Sunday, January 15, 2017

It's Not Your Willpower, It's Your Microbiome

Lately I've heard from a lot of disappointed fitness people lately. Everyone seems to know what they want - they want to workout +eat well + feel (and look) GOOD. But it seems when they start an eating plan or declare to remove sugar (or beer) from their life, they falter and blame themselves for surrendering to the temptations. Damn french fries and football.

First off. Don't beat up on yourself or blame the Broncos. Second off, relax a bit; it's winter, it's time for chubbing up a little and doing less stuff. Winter is good for reading my blogs and fantasizing on your vision for what is to come. When you beat up on yourself for behaviors you don't like, you only perpetuate the cycle. Drop the negative self talk about it. Relax in knowing there are biological processing happening in your body that should be respected, understood and obeyed. And just love the process, if you had a perfect life all the time, life wouldn't be as interesting.

I'm here to offer some reassurance that it's going to be OK (it is OK my friends!) and some explanation as to WHY things are playing out this way.

Do you believe that food can change our emotions? Do you believe food can change our thoughts? I believe it can. Have you ever watched the toddler mayhem after kids eat cake and ice cream during a birthday party? Have you ever felt peaceful and serene after you ate a dessert? Food can change our emotions, and our emotions are determined ONLY by our thoughts. Thus, food can change our thoughts. This means watch what you eat, because the food can alter you emotionally and physically.

It begins with our GUT
We have 40 trillion microbes and 30 trillion cells in the human body (mostly in the gut). FACT: We are more bacteria than we are human. Sorry to all the germa-phobes out there. There is bacteria - called your microbiome which lives in your intestines and on your skin, it's everywhere. These bacteria are the first line of immunity, which works to keep you from getting sick. We're also loaded with nerve cells in our gut which are in communication with the brain via the vagus nerve. They are also communicating with our internal and external environment, so the gut bacteria play a part of what give you the gut instinct and what give you butterflies in your stomach when you get nervous.  The vagus nerve is in communication with the gut microbiome, so our emotions can be hijacked by our gut bacteria. So, this proves my theory that food can change our thoughts. Boom.

You could be feeling impulsive and unmotivated because of what you're eating.  And you are very likely feeling depression and anxiety because of what you're eating and definitely because of what you're thinking. And if food can control your thoughts, then let your food be your medicine. We tend toward anxiety when we consume too much sugar, and it's because you've fed the "sugar bugs" so to speak which create inflammation. We all know too well, after you eat sugar, you crave more sugar, not only because the sugar is HIGHLY addictive (more so than cocaine), but also because the sugar bugs want more food! You are what you eat, and you crave what you eat. 

Do you know that your happy hormone - serotonin-  is created in your gut by your microbiome, like 60-90% of it. There are EC cells that produce the serotonin and this is something we studied in depth in nutrition school. What does serotonin do for you? When you are loaded up on serotonin, you feel "all is well" and you have willpower instead of impulsively tossing a cookie in your mouth. When serotonin is low you feel anxiety or depression and you are sometimes too debilitated to act on it.

When your digestion is off, so is your detoxification pathway. Your detox and digestion pathway is the same. That's why you feel lousy when your stomach is upset, because you neurotransmitters are imbalanced, you're not detoxing all the crap that you're exposed to, and your brain is getting confused.  All of this makes you a complete emotional wreck. Food that's "good" for you could be harmful, if you're not digesting properly. If you have an imbalance of your gut bacteria then your body is not absorbing nutrients and you are doing more harm than good by eating.Your gut and nervous system are like peas and carrots.  And if you're eating when you're under stress, your nervous system is freaking out and you're just adding lighter fluid to the fire.You won't digest what you eat and you'll usually end up with a belly ache. That's a fabulous trick to follow, don't eat under stress. This makes me SEEK OUT HAPPINESS, so I can eat more.

So...Do I have exciting news to share. Over the last year, I have had epiphany after epiphany regarding nutrition. Things that have had my wheels churning in a completely different direction than what I have been taught of what is healthy and what is not.

Did you ever see the movie "I Am"? In it they did a study where they hooked up yogurt to an magnetometer which measures energy. When a person would change their thoughts or mood, the yogurt would have a response to it. Stay with me here. This has happened before, remember when they did the studies on plants and found that plants thrive when they are placed near a TV or the plant was spoken to lovingly by you? The microbiome of the plant soil responds to our thoughts and words. There's living bacteria in there.

The consensus is that the microbes (bacteria) have a physical response to their environment. Soo... if it happens with plants, it also happens with us. Again, we are more bacteria than we are cells. So my point is that we should respect our microbiome, even if we don't completely understand it yet.

"Respect My Authority" Says your microbiome
1) Start eating with the seasons. This means eating foods that are harvested per the season you are in. This means a year-round diet will not do. This also gives you freedom from eating the same way day after day which bores me to no end. Maybe you once tried a diet that worked very well for you and now you can't seem to get back on board. Maybe that diet was perfect for a season, and as time went on, the seasons changed and your body's needs changed - and things stopped going so well. STOP beating up on yourself, blaming your willpower or your lack of motivation for the gym. You are perfectly normal for being unable to comply with your "diet"so just relax. Besides, no one is meant to stay on a diet. No one ever feels they can diet forever. So don't diet, just tweak the foods you eat.

The bacteria in the soil will benefit your gut bacteria if eaten during the proper season. This is because our bodies were designed to follow the circadian rhythm of the earth. We can follow it by giving our body the veggies pulled from the ground, during the proper season. There are only three harvesting seasons that you eat by, so your diet should shift three times a year. This releases the boredom of trying to eat the same foods your whole life, HOWL-A-LU-LA! In the winter, soups with cooked veggies makes sense and cold, raw salads, don't. In the spring, raw veggies and smoothies are excellent.  In the summer time, add in a butt-load of fresh veggies and fruits, foods that cool your body down during the heat of long days.

2) Say NO to processed foods (year round!) Fake food like chips, candy, french fries and food in a box are all dead foods. There are no microbes in them that can benefit your gut. These junk foods,
rather than nourishing you, kill the good bacteria and create a traffic jam, clogging up your lymph and blood systems with toxicity. And since you're not digesting or detoxing well, then you're body will store the toxins inside your liver and fat cells to protect you. With this, your liver becomes burdened and you become puffy, you get brain fog, headaches, rashes, depression and even anxiety. Your body is protecting you, it would rather keep you alive than let you fit into size 6 jeans only to have you kill over the next day. Otherwise we'd all be skinny inside coffins, dead from toxicity.  Stop eating dead food, it hurts you.

Just follow mama nature, she knows best.

Fermented Food Craze
A quick rant on fermented foods. Eating probiotic rich foods like cultured veggies is all the rage right now. I've even jumped on the train myself, or at least I tried. But honestly, I'm not fully convinced that it is for me. So my advise there is to just pay attention to YOUR body. And that goes for everything I ever post. Your body is yours and NO ONE knows it better than you. It's funny when people tell me to eat something because it's healthy. Healthy for who? The scientific studies they do on foods show the potential that food has, not what it does inside each person. Fermented foods might only be OK in very small doses. Or you body might not like them at all. Just because something is "healthy" now, doesn't mean it is what will help your body thrive. That's why we listen to our body cues, right?

So I learned most of what I learned about seasonal eating from an Ayurvedic-doctor in Boulder, Colorado. He designed what's called the 3-season diet and I am just pimping out his research as I devour it. You can get more info on him here. Everything I've read from him resonates with my whole being, you can trust his research to lead you to some peace with your "willpower" as it did for me.

Need help knowing what to eat that's in season: grocery lists for November through February

Friday, January 13, 2017

Exercise: Moving Away From Negativity

We are creatures made to move - energy beings.  You have more neural pathways that run from your body to your brain than you do running from your brain to your body. This means your body is telling your brain what to think. Movement does so much for our physical bodies and also moves the energies that we can not see. Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there. Just like you can't see motivation, but you can sure feel it. 

 Movement carves out our emotional state of mind. 

I've lived my physical life as a yo-yo. My body weight goes up and down, my body is never stagnant. Never big forever, never small forever. We all ebb and flow in our physical form, just like the ocean. Relax with that thought. What you are now is not permanent. Relish in that. When I'm at a bigger body, my thoughts are different, than when I am at a smaller weight. Fact: I'm more confident when I'm smaller and more introverted when I'm larger.Which caused the other? The chicken or the egg theory. This post ties in both the physical with the mental aspects of our body in regards to movement. 

We are all creatures of energy. Thoughts are a form of energy, just like our body. Food has an energy. Think of when you walk into your parents house and you are overcome with a need to head to the fridge, or like when you go to a fancy restaurant and you gravitate toward glass of wine. Or you go to the movies and you smell the popcorn. Those are energy patterns which came from our experiences. Certain thoughts create certain emotions which drive our behavior. 

Culture of Perfection (in the now)
We have belief systems which cause you to judge your body harshly because it's not what YOU (or society) think it should look like. In other cultures or in past times, a large body gets revered as a leader or as royalty. Women in past times that were plump were considered to be living a good life. We judge each other so harshly based on CURRENT ideas of beauty. Fifteen years ago, a masculine CrossFit girl was considered too manly, muscles being so disgusting on a girl. Now that's all the rage, we've all been sold on fitness as having defined muscles and trendy yoga pants. How well do you comply to the temporary standards of a beautiful body? 
Times have changed, ya?
What we used to disgrace, we now embrace

I want to start a new revolution. I want us to start working out to FEEL good. I want us to seek out bliss and let the body do as it will. Our body follows our thoughts. Change in our body happens from the inside out.  Seek out vitality using body movement. I want us to feel inspired to exercise and move. Rather than to listen to media revere fit pics on Instagram pictures or the news telling us we need 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity three times a week. That's an old story. That's just riding the waves of already-outdated-by-the-time-its-published scientific data. The body follows the energy that's put into it. When you feel good, you are inspired to action. 

Honor Yourself
To start, I must begin here. The best thing you can do, the best gift you can give yourself, is to honor how you feel. During winter months, we tend toward slower activities and more food. It's natural, stop resisting it. And it's perfectly OK, because spring brings longer days and much more motivation and better weather. 
Find your best self in today. Sometimes my best self comes out after a 30 minute walk outside, sometimes my best self happens when I just lay down and relax and other times I need an intense workout with sprints and a barbell. There are so many variables, like the weather, the season, what thoughts I am thinking, what I've eaten, what I'm doing the rest of the day and what my body feel like. Honoring how you feel involves you asking yourself what it wants most and then listening. This takes courage and awareness. Sometimes what we need most is to take a 5 minute time out and not feel guilty about it. Our society is driven by this "toe the line" mentality which makes us feel lazy if we just lay down for ten minutes. That's total BS. I've had some of my best inspiration when I've given myself permission to rest my human body. Allow yourself to relax into your inspired action. Or sometimes, you've (I've) done so much laying around that you can't handle it anymore and you MUST get off your negative thinking tush and create something new. Either way, honor where you are right now - do you have some fight in you? I bet you do.

Working out always puts me in a better place mentally than I was before I started the workout. And I've truly never regretted a workout. But go easy my friends, and ride the wave of joy in knowing you can't get it wrong. If you had the urge to workout but you decided to sit and eat a 2 boxes of glazed donuts and a gingerbread house instead, then you felt like crap...well, then **uck it, you learned that didn't work. Next time you have that urge to workout, maybe you'll flow that direction. Its not wrong, it's just figuring out how to honor your instincts. That's how we learn. It's like watching a baby learning to walk - you don't watch them fall down and then say, "what's wrong with you, get up you stupid baby!" Go easy on yourself. We're all learning as we go. Make peace with where you are, and respect your path. Don't ever tell a baby that either.

Toss Out Negative Nelly
The best part of exercise, and what rings true for me, is that movement dissipates negative thoughts. If I'm feeling crummy, and like the world is not a good place, and maybe people are better off without me around, (OMG, the cat's out of the bag here!) then I know that I need to either nap or ACT. If I feel down, it's usually after I've been overly sedentary, skipped a few days of workouts and put myself into a funk. It's like having a fog around you and you only bring in negative thoughts and people, which build the fog, which makes you immune to joy. One of my more spiritual yoga instructors told us while holding poses, to mentally send our negative thoughts to mother earth. Whatever comes up in our mind that feels anything less than joyful, we can send down through our feet to the earth. We don't need to hold onto those beliefs in our head that cause us pain. We don't need to feel like things are imperfect. And those thoughts, those beliefs which don't serve you- are all part of the process to get you something better. If it doesn't feel good when you think it, stop giving it any attention. The more attention you give anything, the more it grows. This can work for you or against you. If something is going well for you, dwell on it. If something is not going well in your life, stop trying to tackle it with your overthinking. The easiest solution is to allow exercise to release the mental drama you are playing out inside your head, let moving carry you from helpless to empowered. 

Moves your garbage dump (lymph system)
Do you ever wake up with a swollen body - eyelids, hands, feet, and aching muscles/joints? Consider what you ate (or drank) the day(s) before. Most times it's too much crap. Exercise moves your lymph system, which detoxes you. Your lymph system is like the drains of your house, a clogged toilet and you're in trouble - especially in a one-bathroom house. So eating poorly or using crappy products, or being overly negative, can clog up your lymph system.  Time, movement, and water will move the swelling out but consider that swelling your warning. If you continue to eat processed crap like fast food, boxed food and inflammatory foods (you know who you are dairy and sugar) your lymph system gets a traffic jam of sorts which means you're body is struggling to detox. Once that congestion process is under way, your digestion gets knocked off its tracks and you get inflammation, bloating, rashes, depression, anxiety and a whole host of ugly conditions (including weight gain) that you gave yourself from poor lifestyle habits. Don't do that to yourself. Nourish your body. You might be able to exercise your way out of a bad diet, but it would take a lot more exercise than most people are willing to put in. People who run 25 miles a day can eat poorly. But do you really want to. 

Energy Levels
What's the first thing people ALWAYS say after starting an exercise routine? They say they have more energy. Energetically, negative thoughts hold us down and make us feel heavy, but exercise and movement dumps them. On a physical level, exercising pumps more oxygen, blood and lymph through our body so we cleanse out the yuck and increase our metabolism. Do you want more energy? Prove you want more energy by using some energy. Depriving our body of movement causes us to feel fatigued, conserve energy, to hold onto things mentally and physically, and to slow down the metabolic pathway. So get up and dance to your favorite  (as my daughter says "FR-AVORITE") song or just lay there and stretch. Not feeling like moving yet? Then go the other way, until you feel inspired to action. Relax into your well being. Hold a restorative yoga pose for a few minutes and just breath. 
Use blankets and boxes if you don't have the yoga gear

WEEEEE! Running it for the fun!

Fitness Molehill
In regards to exercise, I don't want you to ever feel like a small ant staring up at the Himalayan mountains of fitness. Don't feel that you are too far from your dream. You just keep on moving in the direction you want to go. Stop turning around in the mirror looking for immediate results and just do what feels good. Movement feels good. Results come with a positive state of mind. Start basing what you do on feeling good. Stop saying you hate exercise. ChiGong or Tai Chi are energy movers and require only your hands and your body. Movement is natural to us. And feeling joy and having energy are innate to us, they are our birthright. Exercise and move your body for the optimism it gives you, for the energy you gain. People that feel the best on the inside reflect that on the outside. People naturally gravitate toward a radiant people. YOU be that radiant person. 
YOU can let exercise do it for you.