When Food is Foe ūüėą

It certainly is a frustration and a struggle when you suspect that the food you’ve been eating is somehow contributing to the trouble you’re having with your gut, brain, muscles and joints, or skin.

A short list of common symptoms related to food-induced inflammation can range from heartburn and stomach pain to bloating and diarrhea. It could manifest as headaches or migraines, loss of focus, anxiety and/or depression. The symptoms could show in your achy points or in your skin as rashes or breakouts.

Your Personalized Diet

Everyone needs to eat according to their own needs, preferences, and lifestyle. A diet that works for a celebrity, your best friend, and even your cousin may not be what creates health for YOU.

Truly personalized nutrition doesn’t just take into account your height and weight, age, ancestry, activity level, or food preferences and lifestyle, it also means finding out which foods are causing an inflammatory response in your body.

Gut Permeability aka “Leaky Gut”

Having a “leaky gut” was a condition once unbelieved but is now well-documented in scientific literature. When there’s a compromise or breach of the cells lining the gut, there is a potential for all sorts of maladies, including poor nutrient absorption, food sensitivities, and many symptoms throughout the body.

Inflammation: the Good AND Bad

Just like stress, inflammation isn’t all bad. When you get a cut, the area of the trauma will start to swell and redden as the immune and circulatory system rush to the scene to stop the bleeding, prevent infection, and start laying new skin structures. The problem is when stress, or in this case, inflammation becomes chronic. This situation can ignite a host of disorders including arthritis, asthma, atherosclerosis, cancer, diabetes and, quite possibly, autism and mental issues.

How do you heal the painful symptoms associated with stepping on a nail? Sure, you could try covering it up, wrapping the area with pillowy gauze and taking aspirin, but you haven’t removed the root cause. So the first step to true, actual healing is to have the nail removed.

How might diet-induced inflammation show up for you? We’re all different so while soybean might cause one person a headache or migraine, for another it could cause joint pain or heartburn. Same with gluten, blueberries, or even green peppers.

Just because a food or diet is labeled as anti-inflammatory doesn’t mean it’s acting that way for you. In fact, surprisingly enough, we’ve had two clients in the past year for whom tumeric, a known anti-inflammatory, was actually INFLAMING them. One of the clients had been taking it everyday (!) in attempts to quell her joint pain.

The Multiple Problems with Elimination Diets

One of the keys in reducing diet-induced inflammation in the body is first identifying the foods that are causing the ‘fire’ in the body. Why not start with an elimination diet to try to improve migraines, autoimmune conditions or gut health? Why not try eliminating the most common allergens (e.g. wheat, gluten, soy, eggs, dairy, corn, and soy) or trying FODMAPs? While a particular food may relate to certain symptoms, it’s not necessarily the best course of action to subject clients to an elimination diet because they are difficult to sustain , are often inconclusive (do you have a mirgraine or heartburn because of the gluten or because you’ve been under stress or because of barometric pressure change in the weather?) and they don’t usually give the full relief clients need and desire.

1. They could miss a genetic component important for you to know and to share with your family. A good example of this would be a person who eliminates gluten from their diet and feels better. Unless they were tested for celiac disease, they wouldn’t know how stringently they might need to follow the gluten-free diet. Their relatives might also be unaware of how their expression of ‘silent celiac’ disease could be infertility, skin rashes, mouth sores, osteoporosis, and even lymphoma.¬†

2. Extra stress is another problem of elimination diets. They are frustrating and mentally demanding (trying to figure out a symptom’s cause might feel like a scene from A Beautiful Mind or this It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia meme), time-consuming and perhaps most importantly – they are not as successful as testing. The reason for this is that as you eliminate or add in foods, you may not do so slowly or completely enough AND since the immune system is in a heightened state of alert still responding to the foods you haven’t eliminated, you’re likely not going to feel 100% or even 80% better. Instead of spending 6 or more months removing foods from your diet – not feeling sure that you’re even getting better, or not getting a 100% resolution- you may want to consider another process. With our protocol, we guide clients through step-by-step, starting with 10 days of their ‘safe’ foods and then systematically expanding their diet in a way that allows us to determine other food reactions and intolerances.

3. Elimination diets don’t necessarily ‘put out the fire.’ Because our genetics and environment can play a role and impact our abilities to deal with inflammation, you can’t just avoid foods that cause you problems. Our body’s response to stress plays a role too. The great part of knowing your food – and food chemical – sensitivities is that they give a wider, more accurate picture …when it comes to discovering that molds, yeast,¬† FD&C Blue #2, or benzoic acid are also causing issues, perhaps in your household environment or products. Once we remove the ‘known offenders’ in your diet (including supplements and hygiene products), the immune system starts to calm down and then we can safely start food reintroduction and see more clearly what causes your problematic symptoms. Otherwise, with elimination diets, you’re mainly just guessing about the foods, supplements, and hygiene/household products you’re using and whether or not they are ‘safe’ for you.

Supplements aren’t the Answer

“Can’t I just take extra probiotics, collagen, turmeric, or fiber to help my gut?” You could play the guessing game and potentially waste time and money in trying to find the perfect supplement (or twenty). Here’s the problem: you’ll likely not see a great benefit from them if you’re still eating foods that irritate your gut’s lining and that cause inflammation in the body. As mentioned before, you could be reactive to turmeric and therefore adding that supplement could be your personal kryptonite. ¬†

Want a faster, better way to help your gut AND body heal?

Consider comprehensive food sensitivity testing. Why comprehensive? Because, for example, just looking at IgG levels doesn’t mean that the food is the problem necessarily; IgG can be elevated for a number of reasons. It’s more important to look at multiple markers of inflammation being released by a cell in response to a food – including cytokines, prostaglandins, histamine, leukotrienes, interleukins and more.

If you’re tired of feeling “gross”, being so bloated you look 5 months pregnant, and have stomach pains that distract you from fully participating in the life you want to live, or have other ‘unexplained’ symptoms that could be related to the foods you eat regularly, consider a comprehensive program that includes your test results and implementing the proper protocol with expert guidance and support.

Food sensitivity testing is one of the most powerful tools we have to help clients finally improve life-long symptoms and get back to engaging in life more fully. Interested to see if the testing is a good option for you? Schedule your complimentary, 20-minute Discovery Call and let’s get your healthy journey started!

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Food Sensitivity Testing with MRT

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Most people – whether younger or older, ill or well – benefit from knowing which foods their bodies react negatively to.

Here’s the kicker: the food you think is healthy, may not be healthy for you.

If you’re healthy and want to stay that way, the focus is on prevention; since food is central to any wellness plan, to eat in a precise and personalized way is best.

Dealing with health challenges?

Maybe you’ve given up some of the ‘big 8’ offenders (e.g. wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs) but are still having some symptoms. Perhaps you’ve done (ineffective) skin testing or IgG food sensitivity testing. In either case, you know you need to drill down further and find out if your everyday “healthy” foods (e.g. blueberry, turkey, or tumeric) are actually inflaming you. This has been the case for many of our clients, some visual examples of food sensitivity testing results are below.

Conditions associated with food sensitivities are:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Crohn‚Äôs Disease
  • Heartburn / GERD
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Arthritis and fibromyalgia
  • Autism and ADD/ADHD

Symptoms associated with food sensitivities are:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Constipation / diarrhea
  • Bloating and gas
  • Eczema, psoriasis, and acne
  • Fatigue and general malaise
  • Insomnia and poor sleep
  • Brain fog
  • Stomach and abdominal pain
  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Nasal and sinus congestion or post nasal drip
  • Food cravings
  • Muscle and joint pain or stiffness
  • Water retention and difficulty losing weight

Additionally, this is a test worth doing if you plan on having children (to help lower inflammation in the body and improve fertility) or if you have children who are ‘picky eaters’ (oftentimes, kids intuitively know that a certain food is ‘hurting’ them and they try to avoid it).

If you want to lose weight or improve performance, this test provides you with the foundation for your personal diet strategy and may provide the missing link necessary to achieve your goals.

What makes MRT different? How does it work?

Some of the other tests you may have done, such as a skin prick or a food sensitivity test ONLY measuring IgG levels, often lack the accuracy in determining actual food sensitivities you may have.

Figuring out what our sensitivities are can be difficult; here’s why – the reactions can be delayed or dose-dependent. This means we may not immediately feel the effect of a food reaction; it may take many hours or days to appear. If it’s dose-dependent, we might feel okay with a little bit of the offending food, but stacking it gives us a reaction.

Mediator Release Testing (MRT) is a patented blood test that shows how strongly your immune cells react to the 170 foods and chemicals tested by measuring chemical mediators released from the cell. When released from immune cells, chemical mediators such as histamines, cytokines, and prostaglandins produce damaging effects on the body’s tissues, leading to the development of symptoms. Fortunately, MRT takes the guesswork out of identifying food sensitivities!

Here are some examples of ‘healthy’ foods that were showing up as inflammatory for clients, including: bananas, turkey, blueberries, coffee and more!

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Test results are only part of the equation. With your functional medicine dietitian-nutritionist, you’ll put into play the LEAP (Lifestyle Eating and Performance) protocol to help get you the results you desire. Curious about finding out the foods and food chemicals causing inflammation and symptoms in YOUR body? Contact us and see if MRT testing is right for you.

Blame it on the Alcohol?

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Image source: pixabay.com

Jamie Foxx’s song “Blame it” encourages blaming alcohol for all ruined relationships, unsafe situations, and perceived enhancement of other’s attractiveness. Outside of the many issues and poor decisions can that can result from a night of boozing, including a high credit card bill, higher risk for accidents, and even a 2am Taco Bell run…there are more. During Covid-19, some are hitting the wine and beer harder.

Let’s review the basics: alcohol interferes with communication between nerve cells and all other cells in the body. Moderation (the amount considered to not contribute to any major health concerns) for the average woman is defined by the CDC as not more than one drink per day and for the average man as not having more than two.

A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics asserts, “there has been an increase in the proportion of US adults who drink on any given day and an increase in calories consumed from alcoholic beverages when drinking occurs.”

What effect is this having on us from a weight loss perspective? Or a liver-health one?

Now we appreciate the humor some of you bring to our appointments:

“I think I’m drinking enough water. There’s water in beer, right?”

“I’m not too concerned. It’s called a liver, not a die-er”

“Wine-o? Maybe; I prefer ‘wine-yes'”

With alcoholic beverages being among the top five contributors to total caloric intake among US adults, this is something we need to talk about. But beyond calories, here are more reasons to explore your relationship with alcohol:

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Reward ‚Ȇ Food

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Patient and client conversations can be a rich source of writing inspiration to address common concerns. As we discuss new changes, cravings, accomplishments and challenges, ideas start to percolate as we work together to find the best solution for the individual. If the same issue is mentioned by different individuals more than three times in relatively short succession, we can almost *feel* the universe tapping on our shoulder.

The latest recurrent theme among us all seems to be regarding emotional eating, over-eating, and reward-eating.

Let’s break this last one down. Why would we associate certain foods with a reward?

    • With thousands of years of evolution working for (or against) us, humans naturally crave sweet flavor. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors would get a little *ping* of dopamine by eating berries and other naturally sweet substances. The brain would reward eating this food, which some argue helped our ancestors survive by promoting fat storage to see them through the leaner times. This survival mechanism is all but unnecessary during the times in which we live, with plentiful food stores and sedentary lifestyles (when was the last time we burnt 2000+ calories a day hunting down buffalo?).
    • An ostensible lack of other options or ideas for rewarding ourselves. We’ve leaned on food to give ourselves a pat on the back after a hard day in the office, for finishing a big project, or to relax after a full day with the kids finally in bed. After many years of this, we may have forgotten how to celebrate our accomplishments without cake, doughnuts, french fries, or chips.

After the sleeve of cookies is finished, there can be a poignant anxiety that settles in. Guilt and shame follow soon after and we feel terrible about ourselves. Then we say “what the Hades, I’m probably never going to lose the weight anyway” and keep going or we decide with firmness and determination, “starting tomorrow, no cookies ever again!” However, we all know how this plays out; the deprivation leads to cravings and the whole cycle begins anew.

When you eat, try eating to nourish your body and experience pleasure. Tying food to your reward-system will unravel advances in your health goals and, here’s the kicker, it doesn’t even work. By the time we are done with the chocolate chip cookie party, we only temporarily feel sated before we either look for more sugar (during the ‘down’ of our blood sugar rollercoaster) or we feel guilty…..which drowns out what ephemeral feeling of pleasure we got from the food in the first place.

By having some non-food rewards instead, or at least sprinkling them into your current routine, you can start to challenge the ‘need’ for something sweet and, instead, ‘treat’ yourself ‘sweetly’ (double puns, couldn’t resist :D). Here are a few ideas to get your started on non-food rewards:

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Emotional Ice Cream

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It starts at a young age with associations we can’t remember making. But by this point in our short lives, we have engineered quite a few if-then connections.

If I throw my food on the floor, then mommy will be upset.

If I behave while at preschool today, the teacher will give me a sticker.

Perhaps there was a time where you fell, scraped your knee and began to cry because of the pain and shock. Maybe an adult offered you a lollipop to help cheer you up. Bam! Neural pathway made: “okay, so when I feel hurt, eating sweets is an acceptable solution”

Fast-forward decades years later and it’s still going on. A difficult conversation with your boss or spouse become an excuse, albeit mostly unconscious, to indulge in some ice cream. A night out drinking with friends is a ‘reward’ for a hellish, stressful week. And it’s OKAY to treat ourselves, but there’s a distinct mindlessness involved in emotional eating. Very few people think to themselves, “boy do these feelings hurt, perhaps I’ll eat enough chocolate chip cookies to squash them down.” And yet that unconscious belief can be at play, creating patterns that are deeply ingrained.

What to do?

The first step is awareness.

Perhaps the next time you find yourself reaching in the freezer for ice cream, ask yourself why you think you’re doing it. Perhaps you’ll reflect upon your day and remember that your boss assigned a short deadline for your next project, you’re completely overwhelmed by responsibilities, or that your mother-in-law criticized your parenting. Ice cream can seem like a balm for these ‘ouch’ moments, but there is more shame than comfort at the bottom of a pint of rocky road. Even if you find the answer to your question, you may not be able to change the behavior just yet. That’s okay. It’s something we can work on together; schedule your complimentary 20-minutes Discovery Call to get started.

Review: Floating at True REST

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Ah yes, a perfect flashback to Modest Mouse’s “Float On” and the lyrics work perfectly with our topic: floatation tanks!

Given our hectic lives where ‘being busy’ is a twisted badge of honor, the idea of a sensory deprivation state or REST (Restricted Environment Stimulus Therapy) has appealed for quite a long time. We’ve seen egg-shaped chairs and chambers but NOW….Columbus has a most perfect option; so we recently went to check it out.

For first-time floaters, you’ll need to get there half an hour early to have some tea and watch a video with a bit of the history of floating, benefits, and how to have a good float. The room is already set up for relaxing with some comfy chairs and Himalayan salt lamps. Towards the end of the video, it turns into a relaxation screen with colorful prisms and tranquil music.

From there you’ll be assigned a room with a floatation pod, shower, and all sorts of accoutrements, including ear plugs. All you need to do is shampoo and wash your body, wait for the signal, climb in and pull the pod lid down to start your float.

If you have a bit of an issue with claustrophobia, rest assured that you can lift the lid at anytime. As you get into your float (aptly named- with all the salt in there you can’t sink!), you may experience a wee bit of what meditators often call the ‘monkey mind’. “Did I lock my car? How annoying it was standing in line at the grocery today! What will we eat for dinner?” But after awhile, you body -being so still – allows your brain to get the message that we are RESTING now. You may even start falling asleep!

Before you know it – soft music will be piped into your pod to remind you that your float is almost over. It’s time to stretch yourself out, shower (careful – you don’t want salt on your clothes) and adjust to the ‘real world’ in the soft, peaceful oxygen bar area. The attendants are extremely dedicated to good customer service and you’ll likely have multiple people offering to grab you another cup of tea or infused water. If it suits you, they also have coloring books and journal in the relaxation space. Just make sure you’ve given yourself time to adjust from the Theta brain wave state before getting into your car and the phone starts pinging again.

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The owner, Patrick Gerke, was assisting other floaters with their oxygen bar selections. It was the perfect time to inquire about the history of True REST. He shared that he had been in the Marines and found it hard to turn off his highly-alert nervous system upon returning home. He found himself constantly watching other people’s hands, paying attention to their purses/bags, and the doctors he went to offered pharmaceuticals. He didn’t want to flirt with possibility of addiction to these drugs and his friend in the Navy SEALS suggested floating. Shortly thereafter, Patrick went to nearest flotation tank experience available – in Chicago – back in 2013 and as he told us”found his calling.” From there he and his wife set up the Powell location and recently expanded to Easton.

The benefits of floating are said to extend beyond relaxation and stress reduction to pain relief as well as enhanced sleep and cognition.

True REST is so confident you will enjoy the experience that if you are not 100% satisfied with your first visit, you won’t pay. We seriously doubt that ever happens, especially when you feel like a refreshed version of your ideal self. So there’s nothing to lose!

In fact, a single float is normally $79 but let them know Adrienne Raimo from One Bite Wellness sent you and get your first float for $49 (instead of $59).

Bonus: your experience may be even better when you do yoga or get a massage (both on the same shopping strip!) before your float.

They say you can never step into the same river twice; we add: you will can never step out of the floatation pod in same state you entered :).

Let’s all float on alright.

Stop the Worry Train!

 

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“Do I need to see a doctor?”
“Am I spending enough time with my family?”
“What is the point of everyday life?”
“Should I have a baby?”
“How can I make the world better?”
“Do I spend too much money/not save enough?”
“Am I getting paranoid?”

These thoughts can run circles through our minds at night, precisely when we are trying to settle down to grab a few hours of sleep before the next day begins. They also pop in during our daytime hours as we experience a bit of anxiety around whether we misspoke in our meeting, didn’t perform well enough during a presentation, or wonder if our health is failing us. Worrying may seem to provide some benefit as they bring some mindfulness back to an issue we may want to resolve, but most of the time anxious thoughts do not make our lives better – they are counter-productive and drain our energy.

So unless worrying about the leaking roof results in the action of calling the repairman, it is essentially just a sticky, negative thought loop that generally begets more of itself. Of course, fear is the parent of worry and these two emotions can cause all sorts of issues, ranging from insomnia and digestive issues to tense shoulders and lower immunity.

“Don’t worry, be happy,” Bobby McFerrin advises in a song; people may tell us to ‘lighten up’…but it may not be that simple. As with cravings, sometimes the best way to address worries is to first understand them and then change the way they affect you. Start here and see which situation(s) apply to you:

1. Worrying as a means to Control. Sometimes we believe that ruminating enough about something will help us prevent it or control the outcome. Anxious thinking about the future – 7 months or 7 years into the future – about the potential housing market or where your kids will go to college doesn’t help you in the now nor will it assist you in the future.¬† The unknown can be scary and life is constantly changing; by embracing, rather than resisting it, you can cultivate more inner peace. Many traditions, including yoga and Buddhism, urge a focus on the absolute present – the moment we have right now – and to bring our attention and energy to it. Give it a try:¬† look at the colors and textures of items at your desk or down the hall. Take a 5-minute walk outside and notice the sounds and scents of nature.¬† Embrace the flow of life and your place within it.

2. Fortune-telling. Worrying isn’t a special ability that enables the affected individual to gain some esoteric insight into the future. Some believe that worrying thoughts portend the future and they acknowledge this ‘information’ as a high-level threat. “I might lose my job. I might get divorced. Does this repair signal that my car is breaking down?” Some would say that if you are constantly thinking about how your boss doesn’t think you’re a great employee, or you’re always worried about the state of your marriage …you may bring these worries to fruition.

Also, there’s a notable difference between intuition and worrying. If you’re on a meeting with a new associate and feeling uncomfortable because they give you the creeps, that’s your gut. If you’re feeling uncomfortable because you see them as competition for your job, that’s worry. Just remember intuition starts as a gut feeling which can help provide clarity or insight whereas worrying starts as an idea that often stems from anxiety and/or fear.

Distinguishing between productive and unproductive worry, with regard to the future, is important. If you’re worried about having enough money at retirement or whether you’ll develop type II diabetes, this could goad you into creating a budget, speaking with a financial consultant or reducing sugar intake and getting some labs drawn. Unproductive worry can manifest as thoughts about whether people will show up for your presentation or whether Aunt Edith will like your version of mashed sweet potatoes. The difference is understanding what is within your control and what isn’t. A good practice for this is writing down your worries and then seeing what you can do about them. For some you could make a note next to them – set an appointment with a doctor, look through your financial records, see a marriage counselor, or have a lower-sugar breakfast. For others on the list where there isn’t an action step, cross them off as they are typically areas outside of your control which are creating needless anxiety.

3. Http://world-wide-worries. Perhaps terrorist attacks, colony-collapse disorder, GMOs, global warming, and other such maladies are on your mind and causing you nervous energy. While it is wise to be concerned about the the state of the planet and humanity, these worries could go on forever. Constant guilt about the plastic packaging brought into the home or giving up on the purchase of a new lawnmower because of global warming, may not help (the latter will likely earn you a fine from the city). Suffice to say, worrying about the planet isn’t going to help, but supporting the causes most important to you can help create productive action out of that worry. You can choose to modify your buying habits, write letters to officials, grow a garden, volunteer at a food pantry, and join local activist groups. Taking action can be the best anti-dote for these worries.

4. Existential anxieties. These can cover a breadth and depth of anxious thoughts that put the other forms of worrying to shame. Lying awake at night with haunting thoughts about whether or not you have a soul, the point of everyday life, or why you (or any of us) are here may cause restlessness instead of sleep. These thoughts are great for intellectual discourse and for helping you clarify your own beliefs, but if they over-shadow your ‘smaller’ worries (i.e. showering, paying bills, or showing up to work), the latter will become much bigger, very quickly. In a sense, are lucky to be living in one of the periods in human history where we have both time and resources to spend on philosophical ponderings. Not too long ago, many people were not able to read, write, or discuss philosophical ideas when the priority was either finding dinner or not becoming dinner. For this type of worrying, consider taking a philosophy class, reading a book, or attending a small-group meeting in order to discuss these ideas and then release the overwhelming worry.

5. Over-analysis and Ruminating. This worrying takes form as a never-ending carousel ride of thoughts where you just can’t seem to jump off. Running conversations or events on repeat and pulling them apart and analyzing every word and action is rather fruitless. Moreso, it usually just breeds regret of wishing the situation had been different. Unless you’ve taken a quick lesson from poor behavior or word choice, worrying about the past only impinges on your present and your future.

Also, it’s easy to engage in negative self-talk during this type of worrying. Notice your internal dialogue: “I can’t believe I said something so stupid. I always do that” or any other thoughts of self-doubt can be part of the worrying issue. One idea for ruminators is to journal about what happened, what you did, and what you learned and will do differently in the future. Be mindful of negative words you’ve used – “always, never, should, can’t”- and replace them with more positive ones – “will try, prefer not, will choose to.” This allows reliving the experience to gain wisdom and then to close the chapter.

In short, if you identify with one or more of these ‘worrier’ scenarios, remember that action is a productive use of worry, not constantly ruminating and causing additional anxiety. Remember to keep a healthy perspective on life’s flow, engage in relaxing activities, challenge your thoughts, and most of all, perhaps find a bit of gratitude in the process. Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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The Cost of Clutter – Death, Peace, and Money

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Almost imperceptibly, we slowly accumulate increasing piles of…stuff. Like cholesterol blockages in arteries, clutter doesn’t happen overnight but its effects can be just as deadly. It’s true, people have died from extreme clutter, or hoarding, in their own homes – by fire from which they couldn’t escape¬†or crushed and¬†hidden beneath their stuff.¬†It’s estimated that up to five percent of the U.S. population has a problem with hoarding and a CBS News poll found that 1/3 of Americans say they have too much clutter in their homes.

About 10% of American families rent storage space for belongings which don‚Äôt fit in their homes or items they aren’t ready to part with. That money serves your stuff, instead of your life and growth. Then there are some people who will forgo renting space but choose larger homes to contain their clutter.

It’s simple to put a dollar figure on the cost of rented storage spaces, but what about the clutter in your home?¬†The first step is to assess and take stock of your possessions and the space they own in your home. In a single room, take a look and estimate the cost of what you’re not using and what you don’t love. Unworn clothing, make-up purchased years ago, jewelry, knick-knacks, spider-webbed sports equipment, and paper all have a financial cost. If you find that a certain item tugs at your heart or causes an emotional response, that’s an added cost¬†(which can be greater than the financial one!). ¬†Add up the cost of the items – what you remember spending or the item’s price tag. If you’re still paying it off, record that too.¬†A perusal through one’s closet may show hundreds of dollars¬†of unused, cluttering clothing, shoes, and accessories. Are you¬†still paying on the $2000 television purchased 3 years ago? Guess what, even if it breaks (and if the term ‘planned obsolescence‘ means anything to you, it will), you’ll still pay for it AND the new television. Is anything worth the stress of those monthly bills?

Another tactic is to figure out how much each square footage of your home is worth and then discern how much of the space is ‘owned’ by clutter. If you own your home, take the current, roughly estimated value of the home and divide it by the square footage (i.e. $75 per square foot). If you rent, we find it’s easier for clients to add up the total rent for the year and divide by the square footage of the home. Once you have this number, multiply it by the square footage of space stuff is taking up in your garage, bedrooms, living room, and basement.¬†You may find a surprising estimated cost for the clutter in your space. Whether you’re paying a mortgage or a landlord, are you writing that check mainly on behalf of clutter storage?

How about money spent for replacement items? Have you purchased a new pair of sneakers only to find some¬†in your closet from last summer? Clutter costs us money and time when we buy duplicates of stuff we already own but can’t find.¬†

Part of this equation should be a discussion on safety and health. According to The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, most accidents occur in the home. Clutter can pose risks for falls and accidents. Slipping on laundry thrown down the wooden basement stairs? Kids toys? Feeding what could have been a small house fire with paper clutter? Also the growth of allergens like dust and mold can be expensive to treat.

When you are disorganized, you can’t function effectively, much less optimally. Much like a small business, you need to have an organizational structure for your home life. Misplacing checks in piles of paper, late fees, tax penalties, and library fines are all extra dollars out your door. At a very basic level, time spent looking for car keys is time that could have been spent relaxing, working, or socializing.

Clutter also costs us time by demanding our attention. We have to work around it to get groceries in the car, pay our bills, find a useful item, and make a meal. What could normally be accomplished in 15 minutes can take 3x as long! The extra hours of housework are a time and energy drain that could be used for creative endeavors, education, hobbies, or any number of productive projects.

Clutter can also affect your mental health. You know the feeling when you enter a dwelling and the space is bright, clean and welcoming versus one where shoes are strewn all over the dirty floor.¬†One client felt her life was becoming unmanageable and she was dealing with increasing amounts of anxiety and depression. It turns out that she didn’t need pharmaceutical pills, she needed a clean and welcoming sanctuary to call home. We made a few recommendations and she flew with it, hiring an organizer to help her declutter and a housekeeper for occasional, detailed visits. As of this writing, she reports feeling calmer and more emotionally stable.

What about the sheer joy and lightness of being that comes with having space to twirl around your room without running into piles of stuff? A place for you and your family to grow, expand, and learn in a clean and orderly environment? The contented sigh as you look over and see flat surfaces without piles on top?  Living in peace is priceless.

Perhaps the biggest cost is an intangible one: clutter impedes and causes procrastination for personal growth. It’s just one giant, clutter-y obstacle to overcome on living a life you desire.

We can become prisoners and Stuff is our warden. We tie up our money in rarely used sports equipment, shirts that don’t fit quite right, gadgets, and various entertainment. Some people develop Stockholm syndrome with their clutter, relating positive feelings for their stuff and imbuing it with sense of human comfort to counter-act their loneliness. Liberate your stuff, liberate yourself. tweet this

When there is too much stuff around you, it’s like being a plant in a tiny pot. It’s overly challenging to thrive and grow when you are tucked into a bunch of clutter. The answer, of course, isn’t moving to a larger space.¬†The solution is to put your space on a diet. Once you get rid of stuff and get organized, that’s when you begin to expand your wings and take off!

Ready to take charge and get support? Come to our Declutter your Home, Clear your Mind class this Thursday!

The Person behind the Professional – My Healing Story

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A short jaunt over to the “about” tab will give you some of my professional story- the multiple degrees and certifications from such renowned institutions as The Ohio State University, Columbia University, Cornell University, and more. However, client curiosity around why I chose this satisfying profession has led me to share more about the person behind the professional.

“You’re so lucky to be thin and healthy, you can eat whatever you want!”

This phrase has been said to me at various points in my life. I wanted to believe it was true because then I’d only have to stay thin in order to be healthy, right?

Early Life through Adolescence 

Let’s begin at the beginning. As an infant and small child, I had gastro-intestinal issues and was on repeated rounds of antibiotics for both active infections and as a prophylactic measure for something the doctors told my parents I should ‘grow out of’. That never happened. I was painfully poked and prodded, given barium and multiple x-rays, and underwent extensive testing. At age 5, I had major surgery to correct part of my urinary system and we all hoped my problems would be over.

…But they weren’t. Over the years I would intermittently get to live the life I loved – full of energy, activity, and vitality. Other days and weeks, even months, I would go to bed one night and wake up in pain, feverish, and unable to leave the house. If it was a weekend, that was the worst, because it meant me having to wait days to see the doctor while being in acute pain. Sometimes I think about how much of my life I’ve spent curled up on the couch, overloading myself with fluids and prescription medications, and wondering if I’d ever truly be well and free of what felt like a health curse.

An Unhealthy Obsession

Somewhere around ages 15 and 16, I developed disordered eating practices and patterns. As mentioned above, thinness was associated with health and I was also praised and envied by others for being ‘so tiny’. It was rewarding to be small & athletic- I was always the ‘flyer’ in gymnastics as the lightest person in 7th grade gym class but was still strong enough to do 18 pull-ups! As my body changed and I went from 89lbs at age 15 to over 100lbs at 16, I had problems adjusting and, like some others, developed a sense of body dysmorphia. Recruited to run track as a sprinter in high school, I felt the need to be light so I wouldn’t weigh myself down with extra poundage. Eating for athletic performance? I knew nothing about this. Lunch was a Twix bar from the vending machine and an apple; these were justified on vegetarian grounds at the time. My friends and boyfriend were worried about me and, to both my annoyance and twisted sense of pleasure, they gave extra attention to me and my meals. I felt I could better control the stress of school and life if I could just control my weight. Now I can recognize that part of this disordered eating had roots in food intolerances…the so-called healthy cereal, bread, and pasta gave me stomachaches. By eating less or barely at all, I felt better and had more energy. Buuuuut, I still had cravings…

I craved sugar and carbs like an addict. Baking cookies, eating ice cream, and having salty pretzels became a regular occurrence. During one particular day, I couldn’t find the sweet-enough item I was jonesing for so I took a spoon out of the drawer and went straight for the bag of brown sugar in the pantry. That feeling of desperation to get my sugar fix was reminiscent of an addict doing whatever it took to get alcohol, heroin, or meth. I realized this was a problem but felt powerless over my cravings and berated myself for not having enough willpower to stick to my ‘healthy diet’.

Forays into Health Education

As a teenager with aims to become a doctor and a passion for learning about health, I was already building a library of books on traditional and holistic healing theories. Nearly everyone has a go-to health-nut friend and I was that person people would come to about their acne, blood sugar levels, anxiety, depression, and even their parents’ issues. This challenge was enticing to me and I’d go home and look through my library for ideas on how to use nutrition, herbs, and alternative therapies before presenting my findings. I had great faith and quite a lot of scientific evidence that nutrition was a key part of the puzzle; it was just so overwhelming and hard to implement the knowledge. (This is later where behavior change and accountability with my health coaching would come in.)

The College Years & A Turning Point

When starting college, at a youthful time in life that is associated with being at the epitome of health and fitness, I wasn’t feeling it.

Besides the recurrent illness itself still playing into my college years, I also had acne breakouts, skin rashes, stomachaches, constipation, alternating periods of high energy and lethargy, anxiety, depression, hormone imbalances, and my increased weight had my BMI dangerously close to the ‘overweight’ category. For the first time in my life, instead of informing me that I was in the lower percentile for weight and height, I horrifically received a talk from my doctor about the need for ‘diet and exercise’. I threw my hands in the air with exasperation. What did that really mean anyway?

It became apparent to me during my sophomore year of college that I might have to withdraw from the university due to not being able to attend classes more than sporadically. I, the person who loved learning and had been a precocious teenager taking college classes, was about to give up. I put aside my studies in German and political science because I knew I didn’t have another option- I was desperate and compelled to learn more about why my body was so upset.

I did a lot of internet searching while still faithfully visiting my multiple doctors. Between and during fresh rounds of antibiotics, I was learning bits and pieces about gut health, sugar, probiotics, herbs, and medical ‘cures’. Eventually, I took a course in nutrition and had an epiphany. THIS is what I wanted to do with my life. Instead of doctoring with surgery and medications, I could utilize food in helping people heal! But first I had to heal myself and that required a lot more than what I already knew from years of my nutrition hobby. That year, I started my third undergraduate degree- this time in dietetics. I received another small miracle in late 2005 when I visited a website with a link to a nutrition school in Manhattan that offered to educate me on all the different dietary theories and to help me heal my own life so that I could help others heal theirs.

It amazed me that I, a lay-person and nutrition novice, through learning about the human body’s systems and the interactions of nutrition, could put pieces of the puzzle together that my urologist, general practitioner, and OB-GYN could not. It just made so much sense, I couldn’t ignore it.

I stopped relying on doctors to ‘fix me’ and started taking responsibility– for every morsel of food I put in my body, getting enough water, sleep, and exercise, as well as managing stress better. I acted as though my life depended on dietary diligence and application of lifestyle improvements, because it did.

The first time I was able to effectively mitigate a healing crisis with herbs, nutrition and fluids, I was astounded. Maybe I didn’t have an antibiotic deficiency at all – maybe I didn’t need to have my doctor’s phone number on speed-dial…..I scarcely dared to hope that perhaps, just MAYBE, my body wanted to get better and all I needed to really do was pay attention to it and supply it with the tools it needed in order to repair itself.

As I rose into the role of president of my own life, I knew I still needed a cabinet- a group of experts who would help me achieve a higher state of health. I hired acupuncturists & massage therapists and have consistently had a health coach who inspires me and keeps me accountable to my health goals. Having a health-minded partner and friends is huge in this area too. No (wo)man is an island.

Illness and Fear, with a Twinkle of Hope

Having a recurrent illness does a lot of things to you. One of these is creating fear that you’ll always have this condition, pain, and misery.

It did the same to me. Since I had suffered for this long, fear told me my life would probably always be like this. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to hold down a job without running through my sick days like crazy. I had fear that I couldn’t be in a great relationship or see my friends when I wanted to because I never knew when I could count on being well enough. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to travel without bottles of supplements and the possibility of needing to find a store to buy more, or even more dreaded, visiting a doctor.

But, at the same time, I knew health was possible because I had those short periods of true vitality and energy…. and that’s what I would strive for.

The Cost of Illness and Disease

My illness and health conditions cost me (and my parents until age 18) thousands of dollars in the form of co-pays, prescriptions, and expensive tests. It cost me money that I couldn’t earn due to being unable to show up to work as well as college tuition for classes I couldn’t attend.

But not all costs are associated with ones from the wallet. This illness was cheating me out of education and better grades, a sense of security, time with friends, and vitality….it OWNED me. And I was tired of being its sick, sad slave.

How Nutrition Changed Everything

Let’s talk about the diet I had growing up. First let me say that my parents are wonderful people who tried the best they knew how. My mom recounts how, even though she’s not a fan of vegetables, she would always get them in for her pregnancies. We grew up eating ‘healthy’ cereals such as Total, Kix, and Special K with skim milk. Junk cereals were relegated to the weekends along with coveted pancakes and bacon and eggs dishes. Our lunches were not the fruity snacks, white bread sandwiches, and sugary treat meals our school companions had – we had whole wheat bread sandwiches, a piece of fruit, juice or water, and 2-3 small cookies. Dinners might be a stir-fry, pot pies (with trans-fat *shudder*), microwaved meals, pasta, and usually some vegetables at every meal. Snacks were ice cream, pretzels, and occasionally candy such as Snickers or M&Ms. I drank milk, juice, and (not enough) water. When I became a vegetarian, my parents didn’t really know what to do with me. I didn’t either. I just knew meat was out of the question. So I was left with oh-so-many carbs in my very low protein and fat diet (this was the low-fat craze from the ’90s going on.)

I started healing as best as I could during my adolescence but it wasn’t until years later, particularly during my year of school in New York that I made myself and my healing more of a priority. I kept a food journal, had a a health coach who encouraged me and provided ideas and accountability, I did elimination diets/food sensitivity testing and found a few foods that were associated with my digestive issues, skin, and hormone issues. I realized the connection my brain/gut had was real and that my mood improved when I started giving myself better food. Genetic testing gave me an additional layer to my already-healthy-eating plan that has also lead to improved mood, digestion, eye-health, and hopefully decreased risk for diseases.

Food has become the foundation for a healthy life along with lifestyle factors and ‘primary food’ – the areas of life that feed our souls, not our stomachs- including having a meaningful life I love and share with others.

How my Life has Transformed

The tens of thousands of dollars I’ve spent on my education to learn about nutrition as well as self-care has been worth every single penny. I’m glad to continue to invest in myself through buying organic, healthy, anti-inflammatory and genetically-appropriate foods and supplements, to get massage and acupuncture, and….to take rejuvenating vacations. Compared to the dollars spent in co-pays, medication costs, expensive tests, and doctors visits, I now experience less pain, less negative side effects from medication, and waaaay more fun and pleasure.

Through applied, bio-individualized nutrition, the benefits to my health have been: clearer skin (no make-up!), drastically improved stomachaches and digestion, little/no cravings, much better mood and mental outlook, and an increasingly balanced life.

In terms of my illness, the changes I was making in my life started adding up. I could soon go a solid week without another infection, then I slowly reached my first month without a healing crisis. As of this writing, knock on wood, I have been free and clear of the former ‘health curse’ for over 3 years. 

There is a moment in our lives when most of us experience a great shift. Everything changes. For me, this came when I decided I would no longer be a prisoner to this illness and I was willing to do whatever it took to get better. That moment of commitment, as Goethe reminds us, is when the “entire universe conspires to assist you.” The results I’ve experienced as well as my healing team of health professionals and personal relationships are a testament to the veracity of this statement.

A Healthier Obsession

During the deepest and darkest times of my life and with my health condition, food became an obsession. When a person is sick, all they can think about is how they don’t want to be sick and how they can get better. For me, this manifested as anxiety around food (especially low-quality food in social situations) and disordered eating.

These days, quality food is not an obsession. Orthorexia is a real issue, but it’s not one I have. What I do have is a strong set of values and awareness around organic/non-GMO, whole and sustainably grown foods.

Epilogue

Health involves so much more than being thin. I think about what people have told me and how such a simplistic statement puts focus on the wrong areas of life.

Though I find it a bit traumatic to revisit this time in my life and reflect upon the pain and discomfort involved, I let gratitude for my healing overshadow it. I’m so thankful that I’ve healed my body and that this experience has enabled me to empathize with my clients as I empower them to also leave health issues, frequent doctors’ visits, lists of medications, pain, and unwanted weight behind so they can step into the life of vitality they deserve. We all deserve this.

Call to the Nation: Take your Vacation!

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Of all industrialized nations, America has the least number of vacation days. A far cry from the 30+ days offered as annual leave and paid holidays by other countries such as Germany, Austria, Spain, and Italy, some Americans are lucky to get (and use) the roughly two weeks given as a ‘benefit’. However,¬†quite a few of us are not even taking this small amount of time off,¬†in the true sense of the word. To ask for a week or *gasp* two off requires advance notice of a few months, large efforts to secure work while away (though about a third of us do work during vacations), and tends to bring a decent amount of anxiety as we worry about being perceived as disloyal or lazy.

Often vacation time is now mostly utilized as personal days, taken here or there, to run errands and ‘catch up’ with life’s demands or to take a mental break from the severe stress of over-work.¬†Do you know anyone who works 40 hours a week? Rarely do we at One Bite Wellness encounter a person who works 40 hours or less at a job; most people answer their work ranges from 45- 60 hours per week. Because of this over-working, we have higher levels of stress and depression and less recreational time with friends and family, much less time to cook and exercise.

Americans may be economically more advantaged than other countries in the world, but we seem to have lost our health and longevity. We have some of the poorest health rankings and spend more money per capita on healthcare than almost any other country. In 1980, we ranked 11th in the world for longevity; now we’ve fallen to 42nd, according to the Central Intelligence Agency.

How did we get here? Well the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 regulates the maximum number of working hours, over-time, child labor, and minimum wage but never mentioned paid time off. There was never a baseline set for vacation or sick time and now it’s up to the employee and employer to negotiate. Many companies will give workers about 1-2 weeks off per year, but they can also stipulate that you cannot use more than a¬†certain amount of days in a row. About a quarter of Americans don’t get any vacation time at all.

Benefits of a Break

  • Studies suggest that¬†those who take vacations are less likely to suffer from heart disease and other illnesses.
  • Taking a vacation from work is associated with better health, relationships and social life, productivity and creativity, and¬†general well-being.
  • Replenishment and life-enriching experiences, preventing ‘burn-out’
  • Stronger social and familial bonds
  • Improved patience and tolerance, less anxiety and depression

These benefits really take place over a block of vacation time, not a day taken here or there.

Focusing on this issue of vacation time forces us to examine our values, as individuals and as a country. What do we value? Economic progress over all else? What about our health and our families? Our mental well-being? We work hard and long for progress and production, but if we want to improve our quality of life and well-being, we have to fully realize that vacations matter greatly.

Do it for your sanity and your health. Be ‘time rich’. Take a vacation– holistic nutritionist’s orders. ūüôā