Five Tips for a Happy Paleo Holiday Season

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There are hundreds of blog posts written about “surviving the holidays.” Such advice as “avoid the snack table at all cost” “eat before the party” “it’s okay to binge during the holidays-just let go” “only eat veggies at the snack tables” and the list goes on and on. Everyone has tips that might indeed work for them. However, their suggestions may not work for you! Here are my tips that are centered around empowering you to make the best decisions for yourself!

 

1. We all have different things that work for us and things that don’t work for us. Why? because we are bio-individuals. Some of us get very sick if we eat even the smallest amount of gluten. Some just feel better without it, but can manage small amounts. Same goes for other foods. Some of us have emotional eating patterns that require a different way of processing eating. These individuals may need to let loose for their emotional well-being. There is no one approach to surviving the holidays. My advice is to listen to your body and your personal needs (both physical and emotional). Think about the decisions you are making, keeping your mental, spiritual, and physical well-being in mind. Think about what works for YOU and no one else. Don’t let people pressure you into eating something that you know will have you buckled over in pain an hour later. That is not respecting yourself. Don’t avoid eating something you want to eat if you know your body can process it. Be in tune with yourself.

 

2. If you react to a certain food and it makes you feel sick, consider avoiding it or making a substitution. If you think you can handle it, then enjoy it. If you think you will feel terrible after eating it, don’t eat it. Or eat it and take some digestive enzymes with it to help your body process it. Don’t overthink it. Either way, you will be okay. Just keep “you” in mind when making these decisions.

 

3. Remember that holidays are not only about food!  Our culture puts a very strong emphasis on food. In fact, I think we are in the midst of a national eating disorder. We just don’t know what to do. We *think* holidays are all about food, and must include gluttonous amounts of it. However, there are so many other things we can make emotional connections with over the holidays, and we CAN let go of that notion that is socially entwined in our being. That notion that there needs to massive amounts of sugar laden treats for every holiday get together. Savor the beam in your child’s eyes when they look at the ornaments on the tree, instead of savoring the plate of cookies. You might realize that you are just doing what you are accustomed to doing, and that they aren’t as joyful as some other senses you can experience over the holidays. Be in the moment. Experience the laughing and joke telling. Experience the smells of the pine. Listen to the music. Take pleasure in the sites, scents, experiences. Re-establish some of the connections in your brain that are use to old ways. This might help you to be more in tune with yourself. You will start to show yourself  some kindness, love and respect. Create one tradition that does not involve food.  Take the emphasis off of food, and enjoy some of the other aspects of the season. 

 

 

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4. Take the time to prepare dishes that you know will not make you sick. Bring these dishes to holiday get togethers. Most people just aren’t aware of the versatility of eating real food. The holidays are a great time to teach others you can survive without some of these culturally normal food items that cause more harm to the body than good. I have a client of mine who is proudly hosting her first Paleo Thanksgiving. There are so many amazing and inspirational recipes out there! People think this lifestyle is restrictive because they do not know very much about it. We are fearful of what we don’t know. We are fearful of what is different from what we’ve been taught. Once we realize that eating real food really can be amazing, bountiful, and flavorful, we settle down. So take this opportunity to teach. Not in a “preaching” way. Just bring some awesome real food and watch your family enjoy it! People learn by example.

 

 

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5. Smile more, and let it go. Enjoy this short season, and stop trying to be perfect for everyone, while being angry with yourself. Be true to yourself. “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor. It will keep you very scared and restless your entire life if you do not awaken, and fight back.”-Anne Lamott 

 

 

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One Common (But Often Ignored) Sign You Are Over-Exercising-By Sean Flanagan

Sean Flanagan

Welcome back Sean Flanagan from SeanFlanaganWellness.com

Sean Flanagan

 

 

Whenever I see someone with an exercise schedule that is very busy (5-6 workouts per week for example), I always like to probe into what happens when they DON’T exercise. The answer is usually that they feel like crap. No energy and just generally feel poor. So in their minds, they are using exercise to remedy this situation.

 

The problem is that being exhausted is a sign that they are depleted – their exercise demands have exceeded the nourishment from their sleep and nutrition.   So in this state, using exercise to get more energy is a means of getting the body to run on stress hormones like we’ve discussed previously.

 

Your body was relaxing because it needed it…. and then BAM!   You add even MORE stress. Like a cup of coffee after a sleepless night, hardly the most beneficial scenario in the long term.

 

It’s normal and healthy to feel good and get an energy boost from exercise. The problem is creating driving yourself into a state where you NEED the exercise to feel NORMAL.

 

So if you find yourself getting to a state where you only have energy when you’re exercising, it’s probably time to embrace that low energy state more.   Let your body mellow out and recover.    Back off to a more reasonable exercise load (such as 2-4 sessions per week and maybe less intensity than you were doing previously) and start putting in more sleep in your newly freed up schedule.

 

Remember, if your goal is to have a healthy metabolism, it is absolutely CRITICAL to modulate stress – including exercise stress. Learn when to step back, sleep more, and perhaps increase your calories.

 

 

Sean Flanagan is a Health Coach helping women worldwide tap into greater self-nourishment and break from the traps of harmful dieting practices for long term metabolic health and body composition management.    He is also the creator of the Fit Body Blueprint program – a beginner’s guide to hormonally and metabolically sound exercise.   You can connect with him over at Facebook  and his website, www.SeanFlanaganWellness.com.

Handstand Series #4-The last class of the series!

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It’s all about getting back up again!”

 

So here we are at week 4, the last of a 4 part handstand series. I was really motivated to give it my all, and I felt really strong! As with all the other classes, I fell a heck of a lot…but I kept plowing on. I focused on the mind-body connection this week. Sometimes we want our body to do something, and the only thing preventing us from doing it is our mind-or thought process. We are afraid…afraid of failing, afraid of falling. It is that fear of the unknown. It is amazing how much our mind can hold us back. Sometimes we *think our body is capable of doing something when in actuality our bodies are just not trained enough to do it. I flipped back and forth between these 2 scenarios quite a bit…but somehow “met myself in the middle” I made progress. This is the first week that I actually stayed upside down for a longer period of time and started to feel comfortable being in that position! I also learned a different way to “climb” up the wall, and that boosted my confidence! I can now comfortably do something that I was very fearful of in the past.

 

This “fear of the unknown” reminded me of the fear I experienced with starting up my new blog/facebook page. Every risk we take is scary, whether it be a physical or emotional risk. New things are plain old scary.  We get used to living in a comfort zone, and sometimes we don’t want to leave it. However, by pushing our boundaries (the ones we’ve created in our mind) we can truly grow as a person. RE: blogging, it is difficult to put yourself out there. I am literally sharing a piece of my life with a whole lot of people. I’m sure many people will disagree with my opinions or philosophies, and it’s hard to feel strong.  I was shocked at the positive response I received, and all the support! I was expecting things to move slower. I have met so many amazing people in such a short time. Even though the response has been amazing, I still have that fear of falling-just like the fear of falling during a handstand. Sometimes I don’t have the answers to the questions people ask me. I am admittedly no expert. Sometimes I fear that I will fail. However, every time I hear the negative self-talk in my mind, I take a step back, regroup and pick myself up. Just like I fell quite a bit during the handstand practice, yet I did not stop trying. I know I will fall quite a bit in life, with all my life decisions. How else will I grow and become a better person? You can’t grow without some growing pains!

 

I have been practicing my handstands every single day. I climb the wall, I do push-ups, I do planks and I jump up. Each day my body is getting stronger! I am proud at the progress I made and will continue to practice so that I may easily get myself into a handstand position without any support. During this series I reached out for help, I felt low, I felt high, I felt weak, I felt strong-The most important thing is that I became more in touch with myself and how I was feeling. I made connections that were not there before, and I learned more about myself. I became a better friend with myself!

Namaste!

*thanks to my friend Melanie from Out Of Eden Photography for the pictures!

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Self-Healing Through Meditation

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We are very much alike on the inside. We all internalize and present our emotions differently, but we all have similar internal struggles.  We all want to feel good inside. Most of us look outward to fulfill our needs. We look for recognition and validation through how other people react to us. Then when our expectations from that other person are not met, we have someone to blame other than ourselves. Our minds may be small and closed-we see through the same “eyes” over an over, and hold onto the same judgments that have been ingrained in our brain.

Looking inward…turning inward is very difficult because it means feeling very uncomfortable. It means you have to be alone with yourself, and learn to like what you feel.  We live in a harsh world, and years of negative experiences takes a toll on us. There is no one to blame for the strong emotions that are experienced, even though we want to blame others. However, facing these emotions facilitates inward healing.  You will no longer have that need to justify love for yourself by how others perceive you. Once you start to focus on the good in yourself, you will begin to see more of the good in those around you. You will begin to judge less.

This is where meditation comes in…

The act of “meditation” seems so out of reach to many of us. Where on earth would I find the time for that? How could I ever quiet the chatter that goes on in my mind? You may even think of it as nonsense, or foolishness. Why on earth would someone want to just sit there and be still? How can I not think? I have heard many people say “I’m too much of a Type A personality to meditate” or “I can’t get my mind to turn off”

Try to just imagine for a second being able to center, and focus. Try to imagine moving to a quiet place in your mind.  How awesome would it be to feel “high” and happy without stimulation, or materialistic distraction? Imagine being able to connect with yourself and feel comfortable in your own skin.  Imagine being able to view the world through a new set of eyes-ones that don’t internalize the world in quite the same way as before. To me, meditating is about being able to sit and feel, to process, and to let go. It is about being in the moment, and taking in what that moment has to offer. It is about connecting with yourself, and forgiving yourself. It is about healing, creating self love and self respect. It is in this space where you may begin to experience true happiness. Through meditating, we can “face our demons” so to speak.

Most people who meet me think that I am very laid back and quiet. I’ve been told that I am a calming presence and that I seem easy going. I am slowly getting there, However, people who really know me know that I am actually very intense. I am usually stiff and rigid, holding everything inside myself.  I am  an extremely “Type A” person. I have always been at least a ½ hour early for every appointment. I’ve always written lists, adhered to schedules, worried about pointless things. My mind would focus on the past…or worry about the future. I set very high standards for myself, and get disappointed with myself very easily. In the past I have always cared about how other people perceive me, yet I was not fulfilling my own desires. I always assumed I was not fit for meditation of any kind, because my mind just could not be quieted. It was just not possible or for me. I found my “happy place” through music  and through exercising…through long drives and through solitary hikes.

Little did I know…I was meditating during these activities! 

 Anytime the mind is quiet (NOT empty, just quiet), and focused-you are meditating. You are going into a semi-trance state, and you are more open to suggestion. Your thoughts are all on one particular object or idea. So…when you are listening to music and experiencing the emotions that you feel with the song…you are meditating. The song is taking you to a place in your mind where you are focused. You are dealing with the emotions the song is bringing up-be it happy, sad, scared, longing, lonely. You feel the music, you are in tune with your inner self. You are feeling. You are meditating. Acknowledge the feelings you are experiencing, no matter how painful they may be. Acknowledge the feelings, and then try to let them go.

Remember, your thoughts do not own you, and sometimes they can be toxic to you. So during these times of solitary focus, try to acknowledge that these are just thoughts stuck in your brain through many from years of conditioning, and free them. Don’t let these thoughts own or define you. We can get pretty tied up in our own minds.

While driving in the car you “space out”…suddenly you reach your destination. However, you have no recollection of the trip. You are meditating. You are focusing on the road, your thoughts are able to enter your mind, and leave. When running or cycling you reach that “high” where you are focused yet strong, and you feel really good. You are meditating. It is during these moments that you are the most creative! I always find that while running I have the best ideas-and I get really excited about them.

Successful meditation is not necessarily thinking about “nothing”. It is about being present with yourself in that moment. We have this preconceived misconception that in order to meditate you have to fully clear your mind of all thought. Therefore, we don’t even bother trying. However, the flow of your mind does not ever stop. You cannot “turn your mind off” To me, meditating is about letting the thoughts enter your mind, experiencing them, and then releasing them. We usually ignore how we feel-suppress it-push it aside-bury it. The simple act of acknowledging how the thought made you feel helps you to heal. It may take time, but it is a process.

 It’s as if you are taking the time to sit and have an important conversation with yourself…you are focusing on only yourself. Give yourself permission to open up and let go. You will begin to realize that your thoughts do not define who you are. We tend to be terrible to ourselves, and can be our own worst enemy. Forgive yourself. You are complex and multifaceted. The feelings you experience are necessary-that is your way of healing. Don’t try to close out these feelings before acknowledging them. Try to be present and in the moment. Really feel how you are feeling, as if a friend is crying on your shoulder, but that friend is yourself. With each breath, release the feelings you are experiencing.

Not only will you begin to heal, but you will feel less angry and more forgiving. You will begin to better understand the actions of those around you, and be less judging of others. You will experience lower stress levels and better health! You may even begin to be true to yourself, and make necessary changes in your life.

Anyone can meditate.

Take 15 minutes a day for yourself. Listen to music that moves you. Go for a long drive, or even just sit on the edge of your bed and focus on your breathing. Have these conversations with yourself. It can be first thing in the morning, on your drive to work, while on lunch break, when your child is napping, before bed or during intense exercise. Anytime…just take that time.

Pay attention to your breathing. Let the thoughts come in and acknowledge them. Record in your mind how you felt, and focus on that feeling for a moment. Did you feel angry? Accept that. Did you feel sad? Feel it. Then let it go. Imagine that thought and the feeling drifting away in the wind. Then let the next one in. Eventually you will find that you are more in tune with yourself, and how you internalize the world. You are healing yourself. Eventually the thoughts will come in and go out faster and faster. You may begin to feel serene and peaceful. You may realize that you want to stay longer each time, and you may begin to go into deeper and deeper states of relaxation and peacefulness.

I remember meditating on a park bench this past summer while the kids were digging in a sandbox. I could smell the summer air, hear insects buzzing…everything felt so intense. I felt warmth on my face-I felt excited and happy, yet peaceful. I did not want to move. I wanted to stay there forever. This was a gift I gave myself, and it was free. I was also a better mom the rest of that day.

By giving yourself these 15 minutes each day, you are teaching yourself that you do matter…because whether you believe it or not, you do. When you begin to forgive yourself, you will begin to forgive those around you. You will stop blaming everyone else for how you are feeling. You will begin to accept that feelings are your way of communicating with yourself, and regulating yourself. You may begin to feel comfortable being alone with just your thoughts…something not many of us can do. Use them to move forward and make changes in your life, and let go of the negativity.

It still might not come easy for you…but don’t give up. You will make progress, and you are worth this time!

 

* Please note: This is a personal blog. I am not a Doctor or a Dietician. All data and information provided on this site is for informational/educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitution for professional medical advice.

 

Conquering The Handstand Series #2

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Blue October-Jump Rope– my theme song for today…enjoy! Life is like a jump rope.

Today was tough. I just could not get out of my own way! Justin said that “the mind is the hardest muscle to exercise.” I was just not in the right mindset today and I felt as if that interfered with my progress. He reminded us that whether we did a handstand or not, that moment was over and we needed to let it go. That is the hardest part of life…letting go of the thoughts that “haunt” us. This is something I have been personally working on. Often times our minds travel elsewhere…and then gets stuck there. Our mindset-how we internalize each moment-is the biggest obstacle to truly feeling happiness in the moment. Our mind can be our best friend or our worst enemy.

I started the class feeling defeated and throughout the class I felt myself giving up. Once I started down that path, my body became stuck as well.  It felt as if I had taken 5 steps back. My body felt super heavy as if there were a load of bricks keeping me from getting air when I hopped up. The bricks were not really there, I created them in my mind.

Don’t get me wrong-I felt challenged. Class was hard and I did a lot of good work. We are our own worst critic. My body felt exhausted. I probably even made progress even though I did not feel it. Justin had us go through a series of strength exercises moving from planks to side planks. Man that was hard. I thought it would never end. My body was getting stronger at that moment. I still tried to laugh. Justin made sure to remind us several times to have fun with it.

Tracy told me that “yoga is about expanding the body outward.” I have always been very “rigid’ with both my mind and my body. Years of social conditioning make it difficult to let go of how we perceive the world. This whole process for me is a way of changing that conditioning, and expanding my mind, body and spirit.

Before leaving the yoga room a nice gentleman next to me stopped me and said “I could not even get myself up onto the wall last year. I was stuck too, and having a hard time progressing. Then I saw this lady who had a spinal injury, and she was very fearful of doing a handstand. I watched her give it everything she had and get herself all the way up. I was able to do it the very next time! You never know when your moment will come. Something might inspire you and then it will just happen!” He also reminded me that he has been working it at for over a year. I am on week 2 of doing something my body has never done before.

At the end of class my friend Tracy looked at me and said “let it go” and she was right. What good does holding on to negative feelings do for you? No good. So why hold on to them? That seems to be what we do best. After holding onto years after years of bad feelings, we can get to feeling pretty heavy inside. Being in the moment is not possible when you have so many other moments stuck on your brain. Let’s “un-stick” ourselves!

*I will have an upcoming blog post on meditation and how it helps us to experience and then let go of our feelings, allowing us to grow. I will also discuss some misconceptions about meditating, and how it is not out of reach for us!

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Special thanks to my friend Melanie from Out of Eden Images for the pictures!

New Years Goal #1 Conquering the Handstand

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Yoga Handstand Series

“And as my mind begins to spread its wings

There’s no stopping curiosity

I want to turn the whole thing upside down

I’ll find the things they say just can’t be found” –Jack Johnson “upside down”

It’s a New Year and I am all about trying new challenges, and pushing my personal boundaries so that I may grow as a person. I wanted to start with an obtainable goal, but something that I would have to work at to achieve.
I have always admired gymnasts. As a child I hoped and dreamed that I would be able to do flips, acrobats, somersaults, handstands, and cartwheels. I would spend hours trying, but to no avail. My sister Laura and I would do what we called “underdog flips” We would run super fast, tuck our heads in, flip and land on our backs. I remember feeling like a rock star when I did an underdog flip. Oh how silly we must have looked.
For Christmas one year I asked for full gymnastic regalia. I wanted a leotard, tights, headband, the works. I thought that by dressing the part I would suddenly be an overnight superstar gymnast. Yeah…no…..

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I never did learn how to do any acrobatics. Eventually I even forgot how to do the underdog flip (although I can still picture it in my mind). I am a runner and I strength train. However, I was never very flexible. I lack the core strength and confidence to even try these maneuvers without the risk of breaking something.

A few weeks back I was enjoying a glass of wine with my neighbor Tracy (who is also an awesome yogini). I admire Tracy. She doesn’t know it, but Tracy has taught me a great deal about life. The past few months we have developed a real friendship, and I feel fortunate to have her in my life. I can just walk over there, open the door and sit down. Tracy gets right up and starts cooking dinner for me…and she is an amazing cook. My kids call her “chef Tracy” No matter what I cook them, chef Tracy makes it better. She is way less structured and rigid than I am. I feel relaxed being around her. So here we are sipping some wine and chatting…and I mention to Tracy that I would love to learn how to do a handstand. Well Tracy gets me right up and within a few minutes she has me doing an assisted wall handstand. I was literally upside down.

Being upside down really changes your perceptions on life. It sort of “re-sets your mode” so to speak. Tracy told me it would…and strangely it did! I felt the blood rush to my head and I felt alive. I felt strong. I crashed to the floor shortly after, but I was filled with excitement-almost as if I were looking at life through a new set of eyes.

I recently celebrated a birthday, and Tracy surprised me and signed me up for a “Climb Higher Series, Mastering the Handstand” at a local yoga studio. I would get to learn the skills needed to do a real handstand!

My dear friend Melanie is an amazing photographer. Her studio is called Out of Eden Images. She is getting into fitness photography, as her new endeavor. I am lucky to have her photographing my progress during the handstand series! I will write about my progress each week, and the lessons I have learned along the way. My hope is that by week 4 I will be doing an unassisted handstand! Maybe…either way, I will learn a lot.

“It is not about mastering the handstand. It is about the journey to get there.”-Justin Wolfer (our yoga instructor) Taking any steps toward a new goal is scary-whatever that goal may be. I’m sure I will feel uncomfortable and awkward. Leaving what feels comfortable is hard. It’s scary, it may hurt-a lot…but sometimes it needs to be done. You cannot grow and change if you are stagnant.

Day 1: I fell…many times. But I was able to laugh at myself and get back up again. Justin explained that we would go through a series of poses to help build strength, stamina, and confidence while being in a new position. It takes a certain amount of self-awareness to essentially use your hands as feet…(and not worry about falling and breaking something).

At first I was frustrated because when I crashed I sounded as loud as a pile of books landing on the floor.

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I gave the people around me a few good chuckles. Justin reminded us to have fun and smile! He wasn’t one of those strict yoga teachers where you get the look of death if you start cracking up. I appreciated that. He also reminded us to be soft on our feet. I need to practice being softer on my feet. At certain points I became frustrated because people around me seemed to just “get it.” I quickly learned that I had to completely block out those around me and turn my focus inward. When I did this, I started to make progress in my own way. This is true in life! We tend to compare…we focus on those around us. Just by turning your focus inward, you will begin to understand yourself more. When you understand yourself, you can understand those around you. You stop blaming. You grow as a person.  I was able to do an assisted wall handstand, and the instructor was able to let go for a brief moment before I crashed to the floor. Overall, the first class was a success for me. I learned some lessons, I feel stronger. Most importantly I had some good laughs. I’m ready for the next step!

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