Often when people think about health they automatically think in terms of measurable specifics:

blood pressure
blood sugar
how often they get sick
what chronic illnesses they have
medications they take
what they eat

However, health is more than a collection of numbers, more than the presence or absence of disease, more than the food we consume. We are our thoughts; we are our relationships; we are our career and our hobbies and interests. It’s tempting to search for that “one thing” we need to do, or change, in order to improve our health but unfortunately, it’s not that simple. So many factors directly impact our physical health so where do we start?

Focusing on a single component like losing weight, running more, or eating kale every day cannot transform our health. It requires taking a step back and looking through a wider lens, taking an inventory of all the areas of our life and deciding what IS working for us, and where change may be beneficial. Change can be scary and uncomfortable so, to avoid the fear and discomfort, we choose to live in denial instead, fearing “what if” we admit something isn’t working. “Dis-ease” often manifests in ways seemingly unrelated to the condition/situation it stems from. Getting to the root cause is the only way to truly treat what “ails” you in order to allow you to live the way you want, and often the root cause is multi-faceted.

Research has shown that health begins in our gut. Not only is our gut our 2nd brain, it is also the throne of our immune system. The microbes that comprise our microbiome set the stage for our health performance. If our microbiome is thriving and active, our health will be a Broadway smash…if our microbiome is unbalanced and malfunctioning, our health will look more like a children’s backyard skit. There are more microbes living in our gut than all the other cells in our body combined. They are responsible for aiding in digestion and manufacturing the cells that make up our immune system, vitamins, and hormones; they produce an array of neurochemicals used by the brain to regulate learning, memory and mood; they can influence weight gain/loss and, when not working properly, can lead to autoimmune conditions and cancer, just to name a few. Many factors can negatively impact the microbiome including:

whether you were breast or bottle-fed
poor nutrition
lack of sleep
chronic stress
exposure to chemicals in our environment
even the way we think.

So while health is initiated on the gut “stage”, the answer to restoring health may be out in the audience. It’s necessary to look at all the contributing factors and not just focus on one ingredient.

We are greater than the sum of the parts of our physical body. We have an indisputable connection that links our body with our mind and our spirit. Focusing our attention on, and balancing, all three areas is the key to overall wellness. So where do we start? First of all, we need to (re-) learn how to actually reside in our body. We are born with that knowledge but lose that ability quickly. Our body is an amazing machine that functions automatically, with very little input from us. We grow used to taking it for granted and therefore lose touch with the fact that our body communicates information and messages to us 24/7. We just aren’t listening, and no longer speak the language. In order to reconnect with our most important messenger, we need to BE QUIET. That means unplugging, and eliminating stimulation and distractions. It means getting comfortable being by ourselves. If we’re willing to make this a habit, gradually we will learn to interpret what our body is telling us about what it needs and wants…and the messages your body sends you will be entirely different than what my body tells me. It also means learning to change the way we think about, and speak to, ourselves, because we’re listening…and in time we believe what we hear! That can work for us or against us.

Achieving overall wellness is like following a recipe. There are NO short cuts and, if you leave out a key ingredient, all you end up with is an inedible mess. This is where the inventory comes in. If all we focus on is making a few obvious, “short term” changes, we aren’t going to improve our health. Feeling, and being, healthy is not the end goal but rather the vehicle through which all the other changes we want to make in our lives are attainable. It’s hard to imagine finding a new job that we love if we’re so exhausted we can hardly get out of bed. If we’re depressed, it’s hard to find the energy and motivation to communicate our needs to our partner. You get my drift…. So it’s important to gather all the necessary ingredients for this recipe. By taking an honest inventory of all the areas of your life, you can decide which areas are currently satisfying you, and which areas need to be nourished. Yes, this includes evaluating how you nourish your body, but it also means identifying what nourishes your soul. Then you’re in a position to establish goals and prioritize how to meet them.

The first step in the journey to restore your health is a willingness to look at the big picture and be honest with yourself. Change is necessary in order to grow. It is scary…and it takes time and a commitment to yourself. No one can do that for you. What are you willing to do to feel better and live better? Are you worth it?

Sand Dune

Once we accept that we need to create change in our life, where, and how, do we find the motivation, strength, and perseverance to take on the challenge of restoring our health? When the desert of dehydration and “dis-ease” stretches out in all directions, which direction do we point ourselves in? Often it feels easier to continue to suffer than to take that first step. Believe me, you are not alone in your confusion and overwhelm!

As a society we have come to value grand gestures, unrealistic expectations, sleepless nights, and overwhelming stress as measures of how hard we’re working, our level of success, and how full and important our lives are, rather than as pillagers of health. We forget that we cannot walk a mile without taking that first step. If we want to be successful in whatever it is we’re hoping to accomplish, we have to set ourselves up for success right from the start. That requires setting realistic goals that are attainable so we get the win…every single day…even if these goals seem too insignificant at first to amount to anything.

We are bombarded with so much information, from so many sources, instructing us on the “best” ways to lose weight, “how to be healthier in just 10 days”, what to, and NOT to, eat. Everyone seems to have their own opinion about how WE should go about achieving our goals. Often it is contradictory and confusing, and what’s missing? YOU, and the fact that YOU are not everyone! So let’s start with the basics…WATER. It is imperative that we are hydrated, and implementing just THAT into our daily lives can often, all by itself, have amazing results.

Why do we need water? Our body is comprised of up to 60% water, our brain and heart over 70%! Water is a vital component of every bodily process, from aiding in digestion and bowel function, to lubrication for our joints, cushioning for our brain and spinal cord, elimination of waste products through our kidneys, synthesizing hormones and neurotransmitters, regulation of body temperature, improving circulation and delivering oxygen to our cells, enabling all the body’s cells to grow, reproduce and function optimally, and maintaining the integrity of our skin (the body’s largest organ).
The human body can’t make its own water so we are responsible for replenishing its supply every day. People often overestimate the amount of water they drink, so it’s helpful to measure your daily water intake in order to have an accurate starting point. You may be surprised by how little water you actually drink, but that’s OK. Start where you are! If we wait to drink until we feel thirsty we are already dehydrated, and then we need to play catch up, so don’t rely on thirst to remind you to drink. Set an hourly reminder on your phone if you have to!

Signs/symptoms of dehydration are common, and can often be over looked, or attributed to other causes:

  1. headaches
  2. dry eyes
  3. dry skin/poor elasticity
  4. concentrated urine
  5. bad breath
  6. fatigue
  7. hunger
  8. your body overheating
  9. muscle cramps/joint pains
  10. constipation

How many of these symptoms have you considered “normal” for you, and treated with various over-the-counter medications? If these symptoms are related to inadequate hydration, simply drinking enough water every day can resolve them…how easy is that?!

How much water should you drink every day? A general guideline for adults is half your body weight (in pounds) in ounces of water daily. Most adults should drink a minimum of 64oz/day, up to a gallon/day. High temps, low humidity, excessive exercise (sweating), and caffeine consumption all increase the amount of water you need to drink. Caffeine is a diuretic, as is alcohol, so, if you consume these beverages (beer, wine, hard alcohol, coffee, certain teas, sodas), you will require more water daily than someone who does not. It is possible to drink too much water so listen to, and observe, your body since everyone is different! If you’re well hydrated your urine should be pale, clear yellow, and you should be urinating every couple of hours.

How do you get from where you are today to where you need to be? Start slowly, and measurably, and cheer yourself on! Don’t minimize the significance of the task you’re undertaking, and be proud of yourself for starting. Once or twice a week, increase the amount of water you drink every day by 2-4oz. Start drinking first thing in the morning, and try to reach your goal for the day several hours before you go to bed so you don’t have to use the bathroom frequently during the night. This isn’t a race and there’s no sense making yourself miserable with multiple trips to the bathroom. Uninterrupted sleep is important for health too!

Not all water is created equal. First, there is NO substitute for water…not juice, not “clear” soda, not canned bubble water. Just drink plain, filtered water. Avoid water in plastic bottles, as the toxins in the plastic can leech into the water when the plastic is warmed (and who knows how long the palettes of water are left sitting in the sun on loading docks or how hot the delivery trucks get? In the summer, my grocery store stacks them outside in the sun!) These toxins can cause all sorts of problems, including increasing your risk for various cancers. Use a reusable glass or stainless steel water bottle—good for you, good for the environment! You can also have fun with your water by infusing it with fresh herbs and fruit. You can buy glass counter-top water dispensers, or individual infusing water bottles, and use organic herbs, like basil and mint, and slices of organic citrus or berries. Playing with your water allows you to be creative and it and adds fresh flavor and color, not to mention vitamins and minerals, to the water. It’s eye candy in a bottle.

Remember, restoring health is a journey and requires time, patience, and commitment. It took a long time to get to this point and turning things around isn’t going to happen overnight. There are no short cuts. One small, positive change begets another, and another. If we only focus on the end result, the distance to be covered getting there may be daunting, so focus on each small step as a step in the right direction. Enjoy the added benefits that come from deciding to make yourself a priority, and start walking yourself out of that desert sip by sip today!

Today’s the day! Welcome to my first blog, and thank you for joining me here. As a nurse and holistic health coach, I’m my own client. This blog will not only document my personal health journey, but will hopefully provide you with the motivation, support, and information you need to help you set out on your own journey of self-discovery and health recovery.

People equate weight with health, and visa versa. This is a misconception and yet many of us struggle every minute of every day with what to eat, or not eat, in order to lose weight because “when we achieve that goal of the perfect number on the scale, we’ll be healthy (and happy)”. We physically and emotionally starve ourselves in our pursuit of health. How messed up is that?!

Health is NOT a number on the scale. In fact, there are people who are seriously unhealthy by virtue of being “skinny fat”. Their “numbers” look good but their health is poor. They don’t understand that “bikini does not =health”. I’ve played the numbers game (sizes, pounds, calories, portion size) my entire life and I have finally realized IT’S NOT ABOUT THE NUMBERS!

Don’t misunderstand me. Carrying excess weight does not promote health but I’m overweight because I’m unhealthy, I’m not unhealthy because I’m overweight. My (over) weight is a symptom of multiple health issues that have been brewing for many years, while I ignored the cries for help my body had been sending me. One day I realized that doing things MY way wasn’t working so I decided I was going to start working with an expert on my body-my BODY!

The inability to lose weight, frequent illnesses, sleep issues, depression, anxiety, irritability, joint pain, skin rashes, GI disturbances, uncontrollable cravings-these are just a few common complaints, but “common” doesn’t make them normal. Do you suffer from any of these? I did. Do you just manage the symptoms? I did. Caffeine and sugar to combat fatigue from poor sleep, creams for rashes, laxatives for constipation, Ibuprofen for pain? Are you too depressed to give yourself, and your life, the attention they deserve? These are messages from your body, symptoms of systemic “dis-ease”, that often times are directly related to the food we eat, and how we eat it. Not only is food fuel for our bodies but it’s also information. Every cell in our body bathes in what we eat, extracting information about HOW to function from those “nutrients”. This is also how cells mal-function, from soaking in misinformation from the overload of sugar and processed food we feed ourselves.

I was sick and tired of feeling like crap. I was sick and tired of food being the enemy. It’s not. Real food is medicine, with ZERO adverse side effects. We’ve lost track of what REAL food is, and isn’t. There are “foods” NO ONE should eat, but there isn’t one right/best way to eat that works for everyone. The trick is to listen to your own body and feed it what it’s asking for…unless it’s asking for sugar or junk food!
What are you hungry for? Do you literally feel weighed down? It can be overwhelming figuring out where to start, once you’ve decided you’ve got to do SOMETHING. Come along with me on this food journey. Let’s talk about how to eat to live, and let’s restore our health so we can finally feel better, and live better.