Tag Archive for tips

So. You Wanna Lose Weight.

I have avoided writing a post about weight loss since I started this job. Yet one of the most common things clients come to me wanting is, well, weight loss. They come with numbers or they come with a pair of pants they want to get back in. They come with diet plans, supplements, meal replacements and they come with Zumba dreams. People come with fat positive roots and a sense of feminist betrayal, they come with a desire to overthrow the patriarchy and a tug between the weight and the expectations of a misogynist culture. They come with diabetes and doctors orders and they come with menopause. People come from Europe, from Canada, from the Deep South. People arrive armed with fears and defense tools and shame and more shame. I say welcome to all of you as I am as much a member of this parade as I am a loving host to your desires.

I cannot speak to anyone’s experience but my own. I try not to talk about how I eat so much here because my work is not about me. I do find, sometimes, that a sharing of my experience has brought clients some ease and so after almost four years of this weight loss inquiry, and after dodging the direct questions from people all the time, I thought instead I’d just tell you a little bit of my story.

As you might know, I’m pudgy. Sometimes I’m more pudgy than others and over time, my weight has spent a bunch of time fluctuating. When I am at what I feel are my HEALTHIEST times: eating for my body’s needs, not obsessing, not logging or counting or berating myself over a donut. When I am happy, exercising regularly, relatively low in self-judgey bullshit and laughing easily. When I am cooking and my choices for food are in line with my body’s needs and not my emotional havoc or terror, I still look thick by conventional standards. And when I feel great and healthy, this shape looks great to me. I look at myself and feel powerful and competent and sexy and solid. The truth is, I go through 99% of my life not looking at myself. Maybe more. I BARELY KNOW WHAT I LOOK LIKE. So to place a value on the 1% of the time I look at myself over the 99% of the time when I discover how I feel in the world just doesn’t make good sense. Obviously, as we’ve learned through Republican fund raising dinners, the 1% is often given all the power in our country. But I say our bodies deserve a coup. Let the 99% win.

Move no matter what

Because people ask me the most effective ways to lose weight all the time, I am going to tell you about the 3 times I have lost a SIGNIFICANT (20+ lbs) amount of weight  in my life.

FAR AND AWAY, I have to say, the most effective way I have found to lose weight so far in my life was doing a ton of crystal meth. The pounds just fell right off me. I snorted it mostly but free based it as well. I can still remember the exact smell of the blue smoke that swirled in the bulb of the pipe. Sometimes during hot summers when people have their air conditioners cranked up so high you can smell the freon, the scent is so powerful, I get flashbacks to being tweeked out on meth. I kind of lucked out because when I first moved to San Francisco, there was a dealer that got a crush on me so I never paid for it either. I didn’t start doing it to lose weight. I did it because it felt incredible. I felt invincible and gorgeous and sexy and brilliant and charming and hilarious and productive and genius. Until I didn’t. Until my feet started going numb and my skin looked like I had mold inside me just under the surface snaking through my body and my brain fell into chaos and despair. That year I was consistently svelte and people loved to tell me how great I looked. WOW, they’d exclaim, YOU LOOK AMAZING! At first I’d smile and feel lit up like a pinball machine. The weight loss was some kind of side bonus I hadn’t even considered. I didn’t even think about food. I was too busy thinking about solving the crisis of the prison industrial complex and unhinging the oppression of queers dying from, essentially, hatred. Self or otherwise. I didn’t have time to fucking eat, and the thought of it freaked me out anyhow. Being free of food obsession for the first time ever was incredible. Better than being thin. BETTER THAN BEING THIN. As time went on and I found myself with hollowed out yellowish dead eyes and wearing blotches on my skin like embarrassing hickeys from ill advised dates, getting a size 4 pair of pants didn’t bring the thrill of victory I’d always imagined it might. One more person told me how “Great” I looked and I just said, “Well, I’m pretty strung out on speed so I’m glad I have that going for me.”

Get a friend to move with you!

ANYHOW: I definitely lost a lot of weight and so I can attest to that method. However. I don’t recommend it. Side effects include loss of money, teeth, friends, lovers, jobs, housing, and life. I was lucky, but my dead friends were not, and every last one of them would rather be here than skinny.

A little less dire for effective weight loss is some really down home Emotional Devastation.  Now for me, a general malaise, a protracted sadness, or a vague depression won’t work. Those have traditionally driven me to comfort eating and obsessively thinking about what to eat instead of feeling whatever feelings I may be avoiding. But true annihilation has brought me so low at times that I just don’t feel like eating at all or I can’t. Again, here, the pounds melted away as the Magical Misery Fairy tapped on my throat to make it feel like it was choking almost constantly. Anxiety, pain, and near constant crying jags banished those pesky pounds away like a dream. Again people, even ones knowing how much pain I was suffering, took great pleasure in telling me how wonderful I looked. What a compliment! Unlike my Game Show Hostess on Meth alter ego, this version of me wanted to kill people. In this state, I truly wanted to feel good and how I looked meant nothing, Just like Ranier Maria Rilke says. It really made me think a lot about beauty and what it could mean to be a beautiful person, like in a Prince song.

Then a few years ago during a pretty happy time of life, I decided to try Weight Watchers. I did it for 10 months and I lost a bunch of weight and felt pretty goddamned happy about it. I felt proud and so excited to go to a wedding and look a certain way. This method did not involve me filling my body with toxic drugs that would make my teeth rot out of my head, nor did I feel, at any time, devastated or bereft. I kept track of what I ate daily and meticulously and frankly, this process offered me some things I found helpful. I liked the structure of it and I liked having an understanding that if I changed the portions of some things, I still felt satisfied. (Note: The DubDubs has rules that lets a person be well within their program and still survive on Skittles, a bagel, and 2 light beers every day. You can get in with your points and still lose weight and have a victory on your hands. Hell, on weekends you can even add in a Skinny Fudgesicle and tequila shots. Again, weight loss over health.)

Over time, however, the constant tracking and monitoring felt increasingly creepy and horrible.  I became my own vicious food prison warden, and this is on the kindest diet I have ever undertaken. Diets are inherently broken. They are the work of the devil, or misogyny. I know this because when I wanted a little freedom from any of it, when I decided to abandon the plan and stop babysitting my own food intake and carrying around weird scraps of paper to enter into the computer later, I went insane. Or sane. I mean first, insane, then sane.

The microculture of restriction and denial serve to starve our inner ideas of thriving. They sent me from feeling like I was a little bit in the weeds directly into the damn wilderness. My newly found self-esteem turned out to be a thin reflective mirror easily shattered by the truth of my real depth of self-loathing. Underneath all the desire to be thin or perfect or pretty or NORMAL was the monstrous truth that I was just not enough. Not successful enough or desirable enough or talented enough or … I’m sorry. Am I boring you to DEATH?! On top of that, to discover my utter edgeless lack of original despair, the desperately boring female trope lodged in me like a vestige of postmodernist Snoresville, the wholly disappointing discovery that at my core I was a delicate fucking flower that wanted to be a wisp…. Jesus. It was a true terror. Even my most private failures turned flaccid.

I not only had the original pain but the judgments of that pain as well. My inner 3rd wave feminist critic spit on my thrifted Doc Martens and my Body Positive crusader packed up the vintage slips and Sharpie body tattoos and deserted me. I had no politics to bring me comfort with a truth like this. That at my true core, I was, well, alone.

And turns out, that was the perfect place for me to start rebuilding. Because I live here in this body: ALONE. This is the place I think, dance, run, eat, snore, read, kiss, swim and ski. I experience everything in here. And finally having that agency to shut out the pressures of outside expectation let me slowly build some kind of new relationship to my own home here. I own this body and it’s my responsibility not to be a shitty landlord. Because no matter what I choose, that choice lives here.

This is when things really started to make a shift for from getting thin to getting comfortable. I don’t even want to say “healthy” exactly. Because to me, part of being healthy is being free and having agency for the first time in my life to say yes or no to things. To be able to have food and know when it’s a dessert and when it’s a coping mechanism disguised as a flourless chocolate tart.

So instead of weight loss, I found that developing a relationship to my body and to food that works to support my happiness and my actual physical needs will let my body exist in a space that’s comfortable for it. And now that this particular body is officially in menopause, and pretty early I might add, NOT TO BRAG, it’s got some new things it’d like to tell me. I need to really be a grown ass woman and decide what the cross section is of what do I want to do, what am I willing to do, and how do I want to feel when I do it. Eating and moving are the general crux to all of my experience here in this body, and therefor, the way I practice the sacred in this life. It is a work in progress and with any luck at all, it will last the rest of my days.

Just like The World Champion Giants: it’s a State of Mind as well as body. Mostly I just wanted to rep myself as a Giants Fan.

1. How I Eat is Just as Important as What I Eat: I don’t eat standing up anymore as a general rule. I don’t eat while driving. I try to take a few breaths before I begin to eat. Say a quiet thank you to the workers, the planet, the resources, the privilege and the sheer luck that brought me to this food. These breaths and that thanks usually lead me to a place where I am reminded to chew, promoting good digestion and more help for my digestive organs and gut health, and more sheer pleasure to enjoy the sensory fiesta of eating. Eating compulsively is always a sign that something emotional is up and it also robs me of the experience of enjoying the food. Which then often leads to eating AGAIN and therefor overeating when a body doesn’t need any more fuel.

2. Staying Hydrated is Key: I am so shitty at drinking water. TERRIBLE. Here’s the thing. Staying hydrated is one of the most important things we can do for our sense of well-being. It’s detoxifying, it helps with systemic inflammation and it keeps our conversations with our bodies honest. When we are dehydrated, our body will do anything it can to get water, including telling us we are hungry because obviously we are not giving it water. It’ll be like, “Okay then, girl. Get get yourself some food I can syphon the water out of it because if you keep trying to turn me into a damn raisin, I will die, and I’m not having any of that.” When we are hydrated (drinking someplace between 75-100 oz of water or herbal tea a day) our brains are much more clear in contact with what the body wants. The more water you drink, the more you want to drink it. Now there are tons of easy little apps on your phone that can remind you to have water that don’t require tons of obsessy logging and stuff.

3. DIGESTION!!! The Ayurvedic tradition suggests eating our largest meal closer to the middle of the day and letting dinner be lighter so that our bodies don’t have to work so hard as they are sleeping is the kindest to our digestive tracts. Ideally, the body has deeper cleaning to do while we sleep and if we let it do that work, our bodies are more efficient with our fuel. I try to keep 12 hours between when I finish dinner and start breakfast. I don’t always accomplish this, but I notice that when I do, my body feels, like, more ready to rumble. The lethargy quotient is so much lower.

4. Move. Start where you are. If you move a lot, bring in some variation and mix it up. If you don’t move at all, just start. Walk more. Take the stairs. Do a squat. Pick something you like. If you hate the gym, don’t go to the fucking gym. There is no such thing as a Gym Person. People tell me, “I’m not a Gym Person.” No one is a gym person. Going to the gym is a behavior. You go or you don’t. Who were people before gyms? Certainly still people. So. Maybe you find a gym you like. Maybe you start to hike. Or you dance at home between work breaks. Or maybe you go for walks or try running. Maybe you play tennis or you do the 7 minute workout a few times on your lunch break. Keep your eyes on your own paper. Don’t worry about what Bethany does because Bethany doesn’t have to live your life in your body. Do what you do. Bring a pal. Or if you’re very social, use movement to be alone. Leave your phone at home. Climb rocks and sightsee. Snowshoe. Ski. Swim. Lift weights. Shovel. Garden. Ice Skate. ANYTHING. Get a gang together. Just Keep on Moving.

5. Eat when You’re Hungry. Period.

6. Enjoy Eating. Really. It can be difficult, or impossible, to truly enjoy eating if you are also working or watching The Vampire Diaries or having an argument. So put pleasure first. How about that?

These are some things that have NOT helped me to lose weight. They have helped me to feel good about my life in this body, and over time, my weight has shifted. I cannot tell you that doing these things will help you to lose weight but I can tell you that if you do them, your relationship to your body will be so much happier. You might lose weight or change shape. You will learn what foods your body likes and which ones make it feel not so hot. You will sleep better. You’ll have more energy and zest for life. You will cook more and get better at it and you’ll be more attracted to vegetables. They’re pretty. And here’s a weird one: you’ll save money. First because you will get better at food shopping and you’ll cook more and second because you won’t spend so much money looking for happiness in ways that have nothing to do with happiness. All because of food and exercise, you ask?


And because you give a shit about where you live.

Cook More!

Coach’s Seasonal Cleanse Prep Suggestions


Although I lead a cleanse every season, Spring is The Big Poppa of them all. You can join my Spring Fling ’13 here. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, Spring is the season associated with the liver, one of our most heroic organs. The liver is the filter of the body, sifting all the toxins out and shuttling them to a swift trip out of our bodies.

Like any irrigation system, things build up, and the system can tire under strain. Ours is no different. This is the absolute best time to give your liver a standing ovation, a shout out, and a heartfelt thank-you note in the form of trying a cleanse. It works 24/7 to keep us as poison free as it can, no matter what manner of horrors we ask from it.
There are a billion different cleanses out there, from whole foods cleanses to elimination cleanses, to Master Cleanses, to juice regimens. Take some time to consider which cleanse offers you the best chance of serving your body well.
You may pick a cleanse in which all the meals are made and you don’t have to cook at all because the kids are home on Spring Break. Or maybe you got a new juicer and you want to try taking it for a serious spin with a 7-day juice detox. Or perhaps you’d like to build your cooking skills and overhaul your kitchen into a temple of health so a group with an online support element might be the best for you.
No matter what you choose, detoxing is no joke. Often the first days of a cleanse arrive with headaches, mood swings, fatigue, and fitful sleeps. As the body detoxes, some of those poisons get freed up from being trapped along our digestive tracts and they can be re-absorbed causing us to feel like we have a mild flu or a major bad mood. It will pass. I swear.
But before you even get to the first week, there are steps your can take to support your cleansing experience and help you ease into your Spring Cleanse with a sense of adventure and clarity.
1. Let people know your plan. 
Pick a few people around you who will be supportive of your plan for a Spring detox. Tell them know what your particular regimen entails, and how long the process will take. Let them know you’d appreciate their support as the first few days might not be so cute for you. For the ultimate in support, see if a friend would like to do the cleanse with you.
2. Clear out your schedule.
You’ve got your whole life to get freaky and party on down. Use this as an intentional time to prioritize your health. Block out the cleanse time on your calendar and keep your social plans as easy and laid back as possible. Go for walks with friends. Weekend matinees are great. Gentle exercise and museum meetings are perfect.
3. Prepare your kitchen. 
Look over your protocol and as the cleanse approaches, make your way through your everyday food so what remains in your kitchen are foods that make you feel strong and clean. Remind yourself that the foods you feel attached to are not going anywhere and when this cleanse comes to a close, you still have the choice to go and get them again. Although, magically, you may not want to.
4. Practice. 
If you’re doing a juice cleanse, start looking up juices on the internet and getting familiar with them. Get a feel for how much produce makes how much juice. See which herbs you like in your tonics and so on. If your cleanse is more on the whole foods tip, start dabbling is clean eating blogs and do some research on what kinds of cleanse foods might appeal to you. Begin practicing before the cleanse arrives so you have some established comfort with your new materials. It’s like Spring Training for baseball.
5. Ween off the heavy hitters.
If you are a coffee drinker, a sugar eater, a gluten eater, and/or a whiskey appreciator, you may want to begin to week yourself off these common ingredients that most cleanses abstain from. Going off coffee, sugar, gluten and booze is a lot for some people all overnight. Start drinking decaf or downgrade to green tea. Begin cooking with whole grains instead of serving dinner with bread. Just ease off things as your start date approaches.
Here I offer you one of my favorite cleanse tools. I like to prepare this broth and offer my body not just hydration in the days leading up to my cleanse, but also the rich potassium broth is a great source for electrolytes and building the blood up. I just tote it around in a quart sized mason jar and drink it like a tea.
The Cleansing Potassium Elixir

  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 bunch dark leafy greens (chard, kale, collards)
  • 4 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 beet sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • one knuckle ginger, sliced
  • 1 turnip, cubed
  • 1 onion, diced
  • ¼ stick of kombu
  • 6 cups filtered water
  • a tiny dash of sea salt
  • 1/4t black ground black pepper
Heat your olive oil in a heavy pot. Put in your onions, garlic, carrots and celery. Heat these for about 5 minutes. Cover with water and bring to a rolling boil. Add in your beet, turnip, kombu, greens, and ginger. Boil for about 3 minutes and then turn down to simmer for 1.5 hours. Strain out all the vegetables and set aside. Pour your broth into mason jars and add your tiny amount of salt and pepper to taste. You can puree the vegetables for a side dish or compost.
This article originally appeared on MindBodyGreen.

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.

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.
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

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.