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10 Ways Women Can Reduce Holiday Stress

Fact: Holiday stress is disproportionately felt by women.

Why? Because women do the holiday “heavy lifting.” According to research by the American Psychological Association (APA), women shoulder the majority of the family burden for shopping and holiday celebrations (think cooking and cleaning), and they feel particular stress from the time crunch of getting it all done.

Many women during the holidays put stress management practices, such as daily meditation, yoga or walks, on hold while cramming too much into too little and turning to comfort foods as a way to cope. This leads to arthritis flares, increased symptoms of autoimmune disorders, such as fatigue and chronic pain, increased anxiety and depression and for some, weight gain.

Here’s how holiday stress impacts women, according to the APA study:

  • 44% of women report that their stress increases during the holidays
  • 69% of women feel stress from a lack of money
  • 51% of women feel pressure to give or get gifts
  • 69% of women feel stress from a lack of time
  • 41% of men strongly agree that they feel like they can relax during the holidays while only 27% of women feel this way
  • 41% of women eat for comfort during the holidays
  • Women are twice as likely to report that they cook, shop for food, and clean.

Many women also struggle with the stress created by the double shift of work and family of responsibilities. The worries of weight gain, the stress of so many social commitments (another holiday party?), family, friends, and the ever-shrinking bank account can all build up to feel like one giant pressure cooker. After all, food is always around, and with all the running around to get stuff done women will drop their fitness routines in order to just sit for a while.

“Women in particular need to be mindful that their responsibilities may have more stressful consequences than they realize, and that they are reacting to the stress in unhealthful ways, like eating and not permitting themselves to relax,” according to the APA.

Ladies, it’s time to bring down the holiday stress level several notches!

10 Ways To Beat Holiday Stress & Create a Healthier, Happier Holiday:

  • Take a daily walk with no phone, no agenda. Unplug from the world. Twenty minutes every morning makes a huge difference in how you face the day.
  • Stick to your routine and schedule your priorities first. Do you usually workout on Monday, Wednesday and Friday? Go to your book club on Thursday evenings? Do something special on Friday nights? Go! Put these on your calendar in pen!
  • Cut down on emotional eating. Identify exactly what you’re feeling before you take the first bite. Are you hungry? thirsty? tired? stressed? sad? happy? Give it a name, and then choose to eat it. Choose each bite. It takes the “power” away from the food.
  • Say “No.” We go overboard to please others. Accept the commitments you want. Period.
  • Ask for help and delegate. Accustomed to doing it all? Most of the people in your life are accustomed to you doing it all too, and most likely, they don’t realize you need help. They aren’t mind readers. Ask for help, and be ready to assign a task.
  • Create a nightly tranquil self-care routine rather than plopping in front of the television. Consider taking a hot bath, and surround yourself with fragrant candles and your favorite music. You might even “unplug” from all electronics. Gasp, I know!
  • Simplify — ask yourself, “How can I make this easier?”
  • Downsize meals — consider less dishes, or host a community meal where everyone brings their favorite dish. This creates inclusion and connectedness.
  • Reduce gifting — Set boundaries and limits early, and stick to them. Decide for whom you are buying presents, and decide on a quantity. When we give with overabundance to the people in our lives we desensitize them to the meaning of the gifts.
  • Simplify plans with close friends Save the holiday get-together for after New Year’s. For now, get together for coffee as a respite from the holiday flurry.

In essence, what all of this means is slow down, enjoy the sights and sounds of the holidays, and most of all fill your holiday with joy, love, gratitude and merriment. There’s much to celebrate — including a less-stressed you!

Resource: Greenberg, Quinlin & Rosner, 2006. Holiday Stress Report. American Psychological Association.

Looking for a Detox Recovery Plan after the New Year? If you live in our neighborhood, join me in a dynamic group detox that will not only detox your body, but will also renew your spirit and help dissolve any negative thinking. Join us. I can’t wait to meet you! Learn More and Sign Up

Meet Melissa: Melissa Rapoport is the Manager of Health Coaching and Lifestyle Programming at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY. She combines her graduate work in Developmental Psychology with her education in nutrition, health and coaching to create highly individualized programs that result in lifetime change. A contributing author to three international bestselling books, Melissa’s greatest joy is her relationship with her two daughters.

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5 Easy Ways To Survive the Thanksgiving Food Fest

Gobble, gobble, indeed! According to research from the Calorie Control Council, the average American may consume more than 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day. Whoa! That’s more than double the average person eats on a regular day. That’s pretty shocking.

This is particularly problematic for people with autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or Hashimoto’s, or those who contend with joint pain, reflux or food sensitivities. Underlying conditions almost always flare! Sometimes immediately, sometimes up to two days later.

Why, oh why, do we do that to ourselves?

Of course, you hear the stories of family drama, but it seems to run much deeper than that. It’s as if Thanksgiving has become an overeating contact sport. We start preparing in advance and even start bemoaning the after-effects of too much food well before the actual event. We act as if eating until bursting point is expected and completely out of our control. And just like a football game, Thanksgiving comes replete with the after-game commentary and play-by-play.

We also tend to do what we’ve always done. Overeating on Thanksgiving, in essence, has become a habit!

The great news is: You can change that script. It is entirely possible to indulge in all of Thanksgiving’s deliciousness AND feel satiated, content and even full, WITHOUT having to resort to elastic-waisted pants for a few days.

5 Easy Ways To Survive the Thanksgiving Food Fest

Eat Throughout The Day — Often we approach Thanksgiving thinking that we will forgo food during the day in order to partake more heartily during the main event. Big mistake! In fact, when we skip meals we generally eat more. Choose small, filling meals. For breakfast, have a bowl of gluten-free oatmeal with berries and nuts. For lunch, have coconut milk kefir with nuts and fruit, or avocado toast — think slow-digesting carb with a healthy fat and protein. It will stabilize your blood sugar, keep you satiated, and set you up for a healthy Thanksgiving meal.

Skip the Snacks — One of the wonderful things about Thanksgiving is the home-cooked meal. Mindlessly eating chips, store-bought white breads, and other processed foods, not only is unhealthy and stimulates your appetite, but it’s also not tasty. Stick with real food — fruits and crudite are great choices for healthy snacking.

Forgo The Impulse to Mirror Other People’s Eating — How often do you reach for food when you see someone else eating? Right. Me too. It takes awareness. Every time you start to reach for something at the hors d’oeuvre table, ask yourself, “Why am I reaching for this?” If it’s because someone else is eating, pick up a glass of sparkling water instead.

Eat Your Veggies! — Rather than filling your plate with everything on the table, start with a plateful of salad and vegetables. Most Thanksgiving meals have salad, green beans, Brussels sprouts, and other delicious but overlooked vegetables. Start with them instead of making them an afterthought. Once you’ve enjoyed your veggies, then take a little bit of everything else. In fact, switch your plates. Use the dinner plate for the salad and vegetables, and the salad plate for turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and stuffing.

Slow Down! — Put down your utensils between bites, sip water between bites, and focus on connecting with those around you rather focusing on the food in front of you. Take the time to appreciate your food, smell it, look at it, and savor it.

Oh, and give yourself permission to leave food on your plate!

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Do you have a hard time staying on track during the holidays? Or, does holiday stress overwhelm you? Consider working with a Health Coach (hey, I’m one!) who will help you create a stress-free holiday survival plan and stick with it. Learn more about CoachMe.

Meet Melissa: Melissa Rapoport is the Manager of Health Coaching and Lifestyle Programming at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY. She combines her graduate work in Developmental Psychology with her education in nutrition, health and coaching to create highly individualized programs that result in lifetime change. A contributing author to three international bestselling books, Melissa’s greatest joy is her relationship with her two daughters.

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Try This Hearty Breakfast Cereal for Cool Mornings

As the weather turns cooler you may be wondering how to incorporate a heartier breakfast that’s good for your gut and good for your joints.

Start the day well with a warm and healthy breakfast cereal. A bowl of hot quinoa cereal on a cool morning is one of life’s simple pleasures and incredibly versatile.

You can use different combinations of spices, toppings, and fruits to customize your breakfast.

Think seasonal: Experiment and try adding autumn fruits, such apples, pears and blackberries. Stir in some of your favorite nuts and seeds, including chia or flax seeds — it’s a great to add fiber and protein! And, consider playing with some warming spices, such as ginger or cardamom. You can’t go wrong!

Use our basic recipe as your starting point:

Hot Quinoa Cereal with Fruit & Nuts

3 servings

  • ½ cup quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk, like almond, coconut or rice milk
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ¾ Tbsp maple syrup
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp  vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup slivered almond or toasted walnuts
  • Optional: fresh berries, ghee

Directions:

  1. Rinse the quinoa with cold water in a fine mesh strainer and drain.
  2. Put the water, milk and salt in a pot and bring to a boil.  
  3. Stir in the quinoa, turn down the heat to medium low, cover the pot, and simmer gently for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more milk if needed. The cereal is done when the quinoa is soft and has the consistency of oatmeal.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in the maple syrup, cinnamon and vanilla.
  5. Transfer to bowls and serve warm or cold with toasted nuts and fresh berries and stir in a teaspoon of ghee if desired.

 

Meet Melissa: Melissa Rapoport is the Manager of Health Coaching and Lifestyle Programming at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY. She combines her graduate work in Developmental Psychology with her education in nutrition, health and coaching to create highly individualized programs that result in lifetime change. A contributing author to three international bestselling books, Melissa’s greatest joy is her relationship with her two daughters.

 

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10 Reasons You Can’t Lose Weight

Are you trying to lose weight and just can’t seem to get the scale to budge? You may even feel like you’re doing everything “right” to no avail. Some people blame their metabolism or wonder if their age or gender is the issue. Some people go through a life transition like a stressful time or childbirth or menopause and feel like their body has never been the same since. Does this sound like you?

If so, don’t despair. It does not have to be this way. There is usually an underlying reason to stubborn weight loss.

10 Reasons You Can’t Lose Weight

1. Portion Distortion — You might find it hard to believe but portion size alone is often a culprit, particularly in the United States where portion sizes have grown over the years. Researchers have found, for instance, that meal sizes at restaurants have tripled in size since the 1970s¹ and the plates we serve our meals on have also increased in size.2 At every turn, we are encouraged to eat more than we need.

In my health coaching practice at Blum Center for Health, I find that many people overdo it on “healthy” foods. Prime example: Nuts are healthy addition to your diet — they are a healthy fat, a good source of protein, fiber and have anti-inflammatory properties. But, one serving of Brazil nuts, for example, is two nuts. Yes, one serving is only 2 nuts! One serving of almonds is six nuts. If you’re eating nuts like popcorn, you’re not going to lose weight.

While I’m not a big fan of calorie counting, I do think using a phone app, like My Fitness Pal, for a week will give you an accurate view of your caloric and nutrient intake. How much fiber are you consuming? How much sugar, for example? This is important information for weight loss.

2.  The Right Mix of Nutrients — Beyond the amount you are eating, is what you are eating. Are you living on rice cakes and cottage cheese, thinking that low-calorie diet foods are going to help you reach your goal? That strategy is likely undermining your weight loss objective. Weight loss is often about moving away from processed foods and into a whole foods, anti-inflammatory food plan that includes increased fats, ample protein and unlearning the reliance on empty carbs, even the so-called “healthy” ones like gluten-free bread and “nutrition” bars. This will ramp up your metabolism, jumpstart weight loss and teach you to eat for life, rather than going on and off diets continually.

3.  Chronic Stress — Stress is a major player in stubborn weight loss. We live stressful, fast-paced lives. Stress elevates cortisol and adrenaline, hormones responsible for “fight or flight” in what your body perceives as an emergency — something as serious as jumping out the way of a careening car, or something as nerve-wracking as public speaking. Once the event is over, our cortisol and adrenaline levels return to normal. This is a healthy stress response.Chronic stress, however, creates havoc in the body. Cortisol levels, which spike during a stress-inducing event, remain elevated. Think … a stressful job, a stressful relationship or even the everyday stress of “getting everything done.”This rise in cortisol puts a damper on weight loss. In fact, chronically elevated cortisol can cause weight gain!3  And, perhaps even more importantly, as Susan Blum, MD, discusses in her book, The Immune System Recovery Plan, this increased baseline can damage the immune system and prevent it from healing. Ultimately, chronic stress can have a negative effect on the levels of good bacteria in the gut, reducing the ability of the immune system to fight infection and puts us at risk for autoimmune disease.

4.  Lack of Consistent Quality Sleep — Research4 demonstrates that even slight sleep loss boosts cortisol levels and can accelerate the development of insulin resistance. In fact, one study found that getting just 30 fewer minutes sleep than you should per weekday can increase your risk of obesity and diabetes.5 Not getting enough sleep is related to a host of other issues including heart disease, high blood pressure, accidents, mood disorders, depression and decreased productivity.

5.  Inflammation — Do you unknowingly fill your body with foods that create systemic inflammation, a slow, quiet disturbance that never seems to shut off?The fact is, If we could “see” the damage, like we can feel and see a swollen ankle, surely we would ban those substances from ever entering our mouths!Systemic inflammation is our body’s immune response to substances it sees as a foreign invader. Over time chronic inflammation can lead to many heavy-hitting diseases, such as heart disease, many cancers and even Alzheimer’s. It is also associated with allergies, anemia, asthma, autism, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, celiac, Crohn’s, fibromyalgia, gall bladder disease, GERD, Hashimoto’s, psoriasis, and more6.

Inflammation makes us feel sluggish, bloated, and gives us achy joints or muscles. It is associated with high blood pressure, blood sugar problems, headaches, depression and anxiety.

And for those struggling to lose weight, inflammation makes you, well … inflamed. You see, there is a very important hormone, called Leptin, that regulates your body’s level of fat by controlling your appetite and metabolism. In healthy people, the production of leptin signals the brain to suppress appetite and speed up metabolism—leading these people to feel less hunger, burn more calories and lose the excess fat. Chronic inflammation, however, impairs the brain’s ability to receive leptin’s appetite-suppressing message.

To put the fire out on inflammation a great place to start is with an elimination diet to determine which foods are triggering inflammation. A program like HealMyGut includes the ever-important elimination diet and all the supplements you need to address shoring up your gut lining and returning bacterial balance to your digestive tract. I just finished it myself after taking antibiotics for a month to treat Lyme Disease. I feel great! Learn More.

6.  Thyroid Dysfunction — The American Thyroid Association7 estimates that 20 million Americans have a thyroid problem, and that up to 60% are unaware of their condition.  Whoa, that’s jaw-dropping! Hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone, is characterized by unexplained weight gain and/or difficulty losing weight. To find out if your thyroid gland is functioning properly, you will a blood test ordered by your doctor. I highly recommend working with a functional or integrative physician who will look beyond whether or not your numbers are “in range,” including lifestyle and mind-body medicine.

7.  Insulin Imbalance — If your blood sugar levels and insulin are off, you can experience carb cravings, difficulty losing weight and excess belly fat. Insulin resistance means your cells can’t absorb the extra blood glucose your body keeps generating from the food you eat, and your liver converts the glucose into fat. Processed foods, including beloved foods like pasta and bread, sugary drinks, and even foods marketed as “healthy,” like granola bars, play a role in insulin resistance. Insulin imbalance can give rise to Type 2 diabetes so it is important to get those numbers under control. Again, I recommend working with a functional or integrative physician who will also address lifestyle factors that contribute to insulin issues.

8.  Estrogen Dominance — Too much estrogen relative to progesterone plays a role in weight gain. Estrogen dominance can cause increased cravings and decrease metabolism. If you are experiencing more cravings, and particularly for sugar, it’s entirely possible to fall into a loop that feels like you have no control over those cravings. Increased cravings combined with a sluggish metabolism is a recipe for weight gain.To learn more about Estrogen Dominance, and its symptoms, check out this article: Do You Have Estrogen Dominance.

9.  Low Testosterone — Research8 shows that testosterone levels in men often drop with age and this can cause an increase in body fat, insulin resistance, heart disease and even certain cancers.  The inverse is also true: being overweight causes testosterone levels to drop even more.  A tell-tale sign of low testosterone is belly fat in the mid-section that is resistant to weight loss.

10.  Toxic Overload —  Everyday you are exposed to chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, hormones, medications and other toxins that create a toxic load in your body. These toxins are found at every turn — in your food and water, household cleaning products, cosmetics, candles and plastics. Even seemingly healthy products, including shampoo and conditioner, face cream, toothpaste and your favorite sandwich bread, can contain toxic ingredients.Toxins affect hormones and can create hormonal imbalances that lead to weight-loss resistance. When you carry a toxic burden, leptin, the hormone that tells the brain to burn fat for energy, does not do its job of informing the brain to burn fat. So, even if you are eating well and exercising weight loss becomes stymied when your body is in a state of toxicity.Personally, I detox at least once a year and use Dr. Blum’s Simply Detox program. It includes everything — a real food detox food plan, detox supplements and daily email. Learn more.


Losing weight can feel difficult but it does not have to be impossible. Your hard work can pay off. It’s a matter of figuring out the underlying challenges. Not sure where to start? Explore one area at a time and put a plan in place. If you feel overwhelmed, you might want to consider working with a Health Coach (hey, I’m one!) who will help you create a plan and stick with it. Even if it’s not me, (sniff, sniff), a health coach can be your greatest ally, helping you clear away the noise and the overwhelm that often gets in the way of success.
Learn more about CoachMe.

 

Meet Melissa: Melissa Rapoport is the Manager of Health Coaching and Lifestyle Programming at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY. She combines her graduate work in Developmental Psychology with her education in nutrition, health and coaching to create highly individualized programs that result in lifetime change. A contributing author to three international bestselling books, Melissa’s greatest joy is her relationship with her two daughters.

 

Resources:
  1. Young, L. R., & Nestle, M. (2002). The contribution of expanding portion sizes to the US obesity epidemic. American Journal of Public Health, 92(2), 246–249.
  2. Wansink, B., & van Ittersum, K. (2006). The visual illusions of food: Why plates, bowls, and spoons can bias consumption volume. FASEB Journal, 20(4), A618.
  3. Moyer, A. E., Rodin, J., Grilo, C. M., Cummings, N., Larson, L. M. and Rebuffé-Scrive, M. (1994). Stress-Induced Cortisol Response and Fat Distribution in Women. Obesity Research, 2: 255–262. doi:10.1002/j.1550-8528.1994.tb00055.x
  4. Leproult R., Copinschi G., Buxton O., Van Cauter, E. (1997)  Sleep loss results in an elevation of cortisol levels the next evening. Sleep. 20(10), 865-70.
  5. Endocrine Society. (2015, March 6). Losing 30 minutes of sleep per day may promote weight gain and adversely affect blood sugar control. ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150306082541.htm
  6. Marquis, D.M. (2013, March 7) How inflammation affects every aspect of your health. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/03/07/inflammation-triggers-disease-symptoms.aspx
  7. American Thyroid Association. General information/press room. https://www.thyroid.org/media-main/about-hypothyroidism/
  8. E M Camacho, E.M., Huhtaniemi, I.T., O’Neill, T.W., Finn, J.D., Pye, S.R., Lee, D.M., Tajar, A. … and the EMAS Group (2013). Age-associated changes in hypothalamic–pituitary–testicular function in middle-aged and older men are modified by weight change and lifestyle factors: longitudinal results from the European Male Ageing Study. European Journal of Endocrinology, 168 445-455, doi: 10.1530/EJE-12-0890

 

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Savor Spring with Sauteed Spring Vegetables

Green Vegetables to Sautee for Spring

Choosing produce in-season allows you to get the most flavor and nutritional bang for your buck.  These sautéed Spring vegetables can easily serve as a health supportive, and colorful addition to any meal, or even on their own. Pair with cooked quinoa for a quinoa-vegetable pilaf, or roll with red cabbage leaves with a lemon-tahini dressing for a refreshing wrap.  

One of our favorite things about this recipe is how versatile it is. Take a walk through your local Farmer’s Market and add, or substitute, the Spring produce calling your name. In fact, a saute is a great way to try new vegetables — start with a small amount and see how you like it.

Here’s a list of what is in season right now that you can try in your Sauteed Spring Vegetables: Asparagus, beets, beet greens, cabbage, garlic scapes, peas, scallions, spinach, summer squash, Swiss chard, and turnip greens.

Looking for more clean-eating recipes? Check out our BlumKitchen Recipe Book.  Created in our test kitchen, our recipes are free of gluten, dairy, corn, soy and egg to support your anti-inflammatory eating style. Further, BlumKitchen recipes are designed to reduce inflammation, support your thyroid, improve your liver’s detoxification function and heal your gut. 

Bon Apetite!

Sautéed Spring Vegetables

Servings: 8

Serving Size: 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb yellow onion, peeled, medium diced
  • ½ lb leeks, white and lite green portion only, cut in half lengthwise, thinly sliced on bias, washed after sliced
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger root, peeled, minced
  • 1.5 lbs zucchini with skin, ends trimmed, cut in half lengthwise, sliced into ½-inch thick half moons
  • 1 lb broccoli florets, tough stems removed, cut into 1-inch pieces, blanched
  • 1.5 lbs bok choy, leaves and stems separated, leaves rough chopped, stems sliced on bias into ½-inch thick pieces
  • ½ lb sugar snap peas
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Fill a medium saucepan ¾ full with water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer.
  2. In small batches, add the broccoli carefully into the water until it turns bright green and is just fork tender.  With a slotted spoon, transfer the broccoli from the simmering water, to a colander in the sink, running under cold water until broccoli is completely cooled.  
  3. Blanch the sugar snap peas similarly to the broccoli.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and leeks and sauté until just caramelized, about 4 minutes.  
  5. Add the garlic, ginger, zucchini, and bok choy stems and cook another 2 minutes until just tender.  
  6. Add the blanched broccoli florets, blanched sugar snap peas, bok choy leaves, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine until vegetables are warmed through and bok choy leaves are just wilted, about 2 minutes.  

Meet Melissa: Melissa Rapoport is the Manager of Health Coaching and Lifestyle Programming at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY. She combines her graduate work in Developmental Psychology with her education in nutrition, health and coaching to create highly individualized programs that result in lifetime change. A contributing author to three international bestselling books, Melissa’s greatest joy is her relationship with her two daughters.

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8 Reasons All Women Need Non-Negotiable Self-Care

Woman practicing yoga for self-care

Women are told that they can have it all — parenthood, families, careers, relationships, and community involvement.

Women are not told, however, that by juggling all these hats they put themselves at risk for feeling perpetually burned out.

Many women become so busy taking care of kids, partners, parents, in-laws, pursuing careers, and managing the day-to-day maintenance of running a home (cooking, cleaning, shopping), that everyone else gets their best. They get shortchanged.

Some women even put basic needs on hold — doctor’s appointments, haircuts, coffee with a close friend. If this resonates, you might feel dissatisfied, lonely, unappreciated, haggard, cranky, disheveled and even unattractive.

Having it all leaves you with no strength and no time to care for yourself.

I remember one particular Mother’s Day, sitting in one of my favorite cafes overlooking a park in bloom, surrounded by my two daughters and my then-husband. I was absolutely exhausted — caring for two small children, working, taking care of the house, attempting to keep it all together. Sitting there, on Mother’s Day, fighting to keep my eyes open, all I could think was, “What about me?”

Research (1) has shown that women today are less happy than they have been over the past 40 years. Why? Theories abound, but l suspect a lack of “me-time” is a major reason. All the hats we juggle leave many women not taking adequate care of ourselves — the very thing we need to give us the strength and energy to address all the responsibilities we have.

It’s a depletion loop. We keep taking and taking and taking from ourselves without giving anything back.

In fact, the chronic underlying stress of keeping all these hats in the air can lead to serious health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, headaches, digestive problems, weight gain, memory issues and even autoimmune disease. Self-care is an important antidote in battling all of these conditions.

Yet, in my health coaching practice at Blum Center for Health, most women tell me that they “don’t have time” to take time for themselves. When we delve a little deeper, however, it becomes clear that “time” is not the issue.

What’s the issue? There is an insidious undercurrent of guilt for taking care of herself.  Many women internalize the implied message that it’s her “duty” to minimize her needs in order to care for others. That, if she is taking care of herself, then she is taking time away from caring for someone else.

Every women requires self-care for peak performance and heightened self-esteem. After all, if you don’t carve out the time to truly care and love yourself, if you avoid things that make you feel mentally and physically well, you deplete your self-esteem. Essentially you’re robbing your own bank!

So, I ask you: “What do you want for you?”

8 Reasons to Put You First on Your List

  1. You will be better equipped to communicate your needs, and the support you require, to your partner, family, friends and co-workers.
  2. Putting yourself first will make you stronger and healthier.
  3. Attending to your needs, and learning to put yourself first, will raise your level of contentedness and happiness.
  4. Setting compassionate boundaries will make you feel cared for, nurtured and loved.
  5. Putting yourself first will recharge your battery, make you better rested and give you the space to discover (or rediscover!) your passions.
  6. You will feel more appreciated, and in turn, you will feel more appreciative and grateful toward the people in your life.
  7. You will be a more patient, attentive and attuned partner, parent, sibling, daughter, and/or professional.
  8. If you are a parent, you will demonstrate to your children what it looks like respect yourself. Kids learn from their parents. Do you want to teach them to put their needs last, or do you want to role model what it looks like to take care of themselves?

Ultimately, self-care is essential and non-negotiable. From getting enough sleep, to taking care of our basic needs, to setting personal limits and boundaries, to being honest with our partners, it’s making our health and wellness a non-negotiable priority.

Need help getting started?  Melissa can help!  Head over to our CoachMe page and learn how you can work with her to begin your self-care journey.

Do you live near Blum Center in Rye Brook, NY? Join Melissa for her special 4-session series, Reclaim Your Body, Love Your Life: A Women’s Group for Lasting Change, that begins April 26th: Learn More and Sign Up Now

Meet Melissa: Melissa Rapoport is the Manager of Health Coaching and Lifestyle Programming at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY. She combines her graduate work in Developmental Psychology with her education in nutrition, health and coaching to create highly individualized programs that result in lifetime change. A contributing author to three international bestselling books, Melissa’s greatest joy is her relationship with her two daughters.

 

Reference:

  1. http://www.webmd.com/women/guide/womans-guide-to-me-time#1
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Clean Your Pantry, Lose Weight & Transform Your Diet

Transform your pantry for health

Here’s a little-known secret: There’s a connection between your health, your weight and the food you store on your pantry shelves. Cookies, nutritionally-void crackers, cans of junky soup, the white flour that’s sitting on the shelf for months unused — it’s the same thing as storing stuff under your bed. You may not see it all the time, but you know it’s there.

• It creates stress.
• It creates obsessive thinking (“Oh, there’s cookies in the cabinet.”)
• It creates mental clutter every time you open the cabinet (I’ve really gotta clean out this cabinet.”

At Blum Center for Health we feel strongly that your pantry is the foundation of healthy eating. So strongly, in fact, that we conduct a free workshop every month simply titled, Pantry Makeover, where participants make their own “pantry plan.”

Here’s 8 things you can do to transform your pantry shelves:

1. Discard obvious “junk” food. Unless it’s something you love and incorporate into your diet with healthy choices, Get. Rid. Of. It. Otherwise it’s only taking up space in your cabinets and in your head. You know it’s there, your head knows it’s there and every time there’s a trigger you have to fight the impulse. Why do that to yourself?

2. Discard the not-so-obvious junk food. Look at everything that comes in a package or can. Don’t be fooled by clever marketing phrases like “all natural” or “whole grains” or “100% healthy.” There’s so much leeway in these claims. The goal is to get consumers to purchase the product, not to improve their health.

3. Look at the ingredient list: Are the top ingredients truly whole grain? You might be buying “gluten-free” goodies but closer examination of the ingredients might tell you it’s junk food.

4. If sugar is one of the first three ingredients, consider it a dessert. That includes honey, molasses, agave, or any other of the “healthy” sugars. It’s all sugar.

5. Check out how many grams of fiber it has. While some products boost the fiber content by adding cellulose (not necessarily the best thing), it is an indication of the integrity of the product.

6. Look for artificial food coloring such as red dye 40, yellow 5 and green 3.

7. Does it have artificial sweeteners like aspartame, Splenda or xylitol? Dump it.

8. Does it contain trans fats, also called hydrogenated oil, partially hydrogenated oil or shortening? Get rid of it.

Extra Credit: As you clean out your pantry, make a list of items you need to replace and you will have it handy come shopping day.
About Melissa: Melissa Rapoport is the manager of health coaching and lifestyle programming at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY. She combines her graduate work in Developmental Psychology with her education in nutrition, health and coaching to create highly individualized programs that result in lifetime change. A contributing author to three international bestselling books, Melissa’s greatest joy is her relationship with her two daughters.

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6 Tips for Creating Healthy Habits For When Life Gets Busy

Create Healthy Habits

You commit to eating well, taking better care of yourself with exercise and meditation. You’re going along just great. In fact, you might feel like you’re on a roll, and then, bam, life gets busy.When this happens most people abandon the healthy habits they are trying to create.

After all, it takes time and energy, and it’s often uncomfortable, to transform new behaviors into habit. It’s human tendency to fall back to what’s familiar rather than keep up with goals that seem increasingly difficult to employ. This is exactly the time old eating habits, and foods, creep back into your day.

Here’s a little secret: Almost everything comes down to planning. In the wise words of Benjamin Franklin:

“When we fail to plan, we plan to fail.”

Here are some useful tips to help you create healthy habits and new eating patterns:

  1. Stock up on plenty of your allowed foods and beverages — Foods that don’t serve you don’t have as much appeal when you have healthy food options ready to go. Have lots of fresh veggies and fruits washed, cut and ready to eat. Or, buy pre-washed veggies. Do whatever you need to do to succeed.
  2. Take food with you when you go out for the day — Could be a meal or could be healthy snacks. Just be sure you have fuel!
  3. Plan your meals for the next few days — We get into trouble when the fridge is bare and the big question is, “What’s for dinner?” We tend to do what’s familiar until we have an ingrained new habit. That makes pizza night pretty darn tempting!
  4. Eat out with a plan — Check out the menu online and know what you will eat before arriving at the restaurant.
  5. Never skip meals — The temptation of skipping meals is an unhealthy habit, indeed. You slow down your metabolism, and set yourself up for overeating.
  6. Set firm limits and boundaries – Protect the time you need to care for yourself. Say “No” to people or events that prevent you from planning, eating well, and taking the time you need for self-care, whether it’s exercising, going for a quiet walk or meditating. You first!
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Make Ghee in 1,2,3!

Homemade Ghee

Ghee is another name for clarified butter and is a traditional healing food in India. It is made by heating butter until it liquefies. The milk solids are removed, making it suitable for those who are dairy sensitive. You can also buy it already made in health food stores and Indian markets or you can try our ghee recipe below.  Traditionally, ghee has been used for ulcers, constipation, would healing and soothing the digestive track.

To learn more about the benefits of ghee check out: Fall in Love with Ghee: Healthy, Dairy-Free and Tastier Then Butter

Ghee Recipe:

1 pound unsalted organic butter

1. In a medium saucepan, heat butter on medium heat.

2. The butter will melt and then come to a boil. You will hear the butter snapping and crackling as it boils.

3. It will begin to foam at the top. Remove the foam with a spoon and discard.

4. After about 15-20 minutes you will hear the “voice” of the ghee change. It will get quieter. You’ll see the oil become clear rather than cloudy.

5. Take it off the heat and strain it through cheesecloth or use a mental coffee filter and filter paper. You can wait 15 minutes or do this immediately. It’s hot, so be careful.

6. Put into a ceramic, glass, or stone bowl and cover. This ghee will last for about a year unrefrigerated.

Reprinted with permission from Liz Lipski, PhD, CCN

This recipe can be found in Dr. Susan Blum’s groundbreaking book, The Immune System Recovery Plan (LINK TO BOOK). It is her 4-step plan to achieving optimal health and features 40 delicious recipes.  Check it out HERE.

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Fall in Love with Ghee: Healthy, Dairy-Free & Tastier Than Butter

Ghee Jar

Have you tried Ghee? It’s creamy, it’s rich, it’s delicious! Ghee is clarified butter, the pure milk fat that is rendered by separating the milk solids and water from the butterfat. It’s made by melting butter and skimming the fat off the top.

Ghee has been used in Indian Ayurvedic cooking for thousands of years. And, just as we at Blum Digital, LLC believe that Food is Medicine, Ghee in Indian culture is seen as an aid for digestion, ulcers, constipation, and the promotion of healthy eyes and skin. It can be found in Indian beauty creams and is used to treat skin conditions.

“Ghee contains butyrate a short chain fatty acid found in the gut that is incredibly beneficial not only to the gut but to the entire body,” explains Mary Gocke, Director of Nutrition at Blum Digital, LLC. “Cutting-edge research suggests, among many things, butyrate can be used in the prevention and treatment of cancer. There are very few food sources of butyrate, Ghee is one of them.”

You can enjoy ghee in any way you would butter. From cooking to spreading it on gluten-free bread.

5 Reasons to Make the Switch to Ghee

1. Ghee Helps Strengthen the Digestive Tract — Ghee is high in butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that reduces inflammation and helps balance the immune cells in your gut. According to Susan Blum, MD, in her book, The Immune System Recovery Plan, Ghee strengthens the intestinal lining, and improves the health of the cells that line the entire digestive tract, including the stomach, colon and small and large intestines. (1)

2. People with Dairy Allergies or Sensitivities Can Enjoy Ghee — Milk is comprised of two proteins — whey and casein. In the process of making ghee, these proteins are removed through skimming and straining, rendering it lactose and casein-free. Those with severe dairy allergies should refrain because ghee is not dairy free, but those with sensitivities or intolerances are usually fine.

3. Ghee Protects the Heart — Researchers found in a rural population of India a significantly lower prevalence of coronary heart disease in men who consumed high amounts of ghee. (2) Other researchers (3,4,5) corroborate these findings and further demonstrate in lab studies that ghee decreases serum cholesterol and triglycerides. They found, in fact, that arachidonic acid, a key inflammatory intermediate in the process of atherosclerosis, was decreased by 65% in serum lipids when ghee was used as the sole source of fat. (3)

4. You Can Cook With Ghee — Ghee has a higher smoke point, higher than nearly any other fat you might cook with — at 486 degrees, it is even higher than coconut oil! Smoke point is important because that is the temperature that an oil begins to degrade and create free radicals – those carcinogenic, unstable molecules that damage cells and cell membranes. Free radicals adversely alter lipids, proteins, and DNA and trigger a number of diseases and are associated with the development of conditions like atherosclerosis and cancer. (6)

5. Ghee Can Help You Lose Weight — Studies demonstrate that Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), an Omega-6 fatty acid that naturally occurs in dairy and beef, has been found to reduce weight gain and decrease fat mass. It also has been shown to enhance immunity while also reducing inflammation. (7) One study, in particular, demonstrated that CLA among overweight adults significantly reduced body fat over 6 months and prevented weight gain during the holiday season. (8)

Ghee can be found in most health food stores as well as many specialty markets. Make sure the container says grass fed or pasture-raised.

Want to make your own? It’s easy! Check out the recipe HERE.

References 

1. Blum, S. (2013). The Immune System Recovery Plan. New York, NY: Scribner.

2. Gutpa R., Prakash H. (1997) Association of dietary ghee intake with coronary heart disease and risk factor prevalence in rural males. J Indian Med Assoc. Mar;95(3):67-9, 83.

3. Sharma, H., Zhang, X., & Dwivedi, C. (2010). The effect of ghee (clarified butter) on serum lipid levels and microsomal lipid peroxidation. Ayu, 31(2), 134–140. http://doi.org/10.4103/0974-8520.72361

4. Kumar, M.V., Sambaiah, K., Lokesh, B.R. (1999) Effect of dietary ghee—the anhydrous milk fat, on blood and liver lipids in rats. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 10(2), 96-104.

5. Kumar, M.V., Sambaiah K, Lokesh B.R (2000) Hypocholesterolemic effect of anhydrous milk fat ghee is mediated by increasing the secretion of biliary lipids. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 11(2), 69-75.

6. Lobo, V., Patil, A., Phatak, A., & Chandra, N. (2010). Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health. Pharmacognosy Reviews, 4(8), 118–126. http://doi.org/10.4103/0973-7847.70902

7. Pariza, M.W. (2004) Perspective on the safety and effectiveness of conjugated linoleic acid. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 79(6), 1132S-1136S.

8. Watras, A.C., Buchholz, A.C., Close, R.N., Zhang, Z. Schoeller, D.A. (2007) International Journal of Obesity 31, 481-487.