Part of my journey this year as a woman, mom, wife, herbalist is to take better care of myself and I want to make sure that I really try and take care of myself like I would my kids, my husband or my friends and clients. In the past month, I’ve explored doing for my body. Some of it has been hard and some of it has been easier than I would have dreamed, but it’s all been worth it.
We’ve talked about the way I use food but I want to talk about the way I untie from my body. I know that food can be a great burier of issues, a staller of pain or lubricant of joy but I also just uncheck my body. I think that I listen to it in an observational way. I always know when a sickness is coming on or what I feel like right before my period. I knew super early when I was pregnant, every time but I don’t really converse with it unless something is radically amiss. My new intention is to really listen and talk to my body and to do that, I’ve been experimenting.
So last Fall, I was fortunate to attend a free body healing workshop at what is now my second home, Knoxville Healing Center. It’s cliche to say “life changing” but it was. Years ago, I discovered and fell in love with running. I wasn’t really fast or really good but I loved it and it gave me something I never had before, a confidence and a language with my body. It was an amazing 3 years with a few races and lots of treadmills and parks. Then I bought some super cool, oh so groovy shoes that really weren’t designed for my feet and I started having so much pain in both heels. No matter what I did they hurt. Then I had another set back in the health department and I quit running. I tried many things to heal the heels. I would think they were good and then as soon as I had a running regimen, they would start up again. I switched to Yoga but it wasn’t the same, I wasn’t the same.
ANYWAY, after the Maori session where FOUR people walked and skated on my legs and heels, I could run. I took it slowly but I was able to run a mile in 10 minutes for the first time in 5 years and more importantly I didn’t hurt afterward. Hmmmm, this body work thing seemed like a good idea.
The holidays came and went and I kept thinking and feeling, wondering and running. So as part of my journey to be loving to myself, I debated what would actually show me love. I did the cleanse and stuck to it, so I was loving my body with real food and finding out which food made it feel better and which ones made it not happy. I wanted more, so I had a second Maori healing session with Ana Goncavles. This one did not disappoint. There was tension in my body that I knew was there but thought it was pretty harmless. I wasn’t in pain before the session so I assumed no pain was good enough. After the session, I felt euphoric and I took time for myself to just enjoy that feeling, reside with it and not let it seep into the day but let it seep into me. I came to realize that the lack of feeling pain isn’t necessarily the healthy thing. Sometimes, we just numb ourselves to tension. There wasn’t pain but the tension was blocking other feelings. I liked the unblocked me much better.
A month later, I scheduled myself for a massage with Beth Young. It had been a long month of learning, lots of introspection and self work so I had no idea what to expect. I’ve had massages before, some were just wonderful and some weren’t as special but to paraphrase a semi-old saying- “Massages are like pizza, even if they aren’t that great, hey they’re still pizza!” Let’s just say that Beth’s massage was the pizza that Iron Chef Bobby Flay, The Pioneer Woman and your Grandma made. It was freaking out of this world. I’ve never had an experience quite like it and I really don’t know if it was a one time event but I could more than feel what she was doing. It came with imagery and when I got off the table, I needed more time to “come to” but what I was really doing was coming back into my body, feeling parts that I didn’t feel for such a long time. When I went to bed that night, my back was sore from where she opened up pressure points but instead of wincing in pain I sighed in relief. I was aware of the free space that used to hold so much stress and it bound up my freedom of movement and feeling.
So I’m still processing all of this and getting comfy with my body, listening not just to pain or discomfort but contentment and happiness. Where do they want to occupy space in my body? I know I carry tension in my shoulders and chest but where are my giggles, my breathless awe that comes from compassion or the love that I feel for my family and friends. I don’t want to just “know” these answers, I want to place them and recognize them when they are here with me or not. This is the only way to honor them and myself.
There are many levels of how we undernourish but overfeed our bodies. Some of us rely on fast or processed foods whether it’s because we feel we don’t have the time or the knowledge to cook healthy foods for ourselves. Some of us don’t eat a meal until we get almost sick with hunger and then all discretion is gone. Some of us don’t eat regularly because we just aren’t that interested in food. Some of us just want to eat what tastes familiar and eating different foods seem scary or unnecessary. Then sadly there are some of us who don’t have access to healthy foods because we live in a food dessert. This undernourishment is the biggest way we don’t practice self care.
When I was a child, my Dad worked shift work guarding the nuclear plant half an hour from our home. When ever he worked the night shift, he would always stop at a gas station on his way home and get a cup of coffee or snack for the road. EVERY SINGLE TIME he did this until I was 10 or so he bought a candy bar for us kids. They would be waiting for us on the kitchen table when we got up in morning and our mom would always let us have it right after breakfast. I know that my Dad meant well. He missed us and wanted to give us a small “treat” to show us that he was thinking about us. That’s what he called them in the handwritten note he left by the candy bars, treats. I do not blame my Father at all for the love affair with sugary treats and how I use them to “treat myself”. I, simply, want to show that little actions with the best of intentions can impact us all our lives. SO whenever, I feel overwhelmed, a little sugary pick me up would be my “treat”. I treated myself often. It also don’t hurt that sugary treats are also used to celebrate. WAHOOOO!!! I can justify the “fix” on a good day or a bad day, or a holiday. We always hear that sugar is nothing but empty calories but empty never tasted so good, am I right??
Anyway, this is a personal but perfect way of demonstrating overfeeding oneself. I know that I am not the only one who knows this cycle. You may not be a “sweets person” and you might prefer the salty comfort of pretzels and chips or may you like fatty treats like hamburgers when you need to blow off steam because you got stuck in traffic after a day at the job where your computer froze up before the presentation and you spilt coffee in your lap as the boss yelled at you. It doesn’t matter which food you use, if you use the same strategies with them.
It’s not just food either, we might have a love/hate relationship with sodas, ice cream, coffee, wine, hard liquor whatever the fix we use it to self soothe or get our happy on. If we are using a substance that offers no nutritional or very little nutritional value as often as I used sugar, then we are overfeeding and undernourishing our bodies. I know that I do it as escape and I see that same desire and habit in other people. It is my personal opinion that we are also undernourishing more than our bodies by overfeeding it with empty calories. I think that we are stunting something in ourselves by denying the feelings a place to reside.
Do we fear that these emotions will take root and become invasive? I think so. I think I learned that I didn’t have to really have to wallow in my feelings of missing my Dad when I was little if I just enjoyed the candy. Then I got in the habit of it and then my tastebuds really became accustomed to the hit of the sweet taste. The cycle is pretty ingrained not only in me but so many others.
As I’ve said before, this year is my year of Self Care and lots of LOVE. So for the month of January, I was involved in a cleanse that I designed to stop this covering up and running away. I also wanted to be really good to my body and take out foods that caused or contributed to inflammation, candida, stressors or interrupted the digestive process. I also included an herbal detox formula to help flush all the residue I had accumulated. It was an intense 30 days but I learned a lot. I shed light into areas that had been covered for decades, I had no choice but to face what came my way and I found out that I was so much stronger that I thought and I never quit or slipped up even with emergency dentist appointments, the death of family pet, or the very stress filled social life of a teenage son. I came to a greater understanding of what food does really mean and what is real hunger and what is habit. Which foods really made me feel full or upset my digestion, inflamed my body. I had to be super aware and I didn’t flinch. If that’s not self love, it’s at least self exploration and that is necessary to get to love.
This is a real ‘treat’ that is not only healthy for me but really satisfying. I hope you all enjoy it as well. Next week, I’m going to play around with a candy bar in honor of Dad’s Bday.
Cacoa Chaga Chia Pudding (I dare you to say that 3 times real fast)
1 1/2 cups of Almond milk- any non dairy milk will work studies have found that dairy actually blocks the absorption of the antioxidants in cacao or chocolate
1/3 cup Chia seeds
1/4 cup cacao
1/4-1/2 TBSP dual extracted Chaga Mushroom Powder
5- 8 pitted dates
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
40 Times the Antioxidants of Blueberries, and 119 times that of bananas. Antioxidants are substances that help prevent the damaging effects of oxidation on cells throughout your body
Highest Plant-Based Source of Iron.
Iron deficiency can lead to conditions like iron deficiency anemia, chronic anemia, cough, and pre-dialysis anemia. The health benefits of iron include the eradication of different causes of fatigue. Iron also plays a key role in strengthening the immune system by making it strong enough to fight off infections.
Full of Magnesium for a Healthy Heart & Brain.
Low amounts of Magnesium in the body have been linked to hypertension and cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and migraine headaches.
More Calcium Than Cow's Milk.
Calcium is not only vital for bone health but it helps with everything from the regulating menstruation to protecting you from multiple types of cancer
Boosts and stabilizes moods
Cacao contains the mood improver, anandamide – known as the bliss molecule, which creates a feeling of euphoria.
Health Benefits of Chia
High in Nutrients but low in calories
Loaded with Antioxidants
High in quality protein
High in Omega 3 Fatty Acids
May lower the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes
Reduce blood pressure
Health Benefits of Chaga Mushroom
Lowers inflammation particularly that caused by stress
Improves immune system
The polysaccharides in Chaga boost white blood cells that regulate the immune response to infectious micro organisms. This works against everything from the common cold to cancer.
Strengthens hair and firms skin
Self Care seems to be a hot buzzing phrase lately and sadly for good reason. This society that we live in has grown to celebrate and deify the busy, those who “soldier through” daily, weekly and more on. We live in a culture of shame- shame on you for needing time, shame on you for taking time, “In my day we didn’t have issues with self care, we weren’t weak” Frankly the culture we live in, goes at you from all sides with relentless attitude. The truth is that we must take care of ourselves or we start to lose part of ourselves, whether its due to the monotonous day to day or the constant stress and chaos, discomfort, unhappiness and in worse case scenarios disease will set in.
Adding insult to injury we also look to treating ourselves or indulging in foods, drinks or activities that really aren’t healthy and in fact can lead to more issues. I know that as a Mother, I’ve often fallen into this pattern, little to no sleep because I stayed up to get some me time, eating too much sugary gluten-y carbs to make it through the day or to get to stay up late enough so I don’t feel like a Mom-bot. Sacrificing my joys and interests because that’s what the good mom’s do. 2018 is the year, I stop that. I put myself if not in first place, at least neck and neck with my family. I truly do better for them and for everyone if I nurture myself. This is a scary statement and even scarier practice, I can almost hear the snarky comments forming as I write it. Comments from real and imagined people but also the ones that my own double starts.
To say I’m not being selfish but practicing preventative medicine, is one thing to believe and practice it is another. I’ve sat in the chair across from many a client and they told me their symptoms and situations. I know what the results of pushing myself and not listening are because I lived them once and self corrected but it was only to the minimum, this year is the FULL MONTY!! I’m ready to expose myself to greater things and not wait. Time is so precious and so are people, we can’t waste ourselves or our time here.
Who’s with me for a month of self loving and supporting ourselves with healthy choices, healthy actions and real honest to goodness healthy living??? All month long I will be highlighting ways to show our selves some love. Be your best and favorite Valentine! So stay tuned here and follow me on FB at The Empirical Herbalist to get even more ideas. I’m hoping that we can join in as a community to support ourselves and each other as we dare to do this.
Wife, Mom, herbalist and friend. Feel free to change the order of the description to fit your needs, I do several times a day.