Sugar the Ultimate Food Frenemy

My Love/Hate with Sugar: Oh sugar my sugar. Don’t you just love your sweet treats? And if not a chocolate bar, bowl of mint ice-cream or pecan pie, how about a big glass of Chardonnay or Pinot Gris? Admit it. We all get our sugar fix from somewhere. Some say, “Oh no, I’m a chip lover, I crave salt,” as they chug down their fish bowl of wine—same difference lady, sugar in the body, glucose, and it’s a fix. We poor saps are programmed from birth to love it, from the first taste of that highly nutritious sticky sweet breast milk, to mushed bananas, to a parade of sugar-coated cereals, and Halloween, my nemesis.

Sugar is the food nobody needs and everyone wants/craves. It has a long, sorted and even bloody past—including slavery and wars—and likely entered our diet by accident, as fodder feed for livestock. 3500 years ago it began to spread around the planet via Austronesian and Polynesian seafarers. The first chemically refined sugar was introduced 2500 years ago. Throughout much of history it was considered a rare and expensive spice, not an every day condiment. Brazil began the first slave-based plantation in the 15th/16th centuries. Once introduced to the Carribean in 1647, the industry spread through Europe, and the boom continues to feed humanity’s sugar craze!

Now, no other crop occupies so much of the world’s land for so little benefit to humanity. It’s compared to tobacco in terms of its slavery origins, explosive growth and market share—sugar cane is the third most valuable crop after cereals and rice.  And, like tobacco, sugar is considered an industrial epidemic of a non-communicable disease driven by profit for mega corps! It’s main output, apart from huge commercial profits, has been nothing short of a global health crisis. Whoa!

To think I just thought it tasted good! How naïve! Most of you know me as a somewhat disciplined holistically minded health nut/nutritionist/food coach. But sugar my sugar has been my captain most my life. Hello my name is Shannon I’m a sugaholic. Why? Because it makes me feel good. So good.

And there it is. Sugar is a drug with no nutritional value, unless you are starving, then it provides energy. But nearly any other food you choose will have more value, unless it too is junk food. It provides a flood of dopamine in the brain, we feel pleasure—a little like cocaine—it’s a super-stimuli drug. You get way more dopamine from a cupcake then an apple. This body/brain reward cycle is an ancient survival mechanism, and now it’s our downfall. The more we eat the more we want, the more our health suffers.  You’re driven to that dopamine/ opioid cycle like a drug addict.

Beyond the addiction, empty calories, expanding waste line, the blood sugar peak and trough that leaves you jilted, irritated and just plain sad, it drains your body of key nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Any time you eat junk food, denatured food, it uses the body’s nutrient stores: so valuable enzymes, vitamins and minerals we need for other more important tasks are used to digest and eliminate or store the sugar as fat. So you end up with a net loss. Refined pure white sugar has been stripped of any nutrients the sugar beet or sugar cane once had, such that it’s now simply a pure chemical extract, a simple carbohydrate which contains 50% glucose, 50% fructose and that is all, no beneficial micronutrients, not a vitamin, not a mineral not a one. Same with brown sugar, it too has been bleached and stripped and then had caramel colour added back but none of the nutrients. That 50% fructose is a scary number as high doses plague the liver which turns it to fat and increases triglycerides and bad cholesterol. Too much of this can give you non-alcoholic fatty liver disease—increasingly an issue in children, thanks to refined sugar.

Hence why I thought – brilliant when organic coconut sugar hit the scene – it’s even at Costco. It’s not denatured, it has only 3 to 9% fructose instead of 50, and can have zinc, iron, calcium, potassium, and inulin an important prebiotic. I wouldn’t call it healthy, but it’s certainly a healthy alternative to white sugar, as is maple syrup and honey for similar reasons. These sweeteners, in their raw, unprocessed forms, actually have micro-nutrients.

However, my late night coconut sugar cookies, my chocolate honey hemp bars – no matter how many chia seeds and almond slivers and goji berries I put in them – still keep me knee deep in sweet cravings, and we all know sweet-stuff (whether maple syrup or refined sugar) feeds bad bacteria in our critically important gut biome, it’s the yeast talking, it’s the yeast that’s craving. I’ve never been able to solve my yeast issues. It’s come and gone and shown up as a really attractive skin fungal rash—every body is different, some women get yeast infections, some get canker sores, I get leopard spots. I have made many ultimatums with sweets, “Never again!” And even gone as long as two months with nothing sweet, not even fruit. But –as you can see– it hasn’t stuck. So I ended up using what I thought were the new Holy Grail of sweeteners: Monk Fruit Extract and sugar alcohols like Xylitol and Erythritol – what, no calories? No glycemic index? Won’t raise blood sugar? Passes through the body unchanged? How could this possibly be bad?

Only to take a big long look at the bright white refined nature of these new fangled sweeteners and say this can’t be good. Eyrthritol is usually made from corn, if not organic, assume GM. Plus it’s toxic to flies—like an insecticide—this makes me leary. More studies please. Of course these aren’t in the league of old school zero calorie sweeteners: Nutrasweet, Equal Splenda. I’d never touch the known carcinogen aspartame (which Nutrasweet is made from)—and you shouldn’t either. Do I need to explain their health dangers? Read any study about phenylalanine, aspartic acid and brain damage/brain tumors in rats—there is no denying this science. So please, if you’re looking for a sugar substitute then do use xylitol or erythritol or monk fruit—they’re safer for sure.

So what to make of all this? Here’s where I’m at:

I believe that coconut sugar, maple syrup and raw (local) honey are all fine in moderation – and by moderation I mean not every day, small doses here and there. Get your sweet fix from fruit and smoothies. Beyond that, I believe that if you have issues that would indicate the beginnings of a chronic disease like insulin resistance, or inflammation or leopard spots—you need a deep cleanse, likely greater then two weeks. If you have a spectrum disorder or suffer from leaky gut or Celiac Disease or thyroid issues, that too requires a deep cleanse, possibly in the realm of months. I know. Difficult.

The GAPS diet is something that is making its way mainstream and I will be talking more about it here. This diet resolves leaky gut and restores the gut biome—thus quashing sugar cravings and all its downstream negative effects. But it requires a pretty big commitment, months. Seek out a specialist or email me if you think this might be you. In the meantime, start with a good cleanse—no sugar or refined foods—see my cleanse episode on Youtube: called Love your Liver, Spring Clean. And feel free to email me if you’d like one-on-one consultation. Coming soon I will be working with the Gut Girl to create an online cleanse that keeps you accountable, so keep checking back for news. Happy healthy eating, happy healthy life!

xx Shannon

Spring Clean Liver Detox

Note: Coming June 2017 The Fit&Fab 7-Day Online Cleanse by yours truly and the Gut Girl, MarliesVenier.com. We make cleansing fun (and easy)! Email me for info on how to get your Detox Box and join the Cleanse Club!

I’ve established we all need to cleanse. We’re all subjected to a barrage of foreign chemicals and toxins in our food, air and water that need to be eliminated somehow. We must clear out the toxins and waste, in order to reset proper digestion and assimilation of nutrients. If not, these toxins show up as aches, pains, allergies, ailments and sickness, chronic disease. It looks different in everyone. For me? I have back pain. I also get bags under my eyes, I can be irritable and I get a lovely fungal skin rash when I overdo the sweets or wine for a long period of time. Unpleasant, doesn’t hurt but it looks ridiculous—like a spotted leopard and not a cool one. And lately, I’m getting carpel tunnel in my wrist, usually brought on by too much yoga or pole planting too hard while skiing off a ridge—see I have my stuff! The problem is it doesn’t go away, unless I cleanse.

So, when I start to feel down or slow or sluggish, and all those things just mentioned, and can’t seem to get on top of my health, I do a cleanse, a two week good solid liver/kidney cleanse. I aim to do one every Fall, then again in the new year, which sometimes gets pushed to early Spring. I began this with regularity after having babies. I believe, it’s saved me. And it’s not one of those things that you do/complete and say “pfew, got that over with, never have to do that again.” Wrong. Think of it as an oil change—it needs to be a regular thing. Fasting and cleansing has gone on throughout the millennia in almost all cultures. Every religion has a stance on food because food has everything to do with our emotional and physical stability and balance: body, mind and spirit.

The reward? Well, after the cleanse, my body feels light and agile—like a cat, strong and flexible, not a cow, strong but rigid—that’s my goal. I can’t tell you how you will feel but you should feel energized and overall better, cleaner, more clear. You will likely drop pounds—I usually drop about 5. The first time I did it I think I lost 10 pounds. Granted, a lot of that is bloat, water weight, but if you keep eating cleanse friendly food after you’ve finished the herbs, the pounds will continue to drop off.

So my go-to cleanse is the Wild Rose Herbal D-tox. It’s been around 35 years, created by an Alberta-based Naturopath named Terry Willard. It’s a 4-part detox system designed to cleanse the liver, colon, kidneys and lymphatic system—provided you follow the diet that accompanies it. The diet allows you to eat, a lot if you choose—but try not to eat to satiety, 80% full is good. Then the body can use its resources to heal you. No junk food, no refined anything. Raw foods and cooked meals from scratch. Here’s why I choose Wild Rose?

1)   Easy to follow and the directions are clear.

2)   It’s a liver cleanse and supports this one organ that works so hard for you.

3)   You can eat a huge variety of foods on this cleanse: almost every vegetable, Northern fruits like apples and berries, whole grains (please soak for 6-8 hours prior to cooking), nuts/seeds galore, onions, garlic, lemons, hummus, flax oil dressings, olive oil. This is how people around the world used to eat prior to the industrialization of food.

4)   You reset your body. You learn a new way to eat. And you will heal. It’s a great way to quash bad habits—like dessert (wa!) and cafe lattes (though I will have an almond milk matcha latte during the cleanse), salty chip cravers—eat popcorn instead!

Next, how it works: The kit comes with 3 jars of herbs, a tincture, a food list and instructions. Take your six pills in the morning with a dropper full of tincture in your water, then do the same before dinner. Easy. Go off your usual supplements during this time unless doctor ordered. Hardest part of this cleanse? Ditching processed food. But it’s also the most important thing we need to do to get healthy. No flour, pastas, refined anything, whole grains only, no dairy (cheese, milk, yogurt), no sugar, no alcohol, no sweeteners, except Stevia, maybe xylitol or maybe monk fruit. Don’t panic, these are all easily replaced with healthful whole food. The other hardest part of the cleanse? The actual detox symptoms!

If you have never done a cleanse before, prepare to feel lousy and maybe look lousy the first few days. Me? Bags under my eyes and pale skin. Prepare for loose stool—again, usually just the first couple of days. Each time you cleanse gets better and easier. A note on that: the Laxaherb pills in the kit are what causes the diarrhea or loose stool, part of the cleansing. I might advise you take only one of the Laxaherbs (where they say two), especially if you feel cramping in the bowels that’s uncomfortable. Finally, depending on how badly your body needs this cleanse, you may get a skin rash. All of this is normal, your body is unloading toxins—they come out via sweat, urine, feces, and topically on the skin. It simply means there’s a lot of gunk in your bucket. Toxic load. Stick with it, you need it. We all do.

Prepare to have strong cravings. That is simply those hungry bad gut bacteria screaming to be fed refined carbs and sugar. Replace that sugar with carrots or apples dipped in almond butter, a blueberry smoothie or a puffed rice cake with hummus and naturally fermented cabbage. So many options! Continue eating this way after you’re through the herbs, and the cleanse, and watch your body transform. It can be life changing. Someday I will eat this way for months in a row, and maybe never turn back—but let’s just begin with what’s doable. Speaking of which, it’s only 12 days. Everyone can manage 12 measly days!!

Finally, be sure to pamper yourself with hot salt baths, infrared sauna, meditation and lots of rest—don’t take on too much stress, take it easy for 2 weeks. Be sure to do light exercise, yoga, walk, meditate and get out in nature.

Consult a Naturopath and or a doctor prior to starting if you have any deep health issues or concerns whatsoever. Also, share and write in the comments below to let us know how your cleanse is going! People love to hear personal experiences. Love your liver, love yourself and do an annual or bi-annual cleanse!

xx Shannon

My Top 5 Liver Cleansing Meals

Top 5 Cleansing Dinner Recipes

Hi Friends! I cook by taste, smell and feel, not with a measuring cup. Hope you find this method useful as it certainly helps to create an intuitive creative cook! Start small when spicing recipes as you can always add more, but can't take away. Also, I make assumptions like you have coconut oil or grass-fed butter on hand to fry things (w/o listing it in ingredients). Use organic whole ingredients when possible. Happy healthy cooking!  xx Shannon

 

1.  Liver Detox Drinks: Use any combination of these to replace a breakfast, lunch or dinner anytime you’re feeling sluggish!

1)    Dandelion or Milk Thistle Tea - or just eat a dandelion, flower + stem!

2)    Lemon Water (can use high quality essential oil as fresh lemon corrodes teeth)

3)    Fresh Pressed Beet Juice – add favorite vegetables: cucumber, parsley, celery, etc.

4)    Detox Drink: Apple Cider Vinegar, Lemon Juice, Cayenne Pepper, Cinnamon, Water

5)    Antioxidant Hot Cacao or Matcha – simply add Turmeric  (the liver’s favourite antiox)

 

2. Chicken Vegetable Soup

INGD: whole chicken, onion, garlic, brussel sprouts, yam, broccoli, cauliflower, spices/herbs

•1 Whole Foods BBQ Chicken (flavor of your choice, I like Caribbean):

Strip the meat and enjoy for dinner (cube leftovers for soup) then boil the bones with lemon (halved), ginger, garlic onion for 24 hours. I keep it on low overnight, check to add water in the morning.

•Chop onion and fry in coconut oil or butter, then add finely chopped garlic.

Add to this all your vegetables (either all of the above or a combination thereof), be sure they’re chopped small, bite-sized, add spices to the vegetables once soft, continue to fry.

•Spices: I use sea salt, cumin, paprika, pepper, ginger, turmeric and whatever herbs are in my fridge, such as basil, parsley, and especially dill. Yum.

•Add the fried vegetable spice mixture to the soup, along with cubed chicken, salt for taste.

 

3. Purple Extravaganza

INGD: 4 beets, 4 carrots, 2 yams, onion, dandelion greens, basil, quinoa, salted cashews

•Spread coconut oil on a baking sheet, place cubed/chopped beets, carrots and yam on the sheet, cover with tinfoil and bake at 350° until soft.

•Cook your quinoa on the stove: 2-3 cups should feed the family, add salt and 1 tbsp coconut butter while cooking.

•Chop and fry onions until translucent and nearly caramelized, use butter (I like lots)

•Finely chop dandelion greens and basil and set aside.

•In a large glass bowl combine baked vegetables fresh from the oven with the uncooked greens and salt to taste. Sprinkle chopped salted cashews on top. Serve with quinoa.

 

4. Lazy Woman’s Cabbage Rolls

INGD: grass-fed ground beef, head of cabbage, kale, onion, brown rice, 1-2 jars of tomato sauce, fresh tomatoes, soup stock, lemon, spices (especially turmeric)

•Cook 2-3 cups of whole grain rice (pre-soaked) with a tbsp. of coconut oil and salt to taste.

•In a large soup pot, fry one onion in a generous amount of coconut oil or butter, add ground beef and mush to get rid of chunks.

•Finely chop half to a whole cabbage and 5-6 kale leaves, add this to the beef. Add soup stock (chicken or vegetable) and diced fresh tomatoes to cover the cabbage and let cook until soft.

•Add 1-2 glass jars of tomato sauce or marinara to taste, and Italian spices: oregano, thyme, basil, etc. and salt to taste.

•Once the rice is cooked, add this to your tomato/vegetable/burger mixture in the large pot. Increase or decrease soup stock depending on if you want a stew or a soup and squeeze in half a lemon.

•If you are a tomato lover, place your “stew” in a casserole dish, spread tomato sauce on top and bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

 

5. Detox Salad Delight

INGD: dandelion greens, lettuce of choice, cauliflower, beets, carrots, apples, avocados, walnuts, feta, cranberries, millet. DRESSING: flax or hemp oil, lemon juice and/or apple cider vinegar, grated ginger, maple syrup, salt & pepper

•Cook 2 cups of millet with small amount of oil/salt and set in fridge to cool.

•Finely chop dandelion greens with Romaine or Iceberg lettuce to fill salad bowl 2/3rds full. Finely chop the cauliflower, grate the beets and carrots, slice the avocados and add to the salad.

•Mix the dressing then toss into the salad. Sprinkle chopped walnuts, feta (not too much) and cranberries on top.

•Place the cooled millet on the bottom of the salad bowls, place the fresh-dressed salad on top.

Happy Healthy Clean Eating! Remember: Every time you eat you are either fighting disease or feeding it.

Canada's Food Guide Gets a C- ... Try Mine!

 

Watch the video above and find out why we need to ditch the current Canadian Food Guide and US Food Pyramid, and learn what are truly healthful Food Groups that everyone should have in their daily diet. Eat within these 40-Girl Food Groups and prepare to thrive:

1)   Vegetables & Fruit aka the Vitamin and Mineral Group. Most your fuel should come from this gang of goodies. This is the vitamin, mineral and fiber group and includes daily servings from the following sub-groups: leafy greens; cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, basic veggies like celery, cucumbers, peppers; onions galore and garlic; and fruit fresh or cooked. Then minimum 3 times/week, eat servings from sea vegetable category: dulse, nori, wakame, kombu, arame -- excellent in soups and salads!

2)   Carbohydrate Group – and I always mean complex, also a fibre, vitamin and mineral group – sweet potatoes, yams, squashes, whole grains (soaked please) like brown rice, oats, millet, buckwheat, rye, amaranth, etc. Just say no to simple carbs like bagels and pastries, donuts and white flour wraps, actually white flour anything. Also, gluten free starchy bread is devoid of nutrients. Look for sprouted whole grain types, they exist.

3)   Protein Group – think plant protein, daily servings from plant-based protein sources like avocados, peas, lentils, chickpeas, various beans, etc. Then 3 to 5 times per week, depending on YOUR body’s needs from animal protein sources like wild fish, fowl, eggs, meat - always grass-fed, organic, free-range, pastured, etc. Includes bone broth! Use leftover bones and boil for three hours with an acid (lemon will do), save the fat/lard to cook with, eat the broth as is, add miso and/or seaweed or make a full-on soup.

4)   Healthy Fat Group – I forgot to mention this in my VLOG -- oops!! Try cold pressed extra virgin olive oil (organic only! If it's cheap, it's probably fake and may have soy oil in it, seriously), then flax oil (store in fridge), high quality walnut oil, Udo's oil, fish oil -- all fragile oils that require usage within a month or so, and should be stored in fridge away from light, heat, air. Saturated fats like coconut oil, high quality red palm oil, grass-fed lard and butter are all good to cook/bake with and for bulletproof coffee (I use coconut butter, oodles)! 

4)   Ferments aka the Lactobacilli/Cultures Group -- these are most important because they are most missed -- yet chock-o-block full of enzymes and friendly bacteria to support that ever-key gut biome of yours. They're now calling it your second brain, and it requires the same care. Think home-made sauerkraut that's fermented naturally (no malt vinegars), miso soup or paste (I buy fermented chick-peas--fabulous for sauces, soups, dressings), grass-fed milk or coconut kefir (almost as many probiotics as the pills, cheaper too, just drink it in a shot glass or put it in a smoothie), yogurt (buy grass-fed, non-homogenized, or get your hands on raw via a local herdshare), kombucha (make your own, it's way cheaper and so easy), etc. once a day minimum and before any meal!

5)   Party Food – a girl’s got to have her fun. Save this for weekends, parties and special occasions – wine, treats, cheese, fried foods, cake, party on. This falls into the 80/20 rule, which some should make 90/10 (better). If you're trying to heal from surgery or sickness, make it your zero group 100/0!

Once I get my graphics team to draw up the 40-Girl’s Food Guide Geode I will make posters available for all (ha!). Until then, commit it to memory (or print it off) and do your best. Check old habits at the door and never blindly follow establishment when you’re unsure what vested interests are at stake that could be sending you down a less than healthful direction (i.e. yes that means you Monsanto and Mr. Grocery Manufacturer's Association). Keep your food clean and remember please like and share.

xx Shannon

Stand-Up-And-Stretch-Like-You-Mean-It!

Here are 10 Quick stretches you can do at the top of the hour every hour for 10 hours! Use when sitting at your desk for a hard day's work. You can also hit the kitchen and make yourself a matcha, that's good for you too. The poses are self explanatory. Hold for a few minutes, breathe deep, switch legs, and keep on keeping on. xo

Slanted push-up, drop and give me many!

The slanted push-up. Drop and give me many!

The side-stretch. Get bendy and see how deep you can get.

The side-stretch. Get bendy and see how deep you can get.

The squat. Hold until your legs burn. Shake it off and do it again.

The squat. Hold until your legs burn. Shake it off and do it again.

Locked and lunged. Switch back and forth or hold until it burns and switch.

Locked and lunged. Switch back and forth or hold until it burns and switch.

The shoulder stretch. This isn't hard, just a good stretch, engage your core.

The shoulder stretch. This isn't hard, just a good stretch, engage your core.

The back-bend. Not a power move, engage your core, press hips forward and reach!

The back-bend. Not a power move, engage your core, press hips forward and reach!

Mini-Triangle. You can go for it, if your jeans are tight, then do a mini, like me. Activate legs and core for good straight lines.

Mini-Triangle. You can go for it, if your jeans are tight, then do a mini, like me. Activate legs and core for good straight lines.

The forward fold. This is the ultimate stretch and feels amazing. Part inversion part heaven. Release and let the blood rush to your noggin.

The forward fold. This is the ultimate stretch and feels amazing. Part inversion part heaven. Release and let the blood rush to your noggin.

The back releaser -- just let your back relax and send those legs up the wall, feel everything loosen.

The back releaser -- just let your back relax and send those legs up the wall, feel everything loosen.

The cross-over, also good against a wall. This is a twist and so good for the back and internal organs.

The cross-over, also good against a wall. This is a twist and so good for the back and internal organs.

Sitting is the New Smoking

Many health experts are calling sitting the new smoking. How can something so simple and seemingly benign have such incredible consequences to be called the new smoking? ...

We all know standing desks are becoming popular. And there are knee chairs and balance ball chairs that have been around for a few decades, used to protect the back from hours of sitting. But who bloody well knew that we were sending ourselves to an early grave by simply sitting at a desk?! And why is it so dang bad for you anyway?

According to experts, it all boils down to this: the human body was designed to move, to be active all day. People in agrarian communities sit for less than 3 hours/day. Humans were never designed to sit at a desk for 6, 8, 10, 12 hours, as we do.

Dr. James Levine who is co-Director of the Obesity Initiative for the Mayo Clinic wrote an enlightening book on the subject called “Get Up! Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can Do About it.” We have to give the guy credit for this massive wake up call. We’d all just be doing our work-outs and sitting all day at the computer working, thinking we were doing a body good, when really… quite the opposite. In fact it doesn’t matter how fit you are, or how much you work out in the morning or evening or at lunch, if you sit for the majority of the day. The molecular mechanisms in play when a person is sedentary for hours are not suddenly reversed by an hour of hot yoga or a 10K run. It just doesn’t work that way. Sitting shuts your system down and tells the body, get ready, this human ain’t got no need for his legs anymore, and maybe, his life...

Rest, i.e. sitting, is designed to be temporary, to give these systems a break and not the other way around. Sitting is not just bad for your back (which I’m acutely aware of) but also your arms, legs, neck, and your metabolism, and your cellular health! There are 10,000 studies and growing that illustrate prolonged sitting is devastating for your health. NASA scientists responsible for monitoring astronauts have shown your body declines rapidly when sitting for prolonged periods. The proof is everywhere.

According to Dr. Levine, “Sitting actually switches off the fundamental fueling systems that integrate what’s going on in the blood stream with what goes on in the muscles and the tissues.” Switches these systems off! Off? This translates to higher blood sugar in people who sit too much, higher blood pressure, more toxins, Levine calls them “growth factors” that could lead to cancer. Yikes! Just from sitting on my arse.

Bottomline: Sitting actively promotes dozens of chronic diseases. Promotes. As in, brings them on, including diabetes. Apparently at a minimum we should be up 10 minutes of every hour. That’s the bare bones minimum.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is standing—all sorts of positive molecular effects come from them, standing, weight bearing on your own two feet. As soon as you stand the cellular systems that process blood sugar, triglycerides and cholesterol – all mediated by insulin, there’s hormones again, our body’s messengers – are activated. Apparently, and I guess it’s kind of obvious now, when you’re crammed into a chair all these systems are shut off!

Now I can attest that my back gets sore when I sit and my food does not digest as well. Do you feel that too? I just got back from vacation, notice the glow, where I moved almost constantly. I wasn’t deliberately working out. I was playing, going to the beach, swimming, surfing, running to the house for snacks, getting on the cruiser bike to pick up dinner or buy a t-shirt or just cruise. I moved for two weeks. I maybe lied on the beach to get warm or sat for a max of 15 minutes at a time to watch the kids. I had no bone or muscle pain, until we flew home. Almost 10 hours of planes, trains, automobiles, and guess what, sciatica, lower back pain, blech.

The solution? Easy. Stand. Move. Home office? Get a standing desk and wiggle, jiggle, move or flow, depending on your style.

On that note, I went to a yoga retreat with one of my favourite yogis, Shiva Rea in November. She’s 50 now and looks amazing, but more importantly, she never has back pain or muscle pain, and if you saw what she can do with her body you may find this shocking. Her reason? Flow. She is constantly fluid, constantly flowing, just a gentle sway to her, like a river, when she’s standing in line, sitting at a desk, talking, in the car, I just picture her kinda like a genie flowing up from the bottle, all misty steamy flowy. Super cool chick. Strong as a brick house. And uber flow…  In other words, standing is rarely standing still, most people move naturally.

So, what’s the good news here? The solution is obvious and it’s free. This doesn’t require a pill or a chiropractor or an expert or even a book. It requires you to stand up. Build yourself a standing desk from scraps around your house, or turn the wastebasket over and plop your computer on top. Easy. Get up and stretch. Tell your boss to buy the book so you have an excuse to get up and move at work or maybe she’ll invest in standing desks. Rad. The good news for your company is this: productivity goes up when people move more.

Go ahead and grab one of the books with their tantalizing titles: “Sitting Kills, Moving Heals” or Levine’s “Get Up!” or simply stand the heck up. Happy healthy standing, moving and eating!!

xx Shannon

Meditation 101

1st -- Sit or lie comfortably in a quiet space (or not, on the bus works too). Close your eyes.

2nd -- Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally and deeply into the belly.

3rd -- Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the movement of your body as you breathe. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage, and belly. Simply focus your attention on your breath without controlling its pace or intensity. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath.

4th -- Add a simple mantra: “Breathing in I know I am breathing in, breathing out I know I am breathing out…” or create your own, “Love is all we need…”

**Maintain this meditation practice for 2—3 minutes to start, and then try it for longer periods.

Benefits of a Daily Meditation Practise

1.     Mediation actually boosts your health, as in your immune system, it increases your immunity and immune function and decreases pain. It actually decreases inflammation at the cellular level.

2.     It boosts happiness! Meditation increases positive emotion, decreases depression, anxiety and stress.

3.     It boosts your social life! It increases your sense of emotional connection to others, makes you more compassionate, makes you feel less lonely.

4.     It boosts self-control. It helps you regulate your emotions, and that means emotional eating, and improves your ability to go deep and be introspective.

5.     It actually changes your brain! Your brain is incredibly plastic. That means if you don’t like the way you think, the way you are, or some of your habits, you have the ability to change this and meditation will help. Meditation increases grey matter. It actually increases volume in areas related to emotional regulation, positive emotions and self-control. It also increases cortical thickness in areas related to paying attention.

6.     It improves your productivity – meditation increases your ability to focus and multi-task, your memory, your creativity, your attention, your ability to think outside the box.

7.     It makes you wiser. It gives you perspective. By observing your mind through meditation you realize you don’t have to be a slave to it. You realize, outside of the deep you, the watcher you, that your mind on the surface can throw tantrums, yell, scream, be frustrated and irritated it can be happy, sad, mad, glad, annoying, but that does not have to run you. The clear-headed observer you is always there, underneath that, and you can become more present to it.

APPS to help you: Headspace, Mindshift, Calm

It eventually gets easy. There is no right or wrong way to meditate. Your mind will bug you and have lots to say, but over time, the voice will soften, though never go away. You will begin to notice you are the observer and the voice is just noise that sits on top of that. It takes time but you are worth it.

bring on the ommmmmm...

Everyone is talking about mindfulness and meditation. Even my dog meditates and I’m pretty sure the mice (rats) in my garage do too, because they are ninja stealth at night. Are you the only hold-out? And by you, I mean me, and whomever else out there is as lame as I am to have never really made this a habit? Let’s change this, starting now.

What can I tell you about meditation that you don’t already know (hint: lots). We’ve all heard about the studies and how it’s good for you and lowers stress, and we all gloss over that like ya, ya, subtle improvements, not good enough. But let me tell you what starts to happen when you really commit, like give it a good solid go and make it a daily practice. Much of this is from the publication Psychology Today and based on countless, like 1000s of studies on meditation:

1.     Mediation actually boosts your health, as in your immune system, it increases your immunity and immune function and decreases pain. It actually decreases inflammation at the cellular level. Inflammation people – the plague of this century!

2.     It boosts happiness! Say what? First, we all know happiness is a choice, but it’s harder to choose happiness when you’re stressed out. Meditation actually increases positive emotion, decreases depression (bye-bye Debbie downer), decreases anxiety and decreases that blasted six letter word, stress.

3.     It boosts your social life! And you thought it was alcohol (just kidding, not 20 anymore). It actually increases your sense of emotional connection to others, makes you more compassionate, makes you feel less lonely.

4.     It boosts self control. Thank God, because if I have to sit around a table filled with brie cheese and chocolate treats I might just chew my arm off. It helps you regulate your emotions, and that means emotional eating, and improves your ability to go deep and be introspective. The whole world needs a superficiality reboot – i.e. get out of the shallows and into the deep. Do we really care what Kim Kardashian is wearing, or rather not wearing? Come on, we've got more important things to think about and sink our teeth into.

5.     It actually changes your brain! Your brain is incredibly plastic. That means if you don’t like the way you think, the way you are, or some of your habits, you have the ability to change this and meditation will help. Meditation increases grey matter – thank God and Buddha. It actually increases volume in areas related to emotional regulation, positive emotions and self-control. It also increases cortical thickness in areas related to paying attention – there’s that better focus again. We could all use some of that in our distracted swipe the screen society.

6.     It improves your productivity – by sitting in lotus and doing nothing – now that’s convenient, and free. I like free. Meditation increases your ability to focus and multi-task, your memory, your creativity, your attention, your ability to think outside the box.

7.     It makes you wiser. Like Moses. It gives you perspective. By observing your mind through meditation you realize you don’t have to be a slave to it. You realize, outside of the deep you, the watcher you, that your mind on the surface can throw tantrums, yell, scream, be frustrated and irritated and judgey and all those little nasty things we all do, it can be happy, sad, mad, glad, annoying, but that does not have to run you. The clear-headed observer you is always there, underneath that, and you can become more present to it.

Bottomline: meditation is like a daily mental detox, like brushing your teeth, clearing out a closet. Ultimately the quality of your life depends on the quality of your mind. And that is the truth. You can’t be happy with all the riches and the stuff and even with all the friends and what not if you are not in a contented place in your mind – we’ve all seen examples of this.

So get going, get meditating. You can buy the book “The 8 Minute Meditation” – that’s a terrific start. Or you can get an app like Headspace or Mindshift or Calm, or just plain sit down in a corner of your room, when you first wake up, and clear your mind and breathe for 5 or 10 minutes. It eventually gets easy. There is no right or wrong way to meditate. Your mind will bug you and have lots to say, over time, the voice will soften, but never go away, you will notice you are the observer and the voice is just noise that sits on top of that. It takes time but you are worth it. Promise. xx Shannon

coffee: black gold or black death

So many people say to me, don’t make me give up my coffee! What’s so bad about coffee? I thought coffee was full of antioxidants that stave off inflammation and boost my metabolism. So what’s the truth, black gold or black death? Hmmm, let’s just say it’s not doing your adrenals any favors, and hormones are king, rather queen, especially once you hit—40.

Black gold. I’m not talking fossil fuel; I’m talking coffee. The brew. The aroma. Truly black gold. Well, it’s only black until I get my hands on it. Then it’s more like Hawaiian earth. I add an inch of cream and a heaping spoon of honey, or xylitol or just plain old cane sugar, organic please and voila! I have what some people have called a hot coffee milkshake. Call it what you will, it’s delicious, and until about six months ago, I couldn’t live without it. But now I know I must.

Coffee is not the simple little roasted bean you think it is. Sure it’s handsome, smells great, but it’s chock-o-block full of over 700 substances, including 200 acids, many alcohols, and other good-time ingredients like caffeine (everyone’s fave), caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, and many of these thingamaboos lead to digestive upset, adrenal fatigue, high blood pressure, and nevermind the pesticide residues (if you don’t drink organic, please do, poison sucks).

So let’s talk caffeine. It’s a psychoactive drug. Hence coffee’s immense popularity. Humans love their altered states, don’t we? And decaf coffee still contains caffeine, and all the other substances I mentioned. How much? Well the average cup of joe has between 95 to 200 mg of caffeine and a cup of decaf brew falls between 9 to 14 mg, and up to 28 mg if it’s a Starbuck’s venti. A chocolate bar might have 5 mg, as a comparison. So it’s still there. Besides, decaf coffee is chemically altered and degraded, so you lose the few benefits coffee offers, like antioxidants. To make it worse, studies show decaf coffee drinkers have a higher incidence of rheumatoid arthritis. Great. There’s goes the decaf loophole. Trust me, I tried to work that angle.

Back to caffeine, what’s the problem? Caffeine equals stress. Last time I checked no one I know needs more stress. Stress, in case you’re an alien, is ugly, it makes you anxious, shaky, grumpy, mood swing-y, irritable, just plain poopy and it leads to degeneration and aging. There is even a thing called the stress-age syndrome in which the brain, endocrine (that’s your hormones) and bioenergetics systems all start to fail thanks to that six letter word… stress. Kind of makes you want to get rid of anything that causes it, don’t it.

Also caffeine and stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) drive down levels of DHEA and human growth hormone. These important “youth” hormones are already on decline from about age 25 onwards. Thank you God. Which is a major bummer because they’re the ones that keep you lean, mean and youthful. DHEA is called the vitality hormone for criminy sake! By age 70 you’re producing only about 15 percent of prime peak DHEA – and 70 is not old if you’re a Hunzan. Trust me, you don’t want to hasten the decline of your youth hormones. Hunzans didn’t and they’re world famous centenarians. In time, stress and caffeine create adrenal exhaustion. That looks like this. (blahhhhhhhh) I always say, don’t mess with hormones, support your endocrine system any way you can.

Let’s talk GABA. I love GABA because it is this amazing neurotransmitter that calms the mind without putting you to sleep. It helps you filter the noise to make good decisions. It’s the opposite of frazzle, or adrenaline, which is stimulated by ingestion of caffeine. This disrupts the normal metabolism of GABA, so you can no longer step back and see the world clearly, especially when under fire. So all you “coffee makes me alert” folks, that’s great, you’re pinning, but you may not be thinking clearly.

What about blood pressure: it’s fact, caffeine increases your blood pressure even in moderate doses to the level of borderline hypertension, and not just temporarily. It also causes vascular resistance. That is where your blood vessels constrict and blood flow is restricted. Have you ever noticed how your fingers get cold after you drink coffee? That’s vascular restriction caused by the stress response. Your body does so because if you’re attacked by a tiger, this will reduce blood loss from injuries. A good thing for all those bear maulings—don’t want to bleed out. Yah, last time I checked, I didn’t have any bloody scrapes from my cup of joe, though my body was ready for it.

What about cholesterol: they said eggs were the problem. Ha. Studies show coffee, including decaf, is associated with higher cholesterol and can increase in direct proportion to coffee consumed. There are two other chemicals in coffee, aside from caffeine, that create this effect, cafestol and kahweol. I can barely say it. Doesn’t matter, just know that stress and coffee can most certainly increase your risk of heart attack or stroke. Genetics play a role, yes there are many factors, I’m just saying if you’re prone to either of those killer diseases then truly ditch coffee, especially if you have cardiac arrhythmias.

What about your liver: it’s the only organ that detoxifies caffeine from your system and when you drink coffee an enormous amount of caffeine is dumped into your bloodstream and absorbed rapidly by every organ and your various fluids (saliva, semen, breast milk, etc.)  and right across the blood-brain barrier. Plus there are other chemicals in coffee aside from caffeine, as mentioned, including some pretty little toxins called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Say that sixty times. They’re the same cancer causing little devils isolated from barbequed meat (every meat-eating man just groaned—don’t shoot the messenger). The liver must detox those as well. This sounds easy, like the body can just take this endless assault, but caffeine breaks down into 25 different by-products and each of these metabolites has its own biochemical effect on the body.

I’m exhausted. Now do you get me? Not so good for you. And trust me, I am/was as depressed as you. I liked coffee better then my husband. It’s depressing. And I didn’t even get into how coffee leaches important minerals from the body like calcium and magnesium and what it does to your gut biome. Cavewomen did not have coffee and we have the same biological make-up as them, yes, you me and a 25,000 year old woman, we’re the same, except maybe hotter, less hairy, you get me. Our genetics have not kept up with our modern processed diet, and that includes coffee.

So what to drink instead? Matcha. Cocoa. Herbal Tea. Save coffee for your once/week treat, like a glass of wine. Email me and I’ll send you my matcha recipe and soon to come Matcha Mud Mix. Go to 40girlsguide.com!

xxShannon

choose health now 2017

I don’t know about you, but I want to live, and not just be alive scraping the barrel, zombied out in front of the couch, or God forbid, attached to a chemo drip, but I want to really live! Have fun, be vital, eat, move, learn, play, meet great people, all of it! But it’s not always that easy, is it. Someone named Dr. Bliss is working against us.

The thing about health is that it’s hard, damn hard to stay committed. You can half commit and be mostly healthy, and in your youth that sometimes work just fine. But you hit a certain age and those transgressions turn up as symptoms of ill health: dry skin, allergies, sore muscles, achy bones, headaches, gas, constipation, diarrhea, fatigue. When this happens, your body is telling you: wake up!

Before I committed to my health, I would make a million excuses. I exercised regularly, have always loved veggies and salads, didn’t eat a lot of fried foods, so I assumed I was fine. But I had a killer sugar habit. Monday morning would roll around, me, Starbucks, and a million other North Americans: “I’ll have a pumpkin spiced latte, non-fat, whip cream, and throw in a maple scone.” Or Friday night, girl’s night out and I’m not DD: I’ll have a bucket of wine please, and let’s make a midnight pit-stop at 7-11 for nachos and magical cheese sauce. Or it’s Wednesday and you’re in a mid-afternoon slump and your office-mate brought chocolates. Then you crash 40 minutes later and decide to brew coffee: cream and sugar please. Then someone makes microwave popcorn – come on! Put a fork in me.

Now, in your 40s and even earlier, all those health hiccups add up and give your system a beating. When I finally really looked at what I put in my body, on a regular basis, I was shocked. I did a weeklong food diary and wrote down every little thing. I highly recommend it. Start now. Just write it all down, no judgment, don’t try to be good, just do it, for a week, and learn. This created a major epiphany for me. Like maybe I’m not so healthy.

The other thing that moved me to change was understanding the body. What are we? We’re about 70 to 100 trillion cells. Each one of those cells is a little factory, expert in manufacturing whatever the tissue it resides in might need, expert in transporting, then expert in waste disposal. These cell factories depend on the sum of the body’s thinking cells (the brain) to make sure the grand human is feeding them quality raw goods to do their job.

The second thing these cells need is the ability to carry waste away. The body needs this to heal, to clean itself at a cellular level. If not done quickly, toxicity will damage the cell. No cell can survive surrounded by its own refuse.

Imagine each cell as a little human being. The thought of giving that little guy crap food then making it live in its own stink is really sad. The cellular and extracellular fluid must also maintain mineral balance and a constant pH—so easily thrown off by sugars and stimulants. If your cells are healthy, disease can not happen.

As for raw materials, we know, at a basic level, cells need oxygen, nutrients and intracellular enzymes – these are what generate energy. Try this: when you eat, remind yourself, the goals is to stay alive, to be vital, to heal, not pure pleasure. Pleasure is only one small part of eating. And the thing about health is, the big guns are working against us. Greedy corporations are banking on the fact that you forgot that eating supplies nutrients/ energy, all they care about is satisfying pleasure centers. How? The perfect balance of sugar, fat and salt.

There is actually a scientist in the world of industrial food manufacturing called Dr. Bliss. Everybody wants him. His job is to find the “Bliss Point” of any given food the big guns (Kraft, Nestle, CocaCola) are planning to roll out. It could be the next glitter yogurt tube, or PB&J, a new flavor of soft drink, a new Oreo blend, or a bacon ranch potato chip. He has spent a lifetime honing where humans bliss out. How does he do that? Statistical analysis and the perfect ratio of sugar, salt and fat to create a flood of dopamine and other pleasure-based hormones in the brain. So you go, “Ahhhhhhhh. Yum.”

Is it a trick? A crime? When you consider the food has little else going for it except this “pleasure” response, and cool packaging, and is actually toxic to the body, I’d say it’s a bit of a crime. They use chemicals to do this. When they do use sugar, it’s bleached and sprayed, and usually from the genetically modified sugar beat or worse, high fructose corn syrup from GM corn. The salt is also bleached, chemicals are added, then it’s baked at 540 degrees where nothing good happens. The fat is from fragile vegetable fat, that’s been hydrogenated and refined and is absolutely toxic to the body. Those ingredients, plus whatever the base is, maybe ultra-processed potato flour or moldy peanuts, I don’t know, but gross.

Point is, Kraft and Nestle aren’t making your next “natural, oat-filled, whole-grain, breakfast bar” with your health in mind. They’re doing it for profit, market share, and they will use the cheapest ingredients to get that. The only reason they’re even jumping on the health trend is because it’s the largest growing niche in the grocery food business: organics and gluten free have become a 30 billion dollar/year business! It’s only about 4-5% of market share, but the bad guys can not ignore this or we might just win.

So the bad guys (yes I talk like a 3 year old) are doing their best to get healthier, and I say that ever so loosely. They call it natural, but really it’s been completely denatured through the use of agricultural pesticides, herbicides, dessicators and the like. I would not touch grain products that are not organic—they say wheat is sprayed 5-8 times once out of the ground, while sitting in the silo, with guess what? Glysophate. It’s apparently a terrific dessicator too! That means it keeps moisture away, it won’t mold. How convenient! Thank you for poisoning us. Don’t even get me started on the downstream effects of all these toxins in the ground, what it does to the soil, water supply and wildlife. Memorize this: 2.5 billion pounds of pesticides are released into the environment each year, grapes have over 35 different pesticides used. People consume 8-15 pounds of food additives per year.

Where am I going with this? Being healthy is hard because we can’t trust what’s on the shelf. We have little understanding where our food comes from and how long it’s been sitting there. Which doesn’t matter because it’s not even food anymore! But we can change this— we dictate what ends up on the grocery shelf by our consumer choices. We have more choice now then ever in history, though most the options will send us to an early grave, there are some very good ones.

Eat clean, give your cells the good stuff. Organic is the only choice. Does some spray make its way to an organic farm? Sometimes--but I’d prefer to not be sprayed in the face! There is just no way we can remain healthy eating poisoned food. It’s that simple. You want to get healthy, it starts here, with a commitment. We know it’s hard but you are wroth it. Let me know how it goes. If this helped you please hit like and subscribe. Happy, healthy, eating… xx Shannon 

healthy xmas 'drink' alternatives

It’s December, the scent of cinnamon and pine, the bustling about, presents, goodies and treats everywhere you turn, busy busy busy, stress stress stress – and some nutty blonde chick is telling you to ditch the two things that keep you sane… creamy lattes and wine.

Holiday Hooby-say-whatty? Depending on where you are at on your “health program” you could simply say I’m practicing the 80/20 rule, and the entire month of December is my 20% naughty, the rest the year I’ll be good. Yah, probably not so doable. Trust me, I’ve tried.

Listen, I want you to enjoy your food and drinks this holiday season as much as I want that for myself. So, I’ve come up with some holiday alternatives for your faaaaaaaavourite things.

1st Coffee: I too am a coffee lover. This is a hard one to replace. Tea won’t cut it. Adding a little milk and honey to my tea doesn’t help at all. You lose the subtle essences of the tea, unless it’s black tea. But still, two thumbs down. I need the hard stuff. So what cuts the mustard? Matcha.

I know what you’re thinking… matcha is yucky. So bitter. Blech. Even when you get one at the coffee shop, they either way over sweeten it (Starbucks, puke, don’t get it there) or you add your own. Which tastes ok. But I have a home-made version that you’re going to love. Try this for a week and your coffee cravings might disappear.

40Girl’s Matcha Mud Mix:

Simply mix 1 teaspoon coconut oil, 1 teaspoon matcha, 2 teaspoons monk fruit or honey to taste, ½ teaspoon vanilla, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ginger, ¼ teaspoon turmeric, pinch of pepper – stir. Add 1/3 of your cup hot water and stir until your mixture dissolves. Froth almond or coconut milk, add this to your matcha mix. Voila! Grinchy green love.

2nd Wine: I too am a wine lover. My flavor is Chardonnay. I know, such a housewife drink. Also, bubbly, somehow those bubbles are just too much fun. And even when I don’t feel like drinking, I can manage a sparkling something or other. My top alternatives? Kombucha.

Unless you’ve had your head in the sand, or the snow, you know what kombucha is by now – a delicious fermented tea that’s been around 100s of years, maybe 1000s. You can buy this at almost any market. The flavours? Seemingly endless. My faves are always ginger, lemon and my ultra– chlorophyll and mint! It’s too die. And it’s green for Christmas. It tastes a little like bubbly and beer combined, so you satisfy that boozy craving. Shoot me an email or subscribe and I’ll send you my kombucha recipe. However, you’ll have to get your hands on a scoby.

Also, if you really want that glass of bubbly, find a good organic one and add some SambuGuard. It’s a kids cough syrup made from Eldeberry, Echinacea and loaded with Vitamin C. So your curing your hangover before you even get it!

For those who love their deep rich Cabernets – mulled wine is the answer. Grab an organic apple cider to cut the booziness, use plenty of cinnamon and fresh ginger and you’ll be getting nature’s very own antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. In fact, use cinnamon wherever you can. This spice is so good for you, it even lowers blood sugar. Hope this helps keep you healthy through the happiest time of the year. Merry Christmas!!

milk does the body bad!

Got milk? Taylor Swift with a milky moustache? Pretty sure she’s not chug-a-lugging conventional milk between sets. Mucus much? Will somebody please explain to me why they try to stuff the number one food allergen down kids throats, glass after glass. And not just kids, adults too. Let’s clear up the milk mess. 

So if I ask you, what is the number one food that supplies calcium, what would you say? Probably milk, or dairy, cheese, yogurt, ice cream if you’re cheeky. Would you be right? No. Don’t feel bad, you and everyone else, including me up until not too long ago, have been fed endless half truths and lies about dairy thanks to major marketing campaigns and an uber-strong milk lobby that tells us, “Drink milk to make your bones strong.”

The reality is much different. But first I need to back up, because nothing is ever that simple. Let’s clarify raw milk versus pasteurized milk. Raw milk, unaltered milk, is full of enzymes, in fact the enzymes you need to digest milk proteins, like lactose, are within the milk, called lactase. However, when you cook the milk at 300 degrees, those enzymes are killed. People can no longer digest the protein; we call them lactose intolerant. When really, if they had milk raw, with live enzymes, they might just be fine. So, just know that raw milk has live enzymes that make milk digestible by humans.

However, we can’t get raw milk. It’s illegal to buy raw milk in Canada. What a shame. Can you believe that? In the US, it’s only illegal in about three states– so they are ahead of us on that front. Personally, I would only drink raw milk. If I’m in a bind and need it for a recipe, I’ll use grass fed organic non-homogenized, but it is still pasteurized as it has to be because of current laws. I’m in the process of joining a group to help change that. More on that later.

So raw milk is digestible. Pasteurized is not. Here’s why. So from here on, for the purposes of today, we’re talking pasteurized milk. And here’s why milk doesn’t do a body good:

1)   Milk is the number one allergenic food. It contains more then 25 different proteins that may induce an allergic reaction. That’s because of the enzymes I mentioned before. If a food cannot be digested, its nutrients cannot be absorbed and utilized.

2)   Milk may create a calcium deficiency. If you are not digesting milk properly, then it may ferment in the intestine and create lactic acid, which gets absorbed into the blood and binds with calcium and magnesium making these minerals unavailable to the tissues. This is a really key fact because your body uses calcium to buffer acidity, and to protect you when you consume acid foods like coffee, sugar, alcohol and everything refined. And if there’s not enough calcium in your system, your body will pull calcium from bones and teeth. Not good! Hence brittle bones and osteoporosis and the like. Which brings me to…

3)   Milk does not prevent osteoporosis. Fact: countries with the highest consumption of milk, have the highest fracture rates and highest rates of osteoporosis. Milk loses 50% of its available calcium during pasteurization. Low fat versions strip the fat which is exactly what transports the calcium to tissues. Not to mention the vitamins they add back into the milk are typically synthetic versions of key vitamins like D3, they give us in D2 form, hard for the body to absorb, and Vitamin A, C or E. Did you know vegetarians have higher bone density then meat eaters of the same age?

4)   Milk requires your body to give up an enormous amount of enzymes to digest it. And if you saw my raw food vs cooked episode you’ll know we need those enzymes for all sorts of other processes, not for processing denatured foods.

So that’s why got milk should be NOT MILK. It just isn’t good for you. It’s denatured, even organic. Much better is to get your calcium from vegetable, nut or seed sources. And instead of worrying about getting enough calcium, concern yourself with keeping the calcium you have.

How? Well consider all the things that drain calcium from your bones: coffee, tea, soda, pop and chocolate. These foods create increased calcium loss in the urine –they are acidic and calcium is a buffer, recall? Refined sugar decreases absorption of calcium. Kids have gotten rickets consuming sweetened condensed milk. Then there’s meat, grain and soft drinks with high phosphorous content – phosphorous binds with calcium, when the balance is off, phosphorous drains calcium.  Salt increases urinary calcium excretion. Fiber, believe it or not, some fibers can decrease calcium absorption because minerals tend to bind to fiber – note: this is a very good thing when we’re detoxing unwanted and heavy minerals, which we get from bad foods and environmental toxins.

So what’s the answer? Got nuts? Or got veggies. That should be the campaign. Nuts do a body good. Veggies do a body good! Milk contains 288 mgs per cup. Almonds which are highest in Calcium contain 600 mg. Filberts 424 mg. Sesame seeds a whopping 2200 mgs. Then there’s greens: collard greens, kale, chard, turnip greens, artichoke, broccoli, all high in calcium. Almost every veg has some calcium. Molasses, organic please, has 137 mg. Hang tight for my molasses recipes come xmas time. Garbanzo beans are loaded, as are navy beans. Ah, just eat the plant food spectrum and you’ll get what you need without the leaky calcium drain.

I hope this helps convince you that milk is not the answer. Please help me fight for raw milk products in CANADA because there is a lot about milk that IS good. We’re not really meant to keep drinking “milk” once we’re weaned, especially not from another animal, but raw kefir, butter, yogurt, cheese and the like can be amazingly delicious and good for your with active cultures and enzymes. If you’re interested in getting involved in the raw food campaign please email me directly. Happy healthy eating!

xo Shannon

will cooked food kill you?

Seems a little drastic, right? But this is a thing. A cooked food is essentially a dead food. If you were cooked you’d be dead. Put a fork in me! But it’s not really that simple is it. 

Today we’re talking about cooking plant food, no time to cover meats and such so we’re sticking with veggies. Why? Because eating plant food is the key to optimum health! I'm talking vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and for that matter, grains, legumes, herbs, spices and flowers. So what’s better, raw or cooked?

Now what do I mean by better for you? It’s where you get the maximum amount of nutrients and subsequent absorption in the body, because that’s the goal. We’re long past eating just because it tastes good. We eat to absorb nutrients, especially at this age. Our body is not as good at this as it once was. And we’ve hopefully moved on from the homogenous cravings of the typical 8 year old, pizza and icecream. Now it’s raw-food pizza (a good chef can do wonders with vegetables and a good wine).

Speaking of which, I had my first raw food lasagna in Santa Monica at Planet Raw back in 2001. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I kept saying to my friend, “You mean to tell me this mana from the gods is just raw vegetables and seeds? You sure? The flavor!” I was a fairly fresh LA implant, and it was the first I had heard of the Raw Food revolution. I’m a prairie girl? We do egg&cheese casseroles and beef stew. Who was this master genius? His name was Juliano Brotman and I was blown away. He was an absolute joy to watch and his creations nothing short of raw food live Picassos. He’s still there btw. And the raw food diet and lifestyle is very much a thing.

So what is raw food? Plant food that has not been heated above 104 and 120 degrees Farenheit. Raw foodies believe foods cooked above this temperature have lost their nutritional vitality and can be harmful to the body. Hence the question – does cooking kill? Natural plant enzymes are destroyed at temperatures above 118 degrees. Without their natural enzymes, these foods, any foods, are hard for the body to digest. That’s key, and there are many more plusses of raw food:

1. Raw food contains lots of nutrients in an easy to digest form thanks to enzymes. Cooking destroys not just enzymes, but plenty of vitamins and minerals too.

2. Humans have eaten raw food since the beginning of time. Refined? Last 100 years and look at our health stats.

3. Raw food does myriad other good things, fights inflammation, improves digestion, provides more fiber, improves heart health and liver function, prevents cancer, prevents/treats constipation, more energy, clear skin, helps you maintain a healthy body weight…

How can raw food do all that? Enzymes! People rarely talk about these amazing little things, so here’s your crash course. There are three types of enzymes:

1. Metabolic, every cell in your body has enzymes that conduct endless metabolic processes, we’re dead without them;

2. Digestive, amylase to digests starch in your mouth, protease digests protein in the stomach, and various pancreatic enzymes that get to work digesting in the small intestine;

3. Plant enzymes, they are in live and in raw food and naturally help you digest the food all the way along—unless you cook it out of them. When you do, that plant becomes harder to digest.

Raw milk also has enzymes (which help you digest milk, but only if it’s raw) as does raw meat, and so does every single fruit and vegetable on earth. Take these away through denaturing the food, pasteurization or cooking, refining, and they die—then your own digestive enzymes must do all the work, and after years of this, they actually wear out and don’t replenish as well. With a lot of abuse, eventually your whole digestive tract slows down, foods don’t digest properly, undigested protein particles leak through the compromised gut wall, and inflammation and allergy set in. From there? Chronic disease makes its foothold, including diabetes and cancer. Suddenly now we care about enzymes.

Raw food? YES. Every single day. Plant enzyme supplementation or digestive enzymes? If you’re over 40 and don’t eat much raw, YES. You may wish you had started younger.

Beyond that raw food can be so interesting. We think cucumber and carrot sticks, but there are sprouted quinoa carrot crackers, sushi with savory bean butters and sea vegetables, cashew nut cheeses, walnut stuffed mushrooms, bean tacos in lettuce wraps, ferments like kombucha and real sauerkraut, and so on. It’s hard to conceive when you’ve been cooking like your mom or grandma for years (like I had), using mostly the oven and the stove. That was my cooking education. Unless it was summer, then we’d pull cukes and strawberries fresh from the ground.

So that’s the good. What’s the bad?

1. Raw food exclusively is very cleansing and detoxing, but you can lose too much weight if you do it for too long. Ha! I think they mean 3 – 6 months, most of us don’t have that issue.

2. The cellulose/fiber in veggies is, paradoxically, hard to digest. Cooking helps predigest this for us. Cooking also can make some of the minerals more accessible by breaking ionic bonds.

3. Cooking can be easier and more palatable, and you still get all the macronutrients: protein, fat and carbohydrate. But as you see, you won’t get as many micronutrients: vitamins and minerals. The fact is, without micronutrients, your body can’t do much with the macros.

4. If you don’t eat meat then you may need to supplement Vitamin D, B12, iron and zinc—which we get in higher doses from animal proteins.

5. Sprouting and fermenting – which is an important part of the raw food diet to ensure you get all the nutrients you need – can be difficult and takes time.

Raw food is a learning curve for most of us because it’s doesn’t come naturally anymore. We need guidance to be able to ferment properly, and sprout grains, nuts and seeds. It’s even hard to find the ingredients, like raw nuts, which usually come pre-roasted, which damages their fragile oils. It’s also hard because you need equipment: food processor, blender, dehydrator and more fridge space.

So what’s the solution? A bit of everything, leaning heavy on fruit and vegetables. Be certain to eat raw, every single day. If you finish the day with not one salad or piece of fruit, or carrot stick or parsley, you get a FAIL. Your digestive tract needs the love. Even the Canada Food Guide suggests 8-10 servings of fruit and vegetables per day. Good for them! They’ve come a long way. But ignore their recommendations on dairy. Also they don’t specify raw, so I say aim for half your veggies raw or more. Try it. Get clean. Let me know how it all goes. If this helped you please hit like and subscribe. Healthy happy eating… xx Shannon 

lose the last 10lbs - pt 2

Last week we talked about why it’s getting so dang hard to lose weight as we get older. Remember the day when you could lose weight by booze binging on a Friday night, then eating M&Ms, or a few nachos or chocolate chip cookies, then do it all over again and get skinny – as long as your calorie intake was low? Yah, those days are over. There’s no cheating on this. And any, like ANY sugar, will throw you off your game.

Last week I gave you clear steps: no food stimulants (sugar, booze, etc.) or refined foods (dairy, breads, etc.), vitamin and mineral supplements, exercise and basic stress management. How’d it go? Hard right. It takes discipline. If losing weight were easy we’d all look like Jennifer Aniston or Cameron Diaz.

This is like rocket science. We are solving the biochemistry of the muffin top, the physics of the beer belly, the string theory behind the pooch, and the electromagnetism of the donut or spare tire.

I’ll tell you what inspired me to actually get some discipline. It’s when I noticed that I was doing this weird thing, in public, as though no one could see me. Like when old people fart and think you can’t hear it or smell it. It’s that. Every time I went to sit, including at a restaurant or coffee shop with a colleague, I would lift my jeans over my fat roll and give it a tuck. Didn’t happen. Carry on. Kind of like when guys adjust their peen in their pants, left, right, centre. The ole penis shift. No one saw that right? We all saw it bud, gross. Even grosser? The jean yank over your glorious roll of fat, tuck that puppy in. Sweet.

I take no solace in the fashion shift to high wasted jeans. The look of endless ass or butt cheeks does me no favor. Anyway, our job is to fix the problem, the actual fat. So if you followed my steps from last week, good on yah. Now, let’s ramp up and drop those pounds a little quicker. Here are some stealth ways – some you’ve heard of, some may be new.

1)   Don’t eat after 6 or 7 pm. Nothing. Just herbal tea. This simple rule will make a huge difference. Eating late at night throws your metabolism off kilter, which can lead to weight gain.

2)   Have one main meal per day, not three. Contrary to popular belief, but not contrary to tradition, make dinner your largest meal of the day, just have it earlier. Experts were saying make lunch your largest meal for several reasons, however, this line of thinking has changed. Your body is ruled by the Sympathetic Nervous System during the day,  that’s energy spending active mode, eating a huge lunch will send you prematurely into Parasympathetic mode, rest and digest, we don’t want that until the evening. Hence, make dinner your largest meal.

3)   Night out? Substitute Kombucha for alcohol. It’s a lot like cider in taste, only better, and curbs alcohol cravings. It actually has about .05% alcohol.

4)   Add proteins to carbs to keep glucose levels in check. So if you’re absolutely dying for a bowl of air-popped pop corn, add butter (grass fed organic) and don’t be shy about it.

5)   Finally, try intermittent fasting. Back during paleo times we did not have access to food 24/7. Looks what it’s doing to us now that we do?

Intermittent Fasting is really simple: pick an 8 hour window during the day to eat. 10 am to 6pm, 11am to 7pm, and if you’re a night owl, say noon to 8pm. 16 hours per day with no food creates a carefully timed famine mode. You know why they call it breakfast, you break the fast. This is simply taking your sleeping fast a step further, it lasts a few hours longer.

Here are the benefits to Intermittent Fasting, according to the latest research:

--It helps to reset the body to use fat as its primary fuel, versus having a constant supply of glucose from high carb, high sugar foods. It normalizes insulin sensitivity (that’s sugar uptake) and leptin sensitivity, this in turn boosts mitochondrial efficiency. These are your cells energy factories.

--Normalizes ghrelin levels – this is the hunger hormone – bringing that in check. Take it from me, as someone who loves to have her hand in a bag of dark chocolate pumpkin bark anytime after I put the kids to bed, I need to get this in check. I actually believed I NEEDED chocolate at night. Like my life depended on it.

--Reduces oxidation in the cells– fasting actually reduces oxidative damage inside your wee cells. We all know what oxidation does right? Inflammation much?

--Last and my favourite, now that I’m 40, it raises Human Growth Hormone. This is the hormone that starts to tank after 25. When it’s firing, it keeps us lean and mean in a good way. I want this one back. It’s a fat burning hormone that slows aging.

Need I say more? Your take-away should be first, eat clean and healthy, loads of vegetables, and take your supplements per part 1. And second, eat in an 8 hour window until you reach your desired weight. Then you can open it up a bit, but remember, going back to your old ways will mean going back to your old weight. Stick to this for a month, give take, and you will lose that last 10 pounds. Good luck, go forth and conquer. And, please, email me with your success stories.

xo Shannon

lose the last 10lbs

You know when kids go away to university and come home all chunked out, they call it the Freshman 40. Well, I’m calling this my Winter 10. It’s a bit of a misnomer because I’m pretty sure I had my ‘winter 10’ during all of last summer. But who’s counting? Aside from my husband. Seriously, I don’t like it. It’s got to go.

So why is it so hard to drop that last 5/10 pounds? What-is-the-deal? Even my skinny friends now say they have 10 pounds to lose. And the guys do too! Why is it so hard? I’m about to tell you. And I’m about to give you my work around.

I know what you’re thinking, “If it works, why aren’t you skinny?” Because I only just figured this out smart-ass. It’s a process, through research, school, time. And the book that helped me figure this out is called, The Cortisol Connection. If you like this topic, get yourself a copy.

Basically, when you get older it’s harder to lose weight thanks to cortisol, our main stress hormone, alongside adrenalin. Cortisol sends blood sugar through your veins. It tells the body to release glycogen stores from the cells, i.e. glucose, sugar. If there were an emergency to tend to, like a saber tooth tiger or a car accident, the effects of cortisol would be well used, high blood sugar pumped ever so quickly to large muscle groups. Perfect for a sprint.

However, these days, the cortisol pumps for nearly any stressor: sitting still, in our cars, at our desks, having a conversation, cooking dinner, watching the news –if you’re stressed, and worried about time, or a recent argument, the sugar flows. Eventually insulin, also part of the process, comes to “save the day” by telling your cells to take the glucose back, get it out of the blood stream. It’s getting sticky in here! And when we are chronically stressed, as is typical in the 21st Century, and eating the Standard American Diet (a lot of highly refined carbs) the body’s systems stop working per design, and all that sugar causes insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes type 2.

Chronic stress is a little like eating a glazed donut with sprinkles, all day.

Eventually the body stores this excess blood sugar as fat, and we literally grow around the waist and the liver. Muffin top, pot-belly, menopausal weight, age-weight—it doesn’t have to be that way. Over time, even if we could get a handle on our blood sugar, our fat cells store cortisol and have an enzyme, HSD, that will activate this dormant cortisol, from the fat cell just cause, causing this vicious cycle to continue. Welcome to 10 pounds of buttery frustration.

Maybe not the most scientific explanation, just know that stress, cortisol and your fat cells are working against you in the goal to lose weight. I know, Work with me people!

Even if you think you’re not stressed, your body may not agree, you may be just a good coper, like me. So what’s the answer to drop those 5-10? And I don’t mean drop and give me 10, because you won’t lose weight doing a couple push-ups. It comes down to diet. Then supplements. Then exercise.

The good news? I’m not going to tell you to lower your stress. That will just stress you out. Let’s get your nutrients balanced first. Five rather simple steps.

Step 1: To lose weight, you need to (at least in the very short-term) eliminate sugar, alcohol, coffee, refined carbs, fruit juice and any crap like MSG. It’s a neurotoxin and will throw your chemistry off. These stimulants pack on the pounds and keep your system sticky with glucose.

Step 2: Eat the rainbow. Kids love this. Tons of vegetables and some fruit. Add fermented foods to enhance digestion and balance microflora. Balance your proteins with your veggies. Eat an egg. Don’t be scared of high quality fats like avocados or brazil nuts.

Step 3: Take these supplements:

1)   B-complex, that means it has all the B Vitamins, whole food based. I use Garden of Life, Vitamin Code, Raw B Complex.

2)   Vitamin C, the real stuff, sourced from cherries, camu camu also good. Take one dose in the morning and one around dinner.

**You can not take too much B or C Vitamins (folate is the exception), as they are water soluble and you’ll just pee out excess.

3)   Magnesium and Calcium – these minerals are seriously depleted in times of stress.

4)   Omega 3s or Fish oil. Look at my very first post on my Top 6 Supplements – it’s all there.

**You may also consider supplements for targeted cortisol control – ask your naturopath, as there are herbs and specific amino acids that can help you, but it’s a personal thing.  

5)  Finally, consider an adaptogen like ashwagandha or kava kava or an adaptogenic complex. I’ll talk more about that in part 2.

Step 4: Exercise. Not hellacious iron woman type exercise either, that’ll raise cortisol. Go hiking, swimming, biking, yoga, some intervals within this is great.

Step 5: Some stress management is key. Get an outlet, could even just be a group of friends. Or learning to breathe deeply, diaphragm breathing, any chance you get.

Ok, that’s Part 1. I know you want to start losing now, and you will, but first you must work for balance in your body. My tricks for losing weight a little quicker next episode.

xo Shannon  PS. Click on the YouTube button below to see the video version of this blog. 

my top 6 supplements

Today I give you my top 6 supplements for women over 35. Originally I was going to say women in their 40s, this is The 40 Girl’s Guide, but from what I’m seeing in practice, the vast majority of people all ages will benefit from these supplements. Husbands too. Especially as you get anywhere near the age of 40.

Seems your 40s is typically when any sort of bodily abuse catches up with you: too much sugar, booze binges, potato chips, bagel addictions, and so on. I know, fun. Thanks life. Thanks a lot life. Before I give you my list, let’s talk about why we need a list in the first place. I hear this now and then. “Hey, I eat healthy, I feel good, why do I need to supplement?”

First, you may not. This isn’t for everyone. Every body is different. If you do eat carefully, organic, clean, unprocessed and all that, you may be that one per cent with a spectacularly resilient liver and digestive tract who does not need to supplement. Congrats. You are a rarity and you deserve a plaque. Not the arterial kind, nobody deserves that, except Hitler types, and maybe Trump. Just kidding, Trump you and I can totally hang out, but only if you go back to the Apprentice where you belong. Sorry mom.

Ok, let’s cut to it. Well, most of us think we eat healthier then we do. Does this sound familiar? I hardly eat anything all day. I have organic shade grown coffee for breakfast, with a pinch or grass-fed half and half. I practically live on salads. I have a daily smoothie and I still can’t lose any weight. Cut to anytime after 8:00 pm: me, you, the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and a bag of dark chocolate pumpkin bark. Orgasmic. Thank you Costco for ruining my life. Hell, it’s not Costco’s fault. In fact, I applaud them, they have more bulk, affordable organic food then any other big box store or store period—they’re killing it. But their pumpkin bark, might just be killing me.

We need supplements, as a populace, because even when we eat well our bad habits rear their head, plus food addictions, plus denatured often toxic food, plus a rather stressful life. Seriously, people are sicker then ever, sleeping less then ever, eating worse then ever, and there is more chronic disease (which means disease we can control through diet) then ever. The list goes on. Our bodies are taxed beyond capability: enzymes are depleted, hormones are out of whack, we have dysglycemia, dysbiosis and dis-be-dis-dis. That’s why we need supplements, or at least why I do. You decide what’s best for you. Here are the basics to get started:

1)   Probiotics – you would have to be living under a rock to not know why this is important. For ye rock dwellers, our collective gut biomes are a mess, and science is linking the health of the gut to everything from immunity to brain, and mental illness. Feed those little micro-flora the good stuff: probiotics. I use human strain only. Buy it from a naturopath where you are guaranteed 15 billion per cap. Or take BioK. Pricey though.

2)   Magnesium – stress drains your body of this precious mineral, so does coffee and soft drinks and a host of other baddies. It’s needed for everything from calming, restful sleep to bone health, blood pressure and Vitamin D assimilation. I wish I had discovered this mineral sooner. I would have better teeth. I take Calm at night before bed and yes it does help me sleep, no fence jumping sheep required.

3)   Whole Food Multi-Vitamin – I’ve been taking this since before I had my first baby. This is my health insurance. If I eat less then perfect on any given day (try every), this sweet mama ensures I get the basics. This brand has all the Bs, so critical to brain health, A, C, D, E, K and critical minerals/anti-oxidants like selenium and chromium. Literally, don’t leave home without it. Garden of Life, mykind organics, women’s once daily. Yes it’s expensive, but that’s what quality costs.

4)   Fiber – your colon/bowel can not clean itself without enough fiber. And people en masse, do not get enough fiber. So this is also insurance. Renew Life Fibre Smart – it’s got flax, marshmallow root, L-Glutamine, etc., is, in my opinion, the best of the lot.

5)   Greens – I like to eat a lot of greens because salads are yummy. But in the winter, not so much. So as a habit, I take Leaf Greens in the morning to kick-start my day. This one has barley leaf, spinach, kale, arugula, chard, broccoli sprout powders. I order it through AIM company but you can get quality greens at the store – be sure to investigate though, if it’s cheap, it’s lacking. If you want to order via AIM, shoot me an email. I’ll help you.

6)   Fish Oil – we simple are not getting enough EPA DHA in our diet and our body cannot make omega 3s. Deficiency is one of the top 10 causes of death in NA. Get on it. Buy fish oil that comes in a dark bottle that requires refrigeration. Light, air and heat will destroy this fragile oil and make it rancid – which is bad. I will dedicate a post to oils: the good, the bad and the rancid very soon.

BONUS: Vitamin D. Unless your out there sun-bathing on a regular basis, you will need a quality D supplement, get it in D3 form. Some fish oils already contain it.

If I’m being honest, I’ll tell you, there are a few more supplements I take now that I’m getting older. Keep checking back for my hormone post where I’ll get into all that. But the list I’ve just given you is fantastic. If you currently take nothing or very little, you should notice big changes and real benefits. As always, run it by your doctor and naturopath before embarking, etc. Happy pill popping!

            Yours in health, love & peace Shannon

PS. Click on the YouTube button below to see the video version of this blog.