I recently returned from my 4th annual Food as Medicine Conference (FAM), a training program for health professionals to effectively integrate nutrition into their practices. I like to think of this community as my professional family. The 4-day program includes cutting edge presentations given by leading Functional Medicine and Integrative doctors, nutritionists, dietitians, social and environmental activists as well as incredible lunches created by Culinary Director Rebecca Katz. Two years ago Rebecca formed a team of us Cooks on Call (COC), Culinary Nutrition Educators, who help translate the science of nutrition in the kitchen. It’s one thing when doctors tell their patients to eat kale but it’s a whole other ballgame when they can tell that patient 5 different ways to prepare it.
We often forget that skin is one of our organs and also the largest one. It acts as a barrier between our internal organs and the outside world with all its aggressions, and we should take good care of it. When we get sunburned not only do we damage our skin immediately (do I have to remind you about the pain, the burning sensation, the unbearable contact of clothes and sheets, the horrible looking peeling, etc.?) but also in the long-run. The long-term consequences are even worse when sunburns occur during childhood and repeatedly. We all know we have to use sunscreens and avoid the hours of the day when the sun is the strongest, and wear a hat and so on — but do we? Well, I am embarrassed to admit I failed the test not so long ago and got one BAD sunburn. I got it all wrong. Add first sun exposure of the year, no sunscreen, worst time of the day, and you get — the lobster woman.
One of the most important lessons I communicate to my clients is that eating a wholesome, balanced diet doesn’t mean sacrificing taste… or even treats! You can incorporate healthy snacks that are nourishing and delicious into your meal plan.
I am no stranger to intense cancer experiences. I have been following my own healing path since a brain tumor diagnosis in 1998, a journey that has included three awake brain surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy plus hundreds of integrative cancer therapies. Along the way, I have discovered my lifetime purpose is to help others affected by cancer. Attendance at The Center for Mind-Body Medicine’s training events with James Gordon, MD specifically emphasized the importance of self-care strategies and supplied valuable tools that have enabled me to assist others with their quest for healing.
Shaking & Dancing Meditation has been my favorite exercise since I learned it in the Mind-Body Medicine Professional Training Program. To me, it’s a dynamic and effective method that immediately changes one’s state of mind.
In the groups that I have led, I have noticed that it’s one of the exercises that the participants enjoy and do the most in their daily lives. The group members who have practiced it say they feel more energized and happier, at least during the day they do it. It is easily practiced and duration can depend on the time and availability of each person.
How did it come to be that someone who has extensive training in nutrition and whole foods cooking carried around an extra 20 pounds?
Life gets in the way, which led to years of (survival) mindless eating. It started something like this: the marriage that led to the unexpected twin pregnancy, then another pregnancy right on its heels, all while finishing up a master’s degree in clinical nutrition.
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Many things have happened lately to make me fearful of others and of life itself. My world seems to be filled with people who hold unfounded grudges that baffle me and choose to say vindictive things for no other reason than spite. We’ve had deaths and serious illnesses, difficult medical prognoses. Family members whose actions are more about greed than family values. Job losses and insecurity. It’s been difficult to hold on to the trust and acceptance that got me through past challenges. I see fear peeking out of every corner, tugging at me, knocking on the door, enticing me to believe that the world is full of anger, resentment, greed and struggles. Fear is ready to haunt me, settle into my stomach and my bones. In fact, I can already feel it in my body, aching and throbbing.
On a beautiful day in June, I arrive home after a stressful day. Thankfully, I still have several hours of daylight left, even though the sun has begun its slow summer downward arc. I change into comfortable clothes and head out to the garden.
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I am facilitating my second Mind-Body Skills Group since completing both the Advanced Mind-Body Medicine and Food As Medicine courses. The first group started with eight members and ended with a core of four, who have since held two reunions with a third on the horizon. During the time between reunions these individuals have no contact except through me and yet they want to keep in touch, so every few months we get together for lunch.
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In June of 2012 I attended the Center’s Food As Medicine conference in Bethesda, MD. At the time, I was unfamiliar with the Center, so I was not sure what to expect. This conference started unlike so many other conferences I have attended. Instead of jumping right in because there would be lots of ground to cover in a short period of time, Dr. Jim Gordon began with a relaxation breathing exercise called “soft belly,” a slow, deep breathing meditation that allows the belly to rise when breathing in and fall when breathing out.The sole focus should be on the image of a soft, relaxed belly. He instructed us to say to ourselves “soft” as we inhaled and “belly” as we exhaled. We started every day of the conference in this fashion. I will admit that I was a bit skeptical at first, as I wondered what breathing had to do with food and when were we going to get to the good stuff. But by day three of the conference I found myself ready to start the day relaxed; I was looking forward to “soft belly!”
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