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Can You Be A Health-Conscious Foodie?

“What do you eat? I mean, like in a typical day?”

I was putting on a workshop about Five Super-Powers for Ageless Beauty, so of course I was talking about healthy food choices as part of it.

Talking about what I personally eat wasn’t part of the presentation I’d planned. So, here I was – on the spot.

Let’s see. What did I eat today? I’d had a big smoothie for breakfast that consisted of hemp protein, maca, raw cacao powder, flax seeds, spinach, half a frozen banana, maybe a little coconut oil and a dash of vanilla.

For lunch I’d had a big mixed greens salad with radishes, carrots, beets, and tomato topped with chopped turkey and homemade vinaigrette dressing.

For dinner I was having homemade hummus with cucumber slices and some pear with almond butter, because that was what I’d brought for treats to the workshop. Not my typical dinner, mind you. But it was all I’d had time for.

My guests were worried that they couldn’t possibly enjoy their food if they suddenly started eating “healthy.” “We’re all foodies here!”

Well, guess what? I am too! My main creative outlet these days is to cook up something wonderful. I’m always experimenting in the kitchen and, as my husband is fond of saying, “We eat good.”

With all the debate about what type of diet is best – vegetarian, vegan, paleo, raw, low-fat, high-fat – I’ve come to the conclusion that no one diet is “right” and no one diet is even right for you all the time.

It’s best to pay attention to how you feel after eating – and in general – in order to begin to assess what your own body’s needs are. I do, however, like Michael Pollan’s advice from In Defense of Food: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Eat food. As in, recognizable as such by previous generations. Not something generated in a laboratory with flavor enhancers and preservatives added. Not something with seventeen unpronounceable ingredients. Not genetically modified, artificially colored, irradiated, extruded, or formulated for convenience.

Not too much. We don’t need to go for super-sized anything. Other cultures limit quantities by using small plates to serve or simply by being aware of how full they are and stopping at, say, 80 percent capacity.

Mostly plants. This one is really key. People who eat plenty of vegetables along with modest amounts of fruits, legumes and grains get a host of benefits that can’t be had in any other way: vitamins, minerals, enzymes, co-factors, antioxidants, fiber – the list goes on.

So be a healthy foodie! Learning to incorporate plant foods at every meal satisfies the urge to be creative at the same time keeping us healthy and radiant.

Sure, it’s so much easier to grab a container of processed yogurt or a bag of chips or a frozen pre-made casserole. But the payoff for choosing real food on a consistent basis is more than worth the effort.1

As for dinner tonight? I threw together a quick marinade for chicken fajitas, then sliced onions, bell peppers, and zucchini for my husband to grill outside. I whipped up some guacamole to top it off and served everything over a bed of greens.

No deprivation there, I can assure you!

 

What Can I Do About Neck Wattle?

NeckA couple of friends and I were sitting in the kitchen sharing some health tips over luscious cups of steaming tea. We were talking about serious health issues here – perimenopause and hormone-related concerns. Then one of them leaned toward me and patted herself under the chin.

“What about this?” referring to the skin sag that was just beginning to show under her chin and jaw. “What do you call it?”

“You mean neck wattle?” It gets its moniker from the resemblance to turkey and chicken necks.

“Yeah, you should write a blog about that.”

Sure.

JaI guess almost no one is totally immune to the sagging-neck thing.  Maybe Jane Seymour and Sigourney Weaver.  According to dermatologists, the neck starts to go around age 43.  I must have been lucky, because I seriously didn’t notice anything until my 60s.

Why is the neck area so susceptible? Among the factors involved are genetics, excess fat, weight loss, weakened muscles, thin skin, and sun damage.

Before I started looking into it, I didn’t realize that there’s actually a book entitled I Feel Bad About My Neck, by Nora Ephron. I think I’m going to have to check it out. Amazon describes it as “a hilarious look at women who are getting older….”

Here’s a quote from the book: “One of my biggest regrets…in that I didn’t spend my youth staring lovingly at my neck.”

Ouch. Note to self: Begin staring lovingly at my neck every day.

You should know right now that I’m not one to tout medical procedures. Botox and knives are not for me. I’m all about prevention and supporting the natural healthy aging process with good lifestyle habits.turkey

Anyway, moved to gather some helpful tips to stall the inevitable wattle, I asked my esthetician for her best advice. My esthetician is great – always wears a white coat just like a doctor and was a chemistry major before becoming a skin-person. She knows her stuff.

Right off the top of her head, without hesitating a second, she rattled off: Vitamin C serums (she likes Cellex-C neck cream and Skinceuticals) and ultrasound treatments, which purportedly boost the collagen factor.

From my own experience I will add:
• High-water content foods (and an excellent diet overall)
• Maintain optimal body fat percentage
• Facial acupressure
• Good posture (lifting up from the ears creates a mini-face/neck/chin lift!)
• Craniosacral therapy to release neck and jaw tension

You might not be able to avoid the dreaded wattle entirely, but rather than spending time in regret and wishful thinking, you’ll enjoy your ageless beauty knowing you do what you can to look and feel your best every day.

Leave your thoughts below if you have something to share about neck wattle!

 

The Lucky Ones

partyA friend of mine invited me to her housewarming party recently. She’s adorably eccentric and I know she’s on the same page with me about taking care of body and soul.

So I was a little taken aback while conversing with a friend of hers who seemed to take a totally opposite stance. Apparently, he and his friends have decided that it’s nonsense to make an effort to exercise or alter their diets because, as he stated, “We’re all just going to get old anyway. Why fight it?”

In his opinion it was silly to deny yourself goodies or to put yourself out to move any more than necessary.

I started to explain my position, which is that the people who age well don’t do so because they happened to hit the genetic lottery.

They do it because they take the time and make the effort to learn how to best care for themselves, they do it because they’re involved in life and have an almost reverence for the vehicle that allows them to express their creativity and purpose.

But I stopped myself. gym

If your attitude is one of, “Why bother trying to fight it?  I’m just going to get old anyway,” you’ll probably just go ahead and believe that the ones who don’t suffer the commonly accepted afflictions of the elderly are just “lucky” somehow.

I hope you have a great long-term care insurance plan and some devoted family to look after you.  (I didn’t say that, of course—just thinking it.)

If, on the other hand, you’re curious about what can actually be done as you grow older to avoid the decline usually associated with that process, you’re in the right place.  This will be a place to soak up tips and strategies and learn what to avoid and what to emphasize.  (Stuff you might already know:  Avoid sugar, deemphasize stress, and emphasize sleep, but some things you might not know and the how-tos.)

I believe—and I hope I can convince you too—that we can make the years ahead our best years yet!

 

Do You Treat Yourself With Kindness?

fruitsThere’s a whole set of people who believe that if you eat healthfully all the time and exercise, it’s because you’re slightly narcissistic or you do it because you have a need to lose weight or have some particular health challenge. To them, treating yourself with kindness means indulging in whatever sugary, deep-fried or salty comfort food is at hand while relaxing in front of the TV.

Another set, of which I am a member, believes that you choose to eat healthfully (almost) all the time and exercise because it’s the only way to live a long, luscious, lovely life pursuing your dreams and desires. To this set, treating yourself with kindness means taking exquisite care of the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual body and using time and resources to share a greater purpose with the world. We all have a choice.

My top picks for treating myself kindly?

beau• I prepare most of my own meals from scratch, using fresh, organic ingredients and including lots of veggies.
• I do some type of movement every day. It doesn’t always have to be an intense cardio workout to show your body love.
• I shun violent forms of entertainment and avoid listening to the news.
• I take time to connect with my emotions rather than shutting them down.
• I include some time for spiritual practice every day, be it meditation, gratitude practice, visualizations, or inspirational reading.

Being kind to yourself may not always be the easiest choice, but in nurturing your body and spirit in healthful ways, you will put yourself on the path to ageless beauty.

Those Eeeeekk! Moments

1Maybe you’ve had an eeeeeeekk! moment or two yourself lately and can identify with this. I was at an event recently – actually one of those fairly “Portlandia” style ones – called “Paint Nite” where the participants come together to get their “art” on by imbibing lots of palliative liquids while producing a painting as they follow the instructions of the local artist who’s leading the show.

Sounds like fun, right?  I was there at the invitation of a friend of mine, and since it had been a long time since I painted anything, I thought it could be good for me.  Besides, I would have a chance to listen in on what was on women’s minds.

Sure enough, the woman across from me – as soon as she heard what I was up to these days – confided that she had one of those eeeeekk! moments recently when her little dog was in her lap and she decided to take a photo.  She turned the camera to focus on the two of them and was suddenly aghast – whose neck was that?!

She then went into a spin considering her options, which in her mind were plastic surgery here (too expensive and the downtime would be ugly) and plastic surgery in Thailand (which would be cheaper and she’d be away from everybody during the recovery). She also regaled me with stories of peels she had, which took her out of commission for a week or so at a time.

3I’d like to propose another option. How about becoming aware of the habits and choices we make that contribute to unhealthy aging and old-before-your-time skin and then choosing differently?

These are the most common hijackers of healthy radiance:

• Dis-stress
• An unhealthy diet
• Lack of appropriate exercise
• Prescriptions meds
• Exposure to toxins and pollutants
• Nutrient deficiencies

Want to get the most bang for your buck beauty-wise? Make sure you engage in regular – let me repeat – regular exercise! I just read a somewhat shocking figure in the current AARP magazine (April/May 2014) that JAMA Internal Medicine reported that only 35 percent of boomers exercise regularly and more than half have no routine at all.

joggingThat’s sad because exercise is one of the best ways to manage cortisol levels and to tone, not just our muscles, but also our skin.  Exercise triggers the production of one of the most important antioxidants in the body – glutathione – which slows down the aging process and helps ward off wrinkles and sagging.  Exercise boosts the natural production of collagen, which improves skin thickness.  Resistance training in particular helps build up muscles to create lifted, taut-looking skin.

Here’s something to be cautious of:  not all exercise is created equal.  Excessive cardio is not recommended!  Too much spinning or aerobics causes an overproduction of cortisol – your stress hormone – which is exactly what you don’t want for your skin or your waistline.

Hot Chocolate

Hey, Girlfriend!

(It was still winter when I wrote this)

In case you don’t know, the first thing you need to remember about me is that I love to eat. I’m half Italian and I’ve never forgotten my childhood admonition: “Mangia!”

chocAnyway, it’s a rare snowy day here in Portland, Oregon, and while enjoying a laid-back afternoon watching the snow fall, I got to thinking about hot cocoa. Now, if you know everything about me, you should know that I don’t keep packaged, commercially prepared substitutes for the real thing hanging around. No tear-open-here-and-dump-the-powder into the cup of microwaved hot water for this girl.

Hmmm, what can I create with what I’ve got on hand to satisfy the hot cocoa craving, while simultaneously meeting all my other criteria for contributing to my health and well-being, instead of destroying it? Fortunately for me, I do keep the pantry pretty well stocked with interesting and useful ingredients.

First, I brought down the bag of Mayan super food raw cacao powder. The package states that cacao contains a naturally rich supply of antioxidants, fiber, and is one of the highest dietary sources of magnesium, flavonols and polyphenols, and it has been very carefully sourced! That, and it has zero grams of sugar. Excellent!

Next, I found the raw organic maca powder which, the package explains, comes from a Andean root vegetable that is believed to help increase energy, reduce fatigue and improve libido. It is also an adaptogen, meaning it helps the body to regulate stress and balance hormones. Perfect!!

Oh look! The label even has a recipe for a cacao drink, which gets my creative juices flowing. So, here’s what I came up with (thanks to Earth Circle Organics for the idea).

LUSCIOUS HOT COCOA
2 rounded tsp. raw organic cacao powder
1 tsp. raw organic maca powder
1 tsp. organic coconut palm sugar
Pinch Celtic sea salt
6 oz. boiling water
¼ tsp. natural vanilla extract
2 Tbs. organic heavy whipping cream, almond or full-fat coconut milk

In a small saucepan, I mixed the cacao powder, maca powder and coconut palm sugar (which is low-glycemic) and a pinch of naturally harvested Celtic salt. I added – very slowly, stirring all the while – the boiling water and let that simmer together for a few seconds.

After I took the pan off the heat, I added vanilla extract and a splash of organic whipping cream (not ultrapasteurized). You could use non-dairy milk like almond or coconut if you like, or leave it out altogether. But I like the additional (healthy) fat to help slow down the absorption of sugar. The finished drink had about five grams of sugar total and was oh-so-satisfying!

cupSo, you ask, what the heck are flavonols and polyphenols good for? Well, both of these help fight aging and prevent disease. Flavonols help support healthy circulation and keep the arteries flexible and may also have anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic properties. Polyphenols are believed to help lower cholesterol. They work as antioxidants that prevent cellular damage in the body (hence, the powerful age-and-disease-fighting ability).

Who knew that age-fighting could be so much fun? And, yes, I can feel the benefits kicking in already! Woooohooooo!

 

Do I Look The Best I Can?

Do I look the best I can for my age?

It’s easy to think that our looks are totally dependent on the genetics we were born with, but what if that wasn’t true?  Time and time again science is proving that 70 percent or more of the way we age is dependent on how well we take care of ourselves.  So, if you find yourself looking in the mirror and wondering just who that face belongs to, help is here.

jeinThere was a time in my early fifties when I was single, that I had a terrific bout of heartbreak.  You know the kind—you can’t sleep, you aren’t eating well, maybe you huddle up in a ball of misery, or you distract yourself constantly by overworking and complaining to your friends.

Yes, I was there.  And I was miserable.  And my face showed it.  I looked in the mirror one morning and was shocked and dismayed to see that I appeared to have aged 10 years.  My skin had lost its glow, my eyes looked tired, and it seemed I had sprouted wrinkles overnight! It was alarming.

My cells were suffering because  the thoughts I was thinking and  the feelings I was indulging in weren’t healthy.

BeautyFortunately, I had some tools available to begin repairing the damage.  And I’m happy to report that my body did respond.  My skin, eyes, and demeanor sprang back to normal in a relatively short period of time.

My experience was a dramatic rehearsal of what happens as we age.  Usually, you can’t see yourself aging from one day to the next because the process is so gradual.  On the other hand and for the same reason, you can’t immediately see the benefits of adopting a healthier lifestyle. 

You have to trust that the antioxidants in that kale you just ate really will stop free radicals from injuring your cells, that the exercise you do will make your bones strong and keep your lung capacity and your muscles in good shape,  and that the meditation practice you commit to will make a difference in keeping stress down and cell repair tip-top.

Here’s what I did and still do to look the best I can:

  • Trust that I have the know-how to take me where I want to go.
  • Engage in different forms of exercise and movement such as dance, walking, high-intensity intervals, yoga, and resistance training.
  • Choose only high-quality foods and prepare most of my meals at home.
  • Treat my skin with loving care:  get regular facials and use products that leave out the nasty parabens, fragrances, and petroleum by-products.
  • Spend time with happy, exuberant people.
  • Get 7-8 hours of restful sleep.
  • Get into a habit of daily meditation of some kind—it doesn’t have to be sitting still and fighting my monkey mind.  Automatic writing, ecstatic dance, and walking meditation are some options, among others.

meditationThere are so many things you can do to bolster your loveliness, and if you’re not already doing them, you may think they involve too much work, deprivation, time, or cost.  My mission is to help you realize that most of what will keep you looking and feeling youthful is to develop good habits and incorporate them slowly so that they stick for the long haul.

Luscious Life Activities

While caught up in the milieu of everyday life—whether you go to a full-time job, are taking care of teenagers and aging parents, a household, a husband, or whatever—you realize that it’s equally important to take care of yourself so that you can offer your best to the world.  But where to find the time?

florI was talking with an organization expert just yesterday (yes, I am a little organizationally-challenged) and one of the first things she said was that she recommends keeping a list of at least 10-15 things that I could do just to nourish myself and have a little fun.  Well, since I already take pretty good care of myself, finding 10 or 15 things to put on a list isn’t all that difficult.  Sometimes fitting them into a busy day is the challenge.

I thought I’d share a few of the things on my list and some ideas about how they’d fit into a typical day (not all at once, of course).

  • Meditate.  Excellent for nourishing the mind and spirit and calming the body, I can find a few minutes when I first wake up and before bedtime.  Meditation is something I also do as I’m working with clients on the treatment table.  Walking meditations are also great.
  • P.A.C.E. exercise.  Most of the personal trainers these days concur that old-style cardio is a bad idea.  P.A.C.E. stands for “progressively accelerated cardiopulmonary exertion” and is available on DVDs from Dr. Al Sears’ website. It gets your heart pumping with high-intensity intervals that re-train your body to burn fat and keep your lungs youthful.  Takes only 12 minutes of exertion—about 15 minutes total—so it’s pretty easy to fit in before work.
  • Yoga.  Don’t groan!  It’s easy to fit in just one pose first thing in the day (before or after you meditate!) or download the routine at www.thepromise.com and do an easy 7-minute sequence that promises to turn your life around.  Of course, taking a class when you have more time is an excellent idea.  Another possibility is to take advantage of streaming yoga classes online, YouTube videos, and DVDs.
  • Call a girlfriend and meet for lunch or tea or?  Yeah, getting together with girlfriends gives you access to love, joy, and happiness in ways nothing else can.  It’s good for your health!
  • Dance!  A weekly class on the weekend is easy to get to and not only supports my body but nourishes and connects me with my spirit.

OutdoorActivities_landing1 copiaSo what’s on your list of self-nourishing activities?  Playing in the park with the kids or grandkids?  Getting a once-a-month professional facial and/or pedicure?  Getting bi-weekly massage or cranial therapy (a very good idea, by the way!).  Why not get a list together and start scheduling in more activities to luscious-up your life a little more?

Mindset and Sleep

secrets here

 When I tell people how old I am, most react in shocked disbelief and then ask, “Daria, how do you do it?  How do you look so great for your age?

I’ll gladly let you in on my “secrets.” The truth is I’ve had a lifelong interest in health, wellness, nutrition, exercise, massage, beauty and everything related to aging well. In the past I’ve worked in the beauty and fitness industries and I’ve garnered a lot of knowledge about what works and what doesn’t.

Here’s what I do that works.

I have a routine and a mindset that keeps my body humming despite the stresses that I put it under and the mistakes I’ve made along the way.  I have a belief, and this is key, that I’m the type of person who takes care of myself.  That I’m worth the effort to select better foods and to take time out of my day for movement and exertion.  I’m worth taking care of my skin with professional facials and good-quality skin care products.  I’m worth taking time for massage and other complementary health care practices.

BrainI educate myself about supplements and nutrition, about stress reduction practices, about pain management.  My interests are broad and turn up all kinds of recommendations for taking care of everything from head to toe:  hair care, tooth care, soothing aching muscles in the neck and back, allergies, vision improvement, acupressure for wrinkle reduction and prevention, yoga postures, meditation variations, digestion issues, sleep habits, cellulite and lymph drainage, weight management, posture and so on.

Not everybody knows this stuff, so my friends and clients come to me for advice when they have a self-care question, and I readily help them.  If I don’t have an answer off the top of my head, I can usually find one fairly quickly. 

But even if you’re already doing all of this, here’s the one way you may be sabotaging yourself without even realizing it….lack of sleep.  This topic keeps coming up in the media and among my clients.  We aren’t sleeping very well, most of us. And not for lack of trying.

These are the things I have found most important for my own sleep recovery.

Limit caffeine.  Most researchers recommend not consuming caffeine after about 3 p.m.  That’s way too liberal a limit for me.  I’ve tried stopping with just one cup in the morning, but even that amount disrupts my sleep.  Some people are extra-sensitive to caffeine, and if that’s you, you’ll do yourself a world of good by finding an alternative you like.

Limit alcohol.  I’m not saying you should stay away completely (I am Italian, after all!) but one glass of wine with dinner a few times a week is a far cry from two or three drinks every single night.  This caution is especially important if you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night unable to go back to sleep.

Hormone levels.  It’s important to know what your levels are of these three especially—cortisol, progesterone, and insulin—as too much cortisol, too little progesterone, and surges of insulin will all affect sleep.  Working with a holistic doctor may be necessary if simple lifestyle changes involving supplements, botanicals, exercise, and/or mindfulness don’t even things out. Bioidentical hormone replacement is an option for those of us with low progesterone.  I’ve heard that pomegranate extract is also good, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Supplementation.  You will often see certain supplements recommended to help sleep, namely melatonin or valerian.  You should be aware that melatonin supplements often come in dosages far in excess of what you’d actually benefit from (.3 to 1mg will do).  And both melatonin and valerian can sometimes be problematic as some people (myself included) respond in a contrary manner and become wired instead of relaxed.  By the way, you should only use melatonin under a doctor’s supervision.

The thing that works best for me is supplementing with about 400-500 mg of magnesium citrate (or other chelated form—not magnesium oxide) right before bed.  Magnesium relaxes the muscles of the body very nicely and helps deactivate adrenaline so your brain settles down.  Most Americans are deficient in this mineral and would benefit from supplementing.  You can also get more of this vital mineral from dark, leafy greens, beans, nuts, avocados and garlic.

Turn off the devices.  That includes the TV, the computer, the tablet, the cellphone and any other device that is backlit with blue light.  These interfere with natural melatonin production and confuse our biorhythms so our bodies don’t realize it’s time to go to sleep.  It’s generally recommended to go screen-free an hour or two before you hit the mattress.

Sleep is so important, ladies!  It’s really the foundation of the long, luscious, lovely lifestyle, so it’s well worth doing the detective work to figure out how you can best protect your beauty sleep.

Sleeping Beauty

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHow did you start your day?

Did you wake up and spring out of bed, thrilled with the rest you got and ready to take on the world; or did you drag yourself out of bed and stumble into the kitchen, frantic to get some coffee going just so you could function?

Did you take some time to savor the early-morning quiet, perhaps reading something inspirational or sitting in meditation, or was it another one of those push-to-get-out-the-door-on-time days that left you feeling stressed before you even got going?

Well, truth be told, I like to think I mostly have the well-rested, take-time-to-savor-the-quiet kind of mornings. But, there are times when I didn’t sleep as well as I’d have liked and I stay in bed too late trying to get as much sleep as I can. That puts me behind schedule before my feet even hit the floor, and so the day goes….

Hmmm, the importance of adequate, restorative sleep is being talked about quite a lot these days. It happens to be a key element in the formula for Ageless Beauty. Without a good sleep routine, every other part of our life suffers.

That’s because sleep time is when your body does its main restorative work. It has everything to do with how well your hormones are balanced and how much energy you have during the day. It keeps your brain functioning harmoniously, making sense of the new input from the day before, or in other words, it keeps you sane and smart!

Lack of sleep has been linked to weight gain, especially around the middle. And we all know we have less patience with our loved ones when we’re tired and cranky. So, why are so many of us not making sleep a priority?

qweTWRYSTJYTKUI know that in order for me to get a good night’s rest, I have to be planning ahead early in the day. That means little to no caffeine for me, and certainly not after noon. That’s because caffeine over-stimulates the adrenals and messes with our cortisol production and its effects can last much longer than you might imagine, especially if you’re sensitive to it.

I also tend to jump on the computer after dinner (and I know lots of folks spend time in front of the TV too). Unfortunately, the type of light these electronic devices emit plays havoc with our pineal gland and we get wired when we should be winding down.

Added to all that, I also happen to be a highly sensitive person. Therefore, the stresses of the day, unfinished tasks, or worrying about upcoming events can upset my nervous system enough that I just can’t wind down once my head hits the pillow.

In my next post I’ll have some tips to help with shifting into relaxation mode.