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I love to learn about the healing value of food. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, plants and foods are an important healing source in the form of herbal medicines, and in teaching us about what foods can help us get back into balance. The basic tenet of eating healthy is to go with the flow of nature.

And I believe that is the essence of what Michael Pollan writes of in an article for the New York Times that begins, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

A helpful blog posting on inspired protagonist has paraphrased Pollan’s rules.

  1. Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
  2. Avoid food products that come bearing health claims. They’re apt to be heavily processed, and the claims are often dubious at best.
  3. Never eat food products containing ingredients that are unfamiliar, unpronounceable, or more than five in number. Or that contain high-fructose corn syrup. These are all signs that the food has been heavily processed.
  4. Do as little of your shopping at the supermarket as possible. Farmers Markets are much better food sources.
  5. Pay more, eat less. It’s a lot healthier to eat less high quality (i.e. expensive) food than it is to eat a larger quantity of poor quality food. It’s like beer. Better to drink one really great craft-brewed ale than a whole six pack of swill that costs less than that single bottle.
  6. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
  7. Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks. People who eat by the rules of a traditional food culture are generally healthier. Any traditional diet will do: if it weren’t healthy, the people who follow it wouldn’t still be around.
  8. Cook. And if you can, plant a garden. To take part in the intricate and endlessly interesting processes of providing for our sustenance is the surest way to escape the culture of fast food and the values implicit in it.
  9. Eat like an omnivore. Try to add new species, not just new foods, to your diet. The greater the diversity of species you eat, the more likely you are to cover all your nutritional bases.

To the last point, I would add, eat like a rainbow-eater. Eat the (natural) spectrum of food colors.

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I received a beautiful and playful gift over the holidays, a solar-powered rainbow maker. You stick it on a window, and when sun rays shine on it, little rainbows dance around the room.  It’s delightful.  (And it’s powered by the sun!  How cool is that!)

It reminds me of the colors associated with the Five Elements, a holistic way of the looking at the world.  There are seasons,  colors, emotions, smells, tastes and even times of day associated with each of the Five Elements: earth, metal, water, wood and fire. 

The colors associated with the Five Elements are yellow, white, black/dark blue, green and red.  I won’t go into all the theory of it here, but suffice it to say that we each have all  the elements in us.  In other words, from a color perspective, we each have a rainbow inside.

But often one or two colors in the rainbow are stronger than others.  So what might we learn from that?  For example, when I was a kid, navy blue was my favorite color. I was born in wintertime and was quiet and introverted.  More recently, however, I’ve been salsa dancing and playing latin music.  Coincidentally, I am much more drawn to the color red; it shows up much more in my wardrobe.  I think it reflects a greater expression of my passionate self, and red if definitely a color of passion.

How about you?  What can you learn from paying attention to colors in your life?

  • What’s the most popular color in your closet? 
  • Does your mood change depending on the color of your shirt? 
  • When you’re shopping for clothes, do you gravitate toward a particular color?
  • Is there a color you hate and would never wear? 
  • Has your favorite color changed over the years?

Celebrate the colors that are (and aren’t in your life.)  And see if you might want to bring some more balance.  For example, an all-red wardrobe could be too hot and dry.  Cool it down and introduce some moisture with blues and greens. 

Be inspired by the rainbow.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, balanced daily routine is said to be a key to long healthy life. I think about my grandfather who was very organized; for example, he had his breakfast at 8:30am every morning. I could practically set my watch to it. And he lived fully to 92.

So let’s say you agree that routine is good. But can too much of a good thing become not so good? I’ll share my friend’s experience of getting herself out of a rut.

For five years, my friend started each day with a walk around her neighborhood. It energized her. Got her off to a good start to write. (She’s a poet.) Recently, however, she noticed her aversion to her walks. She just couldn’t get going in the morning. She had walked herself into a rut. (Imagine if she had walked on a dirt path–instead of concrete–for 1800 days; there might be an actual rut in the road.)

So one day, she decided to make just one change. Instead of turning left, when she stepped out, she turned right. That was it. She walked the exact same route, but in the opposite direction. And that one difference made all the difference she needed. She was more present on her walk, because she couldn’t go on automatic pilot. She noticed things anew. She’s now back to her healthful routine. With that one simple–but profoundly effective–change, she has gotten out of a rut.

What daily routine could you change by just one facet, to give you a fresh new experience?

Some ideas (inspired by a great little book on neurobics called Keep Your Brain Alive):

  • Use your non-dominant hand when doing everyday things. For example, if you’re right-handed, use your left hand to brush your teeth, button your shirt, open the door, stir your coffee or tea…
  • Stimulate your other senses. For example, use touch, rather than sight, to pick out your clothes. Smell your lunch before you start eating; can you pick out the ingredients?
  • Change your seat. Choose a new spot at the dinner table. Or try a new seat at your next meeting. You might get an entirely new view of things.

Please share rut-releasing tips that have worked for you!

I’m feeling some anxiety about changes–real, imagined and expected–in my life now. I came across this article in the Yoga Journal, by meditation teacher Philip Moffit, where he talks about change and intention: The Dharma of Life Changes. Since intention is a key word in my own work with clients and with myself, I was curious to see what the author had to say.

I was especially drawn to these questions that Phillip Moffit proposes:

Diligently applying mindfulness allows you to answer three basic questions:

  1. What are your real motives?
  2. What are the possible effects of any change?
  3. Is the manner in which you plan to go about change skillful?”

These are seemingly simple questions, but how simple is it to “diligently apply mindfulness”? I find my mind wandering easily to worries and planning, so I remind myself of the benefits of spending a few minutes to do a self-acu mini meditation.

Whatever movement in your life that you are dealing with or working on bringing to fruition–managing your weight, improving your life balance, greater financial success, a new job, a growing family–try out these questions. Change is a part of life; it’s nice to have some guidance in how to navigate through those times.

It’s flu season, and there’s nothing like all the news about the flu outbreak in the San Quentin Prison this past week to motivate me to wash my hands. Often. And thoroughly.

This seems like such a small thing, but the when it comes down to it, a lot of Everday Wellness is about the basic everyday things we do. Wash our hands. Brush our teeth. Eat healthy foods. Laugh with friends. Take a walk–get some exercise.

happy handsSo, back to happy hands. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, effective hand-washing involves washing your hands in warm water with soap by rubbing your hands together for 20 seconds. How long is that? Imagine singing–or actually sing out loud–“Happy Birthday” twice through to a friend. (Read more: CDC Clean Hands Campaign)

There’s a lot of talk about the pros and cons of anti-bacterial soap and anti-bacterial hand sanitizers. My personal recommendation is to use anti-bacterial hand sanitizers only when water and soap aren’t available, and to prefer thorough hand-washing with regular soap, rather than use anti-bacterial soaps. (Ideal Bite has tips on soaps and hand-sanitizers that offer more info.  ADDED 1/16/07: Here’s more on planet-friendly hand sanitizers.)

And if you need another reason to take the full 20 seconds to wash your hands, think of it as a 20-second acupressure massage. There are many acupressure points on your hand, so give an extra squeeze on each finger while you wash away unwelcome germs.

In the last minutes of 2006, I was in a car accident. We were just about to cross the Oakland Bay Bridge to go home after a warm and lovely New Year’s Eve dinner, and the car I was driving was hit by a truck.

Fortunately, no one was injured. The man who hit us was calm and friendly, which helped calm my startled nerves, and I trust that the insurance matters will all work out alright. When the clock struck 2007, we were still on the side of the road, but had a great view of the fireworks display across the Bay.

Nevertheless, my spirit has been a bit off-kilter today, the first day of 2007. Worried about the repair requirements, wary about driving, rattled that the transition to the new year was accompanied by such a jolt. However, I remind myself of the healthy intention I set for myself yesterday, before the accident.

That is, to practice some yoga and meditation every morning, even if only for 15 minutes. I ALWAYS feel better when I do that. I know this supports all aspects of my life.

And this morning, even though I was feeling a bit tentative and sorry for myself, and my neck and shoulder were a bit uncomfortable–from the accident? from stress and worry?–I did my practice. I felt better afterward, in body and spirit, and I believe it allowed me to enjoy the visits with good friends through the day as much as I have. My morning practice also probably helped to recognize my “off-kilter” state, and just let it be, rather than getting more worried about that.

So, I invite you to consider setting a healthy intention for yourself.

  • Not a goal, which sets up a specific expectation. Here’s a familiar example: I must diet and lose x pounds by y-date.
  • But a guiding principle that helps you with what to do in every moment. It might look like this: My intention is to pay attention to when I am actually hungry, and eat food that is nutritious and delicious, enough to satisfy my hunger, and no more.

When you pay attention to the joyful or peaceful and restful moments in your life, what healthy intentions can you set?