28 May 2014

Upcoming Workshop Announcement!

Mind-Body Nutrition for Busy People:
Explore 5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Relationship with Food & Your Body

When: Sunday, June 8, 2014 1-4 pm

Where: Broadstone Crossing Apartments (Common Room)
12430 Metric Blvd, Austin TX 78758

  • Spend too much time & energy on what's wrong with your body?
  • Tried everything when it comes to losing weight & keeping it off?
  • Know what you should eat, but just can't find the time?
  • Challenged by unwanted, emotionally-based eating habits?
. . .Or, just curious about what mind-body nutrition can do for you?

Join Kali Patrick as she leads you through an informative journey into 5 new, practical, & time-saving approaches to help you improve your eating habits, reduce your stress, make peace with your body, and become more of the person you were truly meant to be!

In this interactive workshop, you'll learn:
  • The physiological effects of stress on metabolism & calorie burning
  • How to naturally modulate your appetite through eating rhythm
  • The profound impact of the cephalic phase digestive response
  • Ways to overcome toxic beliefs about food & body that limit weight loss potential
  • Mind-body techniques for overcoming body image challenges
You'll also receive informative handouts & recommendations for further reading.

Cost: $30 pre-registration*, $40 at the door

Call 617.699.2389 or email info (at) ajourneyintohealth (dot) com to reserve your space.
*Due to the interactive nature of the workshop, space is limited to 12 & pre-registration is recommended.

About Kali Patrick, Mind-body Wellness Consultant at A Journey Into Health:

Kali integrates eating psychology, nutrition, yoga, meditation, Ayurveda & Reiki to help busy people improve their overall health & wellness. Her prior experience working in high-tech corporations taught her not only how to facilitate informative & fun group discussions, but also helped her understand how our fast-paced, stress-based culture makes it easy to develop unwanted eating habits & difficult to make time to care for ourselves, even when we want to.

For more information about Kali, visit www.ajourneyintohealth.com.

27 May 2014

Does the number on your bathroom scale wreak havoc on your mood?

Mine used to.

Isabelle Tierney's recent post, titled "God in Facebook Form" got me thinking about another way many of us end up seeking validation: seeing a particular number on the bathroom scale.

During a particularly difficult time in my life (when I was under a lot of stress and feeling pretty trapped), I developed a pretty serious obsession with my weight. My rationale was that in 8th grade I was 5 feet tall and 100 lbs. Going on birth control at 16 gained me 3 pounds, but I was OK with that. Fast forward 20+ years later, and you'd find me incredibly focused on getting back down to that specific number of 103 (since obviously I wasn't getting any taller). I think I was around 110 lbs when all that started. When I hit rock bottom, I'd gotten myself up to 120 lbs--all by trying ridiculously hard to get the long and lean body I envied, weighing myself every day (sometimes more than once). That extra weight wasn't muscle either: it was from the binging and overeating caused by how the number on the scale contributed to my already fragile mood.

When I started studying to become an Eating Psychology Coach, one of the first things that Marc David, the founder and primary teacher in the training said, was that we should get rid of the scale. In addition to the fact that there are normal fluctuations in body weight, he alluded to the psychological impact that seeing a particular number can have on us. In my case, if I weighed less than I had previously, or I was closer to my goal weight, stepping on the scale would have a positive effect on my mood. I'd find myself smiling, and being happy and confident in my body until my next weigh in. If I weighed more or hadn't made any progress, I'd feel terrible. I'd go through my day thinking I was "fat and disgusting" (and I can't count how many times I said that phrase aloud, further putting it "out there" into the Universe and making it seem more real)!

At first I found myself very reluctant to give up this mood-altering ritual. But eventually, the scale went into the closet. I pulled it out once a week instead of stepping on it every day, but I found that even the decreased frequency seemed to have the same effect on my mood. Weight down, mood up. Weight up, mood down. So back in the closet it went, and as I started to really internalize that I could love my body as it is (yet still exercise and eat well to be strong, flexible, and healthy),

I'm happy to report that it's been over a month since the difference between a number in my brain and the one on a little square device has had any power over my mood, my confidence, or my life. Do I still think about weighing myself sometimes? Of course. Do I do it? Nope. Instead I remind myself that I can give my gifts to the world because of what is inside of me; and if that doesn't work, I do something I know will make me feel good, like yoga. (And oftentimes, those self-care activities are exactly what I need to be as healthy as I can be! Funny how that works.)

Do you smile when you're practicing yoga?

As a yoga instructor at both a studio and a gym, I teach many students who are brand new to yoga. It's not uncommon for me to have one or more people in my class who have never done yoga before, and are feeling a little uncertain about their decision to try it.

One of the things I emphasize in my classes, beyond encouraging students to tune into the wisdom of their bodies, in addition to asking them to really pay attention to their breathing, and above asking them to (try to) stay out of their ego by only going as far as their body and their breath guide them, is to SMILE!

Most students love this, I believe because there are many things in life--family, work, school, etc.--that we all take so seriously. So when students come to my class and I encourage them to relax, strengthen, and stretch their bodies by being PLAYFUL and having some fun, the relief is almost palpable. (Balancing poses in particular are great opportunities for smiles and laughs!)

On the first yoga DVD I ever had, Baron Baptitse said (at a particularly challenging point in the class): "lift the inner corners of the lips". I often find myself using that sly phrase--among other techniques--to get people to smile during my classes. For example, when we begin to extend our legs for wide-angle forward fold, I'll joke "OK, now don't everyone get into that full split just yet!" My YTT peers might sneer when I admit to have saying, "blossom your buttocks to the sky" (which I do if I think my students will smile at the imagery). Sometimes I feel a bit like a stand-up comedian, and it's really an amazing class when the students get into it. 

When students aren't into it, I'm OK with that. I either keep trying, or if the class is entirely serious, I might tone it down a bit. What I notice though, is that it's often the students who may have been practicing yoga for awhile who don't smile, or seem to really let go.  And, I'm writing this blog because I think they may be missing out. It's been my belief that making that small change in the face--moving the muscles of the mouth into a smile--helps relax the body and release tension. Sure enough, I've discovered that there's some science to back up my hunch. :-)

The Smithsonian and Medical News Today both reported on an interesting study done for Psychological Science back in 2012, where researchers "looked at how different types of smiling, and people being aware of smiling, affected their ability to recover from stressful episodes." What they found was that smiling (even when the smiling was "faked"), reduced participants' heart rates as they attempted to perform a stressful task. The Smithsonian article states: "Since heart rate is an indicator of the body’s stress response, it seems as though the act of smiling actually reduced the participants’ overall stress level." Although there are no available sources, they also suggested there were others who indicate "that smiling could reduce levels of cortisol, a stress-related hormone."

When we are in yoga class, we are taking various shapes with the body, some of which may feel different, unnatural, or challenging (depending on our typical posture throughout the day). When we're feeling sensation in various muscles in the poses, we are in fact "stressing" the body, although in a good way. We use the breath, specifically the out-breath, to try and send relaxation, love, and compassion to those areas in the body. And, I believe more than ever before that smiling is yet another, simple and easy way to help ease the body into greater strength and flexibility during yoga.

So the next time you're in a yoga class (mine or someone else's), and you feel yourself tensing your body, losing your long deep breath, or pursing your lips in great seriousness, try putting on a smile. Like anything else you do in yoga class, let the smile be an exploration: what do you notice in your body, breath, mind, and spirit as you do this? Observe, pay attention, and then decide for yourself whether to do it again and again and again!

P.S.: For those of you who are serious (pun intended!) about taking your yoga practice off the mat, here's a short article listing some of the other benefits of smiling: http://goodrelaxation.com/2012/01/health-benefits-of-smiling/.

23 May 2014

Is fear driving your behavior? (and what you can do about it!)

I see more and more people these days--and I count myself among these folks--whose behaviors are being driven from deep-seated, underlying fears.

Here are some of the ways I think fear manifests itself in our behaviors:
  • The "I know I shoulds": Do you ever know what you should or shouldn't do, but you still don't act in accordance with that logical thought? (Some examples: "I know I should exercise because it's good for me", "I know that if I want to eat healthy, I shouldn't eat processed foods.")
  • Overreacting: Do you ever respond emotionally to something, in a somewhat dramatic way, and you can't rationally understand why? (For example, even though I'd done something like this before and was fine, I ended up in tears the other night at "Painting with a Twist" because my painting was terrible. I knew it didn't matter, that the point was to have fun, but I left sobbing anyhow.)
  • Endless procrastinating: Are you unsure of which direction to head in your relationship, your business, or your life? Because you don't know with 100% certainty what the right path is, do you stay stuck where you are? Do you find yourself complaining to friends and family about the same-old-things, while doing nothing or starting things you don't ever finish?
  • Pushing through: Do you keep pushing yourself to work harder, faster, more efficiently at all costs? Do you find your sleep, weight, or overall health suffering, but feel like you just absolutely cannot take time for yourself because everything will fall apart? (Often stated as: "I know I should slow down and take more time for myself." :-) )
  • Refusing to set boundaries: Are you often silent around parents, siblings, children, or bosses, coworkers, friends and significant others when you're feeling resentful (e.g. about obligations), angry, intruded upon, taken advantage of, unappreciated, overworked, or just plain "done" with a relationship? Do you think that standing up for yourself will just create conflict or rock the boat, so you hold your feelings inside?
  • Not taking time to experience pleasure: All work and no play? Not eating that piece of chocolate or having that glass of wine because it will "make me fat and undesirable?" Multi-tasking during your pedicure? (see also Pushing through.)
Recognize yourself or someone you know in any of these? ;-)

OK, so what can we do about it? Here are my ideas:
  • Acknowledge that fear is driving your behavior. You may be inclined to skip this, but as they say, recognizing you have a problem is the first step to moving through it. It can feel vulnerable to admit you are afraid, even to yourself, so it's not always easy! (If you happen to be a man or a professional woman, culture makes it worse, telling you this isn't desirable.)
  • Accept that fear may not be rational. A dear friend and I used to call some reactions / behaviors we'd have "IFs" (for "irrational fears"). You can logically and rationally think through something, but fear isn't likely to respond to those tactics, so accepting that can be freeing. (I can't tell you how many times I listed all the practical reasons why I shouldn't binge, as I was raiding the pantry and downing a box of cookies.)
  • Dive deep into fear. Yeah, I mean it. What are you really afraid of? That you'll end up homeless? Alone? Die? That no one will love you? That you'll lose your mind? That you're unlovable? Defective? That you'll cry forever and ever and never stop? Identify the real fears, and then either:
    • Imagine that your worst fear is really true. Totally counterintuitive, but see if you can FEEL into the fear on an emotional level, rather than trying to push it away with logic (that we know doesn't work). Be scared! Cry. Break a plate somewhere safe. Allow the fears to feel heard, listened to, seen. Breathe, and try your best to relax and surrender into it. Give it your full attention. When you emerge (which you will!) you may find that it's not as scary as all that, realize you'd ultimately be OK even if things went that way, discover that some things are truly beyond your control so you can release them, or that there are other choices you do have. Be open to the possibilities that letting go can show you!
    • Use "the work" to challenge the fear. Ever since I read "Loving What Is" by Byron Katie, I'm loving her four questions: 1) "Is it true? 2) Can you absolutely know that it's true? 3) How do you react, what happens when you believe that thought? 4) Who would you be without the thought?" Katie goes on to show us how to "turn the thought around", so if you're interested, check out her site. I found that when I started doing this with my (vast amount of) automatic negative thoughts (many of which were IFs), I couldn't end up getting past questions 1 or 2 (because the answer is either absolutely, unequivocally "yes" or "no", and it was never realistically 100% "yes".
  • Do it anyway. Do what? Whatever it is you're afraid of. Let yourself cry and throw a tantrum, even if you fear never stopping. Finish that report or presentation, even if it's scary to think you might actually be successful. Slow down and take time for you, even if it means someone else may temporarily get upset with you for being "selfish". Tell your significant other that you need him to step up and help with the housework, or with the kids, even if it means having a discussion. Savor that glass of wine, rolling it around in your mouth as if your job was as a taster or critic. Fake it until you make it. Smile. Live today as if you had no fear.
Other ideas? Please share your comments!

Copyright: zigf / 123RF Stock Photo

My Solemn Vow to Self-Care

This afternoon, I am having a much-needed pedicure. Over the past month my poor feet and toes have been through numerous walks, hikes, yoga, and dance classes. They need some pampering, and a fresh new color! If you're anything like me, just "making an appointment" for such an indulgence can take a few weeks, as other, more important things (likely not at all related to self-care!) take priority.

And, if you're anything like me, actually ENJOYING these precious moments of self-care is equally difficult. The last time I had a pedicure, I preemptively apologized to the nice lady working with my feet because I had my iPod on and headphones in--likely listening to a module in my training toward becoming a certified Eating Psychology Coach. Yet of course the entire time, I found my eyes glued to the subtitles of the "chick flick" (possibly Legally Blonde 2) that played on the wide-screen TV in the boutique-like nail salon. Now what was it he said again? Repeat that please! ;-)

So today, as I embark on this hour of self-care, I solemnly vow not to take an iPod/headphones, a phone, a book, or anything else that might distract me from completely spacing out and getting completely lost and engrossed in some absolutely ridiculous movie. Can I do it?

Feel free to check in with me about that and ask how it went! :-)

AND, can YOU set aside some time for REAL, non-multitasking, complete surrendering and letting go of obligations, worries, work, etc. self-care today? JOIN ME!

Copyright: domenicogelermo / 123RF Stock Photo

20 May 2014

Rice Paper Wraps Can Make Quick, Easy, & Healthy Lunches or Snacks

I've been making variations on these wraps for awhile now, and they've turned out to be very convenient for lunches and/or snacks, especially if you have to eat on the run. Here's the version I made today:
A "Wrap-Making Workstation"

Ingredients (per wrap)
  • 1 Vietnamese brown rice spring roll wrapper
  • 1/3 piece of Emerald Cove Organic Pacific Nori
  • 1/2 piece of a whole heart of palm (from a can, sliced lengthwise into 2 narrow strips)
  • 1 slice organic avocado
  • 1/4 organic tomato (chopped)
  • 1/4 c or less snow pea shoots (ends trimmed off)
  • 1/4 c or less upland cress leaves
  • 1 slice Applegate Naturals roasted turkey breast (if non-veg)
I like to cut everything up and prepare a little "workstation" so I can then just focus on making a bunch of wraps at once.

Ingredients Across Nori
  • Rinse the spring roll wrapper under warm water until it's wet, and press it down on a hard surface (for the photo I used a blue cutting surface, but honestly I find it best to do on a clean piece of granite counter top!)
  • Place the nori in the center so there's a strip to work with. 
  • At the center of the nori, place the heart of palm strips, the avocado strips.
  • In the gaps, place the chopped tomato.
  • Put the snow pea shoots and upland cress leaves on top.
  • If going non-veg, place the turkey breast slice on top of everything (it works nicely to hold in the other ingredients).
  • Fold in the right and left sides of the wrap, squishing other ingredients slightly more into the center.
  • While holding the sides as best you can, flip the end of the wrap that's closest to you up and around the other ingredients so they're secure. Then, holding in the sides and the top, roll tightly. 
Wraps on a Platter
Tip: This takes some practice. if you're having trouble, try fewer ingredients--it's easy to want to put in too much!

I generally make a bunch at once, put them on a platter, cover them with plastic wrap and stick them in the fridge. Sometimes there's a bit of condensation that shows up, but that helps keep them sticky; they dry out quickly again when you take them out. I'd recommend eating them within a few days, especially if you use avocado.

Other ingredients I've put into wraps include:
  • Thinly sliced carrot or cucumber
  • Different Applegate lunchmeats (like the turkey bologna) 
  • Cooked shrimp (sliced-in-half lengthwise)
  • Other sprouts (e.g. alfalfa) or greens (spinach, arugula, etc.)
And, if you have to eat on the go, you can generally fit 2 into a ziplock baggie. :-)

10 May 2014

How Our Ways of Speaking & Listening Can Mess Up Our Relationships

This morning I was reading David Deida's "Blue Truth: A Spiritual Guide to Life & Death and Love & Sex", and a particular passage ruffled my feathers a bit.

Deida was explaining that people with masculine energies are more directive, while those with feminine energies offer "invitations to action". He says:
For instance, you are supposed to direct someone, even your lover, by telling him or her what to do rather than by inviting their action through expressing life's feeling. Your masculine statement, "Please turn on the heat," is considered more honest than your feminine invitation-through-feeling-expression, "I'm feeling really cold." People who are particularly proud of their masculine capacity consider this feminine style of invitation to be manipulative and covert. (p.118).
Arrgh!! Sigh!! Grrrr!!! And unfortunately, YES.

Thinking through my most recent romantic relationships, I can completely relate to this. In talking with men, I have become very specific about what I want them to do, and sometimes even when and how I want them to do it. I have even coached female clients to do this to help them improve their relationships.

What Deida goes on to say, however, is that when females fully embrace this masculine way of being and talking, it leaves little room for the men in relationship with us to step up and take charge with a solution. In other words, we don't "open a space in the moment for your lover to fill with masculine direction." (p. 120). And since the masculine desires freedom from obligation above all else, this tell-him-what-to-do approach will (at minimum) suck the fire out of your relationship (as there is little feminine energy to play with the masculine), and (at worst), result in his wanting out.

Deida's not the only one I've heard saying that passion is sparked from clear masculine and feminine energies playing off each other (called having "polarity"), just the most recent. And after reading his "Way of the Superior Man," in which he very clearly articulated everything I've always wanted from a romantic relationship with a member of the opposite sex, I respect his advice. Here's my trouble and frustration: my experience has been that when I say something like "I'm feeling really cold" (which apparently is my natural, feminine tendency), men either:
  • don't hear me speak (i.e. they're not listening at all)
  • can't translate the invitation into the direct request "Please turn on the heat"
  • don't act on that request
Deida goes on to encourage women to revisit this "invitation-through-feeling-expression" way of speaking, and what I like about this book is that he also caveats that with:
...if your masculine direction is more evolved than your lover's is, then you shouldn't surrender to your lover's masculine." (p. 133).
The "Way of the Superior Man" was all about how men need to create a deep sense of trust in their relationships, with Deida illustrating through thought-provoking prose how men do and do not "show up", thereby creating an inconsistency that does not lend itself to deep trust and opening by the feminine. In "Blue Truth", he speaks to men about how to re-engage with their masculine energy by "deepening their attention", which I agree is necessary for re-creating some masculine/feminine polarity, as well as trust and ways of speaking and listening that restore some of the passion in relationships!

Note: Before anyone gets riled up, please know that I'm not saying ALL men or ALL women have this issue, and know that I am very masculine in many ways (though as of late I'm exploring and trying to embrace more of my femininity). It's just something I've noticed in my personal experience.

What's been your experience? Are you a woman who has become more masculine in your way of speaking? Are you a man who frequently tunes out your partner because she's always "hinting" rather than saying what she really wants? How can we, as women, get a little more comfortable with our feminine voice? How can we, as men, get more attentive so our women trust us more?

07 May 2014

4 Ways to Not Lose Your S**t While in Traffic

When I moved to Austin a few months ago, a local friend warned me about the traffic here. Being from Boston--where over the course of the past 13 years I honed my wicked Massholian driving skills--I casually brushed off his warnings much like I'd flick away a buzzing insect. Now, 5 months into adjusting to life in Texas, I will say that I'm still quite puzzled by how people drive here. I honestly don't get it, and I'm pretty confident that it's a large contributor to the traffic issue. But, I digress.

There have been times when I have felt stressed while in traffic; several local clients of mine have also expressed that driving is a source of lots of stress and tension for them (especially if they're Yankees like me). So, here is some advice about how not to lose your s**t while in traffic, regardless of where you're commuting to or from!
  1. Find ways to experience pleasure / fun: this is actually my favorite strategy, which is why I list it first. An example of a safe way to do this while driving (or rather sitting in a parking lot that should be a highway) is to put on some awesome music. I prefer the up-beat, old-school, belt-it-out variety, but you may prefer more relaxing, new-age, meditative tunes, or listening to that book you'd never have time to sit down and really read.
  2. Generate compassion for other drivers: this may be the most difficult, and also the most rewarding technique. Instead of thinking of what "that guy/gal" isn't doing right, try to imagine all the ways they are just like you. Maybe they're tired, hungry, or just had a fight with their partner. Maybe their minds are on their jobs, or thinking about doing something more fun. Another way of doing this is recognizing that it's not THEY who are traffic; to them, YOU are traffic!
  3. Practice breathing: so many of us breathe shallowly throughout the day, and we are more prone to it when feeling stressed out. Breathing deeply engages the parasympathetic nervous system, increasing our oxygen intake and helping us feel calm and centered. Yet, we don't often have time to sit down and focus on our breath in meditation. As part of your daily self-care, use the fact that you're sitting (especially when you're not moving) to try a simple breathing exercise like counting your breath: e.g. "one" on your inhale, "two" on your exhale, "three" on your inhale, and so on. Don't force your breath, just notice how it is naturally. And when you lose count, notice that, and begin at one again. (Check out Andrew Weil's site for some other useful breathing exercises--though be careful of which ones you choose to engage in while driving! You never want to feel lightheaded or overly distracted.)
  4. Create a mental gratitude list: we often read that listing things we're grateful for can help improve our mood and improve our relationships, among other benefits. But taking time to do this in a journal (at least for me) rarely happens. So, why not use the time in traffic to start listing off all the things you're grateful for? You can start with your current day, or look to your past, or even run through your intended future plans. Or you can think about people, places, or things. For more ideas, check out 60 Things to Be Grateful For in Life.
We tend to think of being "stuck" in traffic as negative, but each of the above strategies ask for a shift in our perspective. More specifically, traffic gives us time to enjoy and engage in practices for stress reduction. Since most of us find it difficult to include time for self-care as part of our typical day, traffic offers this to us. (Think of it this way: it's like when you're run down because you're doing too much, and then you get sick. Your body actually forces you to rest and slow down.) So, if we re-frame the time we spend behind the wheel, traffic is actually a gift!

How can YOU make your experience of being in traffic a gift today? If you have another idea to share, please let me know. We can use all the help we can get. :-)