Category: Inspired (Page 1 of 5)

My Food Philosophy: What Matters Most

Are you paleo? Vegan? Gluten-free? What diet are you on?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked questions about what “diet” I follow. I get it. It can be tempting to categorize ourselves and to label the way we eat.

We have a desire to know “the way” and what the right answer is when it comes to what we “should” be eating. But I’m not a huge fan of labels. They can be limiting, restrictive, and isolating.

If I had to describe the type of food I eat, I would say it is colorful, mostly plant-based, with a focus on whole, real ingredients that I can pronounce. I eat to feel good, not just for the next five minutes, but for as long as possible. I’ve found that gluten and dairy-based foods don’t make my body feel good, so I don’t eat them. I prioritize the quality of my food and want to know where it comes from and whom my purchase impacts.

But I’m not “on a diet,” and I don’t eat this way to prove anything to anyone.

A few years ago, I interviewed a local naturopathic doctor, Dr. Kristapps Paddock, and I’ll never forget what he said.

Dogma is a belief or set of beliefs that’s accepted by the members of a group without being questioned or doubted.

Isn’t that true of most diets?

We don’t question them. We accept them as truth because some celebrity, health expert, or friend told us so.

Unfortunately, this has brought us to a place of not questioning things, not asking why, not getting curious. We don’t stop to notice if they are working for us. One of the most helpful and transformational things we can do when it comes to what we eat is to question everything. To get curious. To pay attention to our body’s signals.

We know more than we’ve ever known about food and nutrition, but there is still so much more to learn that it doesn’t make sense for us to be polarizing when it comes to eating. It drives a lot of people away from conversations about nutrition. While the same general principles are universal (i.e., eat food, not too much, lots of plants), the nuances may not be. Everybody is different, so what’s most important is that we get curious about what works for US (not our neighbor, co-worker, friend or family member).

So, instead of adopting a dogmatic attitude toward eating, I have a food philosophy. It captures my approach to eating, the mindset I have around food, and what I believe to be true. It communicates what I’m about and how I want to think and feel when it comes to food.

It’s not irrefutable. It’s not scientific. It’s not the only way.

It’s empowering. It’s clarifying. It reminds me of what is true for me and my body. It’s what I’ve come to learn works best for me.

As you read it, I invite you think about which parts resonate with you. If anything does, try to hold on to that idea and let it guide the eating choices you make this week. If you want to take it to another level, try coming up with your own version of a food philosophy!

My Food Philosophy

I believe food matters.
I believe my body matters.
I believe I matter.
I believe I’m more than a number.
More than a dress size, calorie count, or scale reading.
I believe in being curious about what I eat and noticing, without judging, how food affects me.
I believe in connecting with my food, how it makes me feel, where it comes from and the impact it has beyond my plate.
I believe food is a way to connect with my body, my community, and my purpose.
I believe in slowing down and savoring food, noticing its textures, aromas, and beauty; pausing to express gratitude for the beauty on my plate.
I believe in enjoying food without anxiety, guilt, shame or judgment.
I believe in elevating the quality of my food and eating the highest quality available.
I believe in upgrading my diet to crowd out whatever is not working for me.
I believe in eating food that tastes good AND makes me feel good.
I believe in being open to exploring and trying new foods.
I believe food is inherently amoral (neither “good” nor “bad”).
I believe I am responsible for my eating choices.
If I’m going to eat it, I own it (I’m not “cheating”).
I believe having energy, glowing skin, a strong immune system and a positive mood are signs that I’m giving my body what it needs.
I believe in fueling and nourishing my body with whole, vibrant, healing food, so I can feel alive and energized and fulfill my purpose here on earth.
But I believe food is only part of the puzzle when it comes to being our best selves.
Food matters, but there is more to living well than eating well.
Friendships, community, connection.
Peace, patience, kindness.
Faith, grace, joy.
Love.

Be Free: A Tribute to My Grandmother

Yesterday, we celebrated the life of my last biological grandparent, Anne Bryant, who passed away the day after Christmas at the age of 90.

She was a delicate, graceful Southern woman with a beautiful smile and a contagious laugh who touched the lives of more people than I will ever know.

She was the closest thing to a matriarch at her church in Wilmington, North Carolina, where she was fondly known as “Miss Anne.” She loved to sing, was a member of the choir for nearly a decade and served as an integral part of the children’s ministry. Her former pastor, my relatives, and her friends, neighbors, and fellow church members had such wonderful things to say about her life during her service, which she insisted be a joyful celebration of her life.

My grandmother is in the middle of the picture just above me.

She raised three children, including my dad, and was a schoolteacher. She loved children.

She loved to garden.

She loved to ride her bike.

She loved to sing.

She was incredibly creative and gifted with her hands. She made dresses for me and my dolls, Christmas ornaments and my Christmas stocking. Both of us collected Willow Tree figurines and loved to sing, read, write, and travel.

She had a strong faith that she carried with her until her last day. She wanted to “go home” and be with my grandfather in heaven and was at peace with that transition.

Of all of the grandparents I had, she’s the one who knew me the best. I remember phone calls with her and my grandfather when I was a kid. I was very studious and committed to doing well in the classroom. After winning spelling bees and other academic competitions at school or sharing a report card, they would send me letters, sometimes with a special memento inside like a Bible verse on a wallet card or a bookmark she made at church.

They always told me how excited they were for me and were so supportive of me throughout my life. I can still hear my grandmother saying these words:

“Oh, Rachel, granddaddy and I are so proud of you.”

In the final years of her life, there was some tension in my family that created a bit of distance in our relationship. Looking back, I regret not spending more time with her in her last years; it saddens me, and I feel a sense of loss. I have many happy memories about her, but I know I could have had more.

If you have a family member that you can’t seem to “get right” with, I encourage you to be open. Be open to grace and seek forgiveness. Love them. Be kind. Set aside your pride and try again. It might not look the way you expect, but at least you’ll know you tried the best you could and offered that person all you had.

Bill and I visited my grandmother and spent time with her on a trip to North Carolina last spring. I had a final phone call with her in the week before her passing to tell her how much I appreciate who she was to me and how much her support and love meant to me.

When I think back to the times we spent together, the conversations we had, and the letters we exchanged, I smile. I know she’s proud of me and who I’ve become as a woman, a wife, a daughter, a Christian, a sister, an aunt, and a friend.

As I was sifting through my bins of mementos (I’m a bit of a sentimental packrat), I stumbled upon a book called Grandmother Remembers that she filled out for me as a gift for my high school graduation.

I had given it to her as a gift when I was little, and she took the time to complete every single page with facts about our family, pictures of relatives, and memories and stories about herself, me, and the rest of our family.

It’s such a treasure and a special piece of history for our family.

What makes it even more symbolic for me right now is the image of the butterfly on the front cover. For those who have been reading this blog for some time, you’ve read about my connection to butterflies and how prevalent and symbolic they’ve been in my life.

One of the final pages of the Grandmother Remembers book is dedicated to her wish to the future for me. She wrote, “Since Gramdaddy’s death, I have experienced ‘being given wings’ and my prayer is that this will continue.”

And it has.

She has been given wings and is looking down on all of us now. She is happy, at peace, and flying free.

Once someone is gone, they don’t have an opportunity to say what is on their heart and mind to comfort those of us who are left behind. What I’m about to share is what I think grandmother would say to all of us here now. I wrote this poem and read it at my grandmother’s memorial service. I hope it gives you peace, comfort, and hope when you think of someone special that you’ve lost.

Be Free

As I look down on all of you, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude.
Each of you holds a special place along my journey.
Thank you for being here to celebrate my life.

I know that you’re missing me.
Maybe you’re feeling sad, mourning, hurting, angry that I’m no longer with you.
I understand.
It’s hard to let go of people we love.

But I want you to know that I’m okay.
I’m finally free.

I prayed to the Lord and He freed me from all my fears.

Free from sadness.
Free from discomfort.
Free from pain.

Full of love.
Full of joy.
Full of light.

As you sit there remembering me, I want each of you to do something to honor me and my life.

Don’t wait for death to free you.

Choose to be free now.

Free from grudges.
Free from judgment.
Free from resentment.
Free from hostility.
Free from anger.

Open up.
Release.
Let go.

Be free. Live fully.

We are called to be free.
Free to dance.
Free to sing.
Free to laugh.
Free to play.
Free to love.

I give you my wings, so you can soar and fly freely, releasing anything that holds you down and embracing that which lifts you up.

Savor the sunny days, and spend time in your garden.
Appreciate the beauty all around you.
Notice the birds chirping, the flowers blooming, the smiles of children.
Pause and notice what a beautiful world we live in.

Be kind to and gentle with one another.
Give each other permission to make mistakes, especially those closest to you.
Be quick to offer forgiveness and grace when that happens.
Even when it’s hard.
Even if you’re angry.
Forgiveness frees you as much as it frees them.

Be free. Live fully.

Speak the truth in love.
Not just to prove a point, but with the intention of loving the other person.
Sometimes I wish I’d spoken up more instead of staying silent when I felt unheard.
Unmute your voice, and set yourself free from what you’ve kept locked up in your mind or in your heart.
The Lord calls us to love and serve one another, to be bold and courageous with our lives.
Use your voice for good and your words and actions to love.

Never stop learning, and remember to make time for play.
As a schoolteacher, I embraced a love of learning and dedicated my life to sharing that with my students and my family.
Approach the world with childlike curiosity.
Ask questions, look for the good in people, share, play, laugh, dance, sing, read, travel, be silly.
Spend more time playing and less time working.

I once gave my granddaughter a bookmark for her Bible that she has since passed along to another friend who needed the message on it more than she did.
It had this scripture on it from the book of Jeremiah:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

No matter what you’re dealing with right now, the Lord knows about it and can use it.
To grow you, to strengthen you, or to equip you to serve in some way.
Trust His timing.
Trust His plans.

Heaven is a beautiful place. We are having the best time up here!
Seeing all of my old friends and loved ones again has been such a joy for me.
I feel alive, renewed, whole, and free.
So, don’t be sad.
Celebrate my life and all that it was. Remember all of the happy times we had. Thank God for giving you another day on this beautiful earth, until we are reunited some day.

Until that day comes, be kind and gentle.
Savor the sunny days.
Spend time in your garden.
Find your voice.
Forgive each other.
Never stop learning.
Dance, play, travel and sing.
Live fully.

I’ve given you wings.
Be free.

Ditch Your New Year’s Resolutions {And Do This!}

I’ve never been one to make New Year’s Resolutions.

The idea that a simple date change could be a powerful motivator just never made much sense to me. It seemed to be an excuse to “let go” from October through December, only to return to taking care of ourselves in January. And it was clear that most people’s resolutions failed by February anyway, which served to demotivate them to make any further changes and then commit to trying it all over again the following year.

If we don’t make resolutions, what do we do instead?

Two years ago, I was in a bookstore in an eclectic neighborhood in Baltimore and was drawn to the cover on one of the books. I started reading the first few pages and was intrigued.

Instead of making an uninspired (and, often overwhelming) “to do” list at the turn of each new year, the author suggested we identify how we want to FEEL. Then, get curious about what we’d have to do to feel that way and do that more often.

The process of doing this is what Danielle LaPorte, author of The Desire Map, calls declaring our “core desired feelings.”

How do you want to FEEL?

It seemed simple enough and made sense to me, so I decided to give it a try. My husband joined me along the journey.

Over the past two years, I’ve wanted to feel RADIANT, WORTHY, CONNECTED, FLOWINGCLEAR, ABUNDANT, and FREE.

As a result, I started to think about what would make me feel that way. From the incredible communities I’ve joined, I’ve received connection, reminders of my worthiness, and permission to radiate.

I’ve met and aligned with dozens of incredible professionals in my field, and we are collectively bringing kindness, health and wellbeing to the workforce. I’ve been drawn to new friendships and communities of women that make me feel loved and safe. My husband and I found a new small group to join through our church and have made new friendships through that as well. I’ve become part of an incredible community of women and men committed to finding joy and freedom through movement at Movement Lab in Baltimore.

With some of the awesome people from Movement Lab. I am on a trampoline in the back left!

I’ve pursued and have been given countless opportunities to radiate, get in flow, and connect with people by speaking to organizations, human resources professionals, my church community, and the public through presentations, retreats, and cooking demonstrations. I received recognition from a national organization that identified me at the #1 Health Promotion Professional in the U.S. from a pool of over 200 of my peers and was invited to speak at a national conference last spring. I’ve become a recognized expert in my field and in my community and am grateful to be in a position of leadership.

I started to feel how I wanted to feel, and what I was hoping would happen did. I received infinitely more than I had imagined was possible. 

My husband, Bill, declared ENERGIZED, MOTIVATED and ACCOMPLISHED as his core desired feelings. He said he wanted to spend more intentional time with a group of guys from our church, who are honest, supportive, fun, and willing to be open. They meet on a monthly basis and get together in between to play and watch sports, grab a beer, or share a meal.

Bill said that training for and completing a triathlon would help him feel how he wanted to feel, too, so, he committed to doing that as well. In July of 2016, he became an Ironman after completing a grueling 140.6-mile course of swimming, biking and running in Lake Placid, New York.

Yesterday, he and I continued our New Year’s Day tradition of reflecting on the moments and memories of the previous year and identify our core desired feelings.

Throughout the year, we write these memories on little pieces of paper and put them in a glass jar that we empty out on New Year’s Day. We write all of them down in a journal and then add any others that we forgot to record. Finishing graduate school, paying off our student loans, Bill completing the Ironman, having my articles published in mindbodygreen, welcoming the births of our friends’ babies, renovating our kitchen, and reminiscing about the trips we took.

We take time to celebrate all that happened and reflect on the memorable moments that were sad as well. We think about what we are leaving behind in 2016 and not taking into 2017, what we are letting go and releasing.

And we identify how we want to feel in the coming year.

Bill wants to feel FREE, SECURE and COURAGEOUS. His desires are getting stronger and more specific. I’m excited to see what the year will bring him and to witness the growth he will experience as a result of shaping the year around generating those feelings.

My feelings have changed a bit this year, but some have remained the same.

I was seeing a therapist earlier this year, and one of the questions she asked me was to think about what I would want to tell my 10-year-old self, if I had the chance to go back and talk to her.

I paused. My lip quivered, as tears began rolling down my cheeks.

“Play,” I answered. “I would tell her to play more.”

For much of my life, I’ve taken things too seriously, been embarrassed by and uncomfortable with silliness, focused too much on striving and doing and not enough on just living and being. I haven’t made playfulness a priority.

But we are not called to take ourselves so seriously or treat ourselves so harshly. We are called to be childlike, to be humble, curious, and dependent on others and on God, a higher power than us. In today’s society, it’s easy to ignore that, to let pride rule, to think we know it all, and to convince ourselves that we can do everything on our own and be self-sufficient. But that is not how we were meant to live.

I feel PLAYFUL when I’m dancing, doing Nia and AntiGravity, playing games, spending time with little kids, being silly with Bill, getting surprise gifts for people, going on travel and food adventures to new places, blowing bubbles, jumping on a trampoline, skipping, walking on the beach, splashing in the water, hanging out with playful people, and laughing until it hurts.

I feel FREE and OPEN when I’m speaking my truth, as I’m doing here. I feel free and open when I dance, speak, present, teach, leave cushion in my schedule, spend time with friends who love and celebrate me, dream about the future, offer grace, forgive, overcome fears, go for a run on a beautiful day, spend time in nature, hike, give of our finances, and declutter my physical space.

I feel RADIANT when I present about a topic that I’m passionate about, write and speak from my soul, dance and twirl like a joyful little girl, wear a brightly colored outfit, serve others, and share my story and invite others to share theirs.

I feel DEEPLY CONNECTED when I spend undistracted (i.e., iPhoneless), quality time with people I love, have phone calls or meet-ups with close friends, go away on retreats and have time to reflect, go on getaways to new places with my husband, grab a meal with a friend, or have a soul-baring conversation with someone who trusts me and feels safe enough to share with me.

That’s how I want to feel this year. PLAYFUL, OPEN, FREE, RADIANT, and DEEPLY CONNECTED.

Now, it’s your turn. Ditch your New Year’s Resolutions, and do this instead.

  1. Ask yourself how you want to feel in 2017. If you need help with ideas, click here.
  2. Decide what you’ll do to generate those feelings. What do you do or can you do to make yourself feel that way? Refer to my lists above for some ideas.
  3. If you want to create one of the cool word picture images like the one you see above, download the free Word Swag app here. If you do, post it in my Facebook page and/or tag @RachelsNourishingKitchen on Instagram! I’d love to see what you create.

I wish you joy, peace, happiness, and love in 2017! Thank you for being a part of this community and for allowing me to be so open. I’m grateful for you!

Want a video summary of our New Year’s tradition? Check out my video below.

An Accidental Gift: Lessons from a Body Shop

It had been a good day.

Everything had gone according to my plan.

Meeting in the morning, lunchtime Nia class at Movement Lab, work remotely for a few hours, and have a late lunch at my new favorite spot in Baltimore, R. House.

I was in the car getting ready to head back to the office to pick up a few things. I was backing out of the parking spot, checking my rearview mirror to make sure all was clear.

And then I heard it…and felt it.

Scraaaaaape.

No, no, no, no, no!

I remember pulling into the spot when I arrived and thinking how close the pole was to my car, as I carefully navigated around it to park. Unfortunately, I forgot it was there as I was leaving. It was too late before I realized what I had done, so I pulled back into the spot, got out of my car and braced myself for the damage.

At first, it looked like just a few gashes of white paint from the pole. But then I saw it. The gaping hole in the driver’s side door.

Seriously?

WHY?!

I’ve had this car for over 10 years and have never had to have body work done on it. Not once. It was 5:00 p.m. Where could I go? I knew my friend and our pastor, Ryan, would have a body shop recommendation from a buddy of his who works in the industry, so I called him first. The place he suggested was –like most other shops at that hour – closed.

I searched for body shops on Yelp! and saw that Ed’s Body & Paint Shop was a quarter-mile away.

In the first review, I saw the word “honest” and a closing time of 5:30, so off I went. I called the shop to give them a heads up, and when I arrived, Ed, who turned out to be the owner of the shop, came out to assess the damage. I was still shaken up at this point and in a reactive crying mode, so I rambled a bit and told him what had happened.

And then I paused for a second.

I’m okay though,” I said. At least I was okay. It could have been worse.

Ed walked me into his office to get my information and sat me down. Trying to calm my frazzled state, he told me how common this situation was. So often he has people come to him in a state of stress, frustration, fear, and worry. They go on and on about how awful it is that their cars are damaged. He said his kids did the same thing when they were growing up. “Oh dad, I can’t believe what happened. The car…”

He’d respond with, “How about you? Are you okay? We’ll fix the car. It’s just a car.”

He told me the story of a young girl came to his shop the other day in hysterics. She had damaged her car badly in an accident, and, then, while she was backing into the driveway, she popped a tire. “This is the worst day. What did I do to deserve this??” she lamented to Ed.

Ed paused and replied with compassion but a different perspective, “I have an idea. You know all those good days when the sun was shining and life was good? I bet you took them for granted.” It was a risky comment to make to an already agitated person.

The risk was worth it. He said it was as though he’d flipped a switch. Her entire demeanor changed.

He continued. “You wake up and expect every day to be perfect, and when it’s not, it’s the worst day.”

“You know, you’re right,” she said. “I don’t stop to smell the roses. I do expect the day to go perfectly. I don’t appreciate the good days.” With a lifted mood, she gave Ed a hug before she left, and walked out with a new perspective on life.

He brought the conversation back to my situation, seeing that I was still upset about what had happened to my car. “If you think you’re having a bad day, I’ve got something to show you.” Ed pulled up a message on his phone about his uncle’s wife Janet. And then he told me this story.

She came home from the hospital at 4:00 a.m. and asked her husband to lie down with her. ‘Hon, would you rub my back?’ So he did. ‘Oh that feels so good,’ she said.”

By 5:00 a.m., Janet had passed away.

“This will be his first Christmas without her in 53 years. He saw the same face and held the same hands for 53 years, and now she’s gone. That’s a bad day.”

Yes, yes it is. It made my situation at the time seem trivial. Talk about perspective.

Ed apologized for being preachy, but I told him it was fine. I appreciate when people speak their truth, and I knew his intention was nothing but pure. I wanted him to say what he had to say. I just had to stay open to hearing the message. He went on to tell me why he has the perspective he does.

“Each day when I wake up, I thank God for another day. When I go to bed at night, I ask Him to look out for my family and the people I love. You know, I just try to live each day like it’s my last. And if the people you love have their health, you’re good. That’s what matters.”

He talked about wanting his four granddaughters (“my grandbabies”) to grow up in a world like he did, a world where people looked out for each other. “When you saw a kid with a scraped up knee on the sidewalk, you stopped to help him. You didn’t ignore him, stop to take pictures, or put it up on YouTube.”

Neighbors were neighbors and people took care of each other.

Ed told me several stories about how he takes care of the people who come to see him at the shop.

He told me about the single mom with two kids whose husband had just left her. She came to him in a panic because she’d gotten an estimate for $800 to replace her brakes. He looked at her car and the estimate, realized she was being scammed, and discovered all she needed were new brake pads. About 40 minutes and $56 later, she left with her car and her kids, feeling immensely grateful.

“I’m not in it for the money,” he said. “People seem to do everything for the money these days. Sure, I’ve got to charge enough to pay the people here, but I want to be able to go to bed at night knowing that I did right by people.”

We ended up chatting for an hour and a half. I left feeling about as peaceful as I had before the incident happened.

Even though it wasn’t part of my plan.

Even though it’s not how I anticipated my day would go.

Even though I have no idea how much money it’s going to cost to repair it.

But it’s just a car. It can be fixed. And I’m okay.

I feel like the whole thing was meant to be, like it had to happen.

I needed to hear that perspective and those stories. I needed to take a moment to pause and be grateful for all of the good days I have. And I have a lot of good days. So often, I stress about things that don’t really matter. I get worked up about things that will likely never happen five to ten years into the future. I focus on everything I didn’t start or finish or make time for and leave myself in a state of feeling guilty and inadequate more than I’d like to admit.

But, at the end of the day, I get to go home to my husband, spend time with my family, do work that I love, be surrounded by amazing community and friends, and have my health.

Sometimes we need moments like these to interrupt our lives and our plans, to shake us up a bit, and to remind us of the privilege it is to be alive and to be given another day on this beautiful earth.

Be Somebody’s Mary: The Kindness of a Stranger

We’re in a time of tension, emotions, and division in our country in a way that I’ve not yet experienced in my lifetime. In the midst of this time of uncertainty, it can be easy to fall into the mode of complaining and noticing what isn’t working, what we don’t like, why we’re angry.

All of this negativity makes it easy for us to lose sight of all the goodness in our lives. Yet, kindness continues to abound.

We just have to notice it.

What we focus on expands. If we want to be happier, we have to reflect on the things that bring us joy. If we want to be more selfless, we have to practice gratitude and appreciation regularly.

If we want there to be more kindness in the world, we should be the first ones looking for ways to put it there.

Videos like this one and this one, showing incredible acts of kindness are going viral on social media, a clear indication that we are hungry for hope that the world is still good and that people are still kind.

An act of kindness from a stranger prompted Daniel Lubetsky, the founder of KIND Snacks, to give his company its name. I’ll never forget hearing the story of how their name came to be. If you’re not familiar with it, check out this video. It’ll make you think differently every time you see a KIND bar. It’ll make you want to be kind.

(Oh, and if you’re not already following me on instagram, head on over and “like” my page because I’ll be doing a giveaway there from 11/21 through 11/23.)

The story I want to share today is about something that happened in my life that showed me just how kind and gracious people can be. I hope it uplifts you today.

I was en route to Madison, Wisconsin to go on a retreat with my nutritionist, who has been instrumental in my healing journey. We were on separate flights but due to arrive in Madison within minutes of each other.

The weather in Baltimore was stormy that night, and as I was boarding my connecting flight in Atlanta, she called me to tell me she missed her connection flight and wouldn’t make it to Madison until the following morning. I’d be on my own with transportation and the hotel room. When all was said and done, it was going to cost me upwards of $300 for the drive to and stay in the hotel for what would ultimately be less than eight hours. I couldn’t justify the expense, so I told her to cancel the reservation. “I’ll figure something out,” I assured her.

As I sat on the plane, racing against the clock and the “Please turn off your cell phones” announcement, I frantically searched for a reservation on AirBNB. But my cell phone battery was dying, and my charger was in my luggage overhead with nowhere to charge it. The AirBNB search wouldn’t go through due to a weak signal, so as my flight took off out of Atlanta, I headed to Madison unsure of where I would stay that night.

Once we landed at around 9:30 p.m. and were waiting to deplane, I turned my cell phone back on and saw that the battery was a 1%.  Oh, no. Not now. Please, not now.

I looked toward the back of the plane, searching for a friend I’d made in line in Baltimore. She was a fellow healthy foodie and had just returned from several months of backpacking in Europe. “Maybe I could find a way to stay with her,” I thought. But she was nowhere to be found. I was talking through my concerns with the guy sitting next to me on the plane, but he couldn’t be bothered and didn’t seem to care, so I was left feeling a bit alone and helpless.

“What am I going to do?” I thought.

As everyone was getting out of their seats and pulling down their luggage, a gentleman from a row back who had heard me talking about my situation asked if I’d figured out my lodging.

I couldn’t hold it back at that point and despite my best efforts, tears started slowly streaming down my face. “My phone is dead. I don’t know anyone in Madison. I don’t have a place to stay.”

He reached down to a woman sitting nearby and asked her for a tissue.

As she reached into her purse to hand me a tissue, she gently put her hand on my arm and said, “I have a spare bedroom, if you’d like to stay at my house tonight.”

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“Are you sure?” I asked, as I turned to face her, wiping the tears from my eyes. I tried to give her an out, not feeling confident that a complete stranger would want to help me: “But I have to be in downtown Madison early tomorrow morning.”

“It’s not a problem,” she assured me. “I’ll just drop you off before work.”

So, off I went to stay with a total stranger for the night, still feeling guilty for burdening her with my request.

We chatted the entire drive home. She told me about her husband, how they met and her love of traveling. As we pulled into her garage, I thanked her again for being so kind to me, and apologized for the inconvenience. She reassured me I wasn’t a burden and said she has a daughter close to my age and hoped that if she were in a similar situation, someone would do the same for her.

Mary’s cute little dog, Rosie, and her husband, John, came out to greet us. She informed her husband that they were going to have a visitor that night and then greeted him with a hug and kiss, “Happy Anniversary,” she said.

Oh geez, Rachel. Really? On their anniversary?

They assured me my presence was not a problem, and John greeted me warmly and invited me into their home. They offered me a drink, set me up in their guest bedroom, and had hot tea waiting for me in the morning.

Mary drove me to the retreat, as she mentally prepared herself for the conversation she was going to have at work that morning. It would be her first time telling an employee that he was being let go. She could have used more time and head space to focus on that, but instead, she went out of her way to take me to where I needed to go.

She dropped me off at the hotel, and in the midst of what was an incredibly windy day, stepped out of the car to take a picture with me. “Thank you for everything. I don’t know what I would have done without your help,” I told her.

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Me and my new friend, Mary

We’ve since stayed in touch via social media, and I will be forever grateful to her for her generosity and thoughtfulness that night and for her willingness to help a total stranger in need and show kindness to a fellow human being.

So, as we approach this week of thanksgiving, I invite you to pay attention.

Pay attention to kindness.

Share those posts. Share those videos. Share those stories.

And pay attention to people. Listen to what they’re saying and what they’re not saying. Notice what they might need. Where are you being pulled? What is your gut telling you?

Do they need a smile, a laugh, some money, food, a blanket, a kind word or maybe a hug? Be open to how you might be called to be a light to someone else, someone you might never expect.

In this season of thanksgiving and kindness, be somebody’s Mary.

What’s Your “Weightless Why”?

One of the commitments I’ve made since Day 1 of writing this blog is to be transparent and authentic. One colleague recently affirmed this by saying to me, “You stand in your truth.”  I was humbled by her comment and took it to heart because I know how important it is for me to do that.

I aspire to be refreshing, energizing and inspiring in my words and in my tone. I’ve learned there is immense power in being honest about ourselves and our struggles and that it gives other people permission to be open and honest about theirs. I invite people to be curious rather than passing judgment. This makes them feel safe, and it builds trust.

As part of my journey, I’ve had a constantly changing relationship with my self-image, confidence, health and weight. As I shared in my most vulnerable blog post in late December, I’ve been on a healing journey with my body and have been working to restore my health and well-being.

I’ve gone from being clinically malnourished only two years ago to looking and feeling alive, vibrant, radiant and whole today.

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Throughout that process, I struggled emotionally, fighting fears of weight gain and what the public perception would be of “the wellness person” gaining weight. But I did what I knew I had to do to get my life back and give my body what it needed to feel its best.

I stopped weighing myself and now focus on the process of being well. This is what has worked for me, so I simply offer my story as an invitation to get curious about your own life and open up to a different way of thinking. Today, I care more about how my body feels and functions and less about a three-digit number that doesn’t tell the whole story.

I eat nourishing, whole, colorful food and cook most meals at home with my husband.

I make time to savor what I’m eating, so that I can truly taste it and enjoy it, whether it’s a piece of dark chocolate or a roasted sweet potato. 

I move my body regularly in ways that I enjoy and in ways that challenge me.

I surround myself with a loving, supportive, and fun community.

I’m involved in my church and make it a priority to give back.

I continue to pursue purpose-driven work that makes me feel alive.

Instead of using weight as my motivation for eating the way I do, I align how I eat with my life’s greater purpose, which is to bring hope, inspiration and empowerment to people through food and stories, so they can feel better and be the best version of themselves.

When I feel my best, I can be my best for others.

I eat the way I do to have lasting energy, a stable and lifted mood, a strong immune system that keeps me healthy, boosted physical performance, glowing skin, and thick hair. Food has given me my life back and the life in food has gievn me life.

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So, how about you?

Do you ever get hung up on the number on the scale? Have you ever allowed it to dictate your day? How you feel? How you see yourself? Whether you wear certain clothes or show up at an event? How much power and control do you give that number?

When weight is our only metric of “success,” we might not notice improvements in our mood, sleep, energy, skin, and performance that come along the way.

When we focus too much on the outcome, we often miss out on what the process is teaching us.

Being aware of our weight is not bad or wrong in and of itself, but when we obsess about it and let it run our lives and dictate how we feel on a daily basis, it can do more harm than good. Even Weight Watchers, a company whose very focus is weight, recently launched a new program called “Beyond the Scale” because they realize their customers are seeking something more.

If they can invite people to do that, so can we.

The most enduring, highest quality form of motivation comes from within us, not from the outside. If we want our motivation to last and our habits to stick, it’s important that we tap into something deeper and identify compelling reasons why we’re living the way we’re living and eating the way we’re eating.

For that reason, I invite you to identify something that I call your “Weightless Why”. What are the reasons you are motivated or inspired to nourish your body in a way that fuels you to be the best version of yourself that has nothing to do with the number on the scale?

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Here are just a few reasons I’ve come up with over the years that motivate me:

  • Feeling energized
  • More stable and elevated mood
  • Better mental focus
  • Being medication-free!
  • No more seasonal allergies
  • No more acid reflux
  • Bronchitis and ear infections are a thing of the past
  • A strong immune system that keeps me well (even when everyone else is sick!)
  • Warm tone/color to my skin
  • Clear skin (best of my life!)
  • No more aches and pains
  • Enhanced athletic performance and recovery
  • Improved digestion
  • Better sleep
  • To support local, sustainable farming practices and farmers

Which of those reasons resonate with you? Are there any that I missed that you would add?

I’d love to hear from YOU about your “Weightless Why.”

Feel free to leave a comment below.

The Butterfly Effect: A Story of Hope & Strength

I’m going through a time of transformation and growth in my life.

Over the past few years, I’ve been rebuilding and restoring my health, as I wrote about in this post, The Courage to Be Vulnerable: My Untold Story.

My husband and I are in the process of renovating our kitchen (yay!) and have set up shop in our basement for the duration of the construction process.

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I’ve been coming into my own in my job and am constantly learning and growing, honing my speaking, presenting and consulting skills and continuing to build an identity as Rachel’s Nourishing Kitchen.

I’m preparing for my first national speaking gig at the Wellness Council of America’s National Summit in Orlando in April. It will be the first time I have the opportunity to take my message and passion to a larger stage. I’ve been brainstorming creative ideas to present the content and convey my message in a way that will leave everyone feeling energized, inspired and hopeful.

Yet, in the midst of all of this time of opportunity and growth, I often feel like I’m struggling, pushing and pressing without a clear vision of what the final outcome will look like. What is the unique message and contribution that will define my work? What do I need to do to figure that out? How long will it take?

If you’re going through a time of growth or challenges in your life right now, my hope is that what I’m about to share will restore your hope and encourage you.

If you prefer to watch or listen to a quick video, click below. Otherwise, keep reading. Or, do both!

Does it ever seem like certain words, images, names, numbers or symbols keep making their way into your life? What is the connection? Why do they keep coming up? What are they trying to teach us?

For me, that image has been a butterfly.

I started to connect the dots about why this might be when I was having a conversation with my dad a couple of months ago. I was preparing for a presentation about goal setting. He explained to me what happens when a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly in a way that I had never heard before that has stuck with me ever since.

As the lowly caterpillar or larva goes through a process of metamorphosis to become what will one day be a beautiful butterfly, something remarkable happens.

The larval phase transitions to the pupa phase, also know as the resting phase. Despite what its name might suggest, a great deal of transformation is happening beneath the surface.

During this time, most of the tissues and cells that make up the larva are broken down inside the pupa, and that material is rebuilt into the adult version – the butterfly.

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As the butterfly approaches its moment of release and freedom, when it will finally be able to fly, its wings are pushing, pushing, pushing against the inside of the pupa.

It’s that pushing motion that strengthens the butterfly’s wings, so that when it is ready to emerge, it is able to fly.

If we were to take a pair of scissors or a knife and slit open that cocoon prematurely, before the butterfly was ready, it wouldn’t be strong enough to fly.

It is strengthened by its struggle.

Aren’t there so many time in our lives when we feel like shouting, “Now is the time! or “I’m tired of waiting!”?

We wonder when we will be able to see the payoff of our efforts. This “I want it now” mentality that pervades our society is something I wrestle with on a regular basis.

“I’m ready!” I declare.

But, maybe I’m not.

Maybe my time is yet to come.

Maybe I’m being prepared for something even greater than I can imagine.

In those moments, I’m reminded of the journey of the butterfly and its process of transformation and building strength. It’s only when the butterfly is ready and has built up its strength that it can take flight.

As I was sharing this story with my friend, Jinji, the other day, she said something so simple that captured its essence and resonated with me in a profound way:

Caterpillars don’t know that they’re going to become a butterfly.

Sit with that for a moment.

The caterpillar didn’t know it would transform into a beautiful, vibrant, fascinating creature, just as we don’t know what’s in store for our lives.

We might feel small and insignificant at times, but what if we’re simply being prepared for something greater, something we can’t even fathom?

Jinji’s words tied in perfectly with a lesson that resonated with me at a women’s retreat I attended with my mom in Gettysburg in February. We had the opportunity to create a watercolor picture image to represent something that was meaningful to us that weekend, and this is what I drew and painted.

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We never know what these stepping stones along our journey could be strengthening us to be able to do one day. Let’s not look down on them. They are a necessary part of our preparation.

Think about what is being brought into your life to strengthen you, to prepare you for what you’re meant to do and who you’re meant to be.

I want to leave you with one final thought, one more glimmer of hope.

Without knowing any of these butterfly moments I was experiencing, my friend, Gina, gave me a devotional last week, and on the inside cover, she put this sticker:

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I was overcome with a sense of peace as I read it.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

That reminder was just what I needed.

We could be on the edge of our greatest moment, on the verge of “arriving,” and not even know it.

So, trust the process.

And hold on to hope.

Because when you are ready, and only when you are ready, you will be called to spread your wings and fly.

Enjoy the Journey, It’s Not a Race

Do you ever feel like you’re behind in your life?

That you “should” be further along than you are?

That no matter what you do, you can’t keep up?

It’s exhausting, isn’t it?

I feel that way frequently as I’m constantly pursuing the next thing, the thing that will set me apart and propel me forward. The thing that will define my work and bring it to a wider audience. What is the book I’m “supposed to” write? What will I offer to the world that is unique and remarkable? How will I know when I’ve “made it”? And what does that even mean?

It’s easy to get caught up in the rat race – to feel like everyone is passing you on their way to the top, that you’re not moving quite fast enough. That you’ll miss your chance.

I struggle with this big time.

Maybe you do, too.

That’s why I want to share this video with you – for encouragement. I’m saying these words to you as much as I’m saying them to myself. Because I need to hear them, too. Sometimes we just need to take a pause and allow ourselves to be reminded of what is true instead of focusing so much on the next “to do.”

The book I mentioned in the video is by Geneen Roth and is called Women Food and God. She is a remarkable writer and inspiration. 

Listen to the Whisper: Why I Fired My Doctors

What makes someone a “good” doctor?

Do they fill a prescription for you without needing to see you?

Do they give you their cell phone number?

Are they available after hours?

Do they have short wait times?

Maybe you answered, “yes” to all of those questions.

I would like to suggest we ask more important questions.

Do they help you stay well?

Do they optimize your health?

Do they explore the root causes of your symptoms?

Do they treat you like a person instead of a patient?

Think about yourself for a moment. 

Do you ever deal with headaches? Fatigue? Bloating? Sore throat? Anxiety? Indigestion? Constipation? Allergies? Bronchitis? Sinus infections? Acne? Joint pain? A cough that won’t go away?

For the most part, when we’re feeling unwell, we either self-medicate or seek the help of a physician. We schedule an appointment, spend more time in the waiting room than in the doctor’s office, and often walk out with a prescription or a referral.

We temporarily “get better”…until we get sick again.

I don’t envy doctors. They are in a tough spot these days.

They are tasked to do more with less, follow time-consuming and often complex protocols mandated by the insurance industry, and are so overbooked they have limited time to spend with each patient. I believe most of them have chosen health care as their profession because they genuinely want to impact lives and help people.

But, as patients, we’re not feeling heard.

An analysis from the journal Family Medicine found patients speak for an average of only 12 seconds before being interrupted by resident physicians. Over the course of the average 11-minute visit, the patient typically gets only four minutes of airtime.

Four minutes.

That’s less than the commercial break of your favorite TV show.

We’ve accepted that this is okay.

But it’s not. 

The current system isn’t working.

Doctors’ hands are tied, as they aren’t reimbursed for spending an hour with patients to gather what could be key information that could ultimately help them identify the root cause of their illness. Not only that, but a majority of the current medical school training is geared toward disease progression, diagnosis and treatment, not prevention and healing. As a result, many of us remain in a state of less than optimal health and accept that as reality.

It’s “normal” to have headaches, get the flu, and be tired every day…isn’t it? 

We can come up with reasons why we feel the way we do. But, what I’ve learned by listening to dozens of people’s stories is the importance of listening to the whispers our body sends us. 

I’ve learned this in my own life. I had deemed it “normal” to get ear infections every year. At one point in my life it was “normal” to have a surgery on a bi-annual basis; I had six before the age of 16 to “fix” issues in my ears and sinuses. It was “normal” to get bronchitis twice a year for over five years. It was “normal” to have acid reflux every day and take medicine for it for ten years.

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I didn’t question any of it for the longest time.

And neither did the nearly one dozen doctors I was seeing.

As I started to reflect, learn more about the body as an integrated system, and have conversations with people who had healed themselves, I started to realize that “dealing with it” wasn’t my only option.

About three years ago, as I learned more about the pivotal role of food in helping us be well, I started becoming frustrated by the conventional, diagnose-and-treat health care system and the physicians in it.

Why were none of them asking about me and my life? What I was eating? What might be at the root of why I was seeing them?

They were quick to prescribe a medication, send me to another specialist, or run another diagnostic. And, to be honest, like most patients, that’s what I thought I wanted.

“Just give me the quick fix, doc.”

None of them offered me what I needed most at the time.

Permission to ask questions.

A listening ear.

Time.

Hope.

Hope that I could be well.

Hope that I wasn’t “destined” to take medication for the rest of my life.

Hope that my body was resilient and wanted to be well; if only I would get out of its way.

It was during that time that I started parting ways with doctors who had been diagnosing and treating me for most of my life, masking symptoms without attempting to get to the root of what was wrong.

I met a few holistic health coaches, who first opened my eyes to the potential for healing as a result of their education and their own healing journeys. I experienced the benefits of “removing the tacks” myself (eliminating trigger foods like dairy) and noticed how quickly my body responded.

The first winter I went without congestion stunned me. Could it be possible? Did I not have to deal with these recurring health issues all the time?

Over the next year, I would be introduced to and served by a number of health care practitioners who would change my life, help me regain and restore my health and vitality, and influence the direction my career has taken.

They helped me listen to my body’s whispers.

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From a local chiropractor trained in integrative health to my integrative medicine doctor / acupuncturist and functional medicine nutritionist to the latest addition to my health care team, an integrative medicine dentist, I now feel heard.

They know me as a person, not a patient.

They ask me questions instead of just telling me what to do.

They spend time with me rather than rushing me out the door.

They understand the body as an interconnected system, not a disjointed set of symptoms.

They are humble and don’t assume they know it all; they encourage me to tap into my intuition and signals my body is sending me.

I am healing.

I have hope.

So, what about you?

Have you been to a doctor for testing because you’ve felt something isn’t right but were then told, “Everything’s fine!”…even though you know it’s not?

Are you feeling like something is “off” but don’t know who you can turn to to help you figure it out?

Do you want to partner with a practitioner who will listen, seek to understand you, spend time with you, and help you heal and find hope in your situation?

I’m not willing to wait for the health care system to figure this out. It could take a very long time. Instead, I’m taking my health into my hands and am encouraging you to do the same.

If you live in the Baltimore area, here is a list of practitioners I trust, who will listen to you and help you get to the root of what’s wrong. If you’re outside of this area, use this link from the Institute for Functional Medicine to find a “root cause” practitioner in your area.

Whatever you do, hold on to hope.

Believe healing is possible.

And remind yourself of this truth.

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Embrace the Gifts of “Snowing” Down

I’ve always been fascinated by what happens where I live when a snowstorm threatens.

Milk, bread, toilet paper and bottled water are nowhere to be found. The frozen section in the grocery store has been wiped out. And liquor stores enjoy a pre-blizzard bump in business as fears of wine shortages consume our minds. We prepare to hunker down for an indefinite amount of time, not knowing when our cars will be unburied or when the roads will be safe to drive.

But something else happens in the midst of a blizzard.

When Mother Nature decides to dump nearly three feet of snow on us in 24 hours, our chronic busyness, neverending to do lists, and work pressures suddenly become less important.

The weather has a way of causing us to slow down, or, in this case, “snow” down. It gives us time to focus more on what we really want to do and less on what we feel like we have to do.

We take time to think, play, read, explore, unwind, cook, laugh, and spend time with those closest to us. We actually see and talk to our neighbors…and meet new ones.

Over the past 48 hours, I’ve taken time to enjoy the gifts of “snowing” down. I wanted to share them with you to inspire you to make time for the things that matter, even after the threat of snow has subsided and we return to life as it was before.

Play. On Friday night, as Bill and I were preparing to watch what would end up being the complete series of Making a Murderer on Netflix, he asked, “Do you want to pull the mattress out into the living room while we watch TV?” No sooner had he asked then we were dragging our spare mattress, pillows and blankets out onto the living room floor to set up camp for the weekend. A small Nerf gun (yes, they still make them) also made its way into our time together that afternoon. I felt like a kid again doing something so fun and out of the ordinary.

Explore. On Saturday night, once it had stopped snowing, we trekked out into the fluffy white mounds and snow banks, wandering around the streets of Lutherville for over an hour. We walked in the middle of the unplowed road. We made our way to the park near our house, where we trudged knee-deep through the snow to get to the jungle gym and swing set. We slid down the slide into a snow pile, face planted while jumping off the swings, and made snow angels.

I remember staring up at the calm, gray sky, watching the clouds dance over the moon. It was the first time I noticed the beauty of the barren tree branches above my head and the stillness of the night. I thought to myself,

“This is the kind of stuff we’re supposed to notice. These are the moments when we’re fully present and connected to life.”

Read. I love to read and have since I was a kid. Reading gives me the opportunity to grow, learn, think, reflect, and dream. I have a thing for words and am always open to being inspired by them. During the past 48 hours, I finished Ariana Huffington’s Thrive, read most of the The Food-Mood Solution, and breezed through The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I recommend checking out all of them!

As I was reading through Thrive, I was reminded of the importance of slowing down and being present to what my body needs. Often, it’s rest.

Unwind. When we’re caught up in the frenetic pace of our lives and the feeling that there isn’t enough time to get everything done in a day, we tend to lose sight of the importance of rest. I made time to relax this weekend. I slept in. Sipped a half dozen cups of herbal tea. Took a nap on the couch. Decompressed in a lavender-infused epsom salt bath. Journaled in the comfy chair in my office with essential oils diffusing beside me.

It is so necessary to do this. Taking time to rest and relax is refreshing and helps us reset our body and mind.

Connect. It’s funny how we can live near people (several hundred feet from them) and never talk to them. In today’s world, most of us are coming and going in such a hurried way, we often overlook something as simple as getting to know our neighbors. Despite the fact that we have lived in our house for almost three years, we saw and talked to some of our neighbors more in the past 12 hours as we were shoveling than we had in the past six months. I grew up in a close-knit neighborhood where everyone knew and looked out for each other. I realize now as an adult how rare something like that is today and how I want more of it in my life.

I also reconnected with my web designer, the person who designed my logo (below!) and who will be helping me with the redesign of my website this spring. It had been on my mind to follow up with her for months, but having time this weekend was what I needed to make that phone call happen.

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Disconnect. Aside from Jimmy Fallon, Top Chef and The Voice, I don’t spend much time watching TV. With everything else that inspires and energizes my life, there isn’t much time left for it, but sometimes I just need to zone out. My husband and I binge-watched Netflix – all 10 episodes of Making a Murderer…in less than 18 hours. Quite a feat. (And, yes, it’s as addictive and fascinating as everyone says it is.)

Cook. It goes without saying that I love food, given what I do for a living and why I write this blog, but being cooped up in my house surrounded by food inspired me to get busy in the kitchen.

We made this savory Sweet Potato and Veggie Casserole and this warm and cozy Love In a Bowl White Bean & Fennel Soup

For something sweet, we whipped up Simple Mills chocolate cake topped with this fudgy peanut butter chocolate frosting and some crunchy cacao nibs and these banana oatmeal cookies from Pinterest (I added 1/4 tsp fine grain sea salt and about 1/3 cup chopped walnuts).

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Release. All of us have a tendency to accumulate stuff. I’m a pile-stacker and sentimental packrat, but there can be so much freedom in taking time to purge stuff we no longer use. When we are forced to slow down and reflect on the space around us, we often start to notice what we need and what we can release.

As I was reading the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and reflecting on my own living space, I was inspired to ask myself the book’s core question to guide the decision about which things to keep in my life and which to discard:

Does this spark joy?

What a simple but profound concept.

I had recently done quite a bit of decluttering, but reading this prompted me to take a few additional steps immediately. I now have several more bags filled with “stuff” that doesn’t spark joy to give away, trash, or recycle. The space I’ve cleared out is now open for something else to enter my life. I’m excited to see what that is.

While it may take a snowstorm to slow us down, let’s continue to give ourselves the gifts we experience and enjoy during times like these.

Whether we’re playing, exploring, reading, unwinding, connecting, zoning out, cooking, or releasing what no longer serves us, let’s reconnect with what sparks joy in our lives and commit to doing more of that.

Let’s continue to embrace the gifts of “snowing” down.

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