I have been in a MOOD. A bourbon sipping, Avett Brothers binging, staring out the window, crying at touching commercials: MOOD. Is there a planet in retrograde I can put this blame on?
Just kidding, but I do love blaming celestial events for my uncentered moments.
I started cultivating ‘mindful self compassion’ about 3 years ago now. Unlike unpacking childhood traumas, mindful self-compassion is a set of skills and a way of thinking to help you help yourself in real time. That doesn’t mean it’s easy but it helps you bring awareness to when you’re being reactive or not your true self and when you ARE in your calm centered amazing true self.
For example, my current mood. A little over a week ago I got some news from a person who I have a hard time keeping healthy boundaries with. This news sent me down an old brain path. Brain paths are the series of thoughts that we develop over time. They take you to old familiar moods, behaviors, and usual old comforting negative self talk. I’m using words like familiar and comfortable because even though these brain paths are often really detrimental to your current mental health they are really familiar. You might not realize you’re on a brain path you could step off of. And honestly, it takes years to get familiar with your own paths and gasp— make a new set of healthy paths. It can be hard to recognize that, oh, that’s how I felt about myself when I was 14, not how I feel now.
That’s what happened to me this week. I started interacting with other people in my life in a really weird, old, anxiety driven, attachment greedy way that I had not felt in a few years (likely since I realized I needed better emotional boundaries from said person). I used to just think that was how I felt. That I was just a person with anxiety and attachment issues and I would always be uncomfortable. But after doing lots of personal growth work, I was just so confused why all of a sudden I was feeling like this again because I don’t really like living there. BRAIN PATH AT WORK.
The news I got triggered one of my old negative self beliefs: no one ever chooses me, I’m never good enough because no one chooses me. When I’m my logical self, of course I know this isn’t true in like, every way. But negative self beliefs are insidious and you are so used to repeating them and believing them they sneak right back in, it’s almost comfortable because of the familiarity. I didn’t realize how much anxiety that belief used to trigger in me. It affected 100% of the interactions I had for the rest of the week. By the end of the week I just sat on my couch going, what the F is this feeling??
And that right there is 3 years of mindful self compassion work. The ability to sit with a feeling and say, “THIS IS NOT ACTUALLY ME, this is not how I usually feel, what has happened? What is wrong? I’m off center.” It’s not about trying to understand it (however, these big brain paths often need to be unpacked with a qualified counselor and I have spent many hours crying on couches, believe me.) or making it go away, it’s sitting with it watching it happen in your body. Learning to separate that feeling away from my actual calm, balanced, open true self that is always there but she gets lost down these old paths.
So I journaled more, I mediated more, I walked more, I spent a few days just trying to get a new perspective on this feeling. I try to identify all it’s symptoms: neediness, short of breath, sits in my shoulders, overflow to inappropriate desire for crushes/sexual attention, restless, jumpy eyes, defensive, heavy. All the feelings and physical feelings that happen every time I get a wave of it. There is a balance of letting it be in your body to understand it, and asking it to leave because you’re a badass boss lady and you need your shit together.
Many religions talk about a time when you invite the bad spirit in for tea. You cannot ignore the things that make you uncomfortable. But realize if you can invite that mood, or 22 year old version of yourself in for tea in your mind; YOU are sitting across from them. YOU are still yourself, even in the face of your old or new demons that want to just walk down your old brain paths with your forever and ever. Ask them why they came to you, is there something they need? Or need to tell me? Usually these things are trying to protect you. That’s a sweet thing your subconscious is trying to do, but we can still ask them to leave as we learn new more adult coping mechanisms.
If you’re interested in cultivating this kind of awareness, one of the pioneers is Kristen Neff. She has written many beautiful books and designed various courses in this kind of work. It’s so easy to be nice to everyone but ourselves! It’s a hard skill set to learn. Which seems odd, but is very true. Remember how precious you are!
Be well out there.
Love Dr. J
A few weekends ago I was able to spend some time with my sister and her family to make a new batch of soap. Making soap is something I got inspired about while I was learning about chemical exposure in bath/body products as well as how soap used to be and still can be made with by products from animal butchering. Its one of those products that often comes up in discussions of how to monetize homestead products but mostly soap is a product that once you’re spoiled on a nice quality product, it is hard to go back to fillers and artificial crap.
Soap traditionally was made with tallow from animals. When an animal is butchered, there are certain cuts of the fat inside the body cavity that are very delicious when rendered down to cooking and baking fats. Traditionally on butchering day there was just a big pot bubbling the whole few days the hogs were being processed that rendered the fat as they went. Rendering the fats purifies it, they keep for months in a fridge/freezer and can still last a few months sitting on the counter. This and butter are what we used to cook with before the dreadful vegetable oil products became available—think Crisco. They are high heat oils so good for frying and sautéing, the mild tasting fats like leaf fat off a hog are ideal for baking. The little bits and scraps of fat or pieces that weren’t good enough for eating were often used for soap. And if you think of butchering a steer, that’s a lot of fat, so to use the whole animal, some was used for soap. I think its another great way to not let any of the animal go to waste. Many people feel that even through the rendering and lye the soap maintains it’s higher vitamin A and E content which is also good for the skin. You will need to render it to make it into soap, this is another easy but smelly process. There are lots of sassy old ladies in youtube videos who can teach you how to do this!
Once you tell someone you’re making soap, or someone tries your soap and loves it, inevitably they are going to say, “Oh my god, you should sell this”. Which is a nice thing to say right? I just also want to warn you that this is a great suggestion to make you end up with a really big box of soap. HA! As with most entrepreneurial endeavors; it’s not quite that easy. I have found handmade soaps to mostly just make excellent gifts and improve my daily life. They make a great Christmas or thank you gift to neighbors and family. Have I had them for sale? Yes. Would I have to have a formal market stand, permits, marketing plan, and budget system in place to actually make a profit off of doing this? Also yes. So take that with a grain of salt, maybe you are already settled enough in your community that you could sell your soaps easily and joyfully. Or if you already have a stand selling something, adding this could be a wonderful addition but the solo soap operation still takes some effort.
We are exposed to chemicals everyday; I feel like 100% of the time. It’s the plastics, the artificial colors and scents, the GMO products, the emissions, the technology outputs—IT’S EVERYWHERE!! Men’s and women's body care products and makeup are also huge offenders. And these are the things that we put on our most delicate skin. Some things like eye makeup, soaps, sexual lubricants, douches, and lipsticks actually touch mucous membranes that are designed for permeability. This means they are sucking up the chemicals immediately. A bar of soap with no added garbage may seem like small peanuts compared to these other things, but it’s cheap and is something you’re exposed to daily so it’s worth the effort.
Many of these chemicals are already banned in most countries but the US will not tighten up their regulations. The FDA… The FDA… The FDA was designed for consumer protection, they may do some of that…they do a lot of not that. Not my favorite organization. I will include at the end of this the list of ingredients often found in personal care products that you really should start reading labels for. They have been shown to have carcinogenic or risky reactions in enough people that this list has been made, seems like enough proof for me.
The soaping process it’s self is some simple chemistry. It takes some time, a good thermometer, a food scale, and moderate safety precautions but is a very simple and fun process that you can do. There are several books I like about soaping (big surprise huh?) and most of the recipes I have used come from these books. I have never had one come out really bad. Sometimes they don’t seem to smell strong enough or the color is off but I’ve never made one that I had to throw away or anything like that. Keep it simple at first and find a class if you’re nervous about the proper safety techniques you’ll need when working with lye.
This time we tried an all tallow bar and one with mixed olive oil, lard, and coconut oil. We made a bar with oatmeal and honey for baths and the kids to use. The other was rosemary lemon and should be kind of scrubby and feel good on our muscles. I will likely still try a hot process soap to make a cleaning bar for around the house. There are recipes out there for all kinds of soaps. You can make kitchen cleaning soaps, laundry soaps, shampoo bars, skin bars, anything you could want. So if you have animals that you butcher regularly, maybe you can use the lard to make your dishwasher or laundry soap too, wouldn’t that be cool?
Sometimes with natural products I find that maybe I could wash the clothes with it every other time as it may or may not be as strong as I’m used to with commercial bought products. But that can still save me money and decrease my input to the waste cycle at least a little bit more. If you’ve ever had to wash your own clothes by hand with Dr. Bronners for an extended period of time you know that the washing machine is really what is doing the most work to clean our clothes, a more mild soap often doesn’t change that they still smell better when you’re done.
This was one homestead chore though that was not fun for the kids. Fred and Fran wanted to help a lot and were confused why they couldn’t come outside to mix the lye water. I did let them pour some finished soap into molds and they could have helped measure out the additives a little more probably, but bottom line, LYE IS DANGEROUS. It’s fine for adults doing their best but a kiddo could get hurt. Just remember that as you plan your own soap adventure. If you don’t have a personal source of tallow, go to your local farmers market! Leaf fat from a hog is the nicest fat for cooking so it will cost a lot as fat goes. Try to find a beef farmer who could save you tallow the next time they take cows to be butchered. There is also a lot of other fat on a hog that you might be able to negotiate a better price for.
I want to take a moment to encourage the people around me making healthy changes. As a provider I have seen that when you start to take care of your physical health, your relational and mental health will naturally start to improve and change. I think it boils down to boundaries. If you decide that to exercise; you start to delegate and make boundaries with your time and availability. This benefits you profusely. But guess who doesn’t like this? The people who rely on you to be a bottomless cup that just keeps pouring into their care, and their value. The people who can only comprehend you exactly as you are, who may not consciously realize they don’t support your personal growth, but who are not willing to grow themselves to accommodate you.
It can be strange to suddenly look in at your own life and see which people are saying: “I want you to be your happiest and live as fully as you want.” And which people are saying: “I want to take care of you, I want to keep you under control because that’s what I need.”. This looks different for everyone right? You don’t have to do a certain list of things, extravagant or simple to be living a full and happy life, it is totally up to the individual. However I hope that you occasionally take stock of the people around you and who you love because I must tell you dear patients, there are some who will be holding you hostage to an older version of yourself. This may be a version of yourself that you have outgrown but these relationships won’t allow you to grow, they won’t allow you to be yourself. Some people will be flexible and learn your new values and support you and others won’t understand you. This is a painful and sometimes heartbreaking realization.
If we set a boundary with someone, a new boundary, and their immediate reaction is to ignore it, shame you for it, or try to undermine you, you should notice that.
Here’s an example:
Person 1: “I want to start exercising Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, so I’m going to ask the baby sitter to stay another hour and a half those days, it will cost 40 more dollars a week.”
Person 2: “You don’t really mean, that, you won’t go! I’m not spending money on that, you’re just wasting our money and time, you never actually go to the gym. No way.”
Person 1: “I am going to try eating more servings of veggies every day; so I’ll be trying some new dinners this week. Is there anything you’d like to request? I’ll have to shop tomorrow.”
Person 2: “I won’t eat that shit. I don’t like vegetables you know that. It will just rot in the fridge, don’t waste money on that. You have to make stuff that I like because I don’t have time to cook, I’m at work.”
Woah right? Reading this stuff written out it seems obvious that these are harsh reactions. But do you know how many conversations I have in my office that involve these exact dialogues??? EVERYDAY. In neither example did Person 2 even recognize that Person 1 is trying to do something new and good for themselves, they didn’t even ask them anything about it! Person 1 was direct, open, and tried to ask for input and they were SHUT DOWN. If you’re like me (female) there are days of the month where these kinds of responses would shut me down for good, there are days where it might lead to a fight, and there are days where I would be able to have a rational conversation with Person 2. (To be fair, in my old age my patience for rational conversation is getting smaller, these are my needs, these are my boundaries, deal with it! But maybe that’s too stubborn too.)
Let’s say you are Person 2 now, your partner comes home all excited and they want to make a change. How can we be more supportive?
Person 1: “ I don’t want to watch as much tv, I’d like to try an hour or less every day. I might be spending more time in the garage working on projects.”
Person 2: “Oh, I didn’t know you were concerned about that, did something happen? That makes me nervous because that’s when we spend a lot of time together. Do you think less of me because I still like to watch tv? Could we make a deal to spend more time together doing something else (the dishes, clean the kitchen, go for a walk, date night for sure every week)?”
Person 1: “I’m tired of the sugar and wasted money of buying a coffee every day. I’m going to invest in this $40 thermos and a $100 coffee pot so I can make it at home and take it to work.”
Person 2: “Woah, hang on. That sounds like a lot of money, let me think about that. I didn’t know you were worried about this, have you been reviewing our budget? Do you think we need to be saving more money? I have also been wanting to eat less sugar and it’s been so hard, so I’m frustrated, nothing I have tried has worked to lose any weight. I would like to try it too, but I can use the to-go cup I already have.”
Here Person 2 is trying to at least stop their knee jerk reaction to say no. They try to repeat back a little, or ask a question about what is going on for their partner. They are trying to understand them a little. Couples that lose their shared values are in trouble and it's important to explain why you'd like to make a change. Often the harsh reactions come from something in those last examples, their boundary triggers our own inadequacy: Do you look down on me now for the choices I’m making? I’ve been making the dinners for 5 years, are you mad at me for not serving enough veggies? I’ve been overweight since I lost my job, do you think I should be going to the gym? Will you not love me if I don’t (FILL IN THE BLANK). We have to be gentle with ourselves and the ones we love. If you can learn to navigate these things, talk it out, actually be vulnerable with each other, you will both grow and find a new normal that makes you happier than you were before. If it gets stuck in the conflict area, self care starts to feel scary and toxic, like you might lose your partner over it. This thought can scare anyone into giving up and not choosing a healthy new habit. There can be times where a partner who won't support you is a serious problem, and plenty of times where it is just a lack of communication.
Generally as people start down a new health path, I recommend that they don’t make big relational changes right away. We have to give people a change to adapt to our new values, a chance to understand them. It’s hard for me to understand if we as a society are loosing our abilities to grow and change within a relationship or if we are more empowered now as individuals to make ourselves happy which may just mean our types of relationships are going to change throughout our lives differently than they have historically. Either way, if you want to make a healthy change for your self but feel nothing but resistance from your peer group or your family, know that your health providers are here for you. We support you. You will grow into the new spaces and meet new people who DO want to get smoothies instead of beers, who DO want to go hiking before going to the brewery, and who DO want you to be happier than you were yesterday.
This month I've been working on my snack game. Buying packaged snacks has two big bummers for me; they generally always have vegetable oils in them and the wasteful packaging.
For those of you who don't know, vegetable oils are not good for you. I am especially talking about poly unsaturated and trans fats (think, soy oil, canola oil, safflower, crisco). These fats have risen in popularity as we have demanded shelf stable foods (packaged goods) and they are cheap and backed by big corporate and government lobbies. But there are boat loads or research showing how bad they are for you, here's a quick snipet talking about vegetable oils:
"All promote inflammation starting in the gut and extending into the arteries, nervous system, and everywhere else in your body. They also block enzymes involved in breaking down fat for energy, and thus can contribute to weight gain—especially the most inflammatory type of weight gain—around the waist, called omental fat."
(continue reading this article here: drcate.com/vegetable-oil-is-everywhere/ )
that article as a great chart at the top to review for when you're checking labels. I have also seen studies about how these oils create free radicles and can lead to the kind of brain inflammation that exacerbates behavioral issues in kids (think ADD, autism, asthma). Generally bad dudes. I really read a lot of labels and have had to move some of my favorite snacks to once and a while treats (like chips and junk goodies) and some of them the ingredients are so bad, it doesn't even sound good anymore. Which is a sad day BUT it leaves a lot of room for new stuff.
Packaging is also a bummer. If every time you are holding something in your hand to put in the garbage you stop and think, this is going to exist in a huge garbage pile FOREVER, you start to not want to put things in that garbage bag. I have no bulk grocery stores near me right now which means everything comes sealed and packaged. It is what it is, but if I can put my homemade snack into a container to bring, it does something.
About a year ago my sister gave me a cookbook/zine/magazine that had lots of snacks in it. I hadn't really gotten to it until this month and YUM!!!! For those of you who might be new to cooking and baking at home, I'll try to break the shopping lists into "staple pantry" which will mean: this is a pantry good you will use in lots of stuff, you should be a reasonable amount and always replace it when you run out. And, "extra pantry" which means: this is probably recipe specific. Usually these items you can buy the exact amount if you're near a bulk grocery store OR you might already have something else you could substitute in ( like, pecans for walnuts, or dates for raisins). These two snacks did make for an expensive grocery run, I will be honest. But I ended up with some great high nutrition goods in my pantry that inspired me to make other things throughout the week. These recipes come from: Donna Hay: Fresh and Light. Issue 9, www.donnahay.com.
Rosemary, Caraway, and Pistachio Crackers
1.5 cups wholemeal plain flou
1 tbspn rosemary (i subbed thyme)
1 tbspn caraway seeds
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt flakes (i subbed kosher salt)
1 tbspn milk
3/4 cup pistachios (these were super tastey in the cracker and I think worth the cost)
1/2 cup raisins
1.5 cups almond meal (or you can grind almonds)
you will also need: parchment paper and a 20 cm square tin (I used a lasagna pan and my crackers were too thin)
Preheat to 325 degrees F
combine: almond meal, flour, pistachios, raisins, raosemary, caraway seeds, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and stir to combine.
Add the eggs and milk and stir well to form a dough (tip: lightly beat the eggs and milk until they're combined then add to the dough)
Press dough into a lightly greased pan lined with the parchment paper and cook for 30 min or until golden. Let cool completely.
Remove and slice into 3mm thick pieces, place on oven trays again with parchment paper if you want (mine came off fine without it) and bake for 15-20 min until golden and firm. (don't rush this part, I was in a hurry and they could have been drier and crunchier)
Enjoy!! They are a savory cracker, I ate mine with hummus and feta cheese and it was SO YUMMY.
Last week I had the privilege of sitting down with Mr. David Modderman from Real Results Fitness for a talk over a LaCroix (it was pamplemousse. Of course.). When he shot down my idea to meet at the brewery for a beer I immediately became intimidated by someone who is disciplined around food since I am mindful but VERY easily swayed about my food choices. However after a short time it became apparent that David is a super sensible, super driven, and super friendly advocate for health and his clients.
Before we met, he shared a graphic on social media that I just loved; it's two pie charts about how people think of the balance between exercise and food when trying to make a life change for themselves. In general people see the largest piece of the pie as cardio. That thought is intimidating and is one of the things that make people say, "I've tried exercising before, I hate it and I didn't lose weight.". He then proposed in the second chart that the largest pie piece is FOOD. We talked at length about the importance of nutrient dense, fermented, and high quality foods in your daily diet versus a one size fits all model for getting in shape or meeting whatever your health goals are. I was so happy to hear him talk so much about meeting the right goals for his clients; he is of service to them. Some gyms like to push their methods on everyone, I have seen a lot of folks get hurt by those situations. It's not the right work out or diet for you but you try to do it anyway and then get hurt or disappointed that you're not getting the results you want. David offers and much more custom plan that will help you get on track for the long haul.
I have been struggling with how much I need to do diet and exercise coaching as a part of my practice. I understand, we all need support to make these big changes. But I am trained to adjust joints and spines! And want to spend my time making bodies work better by restoring motion and decreasing pain and inflammation; I am thrilled to find a level headed provider so close by to help with the food and exercise! He wants to help you get the most out of the hours you can devote to fitness each week which includes not just the exercise but the meal prep! the shopping! all the other stuff that makes these changes hard.
We chatted so much about making our businesses sustainable for our personal lives and professional goals, that I never actually asked my interview questions I had planned. We both seemed to resonate that western medicine is important, it saves lives everyday but their view point can be limited. Don't give up on yourself if you're having symptoms you've been told are "normal" or "come back when it's worse" or "we just don't know". Finding health through nutrition, sensitivities, and helping the body function better is possible and a VERY successful route. I know it is easy to write off food sensitivities, mold, chemical allergies off as another medical fad; another thing that everyone thinks they have but it isn't real. Just remember that our ENTIRE product and food streams have changed DRAMATICALLY over the last 3 decades. The chemicals and foods we're exposed too daily are new, and are causing changes to our immune systems so don't be afraid to get to the bottom of your health problems.
I also love that he offers some small group training! Small group training is one of my favorite ways to work out. I don't like going to big gyms because sweaty people leering at me and leering back isn't like my favorite vibe. I "work out" on my own but get bored with it too. Small group means, fun friends, fun music, supporting each other to reach goals, and fitness to be YOUR best self, not to look at muscles in the mirrors. (well, maybe sometimes).
SO go check him out! Or if you have patient/client who needs a leg up to make some change, he's there for you!
Find him on facebook:
good luck out there!
I'm so excited for this guest post by Dr. Przystas. One of the best parts of working in the birth community are THE OTHER HOLISTIC BIRTH PROFESSIONALS! I met Dr. Przystas at an event and got so excited about the pelvic floor work she is doing. I asked her to create a post that tells us about her journey to doing pelvic floor work and why she is passionate about getting this care to women. I find a good percentage of my postpartum patients benefit from pelvic floor work. Pelvic and sacrum pain that wont resolve with adjustments alone, persistent bladder leaking or pain with sex, and even big emotional blocks that can show up with having a new baby in the family and the way a womans body becomes a home to that baby and herself.
Stories, projects, and ideas from office to farm. Be well! Dr. J