May 31, 2011

Food Has a Shelf Life, Just Like People

Food has a shelf life. The good kind, anyway.

This is a concept I'm introducing to my clients and other people in my life.

If your "food" has an expiration date printed on it, chances are it doesn't belong in your body. There are a few exceptions--like oils (coconut, olive and sesame)...

I can't think of too many other exceptions that are real food. Things like fresh greens, fruit, whole grains, beans, veggies---these don't have expiration dates because they don't last long. A few days, maybe. Like Michael Pollan says, "don't eat anything that won't eventually rot." If what you're eating won't eventually rot, think about what it's doing inside your body.

What makes it keep its shape, texture and color? What are those things doing to your blood and organs? If you can't pronounce it, why are you ingesting it?

If your food doesn't expire in a few days and isn't packed with preservatives, it still has a shelf life. Whole grains and beans--if you buy them fresh in bulk and don't use them in about 4 months, toss them. Bottled oils? Give them a whiff to make sure they haven't turned rancid from being exposed to the air each time you open the bottle. Rancid oils smell something like turpentine. If you don't know what that smells like, visit a local paint store.

Fresh veggies and fruit? If you aren't eating them within the week, freeze them or ditch them. If they are on sale because they've been sitting around too long--please don't buy them. They aren't alive anymore. They are of no use to your body. These foods are to be consumed for the many vitamins and minerals they contain. Time, air quality, dust, etc. affect the quality of the product. Practice some radical self-love and throw out anything that isn't fresh, vibrant, colorful and perky. That's right--perky. Ever try eating limp lettuce? Or an overripe apple? What is enjoyable about either of those experiences? Nothing. Correct. It's not hard to see why more adults have a hard time getting veggies into their diets...maybe they are eating CRAPPY, OVERRIPE, GROSS VEGGIES!

Let's think of your friends the same way. If food has a shelf life that runs its course, the same goes for your friends. Do you have someone in your life who's been around for a while but you feel depleted every time you see or talk to this person? Or maybe facebook reports the same complaint from the same people day after day after day. I had a few who never have something positive to say--only negative, biting, judgmental banter. I deleted those people from my list.

If I don't eat food because of what it contains, I don''t surround myself with people who are filled with qualities that bring me down, bring out the worst of my own character traits or treat me with disrespect. I know a few people like this. I'm doing my best to be patient because my spiritual practice calls me to do so. I am learning to draw a fine line between being patient and drawing a healthy boundary that involves telling someone, "our time as friends has come to a close".

Sometimes it doesn't even have to be that blatant. You can simply clean out the cabinets and closets of your life---toss tired carrots along with the people who complain every moment of the day. We all have it hard. We all struggle for love, peace and understanding (for ourselves and others) but we have to balance positive and negative. If someone you know doesn't seem to seek that balance, what is that person bringing into your life? How are you growing and thriving from that relationship? How is it making you a better person?

Toss out the garbage. And every day, work on not being garbage yourself.

May 23, 2011

Get More By Doing Less

I learned this concept of GETTING SLOW from the school where I became a certified health coach (and a healthier person in general)...the INSTITUTE FOR INTEGRATIVE NUTRITION.

I never saw myself as a perfectionist (do you know many perfectionists who do?) and thought that the faster and harder I worked, the better. I learned this past year that while working hard DOES have payoffs (have I mentioned the 12 grand in credit card debt I paid off this year?), it also had drawbacks.

I was pulling 80+ hour workweeks--and took pride in that while in the meantime, my waist grew wider from no exercise, the circles beneath my eyes got darker and deeper and my general mental, physical and emotional health declined. I acted like an overtired 5-year-old child. Because I was one.

If you haven't tapped into your inner child work, I suggest you get on that train. We all come from hard times; poor or wealthy, it's all the same if the mental and emotional health of your 'rents wasn't intact. No shame, no blame. Just name.

My childhood was pretty stable considering the tales my pals have told me of theirs, but relative to others'? I needed some stuff I didn't get--and it wasn't 5 pairs of Z Cavaricci pants.


So that inner child stuff--it was coming out in the way I was overworking myself. I (subconsciously) reasoned that if I worked hard and ran myself into the ground, it would get me the elusive safety, security, validation, support, etc. etc. I lacked from earlier days.

Did it work?


It just made me more anxious, depressed, forgetful, panicky, reactionary, defensive, tired, hungry (but since I was too tired and busy to cook, I ate crap instead and gained weight...awesome) and that's just the short list.

The solution? IIN and Buddhism taught me one valuable tool to use to undo the "momentum of my conditioning" (quoted from my therapist, whom I love)--- SLOW the F Down.

When you feel like something's chasing you, stop running. That thing is you. It's your mind. It's your ego. It's your patterns. It's your fears. If you're running yourself into the ground and neglecting the basics of a healthy life --> eating healthy home-cooked food, sleeping, relaxing, exercising <-- THE MONSTERS ALREADY GOT YOU! Surrender and stop running. Slow down. Flip the script. Schedule less calendar appointments, make less phone calls, watch less tv---just sit still with yourself. Try to clear your mind for 5 minutes (when my clients try this for the first time, they are amazed at how hard it is!). Walk to work/school if possible--with no headphones. Literally find the SLOW MO button on your body and press it. Firmly.

Every time I remember to do this, my life gets profoundly better in a nanosecond. The running begets more running. The slowing down allows me to be present with whatever is bugging me, scaring me, frustrating me and probably not serving me.

Ah, there's the rub. When you slow down, you =get to= face things and deal with them. Now that I've slowed down, I am able to effectively manage aspects of my life that will bring me more clarity, abundance and happiness.

I get more from doing less. 

May 22, 2011

Newsflash: I don't like being called Lady. Many people don't.

It's MAY, 2011!

May I Help You celebrates the month of May with some tips for making your daily life better so you can Savor Your Existence.

This month I'm heeding the advice of my coach and sellling it to you straight. Oh no, wait. I can't do that. I'm queer.

Did that word just sent chills up your spine? Or confuse you?

Good. That's my point. I want to intrigue, engage or enrage you. And hopefully illuminate something that will get you closer to a happier, healthier you (and maybe make the world a bit better in the process).

In this issue I'm going to share:
  • how words have meanings and share ways you can make a difference in how you use them
  • cook with taste and ease 
  • how to get rid of something that universally sucks: adult acne.
May I help you have more joy? Please?

Here I go!


Words have meanings: we use them to communicate concepts and feelings, otherwise we'd all go around grunting and groaning and not making much progress.

Because words mean something, we need to use them with intention. It's 2011, make sure you're keeping in touch with how language changes and evolves much like food, technology, fashion, etc. Just like we no longer use DDT to spray crops (or do we but call it a different name?), we can become enlightened and educated about the world that surrounds us so we can engage more fully, intentionally and respectfully.

For example: the word "lady". What image does that conjure for you? Here's what it says on

"of a lady; ladylike; feminine."  "a woman who is refined, polite, and well-spoken ."

In 2011, this word is still clinging on for dear life, despite progress made by feminism to move women toward being seen as equal to men in modern American society. What significance does that word hold if the role/image/definition of a woman in modern American society has changed so dramatically over time?

I encounter many folks who are the female sex (both hetero and LGBTQ) on a daily basis who don't identify as "ladies" and the  historical baggage that accompanies that word. For folks who don't conform to traditional gender roles (which are created and reinforced by the society we live in), it makes it all the more important that we are mindful of our language. Sometimes, we don't even pay attention to what we see, and make decisions based on assumptions.

Gender roles are a complex sociological construct. It's a big topic to tackle. For many people, women are women, men are men. For other people, those two choices aren't enough or the right fit. You might see people trying to work within those two extremes in the clothing department. Women's fleece jackets come in powder blue or raspberry, men's jackets come in forest green or navy blue. Ever notice that? What to do if you want one from the other side of the store?

I have been wearing men's clothes exclusively and getting my hair cut by barbers for almost 4 years now. 4 years. And people still refer to me as "lady". I go to dinner with my girlfriend and it's "right this way, ladies". I get on an airplane and it's, "right over here, ma'am." I'm greeted with, "hey, Lady!"
in emails or facebook messages from friends. It begs the question: what is it that they are referring to? My perceived sex organs? My voice? Lack of facial hair? Welcome to the world of the genderqueer/transperson. Welcome to boxes, labels, choices, limitation, politics and socialization. Welcome to pink and blue being outdated and obselete in 2011.

Over lunch with my friend recently, we talked about this. She related it to something in her own life and said, "oh I know. I hate being called [my partner's] wife. I am his partner. We are partners. And ma'am?! Don't even get me started on that one..."

She felt the same way. It was about how we see ourselves not fitting into the conventional, traditional roles that are associated with certain words. The good news is, there are new words for new times.

Listen to what people say about how they show up in the world. Look at the clues they are giving you. I wear men's clothes--I have a haircut that you see on many men. There isn't much "lady" happening here. If you're using it as a term of endearment, use something that doesn't shove me into a box that fits about as well as my jeans from 5th grade.

If someone introduces you to her husband, she probably wants to be called his wife. If someone wears heels and mini-skirts but has a 5 o'clock shadow, rethink your impulse to call that person "sir". If a 6-year-old boy likes colorful, sparkly things...he's a kid. Kids are SUPPOSED to like colorful, sparkly things! sheesh.

Even within the LGBTQ community, these issues of gender roles and presentation, sexual orientation and sexuality are intensely difficult and not clear cut. Our society is evolving rapidly and talking about it is like describing a book or music. We all have an opinion so it's tricky. We don't all agree.

That's right.

It's my intention to illuminate this more and more for the benefit of all. You might just see something in here that speaks for you, or you might learn something new. You may not agree with everything I think or the way I see things, and that makes sense. We can be different people with different opinions AND still live together and respect one another. Go us.  

May 16, 2011

Karma Came 'Round

"People get into a heavy-duty sin and guilt trip, feeling that if things are going wrong, that means that they did something bad and they are being punished. That's not the idea at all. The idea of karma is that you continually get the teachings that you need to open your heart. To the degree that you didn't understand in the past how to stop protecting your soft spot, how to stop armoring your heart, you're given this gift of teachings in the form of your life, to give you everything you need to open further." -Pema Chodron

I am a huge fan of Pema. We're both from New Jersey. We both are pretty sassy. We are both brave, independent and honest with ourselves. Where we're different is that she's a Buddhist nun and I'm...not.

here's Pema being rad.

But I do consider myself a Buddhist. And I do consider myself a bodhisattva (an enlightened being or one who seeks enlightenment). In my path to attain enlightenment, I try to remain open to receive the lessons that life has to teach me so I can have less suffering, inflict less suffering onto others and therefore contribute to as much peace and harmony as possible.

This past weekend was a tricky one. Full of highs and lows. After an experience I had flying home from San Diego yesterday, the only word that came to mind was one: karma. Because it's been warped (like many good things) in modern American vernacular, I wanted to share my understanding of this word as it relates to my experiences this past weekend. I do agree with Pema, that I am brought the experiences and teachings I need to open my heart. And boy, did it get CRACKED WIDE OPEN yesterday evening!

I was in San Diego to facilitate a day-long workshop to inspire and encourage folks of the surrounding area to improve their ministry to young adults. These people gave up a Saturday to come learn how they could be a part of spreading Unitarian Universalism to younger people who might find a spiritual home in that community. I was one of those young people about 10 years ago. I was suffering my first heartbreak, coming out about my sexual orientation, managing being a young 8th grade teacher, you I met a friend who invited me to a worship service, and then to her house for a potluck dinner and...10 years later, I'm standing in front of a gathered crowd as a leader and trainer to do the work as a supposed "expert". I am working on a book that includes more details of what has happened in those 10 years, but for now, suffice it to say that the event was a huge success and was one of the most heartbreaking experiences I've had to date. See--it was my full-time job to host and conduct events like this not even 2 years ago, but I was asked to leave my position in 2009. It was meant to be. Everything happens for good reason. It was the next step on my path. There were, however, aspects of my departure that had left me feeling some deep pain, grief and sadness. Low self-confidence, even. So to stand there and do work I once really loved, now bringing everything I've learned from health coaching and breathe that new energy and experience into my presentation on Saturday, was cathartic. To be given the chance to share my story of how UUism affected my life and my health and my spiritual path---and invite those generous people to offer that same gift to more young adults---was a precious and deeply moving gift.  I also got to share the company of some amazing friends--which was so gratifying, I barely ate a bite at the dinners we shared. I had no need for food, because the company fed my soul in every way.

I was revelling. Life felt full, and wonderful and abundant.

And then came the karma I had sent out on Friday came back around to teach me a valuable lesson of the heart. Upon arriving at the airport on Friday, I had taken pictures with my iPhone of people waiting in line for McDonald's. I also noticed that the woman sitting in my row on the airplane was so obese that she couldn't fit in the seat. Judgments. My ego was judging.

Upon sitting in my airplane seat yesterday, I learned about judging. I spent the better part of 4 hours trying to reason with a 22-year old British student (doing a semester abroad here) whose religious beliefs vary greatly from mine. I'm a sinner. She's a sinner. Everyone's a sinner. But because the Bible says that God only believes a man should be with a woman (and vice versa), my sins keep me from loving God fully. And I'm on the list along with being a murderer, having sex before marriage, etc.

Loving my girlfriend, you see, makes me a Supreme sinner.

I was raised Catholic. I spent the past 7 years working in the headquarters offices of a progressive religious organization. I have friends who love me, a thriving practice, a loving partner, a good working environment...validation, praise and affirmation surround me each and every day. I had just come off a high of it the day before.

So what made me engage with this person for 4 hours, listening to her indoctrinated speech?

I believe it was two things: Karma and Ego. My ego was attached to my beliefs, my ego wanted to change her belief system (because it is also attached to the suffering that comes when I succumb to feeling oppressed) and my ego needed to bring into balance the supreme joy that I had felt only hours earlier. My ego wanted to make sure that the Enlightenment I had achieved didn't last too long.

The karma? I had judged, and now I was being judged. I hadn't been compassionate enough with people who eat McDonald's. I had drawn lines around my behavior, training, choices and vision to be "right" and then identified people who eat processed, unhealthy food to be "wrong". So it was that energy that came back around in the form of a young, innocent-looking 22 year old person---who sat there and drew lines around her belief system and mine. And judged me.

Lessons learned. Humility restored. Compassion begets enlightenment, which begets compassion.

With this experience, my spiritual health has been fortified. I woke up and felt that restored balance affecting other areas of my health. This is what I share with my clients: one area will affect the whole picture. Even as I was eating well and feeling balanced and inspired in my career--my spiritual practice had drifted a bit and fallen out of alignment.

Take a look at these aspects of your life: your job, your relationship, your spirituality, your exercise. Which has drifted and what lessons are being brought to you so you can do some much-needed repair work?

Can you see the lessons for what they are? Can you see the karma as an opportunity and not a punishment?

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