However, around a decade ago, I read that echinacea was good for the immune system. I had been getting a lot of colds and laryngitis, so I added a daily cup of Traditional Medicinals Echinacea Plus tea to my regimen. I noticed a dramatic improvement in my immunity and became a believer. I have continued that practice every day, and I have recommended it to friends and family, who have also found it to be a beneficial addition to their self-care practices. To be fair, results are mixed in scientific trials of echinacea for immunity, but my experience has demonstrated that it makes a difference for me.
Over the years, the tea shelf in my cabinet has become fuller and fuller, as I have learned more about the potential uses of herbs and spices for health. I decided to share some of my current favorites here.
Traditional Medicinals has continued to be my brand of choice. I have no affiliation with that brand, but it is where I started, and years ago, I read about potential contamination risks with some tea brands. Traditional Medicinals got a clean report, and that stuck with me.
In additional to Echinacea Plus, other teas that have helped me with mind and body include:
Ginger Aid: Ginger is great for settling the stomach and for reducing inflammation. If I ever have digestion issues, I drink a cup of Ginger Aid, and it helps. I also use this tea to help with body aches or headaches. I have found it to be highly effective for these purposes.
Peppermint: Peppermint tea can also help with tummy troubles, in particular with bloating and intestinal discomfort. It is fragrant and soothing.
Cup of Sunshine: I have been needing a mood boost lately. My bike is the best boost, but I am working really long hours at the moment and can’t get out on my bike in the middle of a long, challenging day. Cup of Sunshine contains kanna and honeybush. I was familiar with neither when I purchased this tea, but the name gave me hope. It has proven to be a good choice. It’s a subtle lift, not agitating, but I notice that it does help to brighten my mood.
Stress Ease: This has also been a recent addition to my cabinet. Containing skullcap, cinnamon bark and licorice root, this does take the edge off anxiety for me. I can feel the butterflies in my stomach settle down with a cup of Stress Ease.
There are other teas I use on a regular basis, including assorted green tea blends. Green tea is loaded with antioxidants and is so good for us that Dr. Michael Greger recommends drinking three cups a day in How Not to Diet.
I hope this short post gives you some easy ways to enhance your well-being with tea. I am neither an expert nor a connoisseur, but Traditional Medicinals tea has helped me, and I wanted to share those benefits with you.
In freshman PE class at Mount Saint Mary High School in 1983, Sister Jean told us that drinking alcohol kills brain cells. That got my attention and stuck with me, undoubtedly influencing my future decisions. Even then, I considered my brain one of my most valuable assets and wanted no part of killing my brain cells! While the acute brain damage caused by consumption of alcohol is more a matter of disruption of communication between neurons, alcohol is a neurotoxin. Just as what we take into our bodies can harm our brains, there are foods we can consume to nurture brain health.
Ever since I was young, I have been interested in fueling my brain for short- and long-term health and optimal function. Between my recent reading of Jim Kwik’s bookLimitless and thinking about the fuel our brains consume for the blog post I wrote last week, brain nourishment has been on my mind even more than usual.
I thought it might be beneficial to share some of my favorite foods for nourishing my brain. While not an exhaustive list, here are five great foods to eat for brain health:
Berries contain powerful antioxidants that protect the brain from damage and reduce inflammation, which can protect brain function as we age. This is important because of the amount of glucose that our brains use, which produces a lot of free radicals, creating the potential for damage to our cells, including neurons. Eat fresh or frozen blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries and cherries in smoothies, with oatmeal or another whole-grain cereal or even as a delicious frozen treat using a Yonanas machine.
Avocados, full of monounsaturated fats and lutein, are not only great brain food, but also promote eye health. (And who doesn’t love guacamole?!) In addition to turning them into guacamole, slice raw avocados and enjoy them in salad or on sandwiches or wraps. Mash them on whole-grain toast for avocado toast, plain or with raw veggies and/or fresh herbs.
Dark green, leafy vegetables, (kale, spinach, broccoli, chard, arugula, collard, etc.) also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, benefitting both brain and eyes and possibly delaying or warding off age-related cognitive decline. These can be eaten raw or cooked, in smoothies, as salad, toppings for wraps or sandwiches, as side dishes or in this terrific lasagna recipe. (It really is great—one of my go-to recipes for special occasions.)
Turmerichas potent anticancer benefits and can reduce inflammation. It has been shown to improve cognitive function in people living with Alzheimer’s. Put ¼ teaspoon in your smoothie or on your cereal every day. Include turmeric in pasta sauces, casseroles, soups and curries.
Walnuts are great sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin E, magnesium and zinc, all valuable nutrients for brain health. Eat walnuts raw, by themselves or with fresh or dried fruit. Blend them into smoothies. Put them on cereal and in salads.
There are so many great ways to incorporate these foods into your daily diet. You could even make a smoothie containing all of them. (more on smoothies in an upcoming post)
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There are so many wonderful ways we can take care of ourselves.
What a gift that we can continue to learn new techniques and practices
throughout our lifetimes!
I gave a presentation a couple days ago on self-care for
academic advisors at the University where I work. I addressed inherent job
risks for advisors and the importance of setting boundaries in our lives (not
just important for advisors!). I also shared some of my favorite self-care
practices, including some that I have discussed in previous blog posts, like square
Good Things, quotes,
It was fun for me to reflect on many of the things that have been most helpful in
elevating the quality of my life.
I am grateful to enjoy excellent health, in general. I attribute
this to many things, including rich blessings, which I believe obligate me to make
a positive difference in the world in proportion to the gifts I have been
given. In addition, I believe that I have a responsibility to take excellent
care of the strong, healthy body I have been given.
For over a year now, I have been particularly fortunate to
have very little trouble with colds or any other ailments. More than ever—and I
really do mean ever—I have stayed exceptionally healthy.
In this post, I want to share with you six key ingredients I
have used to create my recipe for my healthiest year plus.
This is not an exhaustive list. There are certainly other
important things that I do to stay healthy and feel well.
This is also not medical advice. I am not a health care
professional, and you should consult yours for medical advice specific to your
I am a certified health and life coach, and I am a human
with half a century (egad!!!!) of caring about and being interested in contributing
to the creation of a healthier, more compassionate world—starting with how I
treat, and what I do with, my own body. Through trial and error and lived
experience, I have found certain things that I have incorporated into my life
on a permanent basis because they made a noticeable difference in my health and
well-being. I thought about listing the six I am featuring in this post alphabetically,
because there is not necessarily a hierarchy of contribution to my wellness. I
do think they have been additive over time, though, so I decided to list them
chronologically, in order of when they became part of my regular practice. Each
“ingredient” I list here has added to the previous ones to create a recipe for
health that really serves me. They have made such a difference that I decided
to share and explain.
1982/2008: Whole-Food, Plant-Based Nourishment
This one has evolved over time. My journey to plant-based
eating started in 1982, when I was 12. I became vegetarian (I didn’t even know
vegans existed back then.) because I had never liked the idea of eating
animals. From the time I was very young, it made me sad. Finally, after several
upsetting experiences, including having the butchered flesh of a cow named
Blackie, whom I had met, come into our home, I took the announced that I was
never eating meat again. It was a lonely world for an adolescent vegetarian
back then. I was the only vegetarian in my family or my group of friends
(although my friend Quynh’s mother was vegetarian, but there was a language barrier
between us). There was no internet. I had to go to an actual brick-and-mortar bookstore
or library to get any information. And there wasn’t much in those days. Still,
I knew I was on the right path for me.
I cut meat from my diet for ethical reasons, but I was
pleasantly surprised to notice an increase in stamina between my seventh-grade
basketball season and my eighth-grade basketball season. I first noticed it
when running laps for basketball. This is anecdotal, of course. There was no
scientific study isolating vegetarianism from other possible contributing variables,
but I wasn’t consciously looking for a difference, and I found one. I was
maturing, too, but I decided that my vegetarian diet was the main factor in my
improved stamina. I still believe that.
So, the internet and better information came along, but,
honestly, I wanted to believe for many years that I was living my values by
being vegetarian. Even once the tools were there for finding out the whole
truth about the egg and dairy industries, I avoided researching—until my
conscience would no longer let me. In early 2008 I decided that, since one of
my core values was integrity, I needed to find out if I was really living in
integrity. I researched the egg and dairy industries and found out that some of
the most horrific animal living conditions and some of the
worst cruelty exists in the production of eggs and dairy products. Learning
the truth was painful, and it was not convenient. A fair amount of guilt ensued
for not trying to learn this sooner, but it became clear that, in order to live
according to my professed values (Compassion is #1!), I needed to become vegan.
So, I did.
It has become easier and easier to be a plant-based eater.
The internet is not only a source of information, but a source of community.
Books abound these days! You can have them delivered to your electronic device
instantly, 24 hours a day. Such a different world. Being vegan is not lonely.
It is joyful. I have wonderful, caring vegan friends.
In addition to improved mental health, due to living in
alignment with my values, my physical health improved. My skin became clearer. My
colds became milder. I stopped having bladder infections, after having spent a
couple rounds of two years each on prophylactic Macrodantin (until I developed
resistance). True story. These things really got better, and my vegan diet was
I eat a mostly whole-food, completely plant-based diet. This
is one of the most significant factors in maintaining my excellent health. It
is easier than ever. If you would like my help transitioning, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, get 28
of my favorite recipes when you join my email
1992: Consistent, Intentional Exercise
I was reasonably active as a child and teenager. I played
basketball from 4th through 9th grades (proudly helping
my Sacred Heart 5th– and 8th-grade teams win Oklahoma
Catholic Grade School Athletic Association state championships! 😊).
I played my freshman year at Mount Saint Mary High School, but we played public
schools, and I found out I was not anywhere near as good a player as I had
thought I was. After a season mostly on the bench, my basketball career
reverted to driveway pick-up games with neighborhood boys (while my brother was
planting the seeds for his future career as a technology genius by working
inside on his Commodore VIC-20 and 64). I did sporadic exercise in fits and
starts from then until 1992, when I was working on my undergraduate degree at
Wichita State University. I worked full time and went to school at night. I
finally started going to the Heskett Center (the building where I now work full
time) to exercise between work and my 7:05 p.m. classes. I also did step
workouts at home. I cringe at flashback to the then-fashionable tights and
leotards I wore in public in the Heskett Center. I can only hope that there were
never any pictures taken that might turn up in building archives.
Eventually, I started running, and in 1996 I committed to
run the New York City Marathon as part of the Leukemia Society Team in
Training. My life changed when I crossed the finish line in that first marathon
and started thinking of myself as an athlete.
I know that consistent, daily exercise is a major factor in
my mental and physical health. In addition to cycling, I incorporate yoga,
weight training, walking and other forms of exercise. I do something virtually
I have a Master of Education degree in Exercise Science and held
a personal training certification for 10 years, until I had to let that go in
2011, when a personal tragedy prevented me from recertifying. I am considering
adding certain future certifications in physical activity. In the meantime, intentional
movement is an integral part of who I am and why I am healthy.
Specifically, Traditional Medicinals Echinacea Plus Tea. I
am a believer in this stuff!
2011 was a difficult year for me. It ended in a very painful
way that shook my world. I decided that 2012 was dedicated to recovery. This
took a variety of forms in my life, but one thing I did was research what could
enhance my immune system because I was getting sick more frequently than I
wanted. Some of my research led me to echinacea. Admittedly, scientific research
has shown mixed results, but I decided to give it a try. I think I first tried
it when I felt myself coming down with a cold, and I just didn’t want to be
sick. I was pleasantly amazed at how mild my symptoms quickly became and how
soon I was well. It could have been coincidental, but I was convinced. I
adopted this tea into my daily routine. I drink a cup every, single morning.
When I am on Biking Across Kansas, where it may not always be easy to make tea,
I cut open a tea bag and include it in the magic mix of nutrients I put into my
preworkout energizer. If I feel like I am getting sick, I will drink extra cups—up
to five a day. It almost always stops or dramatically lessens my symptoms and
shortens the duration (based on my history with colds) of my illness.
I have recommended this tea to many people over the years.
My skeptical husband even became a believer after he tried it.
Whether or not the science backs up the efficacy of
echinacea for immune health, my anecdotal experience has been unequivocal. It
made, and continues (over years) to make, a noticeable difference.
I honestly can’t remember how I first learned about ENERGYbits. It might have been through Brendan
Brazier’s work on plant-based eating for athletic performance, but I am not
sure. Anyway, at some point, I was looking for a way to enhance my energy level
on the bike, and I found ENERGYbits, which is the name of both a company and a
specific product made by the company. Initially, I only used ENERGYbits, which
is 100% spirulina algae. I would swallow the spirulina, conveniently compressed
into easy-to-swallow tablets. It’s food, not pills, but I do prefer to swallow,
because it sticks to my teeth if I chew it. There is controversy around
spirulina because it can be contaminated, if it is not organically grown in controlled
conditions. ENERGYbits prioritizes the safety of its algae, so I feel great
about using their products. Company
founder Catharine Arnston learned about the benefits of algae when she was
researching ways to help her younger sister heal from breast cancer. She
concluded that a plant-based diet, heavy on greens, was a powerful healing strategy,
and she learned that algae contains the highest concentration of alkaline-promoting
chlorophyll of any food. Using algae as part of her plant-based diet, her
sister healed and has remained free from cancer for 10 years.
For several years now, I have used ENERGYbits before my bike
rides and RECOVERYbits afterward, often blended into my recovery smoothie. They
truly make a difference in my energy level and endurance on the bike, and they
help me recovery quickly and fully after tough rides. I sometimes give them to
Logan before and after his training runs and races. He has noticed a benefit on
his long runs.
ENERGYbits products aren’t just for athletic performance,
though. They can be incorporated into a healthful, plant-based diet daily to
energize, clear toxins and enhance overall nutrition. For an answer to the ever-popular
question all vegans get asked, “Where do you get your protein?” take a look at this information
comparing usable protein per acre of various animal and plant protein sources. Algae
is also an outstanding source of B12. In addition to ENERGYbits and
RECOVERYbits, there are also BEAUTYbits and VITALITYbits, although I have not
used those products personally. If you want to make this a part of your
nutritional plan, you can get 20% off when you use my discount code JustWind. Type it in the discount code box at
checkout. (Full disclosure, I receive a free bag for every 10 bags bought using
my discount code. Although I have been an affiliate for years, I have never
promoted it, so I have bought all the bags under my code, up to this point. 😊)
As I have mentioned in previous
posts, I thought for years that I couldn’t meditate. When I was in my
health and life coaching certification trainings, my constant, nagging concern,
when I traded coaching sessions with my training partner, was stress and what
it did to me and how I couldn’t get it under control.
Finally, in early 2018, I decided to give meditation a real
try. I called it “mindfulness” for quite a while because “meditation” didn’t
feel quite right. Until it did one day. After a short time of consistent, daily
practice, I noticed how much calmer and more peaceful I felt. I was managing
stress so much more productively. To my surprise, I started to look forward to
my daily meditation in the same way that I do my bike rides.
What I noticed most is that my health took a dramatic turn
for the positive. I went over a year without a single cold, even when students,
coworkers and family members around me were sick. As I said above, I think all
these “ingredients” have been additive, but this one has been huge. Since I
have practiced meditation daily, I have only had one real cold and no
laryngitis, which used to plague me on a regular basis. Even the cold I did get
was quite mild, and most people didn’t even know that I had one.
I attribute meditation to taking my physical, mental,
emotional and spiritual health to the next level. As I taught in my
presentation to fellow advisors this week, there is no one right way to do it.
This was a limiting belief I had to overcome in order to allow meditation into
my life. My practice incorporates breathing exercises, mindfulness,
visualizations, affirmations and Kundalini yoga,
depending what feels right on a given day. Now, I would not skip a single day.
I meditate anywhere from about 10 minutes to around 30 minutes, depending on
the time I have. I do it first thing in the morning or immediately after my
morning workout. It is a game-changer.
This is probably the most difficult to explain concisely.
Maybe that is why I am writing a whole book that addresses the topic. The
picture is of a content me. Life is not perfect, but I have made a choice to
live consciously and to choose my perspectives carefully. I still experience
stress, but I have learned how to think of it differently and to choose an
empowering approach to it. Kelly McGonigal’s book The
Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It
was life changing. I’ve
written about it previously because it had such an impact on the way I view
stress and how I allow it to affect me. It took a while for me to fully
internalize her message, but it started percolating right away. The biggest
takeaway from McGonigal’s book for me was the idea that a meaningful life is a
stressful life. The same things that bring us the most stress—family, work, school—are
the same things that bring us the most meaning. Recognizing that can change everything.
I don’t live in constant bliss, but I am healthier and
happier, and part of that is my mindset. Meditation supports my chosen mindset,
and so do several other practices, but consciously and actively choosing the
mindset I want to hold is the first step. It is a big step that has made a rewarding
So, these are some of the most important things that have
contributed to my healthiest year plus ever. My guess is that any one of them
added to your life could make a positive difference in your physical, mental,
emotional and/or spiritual health. Adding them together has compounded their
benefits in my life.
I know I am not invincible. I could drop dead or be stricken
down with some horrific illness (or a cold) tomorrow. I am committed to doing
my part to take care of the gifts I have been given, though. These are some of
the ways I do that.
I can be reached at email@example.com
or through a comment on this blog post or social media. I’d love to hear your
experience with any of these or other practices that have made a healthy
difference for you.
“But I was only in my late 70s when I did that.” When I heard those words, I knew this chance encounter was even more special than I had initially realized.
I wanted to write this post the minute I got off my bike on Sunday, because I was so pumped about meeting Dale, but life has been very full, so it had to wait a couple days.
I look forward to my longer weekend rides all week. Work and family obligations encroached on my time this past weekend, and I anticipated Sunday morning’s ride feeling frustrated that I would not be able to ride as far as I would like. However, I was determined to make the ride a positive experience and celebrate the miles I would get.
Empowered movement combines mindset and movement. Before I get on the bike (or practice yoga, do strength training, go for a walk, etc.), I choose a quote on which to reflect and set an intention for the ride. On this ride I decided that I would reflect on my quote and repeat some mantras and affirmations each time I turned a different direction.
One of the advantages of riding on quiet, rural roads is that I can talk out loud most of the time. Each time I turned a corner, I spoke my quote, some related affirmations and other words that came to my mind. It was all very stream-of-consciousness. I felt more inspired and energized each time I voiced my empowering words.
I was excited by the time I stopped for a bathroom break 23 miles into my ride. As I came out of the bathroom on a rail trail just off the road where I was riding, an older man rode up and propped his bike against a park bench. We greeted each other, and then he said, “I see you all the time on 21st Street. We are usually going opposite directions, and I say to myself, ‘There is the lady on the white Fuji, and she goes WOOSH!’” He introduced himself as Dale, and we shook hands.
We talked about how lucky we are to have great areas to ride and about various organized rides we have done. He said he had seen me riding with my son on the Wicked Wind this year, a ride in May, where it was pouring rain. We commiserated about how cold we got on the Wicked Wind. He told me about riding the Katy Trail and how well-supported that ride was. We were just two cyclists, enthusiastically sharing stories and our mutual love for cycling.
I asked Dale if he had ever done Biking Across Kansas, which I ride every year. This is when the conversation took an amazing turn.
Dale said, “No, I have never done BAK, but my brother and I rode across Kansas in four days. (BAK is an 8-day ride, often with multiple days in the 70-90-mile range.) But, I was only in my late 70s when I did that. I’ll be 90 in two days.”
Dale told me that he started riding at age 71, when he purchased a $10.00 bike at a garage sale. He said, “I went for a ride and thought, ‘This is fun!’” He bought many bikes after that, including some very nice ones, but said he had trimmed his bike stable from seven to two, just in the last few weeks.
“Until I was 85, I rode 7,000-7,500 miles a year,” he told me. (I ride 4,000-4,500 miles a year, and that is quite a bit.) “Now, I only ride 3,000-3,500.” Still, not too shabby for a nonagenarian!
“The Lord’s been good to me,” he said. “I don’t take any medicine, and that’s pretty good for my age.”
Then, he said, “I’m kind of a health nut, too. My wife and I have been vegetarian since 1951.” I said, “That’s awesome! I’m vegan.” “To be honest,” he said, “we eat vegan all the time, except when a relative is trying to be nice and makes us mac & cheese because they know we don’t eat meat. When that happens, we’ll eat it. But, otherwise, we eat vegan.”
We talked for several more minutes, and I thoroughly enjoyed every one of them. Despite our age difference, we clearly understood each other.
Finally, we parted ways because we were heading different directions. I was excited and energized as I got back on my bike, really uplifted by our conversation.
Then, it hit me. Dale was a gift from the Universe, helping to affirm that I am doing the right work with my coaching practice, including my free Facebook group. My mission is to teach the lifestyle practices that help people live and age with power and purpose, while contributing to the creation of a healthier, more compassionate world. Some of the key pillars of what I teach (and practice in my own life) are mindfulness, plant-based nourishment and empowered movement. Dale is the embodiment of living and aging with power and purpose.
And, seriously, what are the odds of running into a nearly-90-year-old, nearly-vegan cyclist on this particular ride, where I was putting so much energy into manifesting the conditions I want to create in my life . . . in KANSAS?! He had apparently noticed me for years, but we had never talked until that day.
One of my mantras on that ride and since was, “I am grateful that I am attracting exactly the right people, at exactly the right time, for exactly the right reasons.”
As I pedaled north, I knew, really knew, that Dale was one of my people—a true gift from the Universe to encourage me to continue working toward my goals.
I am grateful for Dale and look forward to seeing him again. Meeting him was amazing! My only regret is that I didn’t think to ask him if we could take a selfie together. I have a great, warm picture of him in my mind, though. What a gift!
As soon as I turned north onto 247th Street, I recognized that changes had been made. As a cyclist, I am intimately acquainted with the roads I ride frequently. This particular road, a main thoroughfare into and out of my small town of Andale, Kansas, while certainly not the roughest I ride, had become pretty jarring because of large gaps that had developed over time, due to the wear and tear of traffic and the brutal extremes of Kansas summers and winters.
What I noticed immediately was that Sedgwick County road crews had patched the cracks with tar and asphalt.
While it wasn’t a pretty or luxurious repair, it made a noticeable difference in the quality of the ride. The symbolism struck me.
The wear and tear of life—chronic illness, inactivity, low-quality nutrition, luck and other lifestyle factors that work with our genetic inheritance—is what creates the gap between our life expectancy and our healthy life expectancy. The gaps can make for a bumpy, uncomfortable ride, both in life and on the bike. Like the road crews did with tar and asphalt on 247th, we can choose to close the gap between our life expectancy and healthy life expectancy, through our lifestyle choices.
I originally wrote about this concept and about my inspiration for focusing my health and habit change coaching practice around teaching the lifestyle practices that help people live and age with power and purpose in this post, back in March 2018.
Now, I am ready to take this to the next level—and to hep you do that in your own life. I am excited to announce my new free, 4-week JustWind Close the Gap Facebook group, which will launch on Sunday, July 29, 2018. Registration for the group starts today, Sunday, July 15.
This group is for anyone interested in closing the gap between their life expectancy and their healthy life expectancy. That gap is a crucial period that can make an enormous difference in our quality of life and our experience of aging. In this 4-week, free Facebook group, you will find support in your journey toward living and aging with power and purpose. Highlights of the group include:
4 Facebook Live presentations (1 each Sunday)
Daily motivation & inspiration
Daily bite-sized Gap Closers (activities to help you inch your way to a smaller Gap)
Information on personalizing and deepening your Gap Closing
I am very excited about this group and have been working hard to prepare meaningful content that, if you are willing to put in the work, can help guide you toward significant changes in your experience of life and aging.
This is a labor of love and passion because, as I have witnessed the suffering around me, as family members and friends age, I am highly motivated to control what I can to be as healthy and as productive as possible, for as long as possible. I am fully aware that there are factors beyond our control, but I am also cognizant that we can take responsibility for our experience of living and aging and make it as smooth a ride, with as narrow gaps, as possible.
If the idea of closing the gap between your life expectancy and your healthy life expectancy, in order to live and age with power and purpose, appeals to you, and you like the idea of sharing the journey with a supportive community of similarly motivated people, please take a moment to join the group and to share this post and/or the group link with anyone you know who might be interested.
I am looking forward to joining with you in this proactive project, helping each other close the gap for a smoother ride through life, right to the end of the ride.