Point to Ponder: Do you struggle with contentment, have trouble appreciating your life and/or find yourself always looking for the next best thing?
by Neissa Brown Springmann
In an effort to fill my life with as much motivation and positive thinking as possible, I subscribe to inspirational and spiritual email services, read nurturing books, surround myself with “light-giving” people, spend time outside and try to exercise several times a week. One of the email newsletters I receive is called Simple Truths, and several times a week they send quotes, short videos and exerts from their books. Just this week I scrolled through one of the newsletters titled “Attitude is Everything.” Honestly, because this message has been drilled into my brain since as far back as I can remember, I initially disregarded it, as I knew it wasn’t going to be new information. This was “old hat” and the reality is that I was looking for cutting-edge wisdom — the latest and greatest that would knock my socks off.
Never-the-less, I reluctantly played the encouraging video and as I suspected there was nothing new. I had read and listened to these words hundreds of times, however because it was ageless wisdom and my life is always evolving, it actually blew my socks off, again! The words were relevant and a necessary way of thinking and living. I immediately became re-inspired and humbled, and it dawned on me that my way of thinking is what led Eve down the path of destruction. I was looking for the next best thing, the shiny and juicy red apple that would give me an advantage in life, but the truth is the old and simple stuff was plenty good. It was enough. In addition, good and bad habits are formed upon repetition and because the substance of the following inspiration by Simple Truth is vital to keeping a positive state of mind, I will continue to read, share, and try my best to live it. Here is what they suggest:
Wait to Worry
Only 8% of what we worry about comes true.
“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, but only empties today of its strength.” ~ Charles Spurgeon
Keep an Attitude of Gratitude
Count your blessings and jot them down.
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” ~ William Arthur Ward
Your Health is Your Wealth
If you lose your health you lost everything. Take time to exercise, catch up on your sleep and eat right.
“One of the main qualities it takes to be successful is energy….it may be the only thing.” ~ Katharine Hepburn
Do something for someone else….the good you do boomerangs back to you!
“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” ~ Booker T. Washington
Learn to Say “No”
We have limits to our time, energy and interests.
“If we always say ‘yes,’ we run a greater danger of severing relationships than if we refuse right away.” ~ Vicki Hitzges
Understand the Power of Discipline
If you discipline yourself today, you’ll enjoy your life tomorrow.
“Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody else expects of you.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher
Surround Yourself with Positive People
Find people who will challenge you, believe in your and inspire you to improve.
“To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides.” ~ David Viscott
All in all, I do think it is important to be open to learning and exploring new things. Knowledge is power and a key component of growth, however I also believe that most humans struggle with contentment (THAT’S ME!) which keeps us chasing the next best thing and in a perpetual state of wanting and needing more. Therefore, as we continue to seek new information, opportunities, and adventure, remember to not over-think it and keep it simple. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel and most often our most sacred treasures are right under our noses, like the bee pollinating the flower in the picture. While the bee is only a tiny little insect, they are the most efficient pollinators whose impact is incredible! Without them, many of the flowers we love would not exist, we would not be able to enjoy the deliciousness of honey as well as a long list of fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains. However, because of that simple little critter, life is a whole lot sweeter, just as so many other “little things” in our life.
Action Item: Practice contentment by taking a moment to stop, breathe and focus on your life: the tumultuous times you have overcome and the wisdom you thankfully gained from them; the struggles and inconveniences that you are currently enduring and the growth opportunities you are receiving from them; and the relationships, blessings and “little things” that you might often look past. In this busy, accomplishment-oriented and task-driven world we live in, take the time to focus on the “small things” and give thanks for the big impact they have had and currently have on your life.
I think it is extremely important to start out on the right foot, so to speak. I teach nutritional lifestyle in my practice with a focus on identifying toxic foods and transitioning to eliminating the offending foods. Therefore, there seems to be a generally accepted opinion that my diet is perfect — even though I frequently share with my patients and class attendees that it is not. To that point, I will begin with my nutritional story to emphasize my imperfect dietary history.
Growing Up a Sugar Addict
Let’s be frank! My greatest weaknesses are sweet things. I have spent most of my life consuming large amounts of sugar. I grew up eating the obviously sugar-laden Captain Crunch, Fruity Pebbles, Dolly Madison Sweet Rolls and Donuts for breakfast, something made with Ms. Baird’s white bread, McDonalds, Wendy’s and Burger King with a large soda for lunch, Hamburger Helper for dinner. I typically snacked on chips, Oreos, Chips Ahoy or, of course, a Snickers bar. I was an addict without knowing any better.
In hindsight, I see how this dietary lifestyle contributed to my intense hypoglycemia, adrenal exhaustion, recurring injuries in sports and other various symptoms as a youth. After graduating from college and striking out on my career as an educator, I made minor changes to my diet in an attempt to eat healthier. I changed from putting sugar in my tea to using Sweet & Low and eventually NutraSweet. I changed my morning meal to Toaster Strudel, an extra large banana nut muffin or an occasional donut, my lunch stayed about the same with the addition of fried chicken and then dinner was whatever delicious meal my lovely wife prepared. (Did I tell you that she is from Southern Louisiana?) The only motivation for diet modification in my life was physique and, at the time, my metabolism was such that I could stuff myself at an all-you-can-eat-buffet 6 days a week and not gain a pound …not so now.
Making Changes for the Better
I grew up in a household that utilized almost only Western medicine with my mom being a registered nurse and my stepfather a family physician. It wasn’t until I retired from teaching and went back to school for my Doctorate in Chiropractic that I learned what healthy eating was all about. I would like to say that we made changes because I was motivated by the higher ideal of living to my highest potential, but the truth is that my oldest daughter was experiencing bizarre rashes and illnesses. So, like many parents, I was motivated to find a solution to our child’s illnesses that were not adequately being addressed by Western medicine.
The more classes and seminars that I attended, the more we implemented healthy lifestyle practices in our home and life, and the better we all felt. Within a year’s time, I gave up fast food, a diet soda habit (roughly 6 per day), most of my concentrated sweets like candy bars and candy, and transitioned to more real foods. Around 2006, after years of being told I had a gluten sensitivity, I finally committed myself to eliminating gluten from my diet (my mom had colon cancer, and I decided that I would like to be around for my kids and their kids) and, a short time later, I eliminated most dairy as well.
Today, I usually start the day with a smoothie of kale, cucumber, ginger, lime, beet, 8 oz. of pomegranate juice, a handful of berries, vegan or egg white protein and water and on the weekends I usually indulge with a vegetable omelet sans cheese. Pretty amazing journey from where I started!
The Truth about Sugar & Sweeteners
Based on what I hear from my patients, staff and what we experience in our own home, November through the New Year is the most difficult time of the year. Even for the most diligent healthy-eater, we all tend to give in to the “holiday cheer” and indulge in the starch-rich foods, sugar-laden goodies and maybe a little more alcohol than usual. What is the answer? What are the healthiest choices you could make? Are sugar-free sweeteners the answer? Are sugar-free sweeteners really safe? Let’s answer all of these questions, as well as some that you might have thought to ask.
A Sugar Epidemic
The only concentrated sugar that early man would have had access to was honey. But observational research of modern-day hunter-gatherers shows that the average honey consumptions was minor—maybe four pounds, or three percent of total calories, over the course of an entire year. (1,2) At the turn of the last century, the typical American consumed an average of 158 pounds of sugar per year (this is more than 1 cup/day!). High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) was a huge breakthrough in the sweetener industry because it is twenty times sweeter than cane sugar, cheaper to produce and smaller amounts need to be used to achieve the same sweetening effect. “HFCS is now nearly the exclusive caloric sweetener used in the soft drink industry, and it is also used in juice, condiments, jams, and wine but is not available for home use. Presently, HFCS dominates the sweetener industry, accounting for 55 percent of the market and $4.5 billion in annual sales. In 2003, Americans consumed sixty-one pounds of HFCS per person.” (3)
The multiplying factor for most people is the hidden sugar in their food supply. Most processed foods contain sugar. Even foods you would not expect to have sugar are heavily laden with it, including salad dressings, medications, sauces, cereals, alcohol, peanut butter… and just about everything that comes in a box, bag or a can. Sugar is an inexpensive flavor enhancer and bulking agent used by food manufacturer companies. My patients often tell me, “I don’t eat that much sugar!” …but they are usually only considering candy, cake, ice cream, candy bars, hard candy, etc. They are typically not considering all of the different sources by which they take in sugar (HFCS and other refined sugars are considered sugar in the context of this article).
You can certainly do your own research, but a few of the well-documented health risks include increased risk of: diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, depression, allergies, Candida, fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, arthritis, hormone imbalance, food allergies and much more.
“In 1986, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a report on American sugar consumption and its harmful effects on health. One of the conclusions (based on published studies) was that diets containing 25 percent or more of their calories as sugar could result in one or more of the following:
“Western nations are in the midst of the worst obesity epidemic to ever hit the planet. There are record numbers of cancers, heart attacks, strokes and Alzheimer’s disease. One of the primary culprits is our craving for sugar, combined with the convenience and affordability of many processed foods that contain it.” (3)
It seems that logic would dictate that a simple solution to the problem of trying to reduce sugar consumption would be to use artificial sweeteners. In fact, Americans consume twenty plus pounds of artificial sweeteners per day per yearwithout any effect on the exponential rates of obesity and other chronic degenerative diseases.
If you’re interested in the science behind it all, this is a great video explaining how sugar affects your brain:
Alternative Sweeteners: Saccharin, Aspartame and Splenda
The big three alternative sweeteners, Sweet & Low®, aspartame and Splenda® were all accidently discovered. Saccharin was developed in the process of working with the toxic chemical Toluene, aspartame was originally developed as a drug to treat peptic ulcer disease and Splenda® was originally being developed as an insecticide. There is much debate over each of these products, their safety and their alleged health benefits.
My personal experience with aspartame side effects came from my ten-year diet soda habit. I began to struggle with focus and concentration which grew alarmingly worse over time. After I began chiropractic school, I was struggling with memory and focus. A classmate of mine asked me if I ingested products containing aspartame. I told him of my love for diet soda and chewing gum (loaded with artificial sweeteners) and he recommended that I quit. He also recommended I research aspartame more deeply. After three days of discontinuing my diet soda and chewing gum habit, it felt like my brain came alive and my focus and concentration issues became a thing of the past. I have seen similar responses with my patients. Specifically, Brent scheduled a nutritional consultation appointment asking me to load him up with any and all supplements that could improve his failing memory and focus. I inquired to his aspartame intake, discovering that he also was a diet coke addict. I suggested he quit the diet soda and contact me in a few days. He called me two days later excited that his brain was working again!
Is aspartame an effective weight loss product? There is research that shows that aspartame may actually cause people to gain weight. The amino acids in aspartame have been shown to cause a rapid release of insulin and leptin, which signal the body to store fat. Large doses of the amino acid phenylalanine can decrease serotonin, a critical neurotransmitter that helps the body with satiety, the feeling of being full. (3)
Regarding Splenda, “’The FDA’s final ruling noted that no adverse health effects were attributed to sucralose given to animals at doses hundreds of times higher than maximum estimated intakes in humans. However, most of the taste research scientists interviewed for a recent article on sucralose refuse to eat it. One of them commented, ‘I look at that structure and have an irrational fear of it. I’ve seen the safety studies, and you feed it to rats and mice forever and nothing happens. But it scares me.’ – Burkhard Bilger, reporter for the New Yorker Magazine” (4)
Healthy Sweetener Use Guide
Sweeteners to Avoid
(Sweetener data in this chart was adapted from Sweet Deception3)
Where do I go from here?
As I shared with you at the beginning of this article, I have struggled mightily with my sugar addictions, and when not controlled well, I notice many negative symptoms associated with my sugar intake. Most natural caloric sweeteners are simple sugar carbohydrates that will cause elevated blood sugar levels and over time can lead to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome (elevated triglycerides, cholesterol, low HDL, central obesity, hypertension), obesity and diabetes. Some sweeteners are safer than others, and the general rule is: the less-processed, the better. It is critical that you do your own research to help you decide which sweeteners are best for you. Lastly, when you use sweeteners, artificial or natural, you begin to lose your sensitivity to sweetness, requiring you to use more and more to achieve the sweetness you desire.
Even when I am eating “God’s diet” (a diet with foods that are mostly unaltered by man), my ultimate personal goal and my recommendation to patients would be to limit intake or eliminate all sweeteners from your diet. This goal may seem overwhelming and unachievable, but when you are eating a diet that your body was designed to eat, sugar cravings will almost always be significantly reduced or even disappear.
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Dr. Jeff Ulery, D.C.‘s practice at Austin Whole Body Health aims to identify the underlying cause of patients’ pain and allergies, instead of merely treating symptoms. Whole Body Health believes in a holistic, functional and alternative approach to health, and provides chiropractic care, acupuncture and supporting adjunctive care that aligns with these principles.
Sweet Deception Why Splenda®, NutraSweet® and the FDA May Be Hazardous to Your Health by Dr. Joseph Mercola and Dr. Kendra Degen Pearsall
76 Ways That Sugar Can Destroy Your Health from Lick the Sugar Habit (Avery Publishing Group, 1996) by Nancy Appleton, PhD, http://www.nancyappleton.com
Aspartame Disease: An Ignored Epidemic by H.J. Roberts, M.D.
• B. Meehan, Shell Bed to Shell Midden (Canberra, Australia: Humanities Press, 1982).
• K. Hawkes, K. Hill, and J.F. O’Connell, “Why Hunters Gather: Optimal Foraging and the Ache of Eastern Paraguay,” American Enthonologist 9 (1982): 379-98.
• J. Mercola and K. D. Pearsall, Sweet Deception Why Splenda®, NutraSweet® and the FDA May Be Hazardous to Your Health (Nelson Books, 2008).
• Burkhard Bilger, “The Search for Sweet,” New Yorker, May 22, 2006.
Who knew peppermint patties could be so healthy! This recipe from Oh She Glows is gluten-free, vegan, super simple and de-lish. Sprinkle some red sparkly glitter candy on them and they become holiday peppermint patties. Enjoy!
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
3-4 tablespoons agave nectar, to taste (I used 4 tbsp)
2 tablespoons almond milk
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 tablespoon coconut oil
Place cashews in a bowl and cover with water. Let soak overnight, or for at least 2-3 hours. If your blender isn’t great at blending things smooth, I suggest soaking overnight for the best results. Drain and rinse the cashews after soaking.
Add the cashews, melted coconut oil, agave, milk, and peppermint extract into a high-speed blender. Blend on the highest speed until completely smooth. This can take a couple minutes.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grab mini cupcake/candy liners. Add a half tablespoon of filling into each liner. Place on the baking sheet. Repeat until you don’t have any filling left (you should get about 22-25). Freeze, uncovered, for 20-35 minutes, or until firm to the touch.
After freezing, quickly pop the patties out of the cupcake liners and set each on top of their respective liner. Return to the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up even more. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate and coconut oil in a small pot over the lowest heat. When half of the chips have melted, remove it from the heat and stir until all the chips are melted. Allow the chocolate to cool slightly for a few minutes before dunking the patties.
Remove the patties from the freezer and dunk them into the melted chocolate with a fork. Tap the side to shake off excess chocolate and place on parchment paper. Do this step as quickly as possible so the patties don’t melt.
Return the patties to the freezer until set, for about 10 minutes, until the chocolate coating is firm. Store leftover patties in the freezer/fridge until ready to enjoy!
*Note: you can sub in your favourite liquid sweetener for agave, if desired. Just know that the flavour will change depending on the sweetener you use.
For at least the past five years I have prepared this delicious, healthy and beautiful dish for both Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinner. (I like to bake it in a 1-quart casserole dish instead of in ramekins.) So I thought I’d pass it along for those of you looking for a dish for your upcoming Thanksgiving celebration — consider trying this one out! It’s always a hit with my family.
Who doesn’t like brussels sprouts? Actually… we know that most people do not enjoy them; however, cooked the right way and with balsamic vinegar, they are easy, de-lic-ious and filled with a healthy amount of fiber! We love this recipe from WhiteOnRiceCouple.com:
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Vinegar
1 1/2 pounds Brussels Sprouts
3 tablespoons Extra-virgin Olive Oil (don’t use the cheap stuff. The tastier the oil, the tastier the dish)
1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar Sea Salt, to taste Fresh Cracked Pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to roast at 375°F.
Peel the outer, beat-up layers of the brussels sprouts off. Trim the end, then cut brussels sprouts in half.
In a large bowl, toss together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Then add the brussels sprouts and toss evenly with the oil mixture.
Lightly oil a sheet pan, then spread out the brussels sprouts, cut side down. Roast in oven for 15 min., flip the sprouts to cut side up, then roast for 10-15 minutes more or until gently browned.
That’s it. If you want you can serve them with a little creme fraiche, or maybe toss them with a touch more oil & balsamic for an extra tang. These make an excellent easy side dish, or a nice little munchie.
Let’s face it, eating Halloween candy is inevitable. Even the most disciplined of people will sneak a few pieces. Therefore, as you comb through your child’s pumpkin bucket or the office candy bin, we thought it would be helpful to know the top five “best” candy choices.
3 Musketeer Minis: 1 Fun Size bar contains 63 calories, 2 grams of fat and 11 grams of sugar. Instead of chocolate bars filled with caramel or peanuts, choose this lighter, chocolaty snack that has far fewer calories and fat than other chocolate bars.
York Peppermint Patty: 1 full-size bar contains 165 calories, 3 grams of fat and 27 grams of sugar. This light, refreshing treat is also lower in calories and fat than heavier chocolate treats. Added bonus? It leaves you with minty-fresh breath 🙂
Tootsie Roll: 1 small Tootsie Roll contains 50 calories, 1 gram of fat and 10 grams of sugar. Try this old favorite that offers a chewy, chocolate fix in moderation. But beware, at 50 calories each, the calorie count can really add up.
Peanut or Almond M&M’s: 1 Fun Size Pouch contains 90 calories, 5 grams of fat and 9 grams of sugar. Peanut M&M’s aren’t a bad choice when you think about the fact that their peanuts contain protein, which provides a small boost of energy. The portion-control pouch is an added advantage for weight-watching candy lovers.
Charms Blow Pops: One Charms Blow Pop contains 60 calories, 0 fat and 13 grams of sugar. Lollipops are a great way to keep your mouth busy (and not eating other high calorie foods). With only 60 calories and gum included, you can’t lose!
To cut straight to the chase, coconut oil is good for almost everything you can imagine. Just some of the seemingly endless benefits of this incredible superfood are:
Coconut oil is a healthy fat that is anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant and anti-fungal
It will balance cholesterol levels. Higher consumption of coconut oil is linked to healthy cholesterol levels and a lower rate of heart disease.
It is easily converted into energy and does not lead to fat accumulation in the heart or arteries. It boosts energy and endurance and enhances athletic performance. Coconut water is a great post workout drink!
It will help fight Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and MS
It will enrich a mother’s milk.
It helpsboost metabolism and aids in weight loss and promotes fat loss.
Yes, it is a saturated fat, but we need that for hormone production, cellular health, bone health, and our immune system.
It is a very powerful immune booster.
It increases the activity of anti-oxidant enzymes in the body.
It kills bacteria and parasites, eases acid reflux, aids in bowel function, lowers the risk of hemorrhoids and protects against liver degeneration.
It is good for stress relief.
It is good for the hair as it promotes healthy hair growth, keeping it shiny and eliminating dandruff. It can also be used to rid the head of lice and is a great hair conditioner.
It is great for your skin. It can be used as a cleanser, moisturizer, eye makeup remover etc. It will help delay wrinkles and aging. You can even use it as a body lotion and can put it on your feet to soften calluses.
It heals infections both topically and internally. It can be used as a solid or a liquid, but be sure to NEVER liquify it in the microwave — this will completely change the molecular structure.
It is great for cooking, as it has a high heat tolerance and will not become rancid due to high heat.
There is not a single reason not to add coconut oil to your daily regimen! It’s a super food. While you’re at it, drink coconut water and add coconut flakes to your recipes, too! And MOST IMPORTANTLY, use extra virgin organic coconut oil. Can’t find organic? Go for extra virgin coconut oil as a bare minimum.
A FEW EASY WAYS TO ADD COCONUT OIL TO YOUR DIET:
The simplest way is to add a tablespoon of coconut oil to any smoothie as you are making it. One of my daughters actually loves to just eat a spoonful right off the spoon!
When I make the iGnite Peanut Butter Protein bars, sometimes they can be a little dry depending on the oil in the peanut butter or almond butter I’m using. So, I melt coconut oil and add it to the bars to make them more moist. You can do this to pretty much anything!
It is great to use to sauté or stir fry when not using a very high temperature.
You can substitute coconut oil for olive oil. (Olive oil is best served at room temperature.) I often see chips at The Barton Creek Farmer’s Market that are made solely with corn tortillas and coconut oil!
You can add it to morning cereal, oatmeal, cream of wheat etc.
It is a good oil to pop popcorn in for your “movie night” at home. (Try to avoid microwave popcorn!)
You can actually buy coconut oil pills to take if you absolutely do not like the taste/texture of the actual coconut oil.
And to re-emphasize, always buy extra virgin organic coconut oil! In Austin, it can be easily found at Sprouts, Whole Foods and Central Market.
And last but not least, for a sweet treat I recommend making these delicious truffles:
CHOCOLATE COCONUT TRUFFLES
1/2 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup honey
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 t. sea salt
1 cup dried shredded unsweetened coconut
2 1/4 cups cocoa or carob powder divided
Toss coconut oil, honey, vanilla, 2 cups of the cocoa or carob powder, salt and coconut in a food processor, processing until smooth.
Remove and allow to chill in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.
Form truffles by rolling into small balls and dredge with remaining 1/4 cup of cocoa or carob powder.