Archive for Tips and Tricks

Quit Sugar with Me! Super fun.

I’ll be like Julie McCoy, your Cruise Director

It took me so many tries to quit. And there’s no magic to it. But there are tools that make the possibility of success a little bit closer and a lot more fun that just a white knuckle sandwich.

I can’t know the story that brought you here. Maybe it’s all the news you hear about how terrible refined sugar is for your body. Maybe it’s the way Type II Diabetes keeps cropping up all over your family tree, and beside you with friends and co-workers. Or maybe it’s the annoyance of being such a slave to sugar, unable to say no even when you truly want to. Whatever the reason you come to this series, you’ll find the information you need to make changes, you’ll get support, use your inherent creativity, have fun, and build community.

This four-week course will happen on your own time with a group that meets online all day, every day, for the duration of our studies. You can literally come to the group at any time to write what you need or share a discovery with the group. This frees all of us up to have our own schedules and make these meanigful changes in our lives as they happen. You’ll also have a coaching call with me every other week, one on one, to support you through this work. In this way, support can also be customized to your needs.

Each week we’ll tackle a different topic or angle about the Great White Beast. You’ll get handouts and documents to keep for continued support long after the class is over. Together we will do exercises, make recipes, deconstruct cravings, keep journals, and get our bodies moving as we look at our attachment to sugar.

If giving up sugar has been a longtime goal of yours, this course is just the thing to help you.

Join me by signing up right here.

My Article on Quitting Sugar from MindBodyGreen

Quitting Sugar is a tough fight, but it’s worth it.

Sugar is taking a public beating this week, as the internet is crammed with articles on why to avoid it, including Michael Moss’s fascinating NYT Magazine piece on processed foods as well as yesterday’s NYT column column by beloved chef Mark Bittman.

Bittman’s article explores findings from a study that links sugar consumption, not obesity, to diabetes. According to the piece, “researchers found that increased sugar in a population’s food supply was linked to higher diabetes rates independent of rates of obesity. In other words, according to this study, obesity doesn’t cause diabetes: sugar does.”

Going beyond the link, Mr. Bittman finally says from the center of chefdom what health coaches and researchers like Dr. Robert Lustig have been saying for years:

Sugar is toxic.

Which is the best reason to quit sugar.

One of the forty million times I quit eating refined sugar (and hopefully the last), I had the magnificent idea to start a journal and track not just my food, but my THOUGHTS about food. How much of my intellectual life was being held hostage by food obsession? And how much of that chokehold was related to sugar? And finally, what might be available to me mentally if all that room was suddenly liberated for me to use in a less exhausting manner than the vicious mistress of obsessive thinking?

I also decided to do a little research about my sweet tooth and see why I felt so helpless in the glitter of its outstretched fingernails. I found this lecture that Dr. Lustig gave a lecture called Sugar: The Bitter Truth in which he shows us that sugar actually stimulates the exact same region of the brain that cocaine goes to work on. I like to call it the Euphoria Lounge. Who doesn’t want to be transported from feelings of suffering, boredom, fear, or betrayal simply by adding a substance to our systems? It is so much easier than talking it out, going for a run, being present in pain or accepting responsibility for things that are causing us harm. NO WONDER I LOVE SUGAR!!

But my journal revealed that the effects of sugar didn’t end simply with the stimulation. Without indulging in the initial impulse, I was able to keep my brain off the endless hamster wheel of desire and denial. “I want this but that’s bad so I can’t.” and then on an even worse day, “I want this so I WILL and now I AM BAD.” Then the sugar appears and the blood sugar Olympics begin their relentless training: the high, the crash, the craving, and mental gymnastics to deny the desire and so forth. And the whole time the mind is engaged in this cycle actively, countless hours are robbed from our waking lives.

So how do we get off the ride? Here are some basic tools for support in quitting sugar, serving the health of your body, and freeing your mind from obsession so you can go about the fantastic business of living.

1. SOUR: Just like on a color wheel where hues opposite from each other cancel each other out, so too is the landscape of our tongues. Having a sugar craving? Grab a pickle. The sour taste will physiologically kill the impulse long enough for you to make a different choice for yourself and mindfully return to the life you are in the middle of living.

2. SUPPORT: Grab a friend or a posse and do it together. The first few days and even two weeks can be so intense when we try and let go of a crutch that no longer serves our health. It’s ok to ask for help and having a friend engaged in a common goal serves to strengthen the entire team. I see this over and over in my group cleanses, how the power of community creates a momentum for everyone.

3. CHANGE OF SCENERY: When the impulse feels at full banshee-monster-head-banging massive, make a physical move. Walk around the block. Take yourself up and down the stairs at the office. Go swimming. Take the dog out. Move from one room of the house to another. Call up your sugar-free pal and talk it out. Remember the craving will pass. Everything does.

4. ADD MORE PLEASURE: Congratulate yourself each day by furnishing yourself with a pleasure. Giving up sugar is not about living in denial, it is about a new perspective of pleasure. Run yourself a gorgeous bath with essential oils and bath salts for added detoxification, aromatherapy, and muscular relaxation. Bring yourself flowers. Treat yourself to a mani/pedi or give one to yourself. Masturbate. Let’s face it, no one is ever mad about an orgasm.

When I was finally able to let go of sugar, I realized through my journal how much of my mental space had been taken up not just by the sugar craving and acrobatics around that, but by just food obsession in general. My mind is now so much freer to be creative, to be curious and alive. My focus is more clear and my relationships with people are deeper, more authentic and loving. I don’t sit with my friend over tea and wonder how long until I get to eat. I sit with my friend over tea and I think about how nice it is to have time to catch up with such a hilarious woman, and how lucky I am to know her.

The Smoothie Chronicles: Chapter 1

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I started making smoothies when I did my very first seasonal cleanse a few years back. At first I thought they would never keep me full until lunch and I panicked about not having enough food or enough chewing or blah blah blah. I guess Food Panic is a whole issue for a future post now that I’m typing. So for now, let’s just say I didn’t believe in these things. I didn’t like the idea of adding powders to things or feeling like I was going down the path a new bizarre disordered kind of eating that included cutting out BREAKFAST, the Holy Grail of meals. But I knew it was just for 3 weeks and I felt open to trying this detox so I just got on board. What the hell? I mean, I’ve done way crazier shit without a thought to my health at all, like for instance, doing crystal meth and not eating anything at all for like 3 days.

Who needs a smoothie now, Girl?

Anyhoots, turns out I loved them and even when I am between seasonal cleanses I make them all the damn time. It just kind of stuck with me. I have an old blender you can see here (along with the recipe for almond milk I use in all these little devils). While I tend to covet objects, I also find my Libra rising engenders a certain commitment to beauty far beyond functionality sometimes. In this case, it’s great because me and Ginger got this beautiful blender at an estate sale for next to nothing and the thing just doesn’t quit. It may not be the Vitamix or the Ninja we often dream of, but I can’t bring myself to get rid of such a pretty appliance that does it’s job just fine. All of this to say, you can be a smoothie enthusiast for much less than $600 in the equipment department. Also, in case you ARE looking to upgrade and are feeling shut down by sticker shock, fancy blenders and juicers are often things people re-sell on craigslist and ebay because they go through a phase and then say Fuck It, I’m Not A Smoothie/Juicing Person.

Over time, I’ve written a bunch of recipes for smoothies for my own cleanses that I do, but I’ve also just spent a bunch of time winging it. So I thought I’d collect some images with basic ingredients for you to toss together if you like. All the recipes I’ve made for the cleanses aren’t on here and often tend to greener, but not always. Anyhow, I hope these inspire and offer some good ideas for whatever you got going.

5 uses for Pot Liquor. This post brought to you by a reader’s comment.

After my bean post, a great colleague and health coach, Renee Martin, asked me about some things a person can do with the pot liquor after cooking the beans. I was going to just answer her, but I realized there are so many great things to do with the stuff that I’d just make a separate post about it. So here you go:

1. I love to use it a base for soup. It adds some texture and thickness to the base of the soup. In the way of this process, it can also be used as the base for a stock to then go into a soup later for when you have a hankerin’. I like to make stock as I go and I freeze it and throw a label on so I know when it went into the hopper. So take all your leek tops, onion skins and ends, carrot butts, parsnip heads, ginger skins, broccoli stems, kale spines and egg shells for you non-vegans (My friend, the artist, gardner and fantastic cook EE Miller taught me this. It adds calcium to the mix!) and boil them up in the liquor. I put it all into cheese cloth but you can also strain the liquid out after. any way that works for you. A vegetable stock doesn’t really need to cook down for a very long time, while a bone broth can simmer for a few hours.

2. Add it to your cornbread mixture and other savory baking adventures.

3. I sometimes cook my rinsed rice in it to bring richness and balance to a meal.

4. You can use it as a liquid for savory dips and hummus. I read about this someplace and haven’t tried it yet.

5. Use it in gravies and such. Especially tasty in a vegan gravy with hippie dust.

What else have ya’ll done with it? I imagine there’s a ton of stuff I haven’t even imagined. I bet you could even make a great Bloody Mary with it, although I am prone to a Virgin these days. I know I left that wide open for comments, and let the record reflect, I am not afraid.

*Inflammation Station Part 2: The Sweet 16 of Stress Reduction

You probably began reading this article because you feel, not just stressed out, but also TRAPPED in that stress. Your life is so packed up, there is no time to edit anything out, change any commitment, or find any space at all to make it to a goddamn yoga class with a mat strapped to your back on a crowded city bus. Or maybe you have too much to do to make the kids are getting their needs met. Or things at work are over the top tight now. You’ll find a way to tae care of yourself as soon as it slows down. But here are some ways to take care of yourself and your stress levels TODAY. NOW. Just pick one from the list and start there. Then  maybe two. Mix it up. Let yourself be healthy.
1.   
Breathing – Have you ever found yourself in the middle of an important meeting, when it occurs to you that you’re actually not breathing? If you look further, you might also notice that your heart rate is above normal and your temperature has risen. Taking deep breaths lowers your blood pressure, delivers oxygen to the far reaches of your body, and relaxes your alarm system into peace.
2.    Exercise – You do not have to be bench pressing Toyotas or climbing Mt. Shasta to reap the incredible rewards of exercise in terms of stress management. Exercise of any kind releases endorphins, your body’s own personal Dr. Feelgood chemicals. It also elevates your mood and self-confidence, while improving your sleep and increasing your overall daily energy reserves. Start slow. But start now.
3.    Creativity - When we engage in an act of creation, we can achieve a kind of focus similar to the concentration achieved through a meditation practice. Allowing yourself the time and space to focus on knitting a scarf, spinning a ceramic ewer or crafting a hilarious blog helps you to be present with yourself without tripping out on the future or the past. The act itself slows the pace of things and your body responds by relaxing, counteracting the effects of toxic stress.
4.    Schedule time for Yourself – Your calendar has a ton of things in it. Sally’s birthday dinner, a presentation for the marketing department, a training HR is sending you to attend for a whole weekend,. What it probably doesn’t say is “Wednesday from 2-3:30. Take self for a walk along the water. Read new detective novel on my favorite bench in the park. Go to the fencing class you’ve always wanted to go to.” Prioritize time for yourself at least once a week. Making this commitment actually strengthens your commitments to others, diminishing your overall stress levels of feeling, ironically, overcommitted.
5.    Interspecies Pals – Hang out with your dog Gus. Or your cat Parsnip. Or your fish Thelonius. Being with animals not only provides us comfort, but often it highlights simplicity and strips down the stress we labor under. Food. Shelter. Love. And a nice swim, except maybe for Parsnip.
6.    Sleep Getting a good night’s sleep can improve our concentration, our effectiveness and our energy levels. Try to lay off the liquids 2-3 hours before bed so as not to interrupt your slumber with an insistent bladder. Cut off the caffeine about 7 hours before you turn in. And try to get in bed the same time every night. Keeping yourself consistent with your pillow will begin to ratchet down your stress levels.
7.    Hilarity – Go ahead and laugh your ass off. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the release of endorphins. Laughter also stimulates circulation and aids muscle relaxation, both of which help reduce the physical symptoms of stress.
8.    Stretch – Yoga is great for stress. But look, I’m just going to go ahead and say it. It’s ok to hate yoga. Really. You don’t have to tote a little mat around town or invest in Lululemon wardrobes to reap the benefits of stretching. Just go ahead and start your day by doing five minutes of stretching and see how things go. You will be in more alignment, more embodied, and begin your whole day grounded. Literally.
9.    Dance and Sing –You can go out with friends and get lost in the thrill of a great sound system or stay home and get wild with whatever blows your dress up. Abandon and fun in a totally physical sense decrease your stress levels and free you from the tangle of daily irritation
10. Eat a Healthy Diet – Start your day with breakfast. Always. Starting your day with complex carbs, slow digesting fuel, will keep you full and energized for your morning. Keep your diet balanced, your consumption of refined sugars limited, and pile your plate with colorful produce. A balanced diet of whole foods and produce keeps your stress levels down and your blood sugar stable. This results in a more consistent energy and mood throughout the day.
11. Get loud about it – According to a recent study in Great Britain, work-related stress can be relieved by up to one quarter by letting out a good scream. Get primal. Just let it rip.
12. Call a Friend – You don’t have to do it alone. Call someone you trust and air out your stress. Let people go through it with you. The bonds of your relationships will strengthen, you can get it out of your head, and ultimately, you will take solace in human connection, an experience proven to reduce stress.
13. Gratitude – Studies show that cultivating gratitude can be one of the greatest weapons against stress out there. Keep a gratitude list by your bed and each night or morning (whichever suits you best) write down three things you’re grateful for. Everything from your new socks to a stable of wonderful friends. Begin cataloging all the things about life that rule, three at a time each day.
14. Get your Financial House in Order - If looking at finances gives you sharp emotional vertigo, schedule five minutes a day to begin assessing where you are. Just 5. And at the end of five minutes, move on with your life. Engaging yourself slowly and daily will build confidence, shake you quite gently out of denial, and put you on the road to making choices based in reality. Soon five minutes will turn to ten and then fifteen and healthy choices on that front will lead to peace and recovery in other venues.
15. Delegate – Do you hate spending so much time at the laundromat? Drop it off. Does looking for parking make you nuts? Take public transportation or treat yourself to a walk. Does paying bills drive you crazy? Set up automatic payments. I am not saying these are the right answers for you, I am just saying there ARE answers for you and you can take action to strip stressful things from your life.
16. 1979 Time – This is my favorite. Turn off your phone for an hour a day. Walk away from your computer. Close Facebook. Turn off the television. Just one hour a day. Read a poem. Go look at a tree or the sky. They get more and more fascinating if you let them. People really can wait an hour to hear from you or get an email response.

Think of all these things like a Venn diagram with overlapping circles or a fascinating chain reaction of good stuff. If you get a good night’s sleep, you wake with more energy and feel inspired to make yourself some steel cut oats for breakfast. Once that happens your morning is fully fueled and your cravings for sugar and caffeine diminish. Highs and valleys even out and your blood sugar stays healthy throughout your day. You take yourself away from your desk at lunch and sit outside in the sun reading a battered copy of Moby Dick you always meant to get to. That lights your creative spark and you plan a quick picnic dinner for your sweetheart and the two of you enjoy a pleasant evening together with no texting or TV reminding you why you are lucky to have companionship in your life. That leads you to remember other ways your life has delivered gifts like how your dentist told you your teeth look great.

The Domino effect works in both directions. Set yourself up for some serenity today. The world will do its part to offer you stress, so don’t keep helping it out. It’s doing just fine and it completely supports your new plan to give yourself abundance. And so do I.

*The original version of this first appeared in the WONDERFUL blog, MindBodyGreen

Stressed out at Inflammation Station : Part 1

Gus Seinberg: Gay, Jewish Dog.

One of the first things I ever taught Gus Seinberg how to do was spoon. Even when he was a puppy and I toted him around San Francisco in a bike bag, whiling away the hours on the back patio of The Bearded Lady Truckstop Cafe in a vintage slip with platform combat boots, it was never me that invested in him learning how to be a good dog. I’d take his puffy tiny body home and snuggle his back against me and smell the crown of his puppy head whispering to him all the things we’d do together, me and him. Sometimes he’d turn towards me and put his big floppy paws on my chest and just stare at me, his eyeliner and brown eyes pleading for language. We’d nap while I could have been doing something productive: working on a book, printing for a photography show, EXERCISING. But instead I’d watch the butts in the ashtray shift and morph into new heights and stare out the window of the studio apartment waiting for my girlfriend to come teach Gus something useful. Sit. Stay. Back Seat. Off.

This Cafe was Magical

Everything helpful he knows, he learned from her. I really only taught him how to spoon. To this day, if I lie down on any surface he can get to and I toss my arms out perpendicular to my body, he’ll heave his 50 lb body into me, back first, and lie his long face on the pillow by me. It’s one of my favorite things.

But now he’s a big dude and he has paws that don’t flop and they have big black talons on the ends of them. He still turns over and digs his feet into me and sometimes the nails get me. Then I have a weird welt across me, like a protester all risen up against the man, red faced and furious.

That’s inflammation. Not to state the obvious. But when did inflammation get so confusing? Who are these doctors who keep talking about inflammation and how it’s the root of all medical problems? Is my internal landscape a mighty welt? Is the inflammation about organs or tissues os the blood? Will it make me feel bad? Am I literally SWOLLEN? I have gotten the answer to this question through entire books and STILL felt confused. So let’s get super basic.

Inflammation leads to too much time at the hospital.

The first thing is that inflammation has a purpose. When the body is injured, in pain, stressed out or otherwise flummoxed, it responds to the injury and it’s actually trying to heal itself. Whether you’ve been cut or burned or stung or stabbed or whatever, the body has a bunch of cells that tell it something bad has happened. Your brain gets the pain message but the rest of you is busy as well. The site of the injury gets the message to increase blood flow to the injury and that happens by the blood vessels opening up to let more nutrients reach the injury. That’s why the site gets red and hot and puffy. The blood brings plasma and leukocytes, or white blood cells,  to get to work immediately in the healing process. So as all these responses from your immune system take place, not only do they act to help you by giving you a good dose of pain to let you know exactly what the injured piece of your body is capable of and NOT capable of (like, no don’t turn it THAT way!), but under all the red puffy action, there’s clotting and cleaning and repair going on.

So if inflammation is about healing, why all the evil chatter about it being the root of every major disease in the western world? Well, inflammation is supposed to just do its job and get on with it, as the British say. It’s an emergency system.

What does that have to do with being stressed out?
This is stressing me out.

Fight or Flight

Look, our minds and bodies arrived with convenient alarm systems to keep us safe from harm. Until just about 10,000 years ago, we Homo sapiens spent our days simply surviving just to get to the next one. We gathered berries, and whittled wood into sharp points. We tested mushrooms with a high cost of trial and error, stalked game, and sought out water sources. We found shelter and warmth, companionship. At the same time, of course, creatures sought us as their dinner as well, and upon sight of, let’s say, a mountain lion staring us down, our bodies would sound the sirens loud and focused, giving us two famous choices: Fight or Flight.

In this moment, the phenomenal body does some serious acrobatics in its efforts to keep us alive. Our hypothalamus, a powerful gland sitting pretty at the base of our brains, sends in the troops of defense. Using a team of nerves and hormones, these players poke our adrenal glands, just chilling out in a catnap above our kidneys, telling them to get the hell up and deliver us a wallop of hormones featuring the big stars: adrenaline and cortisol.

Adrenaline’s job is to increase our heart rates, and as it does so, elevate our blood pressure and catapult our energy supplies into survival levels. Cortisol, the big cheese of stress hormones, is quite busy with its own tasks, increasing sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, to making extra energy available for thinking in lightning speed fashion (the brain functions solely on the power of glucose). It also increases the availability of substances that repair the body’s tissues, on alert for possible injury.

And if that wasn’t enough, cortisol also acts as a master editor, slicing out nonessential functions that would slow us in a fight-or-flight situation. For instance, it demotes immune system responses and stops paying attention to the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. This heightened state is not concerned with your biological clock, your desire for dinner, or for crying out loud, your height.

But what happens to this system when the threat never passes?

The Heart

Modern life in our Western culture doesn’t present us with quite as many mountain lion threats or whittling opportunities as it used to. What it does present us with are continuously stressful situations of the 21st century. Will we lose the home we spent our entire lives working for? Can we retain our job toiling in a cube for 60 hours a week to make endless deadlines? Will our partners stay with us and give us the love we need when they barely remember what we look like? Remaining constantly on edge keeps us in a consistent state that was designed to last for only moments, and our systems begin to break down under the demands of our constant requests for extra troops in the fight. In a healthy body, the body’s stress response system is supposed to be self-regulating. Once we escape from the mountain lion, or the thief in the alley, or the car swerving out in front of us, our levels should return to their happy places, decreasing hormone levels, blood pressure, and adrenaline once the threat to our body has passed. At this point, our digestive system once again begins its digesting (not to mention its manufacturing of serotonin), our reproductive systems return to watching over our abilities to conceive and procreate, and our growth hormones relax into a healthy aging process.

The problem with stress in our lives today is that our minds tell our bodies that we are under constant assault. These systems stay on alert, breeding chronic physical, psychological, and emotional crises that feed each other and reinforce problems. Overloading our bodies with exposure to cortisol and its other stress hormone cronies disrupts almost all of our body’s functions. Constant inflammation. This puts us at increased risk of numerous health problems, including, and unfortunately not limited to:

  • Heart disease
  • Insomnia
  • Digestive tract ailments
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Memory impairment
  • Skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis.

So what are we supposed to do? Good question. Part 2 of the series will cover some stress reduction tips. Until then, just continue appreciating your dog. Especially if he’s as cute as Gus.

 

Sugar Detox: The Wonderful, The Ecstatic, and the SUPER UGLY, plus bonus popsicles.

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I’ve quit doing a lot of things in my life. Smoking took a few times. Like 6. Each time I picked up, I chose a new brand, the last one being hand-rolled numbers that smelled sweet and earthy twirling into a column between my thumb and two fingers. I’m hoping this last effort from a few years back will do it for good. I quit smoking weed, I dunno when that happend, it just went away. I quit coffee a few times, have it only on the rare road trip because something about crappy road coffee with radioactive French Vanilla creamer still appeals to me. Also

Love/Hate

Dunkin’ Donuts coffee whenever in Boston is a must, also French Vanilla. (I don’t want you to get the idea I don’t know anything about coffee, although it’s ok if your impression is that, like summer vacation, I have no class. But I do take my decaf cravings to irritatingly divine local micro roasteries.) I gave up crystal meth and dreamed about it for weeks, making nights long and not so restful. Also falling by the wayside came pretty much the rest of the DEA Schedule II drugs, watching America’s Next Top Model, apathy, dating assholes, and you guess it, refined sugars. And guess which one was the worst?

This stuff makes me INSANE

Correct.

The gosh dang SUGAR.  More difficult than giving up the dashing butch rogues even. Why bother? It made me so crazy. I would watch myself polish off a whole pound of gummi bears, eating even after my tongue started to fritz out. I’d plow through chocolate forgetting entirely to enjoy it, and pastries would find their way to oblivion in my hands, only at the last few bites, me realizing I hadn’t any recollection of the beginning, sometimes leading me to try again with another. I’d miss conversations with people trying to discern if I was looking casual while angling to get enough pie, then worry that everyone noticed how weirdly I ate the entire shared dessert. Plus the kicker was I had no FREEDOM in the matter.

Everybody loves Tim Riggins.

Now, I am a lady who believes wholly in choice. I am a feminist who believes we women can have health at any size and when we have peace, our bodies will respond by asking for what they need and reside in healthy places if we give them that. But in the throws of sugar, I had no choice. I was simply a disembodied hand reaching for themed sheet cakes from Safeway. It started to really piss me off that not only did I feel unhappy in the feminist body I was dragging my great life around in, but also that I had to reckon with the fact that after I had dumped all these chemicals, I still had this one completely controlling me. I was kind of sugar’s little plaything. And so little by little, I tried to get out from under it. The short of it is, it took a few tries.

5 days worth of this.

It felt like shit. Sugar detox is no joke: scorching headaches, bouts of total rage, entire acres of real estate in the mind occupied by what feels like a prison of No Fun for the rest of time. Aches, creaks, lethargy came round calling, the likes of which I had not experienced since the crystal meth left my system, plus just good old fashioned self-pity.

And then there’s the after: about five days later, my brain began to clear. Then it actually kept clearing. My focus got sharper and sharper. My energy went nuts, like I was high but with no tweaker feelings at all. I just woke into the world, clear and energized, ready to do my thing. My insane cravings for sugar waned and oddly, so did my cravings for other things: chips and pizza and cheeseburgers. It isn’t that I never got them, it’s that they registered as clues rather than commands. Cheeseburger daydreams, which I’ve been having constantly during the first 5 days of this cleanse, translate to protein. When I get enough, the craving vanishes. I get to have choices about the protein I take. Chips usually mean I want crunchy things. This also, for me, indicates I’m stressed out, irritated, or annoyed. So it also indicates a trip to the gym or a run is in order. In the mean time I can crunch on carrots or bell peppers or the best crackers ever, Sami’s (gluten free) millet and flax chips. Pizza means I have good taste. WHO THE HELL DOESN’T WANT PIZZA!?!? And for the most part, I rarely eat the iconic things that come up if they are going to impact my well being. And if I do choose to have them, it’s not because I am caving in. I get really good stuff, eat it slowly, savor it, ENJOY MY LIFE, and the gifts that taste and texture have to offer. The 15 pounds I dropped when I quit sugar helped as well. It was nice for my wallet because I didn’t have to shop for new clothes. I felt more comfortable moving in the world, and I finally got some idea of the weight my body felt the best at. It had been years since I had any clue, if ever.

The other thing that happened is I got more creative with food. I began cooking more, reading labels and understanding the way my body felt in reaction to things. Agave came around as the world’s next answer to living without the all powerful sweetness of life, but that also made me feel cracked out. Turns out it’s processed much like corn syrup so that makes sense. But brown rice syrup tasted great and I felt fine eating it. Small treats of maple syrup and honey also work for me. Whole fruit is my favorite. And like I said earlier, lately I’ve been obsessed with popsicles. All the ones I make are sugar-free and pretty delightful. These ones have quite a kick:

Put about 3/4 c of pineapple hunks, an 8oz. container of raw coconut water, a knuckle of ginger and 1/2 a cucumber in the blender. Whirl it around and then freeze your pops. Makes 5. And each has 25 calories. If you care about that kind of thing.

Cherry Cilantro Sunflower Dressing

photo (45)

Did I mention I am on a cleanse right now? Well, I am. Not only am I on the cleanse, I am leading the cleanse with 16 hilarious, devoted, disgruntled, creative and real people. Among our symptoms in the first 3 days are “screaming headaches”, stupifying fatigue (that’s my main one), intense cravings, crazy dreams and bouts of pointed rage. No one really feels too great yet. The first few days of a cleanse are kind of a shitshow. It’s like life, really: get through the shitshow to center stage, until inevitably, the tides turn again and then you gather your resources and sally forth.

The point is to give our bodies a break, let them reboot and do the real work of moving out all the toxins and stagnation to let new energy in. Once we spend a few short weeks slowing down, refocusing, and making choices based on what we’ve learned, our bottoming out doesn’t have to be as low after that. We being to crave healthy foods and activities. We have really great skin. We have way more energy. And we’re funnier. As if you thought that was even possible. Win/win/win.

As part of my intention setting, I’m in the process of kickstarting my novel again in preparation for some shows to promote the new Sister Spit Anthology, and also because I am going to finish the damn thing and publish it. The task of crawling back into the book is an emotional one, seeing what I left behind to languish and how coming back to it is also a reckoning with coming back to myself of that time. So here we are, and here we go. The Cleanse is a perfect time for this because I have a great deal of support from those people around me also doing it, PLUS, there is no way to lose when one engages a creative act. Even “failure” becomes its own reward, creating opportunity from nothing, an alchemy of art at each point of choice.

So as such, I eat an enormous salad every day. Bigger than my head. And these salads call for dressings. People: YOU NEVER HAVE TO BUY SALAD DRESSING AGAIN! I began my romance with homemade dressings from Alice Water’s The Art of Simple Food where she gives her basic vinaigrette recipe. Here it is.

Pour 1T Red wine vinegar into a small bowl. Add salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir to dissolve the salt, taste, and adjust if needed. Use a fork or small whisk to beat in a little at a time: 3 to 4 T extra virgin olive oil.

Variations: 1. Add a little pureed garlic or diced shallot or both to the vinegar. 2. White wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, or lemon juice can replace part or all of the red wine vinegar. 3. Beat in a little mustard before you start adding the oil. 4. For part of the olive oil, substitute a very fresh nut oil, such as walnut or hazelnut. 5. Heavy cream or crème fraiche can replace all or some of the olive oil except not on this cleanse! 6. Chop some fresh herbs and stir them into the finished vinaigrette.

I’ve made about a hundred variations since then and for real have not purchased one bottle of dressing since I read this. Not one. Shelf dressings are expensive and more often than not, packed with crap you don’t need. Also not nearly as tasty as your home efforts will be and they are so easy. Yesterday’s went like this:

8 pitted ripe cherries
4T olive oil
1T sunflower oil
2T red wine vinegar
1T balsamic
1t raw sunflower seeds
1 clove garlic
1/4 t crushed white peppercorn
1/4t ground cumin
small handful of fresh cilantro

Blend. Drizzle onto your salad and toss thoroughly.

Interview for Original Plumbing with Thomas McBee

This is an interview I got to do with the brilliant writer, Thomas McBee on the Original Plumbing website for Amos Mac and Rocco Kayiatos‘ print magazine dedicated to the sexuality and culture of FTM Trans guys. It was Halloween of last year, but health is timeless.

 Holistic Tips with Coach Seinberg

by THOMAS MCBEE on OCTOBER 31, 2011

I’m a little woo. That’s become clearer since I returned to the East Coast after spending my formative mid-to-late 20s in NorCal. I regularly use my Android to find out the moon signs of near-strangers, and if I could be reborn anything, straight up–I’d want to be a mystic. So, when I began taking T in June, I got interested in holistic care for some of the more common side effects. I bought tea tree shampoo to deal with my oily scalp, ate tons of bananas to increase potassium for my cramps, and listened to my body when it told me I need like like 10 gallons of water in order to function. I focused on meditating to work with hormonal rebalancing and I increased lean protein to help deal with my sudden desire to eat like I’d never see food again.

My instinct to do this got me thinking: a lot of us feel deeply connected to our bodies for the first time in our lives, and it follows that now would be a good time to develop habits of self-care that are empowered and healthy. I’ve been working hard around to do so, but not everybody has been immersed in the world of slow food, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and acupuncture, so I thought I’d do a little practical alternative medicine/nutrition information gathering and bring the woo to you.

For help, I spoke to my friend, the brilliant Sara Seinberg, Holistic Health Coach. Here’s her explanation of her work:
“I help clients discover and live the lives they have always known they could have: healthy, energized, honest, authentic and joyful. Using nutrition as a starting point, I work with clients to employ new ways of eating that support making these amazing changes and provide sane and sustainable modes of self care for each person.”

Sounds good! So, what should transitioning folks keep in mind? “Cooking at home might be the single most heroic action of self care a transman can take,” Sara says.

“Cooking at home guarantees that your food is prepared with care and with as many organic ingredients as possible. In the big picture, it’s also of note that cooking at home cuts costs, even organically, as compared to eating out. You can choose healthy oils to cook with (cold-pressed and organic), whole grains, and eat as much in-season, fresh produce as you can. When buying produce, choose food that has traveled the least, and looks the most interesting to you.

“Chew more. Your body will adjust to the food entering it and respond at a respectable rate, cutting down on overeating and intestinal distress. And try to always eat sitting down, but in your car doesn’t count. Eating is the thing that fuels your ENTIRE LIFE. If we respect it, our lives will reflect it.

“Put as many colors on your plate as possible: dark greens, yellows, and reds. More colors equals more nutrients. And of special note to all transmen, especially vegetarians: avoid soy. It is one of the most genetically modified crops in our country, and it is often over processed. It also contains phytoestrogen (plant-based estrogen). Try almond milk or hemp or hazelnut, switch out your tofu to quinoa, a superhero, as a perfect protein.”

Raise your hand if this is news to you. I am shocked. Soy! Fattening, and full of estrogen and modified crops. Boo.

“And while we’re talking about it, guess what else has estrogen in it? Beer, people. According to the phenomenal herbalist Dori Midnight, ’3.5 oz of hops contains 30, 000- 300,000 IU of estrogen, including estradiol, which lowers T and binds to free T in bloodstream, making it unavailable.’

What should trans guys in particular focus on in our diets?  ”Most Americans in generally amble through the world in a state of dehydration to some degree. With the introduction of T into the system along with the stress of a massive change in life, flushing out toxins is imperative. Try to slowly add water consumption into life. Tote a stainless steel or glass water bottle with you. Its presence and weight serve as a reminder to drink it. You don’t have to push yourself from one glass a day to eight. Work slowly in a way that you can maintain. Go from one glass to two. Do that for four or five days. Then try three. And so on.

“Also, in the world of H2O, when cooking your whole grains at home, make sure to rinse them first. Phytic acid is contained in the hulls of nuts, grains, and seeds and is indigestible in our systems. And even more, it is a bully of an acid that renders the body incapable of absorbing Iron and Zinc, which are important for our health, especially for bodies in transition.

“For extra intense hippie cred: sprout that shiz. Sprouted grains retain their natural plant enzymes which are beneficial for helping digestion. In addition, sprouted grains support the growth of good bacteria, help to keep the colon clean, and are high in protective antioxidants, which bind to free radicals in the system, man.”

What else does Coach Seinberg prescribe for a body in transition? Duh.

“Exercise, exercise, exercise! Stretching is of terrific importance, with muscle mass increasing and shifting locations as well. Keeping your  body stretched out will ease the pain of growth spurts and provide some good time for sustained and even breathing, bringing your mind into a more serene place to have multi-dimensional perspective on all the changes you are shouldering.  Aerobic work for raising the heart rate can be a productive place to put temper management skills into place and creates a better sleep environment.

“While you’re at it, the pesky second round of acne you may be suffering through will find a valiant opponent in sweat. This salty work partner cleans out pores and tightens skin. In addition, physical endurance work can translate well into the bedroom for newly brightened libidos. Just saying’

“If you have always been a person who liked exercise, try to switch up your routine some. Add in strength work or tack on ten minutes to your cardio routine. If you are new to moving your body, give yourself room to grow. If you have the opportunity to work with a trainer, do that. If that’s not possible, find a support group online or add an affirmation app to your phone for support.

“Start with realistic goals you can stick to. Maybe decide to do ten modified push ups a day with a friend and text each other each day when you finish. Get off the train one stop early and walk further. Take the stairs. Work your way up. You’ll be surprised to find out just how much your body can do, how great it feels, and to realize how much impact exercise has on your life not just during it, but for the other 23 hours a day as well. Star right where you are. Start today.”

Right now I want to run home and work out, which means Sara’s work here is done. But what about supplements?

“There are great medical and supplemental resources out there for transmen. Intended for other doctors, Dr. R. Nick Gorton and Dean Spade Esq. penned Medical Therapy and Health Maintenance for Transgender Men: A Guide for Healthcare Providers which is also helpful for transmen who, like so many, have had less than ideal experiences with the world of healthcare. It is available for free online.

“Another book I love is The Family Herbal, a classic by Rosemary Gladstar which can guide people to herbal remedies and support for a stressed system. Finally, The Male Herbal by James Green gives men recipes for tinctures and tea and a comprehensive plant based cornucopia of information for herbal health.”
Thanks, Coach Seinberg! If you’d like to talk to her more about your personal healthcare goals, consider becoming a client!  And dudes–be well! The world needs you.

On the Road Again

It’s Memorial Day. Or as my client’s partner refers to it, “Old Memmy”. I spent part of this morning pausing to think about all the casualties of war. Not just those of American soldiers, but also the soldiers and civilians in all countries, and what it costs us to witness this recurring and painful phenomenon. There are the deaths of the soldiers, the townspeople, and also the pieces of all the survivors left to the haunting of it. The collateral damage spreads to all of us to shoulder. And so for all of us this day, I wish for peace.

And after my pause: I went to the ballpark to see my first San Francisco Giants game of the season. I’ve been trying to keep up with them this season and I don’t have a TV in my house. So I just signed up for MLB.TV, and it’s like being in grad school for baseball. I love it. So do our local seagulls. 

It’s is also the kind of unofficial start to summer. Picnic baskets come up from the basement, charcoal vanishes from shelves at the market by the palletful, and we begin checking to make sure all the tent stakes are in the bag for camping trips. Piling our dogs, partners, kids and weekend flings into the car, we hit the road. We also hit the road snacks and after 500 miles of mystery meat burgers, deep fried “chicken”, and electric blue Slurpees, maybe we feel like hell by the time we make the campsite or spread our towels on the beach. Now, I am seduced by the glamor of the blue tongue as much as the next guy, but I thought just in case you might be in the market for some road trip choices that could sit a little easier on the ole gut, I put together a few suggestions for your summer enjoyment. 

Here you go: as Chet Baker would say, Let’s Get Lost in the best possible way.

1. Magic Phone Most of us travel now with a lot of power in the palms of our hands. Our food choices are not limited to whatever we see on the exit signs or from the long highway. We can put technology to use! It’s worth it to look for local co-ops and grocery stores along the way as you roll through towns and collect some real food. Salad bars, deli counters and healthier choices in grab and go form can be yours for usually less than a mile of your time.

2. Farm Stands Pull right the hell over for these beauties. The symbiosis of commerce really sings here. The American farmer needs you, and your body craves the nutrients of fresh produce. Stands sometimes even have picnic tables for you to relax at. Stretch your legs, chew your fresh food, and breathe in the air of your newfound vacation days as the yellow lines of the pavement make their way to a horizon line. We really live in a gorgeous burg, the America place, and slowing down to look at it for 20 minutes is a real treat.

3. Bring it! Bring the farm stand with you! Pack a blanket in the car and pull over onto a generous shoulder with a view or find an exit with a park. Unpack your little cooler of healthy snacks from home and take in a driving break. You’ll save money, see a new place, and have some say in your own nutrition. 

But what’s a good snack? What if it’s all gas stations and mini-marts? What do you bring in the car that’s not a huge undertaking or some kind of gourmet pain in the ass? How about these:

1. Carrots and hummus: This is my number one go to healthy easy snack. It’s tasty, crunchy, packed with nutrients. Hits the sweet craving and the salty. You got protein, vitamins, and lots of chewing.

2. Melon Melange : Cut up a watermelon. Dice up some basil. Crumble a tiny bit of goat feta on it and mix it up. Chill overnight and put in a container for the trip. Divine.

3. Greek Yogurt: Packed with protein, this is the perfect snack to get up and go with. I like to add some Chia seeds to mine. I also crush up 3 walnut halves, a fat strawberry, and drizzle a tiny bit of raw honey on top. Maple syrup works just as nicely for the vegan friends in the house. You get protein, some healthy complex carbs, fiber, and essential fatty acids with this combo, PLUS the yogurt comes in its own bowl you can recycle at the road stop when you stretch.

4. Cucumber Lemon Water: It’s just better and fancier than regular water. Lemon slices and cucumber slices brighten up your drink. Put the whole thing in the freezer and as it melts throughout the trip, you’re summer refresher keeps on giving. Hydration station.

5. Chilled Rice Bowl: Brown rice, steamed veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, shiitakes, edamame, acorn squash, sea vegetables, beets, whatever) in a miso sauce. Blend 1/4 c. chickpea miso with 3T olive oil, some peeled fresh ginger, 2 cloves peeled garlic, 2t rice vinegar, and the juice of one lemon. You’re golden.

Now, Drive Safe. Bring good music. Have a blast.