Monday, May 26, 2014

Heal Your Grief on Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a day to honor those who have died serving your country. 

It is also a day to remember loved ones who have passed on. 

Remember your loved ones and keep them alive in your memory by honoring family traditions and sharing memories of adventures and activities shared together.

Read more on how to Honor the Veterans in Your Community by Carolyn Flynn

Read more on how to Remember Your Loved Ones by Carolyn Almendarez

Learn how to heal your broken heart by reading Heal Your Grief by Carolyn Flynn

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The JJ Virgin Diet Results and Insights

Wow!  I can't believe it's already been three weeks!  I can't say I followed the Virgin Diet 100%, but I gave it a good faith effort and would say I was 90% compliant.  :)

I didn't lose any weight or notice any significant changes being off the 7 forbidden foods of dairy, gluten, eggs, sugar, corn, soy, and peanuts, but I gained valuable insights from this food exercise so I'm glad I tried it out.

The biggest gift from this experiment was increased mindfulness and consciousness of what I was eating and how it affected me.  This is a skill we'd all benefit from and well worth the aggravation of being without some of my favorite foods. 

I caught that I had developed a habit for having a "sweet treat" after I ate.  It didn't matter if I was completely full, not hungry, or just completed a very satisfying and fulfilling meal.  Within minutes of cleaning up I was craving a bit of chocolate or other sugary delight.  It was amazing.  The most surprising being how unconscious I was of this habit I had developed and how strong the craving was to fulfill it.

Because I was consciously choosing not to eat the 7 allergen foods I had to consciously think about my choices, what I was eating, and pay attention to how I was feeling.  Previously I would have considered myself a very healthy eater and conscious of my food choices and the effects of food on my mood, energy, and overall well-being.  I was surprised at how many patterns and subtle habits had developed over time that were keeping me less than present while eating or making my meal decisions.  I also discovered I do a lot more snacking than I was aware of!  A handful of nuts, a bit of chocolate, or some fruit.  It all adds up, but is easily discounted when you're not paying attention.

The second biggest insight was how difficult it is to do a "diet".  I've never been a big fan of diets in general, but even doing this with the re-frame of calling it a healthy food plan, lifestyle change, or food experiment, psychologically it still had some of the negative effects of being on a "diet". 

Anytime you try to create change by denying yourself something you want, or like, your subconscious is going to kick back like a two-year-old having a temper tantrum.  It doesn't like being told it "can't" have something even if consciously you know the change will be good for you.

Staying away from the seven foods was a challenge, merely because I wasn't suppose to be eating them!

This experiment reminded me of the importance of defining your food choices in empowered re-frames of "I choose to eat this",  "I choose not to eat this", or "I don't eat this", rather than the victim or powerless re-frames of "I can't eat this" or "I shouldn't eat this".  This subtle but powerful self-talk and perception of your power around your food choices can be the success or failure of sticking to your desired food plan.

I did noticed some negative reactions re-introducing gluten, dairy, and sugar including mood swings, fatigue, and increased cravings within hours after eating.  These may need to be on my black list of foods I don't eat any more.

Overall I'm glad I did this three week experiment and I have a re-newed commitment to be mindful and conscious about my food choices and how foods effect me physically and psychologically.  But now it is my choice not to eat something, rather than the diet's restriction, and that is a powerful state of being.  :)

By Carolyn Almendarez

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Virgin Diet Week 1

I survived my first week on the Virgin Diet, well sort of.  I did fabulous the first four days, then kind of fell off the wagon.

The first four days went great.  I stuck to the program and was having little problems sticking with it.  It got tougher mid-week when the food limitations started to have an impact and I was going to the fridge wondering what I was going to eat.

My only real challenge was the consistent hunger pains around 8pm every evening.  I figured it was because I had removed cheese from my diet and wasn't getting enough fat to sustain me through the evening so I increased my raw nut intake.

If I'm eating enough calories during the day then hunger pains in the evening could be fatigue, thirst, or the body burning fat.  So my evening hunger pains may not be a bad thing, just something I need to pay more attention to.

Mid-week I had the opportunity for a cookie.  It had been a long day so I rationalized it thinking, "A little won't hurt."  Boy was I wrong!  The next morning I woke up teary and emotional.  By dinner time my depression and apathy were in full swing so I said "f**** this diet" and indulged in some enchiladas.  They were good.  But they also triggered some intense evening cravings for sugar and chocolate.  The effects of sugar and wheat on my mood and cravings were incredible!

My menstrual period arrived mid-week intensifying my food reactions.  If I hadn't been paying attention to my food choices I would have easily blamed my emotional nose-dive on my period, or my husband, and my period would also get blamed for my increased sugar cravings.

I recently learned that eggs and Vitamin C were both good for stabilizing the hormonal shifts caused by your period.  I have had success with both of them helping me stay more emotionally and physically stable during my premenstrual and menstrual cycle.

Having eggs off limits was really tough.  Without my anchor food I found myself a little lost as to what I could do nutritionally to help stabilize the hormonal shifts and more susceptible to old habits of increased carbohydrates and sugars during my period.

It's not uncommon to crave sugar and carbohydrates during your period.  They provide a temporary serotonin increase that elevates your mood and makes you feel better.  But the sugar crash triggers mood swings and increased cravings in an attempt to get those happy feelings back.  It's a vicious cycle that can leave you feeling fat and frustrated.

Healthy ways to increase your serotonin include sleep, exercise, sex, and sunshine.  So I made a point to get out in the sun and do some pleasurable activities throughout the day to stabilize my food cravings and boost my mood without caving into more sugar.  My efforts paid off and I'm back on track, physically and emotionally.

I was grateful that before I started this program I gave myself some flexibility.  I chose to focus on this process as being a positive food change, rather than as a "diet" (code for: dying to be thin).  This allowed me to make mistakes without feeling bad or beating myself up, and instead learn from them and get back on the program.

Having been off wheat and sugar for four days and then back on I was quickly able to see how these food choices negatively impacted my moods much more severely then I realized.  I also clearly saw how these foods triggered cravings for more carbohydrates and sugars.  Both effects would have been missed if I hadn't been paying attention to the effects of the different foods I was eating.

I could see that if I was eating these foods on a daily or near daily basis the effects would be interpreted as "normal" and I would make no correlation to how I was feeling and the foods I was eating.

So even though I didn't perfectly follow the Virgin Diet protocol I still have learned a lot about myself and the effects of food on my body.  I'm ready for week 2 and looking forward to more insights and learning.

By Carolyn Almendarez

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

No Cheese Or Chocolate For Three Weeks - YIKES! - The Virgin Diet Experiment

If you haven't already heard, JJ Virgin has just released the Virgin Diet Cookbook to accompany her book TheVirgin Diet:Drop 7 Foods, Lose 7 Pounds, Just 7 Days.  

Lose seven pounds in seven days is intriguing so I decided to check it out and do a little Internet research.  Of the reviews and websites I looked at the weight loss results were mixed, ranging from 0 - 30 lbs lost after a month of being on her program.  I didn't find any independent claims of dramatic weight loss or life changes comparable to the testimonials on her website and promotional materials.  Still it's an intriguing idea.

The basic concept behind her diet is that health problems and weight gain can come from consuming allergenic foods or foods you are intolerant to.  

Severe food allergies are easy to identify because of the immediate reaction to the problematic food.  But mild or moderate food allergies and food intolerances can be difficult to identify because the allergenic reaction can be mild flu-like symptoms or unpleasant feelings like fatigue, sluggishness, headaches, or poor concentration.  Making them even trickier to detect, symptoms may not appear for several hours to a few days after eating the problematic food.

She identifies that the seven most common allergenic foods are: peanuts, corn, soy, gluten, dairy, sugar, and eggs and when you eliminate them from your diet, your body naturally loses weight.
Her program is to remove the seven foods from your diet for three weeks, then bring them back one by one to see how you react to them.  She claims her diet to be different from an elimination diet because she offers food swaps you can eat to replace each of the seven forbidden foods such as replacing cow's milk with coconut milk.

Through allergy testing I already know that I have a moderate allergy to four of her identified offenders.  I have felt fine keeping them at a minimum.

JJ Virgin argues that if you have any level of allergy or intolerant response you should not eat the offending food, debunking the "everything in moderation" myth.  My doctor wasn't to hip on the idea of completely eliminating a food group.  But I guess it's possible that the allergens are harming the body at the cellular level, even if I'm not noticing any symptoms.  It will be intriguing to see if I notice any difference in how I feel being completely off them.

I do agree with her that "everything in moderation" is a slippery slope to eating more than you intended.  It's very easy to rationalize like an alcoholic, "just one won't hurt me" and before you know it, you've ingested several.

I must admit that when I decided to try out her diet I gave myself some time to kick my daily dose of chocolate, figuring stopping sugar would be my most difficult challenge.  I also fell into the trap of any diet, suddenly indulging in the foods I would soon be forbidden to eat.  I recognize my human frailties, but I'm also committed to rising to the challenge of no cheese or chocolate for three weeks.  (Though it may not be so pleasant for my husband.)  

With the mixed reviews of actual weight lost I'm going to focus on how I feel and take weight loss as an extra bonus.  My Virgin Diet Experiment starts today.  In three weeks we'll see how I did and if I caved to cheese and chocolate.

by Carolyn Almendarez 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Are Your Relationships Making You Fat?

By Carolyn Almendarez

One of the most vulnerable dangers for gaining unwanted excess weight is relationship conflict.

Relationship conflict is any form of friction, discord, struggle, incompatibility, dissonance, disagreement, argument, or debate between two people.

Anyone who's had a fight or argument with their spouse or significant other knows first hand the spiral of highly charged negative thoughts, feelings and actions that often follow in response to the environmental stressor or person you are engaging with.

The negative thoughts and emotions from relationship conflict can trigger emotional eating, stress-eating, and sleep deprivation. They can also hog up a lot of emotional and psychological energy impairing your ability to think clearly and work productively.

A single conflict can trigger an avalanche of unhealthy reactions in your thoughts and behaviors, and trigger a cascade of stress-reactions within your body, all of which will contribute to impaired sleep, poor eating habits, increased weight, and decreased work performance and productivity. [Read More...]