Do you get angry, run away or become invisible?

images-2Many of us know that stress affects health in general but I think we still need to understand and assimilate better what are the effects of being constantly in this state (of stress) since it is one of the main causes of degenerative diseases that affect society nowadays. Clearly, we live in a world where it is increasingly accepted to live half-heartedly. What do I mean by this?

To live tired, running from one side to another, without energy, with sleep and digestion issues.

Years go by and many people continue living this way, which only brings unhappiness, frustration and health problems not to mention the effect on our personal relationships. In this blog, I want to focus on the solutions, because there are solutions. It is a question of doing it consciously and constantly and patiently.

So let’s talk about stress and biochemical processes in a simple way.

Of the various systems that humans have, it is the limbic system, which manages physiological responses to emotional stimuli. The hypothalamus and the amygdala are key organs in the triggering of emotions in our body. When the brain’s amygdala is activated, our danger detector, it creates imbalances in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the part that allows us to learn, make decisions and direct behavior. The brain amygdala is like our internal alarm button that makes us react to danger. Our body does not know if the danger is associated with a survival issue (if a lion is chasing us and we have to run for our lives) or simply if it is an argument  with the boss. The sympathetic nervous system is ignited and triggers a series of biochemical processes in preparation to “fight or flight”. This is our primary internal defense mechanism.

Once the amygdala is activated, the pituitary gland orders the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol, which are the stress hormones. From here onwards, the body is prepared to defend itself, which is why the heart rate is accelerated, the contraction movements of the stomach are inhibited, the pupils are dilated and blood glucose levels raised. (in addition to other processes)

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Photo by autopsiareview.org

According to several scientific studies, I am referring in particular to those analyzed by Dr. Mario Alonso Puig (of whom I have spoken on several occasions, whom I admire for his knowledge about human behavior and neuroscience), it is demonstrated that mindfulness or self-consciousness, (developed through the practice of meditation), increases the size of the hypothalamus which makes us less reactive and we can better regulate our emotional state.

It is also proven that physical activity is of great help to activate our parasympathetic nervous system, which is what allows us to save energy, recover normal  body functions, think and act clearly and live in a calm manner. Both systems: sympathetic and parasympathetic work together, we can assist these systems to live healthier and happier with good habits.

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photo by lamenteesmaravillosa.com

Cultivating healthy habits

Meditation and physical activity are really the best ways to improve our health.

Meditation allows us to modulate the chemical reactions that activate the amygdala, making us less reactive. We accept our emotions and feelings kindly and see them for what they are. Without judgments or attachments. We learn to let them go which means we do not keep them in our body as toxic elements. (That later on cause diseases such as depression, fibromyalgia, digestive and heart issues).

On the other hand, physical activity increases brain function by improving memory, it increases oxygenation of the brain, creating and connecting of neurons which help us in learning processes. In addition, at a hormonal level, endorphins, serotonin and dopamine are triggered generating feelings of well-being, calm, joy and even euphoria. Its my natural drug of choice!

As I said before, the solutions exist and do not cost money or long treatments, just by implementing these two habits in your life as well as a healthy diet, you will be in the path to wellness and success. I practice both regularly so I can say that they do help me to keep calm and understand better my emotions and reactions.

I hope you have learned something new today, and more importantly, that it inspires you to learn about mindfulness and gets you in the right mindset to start exercising. Remember that anyone has the power to make changes, it is hard, I know that, but it is possible, and you are not alone. I can help you get there.

Do not forget to share this message and give me your comments. I would love to know your opinion.

 

Bear hugs!

Sunday barbeque gone bad

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Hi There!

This weekend I had an unpleasant experience that I think is worth sharing with others because it has to do with our emotions and food. We were having a lovely time with friends who invited us (my husband and me) for a barbecue in their home. Everything was set for us to have a great afternoon: salads, veggies, good quality meats, deserts (one of them made by my husband in the barbeque) and of course wine and beer. We were all enjoying ourselves, listening to music and getting ready for the feast we were about to have. I was really looking forward to this lunch and so was my husband. We got served and we started salivating just by looking at the delicious food that was cooked for us. It smelled and looked so good! Plus, considering I changed my diet and I don’t eat as much animal protein as I used to, I was determined to fully enjoy the experience.

We started eating and enjoying our meals and 5 minutes later I look at my husband and he was very quiet. I knew something was wrong. He stopped eating and excused himself to the restroom. He had a piece of meat stuck in his throat. He could still get some air so he was not actually choking. In fact, the food was in his chest, he tried to push it down with some water but it didn’t work. Of course, we all panicked. He then proceeded to put his finger down his throat but nothing came out. I knew he was in total discomfort but because this has happened in the past, I was thinking to myself “he will get it out soon, I will not  panic because he will get it out soon, and if I freak out, he will also freak out”. Unfortunately, a couple of hours later we were at the local hospital and he still had the piece of yummy beef in his chest. We were tired, he was stressed, unhappy and anxious and I couldn’t believe our Sunday afternoon had turned into a hospital visit. He did some abdominal breathing exercises to help relax his muscles but clearly he was going to need x-rays, an  endoscopy, medication and a small procedure to push the meat down. Fortunately, as the doctor was about to start with the procedure, the meat went down his stomach and the problem was finally solved. 4 hours at the hospital and a medical bill that was everything but reasonable.

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Clearly this situation can happen to anyone, anywhere (Lunch sitting in front of your computer, at a business lunch, watching TV). Unfortunately, it has happened to him more than once, which means it is worth looking at the reasons why these happens so much; the one and most obvious is that my lovely husband doesn’t chew enough. He is so hungry that he doesnt take the time to chew properly. I am convinced that many people have experience this feeling of anxiety towards food. When you wait too long for your next meal and finally it is in front of you, its common to feel you want to eat it right away. We forget that our digestion starts in the mouth. Every bite is necessary to facilitate the journey of the food to our gut. After all, the first part of the digestion process starts in the mouth.

Different studies around this topic show that most people do not chew more than 10 bites per mouthful. According to the ancient Ayurvedic principles, we should be chewing at least 25 or more to really help the process of digestion. Chewing not only will aid the absorption of nutrients, it will also help you eat less, reduce binge eating and control your weight. Also, it is part of what it’s called Mindful Eating, a concept related to mindfulness around your emotions and feelings and physical sensations. We get distracted with media, work meetings, conversations and our own minds (constant chatting). Its time we pay more attention to our patterns to avoid this unfortunate situations in the future.

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The act of nourishing your body is an act of kindness from yourself to yourself. It should never be rushed, it should be appreciated it to the fullest. Ideally you want to smell the aroma of your food, feel the tastes in your mouth, pay attention to the details and enjoy the act of eating with good company. Since this issue has happened a few times in the past, it is likely that he also suffers from “Steakhouse Syndrome” considering it only happens with meat. We are yet to get more tests to determine if this is a real issue but in the meantime, nothing works better than eating slowly and calmly. If you find yourself too hungry and feel anxious (and angry) because you havent eaten anything, make sure you carry healthy treats with you: fruit, nuts, seeds, protein bars, to get your tank a bit full before the next big meal comes.

If you want to learn more about Steakhouse Syndrome check this link. And if you want to learn tips about mindful eating, subscribe to my site, I am constantly sharing information about this topic and I am sure I can inspire you to make some healthy changes.

In my corporate days, I remember having lunch in a rush many times just to make sure I was on time for my meetings. Of course, I felt awful afterwards, bloated, lethargic, and kind of moody. I didn’t appreciate the food, it was simply fuel, nothing else. My approach has changed a lot in the last few years for the better and I am always happy to coach and inspire other busy professionals and entrepreneurs to develop mindful eating habits.

If you think you are ready to create changes, do not forget to subscribe to my site and share your experiences whenever you are ready. I will be happy to help.

Bear hugs,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get real this year

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Hi my dear friends!

Remember when you said “I’ll do it next year”, well, here it is. We have just started a new year of life, a new year of opportunities that have the potential to be the best one ever or on the contrary, be miserable and full of disappointments. If you could choose one of these paths, clearly, you will choose to have a year with the potential to make you happy and fulfilled. Right? Now, as this is kind of an obvious question, I want to ask you another one. What are you doing to help yourself be happier and fulfilled this year? Think about the answer.

Setting resolutions is normally the first step that we do in order to organize the priorities, of course it is a constructive exercise but in my opinion, this exercise works when it’s based on realistic expectations. For example, if your resolution is to lose weight and you start strong and committed for 2 weeks but you stopped because you had a business trip, clearly, you are not setting yourself for success.

One important aspect of making long-lasting changes is to have clarity of the goals you want to achieve and why. If losing weight is a priority, then make sure you organize your environment to make sure that everything around you supports your changes. So instead of buying potato chips and butter popcorn you can go for homemade popcorn and sweet potatoes chips for example. Remove processed foods (dips, milk chocolates, dressings, cakes) and experiment with healthier options like homemade guacamole, humus, almond butter, dark chocolate. Set a day to cook foods and freeze them, in this way you will save time and money during the week and more importantly, you will avoid buying junk food because you cant find anything interesting in your fridge.

Another point is that one needs to realize that we can not pretend to look like someone else, we are unique, we have different body shapes and sizes not to mention different metabolism. I think our society is obsessed with body image. If you know already that a healthy weight for your constitution is between 55-58 kg why do you insist in being 52 kg? Having this expectation is not realistic and will only lead you to frustration and anxiety, which increases emotional imbalances and its likely that you will end up eating wrong foods just to find some comfort.

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Photo by superskinnyme.com

So I guess what I am trying to say here is BE REAL. Of course it is important to set goals but more importantly is to practice self awareness when we set these goals. Why? Because many times we are sabotaging ourselves with our attitude (we don’t believe we can do it, or , on the other hand, we set the bar too high and it becomes an impossible task). At the end, we give up and get back to our old ways.

The only way I know to make changes work for you in the long-term, is to practice self awareness. And yes, this is hard to do because we live fast, we eat fast, we sleep less and we stress too much. We are constantly distracted. We take little time to be with ourselves.To observe without judgement our actions, our thoughts and how these affect our behavior.

So my dear friends, be clear about your goals, write down your plan of action, pace yourself and be patient above all. Work on one change at a time, if you aim to achieve too many at the same time, it is likely you will be overwhelmed and you will stop doing it.

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Photo by Monell.org

There are numerous human behavioral and neuroscience studies that show that food is very close to us because it has to do with our survival. Brain connections start developing when we are babies and food is associated with safety and comfort. When we are calm and collected, we make decisions about making changes, but when we are stressed and tired, all bets are off, so its likely to go back to old ways even knowing they are not good. If you are interested in learning about neuroscience and the relationship of food with brain function, I highly recommend reading Dr. Mario Alonso Puig – Gastroenterologist, Surgeon for 26 years, an expert in brain function and how mental processes affect our wellbeing and total health. Most of his work is in Spanish, (he is Spanish) but I am sharing here a TED talk he did in English about Reinventing Yourself, which is also the name of one of his books, I totally recommend it.  

In previous blogs I have mentioned how important it is to have a spiritual practice. In my case, meditation has been crucial to practice self-awareness. To find the space to observe without judgement, to find my center and to be patient with myself and others. I don’t feel enlightened by any means, ( I keep working at it) I only share my experience with you because it has made a positive difference and I would love for you to experience good health and fulfilment in a sustainable way.

Did you learn something new? Don’t forget to share with your loved ones.

Until next time!

Can you be healthy during Christmas season?

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Photo by dienut.com

Christmas is here my dear friends!

I think most of us love this time of the year, family time, vacations, traveling, celebrations filled with food and drinks, late nights, presents, what’s not to like? In our minds, we have all the best reasons to let it go because next year, (about 30 days away) we will set our resolutions and get serious again. So basically this is the month to indulge because the year it’s almost over. Ok, I get it, we work hard through the year and we feel we deserve to have some fun. I am with you, I also want to have fun, I enjoy christmas cake, drinking wine and having long christmas lunches filled with friends and family. But I have to admit that it’s more fun when I know I don’t feel guilty for exceeding myself.

It must be “wisdom” (not age) that I recognize that overeating without any physical activity just doesn’t work for me. I will indulge with some favorite foods and cocktails but keeping active is part of my life routine and this needs to remain so that I am able to navigate better all the social activities at the end of the year. Keeping active helps me with digestion, have the stamina to do all my christmas shores (decorate the apartment, prepare foods, go shopping, pack presents), and more importantly it fills me with energy to finish the year on a high note.

Personally I apply the 80/20 rule: 80% of the time I follow a healthy routine and 20% and indulge with my favorite poisons (Tito’s vodka with soda and a dash of cranberry juice, mulled wine and of course the amazing christmas cake). Having set my boundaries, makes it easier to be guilt free, work consistently 80% and enjoy to the fullest my 20% playtime.

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Someone told me not long ago that moderation is the key to keep balance but my opinion is that moderation has a different meaning for everyone. If you eat chocolates everyday (say a small portion after dinner) and during Christmas you decide to eat the box of truffles your neighbor gave you in one hit, in your mind it’s ok because you think you are being moderate. However, if you compared to someone who eats chocolates as a treat only the weekends and then gorges that same box of truffles, this can be seemed as going a bit too far. So my suggestion for all of you ladies and also gents  (because we all tend to do the same) is to keep active and create a rule that works for you to not lose track and avoid starting the year feeling sluggish and overweight. But be real, don’t cheat yourself with a 80/20 rule that looks more like a 50/50 rule.

Life is short and we should enjoy it, I am totally in for that, I am not a slave of my body or keeping appearances but I do believe in listening to my body, I believe in the power of food to energize me, in the benefits of physical activity and more importantly in keeping balance. Because who wants to be fatigued and gain unnecessary weight? Who wants to start the year tired? I have a feeling you don’t. But just in case this happens, I can help you get in the right track.

I am exploring recipes for this holidays season to give you some ideas so that you eat less processed sugars and unhealthy fats and instead you keep nourishing your body the right way: with good food and love.  

 

Stay tuned my friends!

 

Bear christmas hugs,

 

Xime

 

Gluten or gluten free?

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Photo by medicalnewstoday.com

Have you noticed there are more gluten free products when you go food shopping? Clearly, some food companies found a good reason to create gluten free products. Even for those consumers who don’t really feel much of a difference eating gluten based products, it is tempting to go and buy them. If we see other people buying these products and everyone seems to be so interested in them, they must be good for you, right? So what is gluten anyway? How does it affect our system? Does it affect everyone?

I feel there are many questions around these topic and I don’t have all the answers  but what I offer is a perspective so you are an educated consumer and can make an informed decision.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a group of proteins found in grains like barley, wheat and rye and all its various forms. It is used in baking products as a thickening agent and flavor enhancer.

For those who suffer from Celiac disease, it’s clear that gluten is extremely harmful. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that affects 1% of the population. Every time gluten is eaten, the body triggers an attack to the digestive system. In the long term, this attacks damage the villi in the intestines which diminishes the capacity for absorption of nutrients. For those interested in this topic, I recommend to read the book of Dr. Alessio Fasiano, Gluten Freedom.

On the other hand, there are some people who have gluten sensitivity, which has the same symptoms as celiac disease (bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, headaches, skin problems, depression, joint pains and fatigue) but their bodies are not necessarily attacking the digestive system.

In any case, if you feel a reaction after eating gluten products, it is advisable that you remove them from your diet for a couple of weeks and see how your body reacts. Many people find that even when they don’t have an intolerance to gluten, they feel better when eating gluten free foods.

This is a list to guide you when you go shopping and you are not sure which options are gluten free.

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Examples of Gluten foods

Barley, barley malt, Bran Bulgur, Couscous, Durum, Einkorn, Emmer, Farino, Farro, Wheat, Kamut Malt/extract/flavoring, Oats/oat bran/oat syrup, Orzo, Rye, Seitan, Semolina, Spelt (dinkel), Triticale, Wheat: bran, germ, grass, starch “Sprouted grains” made from these sources

Examples of Gluten Free

Amaranth, Arrowroot, Bean and legume flours, Buckwheat (kasha), Corn (maize), Coconut flour, Millet, Montina (Indian rice grass), Nut & seed flours, Potato, potato flour & potato starch (white & sweet), Quinoa, Rice (rice bran, & wild rice), Sago, Sorghum (milo), Soy (beans, flour), Tapioca

As you can see, there are many options that are gluten free, so get in the kitchen and experiment with different foods.

I personally consume gluten and gluten-free foods because I have no sensitivities or allergic reactions. It is important to keep in mind that if you do not have sensitivities or allergies to gluten, you dont need to panic and assume a radical position. My recommendation is that you listen to your body and see how it each food makes you feel. Do not believe everything you see in supermarkets and in the media, remember that behind the scenes, there are food companies that pay a lot of money to market their products to consumers in a massive way so we have to be very mindful of their tactics.
This recipe is a good example of a gluten free meal you can easily do at home.

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Lentils with kale and brown basmati rice

Ingredients:

Lentils and Kale (15 mins)

1 yellow onion chopped

10 cherry tomatoes cut in halves

1 red chile finely chopped

1 tspn of turmeric powder

1 tspn of fennel seeds

1 Tspn of unrefined virgin coconut oil

1 can of low sodium brown lentils

5 leaves of kale (without the stem) chopped

Directions:

  1. Place the oil in a medium hot pan,add the onions, tomatoes and chile.
  2. Stir and add a bit of water to avoid sticking to the pan for 5 minutes. Add the turmeric and fennel seeds and stir a bit more.
  3. Place the kale and reduce heat to low, add the lentils (drained) at the end and stir again.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste

Brown Basmati Rice (25-30 mins)

1 cup of brown basmati rice

2 cups of water

1 generous tspn of unrefined virgin coconut oil

10 Cardamon seeds

2 cloves of garlic chopped

Directions:

  1. Wash the brown basmati rice
  2. Place a pan in medium heat and add the coconut oil
  3. Add the chopped garlic and stir to avoid sticking to the pan
  4. Add the washed brown basmati rice and make sure its uniform in the pan
  5. Add water, a pinch of salt and cardamom seeds.
  6. Place the lid and let it simmer on medium low for 25 minutes approx.

Nutritional facts: gluten free, full of protein (lentils and kale), fiber (brown basmati rice), minerals and vitamins

I hope you get inspired to cook and nourish your body the smart way. Dont forget to share!

 

Hasta la proxima queridos amigos!

 

Energy balls

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Last night I was having a conversation with a friend who asked me “what do you eat when you feel like having something sweet?” And that question got me thinking that this is a dilemma that most people have. Even if you don’t have a weakness for sweet foods like I do, its useful to have some options that are easy and you can do at home. So this blog is all about the energy balls.

Basically its an energy bar made into a ball, full of protein, fiber and healthy fats (and other micronutrients).  The video I made to illustrate the recipe is in Spanish, but seriously, it’s so easy to do that even if you don’t speak Spanish, you will be able to replicate it at home.

See the video here.

Continue reading “Energy balls”