It’s day three of below freezing temperatures, snow, school closures, base closures and being inside our house. Before the cold and snow hit our area (which is an unusual occurrence in my part of the Hampton Roads area of Virginia) I had done a good job gathering groceries, firewood, and other essentials to get us through in case we lost power or were unable to leave the house. However, cabin fever has not only set in by this time, but set up shop in my kitchen in the form of homemade brownies, ranch dip, hearty casseroles, and warm buttery bread. I had prepared for the physical effects of the snow and cold, but I hadn’t prepared for the mental/emotional effects being inside 24/7 would afford.
I don’t know about you, but I have spent quite a bit of time reflecting on how I sabotage my health goals and what sets me on a food binge. In the past I have blamed the environment, special holidays/birthdays, and the lack of preparation for sending me into a food coma. Six years ago, I created the most perfect environment to lose weight by working with a dietitian, exercise physiologist, and a personal trainer. I literally had a team of people working with me to help me achieve ultimate health awesomeness! And it worked. I lost 100lbs, and then my environment changed, and I gained every pound back.
The problem was, I believed the reason I gained weight was because my environment had changed. I attributed my success to everything outside of me, and that it wasn’t an internal process at all. I’m not saying our environment doesn’t affect us, it does. However, our environment isn’t what shoves a warm homemade brownie in our mouth, our hand does. And this is where I believe the key to stopping unwanted eating or binges is… that space between deciding to pick up the brownie and deciding NOT to pick up the brownie. What happens in that moment? Are you responding to life at that moment? Or reacting to it?
Reacting has been my default behavior for a lot situations. Reaction comes from a place of survival. When we are reacting we aren’t aware of our body, our feelings, or others feelings for that matter… when we are reacting we are focusing on surviving. This is great when our lives are in danger, but fortunately my life isn’t in danger 99% of the time. When I’m sad/depressed/restless I default to reacting to food (more brownies to numb the feelings). When its my son’s birthday, rather than check in and realize I feel like a victim because everyone can have cake without the “guilt”, I numb out this feeling by…. You guessed it… eating cake. I'm reacting to those feelings rather than, feeling them, coming back to my body to see if I’m even hungry for cake (I’m not really a cake person… and frosting isn’t my jam), and being ok with having uncomfortable feelings rather than eating them.
Responding to food, and ultimately our life, is a skill. Responding comes from a place of mindfulness. When we are in a space of internal calmness (mindfulness) in a stressful situation, our entire behavior and choices change to more big-picture pre-frontal cortex thinking. We have more clarity and make decisions that better serve us.
Looking back, I didn’t re-gain my weight, binge, or make poor food choices because of the environment I was in. I did these things because I was reacting to a situation(s), and this is where my power is. It’s not in food prepping till the cows come home, or avoiding all celebratory events, or hiring the best health/wellness professionals… no my power is turning inward and listening to what is going on in my body and mind. In this way, it doesn’t matter what life throws at me, what does matter is if I’m willing to show up for myself, listen, and make a choice that supports my overall wellbeing and not just a quick fix to ease uncomfortable feelings.
So the big question is, do you react or respond to your food choices, and do you think it matters?
Thanks for reading
We are knee deep in cold and flu season and it looks like this flu season may be a rough one. So far (knock on wood) I haven’t caught the flu and I’d like to keep it that way! During this time of year, I do add some extra preventative measures to give me, and the family, the best chance possible to fight off the flu OR if we do catch it that it ends up being mild. Here are a list of my favorite preventative measures, I’d love to hear yours in the comments below!
* Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! Staying hydrated keeps mucous membranes soft and moist, preventing tiny cracks that allow viruses and bacteria to enter.
* Homemade Chicken Broth - I make my own Chicken Broth using my Instapot using a Rotisserie Chicken carcass, thyme (antimicrobial, antibacterial, antiviral, expectorant, and astringent. Thyme is great for respiratory infections and coughs. It is also good for the stomach and relieves gas.), garlic (anti-viral, antibiotic, and antiseptic), onion (great for coughs), cayenne powder (stimulant, anti-microbial, analgesic, carminative, diaphoretic, and expectorant. Cayenne can help prevent a cold or flu as well as shorten the duration of a cold or flu), turmeric (anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant), and I’ll throw in celery if I have it. I use this broth is as much of my daily cooking as I can! (Herbs for cold/flu season: https://tinyurl.com/yadzysyw )
* 1 - 2 TB of Fire Cider daily! Fire cider is a spicy vinegar that is sweetened with honey. Many cultures throughout the world have their own version of this drink. Fire cider helps clear out the sinuses and wakes up the immune and circulatory systems. There are several ways to make this (Receipe HERE - https://blog.mountainroseherbs.com/fire-cider ) OR you can purchase it at Mountain Rose Herbs https://tinyurl.com/y7zr5jrw
* I make a batch of Vitamin C Pills. Here is the recipe I use! I buy all my herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs, but you can also find the herbs on Amazon. Recipe HERE: https://tinyurl.com/y9sdf7gf
* I take an Elderberry Gummy daily. They are super simple to make. Elderberry has been used medicinally for centuries in Europe and North America for a wide variety of ailments and are immune enhancing. Find the recipe HERE: https://tinyurl.com/y7upobu8
* Lastly, I make sure to drink my herbal “tea” (infusions). An infusion is a large amount of herb brewed over a long period of time (over 4 hours) or overnight. I put a cup of herb in a quart jar, fill it to the top with boiling water from my tea kettle, cap it and let it sit on my counter over night. The next morning I strain out the herb with my cheesecloth, compost the herb, and put my infusion in the fridge to drink throughout the day. My favorite herbs to use are oat straw, nettle, and red clover. You can find all these herbs on Amazon, Mountain Rose Herbs, or Frontier Herbs. Info on infusions: http://www.susunweed.com/herbal_ezine/September08/anti-cancer.htm
I’d love to hear everyone else’s preventative measures or other ways they stay healthy during this time of year!
Thanks for reading,
If you were to think of five things that were important to you, would you say you prioritize those five things in your life?
* How much time do you spend on those five things each day?
*How much energy do you spend on those five things each day?
* How much attention do you spend on those five things each day?
* How much money do you spend on those five things each day?
*How much focus do you spend on those five things each day?
I can say health is one of my top five priorities, but how much time, energy, attention, money and focus do I spend on it? Am I on my phone most of the evening when I could be looking up new recipes that are within my budget? Am I utilizing Netflix when I could be taking a moment for reflection and mindfulness? When I start to make food choices that are not within my daily budget I can usually trace that choice back to not living in integrity with myself. As much as I don’t want to admit it, I have a very limited amount of time, energy, attention, money, and focus. This means I have to take a cold hard look at what goals, or values, I have. I may want to nurture ten goals/values but the truth is I can really only handle five.
What I’m talking about is often compared to a garden. You have a finite amount of water to use each day. The water represents time, energy, attention, money and focus and the plants are you goals/values. Let’s say you have your five plants (goals/values) you’ve been watering daily for the past couple weeks, then the holidays show up. The plant sprouts aggressively and depends a great deal of your water. Do you give the plant more water at the sacrifice of your other goals/values?? I know I did, and I wasn’t aware I was letting the holiday plant suck so many resources from my values of health, family, peace, etc. If I really think about it, I could beat myself up for giving my resources to the holidays so mindlessly… but I think the holidays gave me an opportunity to see HOW quickly I will give my resources away. Where do I do this in other parts of my life? It can be small plants like distraction via phone, internet, news, etc. It can be big distractions like difficult family members.
As this year begins, it seems like a great time to reflect on our values…. We say we value certain things, but do we really? Are we living in integrity? Where do we spend most of our time? Do we need to change our values/goals to match where we spend our time and focus OR do we need to pull those plants out of our garden and be honest about what we can handle?
We are in a powerful time of year, a time of reflection, a time of honesty, a time of dreaming and a time of change.
Thanks for reading,
What is your primary reason for wanting to change your lifestyle to a healthier version? Is it weight-related only? Did you join to fit into an airline seat better? Or did you see a recent photo of yourself and go “I have to do something, I don’t even recognize that person.”
I initially joined Weight Watchers the end of January of 2017 because I had out of control panic attacks. I had never had a panic attack until the summer of 2014, which is the year our family went into survival mode to handle moves across the country, new jobs, lost jobs, new schools, huge bills and complete life overhauls. At first I thought the panic attack was a heart attack! But when I didn’t die…. And calmed down… I realized it was a panic attack… gggrrrreeaaatttttt……. If you’ve ever had a panic attack, then you know it has the best timing EVER (*eye roll*)
I ate (how I handle stress), panicked, ate, and panicked some more until late January of 2017 (ummm yeah… a little bit of denial about how much the panic attacks were affecting me.. but that’s a whole other topic) when I had a small realization, the only way to manage my anxiety was to at least give my body some sort of nutritional and physical foundation to help weed out why I was having so many panic attacks.
I joined Weight Watchers as a starting place to learn how to take care of myself. I was looking for a program that was more than a diet. I was looking for a supportive space, a place to kick around ideas on health and wellness, a space that would be there for the long haul and Weight Watchers seemed to shifting their focus to a more mindful, whole person approach. Yeah I’d joined WW several times before, but my “why” had been weight-focused only. Panic attacks had sent me to a whole other planet, and I didn’t care as much about the number on the scale as I did about being able to drive in my car and not be in a constant state of fear and panic (and for those of you with panic attacks.. what the hell is up when it happening in the car all the time??). What I was really seeking was well-being and less internal drama.
I like to use Jillian Pransky’s definition of well-being which is “the ability to live in a state of contentment.” Happiness is different than well-being because happiness seems to depend on our circumstances where contentment isn't dependent on anything. Contentment is about being ok with life as it is right now, and as Pransky says, “no longer suffering from the exhaustion or disappointment of trying to make everything ‘just right’.”
Interestingly, since I’ve joined WW, I have lost some weight and my panic attacks have subsided. I don’t think the weight has anything to do with the panic attacks. I do think that eating more nutritious foods, getting more sleep, incorporating more exercise, and being mindful has taken the edge off of the panic (thank God).
Well-being just doesn’t all of a sudden show up on your front door step like an order from Amazon. Well-being is a skill, and WW, or whatever healthier program you are following, can be a tool in the well-being tool box (if that's your “why”).
How has WW steered your ship towards well-being? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks for reading,
I'm not a big vitamin fan, they never settle well in my gut, I always forget to take them when I'm supposed to, and I often wonder if the vitamin I'm taking is really what it says on the box. So there is a lot of confusion, forgetfulness, and upset stomach over vitamins. If you are someone who consistently takes your vitamins or has an excellent relationship with them, keep taking them! For me... and my family... vitamins just don't jive with us.
Our family life is a bit chaotic, and probably will be forever. As much as I strive for balance, I realize balance is bull shit, and really I need to focus on being flexible and making peace with whatever happens in life. Soooo our family life has lots of ebbs and flows... some days I make a kick ass power house meal with nutrition out the ass, and other days.... its Chick-fil-A (delicious but not nutrient dense). I believe its completely unrealistic to center your whole life around making mega-nutrient dense meals that your super picky family members will eat every meal of every day. I'm sure there are people out there who do this... and God Bless You... but this is kinda where I currently am in life..... 70% nutrient dense meals... 30% not so much.
Soooo.... how does one try to add more nutrients to their imperfect life??? Hello Nourishing Herbal Infusions. As I've gone through different Herbalism programs, I've seen the name Susun Weed. I recently decided to listen to her podcasts and a reoccurring theme in her podcasts are how important Nourishing Herbal Infusions are. What is a Nourishing Herbal Infusion? Excellent question.
"An infusion is a large amount of herb brewed for a long time. Typically, one ounce by weight (about a cup by volume) of dried herb is placed in a quart jar which is then filled to the top with boiling water, tightly lidded and allowed to steep for 4-10 hours. After straining, a cup or more is consumed, and the remainder chilled to slow spoilage. Drinking 2-4 cups a day is usual. Since the minerals and other phytochemicals in nourishing herbs are made more accessible by drying, dried herbs are considered best for infusions."
Susun has five infusions that she cycles through for various reasons: nettle, comfrey, linden, red clover, and oat straw. For myself, I have chosen slightly different infusions because they are what sound good to my body, and I'm waiting on the rest of my herbs to arrive! My current daily infusion is: 1 part hibiscus, 1 part nettle, 1 part peppermint. I measure out an ounce of this mixture into my quart mason jar, fill it with boiling water, cap it and let it sit over night.
I'm not sure why this is easier for me to remember than taking supplements, but I know that these infusions nourish my body in a way supplements can't. My kids enjoy drinking these infusions as well! I would encourage anyone who is looking for a way to add some extra nutrients in their life to try these infusions for 2 weeks! It's a simple, practical way to bring some extra goodness in your life.
Where I buy my herbs: Mountain Rose Herbs and Frontier (they sell some of their herbs on Amazon)
Creating a medicinal or infused honey is super easy and rewarding! While recently accompanying Psychic Medium/Shaman Mindie Adamos on her Iowa tour, I noticed she was enjoying some Lavender infused honey. As she told me that a good friend of hers was going to ship this delicious honey to her I said, "you know you can make that yourself right?". Looking back maybe that was kind of an asshole thing to say?? I wasn't trying to be, but I wanted her to know that Lavender infused honey was closer to her fingertips than she thought!
It seems like honey has kind of gotten a bad reputation lately (oh my God sugar). Yes honey is sugar BUT there are many medicinal benefits (raw honey has anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory benefits) to adding a little bit of honey to your life! If you're going to have a sweet treat, why not have it be a sweet treat with medicinal herbal and honey benefits??? Lavender and Calendula are some of my favorite herbs. Lavender is a calming herb that can help with headaches. To learn more about Lavender check out Chestnut School of Herb Medicine. Calendula is easy to grow and use in your everyday cooking preparations! Calendula (or pot marigold) is a versatile herb that is used to help soothe irritated skin and and an irritated gut. Learn more about Calendula on Mountain Rose Herb's Blog!
Something to keep in mind.... when working with Lavender... a little bit goes a long way. When making this honey I used more Calendula than Lavender because I didn't want my honey tasting like soap. Take your time with this recipe and its important to monitor your infusion throughout the day (makes for a wonderful rainy day project)!
I'm always looking for ways to add an extra boost of nutrients to my life. I am a terrible pill/supplement taker, so if I can incorporate herbs throughout my day I feel better about not taking my vitamins. While completing my Herbal Medicine Making Course from Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine, I came across the infamous home brewed Fire Cider™.
Fire Cider™ is a vinegar that is infused with herbs and sweetened with a touch of honey. There are a lot of health benefits with Fire Cider™ and you can learn more HERE and HERE. I use Fire Cider™ as a daily shot of goodness to help keep colds and flu away, and some herbalists use Fire Cider™ to help shorten the duration of a cold or flu. The recipe I created below, is a combination of of recipes I've learned in class and resources online. This golden baby poop looking awesomeness takes about 6 weeks until its ready... so when one batch is ready, I start another one right away.
It's been an amazing, life-changing, energy zapping couple of weeks! I just got back from a quick trip to Iowa to assist with some Reiki training and healing with Psychic Medium Mindie Adamos. It was a wonderful trip, but I arrived home exhausted physically, emotionally and energetically. Traveling, much like any event, is much more than the physical act of traveling. There is a lot of emotion and energy that goes into the act of flying or traveling (will I die in the airplane, will the seatbelt fit around my ample ass, will my flight be delayed and I miss my connection, will I even make it through TSA!).
I know that as a Yoga Instructor... a herbalist.... a Reiki Master... that I gotta keep my body and energy in check... that I shouldn't try to buy into the stress of the flight.... that I've flown a LOT in my lifetime and flying to Iowa is a short trip compared to the ones I've made overseas... but holy shit flying still ratchets my anxiety up a notch or two.
Not only does the act of flying consume energy, but the Reiki training does as well... except this is a bit different. It takes energy for me to really ground myself, slow down the chatter in my head and help create a safe space for others to be vulnerable and heal. Some pretty intense emotions can come up during Reiki training, many people realize they aren't crazy... that the visions, dreams, and emotions they've felt their entire life doesn't mean there is something wrong them, rather its part of their gift!
Holy hell its HOT!!! I've lived in a few different climates and I think humid hot is the hottest hot out there. In dry hot climates, like Colorado, when one steps in the shade, one does feel a bit cooler; however, in humid hot... you can't escape the sweltering heat! Despite the rising temperatures, Moe (the other half of Team Simmons) and I still have to mow (get it Moe mows our yard- ha ha ha ok I'm easily amused) our yard, and this is a 3 hour weekly ordeal involving 3 different types of mowers. In preparation for the yard mowing ordeal, we both have to spray down with lots of bug spray so that we aren't eaten alive my mosquitos, ticks, flys and whatever else we have here in Virginia. Up until this point, I've been using conventional bug sprays because NOTHING natural works.... until I experimented with this kick ass bug spray!
It takes time, patience and some budgeting to switch over to a more natural, slow, or homestead-ish lifestyle. I follow quite a few homestead and small farm blogs and often come away feeling... not good enough. As a retired military family, we have been fortunate to travel the world and serve our country at the same time. There are many benefits to traveling, and our travels have shaped our family in ways we will forever grateful for; however, there are some benefits to living in one space most of your life.... one of those is community connections and resources. When deciding to switch to a slower, more homestead-like, lifestyle, it takes research, those community connections, and... well.... money.
For instance, when I told Moe (the other half of Simmons Family Farm & Apothecary... oh and also my spouse) that it was time to create a garden, start incorporating more herbal remedies in our lives, and get our vintage skills on... he was 1000% on board... and then we had to discuss a budget. We were working from scratch... we didn't have any garden tools, a pickup to haul anything, a tiller to dig up the soil, raised bed material.... nothing. On top of that, Moe didn't even know if I had the skills to keep plants alive... and I was kinda with him on that. EVERY house plant I brought home... died. Every damn one. So here we are... no tools to start with, unknown skill levels (and possibly NO skills), a super small budget and a huge dream.
It was a mess. We went way over budget on our garden, my parents happened to fly in for a "vacation" and ended up working the whole time they were here to help us establish our garden, and there isn't one spot in the garden where several f-bombs weren't dropped at some point. Half-way through our garden plans, a broken tiller, dead plants, seeds that refused to germinate, I looked at Moe and said, "this is some bull sh*t man. Gardening is EXPENSIVE. I think I'm done... convenience wins."
Thankfully we didn't cut our losses and give up. I finally quit throwing a tantrum. Moe and I went for plan D or E and pushed forward. Now, I'm very grateful we didn't give up and enjoy what were were able to create; however, I learned a huge lesson on what it means to homestead. I was comparing my Step 1 to certain homesteaders/small farmers Step 100. Homesteading is an investment. Gardening is an investment. Owning chickens is an investment. And just like a range financial investment options... not every one will pan out like you'd want.
If I'm being honest, I don't see us gaining any financial benefits from our garden (such as not needing to buy certain veggies at the store because I'm growing it myself, or canned veggies and actually savings us money) for about 5 years. We plan on adding more raised beds (which requires material and soil) and adding additional rows of corn (which may require an investment in a tiller). Don't get me wrong, I understand there are way more benefits to having a garden than just financial ones! However, there is this belief out there on the interwebs that having a garden is cheap and easy... well... maybe it is if you have the skills and resources already in place.... but we sure as hell didn't!
If you are wanting to be more self-sustaining, garden, start farming, etc then know that it will take some research, time and money to initially get going! It's ok to start off small and have no idea what you are doing. Maybe you don't know how to cook or can... and this would be a great place to start making the transition. By learning how to cook or how to can, you learn what you use and therefore need to grow in your garden. Or if you live in an area with no yard, experiment with growing herbs, veggies or flowers in pots. Take an herbalism class online (I LOVE Chestnut School of Herbs, they have payment plans and message me if you'd like to learn more). See if your local County Extension Office offers any free, or low-cost, gardening classes. There are many options available, it just takes time and energy to research them out!
The important part... is to just try. Check your perfectionism at the door, expect to spend more than what you had planned, know you might want to give up... a lot, and keep trying.
Don't forget to check out our latest podcast: wellFULL