Celebrating Mom

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Mother’s Day is right around the corner.  I always stress a bit about this holiday.  How do I express in a card the magnitude of my love and admiration for someone who is so important in my life? I often have difficulty finding the right present for my mom.  We seem to be in sync with our interests, and she’s always one step ahead of me, purchasing the exact thing or similar item I would have gotten her.  My mother would appreciate any gift from me, but I want it to be special, just like her.  As a kid, I usually created a one-of-a-kind gift, made with steady hands, laser-focused attention, and loads of love.  She seemed to enjoy those gifts the most, and I took pleasure in making them and seeing her joyful face.  So I’m taking a note from my younger self and have written a letter to the most important woman in my life, for all the world to read.  Even though this is for one mom in particular, it’s meant to be a tribute to all you mothers out there.

♥                                      ♥                                           ♥

Dear Mom,

How do I thank someone who has given me so much in my life and asked for so little in return?

All you have ever done has been for my benefit, and I appreciate your attention and sacrifice.

Since I was born, you have Protected me–slathering me with sunblock to combat the blazing sun, dressing my wounds from rough play, nursing me back to health during sickness, comforting me after nightmares.

Perhaps the best traits I inherited from you are boundless creativity and investigative curiosity.

Yes, we had our battles–fighting over issues that erupt from the perfect storm that is a teenager girl and her mother–but we always came out as friends on the other side and had a better understanding of each other.

Some of My fondest memories are our “dates” snuggled up watching movies, chatting at the kitchen table about anything and everything, and reminiscing the past and dreaming of the future during long road trips.

You’re still the One I wish for when I’m ill and in need of my mother’s healing touch.

You Taught me manners and values not only by instruction but by your own example.

Healthy meals were a fixture in our household, setting a nutritional foundation for a lifetime.

You have an Eye for recognizing the simple beauty in things–a rustic wooden table, a single wisp of a flower, a lone person deep in thought.

I Remember feeling such pride every time I answered the phone and was mistaken for my mother.

Growing up, I Saw an amazing, beautiful woman who was the epitome of effortless poise, style, and grace.

On this Day, I want you to know how much you mean to me and how very special you are.

You are Always there to cheer me on, to champion my goals, and to love me unconditionally.

You have an immense heart, one that extends much farther than the small space in which it resides.

Happy Mother’s Day, each and every day!

From,

Your Loving Daughter xoxo

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Spring Clean Your Body! How to Detox the Easy Way

I’m going to start off with a disclaimer to this post’s title:  This detox plan isn’t as easy as lounging on the sofa.  Sorry.  That being said, it IS a heck of a lot easier–and more sane–than subjecting yourself to juice-only cleanses, fasts, and extremely restrictive plans.  This cleanse is easy because you’re eating real food. The trick is eliminating all toxins from your diet and your life.  I recommend following the cleanse for at least a week…I’m committing to two weeks, starting tomorrow!  So here are the basics of the cleanse, which Donna Sonkin (you should know her by now!) shared with me last year.

Why cleanse?

(View my article Why You Should Detoxify Your Body for more detailed information)

  • To rid our bodies of toxins we ingest each and every day.  Lots of them have taken up residence in our fat cells and it’s hard for our bodies to eliminate them without help
  • To evaluate our lives and get rid of all toxic activities and people
  • To get our bodies jiving with nature.  It’s a big transition from winter to spring, both in the weather and in our bodies

What to avoid

  • Sugar in any processed form–especially high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and artificial sweeteners
  • Juice and soda–juice has too much sugar and soda either has HFCS or artificial sweeteners
  • Wheat and processed grains (bread, pasta, couscous)
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Corn
  • High sugar fruits–tropical and dried fruit
  • Nicotine
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Crappy fats and oils–canola, vegetable, and sunflower oil for example, and any trans or processed fats

So what CAN I eat?

The list above may seem long, but there are SO many things you can eat!  With some planning and effort, you can make endless nutritious and tasty combinations with these foods.  Make sure you are eating organic food (for at least a week if you can).  The cleanse will work exponentially better if you aren’t adding any more pesticides and chemicals into your body!

  • Any greens!  Eat plenty of kale, collard greens, swiss chard, spinach, bok choy , dandelion greens, watercress, baby greens, sprouts
  • Veggies!  And lots of them!
  • Fresh, local, seasonal fruit
  • Frozen berries
  • Sweet potatoes–can make sweet potato fries (look under “Craving Chewy?” for the recipe)
  • Whole grains–such as brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, oats (soak them first for better digestibility and nutrition!)
  • Fresh herbs
  • Lemons and limes–squeeze them til your heart’s content into your water
  • Sea vegetables–great source of minerals
  • Fermented, belly-loving products such as miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi
  • Quality oils–olive, coconut, toasted sesame, and grass-fed butter (for cooking).  Macadamia, flaxseed, almond, and walnut oil as finishing oils (ie, salad dressing)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Beans (soak them first!)
  • Light protein–wild salmon and small, white, flakey wild fish such as sardines, herring, and mackerel
  • Organic chicken and vegetable broths (sea salt only!)
  • Natural sweeteners (small quantities)
  • Herbal teas (no caffeine)–check out licorice, dandelion, and burdock root teas, which are very cleansing.
  • Green juices–either make your own or get them from a juice bar that uses organic vegetables.  You can add some beets, carrots, and/or apple for sweetness.  Ginger and lemon add a little zing.  Juices are best consumed on an empty stomach, so it’s good idea for breakfast!

Other things to note

  • Um, do I need to mention water?  You should be sipping that good stuff all day long!  A good rule of thumb is to consume half your weight in ounces of water.
  • Use only natural/organic products on your body and in your house if possible.  Our skin is our largest organ, treat it well!
  • Be completely present and aware when eating.  Do not watch TV or read.  Chew slowly and thoroughly as this is the first and most important step in digestion and nutrition assimilation.  A good phrase to remember is “drink what you eat and eat what you drink.”  If you keep that in mind, you can’t do it wrong!
  • Eliminate toxic and non-beneficial activities, people, and thoughts.  Try to stay away from the news (not much positive stuff there!) and people who adversely affect your energy and mood.
  • Get exercise!  Not only is it good for releasing those feel-good endorphins, but sweating is your body’s way of kicking toxins to the curb!

Throughout the weeks ahead, I’ll post on topics such as recipes I’m using, lessons I’m learning, and any challenges I’m facing as a result of the cleanse.  Feel free to do this whole body and mind cleanse along with me.  Or if you’re the cautious type and would rather see what happens to me first–and learn from all my mistakes–so be it.  Please post any questions, experiences, or other comments in the comments section below any of the posts.  Are you ready to get fit and get gorgeous (or handsome)?  I sure am!  Here’s to our health!

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Desperately Seeking Nature in a Concrete Jungle

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Growing up in Florida, I took nature for granted as one often does when surrounded by abundance.  I’ve lived in the concrete jungle of New York City for nine years, surrounded by abundance of a different kind; culture, arts, cuisine, shopping, not to mention population density.   Recently, I was hit with the realization that I was getting seriously deficient in Vitamin Nature.  It nourishes me, and without it, I am not whole.  Unfortunately, one can’t fill this need by popping a pill (sorry New Yorkers).  So I had to get my fix the old-fashioned way…by deviating from my usual daytime route from apartment to subway to work–and back again–and completely revel in the outdoors.  My mission was to find oases of nature in NYC that rejuvenated my body and soul, centered my spirit, and ignited inspiration.

Gantry Plaza State Park

From top left, clockwise: view from grass, NYC skyline, famous PepsiCo sign, sunny sky through leaves, view laying down (middle)

Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City has a 180° view of the NYC skyline, quiet atmosphere, and no dog rule–so I felt comfortable in my decision to sit in the grass.  The combination of the warm sun and the gentle breeze was intoxicating.  My eyelids became too weighty to remain open as my body melted into the earth.  I felt heavy.  Warm.  Grounded.  Immobile.  I could have sunk into the ground and grown roots I was so relaxed.  The verdict?  I will certainly frequent here often for whole body and mind relaxation.

Partial view from gazebo at The Lake. Looks a lot better in person!

The Lake

Since Central Park is so expansive and has such variety, I decided to try one of the world’s famous parks.  At The Lake near West 72nd Street, I happened upon a cute gazebo that looks out over a lake sprinkled with row-boaters, willow trees, and bridges.  You sacrifice some privacy here as this picturesque site is a hot spot for camera-toting tourists…but I think it’s beauty and tranquility outweigh this flaw.   I had one of those moments where I was grateful to live in a city with a plethora of opportunities for outdoor activities.  Central Park is indeed a gem and I hadn’t taken advantage of its generosity and beauty.  I will certainly return to this location for spirit-centering, especially if my water element is feeling neglected.

The Mall & Literary Walk/Bethesda Terrace/Sheep Meadow

From top left, clockwise: Bethesda Terrace, a pigeon with personal space issues, The Mall and Literary Walk

The last place I chose was The Mall and Literary Walk between 66th and 72nd Street in the middle of Central Park.  It’s better for people watching than nature nurturing, but this is one of New York City’s idyllic spots and is great for satisfying tree canopy cravings.  I could see this location being a cornucopia of inspiration potential.  And the area itself is excellent for my nature needs–The Lake is nearby along with the beautiful Bethesda Terrace and enormous but quiet Sheep Meadow.

So while New York City might not have the same type of natural landscape of my native Florida, it does offer wonderful spots to commune with nature.  I think all New Yorkers would benefit from a little respite from the hustle and bustle that is a NYC life, and spend it reconnecting to ourselves and satisfying our innate need for nature.

What nature nooks get you recharged and rebalanced?  What’s your connection to nature, how does it give back to you?  If you live in a city, how do you deal with nature malnourishment?

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How to balance mind and body during periods of change

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One thing we can always count on is change.  Our lives are in a constant state of flux, especially now, when most of us have had to adjust to different work schedules and conditions, as well as tighten our financial belts.  While change is inevitable, it can require a period of adjustment as our bodies and minds get up to speed.  I decided to seek advice from experts on how best to deal with change in general and how to reverse the havoc it unleashes on us.  I’ve always been able to count on my friend and nutritionist Donna to get the scoop on how to balance mind and body.  This is the first of many guest posts, enjoy!

The following article was written by Donna Sonkin.

Photo of Donna Sonkin. Reprinted with permission

There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse!  As I have often found in traveling in a stagecoach, that it is often a comfort to shift one’s position, and be bruised in a new place.  ~Washington Irving

Many things in life can change. The seasons, loss of love, new love, change of residence, career or education. You can go on a vacation, or come back from a long sabbatical. No matter what it is, change–even when it is good–upsets or interrupts our routine. It brings about an entirely new routine, and that is both a good and a bad thing.  When supporting the mind-body during times of change it is important to look at what can stay the same. It is helpful to seek out constants and make structure your friend.

I recently taught my nutrition program to actors. All of them had very demanding schedules that were physically as well as mentally challenging. Time and money, or lack there of, had become a real concern for the students.  During our class time together, I came up with some basic tools to help them get through the change of schedule, and I am confidant that everyone can benefit from this information.

Here are my top tips for dealing with change and tools for incorporating them into the flow of a busy life:

1. Reclaim balance

I had the students take a good look at all the areas of their lives, what I call primary food.  These are the parts of life that are not food at all but nourish you deeply. Things like a spiritual practice, social life, relationships (family, friends, and romance), physical activity, education, career, level of joy, home environment, home cooking and finances.

  • Take a moment and contemplate these areas (you’ll need some paper and a pen).  Which areas in your life are significantly neglected and malnourished?
  • Pick your lowest three.
  • Select three action steps for each low category. Choose simple ones…a phone call you can make, an email that will help.  An example for finances would be to a) Start keeping track of where your money goes. b) Stop spending money on deli lunches and bring your own – this could add up to a savings of $50 a week or more. That’s $200 a month! c) Cut down on cab rides…try to walk to appointments or take public transportation = save big $$.  Commit these action steps to a friend, this will create accountability.  Phone a friend and do this exercise with them.  Check in with them via email within the next week.

2. Go grocery shopping

Having good, healthy whole/real foods on hand and in your fridge will keep you at a high energy level. Nothing is better than coming home from a 12 hour day to really great food that can be prepared in minutes. Some ingredients that are good to have on hand are frozen organic brown rice, grass-fed organic butter, organic chicken/turkey  sausage, an organic rotisserie chicken, organic free-range eggs, kale that you wash and cut ahead of time, pre-washed organic salad greens, organic celery and carrots, organic boxed chicken stock, canned salmon, raw organic nuts and frozen organic string beans. With these ingredients you can have any number of dishes in less time then it takes for the delivery guy to come.

3. SLEEP

This I can not stress enough!  Get your little tush into the bed at a reasonable hour. Whatever you think you need to do tonight, you can do when you wake up early in the morning. The idea of the “night owl” is a joke–the more you are in harmony with nature, the healthier you will be. So be like nature in that regard and go to sleep as close to 10 pm as you can and wake naturally with the sun pouring in.

Using these three tips will help you weather any storm, keeping you healthy and happy in the process.

-Donna Sonkin, HHC, AADP

Reprinted with permission

Donna is a Columbia certified health coach, and has taught at NYU drama and SUNY Purchase. Donna has created programs for Saatchi & Saatchi, Credit Suisse and Elite Model Management. Through her company Get Thin for the Camera she also does one-on-one coaching and cooking lessons.  For more information go to http://www.facebook.com/l/f9959;www.GetThinForTheCamera.com or call Donna at 917-941-5045.

If you have any comments or questions for Donna, please respond in the comments section!

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Another Helping of Primary Food? Yes, Please!

Photo by K.C. © 2010 Kristin Conroy

Lots of people are suffering right now from allergies with the change in weather.  Having allergies is akin to having a cold–sometimes worse–and it’s a good time to give yourself some TLC.  I wrote this post when I was down-for-the-count with a doozy of a sinus infection.  Read on to discover how primary nourishment can make a difference when you’re feeling under the weather….

I did something last night I really enjoy but hardly ever do…take a bath.  (And not in the tub pictured above…it’s not mine, sadly.)  The lack of frequency is mainly due to the effort and time it takes to prepare and take one.  First of all, the tub needs to be pretty darn clean.  The difference between a tub suitable for showering and a tub suitable for bathing is my feet touch the surface for only a few minutes in the former scenario and my whole body comes in contact with it for half an hour in the later.  So yeah, it needs to be pretty darn clean and the idea of cleaning usually stops me in my tracks.  When I feel the urge to take a bath, it’s because I want to relax…cleaning just doesn’t fit into that category for me.

So what made me willing to do the evil deed in return for bath time?  Sickness.  I’ve been sick for nearly two weeks and not only have I taken a knock-out punch physically, but my psyche is also down for the count.  I realized that while I’ve done pretty much everything I can for my body, I’ve been neglectful in some areas of primary nourishment.  I think we often don’t do things for ourselves that we know are beneficial–to our soul, our spirit, our essence–because it doesn’t contribute to our career, family, friends, or to-do lists.  It seems selfish, silly, and unproductive.  Well, seeing as I wasn’t fit to do anything productive (although I did clean the tub, didn’t I?), I thought I might as well indulge.

Photo by K.C. © 2010 Kristin Conroy

To create a spa-like experience, I lit candles, set my Pandora Radio to the Enigma channel, and tossed Epsom salts enhanced with a few drops of 100% therapeutic essential oil into the running water.  Ahhhh…watching the candlelight dance and flicker along the walls, reveling in the soothing beats of music, and being encased in a cocoon of warm, silky water was a little piece of heaven.

It was a great time to really pay attention to and love myself. (No, hey now, this is totally G-rated stuff I’m about to say!)  When I’m feeling under the weather or in some need of TLC, I like to have my head and face stroked.  My mom used to do this for me–along with massaging my hands and arms–at bedtime or when I was sick.  It was a loving and comforting act and served as primary food nourishment.  So I recreated this comforting moment by repeatedly dipping my hands into the water, pressing my warm hands into my face to let the heat soothe me, then sliding them over my head and neck.  Next, I noticed which parts of my body were aching and gently massaged them.  I felt I was communicating with my body at an intimate and primitive level–no words, only intuition, emotion, and touch.  Usually, I feel guilty for relaxing, but I gave myself permission to be totally present in the moment.  I made a promise that I would not wait until my body forced me to be still before I took meaningful time for myself.

I think we could all use some more primary nourishment, even if it’s small and you have to do it yourself.  That could mean listening to music that touches your soul, giving yourself a foot massage, going through your most cherished pictures, meditating, even taking slow, deep breaths.  So, did taking this “me-time” cure my woes?  No.  I was still sick.  Was it worth the time and effort?  Heck yeah.  I was delightfully warm, I felt peaceful and relaxed, and the corners of my mouth had set in an upward and locked position.  Little acts of self-kindness– even ones that seem too simple and unworthy–are sometimes the most rewarding and powerful.

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