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)
Feed your brain and put it to good use creating the life you want to live and making the difference you want to make. Click the button below to subscribe to my newsletter and receive a link to download my Blossom 2021 Self-Coaching Workbook.
Success! You're on the list.
Whoops! There was an error and we couldn't process your subscription. Please reload the page and try again.
If you found value in this post, please share the link with others you think would benefit from the content I produce. I am working hard to grow my platform to improve my chances at securing a traditional publishing deal for my in-progress book and would be grateful to you for helping me extend my reach.
Throughout the surreal developments of the last couple weeks, I have doubted that there is anything of value I can provide—through my writing, through my coaching, through my online presence. I have thought, “Why bother?” because I have felt so overwhelmed by the news on COVID-19, by the abrupt transition to working from home (which I would love, under the right circumstances and with time to prepare and organize), the shock of K-12 school closures, the end of track and other spring sport seasons and the uncertainty and fear of the future. I made a significant investment in a business course just days before everything fell apart, but working on my business in any public way seems both insensitive and futile at this time. Still, I have to believe that we will get through this, that, collectively, we will be okay.
More than any other event that I can recall in my lifetime, it seems that we are all in the same boat. Certainly, some of us have more robust resources to cope. But we are all living this previously unimaginable reality that has so suddenly become ours.
Health and compassion are my themes. My goal is to dwell at the intersection of those two themes and to contribute to their growth in the world. So, how can I best do that in this interrupted life?
For my answer, I return to the roots of my blog that evolved to include my coaching practice and the book I am (still, despite this dramatic change of life) writing: the JustWind mindset. For those who are unfamiliar with the story behind the JustWind name, you can read my original blog post here. To give a brief recap, the concept originated in June 2002, on the last night of Biking Across Kansas, a cross-state bike ride that I love and in which I have participated since 1999. Kansas is windy. That is an undisputed fact. Every BAK has wind, but 2002 was particularly windy (even featuring a severe thunderstorm with 95-mph straight winds that shredded tents). The wind had beaten us up all week, and I was starting to get a cold. On the last evening, as I looked for our bags among those that had been unloaded from the luggage truck, I complained grumpily to my friend David about the wind. He shrugged and gently said, “It’s just wind.”
I had a moment of profound insight: I could choose to be miserable (even doing something I loved—cycling), or I could choose to recognize the challenge for what it was and keep turning the pedals to move forward and stay upright. I realized that I could do this, not just on the bike, but in every aspect of life. It was truly an awakening for me and one that has led to a great deal of (long and protracted and always-evolving) growth for me. Essentially, I realized that we have the power to choose our perspectives, and the ones we choose shape our lives.
I decided that sharing this reminder is the primary value that I can add to the coping strategies for managing the disruption created by this pandemic. I am endeavoring to remember to engage the JustWind mindset as I make my way through these strange days. My effort is imperfect. I have had moments of crisis and extreme agitation. I panicked last week when I had to make a rushed 50-mile round trip to my office, when I heard that I may lose access entirely in this incredibly busy advising season that has suddenly transitioned to phone advising. I yelled at Logan later that evening when he kept throwing a plastic tumbler into the stainless-steel sink, noisily and unsuccessfully trying to land it inside another one (a version of the highly irritating bottle-flipping craze of a few years ago). He persisted when I asked him to stop, and I lost it. But, when I can remember, it helps.
We all have to find our own best ways of handling this, and I suspect that the issues are different for introverts and extroverts, but I will share some of my strategies and hope they help. Please share your own in the comments. We can learn from each other.
My husband Kenny reads COVID-19 news out loud what seems like approximately 23 hours a day. While I agree that it is important to stay informed, this wears on me. I am working primarily at home, Logan’s school is closed, and Kenny is on an indefinite hiatus from his work as a bus driver and groundskeeper for the school district. We are all suddenly together in what feels like a very small house for many hours a day. Logan would be on Xbox nonstop if we would let him. Kenny reads the news out loud to me. While I am working at home, while I am studying my business course, while I am writing (He is sleeping now.), he reads. While I am dialing the phone for my next student appointment, while I am tracking appointments, while I am responding to email, he reads.
These are the things I am doing to cope, to escape, to strive to thrive:
Empowered movement: For me, this consists of cycling about three evenings a week (Thank you, daylight savings time!) for 15-20 miles and building mileage on the weekend days. I rode 30 miles each day this weekend, despite cold, dreary conditions. A couple mornings a week, I do yoga (Yoga with Kassandra is my favorite.), strength training or Foundation Training. Training my body helps me to feel better physically and mentally and to feel stronger and be more resilient. It prepares me to face more effectively whatever comes my way.
Reading: My life is too full (even in this strange new world) to allow time for simply sitting and reading, but using skills I honed years ago as an undergraduate who worked full time and went to school at night, I read while I am getting dressed, washing dishes, folding laundry, brushing my teeth—every spare moment. I read over 60 books a year this way, and they help me stay sane and continue growing and evolving. They help a lot now. I just finished reading Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, by Chip & Dan Heath. It was very good, and I gleaned from it some useful decision-making strategies. After finishing it this morning, I started Deep Listening: A Healing Practice to Calm Your Body, Clear Your Mind and Open Your Heart, by Jillian Pransky. Reading, like cycling, is a tremendous escape for me.
Meditation: My morning meditation practice, as well as some moving meditation on the bike, helps me stay grounded and centered. I incorporate breathing exercises and Kundalini yoga, and it starts my day from a place of peace and grace.
Plant-powered nourishment: Of course, I eat plants, not animals all the time, but it is even more important to be mindful that the food is nourishing and supporting my mental and physical health at this time. It is easy to want to eat just comfort food in this crazy situation, but I try to keep in mind the bigger picture. As I wrote this yesterday, I had just finished my breakfast smoothie. I included hemp seed, maca, turmeric and magnesium gluconate for extra nutritional support. This morning, I had Kashi and dry oatmeal with frozen berries and cherries, cocoa (full of antioxidants!), walnuts, vegan yogurt, ground flaxseed, maca, turmeric and magnesium gluconate. Breakfast is important, but so is everything we put into our mouths throughout the day.
Hope: As I said above, I have to believe that we will get through this. I do believe we will be changed. I hope the changes are for the better. Some of them may not be or may not feel like they are, but we can choose to grow through the changes. So, I am not relinquishing my goals, although I am giving myself some grace and adjusting the pace of my pursuit. I am still writing my book, writing blog posts, working my business course (but holding off on public-facing activities because pushing forward with those seems insensitive) and pursuing certification as a running coach. I am choosing to trust that everything will happen in the right time, in the way that it should.
Structure: All too suddenly, our days look different. Even if I have an ultimate goal of being able to work from home, I want it to be in circumstances I choose, not a situation thrust upon me, in my busiest time of semester, with no time to prepare thoughtfully and comfortably. So, I am creating a new structure for myself. I took time yesterday to establish a structure for Logan’s days because this cannot be perpetual spring break. He needs athletic (He has continued to run.), academic and household responsibilities each day. There will still be time for Xbox (although I have to admit that I absolutely hate that thing). Structure helps us to make sense of our days and make use of our time for productive activities.
JustWind Mindset: We don’t know how long this will last or how brutal it may get. On my bike, I literally have been blown off the road by the Kansas wind. I have felt many times like I am being pushed backward by headwind or could be knocked over by crosswind. I just keep turning the pedals (and, after some deep breaths, get back on the road after having been blown off). I am remembering all this and trying to apply it to COVID-19. It will change our days, our plans and our ways of life, but we can handle it. We just have to choose the empowered perspective that allows us to believe we can and then take action to do so.
As I said, I would love to see your comments about how you are striving to thrive during this pandemic. Please let us know.
I wish all my readers (and all the world) health, safety, happiness and peace in this scary and uncertain time. Take care of yourselves and take care of each other. Let’s follow the CDC and WHO, as well as local, recommendations, guidelines and orders. Let’s try to stop this thing as soon as we can, take what we learn and move forward powerfully. Blessings to all!
“The moment you accept responsibility for everything in your life is the moment you gain the power to change anything in your life.” –Hal Elrod
I am starting to write this post from the overlook to the pool at Heskett Center, while Logan is starting his lifeguard training. This feels like a moment of possibility and change. He hopes to get a job as lifeguard this summer. It is hard to believe that he is old enough! Where have 15 years gone? He was excited as we drove here this morning, and I love that. I want him to be excited about the possibilities for his future.
I feel on the brink of possibility, too. For the past year, I have struggled with clarity over my goals for my coaching practice. Some circumstances lately have reenergized me with a stronger sense of purpose for my practice. It has become clearer to me that what I want to accomplish is to help people who are motivated by health and/or ethics to eat, move and think in healthier, more compassionate ways, improving the quality of their lives, while making a positive difference in the world.
Toward that end, I have invested in some coaching and guidance of my own, and I am doing some work to further clarify next steps. I have a sense of what is next, but I am also open to inspiration and possibility. There are three components that I know I want to emphasize.
Plant-powered nourishment. The most compassionate way of feeding our bodies is also the most healthful. I don’t believe this is coincidental. Eating foods that don’t require someone to suffer or die undoubtedly creates more positive energy in our world than consuming the products of fear and violence. This is good for all of us. I want to help others discover how wonderful it is to eat delicious plant foods that are filled with fiber (only found in plants, not animals) and antioxidants.
Empowered movement. It feels good to move our bodies, and it serves our minds and spirits when we engage in physical activity that we enjoy. One important goal of my coaching practice is to help people find joy and enhance their lives through movement. Cycling (and previously running) has been an enormous part of my life and has contributed to the development of my character and to so much personal growth. I see what physical activity does for Logan and for others of all ages, and I want to help people realize how much empowered movement can enrich their lives.
JustWind mindset. I started this blog in 2015 with a post about the JustWind story. We have the power to choose our perspectives, and the ones we choose shape our lives. I want to help people understand this, through both my coaching practice and my in-progress book. Realizing this has made such a difference in my peace of mind, my happiness and my stress management. Taking responsibility for our own lives creates possibility. When we decide that we are not victims of the winds of fate but can push forward despite resistance and challenge and disappointment, a whole world of opportunity opens. Meditation is one method for cultivating the JustWind mindset that I personally use and can share with people who aspire to live from this happier, more empowered position.
So, as Logan starts lifeguard training today and track practice tomorrow, and I begin the program in which I have invested, possibility looms large. It feels like an adventure. Really, that’s what life should be. It has not always been (and is still not always) easy for me to view it this way. Doing so requires an intentional effort to release anxiety and make room for inspiration.
It is an ongoing work in progress for me, but it makes life so much more fun and so much less stressful when I can remember to live this way. I look forward to helping others recognize and incorporate these principles, too, through my writing and through my coaching practice.
Let’s see what we can make of these next several months of 2020!
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.
This post is the fourth in a series of “Top 5” posts, in which I
share my best tips and most important practices for developing the energy,
mindset and well-being to accomplish what we want to accomplish and live with
no regrets. If you missed the others, you can catch my energy tips here, my mindset tips here and my
well-being tips here.
As I have mentioned in some of my other posts, one of the most basic
ways I take care of myself is through plant-based nourishment, wich contributes
significantly to my energy, mindset and well-being. Here is a very
brief overview of the many health benefits of plant-based nutrition.
I hear a lot of questions, concerns and objections to eating plants
exclusively. I won’t address all of those here, but I hope these tips will help
you understand that it is easy to eat nourishing, delicious plant-based food.
Keep it simple. Use
this simple formula for preparing plant-based meals that are tasty and
nourishing: Beans + Greens + Grains. You can choose from any number of
combinations of these three types of foods to create quick meals that satisfy.
One of my favorite examples is black bean burritos. Rinse and drain some black
beans (or any bean really). Combine them with spinach and frozen corn in a
saucepan. Sprinkle some cilantro and any other seasoning you like into the
mixture. Serve as a burrito, on whole-grain tortillas, or as a bowl. It is
quick, delicious and full of nutrients.
Find a go-to resource or two for recipes
and meal-planning. Two of my favorite are The Engine 2 Diet, which
contains a meal-planning matrix for every day of the week, and lighter.world, which allows you to set up a
profile of preferences and will then give you three recipe choices each for breakfast,
lunch and dinner every day of the week. Whether or not you follow these
resources precisely, they are great guides for getting started, as well as for
ongoing inspiration. A good plant-based-eating resource (There are countless
others. These are just two that I use regularly.) will help you avoid ruts and
keep you motivated to stick with your commitment to healthful, compassionate
Be prepared. It is
easier than ever to eat a plant-based diet in the mainstream world. However, it
still requires some planning and flexibility to do it well. I just finished my
21st trip across Kansas on a bicycle (www.bak.org). Over the years, I have had more
and more options to eat, largely because the Board of Directors (of which I am
a part) does a terrific job of communicating with the host cities to raise
awareness that there will be people with a range of dietary needs and to
suggest to them what they can serve vegans and vegetarians in their fundraiser
meals. Still, on BAK and in my everyday life, I carry back-up snacks. I don’t
function well wen I get hungry, so I make sure I have something to eat if a
catered function or restaurant dinner is disappointing or inadequate. Fruit,
nuts, nut butter packets and bars (like Macro Bar or ProBar, among
many possibilities) are easy to carry and will hold up in a bag or purse. If
you are going to be traveling, use an app, like Happy Cow, to find restaurants that
are friendly to plant-based eaters.
Ask questions. Just as
you need to read labels to make sure there are not sneaky animal-based products
in food that you purchase, it is important to ask questions in restaurants or
at catered functions and potlucks. It can be done in a friendly, courteous way,
such as, “Do your rice and beans contain any animal products, like lard or
animal broth?” If you are committed to taking excellent care of your body
and/or to living your ethics through plant-based nourishment, it is important
to take the initiative to find out if a certain food will meet your needs or
not. Your health and ethics are too important to acquiesce to the mainstream,
out of fear of offending someone.
Be adventurous. There
was a time when I was frequently asked, “So, all you eat is salad?” That was
never the case (although a good salad is wonderful), but it is definitely not
true now, when there is so much more awareness of, and interest in, plant-based
eating. As long as it is made from plants and serves your nutritional needs
(minimal added oil, sugar, salt, processed items), be open to trying new food.
Just this past weekend, in Holton, KS, a sweet, grandma-looking woman told me
that she had “researched diligently” to learn how to make vegan breakfast
burritos with tofu, potatoes, onions and a delicious combination of spices. She
was adventurous and willing to try a new way of cooking. Those of us eating
plant-based should be open to trying new things. Pick a vegetable you have not
tried and Google a recipe or preparation instructions. Try tofu and tempeh, if
you have not. Experiment with different plant milks (almond, flax, coconut,
rice, soy, oat, cashew—endless possibilities!).
There are so many delicious ways to nourish yourself with plants.
Commit to the lifestyle, own it proudly and take responsibility for making it
work for yourself.
Let me know how I can help.
Although my primary motivation for being vegan is ethics, health is close
behind. I am grateful for my good health and am convinced that the way I eat is
a major contributing factor. I would love to assist you in your journey toward
living with no regrets. Connect
with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also click this link to schedule a complimentary coaching call. To connect with others who are interested in
living as well as possible, become part of our JustWind Producers of Power
& Purpose Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1958072857557272/.