Archive for December, 2010

Your Body Is A Chemistry Lab – Today’s Lesson: Methylation

Standing in the aisles of your local health food store or shopping on a any number of websites, it’s easy to be daunted by what supplements you should take. Next to fish oil, methylating nutrients make the top of my list for good health on many levels. But what the heck does it mean to be methylating?

Technically, methylation is the subtracting or adding of a “methyl group” (one carbon and three hydrogen atoms) to some other molecule – like a protein or DNA.  This process is going on all the time in your body and it’s crucial to you staying in optimal health. It’s often been said in functional medicine circles that “if you don’t methylate well, you aren’t well”.

Serotonin, for example needs to be methylated in order become active – without this process your serotonin will be low and you may feel depressed or have trouble sleeping. A compound called homocystine needs to be methylated in order to regenerate the important amino acid methionine – failure to do so is dangerous for cardiovascular health.  Adrenaline must be methylated in order to get out of your system so that you can “wind down” – lacking methylation here could leave you anxious or wide awake come bed time.  These are just a few of the scads of methylation reactions happening right now that are keeping inflammation down, detoxification running smoothly, hormone metabolism up to par and your mood on even keel. Know this: if you support methylation your entire body will benefit.

With nearly every system in your body affected by this chemical reaction, your mood, PMS, sleep quality and mood will all be better when it’s clipping along smoothly. Consider supporting this system with:  B vitamins (particularly B12, B6, and folic acid), trimethyl-glycine (also known as betaine) and SAMe.

Wondering how your metylation stacks up? You can see homocystine levels on a simple blood test or you can have various alternative testing done to see markers of methylation (see www.metametrix.com for more information or find a functional medicine practitioner).

B vitamin status is seen in a common CBC, aka a complete blood count, and more specifically B12 levels are checked with a test called methylmalonic acid. (Note: blood levels of folic acid or B12 are not accurate for B vitamin status, but rather reflect recent vitamin intake from food and supplements. Methylmalonic acid and homocysteine are not routinely run, so you’ll need to ask your doctor.)  There is also a genetic marker for methylation called the MTFR gene that can be tested for as well.

When looking for a supplement, I recommend using a combination product of several B vitamins and in light of recent damming evidence on synthetic folic acid, look for a product containing a particular form of folic acid: L-5-methyl tetrahydrofolate, to ensure efficacy and safety.

December 28, 2010 at 11:00 am Leave a comment

Be Smart About Your Sweeteners

The diet world is filled with mysterious sugar substitutions, and the health world with “natural sweeteners.” Research shows us though, that people experience fewer sweet cravings when they stop using artificial sweeteners, and they don’t of themselves cause more weight loss. But if you want to sweeten and still lose fat, opt for stevia or sugar alcohols and here’s why:

Stevia is from the plant stevia rebaudinana, called “sweet leaf,” it is completely natural, is 300 times sweeter than sugar (a little goes a long way!), and does not aggravate insulin (thus no fat storing message to your body). It has a slightly bitter aftertaste, so if you dislike artificial sweeteners like aspartame, then stick with the sugar alcohols.

 Sugar Alcohols

Found in many low carb or sugar free products, these sweeteners have little or no effect on insulin and are from natural sources. While digestive disruption is not unheard of, if you incorporate them slowly into your diet most adapt without issue.

First, xylitol: derived from birch tree bark or corn husks, it’s typically used 1:1 as a substitute for sugar.  This sugar alcohol (naturally found in fruit) also slows stomach emptying – helping you feel full quicker. It also helps prevent dental cavities, sinus and middle ear infections. Chew xylitol gym and use xylitol nasal spray if you are prone to sinus infections.

Erthritol has a slight vanilla taste, is about 70% as sweet as regular sugar and can help support healthy intestinal bacteria. Sold under several brand names including Zerose, Sweet Simplicity and Truvia (in combination with stevia).

Finally, malitol and sorbitol are found in many sugar free products and these two cause the most digestive disturbance (bloating and laxative action) – so go slow.

The Natural Sugars

Natural products are teeming with so called healthy “sugar” – evaporated cane juice, molasses, maple syrup, barley malt, malt syrup, fructose, crystalline fructose, date sugar, fruit juice concentrate, brown sugar, raw sugar, sucanant, turbinado sugar, honey and agave syrup. Touted as healthy alternatives, when it comes to insulin they behave almost just like regular sugar, so they are bad news for fat loss. Two of these sweeteners, honey and agave, deserve a closer look:

Honey is 30% fructose and 50% glucose (white sugar is 50% glucose and 50% fructose). Its insulin response is ideal post workout – just the right amount to lower cortisol, so add a bit to a post workout recovery shake.

With its low Glycemic Index (GI score), agave has received a lot of attention as a healthy sugar alternative. It’s low GI because it is nearly all fructose (90%) and GI only reflects glucose loads in the blood, not fructose levels. This 90% fructose content makes it very similar to a decidedly unhealthy sweetener: high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). A large amount of fructose a problem because it doesn’t require insulin (as glucose does) which leaves it in the bloodstream longer, possibly generating more free radicals. Also, because it doesn’t need insulin for metabolism it can be tough on the liver to deal with a large amounts of fructose.

The Chemical Sugars

In many “diet” foods, the biggies are acesulfame, saccharin (Sweet-N-Low), aspartame (Equal, Nutrasweet) and sucralose (Splenda). Acesulfame is terribly lacking in safety research.  Both saccharine and aspartame have at least some research linking them to cancer.

One of the biggest problems with aspartame is its potent neurostimulant properties, as it’s made from aspartic acid and phenylalanine. Its combination with caffeine in most diet sodas, make it a tough habit to kick and causes withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, nausea and irritation.

Finally, there’s sucralose (brand name: Splenda), which touts hundreds of studies that show its safety. However, with its close chemical resemblance to common pesticides, I think it warrants scrutiny and caution.

December 21, 2010 at 11:59 am 1 comment

Day 20 – I Am Inspired To Get Out Of My Own Way

Here we are, after 20 days of dredging up nasty feelings and trying to transform them into something more kind, something more useful. So how are we feeling? 

I am feeling good. I am excited for 2011 and I feel I’ve wrestled a few of my demons.  I feel more than ready to get back into lifting – yoga, I like ya but you’re not enough for me!  I am however in less pain everyday – neck, back and hip are holding steady – so it was worth it.

Hum, what else have a learned?  A lot actually…

This project taught me that most of us women are too damn hard on ourselves. We set a ridiculous standard and beat ourselves up for not achieving it. I love striving for very lofty goals, so I’m probably not going to stop that…but I am going to approach it differently from now on. I can still give it my all and aim high but if I fall short I don’t have to make that mean I’m terrible or go to my default: I’m not good enough.

If I get to 20% body fat when I wanted 18%, I can be bummed that I missed the goal but I can be stoked about how great 20% is and proud of all the work I did to achieve it. Instead of beating myself up for failing, I can use what I learned from getting to 20% and with love and kindness (not hate, disappointment and upset) to keep on truckin’ to 18….or wherever, so long as I feel good.

I can also know that I can love myself at 18%, 20% or even 40%. I can want and work towards a better body but hating my current body is always optional, detrimental….and I shouldn’t do it.  Wanting a tauter tummy or slimmer thighs is fine, feeling like we have to be miserable until we get them is not fine – and in fact it keeps us from the tummy and thighs we are working so hard for.  

I have learned that all my insecurities that have scared me and stopped me from being vulnerable in the past are still there, but they are not so scary anymore. I’ve shared and been open and I feel more in control of my “issues” than ever before. My heart can still sink with bad feelings from time to time, like when I think “Brooke, how could you have possibly even considered taking a month off the gym? You’re getting all squishy!” I get these nasty thoughts and my mind starts to spin. This is where the beating up starts, but lately it’s only been for a couple seconds before I can rein it in. I can turn those thoughts into something positive and something that helps me feel good. Thoughts that move me forward to where I want to be instead of the type that kick me back down.

I have also learned that we are all more loved, supported and revered than we realize. When we feel badly about ourselves or our bodies, we discount compliments from our partners. When they say, “You’re beautiful”, we roll our eyes. We can’t see support coming to us from all over the place. We miss it because I mean really, who could could possibly love this mess I call me? We don’t always share what’s going on in our lives because we assume no one will care – and we really don’t share the bad stuff, cuz lets face it: that’s best kept under tight wraps! There’s nothing more exciting than to know that this blog projects has been called brave and inspiring from everyone to my patients, friends from high school that I haven’t seen in 15 years, to my best friend’s dad. And this project has connected me even more to the support I already knew I had, like Taryn, my brother, Joe and his mom, Laura.

So what do we do with all that? It’s hardly a project complete, even if I’m not writing daily about my body image woes – some of this “stuff” will be with me for years to come. But with what I’ve learned and the perspective I’ve chosen to take, I feel inspired to go forward in a healthier, more productive way. I’m done punishing myself with dieting and hours at the gym. I am done stopping myself. I am done getting in my own way.

Today, I vow to feel good about what I put into my body and what I do with my body from now on. (And I forgive myself in advance if I screw that up and be mean in my head. “Hey Brooke, sorry about that. It was hurtful, and I didn’t mean it. You’re awesome. Now please feel good again.”)

While this may be my last daily blog for awhile, I’m not disappearing. Here’s a couple of ways we can stay connected:

*I will be continuing to share my journey on this blog (as well as all my other articles). Subscribe to the blog and receive an email every time I post.

*I will still be doing weekly emails for those of you wanting fat loss tips, support and inspiration as well as more general natural health newsletters. Sign up at my fabulous new website!

*I’ve loved the sense of connection to much through this project and I will be continuing in that vein come 2011 via my Facebook page.  Be sure to “like” it and get ready to hit the ground running in New Year and we create our best bodies yet!  We’ve been grateful and inspired, now January means it’s time to create!

Thanks everyone for reading and for the outpouring of support and gratitude!  Happy Holidays!!

December 20, 2010 at 3:33 pm Leave a comment

Day 19 – I Am Inspired To Leggo My Ego

Or rather, my ego needs to leggo me. 

Our ego: the set of beliefs we have about ourselves that keep us in the role or position in life that we can handle. When we contradict those beliefs we feel unsure and even unsafe. Our ego quickly pulls us back in to the role we play: the not good enough one, the bad one, the overweight one, and so on. It holds us to a definition of ourselves that keeps us feeling just a little bit bad about this or that – never fully feeling safe to just feel completely good about ourselves.  It keeps us always thinking we need to be a little bit better, a little bit smarter or a little bit thinner. 

It beats us up. It’s our internal judge. And no one on this planet will judge you harsher than your own ego. Whether your ego tells you you’re wrong, bad, fat, lazy, stupid, unlovable or unattractive; it does all these things to keep us in our place. A place we may not be happy in, but we seem stuck there.

The truth is we are dying to break free from this place but our easily threatened ego quickly stifles our attempts to be more than we currently are and to be happy. Wondering what your ego thinks about you? Whatever we tell ourselves in a moment of failure, that’s our ego talking. I blew it because, “I’m blah blah blah”.  Or in those moments when we feel inspired to take a brave step and then think “Oh no, I can’t do that. What would people think?” or “I am not _____ enough to do that”.  And boom, you’re knocked right back down where your ego thinks you belong. Youv’e been put back in the role you know how to handle, where you’re comfy.

Think about this: if your ego thinks you are overweight, flabby and unattractive, how can you ever be fit, lean and beautiful. If your ego keeps you in the role of unhappy, how can you ever actually BE happy? Two things can’t exist simultaneously – the door can’t be both open and shut at the same time.  We must choose. Our ego will always pick the familiar role – the one we may be trying hard to outgrow – and just like that the spark to be better gets squelched. Extinguished. Stamped out.

Well if we really want to be happy and in our perfect, healthy body we need to let it go. It’s not going to go quietly though and I’m not sure it will ever go completely – but you can get it to loosen its grip on you.

For 2011, the role I want to break free from is the “perfect one”. I am embracing that my best is enough, I don’t need to be perfect, I just need to do my best and be kind to myself in the process.  My best one week may be 4 workouts instead of 6 because I’m sick or tired or just need another recovery day. My best will be doing those 4 workouts well and not obsessing over the time at the gym that I missed.  My thoughts about food will be of nourishment and health, not on what I can’t have because I need to be on a diet. 

2011 is just around the corner: what roles would you like to redefine or break free from this year? Where is your ego holding you back, keeping you from doing what you love or loving yourself completely?  What do you want to think or feel about yourself when you look back at 2011 from next December? I know that I want to have a less harsh judgement of myself and redefine what it means for me to like my body, hips and all. Come December 2011, I want to know I’ve kicked my sweet little ego’s butt.

December 19, 2010 at 11:30 pm Leave a comment

Day 18 – I Am Inspired To Be Bold

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” ~ van Goethe 

I was not particularly schooled in van Goethe’s work or philosophy, but the greeting card with these words spoke to me so I bought it, framed it and set it on my desk.  I have also never particularly thought of myself as bold, but I realize I haven’t been paying much attention to who I really am. And it turns out I am quite bold.

I think for so many years my focus has been what’s wrong with me, what I need to fix, what others must dislike about me. Even in my most shining moments, there was still a nagging doubt in my mind about my worth. 

Boldness is something I’ve admired in other people – those people that have the courage and stamina to really do amazing things and the belief in that they can make it.  The people that see what they want and don’t stop to doubt, they just do. Even if they have questions or concerns, they go for it; trusting in themselves that they’ll figure it out.

I’ve always thought women who were bold were beautiful…no matter what they looked like. Boldness seems to create an air of beauty regardless of their haircut or body fat percentage. When I met a woman that embodied this quality, I always wanted to be more like her. But being bold means knowing you’ve got what it takes to make big things happen  – trusting that when you take that step, you’ll land on your feet. How could someone who wonders if she’s good enough take that kind of risk?

When I look back at my life since my early twenties, turns out whether I thougtht I could or not, that’s exactly how I’ve been living my life. Turns out I’ve been a bold, daring woman all along. Why couldn’t I see it? My doubt was clouding the reality of who I actually was. I’m not saying that everything I’ve ever done has been a success, but I have been bold. I’ve been a woman I would admire…and I’m glad I can finally see her. 

With about $2000 to my name, a brand new relationship and a whole lot of fear I left my comfortable life in Seattle and moved to Manhattan.  I was scared that I wouldn’t find new patients to fill my practice – no one had any idea what the hell a “naturopathic doctor” was. “Oh you mean like a massage therapist?” No not really. “Well at least you didn’t have to go to school for that.” Actually I went for a really long time, not unlike other doctors you may know.

I was wondering how we’d pay rent and buy food – NYC is not a cheap place to move to. I felt nervous how I’d possibly fit in with the people here – I’d seen Sex and the City after all and was pretty sure I couldn’t manage running around in couture and 3 inch heels every day. But I did it anyway. I was bold.

Since I’ve been here I’ve had my moments where my fear got the best of me and I shied away from opportunities, but for the most part I’ve seized them.  In just the last week I’ve had talks of a new book, talks of a TV show and booked 2 spots on radio for January. Wanna know the best part? I am starting to feel less like this all was all luck and realizing that I’ve been bold and taken a lot of action. I am starting to realize that I may be more than I thought I was – despite what I feel like on my worst days.

We spend so much time and energy on the things we aren’t happy about, the things we want to change about ourselves, that we fail to see ourselves clearly.  In the struggle to be perfect and finally rid ourselves of theoe nasty flaws, sometimes we miss who we already are.

So do something bold today: be honest with yourself about who you really are. It’s not all bad is it? In fact, some of it is very admirable.  I’ve realized lately that we are often closer to the person we’re trying to become than we think and when we stop thinking we can’t be happy until we get there, we miss out on life and on ourselves.

December 18, 2010 at 10:36 pm Leave a comment

Day 17 – I Am Inspired To Pay Attention!

When we are feeling overwhelmed or down about ourselves or our bodies well, we need a little love. And sometimes we don’t know where to find it so the feeling down, alone and unsupported perpetuates. Our girlfriends are busy, our beau is out of town (if there is one) and our boss is cranky….where’s the love people??

It’s there – we just have to pay attention. Right now, look around and see all the love, support and inspiration coming to you. Seriously, look right now. Take stock of just how much you have to feel great about.

I wasn’t feeling particulary down today, just a little under the weather, but in a matter of about three minutes, here’s what I saw: 

My Yogi tea bag – It says, ” Be proud of who you are.” Thanks little tea bag guru, I think I will.

Taryn and Darcy.

My marketing – Feel better, look better, be better. I am wrapping up my new website and my messaging makes me glow.  I love it! I finally feel I’ve found my message, my voice and my place. I feel at home. This message was crafted with help from two of my favorite people: Taryn and Darcy. Thinking of them makes me glow a little too.

My Facebook email – Last night I got a message from one of my best friends from high school thanking me for my  blogs. She told me which ones resonated with her and that she appreciated my health tips. And the sweetest part? She said she feels like she’s getting to know me all over again. Thanks Kristin!

My Facebook wall – A quick glance shows people saying thank you for inspiring them and that me just being me is the “best”. I was late to the Facebook bandwagon but I really love feeling connected to people I otherwise would feel distant from. Be it colleagues, old friends or new friends – it’s been great.

My photos – The picture on our shelf of my grandparents’ tiny homestead. Reminds me of my roots and that I’ve come a very long way!

My Grandparents' homestead in Montana.

My website testimonials tab– My new site is nearly up and I have the sweetest list of testimonials from patients I’ve helped.  My perfectionist issue makes me feel as though I need to “win ‘em all” – and medicine and weight loss simply don’t work that way.  It’s nice to be reminded of the difference I’ve made.

Our first NYC Christmas. Joe gave me these gloves embroidered with "Dr. Kickass".

My cell phone – I still have the very first text message Joe sent me over 5 years ago. It reminds me how lucky I am to have such a great relationship and of all that we’ve accomplished and endured together since we moved to NYC.

My book shelf – Glancing over and seeing a book I wrote sitting on the shelf next to my collection of nutrition books from my heroes…wow. I don’t give it enough credence to. 2010 – the year I published a book!

My tea cup – I’m on day 3 of no coffee….and actually, by some miracle, I’m feeling fine.  Coffee and I do fine in a casual relationship, but I tend to make it serious and end up having too much and feeling like garbage.  Could I be learning moderation?

My bottle of herbs for this cold I’m fighting – I am so grateful for natural medicine and that I can keep myself well in a way that I feel very confident, passionate and excited about.  I am actually stimulating my own body’s capacity to fight this virus instead of simply taking a decongestant to treat a symptom.

My schedule – Up this afternoon: weekly call with my new project group – Nourishing Women. To know I’m worthy of being a part of this smart, fit, amazing group of women makes my heart swell.

My fridge – It’s stocked with fresh veggies and lean proteins, just waiting for me to eat well.
My yoga mat – Rolled up there in the corner, ready for me to heal my low back and hip. And with it right here at arms length I don’t even have to venture out on this chilly December day in Manhattan!
My box of Christmas presents to be mailed – I not only get to spend this Christmas with Joe’s wonderful family, but my brother, sister in law and my sweet niece will be joining us in Seattle. I can hardly contain myself I’m so excited!

My brother's first Christmas. When asked what I thought of him, apparently I said, "He's just what I wanted."

 

Whether you’re feeling down, overwhelemed or just because – look around at your space and your life and see all the love and support coming to you. It’s all there, just waiting to help you feel better. So pay attention!

December 17, 2010 at 7:04 pm 1 comment

Day 16 – I Am Inspired To Do My Best, Not My Perfect

A small, but life changing book for me was The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. I’ve read it several times and pasted the agreements on my bathroom mirror. These four simple rules make life a lot easier – yet they are not always easy to follow. As a recovering perfectionist the one that comes to mind today is “Always do your best.” 

Doing my best has always meant doing everything perfect. Doing any task better than everyone and preferably looking good while doing so. In school, anything less than an A was the equivalent of failing to me.  If my mood were ever to deviate from happy, easy to be around, cool, fun girl then I was a lunatic. When I was too tired to prep and keep a super clean diet – or heaven forbid I needed to miss a workout – then I deserved to feel fat and unhappy.  If a friend gotten busy and hadn’t called me back, it was because I’d somehow horribly offended them or otherwise did something terrible and I thus deserved to be shunned.

So it was quite a shock to me when I found out that my friends sometimes just get busy and call when they have a chance. That I can have a bad day, be cranky and my boyfriend still loves me. That I can fail and the world doesn’t end. What might be shocking to you all is that I was a grown woman in my 30s when I realized this.

Turns out I can be happy weighing a few pounds over my goal weight. It appears that the people that love me don’t leave if I miss a beat. And apparently, I can be honest about all my imperfections and I’m actually more revered and liked than before. Huh…who knew?

I was at my breaking point a few months ago – stressed and completely exhausted, my relationship hanging by a thread and feeling like I didn’t belong on the stage I’d risen to – and something had to change. I had to redefine my best.  Don Miguel Ruiz describes always doing our best as: “Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick.  Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.”

Well I’ll be damned…turns out my best doesn’t always have to be 110%. If I am feeling 75% because I didn’t get enough sleep or have a cold, then all I am responsible is just that 75%.  Note: he also says nothing about our best being equal to being perfect.  Guess my best is whatever I decide it to be – whatever I can feel good about.

I’ve never felt good unless I was doing it better than everyone. I needed to be the best, anything less just wouldn’t do.  I’d beat myself up for not preparing more or doing more.  I’d berate myself for falling short and end up not sleeping, crying and driving the people that love me up the wall. They didn’t understand the ridiculous amount of unnecessary pressure I put on myself – it’s not healthy and it’s hardly my best. 

Some days you simply don’t have 110% to give and I’m learning that as long as I do my best, not my perfect, then I have no reason to feel bad. I do not have to be super human, do it all on no sleep, go above and for every single venture. If I honor where I’m at in that moment, rise to that moment – to that moment alone, then I can feel very good about myself. And there’s no reason to feel I came up short.

That seems like a good agreement to make with myself – and a good one to keep.

December 17, 2010 at 2:36 am Leave a comment

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