Monday, July 26, 2010

Love, Loss, and Gratitude

So much has happened in this past week. From losing an old high school friend to graduating from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, I am overwhelmed from these extreme highs and lows. The only common denominator between these two very different events has been the notion of love and gratitude and for that reason only, I am writing about them in conjunction.

Even though Alex and I had lost touch over the years, I still consider him to be a good friend. I know I'm not alone when I say that he was one of those people that leaves a lasting impression on your heart, and I will forever be grateful for having known him. Always quick to share a smile or a laugh, he was adored by all that he met. Kind, funny, and smart, are just some of the words to describe Alex, and my heart goes out to his closest friends, family, and his beautiful girlfriend who has been nothing short of courageous and strong through this most devastating time.

Alex’s untimely passing taught me to not take the people we love for granted and to live each day to its fullest. And while he was here, he demonstrated just how far a smile and a laugh can go.

I applied these lessons to my graduation weekend and am filled with so much gratitude for having gone to this school. There was more love flowing through the room than on any other class weekend, and I’m truly lucky to have met some of the most genuine, passionate, kind, and amazing people (not to mention, fabulous dancers) through this program, some of which I know I will be friends with forever.

After our last day, several class mates were taking a trapeze lesson along the Hudson River. A little hungover from the previous night’s graduation celebration, and quite frankly a little scared, I debated whether or not to join the crew.

I finally came to the conclusion that life is short and bit the bullet. I also thought back to the time when I saw "Beatles Love" in Vegas and decided that being an acrobat was hands down the best job anyone could ever have. So... unprepared in daisy dukes (I wonder if trapezing in jean shorts is as big of a faux pas as skiing in jeans) I took the plunge.

The hardest part for me was climbing up the ladder, and finally jumping off the ledge. I thought that each time I went up there, it would only get easier, but instead each time was scarier than the last. Although a little dramatic, I felt like I had cheated death already (or at least a serious injury). Why repeatedly put myself out there on the ledge? But mostly I think this was just an excuse for a fear of failing.

For some reason I struggled with the last sequence where you are swinging by your knees, let go, and reach for the arms of the catcher. My heart was racing, my timing was off, and I just simply couldn't complete the catch. I let my fear get the best of me, and was disappointed in myself. My friends however, refused to let me leave without succeeding, and convinced me to attempt the catch for a third time.

This time I took a deep breath. I thought of Alex who although I firmly believe is living on in a much better place, will never again feel what it's like to be inside his body. He will never have the opportunity to stand high above the greatest city in the world with the sun beaming down on him, and then and there I decided not to take this moment for granted.

"READY!" yells the instructor. I bend my knees, "HEP!" he calls out, and this time without hesitation, I plunge off the ledge, and as I’m swinging along reaching for the instructor, I’m alive, conquering a fear and succeed at the catch.

Although I don’t see myself going back to the Trapeze School of New York anytime soon, I left feeling calm, happy, and grateful. Calm because It was over, happy because I did it, and grateful because of who I got to experience it with. (We missed you Jamie :))

I dedicate my triumph over my fear to Alex, and hope that right before his accident, the sun was beaming down on him, the wind was through his hair, and he felt more alive than ever.

In life we can either come from a place of fear and hesitation, or we can live life to its fullest by coming from a place of love, bending our knees, and jumping at the "Hep" of the universe. From now on, I will do the "ladder."

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Meet Guinness!

My sister and brother-in-law just bought an adorable new puppy. A Flat Coated Retriever named Guinness! The excitement of their newly purchased home was quickly over-shadowed by this little bundle of joy.

The running joke has been that my brother-in-law's Irish side will call him Guinness, while my all Italian side will lovingly refer to him as Guinny. (Not exactly PC, but funny none the less.)

Never having a dog of my own, (even after wishing for one over 15 consecutive birthday cakes) I am especially excited about the newest addition to our family, and want to make sure we take the best care of him possible.

A few weeks ago I was talking to a friend from school who told me that she takes her dog to a holistic Vet. She then shared a tip with me that her veterinarian had shared with her; "thoroughly wash your dog's bowl after meal time and store in a high place."

The reasoning behind this is that dogs (like humans) salivate when they smell food, which is necessary for proper digestion. By not thoroughly washing the dog's bowl after it has eaten, the smell of food will always be lingering and the dog will grow immune to it. Therefore when it's feeding time, the dog will not produce a sufficient amount of saliva. This can lead to digestive issues and other complications.

Washing the bowl, however, is not enough. Due to a dog's keen sense of smell, it becomes necessary to store the bowl away in a high place until it is time for its next meal.

Although I still haven't found a way to wean my sister and brother-in-law off of potato chips and hot pockets, they've taken my advice on the dog bowl. Won't you do the same for your pooch?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


A friend recently shared an idea that has had a profound impact on the way I view things. He said that holding a grudge or wanting revenge, is like holding on to a hot piece of coal. You're waiting for the perfect opportunity to throw the blistering piece of coal at the person that wronged you, but as you wait, you're actually the one getting burned.

This got me thinking a lot about the importance of forgiveness. When we harbor negative thoughts or hold grudges, we become angry, bitter, and unhappy people living in the past, rather than in the present.

When someone has wronged you, the wronging exists only as it is happening in the present. Once it's over, it only exists in your mind. This is not much different from a little kid being scared to go to sleep after seeing a horror movie. Even though the monster may have been killed at the end of the movie, memories of previous scenes still leave them haunted. All that ever comes of this is a bad night or several bad nights of sleep. When the morning comes and everything is as it was before the movie, the loss of sleep over something that does not exist seems so silly. Similarly when we finally learn to forgive, the days, weeks, months or years of pent up frustration, anger, or hurt seem equally foolish.

Withholding forgiveness is choosing to remain a victim of someone Else's wrong doings. It's like feeding yourself poison and expecting the wrong doer to die.

We cannot find peace and joy until we are willing to let go and forgive. If we view the world as a happy, fun place filled with wonderful people, that's what our lives will be made of. But if we choose to view life as a struggle, and the world a place where we are always led astray and wronged by others, our realities will be all but peaceful and happy.

Think of any ill feelings or resentment you may have for someone. What are those feelings doing other than fueling your anger or adding to your sadness?

At the end of the day we are ultimately responsible for our own happiness. We cannot let one person's unkind or unjust words or actions dictate the way we view the world, and we should learn to meet affliction with affection. Resentment, bitterness and negativity will only lead to more hurt and betrayal. Just as laughing and smiling can be contagious, so can negativity. So choose to laugh and smile, and let go!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The process of eliminating the processed- Part 2

(This is a continuation of the previous post, so be sure to check out part 1 if you haven't already done so!)

Hopefully some of you are well on your way to eliminating the processed. Only 6 more steps to go! Just keep in mind that this is not a race. It's not uncommon to experience certain detox symptoms when weaning yourself off of a highly processed diet. Go at your own pace and be patient with your body. Note how you feel in the passing days, weeks, and months.

Step # 5- Know the difference between real healthy food and fake healthy food.

Even though you are now making healthier choices, it is still very easy to fall head first into this trap. The rule of thumb with this one is to read labels. If you don't know how to pronounce the ingredients or it's loaded with sugar, chances are it's a "fake healthy" food. A few common culprits are fruit juices, vitamin water, granola, and some breads.

Fruit Juice

You'll want to make sure that any juice you purchase is 100% pure juice. Most brands contain only 30-40% juice, which means the rest of the bottle contains sugar, water,preservatives, and corn syrup. Instead of hydrating you as a drink should, these actually can lead to dehydration! (Not to mention all the other harmful effects that processed sugars have on our health)
Your best bet is to choose 100% organic juices or to invest in your own juicer!

Vitamin water

This seemingly healthy promise of flavorful, vitamin infused water is actually anything but. Each bottle contains 100 calories of high fructose corn syrup, making this comparable to soda on the "health scale". If you're looking to jazz up your water, try adding lemon or mint leaves.


The word itself just sounds healthy, and if made from whole grains with small quantities of natural sugars, it can be. However, many commercial granola and granola bars can be no better than your run of the mill candy bar, so read those labels carefully. The more sugary and sweet the ingredients, the less likely it is to be good for you.

Whole Wheat and Multi-grain breads
While these are healthier alternatives to bright white wonder bread, they aren't exactly healthy. If you've ever read the ingredients on the back of the package, you'd see that most brands contain preservatives and high fructose corn syrup. Additionally 'Multi grain' does not mean it's made with whole grains unless it says so somewhere on the label. If it's not made from true whole grains, you are missing out on the bran and the germ (which is where the majority of the fiber and nutrients are found). Look at the fiber content of the bread and if it is 2 grams or less per serving it is highly unlikely that it is whole grain. Instead of tumbling head first into this trap, try Ezekiel bread, kamut bread, spelt bread, or organic rye.

Step # 6-Add, Add, Add and learn to enjoy the kitchen!

So at this point maybe you've eliminated soda, swapped out your white rice for brown, your sweet and low for Stevia, and are making a conscious effort to read labels on packaged goods. But now it's time to really focus on adding things into the diet--gorgeous things like dark leafy greens, vegetables, fruit, legumes, seeds, nuts, extra virgin olive oil, salmon, and whole grains.
Why not pair your daily sandwich with a spinach, avocado, and tomato side salad? Once or twice a week try making a green smoothie in the morning for breakfast instead of your usual toast, oatmeal, or eggs.(check out my blog post "Morning Ritual" for more info on green smoothies)
Instead of snacking solely on your raw chocolate bars, try changing it up a few times a week by snacking on nuts, seeds, and fruit. Learn different ways to prepare wild caught fish rich in Omega 3s and incorporate into the diet once or twice a week.
Contrary to popular belief, eating healthfully does not have to limit you to "rabbit food", and balance is key. While leafy greens are amongst the best things on earth for us, there are so many other wonderful and nutritious whole foods out there, and endless ways to prepare them! Pick up a few healthy cook books and start experimenting. Keep it simple. Most nutritious and delicious meals don't take very long to prepare. However, if time is still an issue, cook in bulk! If you're making a brown rice and veggie stir fry for dinner, why not make a little extra for lunch to enjoy the following day? Or use the left over rice to make a breakfast porridge with cinnamon, honey, almond milk, and fresh fruit. Revisit Step # 3 of the process. Are you familiar with your local health food store? Are you starting to experiment with new and exciting health foods?

Step # 7-Be mindful when dining out

Despite Step # 6, there are still going to be many who choose not to cook or lack the time to do so. These individuals inevitably will find themselves dining out more often.
When ordering, check in with yourself. What does your body really need? Rate your hunger, and order accordingly. Try to choose the healthiest option on the menu. Instead of the burger, choose fish with a side of veggies. Ask if they can steam the broccoli rather than dousing it in butter. Order a salad as your appetizer instead of the fried calamari. While it's certainly OK to indulge in your favorite foods every once in a while, it is important not to make this a habit, especially if you find yourself eating out multiple times a week.
Additionally there may be a few organic or locally grown restaurants in your community, and chances are there are more than a few if you live in a larger city.
Another good option is to hit up your local health food store. Many have pre-made dishes and/or salad bars. (Just be sure to read the ingredients on the pre-made meals to avoid the "fake healthy" trap.)

Step # 8-Go Organic

Throughout the first 7 steps, I've casually tossed around the word "organic". However, it's now time to really focus on this aspect. Many people are reluctant to purchase organic foods, arguing that they are too expensive. While I do agree that there are certain foods that are ok to go conventional with some of the time, I've listed a number of foods below that I highly recommend going organic with.

Potatoes: Commercially-farmed potatoes are some of the most pesticide-contaminated vegetables. Studies show that potatoes still carry high levels of residue even after being washed and peeled.

Peanut butter: More than 99 percent of peanut farms use conventional farming practices, including the use of fungicide to treat mold, a common problem in peanut crops.

Ketchup: A standard family staple, ketchup accounts for a large part of the household vegetable intake. About 75 percent of tomato consumption is in the form of processed tomatoes, including juice, tomato paste, and ketchup. The Lycopene found in tomatoes is full of health benefits, but when artificial sweeteners and preservatives are added, the benefits decrease. Recent research indicates that organic ketchup has about double the antioxidants of conventional ketchup.

Animal products (This includes milk products and eggs): Animal products are tested to have higher residues of all herbicides and pesticides. This is because the livestock are fed conventionally grown produce The chemicals then end up concentrated inside of the animals' body parts. (which we later consume)
Additionally, many farmers who raise livestock use antibiotics to treat animals that are sick or at a high risk of becoming sick.

A few more products that I would definitely go organic with due to high amounts of chemical residue include: Apples,Peaches, Bell Peppers,Celery, Nectarines, Strawberries, Cherries, Kale, Lettuce, Grapes, Carrots, and Pears.
An even better option is to buy locally from your farmer's market. Many times the local farmers grow their crops without pesticides but have not spend the time and money needed for an organic certification.
When we buy organic locally grown foods, we are getting fresher foods instead of something that has traveled hundreds or thousands of miles. We are also helping small farmers make a living. Furthermore, when you check these products out at the register, you are actually voting for healthier, organic options.
The short term goal of eliminating the processed is for your own personal health and well-being. The long term goal is to make organically grown, healthy, and unprocessed food more widely available in our communities. So contribute to this process what you can!

Step # 9- Seek Support!

Going from a processed, main-stream diet to a healthy and natural way of eating can be challenging. Pair up with a friend and support one another!
Another option is to find a health counselor. With so much information out there about what's good and what's not, you may still feel overwhelmed. As a Holistic Health Coach, I can help ease this transition and create a supportive environment while you adapt to a healthier lifestyle that works best for your unique and individual needs. To sign up for a free health history consultation, email me at or respond to this post! You may also check out my website

Step # 10-Spread the word.

Share this information with your friends, family, and co-workers to create a ripple effect!
In ten years from now I hope to walk out of my office building, go to rest stops, malls, and airports alike and have the option of healthy, organic foods. I hope for obesity to be a thing of the past, and I hope for people to be happier, healthier, and just plain vibrant!

Have fun implementing these changes and notice how much better you start to feel over time!!

To your Health!