Saturday, April 19, 2014


I've been running a 60 day food cleanup challenge for those of my clients who wanted to participate.  Everyone has been doing great, but some very interesting issues have been coming up.  One thing in particular that I find compelling is that people are mourning the loss of their taste for bad food habits. One client expressed his sadness that he's lost his taste for many of the junk foods he used to love.  Another lamented her newfound inability to have more than one serving of alcohol at a sitting.  When I asked them why they missed these things, they both gave more or less the same reasons:  they missed the social component of having these things.  One missed the pleasure the food would give him.  One missed trying out all kinds of different wines and the fact that she and her friends would get together and drink "really good stuff."

The psychology of food and drink is absolutely fascinating to me (it is for this reason that I'll be getting my master's degree and subsequent PhD in Health Psychology starting this month).  We form very odd relationships with our food.  It's our friend, our enemy, our therapist, our reward, our punishment, our go-to activity when we're bored.  We get defensive about it, attached to it, protective of it.  It brings us pleasure and pain.  It conjures up images of our childhood and of happy and not-so-happy times.  We forge and break friendships over it.  It is a powerful force, indeed. 

But should food and drink have this kind of power over us?  Should our ability to socialize be contingent on the presence of fries, chips, sweets, and/or alcohol?  And should our ability to conquer our dependence on these substances (which are all addictive in their own way) be something to be bummed about?

Angry cake is angry.

In thinking about these things, here's some food for thought (<-- see what I did there?):

1)  Are there other social things you can do that don't involve alcohol or junk food?  Is it possible to be social without these crutches?
                Case in point:  I went to the University of Wisconsin/Madison for my undergrad.  It was, at least at the time, one of Playboy Magazine's Top Party Schools.  I went to plenty of parties and had a very active social life.  I've lived in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, England, Italy.  I have a sort of reputation as "that chick who knows everyone," and I sing in bars on a regular basis with heavy metal bands.  I've always been the first one on the dance floor and the one everyone else would point to and say, "I'll have what she's having."  Now, here's the kicker:  I've never had more than a few sips of alcohol (I've just never really had any interest in the stuff), tried a drug, smoked a cigarette, or anything of the sort.  So I can say that absolutely and without a doubt that yes, it is very easy to be social without alcohol.  I know I'm an odd duck.  It may be a different way of thinking for most people, but then again, so is healthy eating.  You just have to learn to be comfortable in your own body without it, and not care what anyone else thinks about your choices.  And that, in and of itself, is an important road to travel.

2)  What are some healthier, non-food or beverage things that you enjoy, that give you pleasure, that make you smile?  Do more of these. 

3) Are the side effects of your bad habits worth it?  And are your newfound healthy habits worth sacrificing?

4)  No one expects perfection.  Nor should you strive for it.  You don't need to quit drinking alcohol completely or give up all your favorite foods in favor of kale salads forever.  A basic rule of thumb is 90% lovely, 10% evil.  Indulge in your vices, but limit it to one evil meal per week, or a very small amount of your vice foods a few times per week.  You will not be depriving yourself, although it is pretty likely that you won't get as much pleasure from those things any more after a while, and might lose a fair amount of your tolerance for them.  And, honestly, that really isn't such a bad thing.  You're gaining a healthier body and releasing your dependence on junk foods and drinks.  You are likely inspiring others to get healthier, as well.  And there's nothing to regret about that.

In the meantime, find pleasure in healthy foods such as vibrantly-colored vegetables, juicy fresh fruit, healthy fats, and lean proteins.  They are delicious, nutritious, and filling, and can give you just as much satisfaction (if not more) as their not-so-healthy counterparts.  Change your mind, and your body will follow.  There's nothing wrong with having pleasure in what you eat and drink, or to have social times around food events.  But food and drink will not solve your problems (and might compound them), will not fix what ails you, and will not replace your losses.  Furthermore, your friendships will not suffer from your not indulging in dessert or alcohol (and if they do, you need new friends).  If you *need* alcohol or food in order to socialize or relax, you may need to take a step back and figure out what is really going on, or possibly speak to a professional. 

Food is awesome.  But it should never be in charge of your life.

Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Food As Medicine, Part 6: The Colon

WARNING:  This blog post will be peppered with phenomenally corny awesome puns.  Read at your own risk.

I know this is kind of a crappy subject, but we might as well get it behind us.

(See what I mean?)

The colon, although it is often the butt of my jokes, is actually a pretty important subject to cover, healthwise.  Its main function is to absorb water, salt, and some fat-soluble vitamins from whatever passes to it from the small intestine, and to ferment undigested materials and remove waste from the body.  In Chinese medicine, the Large Intestine is related to the Lung and is connected with the emotion of grief.

A healthy colon.

The large intestine is around 4.9 feet long in the average human being, and begins right around or just below the waist on the right side of the body, where it attaches to the small intestine.  It travels up the abdominal cavity (ascending colon) and then across the width of it (transverse colon), then travels down (descending colon) and finishes... well, you know where it finishes.  Let's not get anal about that.

The typical Western diet and lifestyle wreaks havoc on the colon, and many diseases can result, including but not limited to:

-Colitis/Ulcerative Colitis
-Crohn's Disease
-Colon Cancer

A not-so-healthy colon.

There's no question that diseases of the colon can leave you feeling like s***.  Fortunately, there is much that can be done to prevent and/or heal from these conditions. 

1) First and foremost, stress must be managed and reduced.  Our society is a high-stress one, and unfortunately, this stressful condition plays a huge role in many disease, not excluding those of the colon.  (1) (2) (3) (4Point number 3 in my piece about the stomach gives some good tips on stress reduction.

2) Stay away from NSAIDS.  Side effects can wreak havoc on the colon (and the stomach and small intestine, as well). (1) (2)  NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.

3)  Try MCT's.  A few (mostly animal) studies show that inclusion of medium-chain fatty acids (such as extra-virgin coconut oil) and omega-3 fatty acids in the diet actually help reverse some of the colon damage that occurs with colitis. (1) (2)  Interestingly, olive oil may make things worse.  (1)

4)  Bring on the curry.  Turmeric (which, as you may know, is one of my favorite supplements), has a tremendous anti-inflammatory effect on the body.  Few human studies have been done regarding turmeric's effect on colitis, but initial results are promising.  Turmeric has also demonstrated potential to be a great colon cancer killer (1) (2)

5)  Garcinia extract.  You've seen infomercials for the stuff on TV touting its power as a weight loss agent.  Well, I haven't been convinced of that, but it does show some promise as a colon cancer fighter.  (1) (2) (3)

6)  Maybe slippery elm.  Scientific studies on slippery elm's effect on colitis are few and far between, but enough people have reported success with it that I thought it was worth a mention.  The University of Maryland Medical Center has a good report on the stuff

7)  Fix your food.  Typical Western diets, low in fiber and high in processed foods, ingredients such as maltodextrin, and red meats seem to have a high correlation to colon issues like cancer and Crohn's disease.  (1) (2) (3) (4)  Meanwhile, diets high in vegetables, fruit, and fiber seem to decrease risk of colon issues and to aid in some existing ones.  (1) (2) (3)  You've heard me preach it before. Eat yer veggies, and cut out the junk food.

8)  Pre and Probiotics.  Take them.  Love them.  Several studies have recently come to light showing the wide array of potential benefits these friendly bacteria have, not the least of which is a very helpful effect when it comes to inflammatory conditions of the colon.  (1) (2) (3)

9) Quercitin.  Quercitin, found in foods such as red wine grapes, citrus, apples, onions, tea, sage, thyme, tea, and dark berries and cherries, has been shown to have potent anti-proliferative properties for colon, prostate, lung, breast, ovarian, and endometrial tumors.  (1) (2) (3)

10)  Avoid your triggers.  Trigger foods, foods which make your condition worse, obviously should be avoided.  These vary from person to person, but the most common for inflammatory conditions of the colon include wheat, meat, spicy foods, high fat foods, and alcohol.

11)  Stop smoking.  Smoking has been shown to contribute greatly to many diseases of the colon, and cancer in particular.  (1) (2)   Interestingly, some studies do show an actual protective effect of smoking to ulcerative colitis while being highly conducive to Crohn's Disease (3) (4), and another shows that there is a link between genetic makeup and the effect of smoking on the colon (1).  But as a general rule, smoking is Bad News Bears for the colon (not to mention the rest of the body).  So cut it out. 

12) And, of course, exercise.  Diseases of the digestive system often create muscle wasting symptoms (Crohn's disease is one such disease).  Adding muscle mass may be highly beneficial to your overall well-being, but exercise also has demonstrated the possibility of helping keep symptoms at bay.  (1) (2) (3)

While inflammatory diseases like colitis can't always be prevented, as we do not always know their cause, you can give your body the best possible shot to defend and/or heal itself with a healthy diet and lifestyle.  See what works for you, dump what doesn't, and try not to make an ass of yourself.  (Sorry-- had to throw in one more).

Questions?  Comments?  Have something that's worked for you?  Post it all here!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Success Suckers

Recently, this random guy has been making it his mission to post nasty things on my training videos.  Now, this is par for the course on YouTube-- trolls abound, and fortunately for me, I am not easily upset by these things.  But I found it interesting-- kind of humorous, even-- that one guy in particular has singled me out and spends his time commenting on not just one, but several of my videos, trying his best to belittle what I do and puff out his own chest.

Meanwhile, a client of mine has been working hard (and doing an amazing job) at cleaning up her diet, getting in daily exercise (and being a monster in the gym!), and reclaiming her health, her body, and her self-image.  Her friends and family, however, really aren't impressed by what she's doing.  Quite the opposite, actually.  One "friend" refused to consider eating at a restaurant that had *any* healthy options for my client, and has not spoken to her since the debaucle.  Dinner with her sister and niece turned into a lot of "That's *all* you're eating?" "Oh, one more breadstick isn't going to kill you." and other such baiting comments designed to pull my client off track.  Fortunately, my client has become very strong on her journey to good health, and although she was pretty bummed out by their actions, she was able to push on and not let it sidetrack her progress.

What a sucker.

These two scenarios are very similar in many ways.  They are both fueled by people who, for whatever reason (I can speculate on the whys, but I cannot claim to know anyone else's mind), see other people's success as something to be belittled and/or stopped.  Some people simply are fueled by the failure of others, and cannot handle it when good things happen to other people.  But there is one major difference:  An internet troll hides in the cloak of anonymity.  They do not have any kind of personal relationship with their victim, and feel safe in their hatred that way.  Friends and family, however, are up close and personal.  And that's why it hurts far more when they refuse to support you in your healthy habits.

Trolls are easy to ignore.  Friends and family?  Not so much.  So how do you deal with it when they clearly do not want you to succeed?

The way I see it, there are only a few options:

-Sit down and talk to them.  Let them know why you are doing what you are doing and why it is so important to you.  Let them know that their support and friendship means a lot to you, and that you would love to have them on your team.  Let them also know that they can choose not to support you, but it will not stop you from trying to be the best "you" you can be.  Hopefully, they will hear what you're saying and will become more amenable to your needs.

-More often than not, however, these Success Suckers don't want to back down.  They have their own agenda, and your achievements lessen it somehow.  Unfortunately, this usually means you'll need to break ties with them.  It's definitely much harder to break ties with family than with friends.  For me, it required me to stop going to my parents' Thanksgivings in favor of having my own, and to limit my dining interactions with family members who refused to accept my lifestyle.  I have periodic cleanings of my proverbial "friend closet," too.  I find that these cleanings tend to happen whenever something really good or something really bad happens-- certain people can't deal with one or the other, and will show their true colors at those times.  So I cut ties with them, and although it hurts at the time, you suddenly feel you can breathe.  The freedom to feel good about who you are and what you've accomplished soon replaces any feelings of sadness for having removed a bad energy "friend" from your life. 

Sweetie promises to celebrate all your achievements.
The best part of this is that this creates room in your life to find, notice and embrace people who love and support your goals and who will cheer you through your rough times and celebrate with you when you're at the top of your game.  Having good energy around you is so important, in all walks of life (ever had a great job with crappy co-workers or a mean boss?  Yeah, you get what I mean). 

Whatever happens, your health and wellness is of utmost importance (can't do much in life without it).  So don't let Success Suckers have their way.  They don't deserve your time.  There are, whether you can see it right now or not, a whole bunch of people who would love to help cheer you on and support you as you become your best.  Surround yourself with that great energy, and most importantly:

What are some strategies you use to keep Success Suckers from bringing you down?

Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!