All We Need Is Love

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Source:  Mimi Lee Printables & More

This Easter weekend is a very special and holy time for many throughout the world.  While this blog is open to anyone, no matter what your faith or views, there are some important things (spirits, feelings) that I associate with Easter that I believe are important for all of us to remember.  These resonate with me even more this year after the heartbreaking destruction that occurred this past week in Brussels and the violence and hate that is sadly becoming commonplace in many parts of the world.

LOVE

One of my favorite bands, The Beatles, once sang “all you need is love, love, love is all you need”.  Love is what makes the world go ‘round.  Love creates and sustains us.  It lifts us up when we are low and keeps us going when the road gets rough.  We all crave love, need love to survive and be healthy human beings.

Hate and anger bring destruction, violence and death.  They breed sadness and hurt and heartbreak.  There is no place for hate in this world.  Fight hate with love.  Spread love and be love, every day.  You may change someone’s life for the better without even knowing it.  You may change the world.

HOPE

Hope is such an important feeling.  The hope that there will be a better tomorrow.  The hope that evil will be overcome.  The hope that love will triumph.  The hope (and belief) that what we are doing today is making our world a safer and better place to live.  You can also call it faith.  

Without hope, we lose an important arrow on the compass of life.  We can get lost, depressed, wonder what the point of life is, even become influenced by those who wish to spread evil in the world.  So look towards the sun, raise your arms up towards the sky, close your eyes and have faith that it will all be okay.

SACRIFICE

It is important sometimes to put others’ needs in front of our own.  Yes, I am all about sticking up for ourselves and there are times when our needs should be front and center.  But there are also times when donating, giving to those less fortunate, volunteering and supporting loved ones is needed.  Required even.  

There are people in this world who don’t have the necessities of life (food, shelter, safety).  They need our help and we should sacrifice a little of the comforts we have when we can.  Sacrifice is a way to express love.  And love is, well, read above.  🙂

GRATITUDE

Though some days it may be hard to see, we all have incredible things in our lives to be thankful for each and every day.  We are alive, we are free and we are loved.  Take a moment to reflect and appreciate the blessings that you have in your life.

It’s scary to think that our lives can change in an instant, but if we remain thankful for what we have in our lives and remember the ways in which we are blessed, we can get through the struggles and overcome the odds.  With gratitude comes perseverance.

We are all one and we are all created equal, no matter what your spiritual beliefs, race, gender, or sexual orientation.  Love your neighbors and support each other.  Fight to break down the walls that divide us.  And don’t lose the hope that there will be a better and safer tomorrow.

Sending love and support on to Brussels and everywhere else there is hate and violence in this world.

The Yogi~Foodie

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A Peek Inside My Fridge

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This week we are going on a little field trip… to my refrigerator.  I know, it sounds so exciting.  But I thought it would be helpful to share my tips and tricks for how I stay healthy and reduce food waste as well as discuss the staples that I keep stocked for healthy meals and snacks all week.

I preface this with a caveat that I live alone and most of my meals are prepared for just me, or for two when my boyfriend and I share a meal together.  If you are cooking for a family, simply up the volume.  My supermarket (Wegmans…the best!) has “family pack” size packages of produce, meats and other items.  Costco Wholesale is a great option as well.  I currently have a freezer full of organic meat and fish from Costco that will last me a good month or two to get through.

One last thing I won’t discuss here is organic vs. nonorganic, which I’ve discussed in a previous post (see here!).  I try to keep organic in mind when I shop but price is a big thing for me too.  In my opinion, organic shouldn’t be a deal breaker between eating produce and not eating produce.  It’s better to eat conventional than none at all.  With meat and dairy, I aim to eat organic 100% of the time when it’s doable in my budget.

My Main Supermarket Rules

Before we get into the food bit, there are a few things I try to keep in mind when doing my grocery shopping.

I try to buy only what I need for the upcoming week so that nothing goes bad or is wasted.  I hate when things are thrown out because they can’t be used and go bad, as I’ve discussed before on this blog.  As a result, I keep very few condiments in my fridge and normally only enough produce for a week, if that.  If I do buy something specifically for a recipe, I make a point to continue to use it regularly until it’s gone.  Usually I have to make a mid-week trek to the store for a few one-off things, but I’ve gotten pretty good at determining the right volume of food I need to get me through a week.  It has come with plenty of practice.

I keep a list to help me track what I need.  A pad of paper hangs on my fridge and when I run out of something, I put it on the list.  I try not to buy something again until I’ve completely finished an item, that way I avoid having multiples of stuff in my fridge taking up space.  This also decreases waste and saves money.  Before I go to the store I review my list and do a quick inventory of my fridge and cupboard to determine if there is anything else I may need to get that I haven’t previously written down.

I don’t go to the grocery store hungry.  That is bad news and always leads to me buying more than I originally planned and usually giving into some unhealthy temptation.

Fridge Must-Haves

Veggies galore.  My whole bottom shelf is normally packed with broccoli, green beans, spinach, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, zucchini, squash, and peppers.  My counter is home to a big bowl filled with sweet potatoes, onions, garlic and winter squash.  My inventory normally depends on the season (I don’t buy winter squash in the summer) as well as price (asparagus is pretty expensive come fall and winter).

My fruit staples are apples, bananas and avocados.  I normally only eat fresh berries during the spring and summer months when they are cheaper.  During the fall and winter I opt for frozen berries in smoothies.  As with my veggies, what I buy normally depends on season.  In the winter I love grapefruit.  In the summer I love raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, cherries and peaches.  I normally either have an apple or a banana as part of my afternoon snack at work.

For meat, I tend to always have chicken thighs (they taste so much better than chicken breasts), ground beef and fish (salmon and normally another white fish).  These days I’m really liking pork chops as well (they are a great chicken alternative!).  I try to eat fresh, wild salmon at least twice a week to make sure I get enough omega-3 fatty acids.  I also aim to have lean animal protein with my lunch and dinner.  When paired with my veggies and a whole grain, it is filling and helps me get rid of any desires for excessive snacking or after dinner sweets.  When you’re full your body doesn’t want any of that stuff!

Eggs are one of nature’s most complete foods.  They are a fantastic and inexpensive source of protein and have healthy fats too, which are needed for the body to effectively absorb and use said protein.  I hard boil at least half a dozen eggs on Sunday for my week.  I eat one after I get back from my evening gym workouts to provide the fuel my body needs to repair and recover.  I also may take one to work to eat with my apple or banana in the afternoon.  Here is a fantastic NY Times article on all the different ways to cook eggs.

I have to admit that I absolutely love 100% whole wheat english muffins.  I was recently reintroduced to them by my boyfriend and I have often wondered why I stopped eating them in the first place.  Maybe those nooks and crannies remind me of my childhood?  I eat my breakfast at work each morning so grab one to make toast with a dollop of almond butter.  Whole grains, healthy fats and protein all in one quick, easy meal.

My drinks of choice are water, tea and coconut water and unsweetened coconut milk.  I use coconut water as the liquid base for my smoothies and coconut milk in my overnight oatmeal and as a substitute for regular milk in other things.  I absolutely avoid soda and any juices, which are often just as bad as soda when it comes to sugar content.

I also have a slight obsession with kalamata olives, so you will always see a jar of those on my middle shelf.  I love them plain, tossed in a salad or thrown on top of roasted veggies.  I don’t eat much salty stuff so olives fulfill that craving for me.

Every week I also buy a jar of kombucha, which is a beverage naturally fermented with a living colony of bacteria and yeast.  I don’t have many fermented foods in my diet, so drink this to help with digestion and maintain a healthy gut.  Sounds gross, but it is really good for you!  Someday I will try making my own…

There you have it!  My fridge is a pretty sparse place by the end of the week, which means that I have accomplished my goal of eating everything that I bought.  Sometimes that means I end up throwing together the last of everything into a mix-mash bowl for dinner, though I have to admit that these meals tend to be the most delicious.  🙂

Peace, love and healthy shopping,

The Yogi~Foodie

Slowing Down

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I have always been the type of person who easily absorbs the emotions of others.  If there is a general feeling of anxiety or tension in a room, chances are I will start to feel anxious and tense.  My breath will probably quicken and my shoulders may start to creep up my neck closer to my ears.  All really without me knowing it’s happening.  I have to work hard to keep the energy and spirits of others separate from my own.

Choosing to become an accountant and enter the competitive business world probably doesn’t mesh too well with being an empath…  I imagine that I would feel much more at peace working outside in nature or with art or photography or puppies, but alas, crunching numbers at a desk all day is my profession for the time being.  And I enjoy for the most part these days, now that I have recently found a diamond in the rough accounting job that is pretty low on the stressful environment scale (hallelujah).  Low stress isn’t exactly a word that comes to mind when people think of the public accounting and reporting world, which is where I have worked for most of my career.

I also live in the bustling metropolitan area that is Washington, D.C..  A place with some of the worst traffic in the country, the center of our crazy political climate and where investing in real estate and raising a family is pretty darn expensive.  Around here people walk fast, talk fast, work hard to make it to the top and hate Interstate 66.

If I let it, my empathetic nature, my career, the environment in which I live, as well as my eating, exercise and drinking habits, can all have a significant negative impact my life.  I can easily get caught up in the whirlwind that is life and get carried away.  I too start to walk fast, talk fast, get angry at traffic and crazy drivers on the road, and let small things annoy me.  Without really even thinking about it, I tend to interrupt others in a rush to get out what I have to say instead of sitting back and really listening to their side of the conversation.

I particularly dislike this last one, as I have always prided myself on being a good friend who listens and provides good advice.  Who wants someone who will talk over them and not listen to what they have to say? It upsets me greatly when I find myself acting this way.  I feel like a bad person and often wonder what is wrong with me.

I have noticed all of these negative things coming out in my personality lately, probably building up over a length of time without me consciously knowing what was happening.  They impact my relationships, my everyday mental well being and my health.  And I do not want to live this way.

Life is not a race to be won.  It is an adventure to experience fully every single day.

I need to work hard to stay grounded in myself, enjoy the moment and stay present.  When I remember these things I am calm, feel more at peace, am happier and more positive.  I am a better friend, daughter, girlfriend, sister, and dog mom.  What is the point of rushing when I don’t need to?  Life speeds by fast enough already.  No need to help it along.

Do you find yourself getting caught up in the whirlwind of life sometimes?  If you find yourself nodding in agreement then I know how you feel.  It’s exhausting and not fun to get swept away and to feel out of control.

So what am I doing about it?  Well, it takes conscious effort, ongoing mental reminders and little daily activities.  Mainly I have the mentally remind myself to just slow down.  There is no need to walk so fast.  I don’t need to check that email immediately when my computer or phone dings.  I don’t have to do all of my tasks at work at lightning speed.  Breathe, sit back and listen to what someone is telling me.

I have also started meditating every morning for five minutes when I wake up, followed by reading a passage from a book called Meditations from the Mat, which discusses the path of yoga and includes 365 daily passages about integrating the mindfulness of yoga into everyday life.  It sets a calming and positive tone to my day.  Meditation is something I have been meaning to incorporate into my wellness routine for a long time now.  To make it easier, I leave my yoga bolster and book right next to my bed as a reminder and so that I can easily move from bed to cushion each morning and start my timer.  

Lastly, I am ending my day by reading scripture passages from the Bible.  I keep it short and sweet, but it is a way to close out my day on a positive note.  This is something that is very new for me (as is the Bible that sits on my bedside table), but I am enjoying exploring my faith and learning more about something that hasn’t been a very big part of my life up until fairly recently.

Working to slow myself down and beginning and ending my days with meditation and reflection are helping to ground me.  They remind me of what’s important in life.  That life itself is a gift to be cherished and enjoyed every second of every day, not something to be rushed through, no matter how fast it seems to swirl around you.  I encourage you to find what grounds you and keeps you present in your own life.  Enjoy the moment.  Be thankful for what you have.  Slow and steady wins the race, after all.  🙂

Peace, love and om,

The Yogi~Foodie

CC image courtesy of Tarcio Saraiva on flickr

Women, Sugar and Hormones

This blog post is for all the ladies out there who are at the point in their lives when they get a visitor around a certain time every month.  Sorry gents, you are welcome to read on to learn more about what may be affecting the lady in your life, but I understand if you choose to bow out on this one…  Today I am talking about periods, my past experience with them (or lack thereof) and how to I got to the regular periods that I have today.

I admit that I am inspired to write this week’s post because as I type, I have been experiencing crippling period pains.  Ones that caused me to throw up yesterday at work and kept me up last night, curled in a ball in bed.  Not fun, but I try to be thankful because there was a point in my life when I did not get a period.  

Sometimes I would go months with nothing.  During the brief spell where I took a birth control pill (for acne reasons actually), I still wasn’t regular and got it every other month.  About two years ago my naturopath actually told me that I wouldn’t be able to naturally get pregnant in my current state.  I was single at the time and definitely NOT looking to have a child, but that was still pretty painful news to hear.  I felt like less of a woman, like something was wrong with me.

What was wrong with me?  Well, I had a hormone imbalance.  Some people said it was because I played sports and was extremely active and maybe that was part of it, but it wasn’t the whole story.  I was eventually diagnosed with very low progesterone levels and was actually put on medication and hormone creams.  When this all happened, I was 26 and, in my opinion, way too young to be taking hormone medication and using creams.

This development in my life, along with being diagnosed with adrenal fatigue and an underactive thyroid, led me down the path of natural health.  Of using food as medicine.  Of getting back to basics and eating what has sustained the human race for thousands of years.  Basically I believed that I was too young to be experiencing what I was going through and that something in my life was causing it.  Our bodies are amazing systems.  They are built to be healthy and live vibrant lives (except in the case of some genetically inherited diseases).  And women are built to have a cycle that is the key to creating new life.  If that isn’t happening, clearly something is up.

For the past five years I have been pretty committed to this path.  I cut out prepared foods from the freezer section and middle aisles of the supermarket that are laden with preservatives, chemicals and sugar.  I became best friends with my kitchen.  I learned to be a better cook and what I foods made me feel good and what made me feel bad.  I’ve withstood countless jibes from friends and coworkers for bringing my food every day and passing up on office cake or pizza.  Of course I slip up and indulge occasionally, but for the most part I eat extremely clean.  And yeah, it takes more time to cook my meals but to me, it is completely worth it.

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A recent creation of salmon and brown rice with roasted Brussels sprouts and squash

And I have my health to thank for it.  Today I no longer need to depend on coffee to keep me awake, which means my little adrenals are working as they’re supposed to (see more about my coffee story here!).  My thyroid is normal, though I still do take medication every morning and probably will for the rest of my life, which is typical for those with hypothyroid.  And, as you learned above, I get a period every month.  In the space of a year I went from my doctor telling me that I couldn’t naturally conceive to her telling me I was extremely fertile.  How about that for a turnaround?

Did my diet help contribute to these changes?  You bet it did.  Along with my JERF (Just Eat Real Food) way of eating, I sleep at least eight hours a day, take my dog for walks outside in nature and exercise around 5 days per week on average (mostly consisting of weight training, cardio, yoga and stretching).  I try to keep stress to a minimum and work hard to stay happy and positive.

I read a great article today about the effect of sugar on women’s hormones that I really wanted to share (see it here!).  It discusses seven ways cutting sugar from your diet will improve your hormones and your health.  I can relate to many things in this article.  My five-year quest for natural health has led to regular periods, skin that is a million times clearer and brunette locks that are pretty darn healthy.  My periods are lighter as well.

But I do have two complaints – PMS and period pain.  If anything, these have gotten worse and continue to get worse.  This week I’ve had period pain for over 24 hours and my PMS symptoms have exhausted me, not to mention the impact they have on those that I love.  So what is causing these?  Is something imbalanced?  What am I missing?  This article has a few suggestions that I am going to try, namely cutting out dairy (which I pretty much do anyway but now I have a reason to commit to it) and looking into taking turmeric supplements or using the spice more often in my cooking.  And I plan to work with my doctor to see if there is anything medical contributing to my symptoms (perhaps elevated levels of estrogen are to blame as the article suggests?).

Wherever you are in your path to health and whatever your monthly cycle may be like, we can all benefit from a diet low in or free of artificial sugar.  And maybe, just maybe, my story will be helpful in some way.  It’s why I am here and write to you as often as you can.  I want my experience to be an example of the power of natural food, cooking and an active life.

Want to learn more about sugar and how to lead a sugar-free life?  Best place to start is the blog I Quit Sugar, which is where I found the article discussed above.  This Australian group, created by blogger and JERF pioneer Sarah Wilson (who I also follow and admire greatly), has great articles, tips and recipes, as well as ebooks galore of sugar-free recipes (including one on chocolate!).  They also run a 6-week I Quit Sugar program a few times a year.  Check out Sarah’s most recent I Quit Sugar Cookbook here.

Peace, love and natural health,

The Yogi~Foodie