How We Get ThereI help clients, both in person and virtually, to figure out what is happening in their bodies--both physiologically and emotionally--and together create modalities that allow for balance and healing. This is concrete work with concrete results.
We begin with a comprehensive health assessment that covers your entire health history, including your family’s health history, injuries, surgeries, old and new habits, and many of the more hidden aspects of your health and lifestyle. Of equal importance is the time we spend talking about goals and concerns. From there we create protocols that both, give a clear and candid picture of what is going on in your body and how it is functioning, along with addressing the imbalances present. Together we set your intentions and design a holistic (whole body, whole life) program specific to your needs. Through regular emails and weekly or bimonthly appointments we follow your progress and continue to shift your program to address your evolving healing process. As we work through layers of imbalance, strengthening each system as we go, we continue to redefine your goals.
So, what is a coach? A health coach is a collaborative partner and wellness advocate. There are coaches and trained support people in every arena of life: lawyers, professors, therapists, physical therapists, web masters, fitness trainers, massage therapists, midwives, mechanics, wedding planners— all consultants that we go to when we need help.
What does having a health coach mean for clients? Health coaches function in an array of capacities for people depending on what they need. In the main, health coaches help people reach their health and wellness goals by facilitating change. They also offer resources, information, and give support. Health coaches help clients break down large, inaccessible goals into actions that are achievable, building success and confidence to do more. Coaches do this by employing a client-centered approach and using key coaching skills. Skilled health coaches are holistic, helping the client explore values and conflict, identifying what is motivating and what might get in the way, creating an action plan that is dynamic and meeting the needs and challenges of everyday life. Health coaches help people envision and create lifestyle change to create healthier, happier lives.
What and How We EatFood glorious food…
. . . a moment of reverential silence for food . . .
An important missing practice in many first world cultures is gratitude for the abundance and variety of food available to most of us every day. Shipments of fresh fruits and vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, grains and dairy products from all over the world are flown and driven to our overflowing supermarkets daily.
“We now know that food is information, not just calories, and that it can upgrade your biologic software. The majority of chronic disease is primarily a food-borne illness. We ate ourselves into this problem, and we have to eat ourselves out of it.” –Dr. Mark Hyman
Our relationship to food is primary, as it is essential for survival, and is the foundation of our health. But the food itself is also sacred, is communion—eating is one of the ways that the earth enters our bodies and becomes part of us, where we physically become one. So it’s not just what we eat that matters, but how.
Most of us have lost our way with food at one time or another. Whether it was a bad week, or a phase, or a lifetime, some of our more personal struggles show up in our thoughts and behaviors around food. From bingeing to calorie-restriction marathons, difficult food behaviors can result in addiction, guilt, confusion, frustration, and suffering. When our relationship to food is hampered by discomfort and unhappiness of one kind or another our mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing suffer. When we can’t digest and assimilate nutrients it affects every system in our bodies.
The good news? It doesn’t take very long to get back in sync. As soon as we begin to remove obstacles, systems begin to repair, and our bodies respond. Our bodies want to be healthy, and are, in fact, constantly trying to get us back to health.
One day while my son and I were hiking, we started talking about foods we love and what makes us feel good. That got me talking about some of the things I’ve learned from my practice about habits and beliefs and how mindset changes our relationship to everything, even something as simple as the food we eat–mindset even alters how we digest and assimilate food. Suddenly my son declared, “people should eat happy!” And this phrase, along with all the research to back it up, was the inspiration for the following . . .
Modern humans have, in many ways, gotten separated from body wisdom. Inside each of us, however, there remains an intelligence and source of information that’s constantly projecting what you need, moment by moment, to be in balance. Once you start paying attention, you will start making more optimum choices and re-sensitize to your body. In return your body will restore your resilience and vibrance.
Homeostasis is the body’s mechanism of balance and is made up of incredibly intricate systems that keep everything from pH levels to the precise amount of sugar available to our brain cells in check. All day and night your body is adapting and making adjustments in response to changes that impact these systems: from the temperature outside to viruses, from oxygen to potassium levels — the body works tirelessly to bring things back into optimal working order. This is your body’s innate capacity.
So when you think about getting healthy, try not to think about how you or your health program needs to do something to your broken or resistant or lazy body. Think of your body as your biggest ally. Healthy choices act more like obstacle removers or an offering of support to an already perfect system that is functioning 24/7 to bring you back to center.
If inflammation is at the heart of most disease conditions (see my post about inflammation—hyperlink to inflammation blog post?), stress is at the heart of most inflammation. And stress is not just one thing. It’s the combination of all the stressors in your life and how you’re responding to them. Everything in your life comes into play: from your environment, sleep, pathogens, quantity and quality of movement, age, genes, relationships, work, to your mindset and attitude. Our bodies respond to over-exercise, under-exercise, lack of sleep, deadlines, stressful emotions, negative thoughts, and even chronic macro-nutrient restriction, as a stress-survival situation. Even celebratory times, like the fast-approaching holidays, can be a significant stressor.
Find out how you can re-set your health by finding the ideal diet for your body. Visit the *contact* page and sign up for a FREE 30-minute consult with Laura!
When it comes to mental and emotional stressors (including all the tension-producing thoughts and emotions like worry, frustration, judgment, fear, etc.) and how they impact our health, think of the cells of your body as a country. In this analogy your thoughts and senses are the body’s news source. The cells of the body depend on input from all the senses and the brain to know what state to be in, what level of readiness for war (fighting off invaders) or peacetime (maintenance and bridge-building.) So what we think and feel and decide about things around us affects how our bodies function. And when your body is in a stress state, you end up activating the sympathetic nervous system, which affects things like cortisol levels, insulin sensitivity, and other hormone levels. And hormones play a key role in how you burn and store fat.
Most of you have read a great deal of nutrition information and found that much of it contradicts the last nutrition “fact” you read. Without the time and energy to delve deeper into the science (and pseudo-science) behind each new diet fad, people get overwhelmed and discouraged and end up more confused than informed. Fad diets cover the full spectrum of possibilities, from the low-fat craze of the 80s and early 90s to our current no-carb high-fat paleo craze. I get it. Maddening. Food choices can seem like a minefield. Add to that all the “truths” we’ve been sold that didn’t turn out to be true: smoking is not a health risk, DDT is safe, butter is bad but margarine is good, and so on.
For example, there are still a large number of people who believe that weight loss is strictly about how many calories you consume vs how many you burn. Some doctors even still share this formula with their patients when discussing weight management. From that understanding we’re taught to limit the number of calories and work out for more hours per week (and usually this is done from a place of anxiety, or stress). If we’re not losing weight on this formula of “calories in, calories out,” and most don’t for long, we get upset with ourselves. Truth is, one of the biggest challenges to weight loss is stress. And both constant macronutrient deprivation (macronutrients: fats, proteins, or carbohydrates) and over exercising keeps us in a stressed state with chronically elevated insulin and cortisol, both of which keep the sympathetic nervous system turned on.
To top off the chronicle of dieting travails, most people who are struggling with weight and afraid of gaining try to avoid eating for as long as possible and then end up eating their biggest meal in the evening. But what we know from studies on the mitochondria (cellular powerhouses responsible for turning the fuel you consume into usable energy) is that when you consume all that fuel close to bedtime — the time when you need the least amount of energy — you end up generating metabolic complications caused by free radicals produced in the process (think accelerated aging).
Most people are eating on the run or while multitasking and this doesn’t allow for the body to experience the food and respond to it fully. When we eat fast or while doing something else we are not paying attention to the food: the chewing, the smells, the flavors and colors. We’re not able to savor or be grateful. We are, in short, missing out on the cephalic phase digestive response (CPDR.) “Cephalic phase digestive response is a fancy term for taste, pleasure, aroma, and satisfaction, including the visual stimulus of your meal. Researchers estimate about 40 to 60 percent of your digestive and assimilative power at any meal comes from this “head phase” of digestion.” – Marc David, head of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating ” . . . [Y]ou look at a food and your mouth starts to water. You think of a food and your stomach starts to churn. That’s digestion beginning in the mind. When we are not paying attention to the meal and eating very fast your body goes into a stress state.”
In addition, fast eating contributes to overeating. When you don’t notice your food your brain doesn’t have enough time to sense or get pleasure from the food, so it keeps signaling that hunger has not been satisfied. One of the best things you can do for your digestion and metabolism is to be present with your food. And to do that you just have to slow down and notice what you are eating.
We need to stop moralizing our food choices and start being grateful for our food.
No matter what the food is in front of you, if you are about to ingest it, let yourself feel good about it. Stressing about whether a food is “good” for us, will not make it better for us. I mean, do your best to choose clean whole real foods. But it’s time to start respecting the food and what your body is craving when you are making food choices. Appreciate the abundance of food you’re eating. Savor each bite to the best of your ability. The more pleasure you can bring to your eating the quicker you will get into your parasympathetic nervous system. ** Your digestion will improve. You will absorb and metabolize better. It will also allow you to feel satiated. Give yourself time to eat happy. This may seem like a small thing but eating mindfully is the sweet spot for physical transformation. And mindfulness is a profound practice. You can’t have mindfulness and stress in the same meal. And it’s critical that we stop obsessing about our health. There’s a big difference between being smart and making informed choices vs developing an eating or stress or digestive disorder because of worrying about them.
Most people have heard of the “fight or flight” response, which is the way the sympathetic nervous system reacts to stress or danger. The parasympathetic nervous system is referred to as “rest and digest,” as this system activates the functions that help repair and maintain the body. You can actually ruin the benefits of a healthy meal by dreading or resenting it, by making it harder to digest. If you tell your body something is “bad” how can your body respond healthfully? Instead, try to flip those thoughts. Think about how healthy the food is making you. Think about the soils that nurtured it. Think about all the hands that had to hold and carry the food across vast expanses in order to get that food to your table. Savor the sunlight and the rain in the food. Appreciate the resources that fed all those people that worked to get it there. It’s really a miracle that we can eat avocados and melons in the winter and grapes in summer.
We have all read the research on meditation and the positive effects it has on the nervous system and the body. One way to get more present with your food is to use the time you spend preparing and eating food as a kind of meditation. Even if you have to move pretty fast, practice gratitude and expectation of goodness. Use eating as a time to check in with your body. How does it like the taste and the feel? Are you still hungry? Do you need something else? Then after eating check in with yourself again. See how the food sat with you—this is how you are going to begin to learn what foods your body likes and in what amounts and what times of the day. Your body broadcasts so much important information. Get curious. Let your body teach you what works best. There is no diet in the world more perfect for you than the one your body already knows.
The weight loss industry has it wrong. It’s not about the weight. Our fat is not the enemy. Our bodies are not against our efforts. Sometimes we feel defeated and give up. And sometimes we make poor choices with the best of intentions. We go on a low-fat or no-carb diet, or we start exercising like crazy, doing lots of long punishing daily cardio workouts in an effort to change. But anything that increases our daily stress load will impact our health, and inevitably our weight, because of stress’s unique and intimate relationship with homeostasis. It’s time to stop punishing and blaming and hating on ourselves.
One of the first steps to healing is to get curious about your thoughts and feelings. In the case of food and weight, all you have to do is pay attention to how you feel when you are making food or health choices. Locate the internal sources of resistance and hurt. Start to notice the tone of your thoughts. How are you talking to yourself as you are eating or thinking about eating? Do you hear phrases like, “This is bad for me. This will make me fat.”? This kind of self-talk while eating is not only bad for digestion, it sabotages your efforts.
The Perfect Diet
Spoiler alert: there is no one-size-fits-all perfect diet. Not for anyone. And your own “perfect” diet changes with the seasons and as you change over time. While 75% of people will get better with some version of the following Best Food Practices alone, another 10-15% will need a diet that addresses their specific imbalances—targeted nutrition plans like SCD, low FODMAP, Anti-inflammatory, Autoimmune-Paleo, Low Fructose, Low Lectin, or Low Histamine. In my practice I have seen that the remaining 10-15% will require more testing and care than dietary tools alone—people with autoimmune conditions, fungal overgrowth, H-Pylori, mold toxicity, SIBO, Lyme disease and its co-infections, fructose malabsorption, parasites, or other bacterial or viral infections, are some examples. In my experience what most disease states have in common is inflammation and some form of gut dysbiosis (an imbalance or infection in the gut, causing or preceded by an imbalance in the microbiome, which affects digestion, nutrient absorption, hormone levels, serotonin levels and mood, food sensitivities “leaky gut”, auto-immunity, and the physiology of the gut lining itself). Underlying conditions and/or infections impact everything from body temperature and fat storage to hunger levels and cravings. And these issues all make weight loss and healthy eating more complicated. Digestive issues and symptoms like brain fog and fatigue also make weight loss and healthy eating more challenging. For many people, however, chronic symptoms start to disappear with the application of these simple practices.
~ For those of you who want a personalized plan that will target your specific health needs, or for those of you ready to go deeper into your healing, contact me for more information. Or visit the Health Within Reach Facebook page. Or hear what people are saying about Health Within Reach on Yelp. **
9 Best Food Practices
1. EAT MINDFULLY—Not only is unconscious eating stressful for your digestion, but when you sit quietly and chew your food thoroughly and are grateful you get full quicker and you absorb the nutrients better. (As a culture living in overconsumption we have gotten so focused on weight loss that we have forgotten that the purpose of eating is to digest and absorb nutrients to feed the cells of our bodies so that they can thrive.)
2. EAT CLEAN—whole, organic, non-gmo, real food– These are the unsprayed vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds, legumes and sprouted grains in their unadulterated forms. That includes grass-fed, pasture-raised, organic meats and whole dairy, if you eat meat or dairy. You don’t want to be introducing more toxins into your body whenever possible. (Toxins add to the cumulative stress load.)
3. EAT MOSTLY PLANTS—Living foods like vegetables and fruits should be the staples of your diet. These foods are where we get the most nutrient-dense building blocks for health. (We are still discovering new phytonutrients, etc. that plants give us. They are information for our DNA.)
4. EAT ONLY HEALTHY FATS—Organic coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, grass fed butter and ghee, plant fats like those found in avocados, raw nuts and seeds . . . (We have been lied to about fats in general and saturated fats in particular. But good fats are essential to the function of every cell is your body.)
5. HYDRATE—Drink clean water; half your weight in ounces every day. Tricks: start your day with 16-20 oz of room temperature water with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Drink the lion’s share of your water between meals, not during. Get all your water in before 7:00pm so that a full bladder doesn’t interrupt your sleep. (Our bodies are between 65 and 75% water. Every chemical reaction in your body requires water, including waste management.)
6. Protect and FEED YOUR GUT—by trying things like fermented foods: raw cultured cow or sheep or goat’s milk, fermented vegetables, and fermented coconut products. (Start slowly with a teaspoon or two and observe how your body responds.) Another great source of good bacteria is in your garden, so consider growing your own produce! Go outside—sunlight and fresh air also feed your whole body. (The health of your microbiota is directly related to overall health, mood, and longevity.)
7. ELIMINATE PROCESSED GRAINS AND SUGARS—Cut out white flours, brightly colored flour products and candies, high fructose corn syrup, sodas, and diet drinks altogether. Instead of fruit juices, eat real fruit. (There are thousands of studies linking sugar to all of our top 10 disease conditions.)
8. EAT REAL–DON’T EAT FAKE FOOD!—like: processed meats, grains, hydrogenated and trans fats, highly processed and nonfat dairy products. (These false foods will increase your risk of alzheimer’s and cancer, put you at a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes, etc.)
9. MODERATION—This merits a category all to itself. People don’t like to hear this one, but it’s got to be said: the body works much better when we don’t overdo it. (That includes exercise, food, supplements, even water.) The body can process out the toxins in our food, and even deal with low-level food intolerances, if we consume trigger foods in small portions. Eat to satisfaction, but not to the point of bloatedness or a “food coma”—both being signs of digestive distress. Make friends with your hunger. We have forgotten the pleasure of eating when we are truly hungry and not just bored or “peck-ish.” Hunger makes food taste better. Hunger also allows your body to tell you what it needs—unless you are ill your body will crave what it needs.
Many of the problems that arise in the body start as inflammation. (Read more about inflammation in my blog, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Inflammation.” ) I show my clients which foods are anti-inflammatory, which foods generally cause inflammation, and how to find out which foods cause inflammation for them. In general, I emphasize a plant-based diet, rich in nutrient dense foods. I show my clients how to reset their appetite for whole, lightly cooked and raw foods. I offer recipes for healthy meals and desserts that won’t exacerbate or cause body aches, headaches, or GI distress. When you eat the foods your body gets along with, you naturally start to heal and lose weight.
The Holy Microbiome
When thinking about health, it’s important to develop a deep appreciation for the trillions of microbial organisms that normally inhabit a healthy intestinal tract. By now you have already read that researchers are saying that 70-80% of our immune system originates in our gut. And most of these microbes are bacteria (there are also yeasts and viruses and parasites . . .) that have co-evolved with humans, depending on us for their survival just as we depend on them for our health and wellbeing. An example of this is the way we provide nutrients and an environment for the bacteria. They, in turn, break down fibers, extract nutrients, make vitamins and other important compounds that we would otherwise be unable to produce, protect our blood brain barrier, produce 90% of the body’s serotonin, protect our GI tract from micro-marauders, and keep our immune system and inflammatory responses in check. This wonderful, symbiotic plastic community of microorganisms is what makes up the microbiome.
The health of our microbiome can affect us in multiple, profound ways, ranging from how we store fat to whether we feel happy or depressed. When the normal gut microbial communities are disturbed, whether you’re under stress, have used antibiotics, are suffering from a bacterial, viral, or pathogenic infections, or have changed what you eat, all those factors and more can lead to bacterial changes and/or imbalances. These changes to the microbiome are associated with a growing number of diseases. Research has found that the variety and balance of gut bacteria is different in patients with chronic inflammatory conditions as compared with healthy individuals. (For more on the microbiome, see my blog . . . )
How We MoveOptimal exercise for longevity: Believe it or not, there is such a thing as too much exercise. The systems of the body thrive under certain conditions.
The body has an inherent love of movement built into the structure. We know this because the physiology works best when there is an ideal amount and kind of movement. Most of us knew this intuitively as children; we longed to squirm and leap and play. Moving made us feel better.
In my work with clients I see mostly extremes when it comes to exercise–people resisting movement and people overworking themselves. Both modes cause problems in the body. The key is to start getting in touch with, and listening to, your body. Yes, you have to push it a little in order to create that new habit. If you pay attention, however, you can feel the difference between pushing yourself for health and pushing that creates injury, inflammation.
To start, for those of you just starting to exercise regularly, or investigating different kinds of exercise, here’s an interesting article about The Scientific 7-Minute Workout from the New York Times
What We ThinkThere is no doubt that our thoughts contribute to the state of our health
We think of ourselves as an entity, some-ONE, an individual. But we are actually a community of trillions of cells working together. Our bodies are more like continents, made up of countries, that are made up of provinces and cities and towns and communities and family units. In this analogy I’d like you to think of your thoughts as the government, and the central nervous system as branches of government, etc. The cells of our bodies get their information about the outside environment from antennae embedded in the skin (sensory equipment that gathers data on temperature, moisture, O2 levels, etc.) and news from the government re threats to security. Literally, what you think affects whether the cells of your body prepare for an attack, or build bridges and roads and dams and improve the education system during peace time. Long drawn out analogies aside, if you are having stress thoughts, the cells of your body cannot differentiate between dire threat and computer crashing level threat. And when your brain has stress thoughts it releases stress chemicals and hormones, effectively halting all maintenance and repair work. Under stress mode, your body starts conserving energy and preparing the muscles for “fight or flight.”
The good news is that means you have more control than you thought over your health. You can calm your own nervous system by interjecting “all clear” thoughts: by doing deep breathing exercises, by visualizing, by saying positive affirmations, through laughter, meditation, and prayer. And that’s not just good news, it’s a health imperative.
Countless studies have proven the benefits of meditation (a relaxation technique that usually involves the emptying out, or focusing of, the mind.) There are also numerous studies linking visualization with improved physical performance and well-being.
On Epigenetics . . .
The Tools: EFT, Visualization, Ho’oponopono . . .Emotional well being.
Whether we argue for our limitations or for our largeness, we set about proving our point. We feed ourselves and maintain our bodies and live our lives from moment to moment either from this place of prosperity or scarcity, love or fear. On the cellular level we are either in protective mode, some version of fight or flight, or in repair mode, some level of relaxation. Much of what keeps us stuck are old reels, things that happened in the past that left their markers in our bodies, their echoes in our subconscious. These memories are like knots in our muscle tissue, blocking the flow of energy and nutrients to parts of our bodies.
Old ways of thinking are like blueprints, delineating the structure, and therefore the functionality of our cells, our organs, our systems, and the organism–your body. Part of this is literal–we eat and move and think certain ways based on our beliefs and habits. Part is less visible–tensions we carry, say, in our shoulders from the weight of certain repetitive thought patterns.
The Body as Energy
All matter is made of atoms, and atoms are mostly space and energy. Thinking of your body as a conglomerate of densely packed energy rather than material cells will help you understand that an important factor in the root cause of disease is really energy disruptions.
Some examples of emotions associated with living in a “state of emergency” all the time—which is what happens when you’re chronically stressed—are anger, aggression, hatred, fear, prejudice, worry, anxiety, insecurity, and hopelessness. These and other negative states manifest as physical pain and disease over time because stress emotions produce stress chemicals. Conversely, changing our perception or belief or response to a stressor can have a positive influence on health.
Each emotion has its own vibratory frequency or signature, if you will, and when intense or traumatic events are experienced, the coinciding emotions can become trapped in your body, much like a clot or blockage.
Your body is biophysical, biochemical, and bioelectrical. These blocks in the flow of bioelectrical energy can show up anywhere in the body, where they cause disruptions in the body’s energy system. Disruptions in your electrical field will eventually result in physical dysfunction.
The classic definition of stress is “any real or imagined threat, and your body’s response to it.” Research has shown that your body’s natural stress response can have a significant impact on everything from immune function and brain chemistry, to blood sugar levels, hormonal balance, and much more. For example, researchers have found that just thinking about a stressful incident will increase the levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation, in your body.
The American Medical Association (AMA) states that 80% of all health problems are stress related, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that 85% of all diseases appear to have an emotional element.
EFT, or tapping, is a simple process that involves tapping your fingertips on various parts of your head, chest, and hands while thinking about a specific issue. The combination of tapping on energy meridians and focusing on a stressor works to clear the emotional block from your body’s bioelectrical system, thus restoring your mind and body’s balance, which is essential for optimal health. I can teach you EFT in less than an hour and you can use it to change your life.