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Three Easy Ways to Feel Better Fast

posted by Pilar Gerasimo November 20, 2020 0 comments

Been feeling a little frayed around the edges lately? Yah, me too.

We are living in physically, mentally, and emotionally dysregulating times. So if you want to feel better fast, re-regulation is the name of the game.

With that in mind, here are a few of my favorite ways to go from feeling frantic and discombobulated to centered, calm, and in full possession of myself — fast.

1) Try My Three-Minute “Morning Minutes” Practice

My three-Minute Morning Minutes practice is a total day changer. Try it!

You’ve probably heard that doing a morning meditation or having a morning ritual is a good idea. But if you’re like a lot of people, you might be struggling to make that happen.

Why? You might have made it more complicated than it needs to be. And thus, fitting it into your busy life is tough. You might also be in the habit of reaching for your phone first thing on waking. If so, I encourage you to challenge that habit, and I’ll give you a science-based reason for doing so.

When you first wake up, your brain is in a super-sensitive and receptive “theta” brainwave state. It is operating in a highly creative, impressionable mode between waking and sleeping, a mode in which your subconscious mind is accessible, and your emotional self is also rather vulnerable.

When you wake and go straight to your devices, you expose your still delicate self to an assault of world news, worries, to-do lists, manipulative ads, petty social media matters, and worse. You can easily throw your whole body into an inflammatory stress response before you’ve even gotten going.

So rather than letting the whole crazy, “out there” world come at you all at once, and letting it trigger you into reactive state before you are fully awake, I suggest you instead claim the first few minutes of your day for yourself.

Use these high-value (impressionable, creative, suggestible) moments to set your own goals and intentions, to establish a positive habits and mindsets, and to access your most creative, flexible patterns of thought and feeling.

I call this practice the Morning Minutes. It is one of three Renegade Rituals I swear by, and like the other two, it is delightfully simple.

How to Create Your Own Morning Minutes Practice

Right when you wake up, before you do anything else, simply give yourself the gift of coming into your waking state gradually — without any digital devices, electronics, or demands.

That’s it. Before looking at ANY screens, including news, social media, email or text messages, just use the first few minutes of your day to enjoy doing something (anything) that you find appealing. The more enticing something feels to you on that particular day, the better.

My agreement with myself is that I will do a minimum of three minutes in this mode, but you can extend it as long as you like. Keeping the base commitment short is the best way to avoid making it feel burdensome or like something you “don’t have time for” on a given day.

You DO have three minutes. And if you feel you can’t commit three minutes to your own mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing, it is worth challenging that belief or setting a new boundary so that you can.

What you do with your three minutes is entirely up to you. I usually light a beeswax candle and journal or play guitar or pet my dog while I sip a cup of really good coffee with heavy cream.

Sometimes I stay in bed for a little while, awake, just checking in with my own body and mind, stretching my limbs, and envisioning how I want the day to go.

On different days, I do different things: Sometimes I meditate, sometimes I do yoga, sometimes I step outside and look up at the sky. I never feel burdened or pressured to do or accomplish anything in particular — only what I feel like.

For me, noticing and honoring what I feel like doing is part of the practice.

Again, the key is this Morning Minutes ritual is doing it BEFORE you start looking at screens. That means before you start checking overnight alerts and notifications, before “just peeking” at the news or weather, before you start scrolling through social media feeds, email or text messages.

If you do any of that, you’ve let the “out there” world’s agenda for you into your sacred space, and you can pretty much kiss your theta state goodbye. Your brain will be in an executive-function beta state by then, and in that state, while Morning Minutes practice is still certainly worth doing, it won’t be the same.

Based on experience, I would also say your chances of successfully accomplishing your Morning Minutes practice diminish radically with each moment you spend plugged into mass media and mass society — or what I call the Unhealthy Default Reality.

You can get more guidance on my Morning Minutes practice in the “Morning” episode of The Living Experiment podcast I cohost with my friend Dallas Hartwig. Or you can watch this little video I made about it for my friends over at BOOM by Cindy Joseph. Or you can read about it in this excerpt of my book, as recently featured over at Mindful.org.

In my book, The Healthy Deviant, I also supply some fun tools for establishing your Morning Minutes practice, and for tracking your success with it over time.

Whatever you do, DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF THIS PRACTICE. I know it sounds like a tiny thing, but I have heard from hundreds of people that this single, simple, three-minute ritual has changed their lives in wonderful, radical ways.

Try it and see for yourself. And, hey, don’t be surprised if NOT reaching for your phone first thing turns out to be a whole lot harder than you thought.

2) Establish a sensory haven.

a pitbull under a blanket on a couch relaxing
Calvin, my pit bull pal, is an ace at creating sensory havens for himself. This is his “I just need a little nap” look.

We all need a place where we can withdraw from the Unhealthy Default Reality, and recover from its overwhelming, undermining influences. We need a place where we can reset our brains, calm our nerves, and remind ourselves that things are, in fact, going to be okay.

I call that sort of place a sensory haven.

Even if your sensory haven sits within a single room (or under a blanket, or in a bathtub) and even if you can only avail yourself of it for a few minutes a day, make a point of consciously creating a sense-nourishing atmosphere that lets you relax into a sense of “aaaah.”

How to Create Your Sensory Haven

Choose a space that you can generally control, and where you feel safe. Create some physical or psychic boundaries to define and protect it.

When you are using this special space in haven mode, silence the phone. Have no media playing in the background, except maybe some beautiful, calming, centering music of your choosing.

Surround yourself with good smells. Soft lighting. Cleared surfaces. Serene or vibrant colors. Comforting textures.

Sit in a comfy chair. Swaddle yourself in a quilt. Or just lie down, close your eyes, and breathe.

Yes, the world is straight-up wacky a lot of the time. Yes, there’s always going to be more to do. But remember: It is also your birthright to just be. To go slow. To pause. To enjoy. To process.

 Your body-mind needs that. It really needs that.

Think about it. Your eyes blink open AND closed. Your heart valves move blood in AND out. Every system in your body oscillates between active and restful, between effort and recovery, between full and empty.

Always on, always pushing ahead, always taking on more without fully processing — that just does not work. You are managing a lot right now. So create some time and space for recovery, too.

One of my favorite “sensory haven” tools is an album-length piece of music called Roots and Branches by artist and therapist David Lauterstein. It is an uninterrupted, hour-long track of gorgeous, resonant, super-serene acoustic guitar music. Just one instrument playing one gradually evolving melody at one consistent, heart-beat paced rhythm.

I never tire of this piece. Just hearing its opening notes makes me feel instantly better, more “rooted” and more human — even on my weirdest, most disrupted days.

If you listen to Roots and Branches and enjoy it, please support David Lauterstein’s work by ordering a copy of his CD from his website. As he explains there, all the copies available elsewhere online are pirated. (Even though he kindly makes the whole track available for free on YouTube. Seriously. Gah.)

3) Take yourself for a no-phone walk in the great outdoors.

Taking a no-phone walk gives you a chance to put your attention on real, simple, present-moment pleasures.

If I had to choose between the gym and a brisk walk, I’d choose the walk every time. Walks come with so many bonuses and benefits — particularly when you leave your electronics behind.

Bundle up if you need to, and then get OUT. Look OUT. Look UP. Breathe in. Breathe out. Revel in the fact that you are here and you are alive.

Carry only what you must. Leave biometric gadgets, and all your other noise-making, distracting electronic thingamabobs behind.

If you can only make 10 minutes, fine. If you can go for 20 minutes or a half hour or longer, even better.

If you feel you can’t safely go for even a short walk (even around the block) without your phone, first, notice that (the Unhealthy Default Reality at work!). Then put your phone in a zip-top bag inside another bag with a rubber band wrapped around it tight, so you are less tempted to reflexively (addictively) reach for your device or have your attention held hostage by it the entire time.

Be in your animal body. Sniff the air. Open your ears to the wind and the flutter of living things. Make eye contact with other animals (including humans), plants, clouds, puddles of water and sunshine.

Make heart contact with yourself. Smile at some folks. Let your random thoughts flop around in your too-full brain until they quiet themselves down and begin to re-order themselves.

Notice who you are when you are unplugged, unburdened, free to connect with yourself and the real, embodied world around you.

Give these three practices a try, solo or in combination, for a few days running and let me know how it goes. My hope is that they will leave you feeling less frazzled, less world weary, and more capable of handling whatever comes next.

Want more life-shifting wisdom?

Check out my book, The Healthy Deviant: A Rule Breaker’s Guide to Being Healthy in an Unhealthy World. You can get a free preview and find purchase links here. Thank you for supporting my work!

Listen to Episode

Revolutionary Act 35: Move It Out

posted by Pilar Gerasimo August 23, 2017 0 comments

Let’s talk a bit about poo. Oh, you’d rather not? I understand. It’s not something most of us would choose to discuss in polite company.

But I really hope you’ll at least consider what I have to say on the topic, and here’s why: As it relates to your health, what exits your body is just as important as what goes in.

Your poo offers a view into your state of well-being. Basically, if the stuff coming out of you isn’t in optimal form, it suggests that some things inside of you aren’t going as well as they could, either.

The problem is, we rarely talk about our bowel movements (except in those families where they are discussed endlessly), so most people don’t have a lot of information to draw on regarding what is and is not considered good in the world of poo.

That’s actually quite a complex scientific subject, because at the biochemical level, there’s a lot going on in our waste that the naked eye can’t see.

Viewed under a powerful-enough microscope, a stool sample can reveal the health of the intestinal system, the quality of our digestion and nutrient assimilation, food sensitivities, our bodywide levels of inflammation, and the presence of certain pathogens, cancers, autoimmune disorders, and more.

Then there’s the study of the microbiome, that community of microorganisms that live in and on our bodies. Microbiome research — much of which relies on close examination of stool samples — is rapidly advancing, and it’s revealing that the balance of flora and fauna in our intestinal systems can have a huge impact not just on bowel health but on virtually every other part of physical and mental well-being.

So, poo matters way more than you might think. In fact, it is so powerful that many doctors now employ it as a medication, introducing healthy stool samples into beleaguered intestinal tracts (a procedure known as a fecal transplant) to help repopulate them with good bacteria.

This strategy is now being used to resolve a range of stubborn medical conditions (including, but not limited to, bowel disorders) that other medical interventions fail to treat.

Researchers are also exploring what they call the gut–brain axis, and finding that the balance of microorganisms in the gut can powerfully affect the brain, mood, and behavior, potentially playing a significant role in depression and anxiety.

There’s so much fascinating science to explore in this realm, but even without advanced lab testing, it’s possible to learn a lot about the state of your body by simply observing and evaluating your own poo situation on a daily basis.

Forgive me as I get a bit graphic here (and perhaps don’t read this while you are eating), but the specifics really matter.

Too often, when doctors ask their patients about their bowel movements, they get stock, flustered answers like, “Er, normal, I guess,” simply because most of us have never been educated about what “normal” means in this context.

It’s important to note that poo does vary from person to person, so generalizations can be dicey, but there are some guidelines that go for just about everybody. Three of the most easily discerned factors to consider are form, frequency, and comfort.

Form

A healthy bowel movement is generally semisoft (vs. hard, pelletized, or liquid), and it comes out in a single continuous curve or coil that reflects the curving shape of your colon. (A disgusting but helpful reference point: A good poo comes out of your body kind of like firm, soft-serve ice cream comes out of a dispenser. Sorry, I know, so gross — but true.)

If it is a mixture of solid and liquid, that comes out in clumps, or that alternates between very hard and very soft, that suggests something in your system is wonky.

Similarly, if you see undigested food particles, or a floating haze of what looks like oil or mucus, that could be a sign you’re not breaking down and absorbing nutrients as well as you could be.

The form, texture, and color of your poo is often a direct reflection of what you have been recently eating and drinking. So, occasional poo weirdness may just be an indication your body isn’t wild about its recent care and feeding.

But ongoing, observable poo problems can be a reflection of more serious and chronic health issues, including food sensitivities, infections, microbiome imbalances, compromised bowel mechanics, and more.

The presence of blood in your stool (which may show up as red or black) can indicate problems at various stages of your digestive tract, and is best evaluated by a health professional.

If you tend to flush without looking, you may not recognize any of these signals. So basically, when you go, you gotta look.

Frequency

While a daily poo is the standard for most people, a lot of progressive health professionals consider that a bare minimum.

Aiming for the smooth and steady transport of your food through the digestive system, they would prefer to see you go two or even three times a day, or as often as you eat a meal.

Logically, it makes sense that your body might be happiest eliminating batches of solids in more or less the same rhythm as it consumes them. But feeling an urgent need to go more frequently than that (or at alarming and unanticipated intervals) may be a sign that your digestion is off, that you ate something that disagrees with you, that you are overstressed, or that your bowel is irritated and inflamed.

Having less than one good bowel movement a day may suggest a holdup in the digestive system, which could be due to a variety of dietary and lifestyle factors, such as inadequate hydration, nutrients, or fiber; excess stress; or unidentified food intolerances (gluten and dairy being prime culprits for many).

Both overactive and sluggish bowel activity can produce all kinds of trouble over time, from skin issues to bodywide inflammation to chronic disease, so if you aren’t currently in a happy cadence with your bowel movements, it’s worth investigating and resolving the source of that trouble.

Comfort

How you feel before, during, and after your bowel movements (as well as how you feel about them) may actually be the ultimate consideration.

Bowel movements are meant to be easy, quick, painless, and anxiety-free endeavors. If they’re not, don’t panic. There are lots of things you can do to resolve your issues.

The first thing to know: What-ever you find worrisome about your poo — whether that’s not being able to go, or being stressed by gassiness, bloating, or unexpected-poo surprises — it’s not something you have to tolerate.

On the contrary, it’s something to acknowledge as a stress signal from your body and explore further, perhaps with a qualified integrative physician or other digestive-health professional.

Seek out a partner who will help you address the root cause of your problem, not just the symptoms, because whatever is messing with your poo is probably also messing with a lot of your bodily functions.

The sooner you get the health of your digestive system handled, the sooner you’ll start to feel healthy, strong, energetic, and clear. You still might not want to talk a lot about poo, but you’ll have a lot more respect for the essential role it plays in your life.

Revolutionary Act 36: Read Labels

posted by Pilar Gerasimo August 18, 2017 0 comments

Revolutionary Act 34: Go for Quality, Not Quantity

posted by Pilar Gerasimo July 12, 2017 0 comments

You know one phrase that has always bothered me? “Portion control.” Blech. There’s just something so judgmental and white-knuckled about it.

To me, it speaks of food meted out with equal parts precision and disapproval. It smacks of appetites denied, hands reaching for seconds and being slapped away. It sounds “hangry.”

Still, for as much as the phrase portion control might rub me the wrong way, I find the prospect of totally out-of-control portions to be similarly disconcerting.

Here in the United States, the latter problem seems to be the more pressing public-health threat. But, in fact, I think they are inherently intertwined.

A 2015 study reported in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that 92 percent of restaurant meals served in this country significantly “exceeded typical energy requirements for a single eating occasion.” Look, I know it’s probably no newsflash that a lot of the restaurant meals eaten in this country are calorically overdense. But 92 percent? That’s a lot.

And that eating overload isn’t just happening at restaurants. It’s occurring in many homes, where prepared, packaged, and takeout foods now dominate kitchen tables — if anybody even eats at tables anymore.

It also holds sway in many workplaces, where all-day grazing, snacking, and sweet-beverage-guzzling are now the norm. Of course, it’s encouraged just about everywhere in between: Starbucks recently introduced a new, 31-ounce Trenta serving option; and cookies the size of your face are routinely offered for “grab-and-g0” at checkout counters.

As a fleet of respected researchers and authors, including Michael Moss, Michael Pollan, Gary Taubes, and Brian Wansink, have suggested, these over-eating trends have been designed into our food culture by industrial interests that have a lot to gain by getting us to eat — and buy — ever more.

They’ve done that by exploiting our natural eating preferences and manipulating them toward increasingly salty, sweet, and engineered-to-be-irresistible flavors and textures.

They’ve done it by providing us with huge serving sizes at seemingly bargain-basement prices (thanks mostly to industrial-agricultural subsidies financed by taxpayers).

And they’ve done it by lobbying intensively to make sure their business models (which include aggressive marketing to children and teens) aren’t effectively challenged.

Both the reengineering of our palates and the expansion of standard portions have grown more extreme over the past few decades, indelibly altering what several generations have come to think of as “normal” food products, serving sizes, and eating patterns.

The result, not surprisingly, is that we are now eating an astonishing quantity of food. Well, some food.

Just as the rampant overeating of heavily processed foods poses a serious threat to our health, it seems likely that the rampant undereating of whole foods (like the brightly colored vegetables that have been all but crowded out of our daily diets) may soon be understood as an equally grave threat.

Why? Because a lot of those healthy foods quell inflammation, issue healing instructions, and keep our genes functioning properly. Without them, even though our plates may be piled high, our bodies remain undernourished. Even as a great many of us surpass our daily calorie quotas, a bunch of our cellular functions, genetic circuitry, and metabolic pathways are scrounging for raw materials.

Data from the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee suggests that a significant percentage of U.S. adults aren’t getting the National Academy of Medicine’s (NAM) estimated average requirements of vitamins A, D, E, and C, as well as folate, calcium, magnesium, and fiber.

Relative to our heavy intake of omega-6 fatty acids (prevalent in most commercial vegetable oils, processed foods, fast foods, and meats), our ratio of omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish, grassfed meats, nuts, seeds, and avocados) is, according to guidance from the NAM, woefully low.

In the realm of nutrition — as in all realms — both “not enough” and “too much” of anything can spell trouble. Unfortunately, we live in a food world that can make it hard to find the middle ground between these extremes.

So how do we make sense of our own appetites? How do we make peace with what often feels like an  uncontrollable desire to eat more than our bodies know how to handle? And at the same time, how do we get more in touch with our bodies’ healthy cravings — the ones telling us we actually need more of some things, not less?

I think it comes down to a reprioritizing of quality over quantity, and a refining of the ability to differentiate between the two.

That, in turn, calls for both exposure and experimentation. So here are a few great places to start:

1. If you’re ready to go all in, try a Whole30. Basically, this involves 30 days of eating high-quality whole foods while simultaneously eliminating grains, dairy, added sugars, caffeine, alcohol, soy, and corn (more at www.whole30.com). Too intense? Consider embarking on a more inclusive whole-food eating strategy (like Harvard nutritionist David Ludwig’s Always Hungry? program) that encourages you to eat a plethora of nutrition-dense foods while also helping you master some essential healthy-eating skills in the process.

2. Add before you remove. If you’re not interested in a full-scale eating intervention, try a more nuanced approach. Rather than restricting the foods you are currently eating, try adding moderate to generous helpings of healthy whole foods (especially nonstarchy vegetables and healthy fats) to the mix. Add a big green salad or an extra serving of colorful veggies with olive oil and lemon to as many meals as you can. Have an avocado or a can of sardines for a snack. As your nutrition and fiber intake increase, your body will naturally recalibrate, steadying your energy and appetite, reducing your cravings, and making it easier to manage subsequent nutritional adjustments.

3. Reverse ratios. Often, when we are presented with problematically big portions, the substrate is a cheap, grain-based filler — pasta, rice, bread, pastry, cereal, or pizza crust. More nutritious and flavorful ingredients (like fresh produce) are presented as toppings, flavorings, or mere condiments. Try reversing these proportions, and notice how it influences your eating experiences. If you have a robust serving of vegetables with meat or plant-sourced protein as a base, could you enjoy a smaller serving of pasta on the side? For breakfast, could you dig into a generous bowl of berries, nuts, and seeds with just a handful of cereal sprinkled over the top? With enough yummy fillings, could you have your sandwich open-faced, or tucked into a big romaine leaf rather than a grain-based wrap? Try a few swaps and see what happens.

4. Get comfortable with the cost-benefit tradeoffs. High-quality whole foods often, but not always, cost more than cheap commodity ingredients. But by helping you stay healthier and more satisfied, they deliver a better value over time. (For more on that, check out my last column, “Revolutionary Act No. 33: Care Where Food Comes From.”) Be willing to invest in healthy foods that taste great, even if it means enjoying them in smaller quantities.

Finally, if you do nothing else, just start noticing. Notice the nature of the foods in front of you. Notice how you feel when you eat them. And notice how, as you embrace foods that nourish your senses and your health, concerns with portion control begin to fall away, revealing new adventures in eating enjoyment.

Revolutionary Act 33: Care Where Food Comes From

posted by Pilar Gerasimo June 29, 2017 0 comments

Once upon a time, we humans knew where every single bite of our food came from. For about 2.5 million years, we knew either because we hunted or foraged for it ourselves, or because somebody we knew intimately hunted or foraged for it on our behalf.

Then came the Agricultural Revolution: About 10,000 years ago, for the first time, we started growing and storing grains in significant quantities, domesticating animals for food and milk, and amassing surpluses for storage and trade.

Our diets shifted dramatically as a result. But for a long while afterward, we still had a good sense of where our food came from. Because whatever we weren’t hunting and foraging, we were probably growing and raising for ourselves. Or we were getting it from someone who lived nearby — likely somebody with whom we had some sort of direct relationship.

Over the course of the past thousand years — particularly in the past hundred and most radically in the past 60 — all of that has changed. Very suddenly, in evolutionary terms, after millions of years of humans having a close, direct relationship with their food, that sort of relation-ship became exceedingly rare.

How did this happen? First, a great many of us moved from the wilderness and small villages into bigger cities, places distant from where most foods were found, raised, and grown.

Next, as trade advanced, we were no longer as dependent on local sources. As industrialization and mechanization advanced, we found more efficient ways of mass producing and processing raw ingredients into a wide array of food products with less resemblance to their original form.

It’s only in the past few generations that we’ve become accustomed to eating food grown, raised, or produced by total strangers so far away, and by methods so mechanized and industrialized that we often can’t even tell precisely (or even generally) what our food contains.

In the process, we lost track of where our food comes from — not just geographically but elementally. We lost our consciousness of the nature of food, of the places where our meats and plant foods originate, of how they are raised, and of the eco-systems on which they depend.

Where does meat come from? From the store. On a Styrofoam tray wrapped in plastic. Or from a freezer box, in microwavable nuggets. Where do vegetables come from? From a shelf, can, bag, or box — perhaps prechopped or precooked. And then there’s all those other things we eat: boxed, bagged, shrink-wrapped, factory-produced concoctions of various kinds.

Most of us no longer know how a lot of our foods look on the hoof or on the vine. As chef Jamie Oliver -famously illustrated, many of our school-age children can’t tell a tomato from a potato (much less identify which grows above ground and which grows below).

We don’t know much of anything about our foods’ life cycles, or the conditions of their development. We don’t know what inputs of human and mechanical energy were required to plant, raise, or harvest them.

And unless we are buying them directly from a farmer or some other source we know and trust, we probably have little idea what drugs, pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals might have been involved in our foods’ production.

There are a great many downsides to this — horrific animal cruelty, human-rights abuses, environmental damage, nutritional degradation, food waste, loss of eating pleasure.

Arguably, though, there’s one powerful upside: Our food is cheap. Very cheap, historically speaking.

We may complain bitterly about “whole paycheck” prices, but Ameri-cans today spend only a fraction of what they spent 50 years ago on food as a percentage of their total income.

And while we spend a lot more on processed products, prepared foods, and restaurant meals, Americans spend less per capita on home-cooked food than the citizens of virtually any country in the world.

Why? We simply don’t buy many whole foods, we hardly ever cook at home, and most of the foods we do buy come from the massive, -automated, efficiency-focused machine known as industrial agriculture.

The net result: Most of us have little idea what we are actually eating.

We’re not terribly invested in the quality, safety, fairness, or sustainability of the systems that produce our food. We are unaware of the true costs and externalities of the cheaply priced food products we see piled to the ceilings in big-box grocery stores. And that makes us — and our food systems — vulnerable indeed.

So, how can you build more care into your relationship with food in general? My top five suggestions:

1. Act in your own self-interest. Responsibly raised food is safer, more nutritious, and better tasting by far. It’s also way better for the air, water, and soil; for the pollinators and microbiota that support your food supply; and for countless other factors that determine not just your health but your quality of life and the stability of your economy, your community, and more. When you invest in sustainable, ethical food systems, you invest in your own vitality and in vitality on a grand scale.

2. Be willing to pay a bit more. Conventionally produced food is artificially cheap because the true costs are pawned off on the environment, taxpayers, underpaid workers, and more. You pay those costs and are exposed to those negative effects in a dozen different ways. So you’re much better off paying a bit more on the front end and enjoying the myriad benefits of higher-quality, responsibly raised food.

3. Be willing to pay a bit less. Most heavily processed products (like breakfast cereals, lunch meats, fast food, and soft drinks) are ridiculously overpriced relative to their nutritional value. Transfer some of your processed-food budget toward better-quality whole foods, and value-wise, you’ll be way ahead of the game. Procure local, seasonal, organic, and transitional foods from farmers’ markets, CSAs, and buying clubs, and you’ll enjoy even more exceptional food bargains.

 4. Make a personal connection. Knowing even a single real-life farmer, or visiting the source of even one of your favorite animal or vegetable foods, can radically alter the way you think about the nature and value of food in general. Grow even a single tomato for yourself, and you’ll experience an incomparable thrill. By contrast, visiting, say, an industrial turkey-processing plant (or even driving by an animal-containment lot with your car windows open) can put you off -factory-farmed, commodity meats forever.

 5. Accept the tension inherent in eating. Given how ugly our current conventional food system is, it’s understandable that a lot of people have been opting out of an increasing array of foods they see as unethical, unhealthy, or just plain unappealing. But that’s also given rise to a puritanical eating approach in which virtually nothing is deemed edible, and ortho-rexic self-starvation seems like the only alternative. Clearly, this is not the answer.

The truth is, there is no diet that is 100 percent “pure” or ethically perfect. Plants and animals die every day so that all of us — even hardcore vegans — can eat. (For more on that, see Lierre Keith’s The Vegetarian Myth.) And when we die, we become food for other creatures. You can find that horrible, or beautiful, or both. But you can’t avoid it.

Caring where your food comes from won’t fix everything. It can, however, make the whole process of eating more meaningful, more just, and more nourishing for all involved.

The (Slow) Way of The Healthy Deviant

posted by Pilar Gerasimo May 30, 2017 0 comments

Man, this book I am writing (The Healthy Deviant: A Rule-Breaker’s Guide to Being Weirdly Radiant, Resilient, and Good in Your Own Skin) is kicking my butt.

It feels like it’s taking for-freaking-ever, in part because I’m a slow, “perfect preparer” type, and in part because when I started, I committed to doing this thing while continuing to walk my healthy talk.

From commiserating with fellow book authors, I know that many don’t manage that.

Instead, while furiously writing and rewriting, they often stop moving, stop sleeping, stop eating, stop reading their mail, stop relating to the other humans in their life.

Some also acquire auto-immune disorders, migraines, insomnia, and anxiety problems. Or they start losing their eyelashes, like I once did.

I was determined not to let my own writing experience go that way. It’s just another example of “normal” that I’m not signing up for, thank you very much.

And yet: Every night, as I drift off, I find myself rearranging chapters. Every morning, I wake with the realization that I must rephrase some sentence or re-draft some illustration.

Some days, I put in so much butt time that I feel my butt is going to sleep.

Other days, I struggle with my perfectionism so mightily (we just released an episode of The Living Experiment on that!) that I can’t seem to let a single paragraph go. Sigh.

And then, every once in a while, when I’m not writing, I’m struck by an idea of such urgency and clarity that I feel I have to race to my keyboard to capture the thought while it’s still cogent. (If you’ve seen Elizabeth Gilbert’s great TED Talk where she describes poet Ruth Stone’s “running like hell” to capture a creative idea before it disappears, you know what I’m talking about.)

The good news is: I am making progress! I’ve got the Core Competencies and Backbone Practices of Healthy Deviance nailed, and now (for relief) I’m working on a light-hearted “Are You a Healthy Deviant?” quiz.

I’m posing some questions like these:

  • Do you take a lot of proactive steps to safeguard your health, including some steps not promoted by large, authoritative organizations?
  • Do you actively challenge or reject the health-sapping norms, social expectations, and values of our unhealthy culture?
  • Do you sometimes encounter resistance, judgment, derision, or feel stigmatized as the result of your socially-odd but healthy choices?
  • When you meet with resistance, do you just keep on doing your own healthy thing anyway?

Yes to any of those? Congrats, you’re probably some sort of Healthy Deviant (I’m characterizing a few different types).

For those of you who’ve been asking for a sneak preview of more of book-related content, I shall direct you, for now, to these resources:

Finally, for those of you who’ve asked about Healthy Deviant t-shirts, yes, I’ve got those, too!

THD TshirtsI’m giving ’em away free to the first 10 people who self-identify as Healthy Deviants, and at cost after that (open to suggestions on colors — I’ve got blue and black right now, in women’s and men’s styles, sizes small through extra large).

Thanks for hanging in there with me these past couple years (oy!), and for all your support and encouragement. I’ll have more news and more Healthy Deviant content to share soon.

Please follow my Healthy Deviant Facebook page to stay up to date on all that goodness. And subscribe to The Living Experiment podcast, where I talk about this stuff (with my super co-host Dallas Hartwig) every week.

Okay, and now: Back to writing.

Revolutionary Act 32: Savor What You Eat

posted by Pilar Gerasimo May 25, 2017 0 comments

For all our obsessing about what we eat, we pay comparatively little attention to how we eat. And that’s too bad, because our unconscious, stressed, rushed, lonely, and compulsive approach to eating is probably doing more damage to our collective health than our Cinnabon, Krispy Kreme, and Cronut obsessions combined.

First, some science: Just as the nutrients you put into your body create a certain biochemical reality, so do the mindset, attitude, and physical posture you hold while eating.

This is a physiological fact — if you eat while you are hurried, hunched, anxious, and not breathing deeply, your body is going to respond by releasing a cascade of chemicals characteristic of the stress response.

Research shows that stress is inherently antithetical to good digestion and nutrient assimilation. It disrupts metabolism and promotes inflammatory responses throughout the body.

Plus, if you rush, worry, multitask, or zone out while you’re eating, you’re going to be much less likely to fully see, taste, smell, chew, and enjoy your food. That can have a big impact on not just on how well you assimilate your nutrients but whether or not your brain registers your eating experience as a nourishing and satisfying one.

Setting the sheer pleasure of eating aside for moment (don’t worry, we’ll come back to it), let’s focus on the importance of the see-smell-chew-taste process in how your body regulates food intake.

Digestion begins in the mouth, where the brain engages a complex sensory system to assess the biochemical makeup of the food passing under your nose, across your tongue, and past your esophagus.

Your body then releases digestive enzymes, adjusts metabolic gears, and begins sending signals of satiety (fullness or satisfaction) based on what it registers coming across that transom.

But when you gobble your food, or swallow it without having put much conscious attention on it, that complex and sensitive system doesn’t have a chance to fully engage.

As a result, your body is less capable of accurately tracking and optimally processing both the energetic value (i.e., calories) and the nutritional content of the food you are eating.

This means you’re going to have a tendency to eat more. It also means your body is going to be less capable of extracting the full nutritive value of whatever you ingest.

In keeping with the dictates of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, your body will respond very differently — digestively, hormonally, and metabolically — to food eaten in a panicked fight-or-flight mode than it will to food eaten in a mellow, rest-and-digest mode.

Thanks in part to the actions of hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, insulin, and ghrelin, food eaten in a rushed or stressed state is far more likely to a) cause indigestion, b) be stored as fat, and c) leave you feeling hungry again much sooner. If you want to understand the many reasons why, see “Revolutionary Resources,” below.

Meanwhile, if you need still more reason to take your food-savoring more seriously, consider this: When meals are taken as relaxing, socially satisfying breaks from hyperintense, task-driven parts of our day, they serve as “ultradian-rhythm breaks.” (For more on how these fascinating, oscillating energy patterns work, listen to the “Pause” episode of The Living Experiment podcast, available on iTunes.)

But when we eat at our desks, on the go, or while distracted by other efforts and concerns, our sympathetic nervous systems never get a break. This always-on state contributes to elevated levels of stress hormones, negatively affecting our blood sugar and insulin levels.

That means that as the day wears on, you’re going to be increasingly inclined to eat more of the things that stressed bodies crave, like refined carbohydrates and sweets.

Alternatively, if you are one of those people who respond to stress by losing their appetite or forgetting to eat, you’re that much more likely to wind up in a low-blood-sugar situation where, by the time you do eat, you’re famished or desperate enough that you hardly care what you put in your mouth.

Given all of this, it’s odd that we don’t more highly value conscious eating as an essential healthy-living skill. And it’s dismaying how little energy and attention our culture puts on creating sane, well-paced, and pleasurable eating.

Goodness knows, most of the food-consuming experiences our children are having are not preparing them for a future of conscious eating. And as adults, most of us aren’t winning any awards for modeling ideal eating behaviors, either.

So, what can you do to improve your own approach to eating, and perhaps encourage others to join you? Here are my top suggestions:

1. Focus.

Eliminate all screens from your eating environment. That means no TV, no computer, no smartphone, no iPad. I’d skip books, magazines, and newspapers, too. Forget multitasking entirely. Research suggests that you’ll be more productive if you take mealtime breaks than if you work through them. And you’ll eat and digest better, too.

2. Slow down.

If you’re like most people, in the moments leading up to your meal, you’ve probably been moving at lightning speed, so slowing your pace might take conscious effort at first. That’s OK. Chill. Relax. Tell yourself you are not in a hurry. Put your fork down between bites.

 3. Sit tall and still.

The physical posture you take sends your nervous system (and thus your digestive system) powerful messages. So avoid eating in “Go!” position (upper body hunched forward, head low over your food, the plate just inches from your mouth). Instead, strive to eat in a semiregal yet relaxed “still” position: Butt fully on the chair; both feet flat on the floor; body erect; the back of your tongue and the center of your throat lined up directly above your shoulders. Notice how this creates a nice gravity-driven path for your swallowed food to follow, and how it introduces a sense of calm.

 4. Breathe.

Many people unconsciously hold their breath while eating, and this fuels the body’s stress response. Instead, take some deep breaths before you begin your meal, then continue to breathe deeply through your nose while you chew. Focus on taking three or more slow, deep breaths (in and out) per bite.

 5. Take small bites.

Aim for bites no bigger than the top segment of your thumb. Taking too-huge bites inhibits your chewing and inclines you to swallow larger quantities of food without fully tasting them.

6. Chew.

Chew more than you think you need to. Then keep on chewing until your food is in a smooth, liquid state. You might be amazed how much this improves your digestion and decreases your tendency to overeat.

 7. Enjoy.

Savor the experience of the aroma, appearance, flavor, and texture of your food. Rather than just letting each bite race past your senses in a big blur, reach for subtle flavors. Above all, eat with love and appreciation — for your food, yourself, and your dining companions.

If it helps, keep this list with you, or make a list of your own to review before mealtimes. If you integrate even one of these practices at each meal, you’ll soon notice you’re not only tasting more, and eating more wisely, but you’re experiencing the how of eating in a whole new way.

Revolutionary Act 31: Go Easy on the Sugar and Flour

posted by Pilar Gerasimo May 1, 2017 0 comments

Many people make the big, important decision to eat healthier only to find themselves confronted with another big, important decision:  “Where on earth should I start?”

Overwhelmed by complex and contradictory nutritional counsel, they are looking for some streamlined way to upgrade their eating without descending into analysis paralysis or totally disrupting their lives.

If that sounds like you, I have two related pieces of counsel, and which one you choose depends mostly on how much of a change you are ready for.

My first piece of advice is this: Eat mostly whole foods most of the time. But I realize that can feel daunting to many, particularly at first. So my second piece of advice (really just a baby-step version of the first) is this: Avoid processed sugars and flours.

I put sugars and flours together in a single category because I am convinced they do more damage to more people in more ways than most of the other problematic ingredients combined.

Moreover, once you eliminate these pro-inflammatory marauders, you also eliminate, by extension, a vast fleet of processed foods that contain other nasty co-conspirators (like artificial flavors, sweeteners, and colors; trans fats; industrial vegetable oils; chemical preservatives; and crazy doses of salt) that almost always come along for the ride.

Now, I suspect that the advice to cut back on sugar is not new to you. Over the past several years, we’ve been hearing a lot about how negatively excess dietary sugars can affect our health.

They do this by unbalancing blood sugar, destabilizing hormones (not just insulin but also sex hormones and growth hormones), suppressing metabolism, increasing visceral fat, contributing to oxidative stress, damaging cells and DNA, and messing with our microbiomes.

They also drive cravings and disordered eating patterns that contribute to weight problems, and they wreak all sorts of other health havoc.

The net effect of this is a dramatically increased risk of inflammatory conditions like metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, and that much-feared diagnosis, Alzheimer’s disease.

In fact, Alzheimer’s is now known in some medical circles as “type 3 diabetes.” Why? Because, as the authors of a seminal article in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology conclude, “the term ‘type 3 diabetes’ accurately reflects the fact that [Alzheimer’s disease] represents a form of diabetes that selectively involves the brain.”

OK, so we now know that excessive sugar intake is pretty deadly. And it’s great that more people are becoming more keenly aware of this fact.

But here’s something far fewer people understand: Most flours act like sugars (and, in fact, rapidly turn into sugars) once inside the body.

I know this might sound crazy. After all, for decades, we’ve been conditioned to think of grains as a supremely healthy choice.

We’ve been encouraged to reach for packaged foods emblazoned with labels proclaiming their “whole-grain goodness!” We’ve heard our doctors recommend whole-grain cereals for breakfast, whole-grain sandwiches for lunch, and whole-grain pastas for dinner.

But when whole grains get pulverized into the fine-particle dust of flours and starches, they’re not really whole anymore. Their surface area becomes much greater, and their resistance to digestion becomes much lower. As a result, they’re rapidly assimilated by the digestive system, transformed into glucose (i.e., sugar), and shuttled directly into the blood stream.

From there, just like any other sugar, they trigger the release of insulin. Meaning that when consumed in excess, they can contribute to insulin resistance and type 2 (and “type 3”) diabetes.

Seen from the body’s perspective, flours look like sugar, act like sugar, and do most of the same kinds of damage that sugar does. Period.

Given that, having sugar-free jam on your bagel doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Eating a breakfast cereal with only 10 grams of added sugar (while still better than eating one with 30 grams) isn’t necessarily the nutritional victory it might seem to be. And eating a bag of snacks (like pretzels, or corn puffs, or pita chips) that have no added sugar but do have plentiful flours or starches is the dietary equivalent of taking one step forward and two steps back.

So here are some ways to start minimizing your intake of sugar- and flour-laden foods.

1. Expect to see them everywhere.

Foods containing significant amounts of sugars and flours are the most prevalent foods in our society. You’ll find them dominating most grocery-store shelves, buffet lines, school lunch trays, restaurant menus, vending machines, and quite likely (until you do some serious clearing),  many of your own kitchen shelves.

Breads, buns, rolls, bagels, breakfast cereals, pancakes, waffles, pastas, pizzas, crackers, snack chips, pitas, pretzels, tortillas, couscous, pastries, candies, ice cream, ketchup, barbeque sauce, canned soups, frozen entrées, soft drinks, fried foods, breaded coatings, salad dressings, craisins, croutons — the list of foods containing significant amounts of sugars, flours, and starches reads like a who’s who of America’s favorite foods and beverages.

2. Start reading ingredient labels.

You’ll see that many “healthy” foods contain shocking amounts of added sugars and flours, and are often the first ingredients.

Breakfast cereals (even whole-some-looking ones) typically contain one or more types of flour or starch, followed by one or more forms of sugar. Some oft-recommended breakfast options, like instant oatmeal and bran muffins, have glycemic loads so intense that they spike insulin faster than white bread.

Gluten-free goods, in particular, tend to contain a lot of starches, which are really just hyperprocessed forms of flour (i.e., sugar).

Read the label on your average protein or energy bar (even the paleo kind) and you’ll probably find concentrated sugars like cane syrup, agave syrup, rice syrup, coconut sugar, beet sugar, honey, fructose, or date paste among the top-three ingredients.

Many virtuous-looking juices and smoothies lead with super-sweet apple, grape, or pineapple juice — a stealth delivery system for high-density sugars that make you go “mmm!” and promptly glug down the two or three servings that the smallish bottle supposedly contains.

3. Rethink the role of vegetables.

If you’re eating fewer sugars and flours (the substrate of the standard American diet), you’re going to have to replace them with something. For this purpose, may I commend unto you the most excellent members of the nonstarchy vegetable kingdom?

There’s a growing trend toward replacing bland breads, pastas, rice, couscous, and crust-like things with beds of sautéed greens, riced cauliflower, grated slaws, or the spiralized vegetables of your choice, and for good reason: They are yummy and satisfying, and all those pretty colors and textures are quite beautiful to behold.

That’s important, because the ultimate goal here isn’t just to reduce your intake of flours and sugars. It’s to help you embrace a healthy, satisfying way of eating that will serve you — body and mind — for a lifetime.

Revolutionary Act 30: Approach AND Dietary Guidelines With a Healthy Dose of Doubt

posted by Pilar Gerasimo March 23, 2017 0 comments

Remember the organization formerly known as the American Dietetic Association (ADA)? Well, since 2012 it’s been going by a different, equally official-sounding name: the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND).

Yep, after operating for nearly a century under its old moniker, the country’s largest nutritional professional society — the one to which more than 100,000 credentialed practitioners belong — decided it was time for a facelift.

The purpose of the switch, according to the organization’s website, was “to complement the focus of the organization to improve the nutritional well-being of the public, while communicating the academic expertise of Academy members and supporting the organization’s history as a food and science-based profession.”

I can’t help but think it might also have had a little something to do with its desire to avoid being endlessly confused with the American Diabetes Association (also known by the same ADA acronym).

But whatever the case, if a primary goal of the former American Dietetic Association was to convey a more high-minded, science-based sense of mission, that didn’t work out so well. Because in January of 2013, not long after the name change was announced, a well-researched, widely publicized report stripped the organization of whatever science-based luster it had hoped to gain by donning its shiny new “Academy” robes.

The 50-page report, titled And Now a Word From Our Sponsors: Are America’s Nutrition Professionals in the Pocket of Big Food?, was authored by Michele Simon, JD, MPH, a public-health attorney and author who specializes in food-industry ethical and legal issues. It documents the extent of the Academy’s increasingly entrenched food-industry funding and ties, and it raises serious questions about its institutional ethics, objectivity, and credibility.

It also reignited long-standing concerns about the increasingly powerful role that big food, beverage, and agricultural companies had been playing in shaping AND’s guidelines, policies, and professional nutrition-education platform.

Simon’s report was damning, not just because it revealed the extent to which the nation’s leading professional nutrition organization was funded by corporate contributions from candy, soda, and junk-food giants like Mars, Hershey’s, Coca-Cola, Kraft, and McDonald’s (as well as the beef and dairy industries), but also because it presented disturbing evidence of how directly AND’s educational messaging and materials were being affected by those industry ties.

Unfortunately, aside from causing many scandalized AND members to complain vigorously about their organization’s practices and policies, the report didn’t seem to have much immediate effect on the Academy’s willingness to put its own credibility ahead of its corporate partners’ agendas.

It certainly didn’t prevent the great Kraft Singles dustup of 2015, in which AND approved (in exchange for an undisclosed sum) the placement of its “Kids Eat Right” logo on packages of Kraft American Singles — a plastic-sleeved “pasteurized prepared cheese product” that cannot legally be called “cheese.”

Perceived by virtually everyone (including Kraft) to be a de facto seal of approval, the logo-emblazoning sparked outrage on the part of many registered dietitians (RDs).

It also made national headlines and even got a shout-out on The Daily Show, where Jon Stewart quipped that the corporate-funded Academy was “as much an academy as [Kraft Singles] is cheese.”

Frustration with the Academy’s questionable practices even sparked some concerned RDs to create their own watchdog group, Dietitians for Professional Integrity (DFPI).

The DFPI’s three core beliefs, as listed on its site, IntegrityDietitians.org, would read like no-brainers to most:

Sponsorship affects public perception of dietitians. [Yes, duh!]

The public deserves nutrition information that is not tainted by food industry interests. [Indeed!]

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics should prioritize public health instead of enabling and empowering multinational food companies. [Gee, ya think?]

But these are evidently not view-points that AND has been willing to get behind. One glance at a Monsanto-sponsored, propaganda-laden “bio-technology quiz” (offered to RDs in exchange for a chance to win a Coach handbag at a recent continuing-education conference) tells you everything you need to know about how industry-underwritten “education” works at AND, and it’s not pretty.

Meanwhile, the DFPI’s strategic director, Andy Bellatti, MS, RD, has written a series of illuminating articles for the Civil Eats website — including one (“Why the Makers of Animal Growth Hormones Shouldn’t Control the Hunger Debate”) that highlights the relationship between the Academy and a relatively new sponsor, Elanco.

Elanco is an Eli Lilly subsidiary that manufactures livestock pharmaceuticals like recombinant bovine growth hormone, or rBGH. The purpose of Elanco’s grant to AND (amount undisclosed) was ostensibly to educate our nation’s dietitians on friendly topics like “Farming 101.”

But internal documents suggest a more nuanced and activist goal: “to arm Academy members with resources to educate themselves and the public about issues relating to [sustainable farming, global food insecurity, and nutritional and safe feeding of a growing world population.]”

In other words, the central thrust of AND’s Elanco-funded “Future of Food” initiative seems to be fueling a highly controversial, agribusiness-driven biotechnology agenda. And Bellatti posits that beyond simply securing a one-way public propaganda machine, Elanco may also be “looking for an easy way to keep tabs on criticism or concerns about its practices and quickly engage in damage control, if needed.”

Looking at Bellatti’s insider writings, at Simon’s 2013 report, and at AND’s own educational and marketing materials, it’s clear why the DFPI feels decisive action is called for. It’s also abundantly clear they’ve got their work cut out for them.

The AND website still hawks corporate advertising as “a great way for organizations to target . . . members who are the world’s acknowledged leaders in providing food and nutrition-related health information and services.” And its media kit entices corporate sponsors to take advantage of “direct access to a select group of engaged Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics members by conducting online surveys using the eatright Market Research Panel.”

It’s no wonder that a growing number of RDs are concerned that people might regard their AND-associated credentials with mistrust — not because the title suggests a lack of professional education, but rather because it now connotes a surfeit of industry-influenced miseducation.

Combine that with AND’s outdated emphasis on calorie counting, its excessive enthusiasm for low-fat dairy and grain-based products, its slowness to integrate new research findings on dietary cholesterol and healthy whole-food saturated fats, its early opposition to trans-fats labeling efforts, its apparent unwillingness to acknowledge non-celiac gluten intolerance, and its all-around out-of-touchness with contemporary science, and, well, you’ve got an Academy that — in a lot of experts’ view— has no business educating anybody but itself.

My Favorite Phyto Smoothie

posted by Pilar Gerasimo February 14, 2017 0 comments

Want to dramatically increase your intake of non-starchy vegetables? Make a point of getting in several servings before breakfast by drinking your veggies in the form of this hardcore-healthy Phyto Smoothie.

I know, green smoothie are a big thing right now. And if you’ve already discovered them, that’s lovely. But I would advise you against chugging down those sweet concoctions made primarily of fruits and fruit juice (I’ve seen some green smoothie recipes that call for two cups of fruit).

Why? Because imbibing that much sugar works against a lot of Healthy-Deviant eating goals (it can mess with your blood sugar and hormones, trigger unhealthy carb-and-sugar cravings later in the day, perpetuate the Great American Sweet Tooth, and so on).

Instead, start with this basic Phyto Smoothie recipe (my whole-food take of a green-juice favorite I learned from my brilliant friend Kris Carr, author of Crazy Sexy Juice, a book with dozens more yummy juice, smoothie and nut-milk options). Then adjust based on your tastes and what you have on hand. Just strive to keep the sugar content low and the vegetable content high.

Phyto Smoothie Recipe

In a high speed blender (like a Vitamix or NutriBullet) combine:

½ cup of organic unsweetened apple cider (alternatively, or for variety, you can use ½ to ¾ cup of a low-glycemic fruit (e.g., apple, pear, cherries, berries, pomegranate seeds or unsweetened cranberries) and adjust to taste)

1 cup cold water

1 medium organic cucumber, washed, not peeled (unless conventional) and sliced into 2-4 chunks (whatever your blender can handle)

2 stalks organic celery (trim off roots, but use remainder of stalk and leaves, cutting them into pieces that fit in blender)

2 medium size leaves of kale or a large handful of spinach, arugula or other dark leafy greens (chard always tastes salty to me, but whatever you dig is fine)

¼ to ½ organic lemon, skin on — adjust to taste (it feels weird to toss a lemon in with the skin on, but trust me, as long as your blender can liquify it, it’s good)

¼ to ½ inch slice of fresh ginger root (optional — just adds a little heat and bite and a fun aroma)

a sprig to a handful of aromatic green herb, like mint, cilantro or basil (again this is optional — adjust to taste) and/or a little chunk of jalapeno pepper for kick (also optional, but great for giving your drink some zip)

Put all your ingredients into the blender and blend until you like the consistency. Adjust flavors and textures until you have something you pronounce drinkable.

Pour half the contents of the blender into a tall glass to enjoy now, and half into a travel container or Mason jar you’ll take with you to enjoy on your Conscious Commute or on one of your Ultradian Rhythm breaks later in the day (more about those in my forthcoming book, The Healthy Deviant).

Sip your first glass of green goodness while you make breakfast or while you get yourself ready for the day.

Flavor Tips

Keep in mind: This is not supposed to be a sweet drink. You are developing your Healthy Deviant palate here, not concocting a dessert. If you find you absolutely need it sweeter, add a little more juice, half of a date, a half cup of low-glycemic fruit or a half banana.

Alternately, you can add a half teaspoon or so of honey or real maple syrup (the less the better), or stick with milder, less bitter greens for now (spinach and mixed greens are usually pretty tame). But then strive to keep gradually reducing the sugar content and increasing the greens-factor as your taste buds adjust to the good-bitter flavors inherent in the mix.

Remember that you don’t have to faint with sensory pleasure to enjoy drinking this. And that one of the goals of this drink is to retrain your hijacked American taste buds to once again appreciate the taste of unadulterated, fresh phytonutrient-rich produce.

To me, this really tastes good — refreshing, bracing, enlivening — and I enjoy knowing it is nourishing my body, countering inflammation, supporting detoxification and elimination (one constipated pal of mine swears this drink cured her of her poo problems) and more. It’s something I look forward to drinking, particularly in the summer.

But is it a milkshake? No. It’s a kick-ass self-nourishing strategy. There’s a difference.

Smoothie Savvy

A few ways to make the most of your Phyto Smoothie experience:

Embrace the smoothie (vs. juice) experience, and the presence of all that healthy fiber. Strive to “chew” each mouthful a bit before swallowing. This will quick-start digestion (thanks, saliva enzymes!), and will also leave you feeling like you’ve consumed something substantial (which nutritionally, you have) — a good thing for your satiety.

Consider drinking at least a little of your smoothie before you pour yourself any coffee or eat your whole-food breakfast. It will provide a nice protective coating for your stomach lining, take the edge off your hunger, and leave you feeling far less desperate for gobs of caffeine.

Drink at least a half cup of Phyto Smoothie directly after blending even if you’re not “craving it.” Many people find that getting fresh vegetable flavors into their mouths first thing in the morning nudges their palates to be more veggie-receptive later in the day. Plus, as noted, getting all that slow-digesting fiber into your system will make you less likely to crave sweets, and help support a regular elimination cycle, and nurture a healthy microbiome, and give you clear skin, bright eyes, and … the list goes on.

Have you drunk some yet? Way to go.

Final tip: Rinse your mouth with a little water or do a quick mirror check before you leave the house. Or be prepared to flash a big, sexy phyto-flecked smile at someone.