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5 Habits for Exceptional Health

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1. Start your day with awareness

Meditate. Drink tea. Write down three things you’re grateful for.

By paying attention to yourself first thing in the morning you set a peaceful tone for the day ahead, and honor the possibilities of a new day.

2. Only eat when you’re hungry

We make thousands of choices about food every day. Eating should only be done when you’re hungry. Not bored. Not sad. Not lonely. Not drunk. By eating when you’re not hungry you don’t allow your digestive system to relax, and more than likely you’ve got waste hanging out in your intestines that won’t get properly broken down and used for energy. This leads to weight gain, lack of energy, inflammation, and toxicity in the body. When you feel hungry, ask yourself if that’s really what it is. Most of the time, a glass of water, cup of tea, or walk around the block will help get rid of the urge and tide you over until your next meal.

3. Don’t punish yourself

We all do things we’re not proud of, but when it comes to food we tend to be typically brutal on ourselves. If you want desert, eat desert. If you want a glass of wine, enjoy a glass of wine. Don’t look back on it and hate on yourself for it.

By making reasonable indulgences part of your regimen, you won’t go crazy at your niece’s pizza party and pass out covered in ice cream. Commit to a solid foundation of whole, nutrient dense foods, and mindfully appreciate when it comes to enjoying things that aren’t necessarily so healthy.

4. Make exercise an enjoyable ritual

If you hate yoga, don’t do yoga. If running the stairs ten times makes you nauseous at the thought of it, stay away from the stairs.

Being active is a critical part of a vibrant life. The most important part of exercising is finding activity that suits you as an individual. This is the only way you’ll stick with it and the only way it will benefit you. Do whatever is in line with what makes you happy. Ride your bike at sunset. Walk your dog for an extra twenty minutes. Join a local team for a sport you played in high school. Pick something and get to it.

5. Eat the colors of the rainbow

Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds – these foods are completely packed with all the nutrients you need for a healthy body and mind. Do as best you can to start all your meals with vegetables, and to snack on fruit and nuts during the day.  You’ll have tons of energy, great skin, and a strong immune system, and will save money at the store not buying packaged products.

Photo by Ben Moore


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Why Fat Isn’t the Enemy

Over the last few years, fat has been demonized. It’s been named the source of our health problems as a society and is associated with all kinds illnesses. As a solution, a large majority of the population now seeks out non-fat or low-fat foods in order to help them keep their calorie count down for the day.

The most critical point to note about making food choices based around fat content is that so many crucial nutrients are missed in this process. Foods that are meant to have fat, things like yogurt, meats, nuts, milk, and oils, have fat for a reason. Yes, eating too much unhealthy fat will lead you to gain weight, but what many cautious consumers tend to misunderstand is the important function fat plays in our bodies’ overall health, and that eating foods injected with artificial additives actually encourages your body to gain weight.

Not all fat is created equal

By now most of us have heard about essential fatty acids (EFAs), omega-3s, omega-6s, saturated fat and trans fats.

In brief:

            Enjoy Omega-3s plentifully

            Eat in moderation: Saturated fats from animals and omega-6s

            Avoid like the plague: Trans fats (partially or fully hydrogenated ANYTHING)

The reason certain fats are called ‘essential’ is because we don’t make them naturally in our bodies, so we must get them from out diet.

EFAs are extremely important for a number of things ranging from healthy hair and skin, to metabolism regulation, to brain health.

The last point is especially important to note, as our brains are 80% fat. Researchers believe that 60% of Americans are deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids, and that inadequate amounts of EFAs can lead to various health issues including anxiety, depression, ADD and even Alzheimer’s disease. 

Eat fat to lose weight

Healthy fats that come from nuts, avocados, flax and hemp seeds should be included in every meal. Omega-3 fats will not make you gain weight and can actually aid in weight loss. This is possible due to the fact that they help you feel more satisfied after a meal, and more importantly, studies shows that they improve insulin sensitivity.

Insulin sensitivity means that your body responds quickly to insulin, and thus doesn’t require a lot of it to store carbohydrates. When you have high insulin levels, you have high fat storage. Having a high sensitivity to insulin keeps your levels low and allows your body to release fat more easily.

EFAs are extremely good at reducing inflammation, something that precedes obesity and also causes the body to become resistant to a hormone that tells us when we’re full. 

Eat food that grows on a plant, don’t eat foods made in a plant

I harp on this all the time, but eating chemically injected foods that are ‘generally regarded as safe’ by the USDA just don’t cut it for a healthy lifestyle. They mess with your hormones, your brain, and your skin, and certainly won’t help you feel or look good.  

If you’re looking for a healthy diet, it’s simple. I suggest eating things that are naturally low in calories – fruits and vegetables- and things that are naturally high in omega-3 fatty acids– nuts, avocadoes, olive oil, hemp seeds, flax and coconut oil. Feel free to enjoy wine, chocolate and coffee, but maintain whole foods high in fiber and nutrients as the core of your diet. 


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Upgrade Your Eating Habits

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Here are some simple tips to incorporate into your routine that will help make healthy eating more efficient, cooking easier, and shopping simpler.

  • Cook once eat twice – Cooking new meals every day can be time consuming, so cook enough food at dinner so that you can modify it a little the next day and have it for lunch.
  • Buy organic – Look at it this way: you can either pay the farmer or pay the hospital. Yes, it’s more expensive, but you’ll get much more out of your foods. Most of our nutrients come from the soil so if soil quality is compromised by pesticides our food is nutrient deficient. Additionally, pesticides can be very harmful for our brains, fertility, and organs, and lead to various diseases. Start out buying 50% organic. Some foods are more affected than others by pesticides, so check out this guide to help you decide what to definitely buy organic: http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/
  • Chop vegetables right when you get home from the grocery store – Having your veggies already chopped and ready to go when it comes time to cook makes it that much easier and faster to get to dinner time. Buy onions, bell peppers, green beans, carrots, and celery that can be easily stored in a Tupperware and will keep well for a few days.
  • To hydrate, only drink water – Any small benefit of drinks that have vitamins or electrolytes is always outweighed by the sugar content, and is a big contributor to weight gain, hyperactivity in children, irritability, and anxiety. Flavored ice teas, juices, sparkling juices, sodas, and sports drinks are all full of sugar. If you have to have a sweet drink try and start cutting down, treat it as an indulgence and see if sparkling water with lemon or lime helps cut the cravings.
  • Eat slowly, stop when you’re full – As simple as this sounds a lot of us eat way past when we’re full. When we eat quickly it takes our brain time to catch up to our stomachs to realize that we’ve had enough. Slowing down allows us to stop when we’re full and avoid overeating. A good rule of thumb is to eat until you feel about 80% full.
  • Chew your food – Chewing food thoroughly is extremely important. When we chew, our bodies begin to create digestive enzymes that help us break down our food. When we don’t chew properly, our stomachs aren’t prepared properly to digest. Not only that, our stomachs don’t have teeth (obviously), so when we swallow food that’s still partially whole our bodies have to work extra hard to break down the food. This takes tons of energy from us and creates that tired, lethargic feeling we often have when we’re done eating.
  • Don’t buy foods that have more than 10 grams of sugar in a serving – Sugar is everywhere! Sugar content in foods is growing every year and is an extreme contributor to weight gain as it sends our insulin levels up and tells the body to store fat. Do your best to avoid sugar and if something does have sugar in it, make sure it’s less than 10 grams per serving.
  • Drink water 20 minutes before eating – When we drink while we eat it makes it hard for our stomachs to properly release the digestive enzymes we need to break down food. Because we’re not able to break the food down properly it rots in our digestive tracts and isn’t effectively eliminated. Undigested food is also a big reason for why many of us feel bloated or overly full after eating a reasonably sized portion.
  • If you’re feeling hungry and it’s not snack or meal time, try drinking water – Many times we mistake thirst for hunger, so we go to food to satisfy the craving we’re having. This unnecessary eating leads to weight gain and dehydration.
  • View dairy products as an indulgence – Cheese and milk are very delicious, but they’re also very hard for your body to digest and are high in fat. When they’re not high in fat they tend to be high in sugar, which encourages your body to put on weight. Cutting down on dairy and viewing it as an indulgence will help you to lose weight and keep it off more easily.
  • Sprinkle ground flax seeds on your meals – A large percentage of the US population is fiber deficient. Ground flax seeds are an excellent way to fortify your meals with fiber to help with digestion and promote healthy liver function. Super easy and very healthy!
  • Buy pink Himalayan salt – Salt is actually a very important mineral for humans but has gotten a bad rap. While white table salt is highly refined and is hard on our hearts and arteries, pink Himalayan salt is in its natural form, and when eaten in small amounts can be good for us. It tastes the same without being processed and harmful to your body.
  • Cook with coconut oil – Coconut oil is an excellent source of omega 3 essential oils. These are extremely important for our metabolism, memory, prevention against depression and anxiety, skin health, heart health and more. It can be very sweet at first so use it with veggies that are already a little sweet like squash, onions and carrots. It’s also a lot more stable than fruit oils like olive oil so it can handle high temperatures very well.
  • Eat the colors of the rainbow – When shopping, your basket should be full of brightly colored veggies and fruits! Various colors promote different functions of the body, so make sure to get a colorful combination. Bell peppers, sweet potatoes, onions, spinach, cucumbers and berries are a great place to start.


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5 Beliefs That Lead Us to Gain Weight

I talk to people all the time who are so confused as to why they’re gaining weight. They tell me they don’t eat much and when they do it’s low fat, or they pay so much attention to calories and carbs that this should be thinner. They’ve tried so many ways of slimming down to no avail, all of which ended in frustration and usually a carb-fest. Why is it so hard for us to be thin?

Let’s look at the broad picture…

Americans are fatter than ever before and we’re getting larger by the generation. From the outside this would seem unlikely: everywhere we go we see new ways to lose weight, fat free foods, and gyms on every corner. We have access to the highest quality food and information about nutrition, but we continue to get heavier and sicker every single year. Of our $2 trillion healthcare budget $1.5 trillion is spent treating preventable diseases. If we are supposedly more educated, more active and more aware than ever before, why are we still gaining weight?

As food has become more of a hot topic it’s become much more complicated. The healthiest foods for us have one ingredient, are grown in the ground and have an expiration date. These foods are making up smaller fractions of our diets as they’re being replaced with complex, more elaborate versions of food.

What’s making things even more difficult are the multitudes of diets that are out there now: gluten free, dairy free, vegan, vegetarian, fruitarian, Paleo, non-fat, low-fat, low-carb, GMO-free, blah blah blah. How are we supposed to eat anything when everything is bad for us??!

These diets lead people to eat all kinds of things that really aren’t good for them, and on top of that, dieting, as it turns out, is the biggest pre-cursor for weight gain.

Many things affect the way we do (or don’t) gain weight- genetics, environmental factors, our inner ecology, and our body types. The nice thing to know is that there are healthy ways to control our weight and give our bodies what they need, while still enjoying what we eat. For many people it’s the beliefs around food that lead to the development of sickness and weight gain in certain people. Here are some beliefs we hold as a society that lead us to unsuspectingly gain weight, and why it’s so important to change these beliefs.

1. All calories are created equal

A lot of people seem to believe that it doesn’t matter what you eat as long as you watch your calories. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. What’s much more powerful than how many calories we consume is what certain foods cause our hormones to do.

Our hormones govern everything in our bodies. Hormones such as insulin, thyroid hormone, cortisol and estrogen regulate our weight, energy levels, concentration, immune response and more. The food we eat has an enormous influence on our hormones and has the power to disrupt their delicate balance, which can lead to lots of problems, one of which is weight gain. If your hormone balance is off this can increase cravings for sugar and carbs, encourage you to eat more in a sitting and more often, feel less satiated after a meal, and cause your body to store more food as fat. This imbalance will do much more harm to your waistline than an extra 100 calories from an avocado or olive oil will

For instance, something may be very low in calories, but still contain high-fructose corn syrup. What you’re eating may be low fat, but when it enters your body and you digest it, high fructose corn syrup causes a huge spike in insulin levels, which instructs your body to store fat. This accelerates insulin resistance and obesity, and causes resistance to leptin, the hormone that signals to your brain that you are full. The same effects happen from foods with artificial sweeteners, pesticides, hydrogenated oils, and refined flours and sugars.

Ingesting less calories will not prevent you gaining weight, especially if the foods you are eating are loaded with ingredients made in a lab. When the body detects a toxin it extracts it from the blood stream and puts it in a fat cell to protect the organs from the toxin. People who have very toxic systems tend to gain weight quickly because their body is doing it’s best to protect the vital organs from the toxins.

There needs to be a shift in thinking that values quality of calories over quantity.

Although there is no perfect combination for the right hormone balance, the right foods, consistent exercise, good sleep, and stress management will certainly help. High fiber, whole foods (leafy greens, mushrooms, ginger, flax, quinoa, and water, to name a few) help stabilize your metabolism, improve the efficacy of your kidneys and liver, strengthen your digestion, and reduce inflammation. These are the things your body needs to be thin and energetic, not fewer calories.

2. Fat free foods will help us lose weight

With so many items out there to choose from, food companies have devised clever ways to market their products. Unfortunately these labeling tactics can be deceptive and misleading. Because of our country’s obsession with dieting and being thin, a lot of foods are marked as low fat or fat free. What we fail to consider is how something with supposedly zero calories can still taste good. The way the food industry makes things taste good while having no calories or fat is to artificially enhance the flavor through processed additives such as high fructose corn syrup or aspartame. Things like yogurt, cereal, bagels, lean cuisines and sodas usually have these chemical additives in them.

Artificial sweeteners not only fail to satisfy your hunger the way real sugar would and leads to overeating, but they have an extremely high glycemic load resulting in insulin production and increased fat storage. They also inhibit the hormone leptin that increases your metabolic rate and signals to your brain that you’re full.

There are numerous other risks associated with consuming artificial sweeteners such as depression, anxiety, headaches and brain tumors, but for those most concerned with vanity they will most definitely lead to weight gain.

If you are eating something that comes in a package, flip it over and read the ingredients. If there are artificial sweeteners and chemical additives, there is a 99% chance that those ingredients will encourage your body to put on weight.

The lowest calorie foods are not advertised as such because they come naked, as they are, in the fruit and vegetable section. If fruit and vegetables are organic they are our best bet to reduce our chances of unsuspectingly consuming chemicals and additives that contribute to weight gain.

3. Dairy is good for us

I’m sorry to say this, but dairy has the nutritional content of cardboard.

There is a school of thought that full fat, whole milk and cheese provides enzymes and probiotics important for a healthy system. This may have been true when people raised their own cows but with commercial dairy this is typically not the case. There are many reasons not to eat dairy, so I’ll just make it straightforward:

· Dairy products are so highly pasteurized and processed that any nutritional value the might hold is completely gone by the time it hits grocery shelves.

· Dairy cows are injected with a genetically engineered hormone called rbGH to produce dairy year round instead of only when they are pregnant. This can lead to extreme weight gain in humans and also can be a precursor to diabetes and lead to heart disease or cancer.

· Milk from cows is perfectly suited to turn a 65-pound calf into a 400-pound cow within a year because of its high protein and mineral content. Unless you’re seriously trying to bulk up, you don’t need milk.

· If you are eating dairy from a cow that has been fed grain for some or most of it’s life, chances are that cow has spent its life very ill. Evolutionarily speaking, a cow’s stomach is designed to digest grass, not grain, so the grain creates an acidic environment in the stomach and cannot be properly digested. In order to prevent cows from becoming sick they are fed a steady flow of antibiotics. This is not a nutritious source of food.

Everything noted above will lead you to gain weight. If you are concerned about getting enough calcium, make sure to eat lots of leafy greens and you will be fine. If you can’t give up dairy entirely, as I know many people can’t, treat it as an indulgence, not a nutritious part of your diet, and enjoy it in moderation.

4. Eating well is too expensive

Yes, eating whole organic foods does cost more and take more time than packaged low-fat foods and diet drinks. However, what’s far more expensive is being sick. There are no excuses for this one. Cheap food high in calories and low in nutrition will cause you to gain weight, and often leads to many more serious health problems. Much of your health is in your own hands, and you have the power to protect yourself from sickness and disease with high quality, whole foods.

5. Portions should be large, we must eat quickly

Thousands of years ago when we were cavemen food was sparse. When it was available it was eaten in abundance, and the excess was stored as fat because it was unclear when the next full meal would be.

For some reason we still eat this way.

Eating should be a slow, luxurious experience, but most people act as though someone is going to rip the fork out of their hands any minute so it’s best to eat as much and as quickly as possible. When we eat at such a pace we fail to recognize when we’re full and eat much more than we need.

Portion size has grown drastically over the last hundred years. One Canadian study found that people overestimate the size of an appropriate portion and underestimate the amount they actually eat. The result is huge portions that lead people to overeat.

Another issue is that people don’t eat regularly enough. Skipping meals or substituting coffee for food means that when we actually sit down to a meal we eat way more than we need. Prepare for the day with some healthy snacks like nuts, fruit and chopped veggies so that when you feel hungry you’re prepared. This will prevent you from eating way too much later on.

Avoid overeating by using smaller plates, actually measure things when you cook, and share meals with a friend when out at a restaurant.

There are many reasons why we as a country are over-fed and under-nourished. A large part of this is due to the fact that we’re consuming more things created in a lab than ever before. These come as additives in our packaged foods, pesticides on our fruits and vegetables, and hormones in our animal products. Protect yourself by being mindful, reading labels and considering the source of your food before you buy it. When it comes to nutrition keep it simple, buy things with less than five ingredients, and make the majority of what you eat fresh vegetables.


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Who needs protein anyway?

When many of us think of protein a hamburger or muscle-bound weight lifter come to mind. Typically most people associate protein with animals, however there are tons of plant based sources of protein that allow you to build muscle, eat well and enjoy your life. Reducing animal sources of protein can actually be very good for you in a number of ways such as heart health, mental clarity, improving your metabolism, immune system strength, and better energy.

While we all know that protein is important, I wante to look at the the specifics of why it’s such an integral part of a balanced diet and thriving life.

Protein is very important for muscle reparation and cell growth, and plays a critical role in many other functions within the body. Apart from water, protein is the most abundant compound in the human body. It keeps your skin looking good, is a critical source of energy and weight control, provides the structure for organs and muscles to build and function upon, and regulates hormones, enzymes and antibodies. It also helps maintain blood sugar levels which impact mood and mental clarity.

Protein makes up the incredibly important neurotransmitters in our brain. These neurotransmitters – serotonin, dopamine, gaba, and catecholamines – help us sleep well, cope with stress, feel happy, and protect us against depression and anxiety. If we don’t have adequate, quality sources of protein these neurotransmitters reduce in number and quality, and fail to regenerate themselves. (Our brains also need quality sources of fat, too. The lack of high quality protein and fat in our diets has lead to scores of mental illnesses that are now developing people earlier on in life than ever before, but I’ll save those details for another post.)

Clearly without protein our bodies are unable to function at optimal levels. While this list of benefits of protein is extensive, it does not mean that over indulging in protein is good for us either. For people who believe that protein should be the largest part of every meal and that the source should be animal products, lots of discomforts can accrue. Having too much animal protein can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and kidney issues.

Making sure you have a quality source of protein is the best way to ensure you get all the benefits without becoming susceptible to the risks. Many people feel that they just can’t fill up without eating meat (much of this comes from the belief that if you’re not totally full you’re still hungry). Protein is very filling however no matter what source it comes from, and is an important part of feeling satiated after a meal. Because protein is a source of energy, eating it with a complete carbohydrate ensures that the energy you receive from it will be distributed into the bloodstream over time instead of all at once. The fantastic thing is that there are some plant sources of protein, quinoa and beans for instance, that are both carbohydrate and protein.

Hemp seeds and spirulina are both complete proteins. Hemp seeds are an amazing source of omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants, and spirulina has tons of iron and chlorophyll to help oxygenate the blood stream. Both are great in a morning smoothie, and I like to sprinkle hemp seeds into soups and salads, and even on top of my almond butter and toast. Dark green veggies like spinach and kale have high amounts of protein too.

The great thing about eating plant sources of protein is that you get so much more than just protein out of them, things like calcium, iron, and antioxidants. By eating whole grains and plants your body can digest and distribute the nutrients very quickly and efficiently, without much strain on your system at all.

Next time you’re looking for a protein packed meal without meat and are not sure what to go for, fear not, veggies and whole grains will more than take care of all your needs. Plus, you’ll have tons more energy and any extra weight lingering as ‘winter storage’ will quickly shed itself. Start slowly if you need to also, beginning with cutting out meat Monday through Wednesdays. You’ll instantly notice a different and will feel less of those cravings you might feel for meat.

For those who do make animal protein their primary source of protein, please, please be mindful when you shop. Get free-range, grass-fed, antibiotic and hormone free meat, eggs and other animal products. Not only is it better for the animals but it’s much better for you. The antibiotics and hormones that are used on animals in the US today are extremely detrimental to our health and negate the benefits that the protein we eat should be giving to us. Additionally, the amount of antibiotics we eat through animal consumption is leading to resistance of antibiotics that would otherwise help us get over a sickness. When it comes to animal protein be thoughtful, take your time, and know that a piece of meat is not a complete meal. Start with veggies, salad, bean etc, and use a palm sized piece of meat to fill out your plate and satiate your appetite

And if you’re looking for a protein packed, meat-free meal, try this one!

Protein salad

I’m always on the go, so I like to have something fast and nourishing ready when I need something quick. I always recommend having something ready to go in the fridge so that I don’t make any poor choices based on lack of time, only to find myself hungry thirty minutes later because I didn’t eat any nutrients. The following is a great recipe for a salad that stays fresh for several days and is packed full of protein and antioxidants.

1 cup pinto beans
1 cup black beans
1 cup corn
3 stalks celery, chopped
one whole red bell pepper, chopped
Half a red onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups quinoa
1-2 tablespoon hemp seeds
1-2 tablespoon chia seeds

Mix all ingredients together and season with olive oil, salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar when ready to enjoy. If your stomach is sensitive to beans try soaking them with a kombu leaf (a seaweed leaf). This has the enzyme that breaks down the complex sugar that leads to gassiness and discomfort. This salad is fast, filling and extremely nourishing, good for lunch or a mid-afternoon snack.