whole grains and blood pressure. And read here for more on whole grains and other foods that lower cholesterol. If you are trying to avoid grains in the short term, I support that. Sometimes avoiding a certain food for a month or so can help reduce inflammation and de-sensitize you to that particular food. Then you add the food back in in small amounts to ensure your sensitivity is gone. There are doctors like Dr. David Perlmutter (author of The Grain Brain) who have profited mightily by telling people all grains are bad for you, but I really don’t subscribe to that thinking at all. I *do* believe we Americans have too many grains in our diet, and that most of those grains are of low quality and low nutritional value (think a slice of white bread or a bowl of sugary cereal). However, whole grains have many proven health benefits.

Back to the app. What I love about this new tool is that it also includes things like spices, flaxseeds, and Vitamin D. These recommendations are all rooted in science and have been proven to be beneficial for one or more reasons.

Daily Dozen was created by Michael Gregor,  M.D., who is the founder of NutritionFacts.org and has a podcast called Nutrition Facts with Dr. Gregor.

I think it’s a great daily tool you can use as a fun challenge to clean up your eating habits and add some solid nutrition that will help reduce your risk of disease. Win/win!

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Portobello “Burgers”

Last night was Sunday, which made it Crappy Dinner Party night. Haven’t read about our weekly CDP? I recommend doing that right away, and then laying plans for your very own regular Crappy Dinner ASAP.

It was my husband’s birthday this week, so we hosted. He wanted to grill burgers and dogs, which are super yummy and yes please to all of that. However, if you are trying to reduce your red meat consumption or are vegetarian or vegan, I find portobello burgers to be a really worthy substitution. (Recent studies seem to show a correlation between eating meat of any kind of your risk of Type 2 diabetes. Studies also show that eating meat raises your risk of cancer and heart disease. This is not to say you have to give up meat entirely, but rather substitute some of your meat choices for vegetarian choices instead. Click here for an explanation and some tips.) You still get the meaty texture when you bite down, and the mushrooms soak up any delicious marinades you throw their way. Top with sautéed onions, a slice of cheese, and pickles and I guarantee you will enjoy your experience!

Here’s the marinade I use to make my portobello burgers.

INGREDIENTS:

4 portobello mushroom caps

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

 tablespoons olive oil or avocado oil (avocado oil has a higher smoke point)

1 large garlic clove, minced (about 1 tablespoon)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

Mix all ingredients together and pour over the mushroom caps, turning every 15 minutes until time to cook, making sure to pour the mixture into the underside of the mushrooms before grilling. Throw on the grill and cook until desired doneness.

If you’d rather put them in the oven, preheat to 425°, place mushrooms stem side down in a baking dish, and roast for 18-20 minutes.

portobello grilled

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