A few ideas to explore for when you are feeling lost around your health or simply want to add some nourishment.
1. Choose pleasure
Okay – we are starting here. Any of you who know me in real life or have followed anything I have put into the social media void, know that pleasure is the foundational concept in my life. Any time you are stuck, overwhelmed, devastated, sick, etc. can you come back to what would feel nice right now?
It doesn’t have to be instagramable or even make sense to others. It most definitely doesn’t have to be a face mask or be cute. Maybe it is laying on the floor listening to heart wrenching music. Maybe it is screaming in your car or a field. Maybe it is wrapping yourself in a soft blanket with a hot water bottle. It really doesn’t matter how it looks – what would truly feel nice, comforting, pleasurable?
2. Invite joyful movement
Somewhere along the way we became obsessed with exercise and forgot all about the infinite number of ways we can just move.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, movement has a strong connection with the wood element and the emotion we are experiencing with movement matters. If we move in a way that is intended to punish ourselves, we truly don’t receive all the benefits we could be (and in my not particularly humble opinion it can lead to higher risk of injury).
In contrast, if we move in ways that feel delicious to us, enjoying where we are right now and listening to our bodies the list of benefits is incredible.
3. Rest without guilt
This one is huge for many of us. We have been so taught that our worth is tied to our productivity that most of us stopped asking what we were being productive for.
Rest is essential – for all things in nature it is essential. No part of it makes us less worthy or guilty of something terrible.
If this one is especially hard for you, I really encourage you to move gently and start small. Can you take a 30 minute break to just do what feels restful for you? Can you extend that when you are ready to a couple of hours – and so forth.
I love Arianna Huffington’s succinct way of framing this. If there was a pill that had as many amazing benefits as sleep and rest give us, we would all pay a fortune for it.
4. Take one tiny step
A lot of taking care of ourselves is overwhelming. It can be so important to come back to simply what is possible. What is the next tiny action that is accessible? What could you actually do? Can you trust that if try that one small thing, that the next one would eventually show up?
5. Ask for help
We were actually never intended to live as islands, completely self sufficient. I don’t know about you, but I am so tired of pretending I have it all figured out and that I am so strong I don’t need anyone else. This hasn’t ever brought me peace or happiness. Connecting with others and actually receiving has truly changed my life.
6. Listen to body cravings
I can’t really stress this one enough. When you are lost, can you ask your body what sounds good? Maybe there isn’t an answer, but can you gently ask again the next time – and slowly, quietly can you start to discern the answer?
7. Eat intuitively
I have radical trust in the body and the wisdom it has and I truly believe that there is no one right way to eat – each of us has radically different needs. What happens if you start to dance with your body’s knowledge of how you could eat.
8. Use ritual
Can you invite the sacred into the everyday? Can you infuse your background, spirituality, believes, awe into the everyday activities of drinking coffee, brushing your teeth, going for a walk, going to sleep?
I really invite you to just see these ideas as jumping off points; as ideas to play with and see how they feel for your body. Some may be beautiful and some may feel like they don’t feel right for you. Please adopt and reject as needed.
1. Pause and relax
How could it feel to pause for a moment, breath, do any kind of enjoyable or mindful practice that helps you feel calm and relaxed before starting a meal? I really encourage gentleness here. If you had to eat quickly standing over the kitchen sink or your relationship with food is currently in a place where this is not possible, can you release any shame and just take one tiny step when it is comfortable?
2. Eat according to cravings
The sheer number of ways to eat that are being promoted right now is......well honestly laughable. So many of them are so completely contradictory that often by the time I get to see someone in a session there is so much confusion and shame for not doing it “right.” Even working in this field, I often feel overwhelmed and like there is no way to easefully nourish myself.
Any time you feel lost, can you come back to what am I craving? Does anything sound appealing – even just a little? Is there anything that when you think of eating it, feels good, vitalized, relaxed, etc.
Maybe there is no answer, but just asking the question can be revolutionary. If there is an answer, is it possible to resist categorizing it in terms of “good” or “bad” and trust the body’s knowledge?
3. Chew excessively
You can count, challenge yourself to chew as many times as possible, savour the pleasure/flavour/texture of what you are eating, or simply just allow a little extra time for chewing. The more you break up your food here, the more ready your body will be to digest and the less it will have to work at breaking down the food.
4. Enjoy thoroughly
This one is ignored so often!! When was the last time you saw anything about enjoyment in a nutrition plan or a what I eat in a day video? Traditional Chinese Medicine has knows for hundreds of years that enjoying your food actually supports digestion, and gratefully Western Medicine is starting to see that too.
5. Incorporate warm cooked foods
In the same way as chewing, eating cooked warm foods supports digestion by doing some of the work for it. In TCM the digestion is seen as a fire and so any effort to support that fire will support more thorough digestion.
6. Explore thermal properties
Some of this is very intuitive: think of the foods you would want to eat on a very hot day. Things like mint, watermelon, cucumber, and dairy are all very cooling foods. If you were freezing, foods like stews/soups, meat, warming spices would perhaps be the more appealing.
You can use this to support how you are feeling on any given day. If you are feeling fractious, irritated, overheated, burning heat in the stomach, you can balance that with cooling soothing foods. If you are feeling lethargic, cold, stiff you can support yourself with warming foods.
7.Play with variety and colour
Exploring foods with play and curiosity rather than shame and guilt can be a game changer. Can you bring play to how many colours you can get in a meal? Can you enjoy exploring as much variety as possible – not from a place of should, but from a curiosity about what you enjoy?
As always, if this leaves you with any questions, please feel free to contact me. I am always happy to geek out this stuff.
“I didn’t know acupuncture could help with that!” is perhaps one of the most common things I hear from people in my life when I talk about my work. I realized being frustrated with people not understanding what I do was pretty useless and that it is really us as Acupuncturist that holds the responsibility to make sure people know what we can do.
So here you have it…… 7 things you didn’t (well probably didn’t…) know acupuncture could help with:
1. All things baby making
You have probably heard acupuncture mentioned with infertility before – besides pain, it is probably the medical condition most associated with acupuncture. It is pretty amazing at helping both parents optimize their health to increase chances of pregnancy and to help optimize the health of the baby, but it can also help with morning sickness, breech presentation, induction, lactation and postpartum symptoms.
2. IBS and Digestion
This is one of my favourite areas to work in. It is life changing when your whole world isn’t dominated by making accommodations for your digestion. When you can head out to have fun without worrying about where the bathrooms are or leave in the morning when you want rather than waiting to go to the washroom.
So many of you are coming in with this one and it affects all other aspects of your life. Traditional Chinese Medicine has diagnostics and even herbs to help people get back to great nights of sleep.
4. Mental Health
With so few options sometimes to help address mental health symptoms, it feels wonderful to add another option to the list. I would say a significant portion of my practice is for things like stress, depression and anxiety. The results can be so wonderful!
5. Living life all lit up
Hmm K this one might be a little harder to explain. I found with my own acupuncture treatments and with patients I get to work with that sometimes people slough off old patterns and start making really amazing changes in their lives. Sometimes people get clear on what they want or leave a less than an amazing relationship, or finally apply for that thing they have been thinking about for years. It is really inspiring!!
Don’t freak out on this one!! The needles don’t go anywhere near the anus or the hemorrhoids!! Acupuncture as a system can use other points along the meridian or on a partner meridian to treat conditions. Very handy for conditions that happen in areas that are more private/uncomfortable.
Often people think that acupuncture can’t work on organic issues like this or say something like ovarian cysts, but it is based on working at the root cause of an issue and can actually be very helpful.
7. Skin Conditions
There is actually a whole subset of acupuncture that is cosmetic and used to treat things like acne and reduce wrinkles. It can also be used for skin problems like eczema, fever rashes, cold sores, etc. It is a great way to use a natural remedy and can actually work surprisingly fast.
Well, let me know if I surprised you with any of these or if it left you with any questions.
PS: One way to measure is this: if it isn’t an emergency (ie: requiring an emergency room and/or surgery) then acupuncture could be used as a support
The pictures of the whole week’s meals all stacked in matching containers is just so appealing. I don’t know about you, but all of my containers don’t match and every time I have tried to do this style of food prep I resent the 4-5 hours it takes. Then I have food I worked really hard on going off before I get to it.
I love the benefits of food prep – it really does make the week go more smoothly and you can use it as a tool to get in more nutrient density, waste less food, and save money.
My style has really changed though and I stopped following the model that every meal for the whole week has to be made in one stretch (I still watch the videos though – they are very satisfying and they do give me good ideas!)
Now I use more of a capsule style with my nutrition (think capsule wardrobe – key good quality pieces that can all be used interchangeably together).
My current capsule looks like this:
So now for execution, all I have to do is make sure I always have a few things from each category in my fridge at all times. I generally spend a couple of small (like an hour or less) times each week preparing a couple of items that fit in one or more categories.
If the week is busier and I don’t have the time for any prep, I can just grab some frozen vegetables (so underutilized – basically cheap, nutrient dense, pre-prepared vegetables!) and pre-made ferments from the store or farmers’ market.
Grocery shopping is much easier too. I just need to buy a couple of things for each category. I can plan it all out if that feels fun or I can literally just get stuff for each category and know that it will all go together.
I think every style of food preparation (or lack thereof) is great. Be sure to do what works for you! I just see a lot of people struggling to do food prep and to eat the way they really want to be eating. If this is you, I gently invite you to not worry about making the prep look magazine worthy and just focus on what works for you. It may be as simple as these few things are my capsule.
Does this leave you with any questions or any areas you would like me to write future blogs about? Please let me know in the comments!
Gut health information is everywhere right now!! The information isn’t always easy to go through, but the benefits of investing in gut health basically cover all aspects of life! If you digest well your physical, mental and emotional health can all benefit. So here are 5 ideas to improve your gut health.
As with all of my recommendations, always follow your own body and what feels best for you. Please see these as areas to explore rather then static must-dos.
1. Eating in a relaxed way
We, myself included, often like to jump to the quick fix pill/supplement, but please don’t underestimate the power of eating in a joyful and relaxed way. Being relaxed when we eat means that we are in the parasympathetic system – or “rest and digest.”
A few practices to try:
Fibre can bring up a lot of meanings for people, but it can be absolutely amazing for a lot of us. Generally, most of us are not getting enough, so you can increase your intake with fibre rich fruits and vegetables or by even taking psyllium husk or inulin.
Tread gently with fibre if you find it causes you issues. Move up very slowly or seek treatment with trusted practitioners (for example Acupuncture/TCM and Dietician/Holistic Nutrition Consultant) if that isn’t working. People on low FODMAP diets may wish to stick to sources that fit the diet until after they are finished and are feeling better.
3. Fermented Foods
No list for gut health would be complete without fermented foods. You can certainly use probiotic pills, but my own bias is generally to traditional ways of eating and I believe we are only starting to scratch the surface on all the health benefits of getting probiotics from whole food sources. There are so many different types of fermented foods to make or buy, that most people can find ones they actually enjoy.
4. Prebiotic Foods
Hand in hand with ferments is eating prebiotic foods that contain types of fibre that help nourish the gut microbiome.
5. Listening to Your Body
I can’t emphasize this one enough. Listen to your body – do some of these foods make you feel worse? Are there foods that cause you bloating, problematic bowel movements or sore joints? Continue/consider avoiding or reducing those foods to help support gut health. Do you have certain cravings? How do you feel after following them? Do you eat until you are satisfied? Listening to your specific body will always be the best support for healing.
I decided to run a 10K race because it scared me. A delightful friend was asked to run it and invited others, especially those that were scared, to join her in an empowered and supported way.
There were three choices: walk 5K, run 5K or run 10K. I had run a 5K in my twenties and I walk 5K on many of my regular days so I wanted something new. After I signed up I looked it up and realized it was further than my commute from home to work – the worry started a little just then.
I like running and have had different seasons including running in my life. I like it because I think it is important for people to see bodies like mine are capable of running, it feels very stress relieving, and you can sound so very impressive when talking about it.
So I decided to start a new season with running, run 2x longer then I had ever run, do it in front of others, and to add learning to run in barefoot-style runners at the same time (you know….as you do…..¯\_(ツ)_/¯).
I must admit I wasn’t really prepared for what would come up. The 5K had been fun from training to the actual day, so I expected the same. This time though it brought up so much:
The beginning was that my knees had a fairly pouty response to the barefoot shoes. So, still enthusiastic, I sought out rehabilitation exercises to make them stronger each day and continued to train very slowly.
I moved to a treadmill when the Canadian winter decided it was time and kept increasing my speed and time. Now I was in the zone, making big strides in my training and running new and longer distances to my immense pride.
The weather cleared up and I geared up to run outside again. Ah yes – me and the open wind, majestic, free, inspiring…..or perhaps not! I knew that the switch back outside would set me back a little since the treadmill helps you along, but it was like starting from scratch again. I wasn’t in any pain gratefully, but the stamina seemed to have all left. This was the first time I started to actually doubt my ability to run this race and my mind started playing with quitting.
Outside commitments work well for me – on the Gretchen Rubin scale I am definitely an obliger, so once I have committed to others, I am way more motivated to meet a goal. I used this to keep dragging myself out to run. The runs were a bit of a fiery mess both emotionally and for my tomato hued face, but I did keep going and it did slowly start getting better again. The pride of something hard is always so much more delicious.
Okay in the groove again. I am a slow runner, but a runner nonetheless…. and then my hips wanted to join the party! At this point, I want to throw a fairly impressive tantrum. I am feeling like I am way too active to have this many issues and starting to get angry – which is fascinating from a Chinese Medicine perspective because the hips are home to the liver and gallbladder meridians of wood element and the emotion for wood is anger. Wood is also all about making a plan and sticking to it… how very charming!!!
So again I delve into the world of specific exercises to strengthen my hips and start getting acupuncture and massage to move through the physical and emotional components. As with the knees, continuing to run actually makes it better, not worse, so I continue.
Okay made it through and the day of the race arrives… pouring with rain! Now for most people, this is less than best case scenario and for me, this is my kryptonite weather. Rain makes me, and many with my constitution, feel heavy, slow and often even very sad. I was way too set on going to stop now though, so I wrapped my fantastic playlist filled phone in a ziplock bag and hoped the fabulous sporty headphones my spouse had gifted me as encouragement would be protected enough with my hood.
And I did it! I finished the 10K race. I didn’t have any pain and I ran most of it with a smile on my face feeling great!
Afterwards, I thought I would feel triumphant, but I actually didn’t. I compared my times with others and found out I was only 6 places up from coming last. I added all kinds of reasons why I shouldn’t be proud of myself – I wasn’t just slow I had done planned walks 3x for 1 min each to just reset and ensure I felt great (gasp – I know a whole 3 minutes!!), I didn’t feel the triumph I thought I would, other people run so much longer… etc. you get the point!
So this whole experience has been so illuminating. It helped me find physical weaknesses I didn’t know I had with the current ways I move. It showed me where I have been being really hard on myself and not even realizing and it reminded me that I can do more than my mind may try to convince me.
I have now come to realize how amazing it was to run 10K. I even saw the distance driving with my spouse and tried to argue that it hadn’t been that far only to be proven wrong and really have a sense of just how far it was. Honestly, I needed to rely on people in my life to shift my perspective.
Moving through a difficult goal can certainly increase confidence – but you also just might learn more than you expected.
One of the things I love about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is that it actually helps to inform the ways that we live our everyday life. A big theme is living with the seasons, and each season has a constellation of associated characteristics.
As we approach the height of winter, here are some ideas to explore:
Many of us experience the desire to hibernate. Water is about depth, quiet, and protection. It is a time to go inward and listen to yourself.
Winter is a time of yin (the material and substance of the body rather than the heat and energy). In nature, it is a time of storing rather than creation. Simplicity, gentle movement and rest are important. Consider eating warm cooked food with warming herbs like cinnamon and ginger. If you eat meat, this is a great time for homemade bone broth. This is the perfect time to have the hardy stews, mulled wine, root vegetables and porridge many of us are craving.
According to the doctrine of signatures, foods that are black are especially nourishing this time of year. Think: black beans, black sesame, blackberries, molasses
Consider adding good quality salt, seaweeds and fermented foods to your diet right now.
Organs: Kidney and Urinary Bladder
The kidneys and bladder can use a little extra love this time of year. These meridians help to support our will. Being gentle and nourishing with yourself now will ensure you have the will to put your plans into action come spring and summer.
Fear is the emotion of this element/time of year. Be sure to offer yourself rest and nourishment if you are experiencing an increase in fear. Herbs and acupuncture with a trained TCMD can also be very helpful for fear and anxiety.
If you have any questions or want to explore this further, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!!
I know, I know… “no pain no gain” is sexy! The just do it and go full beast mode can be very intoxicating and the 30-day challenge to [insert big goal here that usually has to do with appearance or the dread “toxins”] are exciting and instagrammable.
But I haven’t ever actually seen someone’s life change because of this approach (well at least not in a positive way!).
On the other hand, I have seen people’s lives change in truly breathtaking ways through gentle, kind and enjoyable health practices.
Every time I post about joyful health or joyful movement I am always really encouraged, and honestly sometimes a little surprised, by the response. They usually range from “Thank you – that was exactly what I needed to hear” to “I never thought of it that way” and I honestly think people are tired of the health as punishment paradigm. What if we started listening to ourselves more and started doing things we enjoyed instead.
I know.. going to bed 15 minutes earlier or going for a gentle walk along the river isn’t going to win any competitions, but they can make a huge difference over time. It is usually the small change over long periods that have the power to transform and I see this all the time in my practice.
We all have unique constitutions and varying current health pictures. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the huge amount of often contradictory health information you are being bombarded with, I recommend this simple exploration:
What do you want to do?
How do you feel afterwards?
Let’s take exercise: things like Bootcamp and CrossFit might light you up. Perhaps you love going and feel great afterwards – and this is often the case for people who find they have stagnation in their lives, emotions or physical health. The explosive and varied movement can feel so much better.
But perhaps the idea of going makes you actually want to weep and you feel like you have been hit by a bus for three days afterwards – a common occurrence for people who are incredibly depleted. If this is you, consider more gentle and spaced out exercise/movement.
Either way, listen to yourself! You are unique and you deserve to feel great. Health practices shouldn’t be a punishment you dread (unless you are actually honestly into that and then, by all means, go to – no judgement!).
What are some simple health practices that have been calling to you? Don’t worry about if they are impressive to others – what do you truly want to do? Can you add 10 minutes gently each day to meditate, have a hot bath, go for a gentle walk, draw, sing, laugh, etc?
Try adding that in and enjoying the process. You may be shocked to find that this little thing makes you feel a little better; that you can trust your body to heal. You may find that this gives you the little lift you needed to add another health practice you enjoy and then all of a sudden 4 months have gone by and you are itching to go for a longer bike ride then you have in years – but this time it is joyful.
The holidays can truly bring up all the emotions and I know there are so many articles this time of year talking about how to stay healthy through all the treats, travel and challenges. This one may be a little different – there won’t be any tips to eat less or sneak in vegetables. As always, I am going to gently invite you to take a more self-loving perspective.
1. Listen to your body
With all that can come up this time of year, if you can, try to sit with and really feel into what your body wants. Does it want rest or movement? Does it want another baked good or a break? Truly feel into what would feel good for you and enjoy that.
2. Enjoyment is healthy
Please don’t ever discount the beautiful effect of enjoyment on your health. If you are spending time with community, whether chosen or biological, can you really be present and enjoy it fully? Food and lazy days together can be a huge part of celebrating and that joy is so good for us. Can you enjoy every bite of the baked goods (GASP even with sugar!!! Yes!! Enjoy it fully!) Can you enjoy every moment of cozy blankets and watching holiday movies?
3. Diversity of Movement
When you feel called to move can you move in new or diverse ways? Perhaps you are away from your regular routine, but does another way of moving sound good? Can you go on a walk on your own or with people around you? Can you prepare food in a squatting position? Can you crawl through a fort with the kids (or without – I will never concede that forts have an age limit!)
4. No shame and no punishment
No matter what you eat or what activities you do or don’t do, please please please do not use shame or punishment. Denying food or over exercising will not change the past and will only cause harm. Eating is not a sin and does not require penance.
5. Be very gentle with yourself
This time of year is always painted as so jolly, but for many of us, it is not (or at least moments of it are not). Please be so gentle with yourself. Do any self-care activities help right now? Are there any aspects of the holidays you find beautiful? Focus on these as much as possible and remember this time of year is not a great time for pushing yourself – it is a time for gentleness and rest.
Do you have any tips for the holidays? Please leave them in a comment below!