#51 Your Food & Your Lifestyle Are Your Answer
Food fuels the body, it comforts the soul, it triggers emotions. Food is woven into the fabric of our ancestry, and has very deep roots into who we are and how we live our lives. Food is the center of our celebrations and our comfort in times of grief. Food can cause allergies, brain fog, digestion issues, inflammation, sluggishness, and it is also the greatest of all healers.
I have come to this miraculous realization with the help of many brilliant doctors, nurses, nutritionists, and practitioners, but none more transformational than the help of Ayurvedic Total Health Coach, Ivette Desai.
Growing up with an Irish mother and a Scotch and German father, white flour, sugar, and dairy were the basic staples of our diet at home, as I believe it was for most households across America. During the 1970’s, we ate what we thought at the time was a healthy diet. like margarine instead of butter.
The dots that were never connected for my family were the ones that would have saved most of us from recurrent hypoglycemic episodes and migraines throughout most of our lives, which we accepted as just a part of our every day as “just something we experience”. My mom, who’s suffered all her life from migraines, was always of the belief to just accept and don’t question. I am often blamed for analyzing everything. For going too deep, for questioning too much. At 53, that’s not a switch I can turn off so easily, nor is it one I intend to.
Inquiry is what drives me. I wonder. I question. I analyze. I always want to know why. What’s the cause of that? It’s how I’m wired and I’m unapologetic about it. I was never satisfied with fixing an issue, I wanted to get to the root of the problem to prevent it from occurring again. That’s a lesson from my dad that was instilled in me very early on.
I like to be out and about having a good time like everybody else, and I so desperately wanted to be like everyone else who could go about their day and just enjoy themselves without having to wonder and worry about if they’re body was going to give out and start shaking and shut me right in front of everybody.
I could no longer tolerate the sudden drops in my blood sugar levels that brought me down quicker than I could say, “Pass the sugar”.
I sought the help of a nutritionist at the Schachter Center for Complementary Medicine in Suffern, New York, and with a quick glance at my food journal, she asked me about the healthy fats that were missing from my diet.
Innocently, I asked her, “What are healthy fats?” And she told me, “Olives, avocados, watermelon, nuts, seeds, oils, fish, coconut flakes, chia seeds”, and of course there’s more, but these ones were a game changer for me, my diet, and my lifestyle!
I Immediately added these foods into my diet and was on cloud nine! I felt like I had the answer to all of life’s questions! Healthy fats were the missing piece to my puzzle. They were the answer to the ancestral programming in my body and the myth I was telling myself for way too long about, “this is just my makeup and something that I have to deal with”.
You’re not going to like what I have to say right from the start today, so I’m encouraging you to try your best to stay open and receptive, because today we’re talking about food, and I’ve had enough conversations about food with people to know that the topic of food is like politics, religions, and money. You don’t go there.
Food is very controversial. Don’t challenge a person about what they put into their body and what they feed to their family, because you will tick them off. People do not like to be challenged about what they eat, trust me, because I’m one of those people.
Since this isn’t a conversation, per se, I’m diving right in because this podcast is all about wellness, and food, my friends, is at the heart of your well-being.
Sleepless Nights, anxiety, bloating, irritability, monkey mind, concentration, focus and attention, clarity, joint pain, sex drive, allergies… pretty much all things circle right back to the foods we eat.
There’s a good chance I just lost the majority of my listeners, but if you’re still hanging around I want to tell you about how I kicked and screamed, and pouted and cursed over just a simple INVITATION to a spring cleanse. It wasn’t something I HAD TO DO. No one was forcing me to do ANYTHING.
This spring cleanse was a part of a required course I was taking for my 300 hour yoga teacher training certification: UNDERSTANDING YOUR UNIQUE LIFESTYLE AND NUTRITIONAL BLUEPRINT FOR OPTIMAL ENERGY. The teacher was the lovely Ivette Desai, an Integrative Yoga Health & Habits Coach, author and yoga teacher. I knew Ivette as a member of our Yoga Teacher Community Group, and I was excited to have her lead me through class, but I wasn’t as excited about the topic. AT ALL.
I had been SO angry around the idea of taking this course. Weeks before it was to take place, I was complaining about it to my friends and to Steve, and to anyone who would listen. I could feel the anger rise up inside me as I spoke about it. I couldn’t understand why my eating habits had to be challenged as a part of my certification process.
As a learner, a perpetual learner. An active, enthusiastic learner, an “all in” learner, I couldn’t take this course and NOT do the cleanse. My personality type is to be all in if I’m going to participate in something. And so the very fact that I’d have to take this course, meant that I knew I was going to challenge myself to do the cleanse and challenging my diet really pissed me off.
Who the hell wants to cleanse? Not me!
I have spent years trying to perfect my eating habits, researching, and trying out foods that would best sustain and heal my body throughout the day. Remember, I was on the journey to solve the hypoglycemic issues. By the way, I sought out western doctors and was not diagnosed with hypoglycemia or diabetes, which I thought I may be. As a kid and young adult, I, like most of my Anglo-American family, suffered from hypoglycemic episodes, which resulted in the shakes if I didn’t eat on time, or if I went too long without a meal. Ask anyone in my family and they will tell you where they have their emergency food stashed: glove compartments, purses, desk drawers, backpacks, coolers, gym bags, we are never more than a hand’s reach away from food. That’s not normal. But crashes would come so quickly, getting to a restaurant or back home was not an option. Food had to be consumed immediately for me or I was calling someone to pick me up!
Be it a blessing or a curse, everyone in my family has high metabolisms and because our diet consists, or in my case consisted, of white flour and refined white sugar, the drop in our blood sugar levels could take us right down to the ground at any moment. Personally, I never passed out, but shaking and light-headedness was a common occurrence. I chalked it up to how I was made. Luck of the draw. I watched members of my family experience the same, so for me, it was the norm. Until it wasn’t.
As I got older, I got wiser. After my journey through cancer, I reevaluated everything I ate and put on my body. I experimented with alternative medical and healing methods and knew there must be an answer to this unsteady, unpredictable, shakey lifestyle that I was no longer willing to accept.
I asked questions. I listened to the answers. I asked for doctor recommendations. I researched alternative healing centers. I tried supplements. I tried juicing. I tried, I experimented, I tried some more, until years later, I finally found that nutritionist who very simply gave me my golden ticket to normalcy when she told me I had no healthy fats in my diet. Obviously I skimmed over that part in all the Dr. Oz books I’ve read over the years. I couldn’t believe that what I had suffered from my entire life was a result of not eating healthy fats!
It’s amazing what seeds, nuts, an avocado, and some olives will do for a very active body! Take out the white flour and white refined sugar, and you’ve got a body that can make it all the way to lunch after a simple, light, gluten free / dairy free oatmeal breakfast with blueberries and organic maple syrup.
So what I’m sharing with you here today is years worth of hard work, trial and error, getting nowhere for so long, only to finally find the holy grail, and then, once my body was finally happy and healthy, and plugging along just fine with it’s gluten and dairy free self, I’m being asked to challenge it all. WITH A CLEANSE.
Remember, I’m a gal who’s had radiation, INTERNAL as well as external. Things needed to be cleaned out before treatments if you get my drift, and that happened more times than I care to remember. This body has cleansed enough for a lifetime.
I’d even done a liver cleanse once by drinking olive oil and epsom salts as a natural way to detox and clean up my digestive system, all under the care of a medical doctor. I had cleansed enough to know that cleansing, for me, was not pleasant.
At one point, I was really enjoying my time working with an alternative nurse practitioner until she recommended a caffeine enema cleanse and that was the end of her. The word cleanse brings me right back to those awful feelings of being so incredibly drained and depleted. The little kid in me was huffing and puffing and pouting with my arms folded across my chest, my feet planted, I wasn’t budging. Didn’t my yoga teachers know the timing was AWFUL? The week before Easter? You want people to cleanse on Easter and on spring break?! I wasn’t doing it. I’d show up for the class, but I was not cleansing.
As if Easter wasn’t enough, the second week of the cleanse fell during the week all the students were returning to in-person learning for the first time in a year! Cleansing during that time would not be doing anyone any good. I had major concerns about my energy levels, I saw myself depleted and hungry. I foresaw weakness in my body that sent me home from school early with Steve having to pick me up. I saw hours on the toilet and my body going through really uncomfortable, violent reactions to this “Ayurvedic Spring Cleanse”, whatever that was supposed to be.
What you eat is the single most influential component of how you operate throughout your entire day. It’s what nourishes all of the organs inside of you, it affects your nervous system, your mood, and your every ability to function properly.
How do I know this? From experience. Like everything else I share with you here: I live, I learn, I practice, I share, and this spring, I did it. I did the freaking cleanse! I wrapped up a 21 day Ayurvedic spring cleanse and I’m beyond excited to tell you that my mind was BLOWN!
Ayurveda is the sister science to yoga. It’s a seasonal way of eating intended to work symbiotically with nature. Ayurveda wants us to cleanse twice a year: once in the spring and again in the fall. I can only speak to the spring cleanse, which I insist on calling a “Spring Awakening” rather than a cleanse and here’s why.
After kicking and screaming my way into this process, I jumped right in and committed. It wasn’t easy , but after I did my shopping on Saturday, spent all day Sunday cooking and preparing meals for the next two weeks, I committed to making the next 21 days happen. Preparation on Sunday is what kept me on the straight and narrow, because if I’m not prepared with my food on Sunday, I can plan on eating like crap and feeling like garbage for the week. The good news here is that I was not in this alone. I walked this journey knowing Ivette was by my side to cheer me on and answer any questions or concerns I would have along the way.
With the help of Total Health Coach, Ivette Desai and her recipes, and Kate O’Donnell’s Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook, I had two weeks of meals, snacks, and smoothies, all ready to go just from one day of cooking!
Not once while I was cooking did I have even the slightest notion that I was about to be transformed in a way I never thought possible.
Day one of the cleanse was uneventful. I was constantly full and satisfied. I want to call attention to the fact that we had a family wake to attend to on the first day and I was pleasantly surprised to find myself full and satiated throughout the night. I popped into my car when it was dinner time and ate the kitchari dinner I packed and then went back to spend time with my family. I was very committed to this cleanse for the next three weeks.
At no point was I hungry nor did I crave any foods. Ayurvedic meals consisted of all six tastes: sweet, sour, salt, pungent, bitter, astringent. Because each meal has all these tastes, I found that cravings weren’t an issue.
What was an issue were the thoughts and emotions that came up for me often. You already know anger and being challenged was the first, and control was the second. The idea behind the cleanse is “self-study”. Thoughts and emotions bubble to the surface and beg to be dealt with. Control was one of the feelings. The Sanskrit word for self-study is Svadhyaya, and it’s a part of the Yoga Sutras and has the potential to deepen our yoga practice way beyond the mat. So while I was making choices to eat a certain way, I was experiencing conflicting thoughts that began to bubble up like:The crunch of a grilled cheese would be so great right now, Why can Steve eat whatever he wants? His stomach is like a furnace, just burning up all the bagels and cold cuts he stuffs into it. I can eat a grilled cheese if I want. Maybe I will. I’ll show this cleanse. I can eat whatever I want. But I didn’t want to give into this inner dialogue. I wanted to prove to myself that I was able to take control of this situation. I was making intentional choices to eat a certain way to allow more thoughts and emotions to surface, so I could learn all I needed to about myself, my lifestyle, and my eating habits.
Ultimately, I fought through the controlling thoughts I was having and worked them in my favor. I changed the language to: Yes, I am in control, and I’m controlling what goes in because what goes in feels good. What goes in is healing. And I want healing.
Over the weeks I discovered that I LOVE texture in my food. Once I made and tasted my first chia seed pudding, I said goodbye to my beloved Kozy Shack rice pudding without a care or regret. I learned it wasn’t about the sweetness of the pudding, but the texture of the rice that I craved. That was a big surprise to me. The chia seeds did that for me in a much more sustainable way.
I learned the initial anger I had over the very idea of a cleanse challenged my control and I didn’t like that. I got curious about that anger and laughed with it instead, realizing it’s not about control, but the choices that determine my outcome.
I’m guessing when you hear the word cleanse, like me you want to run in the other direction. I can think of plenty of things I’d rather do than cleanse like swim with sharks, bungee jump from the world’s tallest bridge, or even skydive without a parachute. I would do ANYTHING rather than cleanse.
As I was noticing the changes in myself week by week, Steve was bringing to my attention the outward changes he was noticing. He could see a calm that I walked around with each day. He could see the stillness in my mind as I spoke and prepared for each day ahead. He could feel an energetic shift over the course of three three weeks that was noticeable enough for him to mention.
I have come to love this Ayurvedic way of eating. It makes all the cells in my body sing. I’ve learned to open up even more than I do to let in new ideas and ways of living.
Now I’m excited for you to meet Ivette. She will be a guest on next week’s show.
In her book Relaunch Your Life Force: Discover How to Create a Holistic Health Approach Using Whole Foods for Weight Loss and Natural Remedies for Stress Management, Ivette tells us, “We need to accept the fact that there are things we are feeding our bodies that are not nourishing us physically, emotionally, and spiritually and realize that they are poisoning us. If we’re going to be healthy, we have to get up, wake up, be aware of and move and nourish our bodies.”
She will awaken us to what truly nourishes the body, like:
- whole foods and
- physiological needs
This week’s Shift work is to pay attention to how you feel after you eat. That’s it. Just notice. Notice and note. If your body feels bloated, uncomfortable, achy, note what you’ve eaten and see if eliminating some of those foods that you’ve eaten shifts the feelings in your body. Use the way your body feels as feedback, as your resource for what your body wants and needs to function at its highest potential each day.
Be sure to tune in next week so you can meet Ivette and listen in on our conversation about how you can gently shift into this lifestyle and sustain it! Ivette has a very generous offering waiting for you, so you won’t want to miss out!
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And remember, it’s not about being perfect; it’s ALL about being easy, purposeful & intentional with the practice.