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  • Read your labels everyone!

    This has been a tough couple of months trying to eat a healthier diet. The occasional pie, cake and ice cream dessert is to be expected over the holidays and even during this time of year. Now, though, I try so hard to get back on the healthy eating wagon. Healthier snacks, no ice cream (!!) small servings of desserts (as the family cannot apparently live without them now) etc. and Wham! Valentine’s day and chocolate….sugar and fat, they’re everywhere.

    Knowing where the sugar and fat are coming from are one thing. I can control what I put in and how much of it. I read labels regularly too, to check on saturated fat content and the % of fat and sugar I may be consuming.

    Why, I ask myself, when I feel like I’m eating better, do I find out that there are hidden sugars in almost everything?!?!? Loaves of bread, Applesauce, Barbecue sauce, Almond milk, spaghetti sauce! What’s happening here means I have to be much more vigilant in reading labels.

    If you don’t read labels yet, you should do so now! The following list is all the different names for sugar: Be on the lookout for these being added in the same item, ingredients are listed in the order of weight; the higher a substance is in the label, the more of it the food contains.

    Manufacturers use more than one type of sugar in a product and are allowed to list them separately, which may give the impression that a food had less sugar than it does.

    Agave nectar   Agave syrup   Barley malt   Beet sugar   Brown rice syrup   Brown rice sugar

    Cane juice solids   Cane sugar   Caramel   Coconut sugar   Corn sweetener   Corn syrup

    Date sugar   Dextrose   Evaporated cane juice   Fructose   Fruit juice concentrate

    Glucose   High fructose corn syrup   Honey   Invert sugar syrup   Malt syrup

    Maltodextrin   Maltose   Maple syrup   Molasses   Sorghum syrup   Sucrose   Treacle

    So, the lesson here is to read the label carefully as more than one of these could be present in a single item.

    It is not recommended to stop eating sugar all at once! Remember when altering a diet of any kind, start small and work your way up to bigger changes.

    Know how much sugar you are ingesting and how much your children are eating. Pay attention to the labels! Fresh fruits and vegetables are free from added sugars, so start there and add more of those to the household meal menu.

    According to Consumer’s Digest, excess sugar consumption has been linked to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

    If it’s as simple as reading a label and making some changes to what we may be used to, I can do that, can you?!?!?


    The Benefits of Walking

    We’ve heard about the benefits of movement, and as mentioned in an Oprah magazine article, moving every day is the single best thing we can do for a longer life. This is a tough time of year for us Northeasterners, we have winter to deal with, so walking outside isn’t always an option. Community centers however, often have great tracks for walking and running and let’s not forget the gym equipment, whether it’s in your living room or the actual gym, there are ways to get around the weather.

    Here are the steps to getting started on your walking habit:

    • Warm up before starting! Just because it sounds benign, walking (especially if you aren’t in the habit of it yet) is as hard on the body as any other exercise. Stretch the hamstrings, quads, knees and hips most especially before you start.
    • Pick a route that you know to be not only safe, but motivating as well. I love to walk through the local park that has the paved paths and the always inspiring scenery. Our walking park here even has exercise stopping points with various equipment available for stretching, pull-ups and the like.

    If you don’t have a nice park to walk through, stay to the left side of the road facing traffic; share the road and be courteous to those that give you a wide berth.

    • Start modestly, maybe a mile or two a day until you get into shape. Increase your distance when you feel motivated and confident to do so.
    • Drink plenty of water- stay hydrated- you will need it!
    • Listen to your body; if you feel pain, don’t ignore it.
    • If available, walk with a buddy! If not, load your ipod or phone with your favorite inspirational music or pod-cast.
    • Reduce your caloric intake so that all of your hard work isn’t thrown away by binge eating.

    Medicine.net provides the following information on the benefits of walking:

    Walking 150 minutes per week and losing just 7% of your body weight can reduce the risk of diabetes by 58%!

    Walking strengthens your heart! For males, mortality rates among retired men who walked less than a mile per day were nearly twice that of those who walked more than two miles per day. In a study of female nurses, those who walked three hours or more per week reduced their risk of a heart attack or other coronary event by 35% compared to women who did not walk at all.

    Walking is good for your brain. Researchers found that those who walked the equivalent of 1.5 hours per week had significantly better cognitive function and less cognitive decline than those who walked less than 40 minutes per week.

    Walking is good for your bones: postmenopausal women who walk approximately one mile each day have higher whole-body bone density than women who walk shorter distances.

    Walking for 30 minutes, 3 to 5 times per week for 12 weeks reduced symptoms of depression by 47%!

    The list goes on! Let’s walk people!!

    Did you know this? You have a Brain in your gut!

    A fascinating fact to remember- we have a secondary brain in our gut! This is an actual fact, in case you’re doubting it or have never heard of it. The ENS or Enteric Nervous System is located in the sheaths of tissue lining the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and colon. It is a series of neurons, neuro-transmitters and proteins that zap messages between neurons, support cells like those found in your “main” brain and a complex circuitry that enables it to act independently, learn, remember and produce “gut feelings!”

    What!!?? I know right? How cool is that? I never would have guessed that our two brains could work independently of each other! If you experience colitis, irritable bowel syndrome or some other stomach or intestinal issue, the “how” our two brains communicate with each other directly affects what our gut will be doing. Bacteria plays an important part as well, since every person’s gut bacteria is unique to them.

    There is way too much science to list here on how it all works, but the message is clear: your body is a well-oiled machine, tuned and working in the background at all times. This brain is known to help you make decisions based on “gut feelings”.  It is also directly affected when we feel emotions like anxiety and fear that may immediately result in symptoms in the gut that send you to the nearest bathroom.

    Your higher brain sends signals based on these feelings and decisions but the “gut brain” can actually work independently of it! Have you ever had that burning in your “gut” that lead to you changing your mind about something, like getting in that cab or all of a sudden realizing that you need to turn around “right now!” These are signs of your intuitive second brain in action!

    When you pay attention to these “feelings” or whatever it is that draws your attention, it is trying to tell you or make you aware of something that’s not quite right or different, so don’t ignore it!!

    The more information you have about how your body works, the more you can make decisions on feeding it properly by providing the best nutrition. Regulating your inner machine workings will go a long way in guaranteeing that your two brains will signal each other in a balanced way and you can always trust your natural “gut” instinct!!

    7 steps to Sleeping Better

    7 Steps to sleeping better: Jason Ong, a sleep psychologist at Rush University Medical Center, offers these quick reminders to help you get to sleep.

    Beginner’s mind
    Remember: Each night is a new night. Be open and try something different! What you have been doing to this point is probably not working well.

    Sleep is a process that cannot be forced but instead, should be allowed to unfold. Putting more effort into sleeping longer or better is counterproductive.

    Letting go
    Attachment to sleep or your ideal sleep needs usually leads to worry about the consequences of sleeplessness. This is counterproductive and inconsistent with the natural process of letting go of the day to allow sleep to come.

    It is easy to automatically judge the state of being awake as negative and aversive, especially if you do not sleep well for several nights. However, this negative energy can interfere with the process of sleep. One’s relationship to sleep can be a fruitful subject of meditation.

    Recognizing and accepting your current state is an important first step in choosing how to respond. If you can accept that you are not in a state of sleepiness and sleep is not likely to come soon, why not get out of bed? Many people who have trouble sleeping avoid getting out of bed. Unfortunately, spending long periods of time awake in bed might condition you to being awake in bed.

    Trust your sleep system and let it work for you! Trust that your mind and body can self -regulate and self-correct for sleep loss. Knowing that short consolidated sleep often feels more satisfying than longer fragmented sleep can help you develop trust in your sleep system. Also, sleep debt can promote good sleep as long as it is not associated with increased effort to sleep.

    Be patient! It’s unlikely that both the quality and quantity of your sleep will be optimal right away.

    Mindful Magazine, Dec. 2015



    I love this word! I love what it makes me feel just saying it in my head or out loud. I love the pictures that form instantly when I say awaken, like a flip book that goes from one picture to another randomly. There are a lot of great words in our language that trigger a visceral response, let’s delve a little deeper into this one shall we?

    The first picture this brings to mind for me is a baby, learning something new for the first time. The expression on their little face, the emotion they feel while experiencing this new thing leads to the awakening of their soul to something new as well. It’s absolutely priceless to be there and witness it with them.

    The same could be said of anyone I suppose learning or experiencing or even witnessing something for the first time that leads to some form of growth. The awakening of something new. A beautiful circle develops between people that experience an awakening of their own and the people that are there to witness it.

    Awakening also brings to mind my journey to where I am now, how I’ve evolved.

    I’ve learned a great deal about myself over the years. I was always the one watching and caring for others in certain situations, never really wanting to be front and center, don’t pick me etc. I was content with this, I was learning everything and learning about others as they learned too. When I started coming out of my shell, or comfort zone and made to participate more in the learning process, my awakening began!

    I had to come face to face with my flaws, (yes I had some, hard to believe,lol) I had to step out and be recognized for myself and I had to deal with the emotional backlash of that. We all feel not enough at some point in our lives, I was no exception, I was just better at hiding it and acting like it was all good.

    Awakening began when I stepped out and confronted myself from a different angle. Accepting these parts of myself that were not good enough and allowing growth and room to feel ok with that. As soon as I started this process, felt the emotions rolling through, allowed them the freedom of expression (crying, laughing, and getting angry) my insides started to unfold, like the petals of a flower. With each lift of release, I felt lighter.

    Walking into a room full of peers felt different and because I felt different, everyone around me reacted differently. I no longer felt invisible or shy, so lots more people met me in the eye and started talking to me. People that had intimidated me were the first ones to smile and wave.

    Awakening can be so much to so many, I hope this helps others that can relate to what I’ve been through. Being around the right people at the right time, reading a book at the right moment to spark a flame in you, participating in a webinar at the right time to help move you through to the next phase of life. These can all help awaken you to the power you alone have inside and allow you to be witness to others awakenings.



    Ahhh, Winter… 6 things to keep your spirits up this winter season!

    Here it is for us up north, the cold, blustery weather and the bleak and colorless landscapes. Yet, we all stay here! (Unless retired and snow birding it) Why?

    Some of us have no choice, that’s for sure. Families, histories, real estate etc. keep us where we are located and we deal with winter the best we can.

    How can we make this an uplifting season? Let’s go over 6 things to do this winter to keep our mood elevated and help us to look forward to each day.

    Winter is a harder season for some of us, mostly because of the driving conditions and cold winds. We can all agree on the beauty of it when the sun is shining and the wind is still, but honestly, how often is that? Let’s make a pledge to try these six ways to stay positive and hopeful this winter!

    1. Shoveling is great exercise! You can really burn some calories working the snow blower or shoveling by hand. When dressed properly for the wind, but not too heavily that you sweat and catch a chill, don’t hesitate to get out there and work it! If you regularly exercise, you’ll know your limits, if you don’t, make sure you never go past the initial muscle fatigue right away. Build your stamina, so that by the end of the season, you’re in better shape than when you started!
    2. Cuddle with the family! Winter is awesome for family time. Take out the board games, light some candles and enjoy a long night of Monopoly, Risk or your favorite game. How often during the busier months do we enjoy face to face time with each other?
    3. Read a good book or ten. Find your new favorite author or re-read your favorites from ten years ago. There’s nothing cozier than snow falling outside while warm and comfortable on the couch reading! Don’t forget that reading builds your vocabulary as well as sending a good message to your kids that reading can be fun and relaxing, not just a chore for school.
    4. Visit relatives that live in warmer climates! January is a great month for visiting relatives in the south in my experience. We always go after X-mas and before Valentine’s day to take a break from the weather and visit loved ones we won’t see for a few more months. It is absolutely revitalizing to get actual warmth from the sun mid-winter!
    5. Snow ski, Cross country ski, Snow board! If you’ve never done any winter sports, (I’m a summer person if you couldn’t tell already) this is the time to try something new! If you already do these things, bring someone new to them with you! The only way to get me out there is with someone I trust that knows how to teach me!
    6. Taking walks in the park in winter is great too when weather and snow levels permit. The quiet of winter is remarkably different than any other season. Take note of what birds have hung around, what animal tracks you can see and take some pictures of the crazy patterns that snow can make on the trees and man-made structures.

    For those of you that love winter, great! You can share your own favorite things to do this winter, please feel free to go to the Comment section!

    Stay positive this season! Enjoy what Mother Nature throws at you as best you can. Before you know it, it’s over!



    Mindfulness and Present Moment Awareness

    You’ve seen many emails and articles on our website now that have mentioned Present moment awareness and Mindfulness. To explain them further and give you an understanding of just what they are, I found a great explanation that follows:

    Mindfulness is conscious awareness of what you are feeling and experiencing in the present moment. But there is more. To get to joy it’s not enough to just be aware of the present. To get to joy you have to trust that the present moment is exactly where you belong.

    Joy comes from the knowing, the trust, the deep understanding that you are, right now, enough. With that trust and the joy it brings, you can let down your defenses and stop seeking validation. You can lean into happiness, which is the bubbling up of little pieces of joy in the moment.

    As adults with histories, we can’t know happiness unless we know it’s opposite and find it in our hearts to trust despite that knowledge. It takes vulnerability and reliance on forces outside of our control, but, mostly, it takes a commitment to creating live out loud joy for ourselves.

    Huffington post; Debbie Woodbury, author, speaker, survivor

    Wow, that says a lot! I find this to be a beautiful explanation of what we’re talking about when we mention these terms. A real example in my life; things are running smooth and happy, my husband was able to retire from the Fire Dept after thirty years of putting his life on the line. Then, BAM, someone comes in to our home and steals our emergency money, right out from under us. All the plans we had for that money, gone…..

    How do you stay present when these things happen? Debbie said it best above, that it takes being vulnerable to trust in the things that we cannot control! Yes, we felt violated and crummy!!

    Yet, we allowed ourselves to feel these emotions and then come back up from them to more positive feelings, like gratitude and love. Does this happen overnight? Everyone is different as to how long they stay in that space and hold negative emotions, but the more practice you have in processing through them, the quicker you can move.

    Our strategy? We started counting the good things about it all; they did not hurt anyone or anything! They took nothing else. We can always replace the cash! Present moment awareness example; where do we go from here? Better, stronger locks; no hidden keys for starters! So, no big vacations for us this year, we’ll take smaller local ones. Wait until next year though, we’ll have saved more and learned more from this than we ever thought possible and we will concentrate on Today until then!

    Summer: Nurture yourself with Nature

    Hiking, walking or meandering through the woods in the summer is so much more special to those of us in the North. Our season is so short here, we have to be very careful not to miss it!

    It doesn’t have to be summer necessarily to enjoy nature, but warmth, sun and wildlife activity tend to make the experience a more pleasant one. There is no comparison to the sounds of summer! A bubbling brook, a roaring waterfall, the birds, locusts and bees all forming another eco system that we rarely let ourselves be a part of.

    Bathing in Nature, sitting quietly in the middle of a field or forest can quiet the mind and lift the spirit. Notice the details around you as you walk slowly, picking up pine cones, shells, stones or fossils. Can you identify the birds you hear? Do you see any signs of wildlife?

    Breathe deeply and slowly, place your hands on your belly or chest and feel your breath going in and coming out, all while standing still or sitting in this natural environment.

    Communing with that part of yourself that benefits from the peace and quiet of your surroundings can lower your blood pressure, reduce your stress, improve your mood, boost your immune system and on and on it goes!

    Shinrin-yoku is an actual practice of Forest Bathing. Specifically walking through a forest at a slow pace, sitting, noticing, and practicing silence to commune with nature.


    What part of nature can you reach this summer? Can you get out and enjoy a peaceful piece of it more than once this season? If you have a high stress job or lifestyle, try to make a point of Nature walking as often as possible. Nurture your soul with the spirit of the outdoors!

    You deserve it!

    • This is Part one of a four Season Nurture with Nature series


    What Cooking Oils to Use in Your Kitchen and Why?

    Ever wonder the difference between cooking oils in the kitchen? We found an article in Yoga Journal from Feb, 2015 that has some great information about three different oils to use for cooking and what to look for when shopping for them.

    Celine Beitchman, a chef instructor and nutrition counselor at New York City’s Natural Gourmet Institute, shared her top three oils and tips for selecting, tasting and storing the right oil for your next dish:

    Shopping: when buying, look for USDA organic label, which certifies it’s free of artificial preservatives, colors and flavors. Pick up only dark bottles, which keep out the light and heat that speed spoiling.

    Tasting: Sample your oil right after you buy it. If you’re not familiar with how your oil tastes when it’s good, you won’t know how to tell when it’s gone bad.

    Storing: If you buy in bulk or have a pricey bottle you don’t want to risk spoiling too soon, decant a small portion for your counter and refrigerate the rest to preserve it.

    Coconut oil: Virgin coconut oil is an anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial that’s used to reduce skin swelling and redness. It can support a healthy immune system. Add it to dishes you want to taste like coconut, such as sweets. It’s good for: Baking, Frying or Pan-searing.

    Extra-virgin Olive oil: The go-to at the Natural Gourmet Institute, it’s high in “good” monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are linked to a lowered risk of heart disease. Bottles labeled “estate harvested” indicate a conscientious producer made it with oversight and care. It’s good for: Low- to no temp recipes since its flavors can quickly break down in heat.

    Sesame oil: Often used in Ayurvedic and macrobiotic diets, sesame oil has been shown to help lower blood pressure and is rich in vitamin E, an anti-oxidant crucial for healthier skin, hair and nail growth. Vitamin E has lately been studied for its role in preventing neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s too. The oil can range in color from light to amber to dark. In general, the darker the oil, the stronger its flavor. It’s good for: Sautéing when it’s refined (processed to withstand high heat), drizzling over cold dishes when it’s unrefined.

    Now you can feel like an expert when next you use an oil in the kitchen!!

    Labyrinth Blog

    By Kelly Kralles

    Walking a labyrinth has always been in my sphere of influence. Hearing it spoken about, speaking to people that ran it, all going on around me for years. I never actually walked one until now.

    Wow, what a great experience!! The atmosphere generated by the participants was so peaceful, the beautiful flutes and magical music being played by Sonam Targee such a perfect accompaniment. This particular labyrinth was held at a church by the Labyrinth Society.

    I started at the mouth with shoes removed and thought of what I’d like to release or work through while walking the labyrinth. (This is what I was told to do, everyone is very helpful getting you started). Then I started following the person in front of me, stepping one foot at a time, single file, staying on the path or circuit. Taking the turns at first was a study in concentration, but I quickly got the hang of it, so that I could stop thinking about the turns as I approached them.

    About half way through, I started to feel slightly light headed. I started smiling to myself (and possibly to others) as I progressed further, because the feelings were starting to overwhelm the thoughts! As I reached the middle of the labyrinth, I joined the others gathered there to stop and say a quick blessing to the room and to the Universe for helping me find this quiet place in my mind.

    Now it is time to turn around and follow the path or circuit back out. Same feelings coming in waves now, light, airy, slightly dizzy. No room for actual thoughts anymore at all. Moving around others now too as I work back, so effortless to continue around each other without thinking about who was going to move where.

    Following one foot in front of the other, around and around until coming out again. Thank goodness for the chairs, had to go sit down, close my eyes and stay with the feelings for as long as possible. What a treat!!

    I have been around energy work and am a Wellness facilitator, so I am more sensitive to energy than some. I can honestly say, this was so much fun in more than just an energy sense. It really clears the head and allows you to concentrate on nothing but where your feet are going for just a little while. We all need that for balance and restoration. I highly recommend walking a labyrinth if given the opportunity.

    Go to the labyrinthsociety.org for more on how to find the next labyrinth walk!