Nourish Your Body. Feed Your Soul. Shine Your Light.

Category: Inspired (Page 2 of 6)

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.

RD Before After

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! If you’re thinking of decluttering your home, take a look at these storage sheds in va.

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.

Awaken Possibility: The Power of the 5-Year Letter

I come from a place of possibilities and a world of dreamers.

As the daughter of two entrepreneurs, I had the opportunity to grow up in a home where dreaming was encouraged and anything was possible.

My imagination ran wild as a result of my dad’s storytelling and my love of reading and writing. My mind was transported to an imaginary place on a daily basis, where I could create my own reality of what was possible, rather than be confined by what the world told me “should” be.

Watching both of my parents intentionally pursue careers that used their skills, harnessed their passions, and made a difference in the world has fueled the way I approach my own career.

One of the many lessons my dad has taught me is the importance of having an effective life rather than a “successful” life. Over the years, both he and my mom have equipped me with tools that have helped me vision and dream about what that can mean for me. I’ve seen them “go for it” and dream big dreams.

My parents are more in love than they’ve ever been and are entering the prime of their careers in their 60s.

They’ll be celebrating 36 years of marriage in August and have been through their own journey of ups and downs to build a loving, lasting marriage. I admire their resilience and devotion to one another and their relationship.

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My dad, Michael Bryant, started his own business out of the fourth bedroom of my childhood home with a college degree in Secondary Education with a concentration in American History. He helps organizations and individuals connect and function more effectively. He invites them to dream about what is possible.

Since turning 65 last year, he’s often been asked the question, “When are you going to retire?”

His reply: “Retire from what, to what? I’m already doing what I love.”

My mom, Nancy, pursued a career in the male-dominated finance industry. She has had her own business for over a decade and had her best year ever in 2015. In the midst of that, she raised three children, contributed to her faith community, and earned her Master’s degree. She leads an effective life and approaches her work with integrity, honesty and poise and her family with love, encouragement, and selflessness.

Dreaming big extends beyond my parents’ relationship and careers. Many of us limit ourselves physically and use age as an excuse to stop actively engaging in our own lives.

They don’t.

My mom learned to swim in her late 50s and started competing in triathlons at an age when most of her peers are starting to slow down. She swims, bikes and runs for fun. She looks at least ten years younger than she is.

My dad is going to be 66 this year and is preparing to train for his 6th Ironman triathlon as my husband, Bill, prepares for his first. An Ironman is a 2.4-mile swim followed by a 112-mile bike ride and topped off with a 26.2 race – a marathon.

The race is set to take place in Lake Placid, New York in July. Seeing my dad pursue what’s possible and set aside the excuse of age as a limitation inspires me to think about what is possible in my own life.

My dad has always inspired the work I do, and one of the exercises he recommends to cast a vision for the future is the 5-year letter. He and my mom use it to dream about their future, and it’s amazing to see how much of what they’ve written in the past has come to be.

If you’re looking for inspiration to “go for it” and unlock what’s possible in your own life, check out this video that I posted on my blog Facebook page and YouTube channel and give it a try yourself.

In a nutshell, here’s how it works. Pretend you’re writing a letter to someone and write the date on the top five years into the future. Start the letter with this prompt:

“The past five years have been the happiest five years of my life…”

Let your mind wander.

Silence the “Who do you think you are?” and “That can’t be done” critics in your head. 

Tell your logical mind to take a hike. 

Write until you have nothing left to write.

And give yourself permission to dream.

 

The Truth about Detoxing with Celebrity Dietitian Ashley Koff

For many of us, the start of the New Year comes with intentions and desires to do things differently than we have in the past.

In my previous post, I shared what I do instead of making New Year’s Resolutions. It inspires me to not only approach life the way that I do but to make decisions about what to eat and drink.

Since I want to feel RADIANT, ABUNDANT and FREE, I choose to consume foods that make me feel that way, which is why I do what Michael Pollan says and…

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Last fall, I attended the Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore for the second time and had the opportunity to learn about all of the cool new natural products hitting the market in the coming year.

I also had the privilege of hearing award-winning nutrition expert, Ashley Koff RD, creator of The Better Nutrition Simplified Program, speak.

Ashley has been featured on Doctor Oz, The Today Show, The Huffington Post, and Fox News. She also wrote the book Mom Energy.

What I appreciate so much about her is our shared food philosophy of being “qualitarians,” which I’ve written about previously here. We make it a priority to eat the highest quality foods we can as often as possible. As a result, we feel great and have energy throughout the day. We use food as fuel, to nourish, protect and sustain our bodies.

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Award-winning nutrition expert, Ashley Koff, RD

To clear up any confusion, I thought I’d get some answers from the expert herself. I had the opportunity to interview Ashley and am sharing below what I learned from her. I hope you find it refreshing, energizing and informative!

Rachel: There’s a lot of talk about “detoxing” these days, and the word seems to mean different things to different people. If you had to explain detoxification as you understand it and in a way that would be meaningful to a layperson, what would you say?

Ashley: We all have a detoxification system in our bodies so we should be “detoxing” every day of our lives. The detox system works in two parts. One part converts harmful toxins into less harmful. When it does this it produces “dirt” (free radicals) that the body also needs to clean up. The second part eliminates toxins by having certain nutrients bind to the toxins so they can be eliminated. Thus, the body needs specific nutrients to do all of this.

For part one, lots of vitamins and minerals like B-vitamins, magnesium, as well as plant nutrients like milk thistle and quercetin support these efforts. Antioxidants found in the colors of fruits and vegetables, as well as the plant nutrients in nuts and seeds and grains and beans help do the “clean up” work. And certain foods, broccoli as a leader as well as onions, leeks, and organic eggs, help enable the body to eliminate toxins – a significant part of detoxification.

Rachel: What are some of the common myths about detoxification you see in the media and hear from your patients?

Ashley: The biggest is that we should pick times or programs to “detox”…We have a detoxification system – that’s like saying there are certain days or programs that we should use our muscles or brains. It’s ongoing.

The others are more specific. Like “detox” assigned to a tea or shake that doesn’t deliver nutrients mentioned above or that also delivers toxins, irritants etc. For example, a non-organic juice or shake that contains items on the “dirty dozen” list, which is like washing your floor wearing dirty boots.

Download the Dirty Dozen app for your phone

Download the Dirty Dozen app for free on your phone. It’s updated annually!

Rachel: What are the top 3-5 reasons we should be concerned about detoxification?

Ashley: There are a lot of environmental toxins we can’t control our exposure to, but we can help the body manage them by identifying and eliminating them.

If our bodies don’t detox properly, we can’t accomplish our other health goals (weight loss, better energy, reduce risk of disease).

Many toxins are fat-soluble which means they are trapped or stored in our fat cells, which means as we work to lose extra fat, we need to make sure these toxins are removed from the body as well.

Rachel: What are some of the safest ways we can detoxify our body?

Ashley:

  1. Reduce our intake of irritants by improving the quality of what we put in and on our bodies.
  2. Choose to incorporate quality sources of the foods that support the bodies detoxification system – all the different phases.
  3. Avoid trendy detoxes, which may be stressful to your body.
  4. Consider your current health status and health goals to determine what your body needs and can handle. You may benefit from working with a healthcare practitioner to accomplish this best. (Here is a link to my – Rachel’s – recommended healthcare professionals who focus on optimizing health)

Rachel: Many of my readers are moms. What should parents know about the importance of detoxification? Is this something they should think about for their children?

Ashley: As described above, we all have detoxification systems so, yes, kids of every age should be eating to support their detoxification system just as adults. It’s why I love organic baby and toddler foods that include foods and their nutrients as well as does not include irritants.

Rachel: We hear a lot about broccoli being a “super food” and one of the healthiest and most detoxifying foods we can eat. What makes these little trees so special? Why would we want to eat more of them?

Ashley: Well the detox part is HUGE and that’s because of its glucoraphanin. The nutrients of the trees also help support healthy digestion and hormones, as well as antioxidants to be part of our body’s overall clean up team. But broccoli is also more than trees. The leaves provide calcium (as much as a glass of milk per serving in a few leaves) as well as your daily dose of vitamin C, and additional antioxidants.

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Rachel: What are the best ways to prepare broccoli to preserve the most nutrients?

Ashley: Let’s look at this differently. The best way is whichever way gets you to eat (or drink) broccoli more often. Frozen or ready to eat, raw or cooked, lightly “snowed” (with some cheese) or roasted with some olive oil or puréed into a broccoli pizza crust or added into a frittata – there are so many ways to enjoy broccoli. The only ways I don’t recommend broccoli are boiled or overcooked (longer than 5 minutes) IF you are eating it for the glucoraphanin benefits.

Now remember that all broccoli will have different amounts of its detox nutrient – glucoraphanin – so that’s where a supplement can be helpful if you want to have consistent levels to support optimal detoxification (I call it “true detox”). I personally prefer organic broccoli and when that’s not available I consume a glucoraphanin supplement (truebroc.com) in a tea form or in a capsule. Disclosure: I am a member of their advisory board and work with them to promote the benefits of glucoraphanin.brassica box

Rachel: I recently finished up a video series about GBOMBS on my Facebook page and YouTube channel and have written articles about these nutrient-dense foods before, with broccoli being one of them! I’ve shared with my readers and fans some of my favorite ways to prepare greens and cruciferous veggies like broccoli. What is your favorite way to eat broccoli?

Ashley: I eat broccoli almost every day and even my dog eats frozen organic broccoli (he likes it straight from the freezer!) so it’s impossible to pick a favorite. I have fun coming up with new ways to eat broccoli like my latest – as a “crust” – but my most frequent way is to sauté in vegetable broth and then drizzle olive oil and top with hemp seeds.

Rachel: What are your top 10 foods/herbs/spices that naturally support and enhance the body’s detoxification process?

Ashley: Instead of the top 10 foods/herbs/spices that help to support the body’s natural detoxification process, it’s better to organize them by which foods help to support the different phases.

Phase 1: convert harmful toxins to less harmful and mark them for elimination.

Foods that help: spinach, all beans, broccoli, all greens, berries, oranges, papaya, kiwi, pineapple, tofu, sesame seeds, turmeric

Phase 2: conjugation where body adds nutrients to harmful toxins to help them be eliminated

Foods that help here: broccoli, amino acids (hemp), sesame seeds, shallots, garlic, leeks, and water(!)

The key is that if you are only eating for Phase 1 foods, then you aren’t optimizing your total detox potential. Of all the crucifers, broccoli has the most glucoraphanin. To learn more about the powerful benefits of glucoraphanin, click here.

Rachel: Now, to wrap it up, let’s talk more “big picture.” What are three pieces of nutrition advice that you think would benefit everyone?

Ashley:

  1. Better nutrition IS simple.
  2. You need what you need, not what someone else does.
  3. There’s no perfect health, perfect nutrition plan, perfect food – but there’s always a better choice and better nutrition choices are the key to better health.

And there you have it! None of us has all of the answers when it comes to what to eat, but I respect and appreciate Ashley’s take on a popular topic that tends to generate lots of confusion. Thanks again, Ashley, for answering all of my questions so clearly and honestly! To learn more about Ashley and her work, visit her website.

If you want to benefit from the antioxidant power of broccoli, try drinking truebroc’s Brassica Tea. It’s sold locally at Baltimore Coffee & Tea in Timonium and at Wegmans stores. You can also find it online here.

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Stay tuned for my next post where I will be sharing a yummy recipe that uses these Brassica tea bags!

Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions…Do THIS to Rock 2016!

As someone who works in the health and wellness field, I’m reminded by dozens of articles that it’s time to make New Year’s Resolutions.

Time to revisit our lofty to do lists from last year and take stock of what worked and what didn’t. Time to let the past year go and embrace what is to come.

Tempting as it may be, I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions.

To me, they feel more like an intimidating and overwhelming laundry list of “to dos” and less like an inspired vision for how I want my life to be. Making New Year’s Resolutions doesn’t work for me.

I wrote a blog post last year around this time about what triggered me to make the shift away from New Year’s Resolutions and toward something more meaningful and motivating.

In her books, The Desire Map and The Fire Starter Sessions, best-selling author and influencer Danielle LaPorte asks a seemingly simple question. Instead of focusing on what she wants to DO each year, she asks:

How do I want to feel?

Once we get clear on how we want to feel, we can spend our time and energy being intentional about how to generate those feelings, as we craft an inspired vision for how we want our lives to be.

It’s amazing how much clarity going through this process has brought me and the thousands of other people who have done the same.

After brainstorming words that capture how I want to feel, I narrowed them down to the top five words that energize me the most and came up with my core desired feelings for 2015:

I thought about what it meant to FEEL each of those feelings and what I could do to generate them as often as possible.

To be RADIANT is to be bright and bold; to send out light; to shine or glow brightly. I’m radiant when I’m speaking, teaching, presenting and writing. I’ve done more of all of those things in the past year than ever before. I’m gearing up to do the same in 2016 with my first national speaking gig in April in Orlando!

I’m also radiant when I eat nourishing foods that make my skin glow and my body feel energized. That’s my primary motivation for eating the way that I do.

To be CONNECTED is to be linked, banded together, joined, and united. When we feel connected, we feel close, safe, wanted, supported, and understood. We are hard-wired for connection, to be in community with others. I’ve felt more supported and connected this year than ever before. Networking with passionate people, spending more time with friends and family, serving my community, and sharing my story have helped me generate feelings of connection.

To be WORTHY is to be “good enough.”

Like many women, I’ve struggled to feel “good enough” for most of my life. It’s exhausting and draining to feel that way. I love what Brene Brown has to say about worthiness in her book, The Gift of Imperfection:

 “If we want to fully experience love and belonging, we must believe that we are worthy of love and belonging. Worthy now. Not if. Not when. We are worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.”

When we feel worthy, we open up the possibility for amazing opportunities to enter our lives and instead of asking “Why me?” we can confidently respond, “Why NOT me?” and say “yes” to what is meant to happen in our lives instead of resisting it.

Starting 2015 by focusing on how I want to feel gave me a sense of clarity, purpose and direction for the year, and I had the best year ever in my career. 

I was bolder and more open than ever about what I wanted to bring into my life and about the impact I wanted to have.

I won national awards, met internationally recognized leaders in my field, felt more purposeful in my career, was asked to speak at the national level, grew financially, and connected with other like-minded, life-giving people who are also striving to become the best version of themselves.

By owning how I wanted to feel and getting clear on what action steps made me feel that way, I came alive. I felt inspired and had the opportunity to inspire others.

It was a great year!

I’m looking forward to all that 2016 will bring, and as a result of what I’ve experienced over the past twelve months, I’m tweaking my list and keeping what still resonates and modifying what doesn’t. For 2016, my core desired feelings are:

I felt incredibly ABUNDANT at the end of the year when our CEO gave each of our employees a gift so we could “Pay It Forward.” I wrote about it in this post. I was so inspired by what happened that my husband and I are going to continue setting aside money each month to give to specific people or families. We’ll be looking for opportunities to give back.

I’m eager to find out what abundance I attract into my life as a result of declaring that feeling. Energy flows where attention goes, so by focusing on giving more freely, I anticipate feeling more abundant than ever.

How about you?

Are you uninspired by New Year’s Resolutions?

Tired of looking at your incomplete checklist each December?

Done with being “motivated” by guilt at the start of each new year?

Give this exercise a try.

Ask yourself how you want to feel.

Decide what you’ll do to generate those feelings – what do you do or can you do to make yourself feel that way.

Then, be open for whatever happens next!

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.

Want this info in video format? Check out the video I posted on New Year’s Day on my Facebook page (“Like” it if you haven’t already!)

 

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