Paving Your OWN Way to Optimal Health - Is Functional Medicine the Future of Healthcare?

Left photo is now - gearing up for my 51st birthday, middle photo was from two years ago and the photo on the right is a photo my dear friend Laura Turbow took of me around my 50th birthday last year. I was around 20 pounds heavier in those previous photos although I have to say, I was hiding it well!

I haven't worn the pants in the newest photo above since my husband and I got married almost ten years ago. Funny thing is this blog post isn't about weight loss. Weight loss is just a happy bi-product of my ever-evolving and continuing journey to optimal health. I'm not only happy with the way I'm looking, but I'm feeling pretty great too and as I quickly approach my 51st birthday and listen to my husband's exclamations of how sexy I am. well - that's just the best!

My Health Journey with Chris Kresser and Functional Medicine

If you've been to any of The Healing Farm retreats or have read any of my early blog posts, you know that I worked with Functional Medicine practitioner Chris Kresser on the first leg of my healing journey. I agree with Chris that functional medicine could be (and should be) the future of healthcare (he has a new book coming out called "Unconventional Medicine"). This is why I'm hosting retreats based on the premise of healing from the inside out - finding what's at the core of your chronic health issues and addressing those problems in a quest for long-term healing and preventative care. It's also why I want to build the Healing Farm property. Except for some of the big stuff, like necessary surgeries (I had a ruptured appendix many years ago and would have died without surgery), cancer treatments, trauma and a whole host of other medical issues Western medicine can address, much of what Western medicine seems to do for chronic conditions and auto-immune disease is about putting a bandaid on the problem and not getting to the core issue.

If it weren't for the initial work I did with Chris, I would not be where I am today physically and emotionally or able to build The Healing Farm business as I'm currently doing. It's not that I went into his office with major issues, but it was a collection of long-term issues that seemed to be adding up and getting worse:

Add the words chronic to any of the conditions below and that's what I experienced:

  • Sinus headaches so severe they bordered on migraines
  • Massive indigestion that would sometimes keep my up all night wondering if I was having a heart attack
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Increased mood swings - especially during PMS
  • Low libido
  • Constipation
  • weight problems
  • When I added chronic back pain to the list and opted out of surgery for that, I went to see Chris

When I worked with Chris, we found a parasite and some definciencies and indicators of inflammation. He put me on some herbal remedies and vitamins and an elimination diet and within six weeks most of my symptoms were alleviated. I was so inspired by natural healing and functional medicine that it set me on my current journey today. I had the energy and brain power to start taking business classes and started coming up with the concept of The Healing Farm. I would NEVER be where I am today if it weren't for the work I did with Chris Kresser. I would have continued to go around thinking it was just my darned bad luck that my body was so finicky.

Life-long Health Changes Can Take a Long Time and There May Be Setbacks

Fast forward a few years and my weight was creeping up again, restless legs were coming back, I was popping stomach pills and sinus pills again and wondering what the heck I was doing wrong. I thought I was eating a low sugar, low carb diet and I was almost 100% dairy and gluten free. I thought maybe it was just my aging body, but as I passed 50, I realized something was wrong again. I was listening to Magdalena Wszekaki's Cooking for Balance program since I was doing a retreat on menopause and women's health and started suspecting I may have a candida overgrowth or SIBO (small intestinal bacteria overgrowth). At this point in my business start-up I'm short on funds for just about everything so couldn't go to see Chris, but started doing some of the protocols in Magdalena's program including going on a vitamin and herb regimen recommended by her functional health practitioner and started taking Mega Spore probiotic. I've lost almost 20 pounds (I lost ten pounds on Keto) and am feeling great again. Now, I have to admit, I've been on a NO CARB, NO SUGAR, NO ALCOHOL plan for over eight weeks and had done the keto-type regimen right before I started the program and was now comfortable with eating fats and definitely not craving sugar or alcohol. This made it easier.

What I needed to think about though was the fact that I had almost lost all the work I had done with Chris and I needed to really think about the reasons. When I really thought about it, I realized I was drinking a lot of white wine and completely ignoring the fact that white wine is hight in sugar. I was sneaking in sugary snacks and gluten here and there and had found my new favorite go to chips (all natural beet chips in coconut oil) were really high in carbs (which converts to sugar in your body and if I do have a candida overgrowth - candida feeds on sugar). I also had to look at the amount of snacking and portions I was eating. I'm an emotional eater. It's a vicious cycle when you're down because you're not feeling good and it makes you feel better to eat (or drink wine). Basically, I was fooling myself thinking I was doing such a great job and was really producing more an more inflammation in my body. I got myself back into that unhealthy state. The no carb, high(er) fat plan has been working for me. Once I hit my goals and feel like I'm at optimal health, I'm not planning on going without my dark chocolate or an occasional beet chip, gluten free pizza, of glass of (red) wine in the future, but once I reach my goal, I know now what my limits are and I'm pretty darned happy with a few tablespoons of coconut yogurt (no sugar added!) for a sweet snack after dinner and some yummy ginger tea in the afternoon in the meantime. 

Your Personal Paleo Code, or Whole 30 Code, or Ancestral Code, or Veggie Code, or Mediterranean Code...Find Out What Eating Plan is Best for YOU and YOUR Body.

"Your Personal Paleo Code" was the title of Chris Kresser's first book before it was changed to: "The Paleo Cure". What I liked about Chris' philosophy is that he stresses that's it's most important to find what works for you and YOUR body. Although he's more of an ancestral/paleo guy, he's not completely opposed to carbs and grains. He's all about finding what works best for your body through the elimination diet and getting to the bottom of other lurking issues through blood and stool testing and then finding the right path to true healing. My husband can eat just about anything and never gain weight. He feels great all the time and is rarely sick. His way of eating is more like a snake's. He can go for hours without thinking about eating and then eat a ton and feel fine. A dear friend feels best when she eats more of a mediterranean diet, another friend recently discovered she really likes fasting for 24 hours between meals and loves the way she feels, another friend is vegetarian but has celiac so balances her diet accordingly. She's incredibly healthy and active despite what some of us would see as deficient in some essential nutrients by not eating meat. The point is, it's all about you and your body and what makes you feel best.

But Functional Medicine is Expensive....

I was recently telling someone about The Healing Farm concept and she instantly said she's not a fan of functional medicine. I asked her why and she said it's because it's cost prohibitive to a lot of people. This is where perception needs to change both in our own minds and in our healthcare system. If I added up all of the costs of the MRI and cortizone shots for my back, the upper GI and Endoscopy for my GI issues, years of blood tests and all the medication I've taken since I was in my mid twenties, it would be WAY more than the treatment cost of working with Chris Kresser. What we pay in insurance and what some of us get in health benefits from work hides most of what Western medicine costs. If we were paying all those bills (which increasingly we ARE), it would shock us. I paid about $1,000.00 five years ago for my work with Chris and the benefits have been life-changing. If we can change our healthcare system to accept Functional medicine into the fold (I was recently told by a THF client that Sutter Health now has a functional medicine practitioner), then maybe we can TRULY change the way we heal ourselves and prevent chronic conditions. This is why the work Chris Kresser, other functional medicine practitioners, nutritionists and hopefully The Healing Farm does is so important. We need to change the future of healthcare so let's start now!

Western Medicine Does Not Recognize Candida Overgrowth....

 Well. Yuck. Why am I posting this word? Read on!

Well. Yuck. Why am I posting this word? Read on!

Western medicine doesn’t recognize candida overgrowth”. This is what I was told when I went to a Western medicine doctor recently when wanting a prescription for what I think is an overgrowth of yeast in my body. I don’t have typical symptoms (no UTI or yeast infection), but was alerted to the possibility when I was going through Magdelena Wszelaki’s “Cooking for Balance” hormone balance workshop online (highly recommended if you are struggling with hormone or gut issues).

Magdalena was mentioning “candida overgrowth” throughout the program because she struggled with it for years. I was ignoring what she was saying throughout the program because the two of the main symptoms of candida overgrowth I was not experiencing: vaginal yeast infections and UTIs. In fact I haven’t experienced either of those things in years and both only once and some of the other symptoms she mentioned seemed also to be related to other possible issues (like SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth):

  • Stomach bloating - especially after eating

  • Belching right after eating

  • Itchy ears

  • Fatigue

  • Brain fog and memory issues

  • White coating on tongue

  • Athlete’s foot

After working in the past with functional medicine practitioner, Chris Kresser, I had healed a slew of chronic conditions:

  • Fatigue

  • Weight gain

  • Back pain

  • Restless legs

  • Indigestion

  • Sinus headaches so severe they bordered on migraines

I felt great for several years and was inspired (and had the energy) to start The Healing Farm retreat business. Things were going pretty well until I think I probably overtaxed my adrenal glands with stress. Plus I was going into peri menopause and my out-of-whack hormones were causing sleep disruption and on top of it, I was creeping back into some old habits. I kept SAYING I was almost 100% sugar, gluten and dairy free, but somehow I wasn’t counting the glass or two of white wine (sugar!) I was having 3-4 nights a week or the week-long vacations on which I would “slip-up” and eat burgers WITH buns or the cheese I was putting on the enchiladas I made with leftover chicken. I think all of this added up and my symptoms all started creeping back. The worst one was gaining weight again and I didn’t like the fact that I was once again buying sinus medication and stomach pills, but what I noticed most which I had never experienced before was stomach bloating and belching after meals.

When the elimination diet I went on after listening to Magdalena’s program wasn’t yielding results, I started fearing SIBO. Since SIBO is hard to get rid of and sometimes requires antibiotics, I decided to go back in to Magdalena’s program and listen a little more to the stuff she was saying about candida. That, plus research online and simple and FREE test, confirmed (for me) what I was now suspecting. That I had this “candida overgrowth”. I’ve done some extreme cleansing and started a minor herbal regimen and the bloating and belching seems to be getting better plus I’ve lost weight. I have been carb, sugar, caffeine, alcohol and dairy free for six weeks, but my test was still showing yeast so I got a little frustrated and read a little more about candida online which is when I realized I could go on an anti-fungal.

In any case, I went to Kaiser since that’s where I have insurance and am trying to save money right now so didn’t choose to go to a functional medicine practitioner (which is not covered). This is when I heard the line “Western medicine doesn’t recognize candida overgrowth”. Plus he said since I didn’t have UTIs, athlete’s foot or a vaginal yeast infection, that he doesn’t think I should be worried anyway. He said my tongue probably just has a white coating on it all the time and the bloating and belching must be caused by something in my diet (try low FODMAP! - which I have).

I went on Magdalena’s Facebook Group for Cooking for Balance and asked around there. Seems somehow I missed an extra part of the protocol which calls for a very specific and involved herbal regimen, PLUS prescription anti-fungal! Ugh! Since I can’t afford to get a prescription from a functional medicine practitioner, I’ve bitten the bullet and ordered all the herbs. I started this treatment a few days ago so we’ll see if it works. If not, I’ll continue this extreme diet and call for an appointment with a functional medicine practitioner who can subscribe medication.

The big lessons learned in this experiment:

  • If you can afford to go to a functional medicine practitioner to begin with, go! One of the reasons I want to start The Healing Farm property and have been holding retreats is because I want to make functional medicine more understood and try to make general information made available in a more affordable way.

  • If your Western medicine doctor basically tells you it’s all in your head, keep digging. If you’re gaining weight and have unexplained chronic conditions, something is wrong and you CAN get to the bottom of it. It takes a lot of work, but it’s worth it in the end (let me tell you, I’m loving being 20 pounds lighter and am still not having dreams about buffets of food! (see my previous blog post about not being afraid of fat).

  • Do this simple spit test to see if you have candida overgrowth (if you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above):

Spit test: When you wake up in the morning, before you even have a sip of water, put water in a clear glass. Gather spit in your mouth and spit on top of the water. Your spit will float and eventually sink. IF your spit grows “tentacles” before it sinks (and looks kind of like a jellyfish), that’s yeast growing and you may have an overgrowth of candida in your system.

Again, if you can afford it, go to a functional medicine practitioner and ask them to order a stool test.

What to do if you suspect candida overgrowth? Do a search online for candida overgrowth. Basically, you need to starve it of all sugar and since carbs convert to sugar, that means pretty much no carbs either and no processed foods or sauces/dressings. Magdalena has a comprehensive candida protocol letting you know which foods to avoid if you go through her program.

I’m feeling better and better and haven’t had a stomach or sinus pill in weeks, but there’s still some belching and bloating and I still have jellyfish spit tests. Hope to update soon with some clear spit! ;-)

How to Add a Little Control to Your Day When Going Through Big Change? Make Your Bed!

 Our simple (and made!) bed.

Our simple (and made!) bed.

Many years ago I was working as an office manager in a small office. Since some of my co-workers were (presumably - I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt) too busy to do their dishes, I took it on as one of my duties to make sure the kitchen was clean and neat.

Once-in-a-while when I would go in to tidy up, I would find the on-site business partner already doing the dishes and I would be mortified that I didn’t get to it sooner. I would thank her and try to brush her to the side so that she could get back to her more important work and I could take over. She finally explained to me that sometimes she just liked to do the dishes. It was a task that she could accomplish easily and actually complete and it gave her satisfaction to finish up and see the benefits of her accomplishments immediately (a clean kitchen!). When she explained it, I knew instantly that she was being sincere. Her days were so chaotic and overwhelming that by completing this one simple task, she felt like she had a little more control.

Fast forward 15 years and here I am running two business and starting to write a business plan (while going to a class two nights a week). Overwhelmed can barely describe how I feel sometimes. The coping mechanisms I’ve learned in the last couple of years have helped and are these:

  • Regular meditation (10-20 minutes a day)

  • Regular exercise (7-20 minutes a day during the week and one longer workout (hike or bike ride) on the weekend.

  • Good eating habits - reducing inflammation in my body so I can have optimal energy and mental clarity

  • Take most Saturdays and all Sundays completely off and mostly electronics free with unplanned and unstructured time

  • Schedule regular time with hubby and friends

  • Cooking a proper dinner at least three nights a week

But one thing I haven’t quite gotten a handle on is feeling under control in my house. Thankfully I’m married to a minimalist so the house - for the most part - feels light and airy and clutter-free. My husband would probably disagree with me on this since we have different ideas of what is clutter-free! But that aside, I never feel like I’m under control keeping up the house. I bought Maria Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”  and then put it on my bed stand never to be opened. It DID prompt me to organize my office and closet though which made me feel better about never reading it.

I can’t afford to hire someone to clean my house for me and my husband (who also works at home) tries to keep up with light cleaning here and there, but I never feel like the house is a pristine place of calm and order (do any of us really even if we have a cleaning service? I don’t know!). Then I read Katherine Rosman’s article “Want to Have a Good Day? Try Making the Bed First”.

I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never been a bed-maker. My mother tried the best she could to instill good housekeeping habits but when it came right down to it, she had six kids and a full time job so making sure we all made our beds wasn’t exactly a top priority so it never became a habit for me. When I married my husband he never said anything about the making the bed and he never made it, so it always remained unmade. This article, coming at a time of great change and chaos in my life, made me think about little habits (smaller than meditation and exercise) I could probably build into my life that will give me a small sense of accomplishment and control.

But how does one become a bed-maker after 50 years of being a messy bed keeper? Isn’t there a saying (or probably a book) that claims it takes 10 days to make a habit? I didn’t have time to look that up, so I decided I could just put it to the test and see if it stuck.

  • The first few days, I just tried to remember to do it and made the bed about 50% of the time. That wasn’t working.

  • Then I thought about the one thing I do EVERY MORNING without fail. Make coffee. So I decided to live with a post-it note on the coffee maker for a while to see if it would get me in the habit.

  • Oddly enough though, I decided I actually like making the bed as soon as I get out of it. Before I even have a sip of water. We don’t have a complicated bed with a ton of pillows, so it’s quick and easy and it really does feel good. I feel like by accomplishing something as the first thing I do in the day it puts me in a good mindset for the entire day. If I forget to do it as soon as I get out of bed, I have the post-it note on the coffee-maker!

  • Add the meditation and exercise onto that and I go into my work day with confidence (most of the time) having already reached a few goals I have set for myself.

So my verdict is that you really can develop a habit in ten days (check back in with me in a year!) AND this article is worth a read! Here are just a few tips from the article:

  • It’s an anchor point for your day

  • It will give you a small sense of pride and will encourage you to do another task and another

  • Wrinkle (less) sheets: take out of the dryer five minutes before they are completely dry and fit the bottom sheet on the bed to let air dry and drape the top sheet somewhere to let the wrinkles hang out (a clothing line is good for this) - BTW - I don’t care about wrinkled sheets, but I was staying at my in-laws and wanted crisp sheets on their bed when I remade it. When I went to iron them the iron wasn’t working. I remembered this article, washed the sheets again and air dried them damp and voila! It worked!

  • Folding a bottom sheet: there’s a video within the article of Ariel Kaye of Parachute Home folding a bottom sheet.

  • Top sheet vs. no top sheet? It’s simpler to make the bed without one, but then you have to wash your duvet more often (which I think is a pain), I use a top sheet and actually find it satisfying to fold it over and tuck it in when I make the bed.

Read the article if you feel you need to add more habits and anchor points into your chaotic life. Pick up William H. McRaven’s book: “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life….and Maybe the World” and good luck! Share with me on Facebook if you are a bed-maker or not and if you are successful in developing this habit! I’m still working on it, but I now make the bed most days!

Guest Blog Post by The 3rd Act Retreat’s Yoga Instructor - Rachel Heron

Even yoga teachers and doula’s make big changes midlife. Read on to hear from Rachel Heron (our 3rd Act Retreat Yoga Instructor) about how yoga transformed her life and why yoga can help you in your life at the retreat!

From Rachel:

"One rainy afternoon in NYC, in late October of 1992, my life changed.  I walked into the Jivamukti Yoga Center on 2nd Avenue, full of doubt, heartache and discontent.  Various things were not going the way I planned or wanted, and I found myself feeling jaded, cynical and stuck in a rut.  A friend had recommended yoga to me months before and I finally decided to check it out for myself, not un-reluctantly, somewhat ready to be disappointed...again.

On that day I discovered a seed of grace, faith, and beauty that has remained ever-present for me in some form.  I found a way of communicating with myself that simultaneously touched a deep place of longing and also felt like a homecoming.  I found practice.

As a trained professional dancer, I understood the value of disciplined practice.  What felt so different to me about Yoga and meditation was the absence of a goal, culmination, or public presentation.  This created a significant shift in my perception, which at first was not altogether exciting.  It was hard to orient toward my inner witness, to practice without striving or reaching for something different or better or definitive.  It took a long time for me to realize, in an embodied way, that Hatha yoga (the physical practice) was a gateway toward meditation--the practice of sitting/witnessing/holding spacious awareness.

After 25 years, what I know about practice is this--it's about showing up as you are--joyful, expansive, faithful, inspired, clear, distracted, heartbroken, angry, confused, resigned, or apathetic.  It doesn't really matter because the practice is here as a way to engage with ALL OF IT.  We don't have to be better or more in shape or happier or even in the mood.  We DO have to show up to get the benefit.  We have to be somewhat willing to look a little deeper, to feel a little more, to be with our distraction and discomfort.  

I'm not saying this is easy.  It often isn't.  But it's what we've got.  We've got this body, this mind, this tender heart, and the capacity to take some action in relation to our suffering.  Cultivating a practice allows us to discover an abiding and steadfast ‘center’.  When we anchor into our practices we can notice the winds of change are always blowing--and in this recognition we may find some more space and ease and perspective amidst the ever-changing conditions.

When we anchor into our practices we can notice the winds of change are always blowing—and in this recognition we may find some more space and ease and perspective amidst the ever-changing conditions.
— Rachel Heron

Since that pivotal moment in 1992, I have followed a few different life paths, each one strong in its own right, each one essential for clarifying the next phase.  I have learned that life is deeply mysterious, non-linear, uncontrollable, and unpredictable.  I know what it feels like to make choices from fear and anxiety, and I also know what it feels like to make choices from a place of inner wisdom and guidance.  While we don't know what lies ahead, we can take responsibility for our actions and do our best to make holistic choices that support our deepest well-being.

As I was turning 40, I started getting hints that my next round of work in the world would be connecting with women at potent times of their lives.  This lead to a rich and rewarding bunch of years as a birth doula--truly a time of concentrated vitality and major life transition!  And in the midst of that work, I was continually asked by yoga students and bodywork/doula clients for something else as well--they were seeking guidance around how to be in their lives more fully, presently, healthfully--they were looking for ways to alleviate suffering.  It became clear to me that my next move was to formalize a counseling practice that could address these inquiries.  And it was just at the time when my doula energy started to wane (at age 45, staying up all night with a mama in labor is not ideal!) that the form of the counseling practice really started to blossom.

These last many years I have been refining a modality I call "Intuitive Somatic Counseling". I catalyze real, lasting change for women in transition who want to create the next phase of their life with more clarity, satisfaction, and nourishment.  The basis of this work combines compassionate listening, gentle bodywork, and strategic coaching in order to help you access your inner guidance.  In affirming your own intuitive wisdom, we co-create potent daily routines and rituals that will inspire and sustain the changes you want to make.

And this brings me back to practice... We learn to show up, to engage, and to be with what is.  We can make small incremental shifts and over time we notice something new arises.  There is sacredness in the mundane, as we bring presence and mindfulness to the myriad details of life.  In this modern age of abundant technology, stimulation, and options, it is my great pleasure to connect with women on a healing and awakening path: co-creating, exploring, and living in our vitality and radiance. "

My Flirtation with Keto: What I Learned and Why I'm not Afraid of Fat Anymore!

I remember when I hit 100 pounds. I don't remember the age, but I remember I was being weighed at a doctor's appointment. I was starting to be self-conscious about my body because the girls at school were starting to get a little snarky about looks and weight. It must have been around 4th, 5th or 6th grade. This was in the 1970s! I can't even imagine what it's like for girls in this day and age of body shaming! 

Anyway, I remember feeling mortified about being 100 pounds and I'm thinking I might have started the dieting yoyo from that point on. That would be about 40 years of dieting on and off. Sheesh. I've never been extremely overweight, but I know at which point my body and mind feel good and I've rarely been at that target. Of course most of my "diets" have revolved around low fat which is what we've all been taught for the past 50 or so years since American's weight (and health problems) has creeped up and up into the danger zone. It wasn't until about five years ago that I started thinking of my overall chronic health conditions and started working with Chris Kresser to solve my health issues. He described the process as "peeling an onion": years of upon years of bad choices + a parasite added in had gotten me to the point of needing to solve my unhealthy body once and for all.

Although I was turned off a little bit about the "paleo" term at the time, I liked that he was more about finding out what would make my own body feel better and getting down to my own health issues to resole them, but yes, it did require a paleo "reset" which is basically an elimination diet. We worked together and the chronic conditions that I blamed on "my bad luck body" slowly (and not so slowly) lifted. Here's a list:

  • Indigestion (for twenty years)
  • SI joint pain (back pain) (for eight years)
  • Sinus headaches bordering on migraines (for twenty years)
  • Restless legs
  • Excess weight
  • Joint pain
  • Fatigue (for twenty years)
  • Low sex drive

Quite a laundry list, huh? But, I worked through most of this with Chris. Got rid of the parasite and pretty much all of the other conditions until I had enough clarity and energy to want to start sharing this natural healing with others which is why (and how) I got the energy up to start The Healing Farm.

Fast forward to 2017 (my 50th year) and I'm now completely in tune to the food and drink choices I make and how they effect my body. I try to keep to the following:

  • Mostly gluten free
  • Mostly dairy free
  • Mostly sugar free
  • Low caffeine
  • Low alcohol
  • Mostly whole foods eating, mostly organic and mostly grass-fed

It's not been easy to get to this point, but every time I go overboard and "off the wagon" as they say, my chronic conditions creep back. The back and joint pain kick in, I wake up with the sinus headaches, I get a pimple (or two) and sometimes I even get sick (a cold!). Frustrating, but in reality I know when I screw up and I know when I screw up badly, so slowly as I learn to hate having these conditions come back, I've learned to be MOSTLY sticking to what works for me.

The piece of the puzzle I have not yet figured out is the fluctuating weight issues. I came close to hitting that optimal weight when I worked with Chris, but it has slowly been creeping back and I've gone up and down since. After the last THF retreat, a few of the retreat participants and I got together and one of them told me about Keto and the "Keto Clarity" book by Jimmy Moore. She had lost 30 pounds and felt great. But what really caught my interest was that she said she felt "sharp". Since peri menopause kicked in I have not felt "sharp". In fact, I'm not sure I've felt "sharp" since maybe my early twenties. There was a period of time when I first started taking my business classes and started thinking about The Healing Farm that I felt energized and on fire, but I'm not sure if I ever felt "sharp". She explained that one of the concepts behind keto is that the brain feeds on fat. The more "good" fats you give it, the sharper it will become.

This intrigued me even more than the potential weight loss. Since I have Alzheimer's in my family, I'm more than interested in ANYTHING having to do with keeping my brain healthy. I thought of my father who was diagnosed almost two years ago and thought about his low fat diet since the mid 1980s after he had his heart surgery. His diet at home was low fat, but also a lot of carbs and sugar. When he went out, it was all bets off and high fat, sugar AND carbs AND saturated fats. I was a little scared because I've been the same way for years. I decided I wanted to test out keto for myself and weight loss WAS a big incentive.

Doing a "keto" eating plan is hard. Keto is basically VERY low carb (almost no carb), VERY high fat and pretty low protein. I think I may have had an easier time if I could have eaten more protein, but I felt like I was constantly eating too much protein which resulted in not being in a ketogenic state enough to warrant eating all that fat. As a result, I didn't lose as much weight as I had hoped. BUT, there were three benefits that came out of trying the keto thing:

1 - For the first time in my "dieting" life, I didn't dream about buffet tables of food. I'm not kidding. Every time I would go on a low fat/ low calorie diet, I would dream about buffets of food. It's a little embarrassing admitting that, but this time I was losing weight and not feeling deprived. That was an eye opener that my body did indeed like fat. Once I got through the first week of not knowing what I could eat and feeling miserable and headachey, I loaded up on the fat and felt better and didn't dream of buffets. To be fair to Jimmy, he does give some good ideas on what to eat, but I just didn't feel comfortable eating butter with cheese rolled around it. Plus I'm sensitive to dairy, so I was avoiding that anyway! Bottom line was that I had a hard time figuring out what to eat. Plus I also didn't feel comfortable eating so few fruits and healthy carbs, but if I had stuck with it longer, all that probably would have been figured out.

2 - I had more energy and mental clarity than I've had in a LONG time (when I was in a ketogenic state). There were a handful of golden days and hours when I did reach a ketogenic state and I was on fire. I felt like I could accomplish anything. It was great. This was AFTER I started using MCT oil in my coffee though. After three weeks of not really hitting the ketognic state, I read online that MCT oil is key. It really does work and I only use one TBS. in my coffee in the morning (eased into it starting with a tsp, working my way up). What is MCT oil? Says Dr. Axe (read more here)

“MCTs” are medium-chain triglycerides, a form of saturated fatty acid that has numerous health benefits, ranging from improved cognitive function to better weight management. Coconut oil is one great source of MCTs — roughly 62–65 percent of the fatty acids in coconut oil are MCTs — but recently more concentrated “MCT oils” have also been growing in popularity."

3 - I DID lose some weight. In fact, I've lost about 12 pounds in three months and the three months have included two vacations in which I was most definitely NOT in a ketogenic state.  

BUT, once I starting seeing the summer fruit at the farmer's market, I decided there was no way I was going to be able to keep up with a total keto plan. The peaches and cherries just looked too good! I also was getting headaches here and there still, my restless legs were kicking in every time I was not producing enough ketones and when I DID go off the plan, I kind of went bananas. That was a good indicator that this was not going to be sustainable for me.

I just finished up with Magdalena's "Cooking for Balance" program and am inspired again to add back in a small portion of healthy fruits and carbs into my diet. I've learned from the keto plan that I'm no longer afraid of fat. In fact, I lost some weight, felt satisfied AND felt great when I WAS eating a lot of fat so feel confident that I can rein in my tendencies to go overboard when eating if I continue to eat enough fat and not deprive myself of anything. I've also learned to rein in the carb intake too. Although I may add in a sweet potato here and there, it will probably only be a half or a very small one. I may even start adding in small portions of quinoa or rice to my stir fry meals. I'm not drinking nearly as much wine (although I did go overboard on vacation) and I'm definitely much more satisfied with eating nuts and seeds and not craving anything sweet or full of trans fats. I'm also not dreaming of buffet lines, so all-in-all, I think the keto trial was worth it in the end.

Now let's see if I can reach that weight sweet spot, but more importantly, I'm going to incorporate some of the "Cooking for Balance" tips by nutritionist Magdalena Wszelaki to tackle some final stubborn issues having to do with hormone balance and possibly SIBO. Maybe then I will reach my optimal health state once and for all. It's a work-in-progress that is taking several years, but as Chris said it's like peeling an onion. I hope that soon, I'll get to that core!

Come to the fall 3rd Act Retreat to immerse yourself in going through big change and at the same time kick off an elimination diet with a great whole food/paleo type meal plan and a nutrition lecture. The nutrition and eating plan will ALWAYS be a big part of EVERY Healing Farm retreat!

The Healing Farm - Cultivating Practical Wellness.

 

 

 

A Couple of Tips for Big Change: Physical and Great Life Changes

I’ve communicated a lot on this blog and in my newsletters about my own midlife crisis, why I have been inspired to facilitate two menopause retreats, and why I was inspired to put together the upcoming fall retreat focused on “The 3rd Act” with Patricia Cavanaugh and Ellie Klevins. I started my own midlife crisis in my mid-forties, when I was not only coming to the realization that having a child was never going to happen for me, but also years of chronic health conditions were adding up and really bringing me down. I was also discovering that I wasn’t really enjoying what I was doing for my career anymore. Everything seemed to be coming at me at once and adding the heartbreak of aging parents just about put me over the top. Needless to say, the second half of my forties was challenging and I realized I was in a “midlife crisis”.

I’ve done a lot since that discovery. I’ve healed most of my chronic conditions through change of diet and exercise and because of that work was inspired to start The Healing Farm | Retreat business. Since my own healing journey started, I dreamt of an affordable wellness retreat property where I could pass along practical life-changes to prevent and/or alleviate chronic illness and conditions. The Healing Farm concept was born and the “midlife crisis” started turning into my midlife “renaissance” as I started calling it. I know I’m still in midlife crisis because this personal transformation has been anything but easy, but I’ve taught myself enough tools at this point to navigate without freaking out too much.

 When a dear friend told me about the book “Hidden Blessings” by Jett Psaris, PhD I went online almost immediately to buy it. I have to say that I’ve never been into “self help” books - until I went into midlife crisis. The book “Fail Fast, Fail Often” by John D. Krumboltz and Ryan Babineaux was the first book I read that truly inspired me to not be afraid of change. I’m a creature of habit and needed to be inspired by people who were telling me that change and failing is not the end of the world. In fact, it can be the catalyst for a truer and more meaningful existence. This simple midwestern girl was suddenly inspired to challenge herself, find greater meaning, and create a legacy. If my legacy wasn’t going to be a child, then damnit, I was inspired to try to create a legacy of helping others to heal.

That’s what “Hidden Blessings” is about. Moving through midlife crisis to find the hidden gem within. It definitely doesn’t sugar-coat the midlife process, in fact when I read that most midlife crises last 10-12 years my stomach did a little lurch. That means I may not even be halfway through mine. That’s pretty depressing. But the book gives tools to guide you through and Ms. Psaris talks about midlife crisis being more of a metamorphosis rather than a crisis. This I can relate to. She quotes George Elliot:

 “It’s never too late to be who you might have been.”

Ms Psaris says: “....[the guidance given] comes from my own midlife experience and that of others, draws on many traditions and schools of thought to help us respond fully to the transformative invitation of midlife. That invitation is to step away from taking life literally - and perhaps, superficially - to discover a deep and profound underlying existence. Midlife invites us to surrender the narrowly defined view of ourselves and others that prevails during the first half of life, so that we can become more complex and multi-dimensional beings capable of living the largest lives possible moving forward."

Truth be told, I haven’t yet read the entire book, but I’m very much looking forward to what the author suggests and also what the ladies of The 3rd Act will teach us about transitioning in midlife during The Healing Farm’s fall retreat at Mayacamas Ranch. I’ve been so inspired by this book that I’ve already recommended it to friends realizing that more and more as I open up about my own midlife crisis, my friends are wanting to share their challenges too. It really does help to know that you are NOT the only one.

Another thing I’ve been sharing a lot recently with friends is Magdalena Wszelaki’s  “Cooking for Balance” online workshop. As I hear more and more people talking about stress, fatigue, stomach issues, among a multitude of other things, I’m more and more inspired not only to get The Healing Farm wellness retreat property off the ground, but I’m also inspired to continue to share tips about how we can heal a lot of our chronic issues ourselves just through changing our diet. Sure, it wasn’t JUST diet that helped me to work through my long-term chronic conditions (read here about how I worked through mine), but I’ve learned it’s a really important start and Magdalena’s workshop is informative and practical, plus the workshop video/format makes it easy to follow. I watched the free intro video last fall and bought the program right away - it’s four parts with a primer and very important to watch EVERYTHING. I even watched the free intro video a second time to refresh my memory before I started the program.

Needing to understand what various foods and allergies do to our bodies from a nutritional and scientific perspective is important and Magdalena makes it easy to follow. The cooking part of it is also helpful with charts of do’s and dont’s for various conditions, recipes, food guides and how-to videos. It’s a little overwhelming at first, but if you are tired of being sick and tired, it is so worth it. Having all this information in one easy to follow format is great. It’s like one-stop-shopping for affordable and practical long-term healing (like The Healing Farm concept!). Way easier than researching it all on your own online AND cheaper (and quicker) than going through traditional western medicine and medications to manage your health issues.

One of the reasons I didn’t start the workshop for months is because I’m running two businesses. One of the important things I’ve learned in this midlife journey is re-organizing my time and priorities which is how I found the time to take the workshop. I was finding that I was obsessing over the news and reading it with my coffee every morning. It was getting overwhelming and depressing so I decided that I would allow myself to read the news one weekday morning and continue to dive in deep with my Sunday New York Times. The rest of the mornings I would dedicate to doing something inspiring and worthwhile with my morning coffee. So every morning, I set my timer for half and hour, climb back in bed with my bulletproof coffee (you’ll see why I drink coffee with fat after you take the workshop) and I listen to a small part of the workshop.

My favorite tips so far:

  • Testing for an appropriate amount of stomach acid using a simple baking soda solution (I’ve had trouble with indigestion since my twenties so this is important to me).
  • Re-building stomach acid when it’s too low by drinking warm water with lime, lemon or apple cider vinegar while your stomach is empty.
  • The importance of seed rotation and ridding your life of toxins for balance of hormones.
  • What truly are some worthwhile nutrient-dense foods (like seaweed) and sardines.
  • Adding sprouts to my salads (did you know a large handful of broccoli sprouts is the nutritional equivalent of a whole head of broccoli?).
  • An in-depth study of why my diet needs to be so low in sugar (bad gut bacteria feeds on sugar for one thing!).
  • Why fats are so important for brain health and satiation after meals and why NOT to be afraid of fats - contrary to what I’ve believed all my life.
  • A simple meditative breathing technique that I now incorporate into my almost daily meditation practice - something I’ve easily fit into my day by doing while I’m brewing coffee.

All of the information I’ve been getting through this program I’ve also learned from other sources like through my work with Chris Kresser, the retreats I’ve put on and the Keto Clarity book, but I feel like Magdalena’s program is so concise and realistic I highly recommend checking it out.

Another good place to learn about some of this is the fall 3rd Act Healing Farm retreat! Join us for a look into midlife and nutritional tips for this transition as well!

The Healing Farm - Cultivating Practical Wellness!

3rd Act Guest Blog Post: Find Out More of What We'll Cover in the 3rd Act Retreat This Fall!

I’ve been a professional photographer for 25+ years and photographing weddings for 15 – it’s a demanding job! Everyone assumes it’s all joy, gorgeous venues, flowers, and food. And it is most of the time, but photographing a wedding is not only stressful emotionally (I can’t miss a beat or a moment!), but it’s also incredibly physically demanding. Standing and running around with pounds of equipment strapped to my body for an average of eight hours on top of the mental stress has taken its toll. Plus, hours in front of a computer in a dark room has never been very joyful for someone who loves light, air, and the outdoors.

I’ve been working on transitioning into a new career for the past 4-5 years and it’s been a challenge like no other in my life. Adding mid-life crisis, peri-menopause, aging parents, and the financial burden of my husband and I both exploring new careers at the same time? Well, that’s a whole different level of challenge!

I knew I had to be ready both mentally and physically for this transition into a new life and career and that’s how the seeds of The Healing Farm idea popped into my head. For 4-5 years, I’ve been working on healing my body from the inside out, plus building The Healing Farm | Retreat business into a new career to pursue work I am passionate about for the next 20 or so years of my work life. It’s also my retirement plan (I want to live on The Healing Farm property eventually!). The seeds I started planting a few years ago are finally starting to take root and now, I want to help others prepare for the longer lives we are now living – and look forward to healthy and happy lives.

A friend of mine introduced me to Patricia Cavanaugh, founder of “The 3rd Act” and after a two-time THF retreat participant suggested I create a retreat specifically for women who are experiencing this mid-life and pre/post retirement transition, I figured these two things dovetailed beautifully into a new retreat idea. Serendipity!

I am thrilled to welcome the Third Act to our retreat at Mayacamas Ranch, scheduled for October 29th through November 2nd (my 51st birthday!). Click here for more details about the retreat, but I had a chance to interview Patricia her colleague, Ellie Klevins – who will lead the workshop and here’s what they had to say about their workshop for our retreat:

So, what is the 3rd Act?

Our work guides people (typically age 50+) to develop intentional plans for creating happy and fulfilling lives – and take full advantage of our years ahead. Living longer than previous generations, is both a challenge and an opportunity.  We need to shed old paradigms of aging, find inspiring role models, and learn new skills so we can “begin again.” Our clients are people who are approaching typical retirement age – and know they don’t want a typical retirement!

What are the outcomes participants can expect?
Realizing you are not alone in facing down the aging process. We share many of the same fears and we avoid thinking about what’s uncomfortable for us. Together we uncover those fears and identify ways to take control now.  Denying and pushing away fear takes so much energy – we free up that energy and focus it on what you can do NOW to take control.  Like healthy eating! Exercise!  And having and inspiring plan for the rest of your life!
The principles of Positive Psychology are the foundation for 3rd Act life planning.

We ask and help you answer these fundamental questions:

  • What are your skills and strengths –– and how could you  use these strengths in creating your 3rd Act?

  • What do you want to leave behind – and what do you want to bring forward as you transition?

  • How can you find fulfillment in life’s everyday pleasures?

  • Where will you find new meaning and purpose ?

  • What choices do you have now that were not available to you before?

  • How can you build community, make new friends, deepen your relationships?

And to borrow a line from Mary Oliver, explore your answers to this question: “What do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

I hope you can join us this fall for this comprehensive retreat. I know I have a lot to learn and am particularly looking forward to the finance portion given by our other speaker, Catie Fitzgerald (look for an upcoming guest post from Catie!). The work I’ve done in the past 4-5 years has begun to change my life in profound ways and my hope is that this retreat can help you to change the course of the rest of your life too. It’s a journey that’s challenging, but challenging like a good workout that you weren’t looking forward to. Once you get going, you get into the groove and feel so good and empowered when you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel!

The Healing Farm - Cultivating Practical Wellness! 

June 3rd! Upcoming Intimate Three Stone Hearth Retreat: The Importance of an Ancestral Diet, Regular Bone Broth and Fermented Foods!

I'm getting more and more excited for The Healing Farm's one-day retreat at Three Stone Hearth in Berkeley! There's only room for ten and we have a few spots left, so please sign up sooner than later.

I've FINALLY been listening to an incredible hormone balance workshop called "Cooking for Balance" with Magdalena Wszelaki, the nutritionist behind the site Hormones & Balance. I just love how informative Magdalena is about the importance of gut health, liver detox, inflammation reduction, etc. in helping restore hormone balance in the body. Although the upcoming Three Stone Hearth retreat is NOT female only (we can ALL benefit in huge ways by eating a whole foods, ancestral diet), fermented foods and bone broth go a long way in helping women restore balance in the body and I would highly recommend taking one of Magdalena's workshops.

I was just listening this morning to one of the sections of the "Cooking with Balance" workshop and Magdalena brought up - yet again - how daily doses of fermented foods and bone broth (collagen) are so instrumental in keeping the gut healthy and the body balanced naturally. I've been trying to add fermented foods into my diet and through trial and error have realized that for my body, I can tolerate sauerkraut well. For a while I was adding Kambucha into my smoothies but have realized that I get bloating from kambucha so now try to limit my intake. Sauerkraut on the other hand is yummy and I can put it easily on a cooked brat (no bun!) which fits in well with the high fat eating plan I'm currently trying out (for my brain health and weight loss). Jury is still out for the Ketogenic Diet and my body (I'm only two weeks in) and I'll update as I move further along.

What I do believe in wholeheartedly and have embraced almost 100% is an ancestral diet and what better place to go to learn the basics than to Three Stone Hearth in Berkeley  - a business that has been at the forefront of ancestral eating and the importance of bone broth. Starting the week before out retreat, participants can go to Three Stone Hearth's site and pre-order whole pre-made foods, house made kambucha and of course the most collagen-filled bone broth I have ever seen! Participants can place orders starting Thursday, May 25th through Wednesday, May 31st for pickup on retreat day!

Although I try to make my own bone broth (both beef and chicken), I've only ONCE reached the level of collagen that Three Stone Hearth has perfected. It's also hard to get the organic grass-finished and pastured raised bones and chicken feet necessary to get that amount of collagen so ordering pre-made bone from from a reliable source can be key. It's not cheap, that's for sure, but if you're kicking off an elimination diet, trying to reduce systemic inflammation to reduce chronic pain and illness or want to strengthen your immune system or balance your hormones and don't have time to start learning to make a collagen-rich bone broth on your own, this would be a good place to start.

Same goes for fermented foods. Magdalena does a few video lessons in making fermented foods in her "Cooking for Balance" workshop, but we will have a firsthand demo at the retreat and will even have a little bit to take home with us! If you want more than our little bit we've made ourselves, you can pre-order your TSH fermented foods and drinks to take home with you too. 

If you forget to pre-order, rest-assured they have a tiny storefront in which you can pick up foods on-site. It's just a more limited selection.

Since I've started my ancestral heath journey, I've always shied away from doing such "hippie dippy" things as making bone broth and fermenting foods, but as I go deeper and realize how much better my body feels, I've realized that it's fun and CHEAPER to make my own. I've only gone as far as making the bone broth at home and am excited to learn fermenting and pickling on-site on June 3rd with the experts where I can ask questions and see firsthand (I'm a visual learner!) how it's done so I'm more comfortable exploring a little more at home.

I've been using Dr. Axe's bone broth recipe for my own beef broth and  Chris Kresser's for chicken. I find that I get the best results for the chicken broth by using chicken feet (I've found them at the Berkeley Bowl). I roast the chicken first via Chris Kresser's recipe and then crack and use the bones, veggies and add the chicken feet and cook for 48 hours in my Instant Pot.  For the Dr. Axe recipe I buy knuckle and beef marrow bones from Prather Ranch at the Temescal Farmer's Market.

Happy cooking and healing everyone and I hope to see you at The Three Stone Hearth Retreat! Sign up here!:

Always Behind on any Trend but LOVE the Simplicity and Practicality of the FITBIT!

Always Behind on any Trend but LOVE the Simplicity and Practicality of the FITBIT!

I didn't get my first iPhone until the day before I was leaving for a two week bicycle tour from Oakland to LA. That was just THREE years ago and as it was, the phone was a refurbished iPhone 4. On that trip, I didn't even know about Instagram so I was using my sunglasses over the camera lens as a warming filter. To this day, I still only use the standard default Instagram filters. Pretty sad for a pro photographer, but I'm definitely not one to embrace new technologies. I know it's sometimes a hindrance, but I like my personal time to be free to hike and hang with my husband and to read books (obviously not on a Kindle). I definitely don't want to spend my free time staring into my phone (which I seem to be doing more and more unfortunately). I sometimes like to sing (to the tune of the wedding song at the end of "Napoleon Dynamite") Iiiiiiii hate technology.....!

So when I received a free Fitbit as a thank you for photographing a couple of Fitbit events, it was no surprise that I couldn't get it to work with my iPhone 4. Since I wasn't about to run out and get the latest iPhone just so I could try out the Fitbit, I watched it taunt me for over a year. Then I decided I needed to upgrade my phone when I realized I needed to up my camera phone game (since I AM a photographer). I went out and got a refurbished iPhone 6 right after the seven's release (yes, I'm cheap and figured the six's camera was probably fine).

Out came the Fitbit the day before I left for a vacation in the Pacific Northwest. I figured if I got my start with the Fitbit on the right foot (no pun intended), then I might actually be motivated to use it long-term in my weight loss goals. I was immediately addicted to the great annoyance of the very Northwest hippie friend with whom I was traveling.

I originally wanted a Fitbit because I was curious about my sleeping habits. I knew I was a light sleeper, but wanted to see just how restless I was and when I learned that the Fitbit could monitor my sleep habits, I decided it would be worth it. Way cheaper than paying for a sleep clinic/study. Plus I don't usually sleep well when I travel (especially because I drink a LOT more wine when I travel) so I wanted to compare my sleep habits on the Northwest trip to my regular habits. Surprising results: not too different after all, plus even though I AM fairly restless during the night, I'm getting way more sleep than I thought. It would be interesting to have a sleep specialist analyze my sleep patterns and that's the next step when I have the funds, but for now, I feel ok with my results.

Then I discovered the other great benefits of the Fitbit: Real time calorie in/out tracking and being motivated to try to do 10,000 steps a day. I'm a stress-eater and I've probably mentioned ten times in the past year that with the stress that goes with mid-life career shifts, starting a new business and worrying about my family in the midwest, I've gained about 15 pounds and want to lose them. Not easy at 50 even with my healthy paleo-ish eating habits. I remember when my sister-in-law started counting her steps and joked that she would walk around their condo before going to bed to get to her 10,000 step goal.

I totally get it now. Twice in the past week I've had my husband put on dance music and I walked and danced around until I got to the goal. It's made me completely and totally aware of how little I actually walk around on a typical day. I work at home so I don't even have a commute to add to my step count (I walk across the yard) and even though I stand at my desk which may burn a few more calories than sitting, it's not adding to the step count. That doesn't add up very quickly and I realized, although I love my NYT 7 minute workout, followed by my 5 minute stretch routine (great way to make sure I work and stretch every part of my body almost every day), it's definitely more of a maintenance routine than for weight loss. When I discovered the calorie-in (food log) counter on the Fitbit, it became a whole new ballgame for weight loss. Now, not only was I completely aware that I wasn't moving enough to lose weight, but I also realized just how much it takes to burn more calories than what I was eating. It really does come down to calories in and calories out for weight loss. There's just no way around it and there's no easier way to keep track than the Fitbit. I'm sure Weight Watchers has a similar calorie counter, but to tie in (with Fitbit) with the calories out equation is so seamless it's brilliant. The day I discovered the food log on the Fitbit and how easy it was to enter and keep track, I was immediately hooked.

The other night, I not only realized I needed more steps, but I also had a lot more calories to burn to cover the food I had already eaten and quite frankly the food I still wanted to eat. Hubby and I were having a fun Friday night dance party (we often do this - just the two of us) and I wanted to snack. SO I upped the ante on the movement. Not only did I dance, but I decided I would be the more active one for the sexy part of the evening if you know what I mean. So Friday, not only did I end up with 10,872 steps, but I also burned 2,149 calories to the 1,929 that I put in. real time results. If I had not had that information at my fingertips, I guarantee you, I would have eaten WAY more and would not have been motivated to move as much as I did.

The best bonus that has resulted in only 1.5 weeks of using the Fitbit is that I started swimming. I'll probably write a post about my swimming goal for my 50th year, but in a nutshell I decided I wanted to learn to swim laps. Not only would it be less stressful exercise on my aging body, but I also wanted to enhance my meditation practice and had heard that swimming was meditative. SO when I saw that just my NYT 7 minute workout and the limited steps I took in a typical day wouldn't be enough to burn the calories I needed to lose weight, I was motivated to go to the pool and JUST DO IT. It was easy enough to manually enter the swim workout into my Fitbit so I could count those calories, plus the bike ride to the pool counted too! Voila! Since I started keeping track of my calorie intake last Wednesday, I have managed to burn more calories than I have eaten every day. Today will be difficult since it's a rainy Sunday, but I hope to make it up this week - or maybe we'll just put the dance music on tonight, have some rollicking sex and I'll manage to keep up the good work (update - it worked! I burned more calories Sunday than I took in!).

For weight loss, this is probably the easiest thing I've ever done (and let me tell you, I’ve tried a lot over the years) and if I have to wear it like a leash for as long as it takes to lose the weight, but then continue so that I understand how much I really need to work to keep it off, I'll do it. To go into my 50s, building The Healing Farm business as healthy as I can be is motivation enough to keep a tracker on my wrist. Sad, but true and once I start really seeing the results, I will likely be even more ok with it!!!

Dance, walk, swim, sex and bike on! It’s all hard (except the sex), but it’s the cheap way to weight loss! The Healing Farm. Cultivating Practical Wellness.

 

 

"Let Your Heart Speak to Other's Hearts" | THF Women's Health Retreat

Thank You to All Involved in The Healing Farm's Women's Health Retreat!

"Let your heart speak to other's hearts." Found on a yogi tea bag, yes. But it's one I saved for a couple of years and had posted on my magnet board in my office. After the women's health retreat I truly found out what that meant to me in my quest to find myself and my new career journey. Obviously it spoke to me in my time of great change and I felt moved to to keep it. As I watched several women working diligently on their "manifestation" boards at the retreat and then thrilled at the results, I realized I wanted to do one too. I didn't get a chance to complete it (I barely started going through magazines when I had to run off to set something up for the next scheduled activity - or three!) so when I took my "staycation" the week after the retreat ended, I had a chance to work on this worthwhile exercise. The yogi tea bag quote finally found its place. So did the fortune cookie fortune that's been taped to my refrigerator door for a couple of years ("Your talents will be recognized and suitably rewarded.").

What the incredible group of women at the retreat showed me is that I truly do want "my heart to speak to other's hearts". On day one of the retreat when I was introducing myself and the team, I mentioned that I am not a specialist. I'm a generalist. That some of the women at the retreat would surely know more than me about health and nutrition, but what's becoming increasingly clear is that I like bringing people together. I want to bring educators and practitioners together in a beautiful setting to teach natural health solutions participants can build into their everyday lives. I want to share the joy and healing journey in my heart with anyone who will join me and I realized that I could actually do that in this new career journey. I learned as much from the women at this retreat as they learned from the talented educators and practitioners I brought together in the beautiful place that is Mayacamas Ranch. So at long last, I want to share my absolute gratitude to the participants, the team and Mayacamas Ranch!

The Participants

Thirty beautiful women and five team members. I was blown away by the enthusiasm, sharing, encouragement, breakthroughs and loveliness of the group of women who came together for this retreat. We welcomed women of all ages even though the retreat was focussing on menopause and indeed we had a wide range of ages. My guess? Maybe from early 30s to early 70s. What a wealth of knowledge coming from these wise and wonderful women. Old friendships were deepened, new friendships were forged. We ate, we hiked, we laughed and we cried. We had mothers of young children who weren't even close to menopause but who wanted to sincerely learn how they could best prepare their bodies for big changes (or who just needed to rest with clean food, exercise, fresh air and a digital detox). We had mothers of young children who were getting close to menopause, we had women who had never had children, we had grandmothers. We had cross-generational inspiration, we learned together and we had fun! We were all already talking about the next retreat so I need to get one on the calendar!

If you want to read a participant's take on the retreat, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and emotion when I read Sarah Kay Hoffman's blog post. She wrote it the day after the retreat (even with THREE kids to tend to at home!). You can read it here:

Dr. Amy Nett, M.D., Functional Medicine Practitioner and One of the Smartest People I've Ever Met

Dr. Amy Nett Clinician with Chris Kresser

Geez this woman knows her stuff. Of course I shouldn't have been surprised that one of Chris Kresser's staff clinicians at The California Center for Functional Medicine would be so knowledgeable. At last year's retreat we had the brilliant and passionate Chris Kresser himself as our keynote speaker and were all blown away by how knowledgeable his staff nutritionist Kelsey Kinney of "Healthy Gut, Healthy Life" was. How fortunate were we this time around to listen to two well-planned and informative lectures by Dr. Nett about what you can do to best prepare your body for menopause through nutrition and also about hormone balance. I wasn't surprised that Dr. Nett added several new patients to her calendar during and after the retreat! THANK YOU Dr. Nett!

Emily Boorstein: Life Coach and Creator of the "Inner Fitness" Program

 Life Coach Emily Boorstein of the Inner Fitness Program

Life Coach Emily Boorstein of the Inner Fitness Program

This was Emily's second time speaking at a THF retreat and there's a good reason for it. I recognized through my own journey through midlife that it wasn't just my body going through major changes. I felt like in addition to Dr. Nett's contributions about the physical aspect, we needed to also cover the emotional experience of midlife. Emily graciously covered life-lessons learned through motherhood for all the mothers in the audience, but all of those lessons learned early on through her own personal growth translated well into how to gracefully and solidly tackle the emotional roller coaster that is midlife and menopause. Every time I hear Coach Emily speak, I pick up little nuggets of information that later on end up applying to (pick one or all): a wake up in the middle of the night panic attack (something I never experienced before menopause), a stewing in the shower about something my husband said that made me mad, a sitting in traffic and wanting to flip someone off or even an emotional transition to a new president. My favorite tip from Emily that I use all the time in my life is how to not panic. If I feel some kind of emotional turmoil coming on and want to react, I can now reach into my "Coach Emily toolbox", step back and consider whether this is something that is going to end the world or if it's something I can truly tackle without false emotion. I will forever be grateful to Coach Emily for her support, enthusiasm and contributions. She helped me through my true midlife crisis when I realized I was never going to be a mother and she will always be in my heart for opening hers.

Amanda Crutcher: Yoga Instructor/Yoga Therapy/Meditator Extraordinaire

Amanda Crutcher knows anatomy and ohhhh how to work with those yoga therapy balls! She cares so deeply about her participant's safety and bodies. Probably because of her Iyengar yoga background, Amanda really focusses on the physical aspect of yoga making sure her participants understand the postures and the anatomy behind them. It's really good training - especially for beginners and to prevent injury. She also brought out yoga therapy balls at her last class. From a practicality standpoint, using the balls at home (safely) is great. It's like being able to give yourself a massage and is great for deeply loosening those knots. I learned this technique at Rancho La Puerta with tennis balls, but the various sized yoga therapy balls were even better. Amanda also graciously opened up her one hour twice daily meditation practice to all the attendees. This is where her deep spirituality came out. Her calm presence and grace surely comes from her deep meditation practice. Something I hope to explore with her in the future.

Diane Gibbs: Massage Therapy and Feldenkrais

This was Diane's second THF retreat as well. Her talented hands were in great demand. Who wouldn't want a glorious massage by well-trained hands while on a retreat? Diane ended up completely booking up, so I was thrilled to bring on my dear friend (and someone who has done massage on me countless times) Angela Bausch. Thanks so much to Angela for bringing her experienced hands to our retreat!

Diane also brought her love for and practice of Feldenkrais to this retreat. As at the last retreat, a lot of the participants had never heard of Feldenkrais, but most experienced beneficial effects through this gentle movement practice. 

Mayacamas Ranch!

Once again I can't thank the staff at Mayacamas Ranch enough. Miguel once again knocked the paleo ball out of the park with his cooking, the rest of the staff was warm and welcoming and the property - even in the wintertime - was as peaceful and beautiful as ever. Seeing the milky way in the clear winter night sky, the fog in the valley on our early morning hike, the steam coming off of the pond, hearing those funny frogs loud and clear every night when going to bed - and that cozy bed! You can't go wrong with Mayacamas Ranch as your home base for a retreat!

And Then There was Karma.....

 Karma Moffit and his Tibetan Bowls

Karma Moffit and his Tibetan Bowls

How do you top off what you know may be an enlightening weekend for your participants? I always say I don't want The Healing Farm to be too hippie dippy or new age and then I bring in a man named Karma. But, I've been going deeper into my own meditation practice as I move through this midlife of mine and all its changes and have been inspired by the crystal bowls meditations I've experienced at Rancho La Puerta. Since I was introducing various forms of meditation into this women's retreat I thought it might be nice to top off the last night with a crystal bowls meditation. My intention was to have Danielle Hall of Sound Embrace perform, but she ended up being unavailable. Through other contacts I found this man named "Karma" who plays tibetan bowls. He performs all over the world and had even performed at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco for a labyrinth meditation a few nights before the retreat. Now this is a man who has lived life and he didn't hesitate to tell us all about it. I love great characters who embrace life and whatever comes their way and although I might have been able to do without the high pitched conch shell blowing, it was great to be in a room surrounded by women I brought together, surrounded by deep vibrating sounds delivered by someone who has so obviously embraced life fully and taken the less-traveled path. Karma's heart truly speaks to other's hearts. I was so grateful he joined us to top off the retreat.

So what did I get out of The Healing Farm's Women's retreat? Hope and especially ENCOURAGEMENT for the future of The Healing Farm AND This Manifestation Board Illustrating my Hope for My Future and the Future of The Healing Farm.

 I think it's no coincidence that this board came out of me on inauguration day, 2017. My hope is for a bright, inclusive and healthy future for all.

I think it's no coincidence that this board came out of me on inauguration day, 2017. My hope is for a bright, inclusive and healthy future for all.

As many times as I've muttered "Namaste" at the end of a yoga class, I've never known what it meant and never bothered to take the time to look it up. Coach Emily taught us that one of the translations is "The light in me sees the light in you."  I feel like we all experienced this at the women's retreat. I certainly experienced sharing my heart and felt like my guests shared theirs with me. I think I'm ready now to take the next steps with The Healing Farm. It's still scary and I still have doubts but when a dear friend sends you a link to Sia's "The Greatest" when you express fear of the next step you listen to her heart speak to your heart and so it goes and so it goes. Let your own midlife be a midlife renaissance no matter how scary it might be. Moving beyond your fears and your comfort zone will help you breakthrough to be your "greatest". 

See you all at the next retreat! 

All of my love and heart - Julie

The Healing Farm - Cultivating Practical Wellness!