Green Tip #11: Add tea to your floors

This week, not for the first time, but for the first time intentionally – I upended a beverage all over my floor. My consistent penchant for knocking over all sorts of beverages – infused water, tea, carbonated water, what have you – has left my 30 year old wood floors looking rather, ahem, aged. So when I saw a random old calendar tip for cleaning your floors with tea? I thought, hey, I’ve already DONE this! Continue reading

Food for Thought Recap: Health Values

I don’t know what it is about mid-August, but it has me in the recap mood. Maybe it’s because I want to hold on to the last few weeks of traditional summer, even though fall doesn’t start here in Chiba until Halloween. Maybe it’s because I prefer to spend my weekends lounging around reading historical fiction or children’s fantasy books, my usual summer tradition going back to when I was 8 or so. At least now I’m old enough to drive myself to the library when I run out of books.

This is also, apparently, the summer of desserts…

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July Shop with a Cause Recap + Coconut Oil Giveaway!

* This giveaway is now closed. Thank you to all who left comments and participated. You are amazing and I appreciate each one of you. I’ll announce the winner Tuesday!*

I’ve talked about how I love shopping with a cause because it is a win-win situation. I get to support local, eco-friendly stores, find useful products to help my sustainable lifestyle, buy reused goods to avoid contributing to land fill and mindless consumerism, and since I am shopping I still get something in return!

Just Act Natural at the hub of the Appleton Saturday Farmer’s Market

When I shop for food, I always go local first. I buy meat & eggs from local farms or farmer’s markets – places where I can see how animals are raised and interact and talk with the people who raise them. I love chatting with vendors at the farmer’s market! You get to meet great people and talk about food, one of my favorite past times. When you buy local produce, you can confirm that the producer doesn’t use pesticides or harmful chemicals. Sometimes organic certification is too expensive for small farmers, and I’m suspicious of the big brands and companies taking the organic label and using it as a selling point rather than a real commitment to sustainable agriculture. Plus when you buy local, you support good people like your vendors and you reduce the environmental impact of shipping costs. Organic apples are great, but when they come all the way from Chile? Buying local means you’ll also get to discover seasonal produce and eat the freshest, most delicious produce for that time of year. Usually those Chilean apples don’t taste as good as an orchard-fresh one in the fall. Continue reading

Food for Thought: My Food Philosophy

Well it has been a little bit, but I’m just going to jump right in. Last time I wrote a Sunday post, I told you about how I believe that EVERYONE, no matter what their dietary or life choices, would benefit from eating a whole foods diet. My example of one of the perfect whole foods was sweet potatoes, and I’ll be writing more on using this nutritionally dense superfood to curb sweet tooths. I used to have a terrible “sweet tooth”, but really it should be called something like “guilt tooth”. I was addicted to sugar. I would eat sugary things, crave more, feel bad about myself for eating sweet things and having no “self-control” or “willpower” in order to stop eating them. I lived in a world of “guilty pleasures”, a seemingly innocent phrase that was actually covering up habits of self-harm, depression, and mental beat-downs. I haven’t quite found the word to describe what I was doing to myself mentally, only that it was negative, harming, and getting in the way of my being healthy, because I had no self-love and I wasn’t focusing on holistic health.

guilt-free treats – fudgey sweet potato bites

Natural Living (Test)

I totally, utterly forgot about posting Tuesday.

This is why:

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Shop with a Cause #2:

Like most things, I jumped in headfirst last week in introducing my “Shop with a Cause” idea. That usually happens when I am super excited or feel strongly about something. I thought I’d take a post and introduce the mentality behind my idea before diving any further.I have several rules for myself  regarding shopping. I try to buy things only when I need them, and avoid impulse buying at all costs. I think to myself – would I rather have another bag, or this throwaway container of takeout food, or save those few dollars to go towards a trip (or another iHerb care package to myself)? Secondly, I donate 10% of whatever I buy for myself: clothes, body treatments, any small luxuries or trips, to support causes I care about. But you don’t have to make monthly donations to improve green solutions. In fact, I think it is better to make smaller donations in the form of consumer prices and still get something in return.* That is why I say “buy with a cause”.

So here’s an easy way to integrate green living into daily life: go shopping! Rather than bend over backwards to scrape up enough money for a donation or do large sum donations (not that I am discouraging that at all, but I realize it isn’t always possible to be as generous as you wish), you can easily support local and/or fair quality businesses and the products they produce by choosing carefully what you really need to buy and where you want your money to go.

When consumers let companies or businesses know that they want goods that are made sustainably and in a way that protects workers and the environment, companies respond to that consumer demand. Do yourself, your community, and your planet a favor and look for better options when shopping. Speaking of options, Japan has some amazing recycle shops (secondhand stores) where I can buy things I need for my household at a fraction of the price. As I’ve learned with the number of hand beaters and irons my family went through, after my mom’s original wedding gifts from 1981 crapped out a few years back, new is not always better. So check out your local secondhand stores!

Last weekend I bought myself a “new” dress for about $6. It’s a great way to recycle and avoid contributing any more waste materials by consumption.

Check out the Story of Stuff for a compelling reason to examine your levels of consumerism.

For any one who is interested, I just made last month’s round of donations to these organizations:

Oceana.orgsaving our oceans from being treated like a toilet (my words, not Oceana’s) and spreading the word about sustainable seafood
The Central Asia Institutecommunity-based education, especially for girls
Concern Worldwiderelief for the current food crisis in West Africa
Returning Veterans Projecthelping veterans address the physical, emotional and psychological challenges of coming home

Next Month:
Partners in Health – providing a preferential health care option for the poor
Henry Vilas Zoo, Madison, WI – one of the few FREE zoos in the country!


Food for Thought #5: Health vs. Weight Loss

I’ve covered cooking mistakes, having heart and finding creativity, holistic health, and self-love. I know what you’re thinking.
Ok so love is great and everything, but what do I eat????
I know. It boils down to that for me too. Food. Always. Really good food.

milkshakes can be part of a whole foods breakfast!

Yet with all my health struggles, I’ve been wrapped up in worrying about what foods were causing me problems (aka what I was eating/doing wrong) when really I needed to focus on a whole foods diet, eliminate toxins, and prioritize regaining my health.

What are whole foods? Foods that are unprocessed and unrefined. Foods that do not contain added ingredients or, more likely, chemicals. If you can’t pronounce it – it is not a food. Simple as that. Generally, the more packaging something has, the further away it gets from being a whole food and the closer it gets to being a frankenfood. These are products that are not foods at all, but a concoction of chemicals, GMOs*, and what used to resemble food. This fake food is equally addicting, yes addicting, and damaging to your health – think diabetes, exacerbated thyroid disorders, PCOS, obesity, and the whole litany of health issues plaguing us today. It’s not only about physical health, but holistic health. I know the terrible emotional and mental disruption and pain that is caused by eating fake food products and how these addicting substances can break the healthy relationship between mind and body.

No one deserves that. I’m not trying to judge or condemn the way people eat. I’m just trying to get everyone to recognize the difference between real FOOD and a concoction of packaging, chemicals, and unhappiness pushed on us by companies that care neither for our health or well-being but simply profit. I don’t want people to have diabetes, thyroid disorders, or any chronic health condition – I want them to be educated and empowered about their health. I don’t want people to suffer needlessly from the damaging emotional affects of addictive “food substances” – I want them to be happy!

Eating whole foods will make you feel better. You’ll be released from addictive substances found in fast, packaged and processed “food”. You won’t be blaming yourself for what you eat or feel out of control with constant cravings and mood swings. You will feel healthy, alive, and ready to tackle the beautiful mess that is life. Trade chemicals and addiction for scrumptious real food and happiness.

garden-fresh lunch

One easy step to start a whole foods journey? Start reading labels. People with food allergies are probably already used to this, but pay attention to what ingredients are in your “food”. If you can’t pronounce it, it isn’t food and you shouldn’t be eating it! Better yet, buy things without labels. Fish, sustainably-raised meat, poultry, and eggs,  raw fruits and tons of vegetables are the easiest examples. Of course your diet is not this limited,  because, first of all, there are so many things you can do with vegetables. I make quick pickles, soups, as many salads as there are cuisines to match, smoothies, curries and stir fries galore. Roasted vegetables are one of the most perfect foods, in my opinion. For carbs, I love all things squash – kabocha, butternut, acorn, etc – and of course my beloved sweet potatoes. I find these foods deeply satisfying, health-promoting, and happiness-inducing. But don’t listen to me alone!

Nourished Kitchen has a guide to Getting Started with Real Food
and love it too did a guest post on Paleo Parents: “Eating real food with little time or money”

whole foods snackeroo

For those of you who eat grains, whole foods can include things like brown rice and quinoa, etc. Beans are an option for some. Just make sure to buy things in as close to their original form as possible. Some of my favorite non-GMO brands are: Bob’s Red Mill (healthy grains, gluten-free flours, etc), Arrowhead Mills (quinoa), Eden Foods, Muir Glen (BPA-free canned tomatoes), US Wellness Meats, Lundberg Family Farms (for rice and wild rice), Mountain Herb Rose (cacao nibs and tea), Nutiva (coconut, chia and hemp), and Tropical Traditions (everything on that site!). More lists of GMO-free foods here.

Once you’ve mastered the habit of reading labels and recognized that frankenfoods do nothing but harm your body, no matter how great you “think” it will taste, you can move on to making more foods at home. I also make a lot of my own foods to avoid preservatives: when I can have nuts, I make my own almond milk. Making your food becomes increasingly important if you have to go on an elimination diet or other type of health-repairing eating plan.

Even though I already consider myself to eat a whole foods diet, I still have a lot to learn. I needed to quit microanalyzing every kind of food I ate and how it was affecting my weight-loss, and instead focus on the whole picture – my overall health. I’ve shed the anxiety that always came with trying to control my diet in order to lose weight. I’m much more at ease when I eat to be healthy rather than try and restrict and cut back in order to lose weight. Why we think deprivation is the norm is baffling to me – it is neither healthy physically or mentally. It’s easier to make healthy choices when I focus on improving my health rather then wrestling with body image.

That new, relaxed mindset also makes it much easier to eat a restricted diet in order to improve health conditions. Currently, in order to heal my PCOS, I am not eating fructose in any form (aka fruit), nuts, beans or legumes, grains, and the usual culprits of gluten, dairy, soy, and sugar. I remember two years ago I balked at the thought of not eating any sugar or even fruit. But that was brain-panic, covering up the real truth of what my body needed in order to get better. And now that I am focusing on HEALTH, it is frankly quite easy to overcome this challenge, because I know I’ll be able to eat fruit again in a few months or so after I’ve healed and avoiding certain foods will help me heal faster and more effectively.  My health is more important than any temporal challenge of not eating Japanese peaches. As you regain your health, it is much easier to see the benefit of making careful food choices rather than panicking over what you will “lose”.

whole foods dinner. oh momma…

Speaking of losing, if you want to lose weight in the long term and keep it off? Then you need to forget about the word “lose” in any form – concentrate on being healthy instead. Especially if you are fighting some chronic condition, you aren’t going to be able to lose weight effectively if you aren’t healthy. Sometimes with certain conditions, rapid weight loss and adrenal-exhausting types of exercise can actually damage our health in the long term!** Luckily, most of the things you do to improve your health also work with weight loss goals, especially if you’re stuck in the lovely catch-22 of something like PCOS, where you need to lose weight in order to heal from PCOS, but you can’t lose weight effectively because you have PCOS! (Same goes for a lot of thyroid disorders)

So instead of getting lost in that quagmire of weight loss frustration, I’m taking charge with my new “gain health” plan:

1.  eliminate toxins
Ok so what does that mean for me? Eliminating toxins and focusing on nourishing food – no more food from cans (BPA!), no more eating out where things are fried in vegetable oil, and watching what kind of packaging the food I buy comes in. This may seem daunting to some at first – don’t worry. Knowing what goes into your food is the first step. Email me if you are really lost, but start slow and make gradual changes. That way you can stick with a whole foods eating plan, rather than being overwhelmed and trying to do it all at once.

The Whole30 Plan might be an option for some of you who need extra guidance.

2. experience food
I have a bad habit of eating while standing, grabbing food and shoving it in my mouth, and just kind of eating without really paying attention to what I’m doing. So I am concentrating on preparing and enjoying my food – not shoveling stuff into my mouth mechanically while I do other work.

3. recognize the difference between a mind-based craving and what my body actually says
Most of the time I crave stuff because I see it or think about it, not because my body is really hungry or wanting something. This falls under my general rule of less thinking and more feeling.

4. No eating after 8pm This one is just more of a practical thing. I tend to make more mind-based, not body-based, choices about food as the evening wears on. Eating too close to bedtime stresses out my adrenals, and eating late it is usually some sort of mental or emotional response rather than a response to actual nourishment that my body needs. It’s just easier to make better choices earlier in the day. Set yourself up for success!

5. focus on healing
My health is one of my most important priorities, which is not only physical but also my emotional response to eating and my mental and spiritual health as well. When I focus on a long-term goal of healing, it is much easier to remain in tune with my body and keep practicing self-love.

Of course, this is all combined with a personal exercise program that includes yoga, running, swimming and strength training once per week. These are just examples of what I do. I think it is most important to exercise while doing something you like, so you continue to stick with it and enjoy it.  Yoga and running make me feel good. Swimming is new so it keeps things novel and interesting in my routine. I do strength training because, while mentally I’m not in love with it, I feel stronger and know that I am stretching and growing in my ability. So don’t worry so much about what you think about exercise – just hold on to how good it makes you feel.

What ways are you gaining health in your life? What inspires you to exercise? What are your favorite whole foods?? (Next week I am going to talk about mine, and share some great new recipes!)

one of my favorite whole foods – sweet potatoes! I’ll eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert.

Food for Thought #4 Self-love, an introduction

Food for Thought #6 How Sweet Potatoes Can Save the World

More reading:

*GMOs are a whole ‘nother ball of wax and a topic for many many blog posts. If you want to learn more, start here.