34 Acts of Self-Care

 Or 34 Things I Can Do Instead Of Sit In An Unshowered Heap On My Bedroom Floor Crying Into Pictures Of Old Boyfriends & Using My T-Shirt As A Tissue

Self-Care.

The popular hashtag. The wellness buzzword. The trending topic among millennials.

The hardest personal agreement to keep.

I am not hardwired to nurture myself before tackling the to-do list. It takes effort. I can stay for busy for days, leaving loved ones neglected, letting the cheese grow mold in the fridge, allowing the laundry to spill out of the hamper and onto the unvacuumed floor. This is where I’ll find self-care – surrounded by piles of dirty socks with twenty-five unread text messages and a wedge of rotten cheddar. This is typically where I stop looking at everything still left to do and start paying attention to what I need in order to feel human again.

You see, self-care doesn’t give a shit about my to-do list.

It’s different for everyone, this business of self-care. For some of my friends it means taking their kids to the park, for others it means getting a pedicure. I have one friend with three small children who swears that self-care means just being able to pee alone.

I don’t know what self-care looks like for you, but I do know that the result is the same for everyone – to feel nurtured, to feel whole, to feel human. I know that when I don’t create space in my day for some self-care, I suffer. I become less grounded and aware, I feel more irritable and disgustingly sorry for myself. I need to move my body and be on the water. I need to stretch and breathe and get the fuck off social media every now and then. I need to exhale and let all of my stress dissolve in a hot bath. I need to eat tacos with my girlfriends. I need to take care of myself in order to do this whole life thing.

When I push aside self-care in an attempt to tick more off of my to-do list, I am working backwards. Eventually, there will be burnout. Listen, I speak from experience. I speak from the other side of burnout. It may look like crying in the produce section of the grocery store, throwing that blue and white pitcher against the wall, losing your shit all over the guy who cut in front of you during rush hour. It may manifest as an illness. Either way, it will come. Then, we are useless not only to our work, our friends, and our family—but to ourselves.

I turned 34 recently. It wasn’t pretty. I have so many fears around this number (hello risky pregnancy, tiny retirement funds, aging parents, where I think I should be by now). I finally remembered the whole self-care thing while I sat in an unshowered heap on my bedroom floor crying into pictures of old boyfriends and using my t-shirt as a tissue. For real, people.

That’s when I compiled a list. A different kind of list. I wrote down 34 things I could do instead of that. Or, more simply put, 34 Acts of Self-Care. This way I always have them on hand when I find myself all alone at the self-pity party or stressed out at work or filled to the brim with fear. And because I know you are wonderfully human like me, I decided to post them all below so that you will have them too … So, make the time. Your self-care doesn’t give a shit about your to-do list.

34 Acts of Self-Care

  1. Take a digital detox. You know, unplug and get present.
  2. Change the dialogue ~ Tell my inner-hater to pipe the eff down, give up the shoulds, and make friends with my fear so I can show it who’s really the boss around here.
  3. Don’t be an asshole – Jennifer Pastiloff, thanks for this one.
  4. Read a book that inspires me. Here are a few of my favorites: Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things, Gabby Bernstein’s Miracles Now, any book by Brene Brown.
  5. Call someone who will always remind me that I am enough. (Thanks, Mom).
  6. Call someone and remind them that they are enough.
  7. Remind myself that I am enough. All of the time.
  8. Travel, Travel, Travel.
  9. Get connected with my squad. Grab some coffee or tacos with my totally-spiritually-centered-really-good-listeners-always-call-me-on-my-bullshit-because-they-love-me-so-damn-much-and-totally-get-me squad of awesome humans to talk about the things we are in the midst of learning, the stuff in our hearts, on our minds, and dreams just viewable on the horizon.
  10. Cook a beautiful meal. For myself.
  11. Tune in to my body and give it what it needs.
  12. Light a little Palo Santo and listen to a guided meditation.
  13. Melt into an epsom salt bath with a little essential oil surrounded by candles.
  14. Lose several hours in a good bookstore.
  15. Daydream.
  16. Enjoy a slow morning in my favorite pajamas with some good coffee.
  17. Decorate a delicious smoothie bowl.
  18. Spend time with people who really see me.
  19. Snuggle on the sofa with a good scary movie and buttery popcorn.
  20. Put my toes in the ocean. Sometimes, this requires #6. It’s worth it.
  21. Get 8 gloriously undisturbed hours of deep sleep in a comfortable bed. Sleep, I believe, is a spiritual experience.
  22. Nourish my body with green juice.
  23. Accept help from people who love me.
  24. Kiss … Yes, passionate kissing counts as self-care. So does hand-holding and cuddling.
  25. Watch the sunset.
  26. Just watch the sunset. Don’t Instagram it.
  27. Get out in nature.
  28. Write.
  29. Do anything creative.
  30. Get in a solid sweat sesh – spin class, yoga, a long run, whatever feels good. Hear that? Whatever feels good. Self-care means working out because I love my body, it does not mean climbing on that treadmill out of punishment or deprivation.
  31. Take my fine ass self on a hot date – go to the movies, the farmer’s market, a museum, a picnic, a fancy dinner alone.
  32. Practice gratitude. Like, more than just saying thank you. Feel grateful. In my bones, in my soul, in my heart. Then, pay that awesome shit forward.
  33. Declutter. Clean my car, my room, my fridge, my calendar, my contacts list. Say no thank you to things I hate and people who are energy vampires, naysayers, unkind.
  34. Honor the woman I am today. Not the one I think I should be (See #2), but the one I worked hard to become because she deserves my friendship and love and time.

Why This Health Coach Doesn’t Hustle Weight Loss

I’ll Give You Three Reasons …

A few weeks ago, a friend and I were discussing my marketing approach. I was complaining about how other programs, specifically calorie restricting, meal supplementing, and macro counting diets seem to be getting more attention than mine. I know, I was wallowing in some major entrepreneurial self-pity and comparing my success to the success of strangers on the internet. My friend suggested that I start promoting the weight loss component of my programs, “Why don’t you stress how women lose weight on the cleanse? Tell them that they can lose a few pounds before bikini season or something like that?”

“No,” I said. Well, I might have said mmm hmm ok maybe while the idea churned my stomach. I felt defeated after we hung up, not at all because of my friend, but because maybe she was right … That the only way to really “achieve success” was by feeding off of women’s insecurities and buying into this idea of a ‘bikini body’. She wasn’t the first to suggest selling weight loss. I’ve been told many times that women want to hear only one thing  during a sit-down with a health coach: I can make you thin.

I cringe.

I know that good-hearted women are out there hustling “Slim Down For Summer” and “Get Your Bikini Body” weight loss programs with the very best of intentions. Some of those women are my friends. I am not criticizing them at all. I am just doing something different.

Why? I’ll give you three reasons:

1. Weight-Loss Marketing Is Often Shame-Based and That’s Some Lame BS
At a time when some feel women’s confidence is at an all-time low and many feel their appearances being judged daily, it would be easy to profit on those insecurities and offer women “a solution” to what they see as flaws. But. I am not the kind of coach who is about that finger-wagging, body-shaming, or fear-based motivation. I also think your body is perfectly fine, sweetheart. Let me say this again: I think your body is perfectly fine. I am concerned about your energy levels, your gut health, your hormones, those achy joints. and your sugar dependency. I am concerned about your health and well-being.

FullSizeRender
Me at my skinniest and most unhealthy.

2. I Ditched The Diet Thing A Long Time Ago
Research shows that dieting can fuel disordered eating, but I can just go ahead and speak from personal experience. I don’t believe in diets or labels anymore. I believe in a balanced lifestyle and finding what works best for my body. I want you to find what works best for you. Also, I don’t weigh myself anymore and I certainly don’t weigh my food. I was once a slave to the scale and portion control and calorie counting. Yes, I lost major weight, but I gained serious stress, self-loathing, and a general feeling of unfullfillment. So, I’m not going to preach something that I don’t practice. I lay the foundation for health here, so that if you choose to weigh your food and count calories later on, then you’ll at least know which ingredients are best for your body and understand that no two calories are created equal.

3. Because Skinny Doesn’t Mean Healthy
A great deal of evidence (here and here to name a couple) points to the conclusion that healthy habits make healthy bodies in a variety of sizes. Once upon a time, I wore a size zero and weighed 30 pounds less than I do now. My diet consisted of mostly non-fat foods, artificial sweeteners, tons of processed crap, diet sodas, and booze. Organic, grass-fed, and nutrient-dense were completely foreign terms. I was a cardio-crazed hangry young woman who practiced zero self-care. Guess what? I landed my skinny ass in the hospital. My hair was thinning, my skin lost its shine, and I was just generally unwell. My hormones were out of whack, my gut was a hot mess, and I was constantly fatigued. Fast forward a whole bunch of pounds, two sizes, and several years later. I am at my healthiest with plenty of muscle mass, wearing a size 4, eating a balanced diet, and taking time for myself. I sleep well, I know which foods support my body, which foods make me feel less than fabulous, and I developed a major self-care regimen that keeps my stress levels in check.

Look, I definitely exercise and you aren’t going to catch me face-first in a pint of ice cream every night. Maintaining a healthy weight is part of a healthy lifestyle. And the truth is that you do lose weight on my programs. You lose it naturally. I just don’t market my services as “weight loss” programs because that single result becomes the focus. When the number on the scale dictates how good you’re going to feel about yourself, then you may not notice how that yogurt is affecting your skin or those sugary treats mess up your energy levels or how the whole wheat pasta has your joints feeling all kinds of achey. You may not notice how people pleasing and limited sleep is wearing you out. You are’t mindful, you’re driven by weight. Again.

Even though my bank account could use some of the $60 billion that Americans pump into the diet and weight loss industry every year, I’m going to pass. Instead, I’m going to believe in the kick-ass women out there who are smarter than marketing and want more than thinner thighs and a flatter stomach (by the way, it’s ok to want these things, but what else do you want?!) I am going to respect these women by sharing this truth about myself: I don’t really want to make you thin, I want to help you form a healthy relationship with food and yourself.

I want you to listen to your body.

I want you to cook and eat intentionally.

I want you to stop avoiding restaurants that can’t accommodate your diet.

I want you to have ZERO anxiety at parties, on dates, in the grocery store.

I want you to indulge with absolutely no shame. Eat a slice of birthday cake and enjoy it.

I want you to start celebrating your body rather than punishing it.

I want you to stop food shaming. This means not attributing values to foods such as “good” or “bad”. Banana bread is not evil.

I want you to fall in love with yourself.

I want you to stop giving up entire food groups unless those foods harm your body.

I want you to feel free and empowered around food.

And this is the truth, ladies. I believe the marketing is wrong. I believe in you.

Mangia, Bella

How do I begin to tell you about Italy in one blog post? I mean, a blog post for God’s sake? Books have been written about this country, movies set right by the Trevi Fountain and in Venice’s Grand Canal. It is the birthplace of the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci, and pizza. Do I narrow it down to my favorite moments? No, that would take months. Maybe the most delicious meals I ate during my three weeks here? I couldn’t. The gelato alone deserves a novel series. I won’t give you any itineraries or lists of “Things to Know Before Traveling To Italy” because there are about a bagillion guidebooks that discuss such things. I won’t say that you need to see certain basilicas or museums because maybe your trip is just about the pursuit of the perfect cacio e pepe and I totally get that. I will say that I felt honored to be in Italy. At first, I felt awkward and overwhelmed. When the airport doors opened I was very much like my high school self with frizzy hair and nowhere to sit in the cafeteria.

If Italy was one big high school cafeteria, then the beautiful villages and crowded cities are all of the most popular girls. Slowly, they opened up, made room at the table for me to sit down, introduced me to all of the cute boys, and invited me to the best parties. Play along with me for a minute. Because Italy is so large and wonderful, I will chisel this metaphor down to my top three favorite places from this trip. Let’s say Florence is the intellectual, artsy hipster who is incredibly driven, but knows how to kick off her leather boots and have a really good time.  Vernazza is the beautiful, quiet Prom Queen who likes to spend the weekend alone sometimes even though everyone wants to hang out with her. Then, there is Rome. Rome is the ultimate cool girl. She is street-smart, loud, gorgeous, paints her lips bright red, and gives zero fucks about what you think of her.

I thought hanging out in Florence would be a solo adventure of ticking off must-see sights while dodging the endless hoards of tourists and college students. I was so wrong. Post Jennifer Pastiloff’s retreat in Tuscany, several of us yogis found ourselves roaming the famous cobblestone streets together. Florence became the pursuit of one delicious meal after the next, serious gelato eating, and miles of wandering with my new friends. Mostly, wandering while eating gelato. My absolute favorite memory of the city, the one that comes to mind when someone even utters the word Florence in passing conversation, is a night that unfolded slowly and naturally. Three of us had spent the day wandering around, eating gelato, stopping for espresso, talking about the heavy, no-bullshit things, and laughing until our cheeks ached. We decided to climb up to Piazzale Michelangelo to watch the sunset. We bought a few paninis and a container of olives from a handsome Italian man who shamelessly flirted with my friend. We stopped for fruit at a tiny market, then climbed the hill to the top. To say that the view is stunning would be an understatement and I wouldn’t do it justice by describing the picturesque scene. Beauty like that has to be seen in order to be understood. I will say that there was a man playing acoustic cover songs, the steps were filled with people, the food was achingly good, and the sunset turned all of Florence a glowing pink, then a deep violet, before finally the man put away his guitar and the street lamps glistened to life. After my two sweet friends walked me to bus station, I cried a little. Because I thought the evenings would find me rushing back to my hotel before dark, worried about getting lost, sitting down to a pasta dinner a little lonely and tired. Florence was the opposite of that. In Florence, I was the opposite of lonely, the opposite of lost.

Florence inspired me to get out of town before the train strike. I caught the last one to La Spezia on a balmy Thursday and took the regional line to Vernazza. It was late when I arrived, mostly because I got off at the wrong stop twice. When I finally did arrive, the train doors opened to cool sea air, a quiet, dimly lit narrow street, and the sound of laughter and conversation down by the harbor. I followed my map to the bed and breakfast, which was next to a busy restaurant overlooking the water. I climbed the three million steps to my room in the attic, then fell asleep to the sound of plates being stacked and the loud chatter of Italian men in the kitchen below. I awoke to seagulls and church bells, then took my cappuccino and croissant down to the water. I sat on the sea wall near docked sailboats and promptly fell in love with Vernazza. I think she is prettiest in the early morning before the crowds arrive and all of the restaurants open. I sat there for a long time before buying some foccacia for lunch and eating it on the rocky beach while the waves splashed. I believe Vernazza and the sunshine saved my heart after my last friend left Florence. Naturally, I felt a bit protective of such a special place. One evening, during a particularly stunning sunset a woman in a trucker hat and Tevas stood directly in front of me and yelled to her husband, “Come on over here quick, I want to get a selfie with this little town in the background” and it took everything I had not to grab her by shoulders and shout, “The name is Vernazza. Get it right or leave.” If Vernazza really was a popular girl, then she was officially my BFF.

Rome is a different story. Rome is completely self-assured, grounded, and no one needs to be reminded of where they are in this city. Sure, tourists get lost. I know I did, but it was ok because I would just stumble upon another magnificent fountain or beautiful basilica and Rome was all like, “You lost, bitch? Good. Explore. Put down Rick Steve’s walking guide and really spend time with me.” So, I did. I did in the rain with an oversized poncho and all of my bags swaddled in plastic. I rode crowded metros, elbowed my way onto trams, and always opted for the long way home. My time in Rome is hard to capture here because it was so special. There was the night of fireworks and music, the grey afternoon spent in the Colosseum, the early morning mass with Pope Francis, and this: the sweet, old Italian waiter at Paolo’s who wouldn’t let me order from the menu. Instead, he folded it away along with the guidebook I left open on the table and brought me roasted eggplant with ricotta, pasta with tomatoes and zucchini, rich, creamy tiramisu, and as he placed each dish on the red and white checkered tablecloth he would smile, Mangia, Bella. And mangia I did.

This is what I will tell you about Italy … Go. Bring your appetite, maybe your Rosetta Stone app, and definitely your walking shoes. Go spend time without an agenda. Italy will surprise you, it will take care you, it will send you on your way with a full stomach and a brain filled with beauty. You will roll your luggage onto the train platform one rainy morning and catch yourself whispering Grazie under your breath. If you listen closely as the doors slide shut, you will hear the sweetest, softest, Arrivederci and know that you always have a place to eat your lunch in the cafeteria. So, Mangia, Bella.

 

FALL (in love with yourself) RESET

Hey There Gorgeous …

Are you ready to fall in love with yourself? For two weeks, we will talk serious self-care and clean eating. What is clean eating? It is filling your body with food that makes you feel YOUR BEST. These two weeks are about figuring out what works for you and what doesn’t. It is time to kick those toxic things to the curb … be it certain foods, beliefs, habits, you name it … it’s time for them to take a hike already.

I know that a girl has gotta have her best wellness tips within easy reach, so if you do decide to take this step in your health I will provide you with the following documents in a pdf format so that you can easily access them on all of your devices:

Grocery List – This is an extensive list of approved  foods that will help you grocery shop and prepare for the 2 weeks. I recommend printing a few copies and just ticking off foods that you enjoy. Wallah! Your grocery list is made for you each week.

AKA Sugar – A list of the MANY names for sugar. You should keep this list with you to help you identify sneaky sugar in your food. You want to avoid all of the names on this sheet, so READ THOSE LABELS.

Welcome + Getting Started – An overview of the program, what to expect, how to prepare, and an explanation of why we will be eliminating certain foods.

I Can Eat That? – This is a fun digital booklet of my favorite healthy recipes. Yes, it includes dessert.

Private Facebook Group – This is where I will post videos, more recipe ideas, nutritional info, and resources for you to explore on your own. Hopefully, you will also use this space to connect and chat with other members participating in the reset because they are awesome, like-minded women who are on the same journey.

Weekly Emails – These are just little love notes filled with motivation, an anecdote or two, and writing prompts to help you journal during the experience. No, you never have to share what you write, but I strongly encourage you to take the time to explore and process during this program.

So, about the WHY? Obviously, there’s no such thing as a perfect diet and there is no one-size-fits-all approach.  We’re all unique badasses (it’s true) and have different individual needs for how much to eat, what to eat, when to eat, who to eat it with … Wait what? Well it’s true. Who you are sharing your meals with is pretty important, but more about that later ladies … So, all of that being said, if you have any digestive issues, joint pain, headaches, or serious sugar cravings, then this modified elimination diet is one approach that’s extremely useful for everyone.  It addresses a number of our individual needs by removing foods that tend to cause inflammation in the body, i.e.: gluten, eggs, dairy, sugar (not fruit), red meat, corn, processed foods, soy, and alcohol.

Let me know if you have any questions or want more info. I believe in you and would love to help you take this awesome step.

Healthy Nomad Life: The Journey


“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent is born of a story we tell ourselves, and I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe, I was strong, I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.”
– Cheryl Strayed

It turns out I don’t actually enjoy traveling. My skin develops an oily sheen, I become sleep deprived and irritable. I grow tired of the tiny economy seating, usually wedged between two armrest hogs. I watch the same movies, eat the same microwaveable meals, and long for a better view of whichever city we are flying over. The long layovers that were romantic and exciting at the time of scheduling become another detour and three or five more hours in stale air once we arrive. I used to love the escape airports offered, all of the possibilities. Now, I just want to get to my final destination already. I’ve been trying to stay present, to just enjoy the journey, but it is hard for me sometimes.

This is my truth.

I stopped in the middle of the Dublin airport and said to no one “What airport doesn’t have any outlets?” People rolled their carry on cases around me as if I carried the plague. There was a charging station four feet away from my unfolding temper tantrum. I told a broken ATM in Rome go to hell before stomping off like a child. These were not my finest hours.

You see, I have come to appreciate departures with their bittersweet goodbyes, long embraces, and tender kisses. I enjoy all of the “I love you” and “Please keep in touch.” There’s a sense of satisfaction and gratitude in knowing that I will be missed.

And arriving… I love arriving. Even if it’s a city I’ve been to one hundred times, I still get such a rush when I drag my suitcase out onto the busy sidewalk. My palms get sweaty, there are butterflies in my stomach, and I’m a little nervous. I am like a younger version of myself finally standing next to the cute boy I like so much. I want to take in every sound he makes, watch the changing light on his face, and fill my lungs with the same air he is breathing. I just want to savor the newness of it all, the sweetness of falling in love which I do again and again and again with these beautiful places.

And so it was with Italy. You know, after I cursed the broken ATM, accidentally dropped my new suitcase down the escalator, and called my poor mother at 5:00 in the morning her time to cry about what a big, stupid, lonely, asshole I am. I stepped off of the train in Florence and my palms began to sweat, there were butterflies in my stomach, and I was standing next to the city of my dreams, swooning. The cobblestone streets were filled with beautiful, red lipped women, couples sipped cappuccinos on sidewalk cafes, an elderly woman yelled something obscene and gestured with her hands. The sweet smell of pastries and coffee filled the quiet side streets.

Then, there was the shuttle to Siena along the winding roads that vein the Tuscan hills. So much green and all of Italy turning its gorgeous face toward mine, inviting me closer. I studied the way the afternoon light cast long shadows on the vineyards and inhaled the smoky air. I closed my eyes and let my heart fill once more with the beauty of this world.

The destination is always worth that uncomfortable, frustrating, sometimes scary in between time. With life too. Whatever you’re going through right now, it’s ok. Listen to me, one day you’ll be sitting in a quiet cove on Uluwatu beach watching the sunset or you’ll be sipping coffee at the Rome train station or you’ll be picking up your kids from school, cleaning up the dishes after dinner, sitting at a red light on the way to work or whatever it is for you and you will realize, suddenly, deeply, inside of your bones that you survived. Whatever big, scary, most awful thing it is that you fear you can’t or couldn’t possibly get over, you will.

You. Will.

I know this now. If you don’t let (insert big, scary, most awful thing here) to break your spirit, then it won’t. It can’t. What it will do is change your heart, inspire you, introduce you to parts of yourself I bet you don’t even know exist, and your experience will help others. The world itself will be a better place because of your courage and your heart.


So, keep going and allow yourself to be changed. Buckle in to that center seat between two large Asian men, let the airline feed you powder eggs with cold chicken sausage, and watch Gerard Butler save the day one more time. Say thank you. It’s all part of the journey, it’s all worth the pleasure of arriving and falling in love again and again and again.

Healthy Nomad Life: Munduk

Tutu, my trekking guide, stops for the fourth time and points to another plant. “Christmas.” He says.
“Christmas?” It takes me a minute to sift through his thick accent and broken English. “Because it’s red and green? You mean the colors?”
“No, no.” He shakes his head and rubs his temples, a universal sign of frustration. “Um, you mind I ask you question?”
“Ok.” I brace myself. So far, the Balinese people have posed many questions this way. They are typically regading my age, why I’m ummarried, and when I will find myself a husband already. I wait.
“You celebrate Christmas?”
“Oh.” Not holding back my relief, I laugh out loud at the question. “Yes, I do.”
“Ok,” Tutu uses his hands to mime decorating. It looks a little like he is playing an invisible accordion. “This plant is in the Christian church at Christmas and everywhere as decoration.”
When I was teaching, I was sometimes given as many as three from my students the week before Christmas vacation. The sweet memory stings a little. “Do you mean a Poinsettia?” I ask.
“Poin- how you say?”
“Poinsettia.”
“Poinsettia?”
“Yes that’s right.”
“Poinsettia, poinsettia, poinsettia.” He laughs at the word and lifts his hands with such enthusiasm that I think he is going to cup my face in his palms and kiss me. Shaking his head with sheer delight at the word, he turns and we continue hiking the narrow dirt path.

“How old you are?” He asks when we finally reach a wider portion of the trail.
“I am 33. You?”
“Your face doesn’t match your age. I say you young. I’m 25, but my face is old.”
“It isn’t. And thank you.”
“Um, you mind I ask you question?”
Well, here it is.
“Why you travel here alone? Not with family?”
Tutu told me about his dream of moving to Panama City in October, cleaning the rooms of a Carnival cruise ship, and saving enough money to open his own warung back home. So, I don’t mind him asking me such a personal question. It is never the asker of the question, but the question itself that can create a dull ache in my gut.

Why am I alone?

How do you answer a question like this? Because there was a man who loved me for a long time and I loved him back, then he left. Because I waited too long for him to return. Because something inside of my heart seemed to die a little while I was waiting. Because loving people doesn’t stop them from going or getting cancer. Because I don’t want to be scared anymore. I want my heart to open up and beat like it did before everything seemed to go to shit. Because I knew I had to walk through that kind of fear alone and what better place than on the Island of the Gods?

I say none of that.

“Because I am.” I smile and he smiles too. We continue our hike. Tutu talks about his brother and his mom. They are at home getting the house ready for Galungan, a Hindu holiday which commemorates the triumph of Dharma over Adharma, or good against evil.

Later, I am sitting on the porch of my cottage watching the white smoke lift from the valleys below and listening to the murmuring geckos in the trees. It’s a cool afternoon in the Munduk mountains. Reaching for my camera bag, I consider the angle I’ll need to capture all of the beauty. I can’t. I can’t capture the spicy sweetness of nutmeg, cinnamon, and turmeric cooking in the wood fires or the musty incense burning in the temples. I can’t capture in a photograph the heat of the sun on my shoulders or the cool, damp breeze blowing in from the mountains.

I leave the camera where it is and lift my tired legs onto the wooden table. A Balinese woman dressed in white lace and a yellow sarong moves quietly below me. Her black hair is pulled back in a tight bun and decorated with red flowers. She is carrying a basket made of banana palms, inside are coconut leaves folded into small squares that have been filled with bright flowers, rice, and incense. I’ll later learned are these are called canang sari, daily offerings Balinese Hindus make to thank the gods.

Her movements are graceful and methodical. She places the offerings under trees, at the feet of statues, and on mossy stones. She pauses over each one, closes her hands in prayer, raises them to her forehead, and speaks softly, reverently.

I turn away and close my eyes, wanting to be in the presence of such devotion, but also give her privacy. Just being close to such beauty is enough.

“Because I am.” I think to myself and feel so fully in the world it scares me a little.

I will try to explain this to a friend back home, but stop myself. How do you explain what it feels like to be alone on the other side of the world, but not feel lonely? To feel, for once, so much a part of the world that it is sometimes hard to breath?


 

Healthy Nomad Life: Seminyak

I’m sitting on the narrow front porch of Sisterfields Cafe in Seminyak, Bali. The sun is shining through the bamboo ceiling and a warm Balinese breeze is blowing. There are young tourists in straw hats and dresses chatting over an acoustic version of “Fancy” and the waitresses in matching striped tees and aprons are laughing in the corner.

Then, it appears: the prettiest meal I have ever eaten. Ever. The smiling waiter places before me a blended feast of bright, wild blueberries mixed with sliced bananas, strawberries, goji berry granola, and coffee honey. The colorful concoction is topped with tiny flower petals and mint leaves. I take a minute to marvel at all of the beauty contained in one ceramic bowl before lifting a spoonful to my mouth.

Acai bowl heaven.

It’s cool and refreshing. The granola is fresh and slightly chewy which adds a nice texture to the otherwise smooth dish. The sweet bananas balance the tang of the strawberries. I’ve never tasted so many fresh fruits at once. Leaning back, I look around at the touches of white and turquoise in the hip cafe, the racks of glass bottles and plants filling the walls. The staff is so happy, the crowd so content.

“I’m in Bali,” I say almost out loud. Feeling the need to be reminded, these words have accidentally become my new mantra. “I’m in Bali,” I repeat to myself once more. That’s when I feel a tightness in my throat, I suck in my breath and put on my sunglasses so that my fellow diners don’t see the tears welling in my eyes.

That’s just how it is sometimes, I guess. There is so much beauty to see in the world, so many delicious meals to eat, and here I am, with my napkin in my lap ready for all that life has to offer.

You see, food has been the spiritual doorway for me to listen to my body. Taking care of my health inspired me to take care of my heart. These plane tickets that I bought? You could say they all began with the very first green juice I made in my kitchen over a year ago. Truly heartbroken, exhausted, terrified, and searching for something to give me hope, I fumbled through one clean eating recipe and kale juice at a time. For me, health and nutrition go hand in hand with setting goals and chasing after dreams.

So, it’s no real surprise that I was brought to tears at the sight of my acai bowl at Sisterfields Cafe. No surprise to me anyway. You know that broken, hopeless woman standing over the sink, cursing the pulp stuck in her Omega juicer? She’s come a long way and this beach town is just the beautiful beginning of a delicious journey.

Why don’t you join me? Pick up your passport and your fork. Next stop, the mountains of Munduk, Bali.

Sneak Peek in My Farmer’s Market Bag: April Edition

What’s fresh in April? If you are in the Mid-Atlantic area like me, then it’s all about the salad. I’m talking spinach, asparagus, pea shoots, fresh herbs, and roasted parsnips topped with a nutty vinaigrette. Read below for a special look in my farmer’s market bag this month:

Fresh Herbs – Mint makes a great salad topping and a refreshing addition to green juices. Want a delicious detoxifying cocktail? Try a combination of kale, spinach, cucumber, celery, green apple, pineapple, and mint.

Parsnips – Cut them in halves lengthwise, chop them into one-inch-thick slices, then toss with parsley and olive oil, and bake for 30-40 minutes at 425 degrees. They are great as a side dish or tossed in a salad.

Asparagus – Grill these bad boys with a little olive oil, lemon, and salt.

Mushrooms – Toss with olive oil and roast for 20 minutes at 450 degrees. A variety of these are also excellent as a salad topper.

Spinach – Fresh spinach is excellent as a salad base, but also makes an awesome addition to smoothies, is great for juicing, and perfect as a sautéed side.

What Your Snacks Are Telling You

Imagine this: One hand is in the cookie jar while the other clutches a lengthy to-do list. Maybe one hand is working diligently on a last minute report as the other five fingers grab at a bag of potato chips. Does this scene look familiar? Some people use snacking as a diversion to deal with issues that are causing them stress. Mindless snacking is also an easy emotional pick me up after a particularly bad day, long hours at the office, or a morning spent tackling the budget for this month.

Whatever the cause, mindless snacking is real. There are also real solutions.

A lot of times a trip to the vending machine is just a distraction from the countless unread emails. Make note of your hunger level before snacking. If your stomach is rumbling and your body is craving some nourishment, then by all means snack away. Snacking itself is not off limits, but mindless snacking is not serving anyone. It is helpful to keep healthy snacks like a green apple and a handful of almonds on hand when you need some extra energy. Having easy access to sugary treats and snacks high in saturated fat is never a good idea, especially in an environment that tends to cause anxiety.

Ideally, it is best to pinpoint what is causing your stress and deal with that head on. Face the laundry, job stress, and financial insecurities the same way you are about to boldly tackle that pint of ice cream. Before ripping open that bag of empty calories, try taking three deep breaths. Hold each one for three seconds and then release. If the urge doesn’t pass, then take a short walk or try drinking a glass of water. Dr. Frank Lipman points out that dehydration often masquerades as sugar cravings and hunger, “sometimes what we perceive as a food craving is really thirst”.

Researchers at Cornell University conducted an online healthy eating and weight loss challenge which focused on changing eating behaviors, a program the university called a National Mindless Eating Challenge (NMEC). As participants signed up, they were asked a series of questions about their eating goals, background, and well-being. Based on their answers, they were sent suggestions tailored to fit their needs and ordered to follow them for one month. These suggestions were based on Dr. Brian Wansink’s book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think (Bantam, 2006). The following are suggestions that the NMEC participants thought were the most effective:

  • Keep counters clear of all foods but the healthy ones
  • Never eat directly from a package – always portion food out onto a dish
  • Eat something hot for breakfast within the first hour of waking up
  • Avoid going more than 3-4 hours without having something small to eat
  • Put down your utensils between bites to slow down your eating

Celebrity nutritionist, registered dietician, and healthy cooking expert Keri Glassman encourages her clients to “eat empowered”, which means to focus on the positive effects of eating nutrient rich food. Basically, this is a method of retraining our body to crave what it needs. Glassman also suggests changing the language around what we eat from “I can’t eat the hot fudge sundae” to “I can eat all the blueberries I want”. Go ahead and eat your snacks, but don’t let our snacks eat you.

Mindless snacking is not going to take care of the bills or fold the laundry. It is going to add belly bulge and guilt which will probably lead you to shovel in even more empty calories by the handful. When the urge arises, step away from the cookies, put down the to-do list, and take a deep breath.

Your body will thank you.

ECHO

I had the awesome opportunity to tour ECHO in Fort Myers, Florida and was blown away by their dedication and passion. Their mission is to help farmers around the world become more effective in producing enough food to meet the needs of their families and their communities. This includes sustainable farming techniques, nutritional plants, and some bad ass technologies. Poop turned into methane gas, anyone? So cool. This is such a fun tour for all ages, so if you are on a family vacation with the kiddos, I absolutely suggest heading over to this gorgeous sustainable farm. They can taste test throughout the tour and check out all of the different plants. Just look at them! They are gorgeous.

Learn more about what they are doing and what you can do to help here.