.And Then You Die – Opening Up on PTSD.

“Seek the truth for yourself, and I will meet you there” 

[Disclaimer: not an easy read]

I suffer(ed) from PTSD for a while because I have dealt with a lot of difficult things in my careers as a police and security officer. I have seen many people die and there were many traumatic experiences when I pretended everything is fine but deep down, I was not fine at all. I could not “just” fill out that “dead-person-intake form” while I stood next to a person who jumped off the 9th floor of a building with parts of her brain stuck to my uniform and shoes.

Before that particular incident, my colleague and I were laughing in the police car. Everything was okay. We contemplated were to have coffee and a pretzel next. I remember it was a nice afternoon and I looked forward to the Metallica Concert that evening. The radio kept playing Metallica songs all day to promote the concert. The music in the police car droned on, but we stopped listened after the dispatcher told us to drive to the location where, according to neighbors, a woman climbed out of her window and tried to get to the top of the roof of her apartment.

I still did not put two-and-two together while we hurried to the scene. Maybe she wants to escape from someone who threatens her in the apartment? Maybe she tries to get into her apartment from her neighbor’s balcony because she forgot her keys? I was still gnawing on my lunch-sandwich. As a police officer, there are not real times to take a break. “I think something terrible is about to happen,” my colleague said. I did not acknowledge him but chewed ahead. I tried to put two-and-two together but my mind was blank. Blank as a white canvas. The woman took her own life. She jumped off the roof while my colleague and I drove around the corner. I saw her eyes while she jumped and I see them to this day. Wide open, terrified and scared. This is how I felt when I arrived at the scene. In her apartment, I wanted to find out if there were any screams for help. Anything, that could have explained what just happened. I did not find anything. I just saw a glass of red wine (still half full) with lipstick stains on it, a CD playing (Jazzonova) quietly in the living room and the window wide open. On the floor,  her black high heels.

It took me several hours to cry. I did go to the Metallica Concert that night because I purchased the tickets a long time ago. I was on my bicycle riding back home when I felt like screaming, crying. When I arrived home my neighbor asked me, “Why are you crying, what happened? Is everything all right?” And this was the point when everything came out: the complete waterworks. The wails and the screams and the snot. I went into some sort of depression this year and I knew I have to change my job. It was a sadness so deep that it physically hurt. I did not want to deal with suicidal issues and death on a daily basis anymore. I woke up crying sometimes because I thought I could have been able to save one suicidal person. In my reoccurring dreams, the suicidal people always laugh. I remember one particular dream when a person said, “Why do you care if I am dead when you are still so afraid to live your life?” I woke up crying. This all happened many years ago, yet it all seems so fresh.

Death scares us and because of this, we avoid to think and talk about it. Trying to figure out how some of the suicide victims I got to know personally must have felt, I can just say that I always saw and felt an endless and incomprehensible nothingness that they experienced. This made me think and come to the realization that if there really is no reason to do anything, then there I also no reason to NOT do anything; that there is no reason to ever give into one’s fear or embarrassment or shame since it is all a bunch of nothing anyway. By spending my life avoiding what was painful and uncomfortable previously, I had essentially been avoiding being alive at all. This woman’s suicide marked the clearest before/after point in my life. I really knew I had to change or turn my life around. I morphed into a new person while still carrying some of my insecurities, struggles, and baggage.  But this made all the difference and was transformational. Strangely, it was someone else’s death that made me appreciate life so much more.

The other day I went for a run. Running steadily, my leg muscles stretched and ached since I just started to train again. The cold wind screamed across my face but I kept running. I looked up. The sky was bright and beautiful. There was even a bit of sunshine. I was sweating, yet cold. Excited, yet nervous. Can I run away from it all? I stopped for a moment. Who is that at the horizon? I saw his familiar green jacket, his bicycle and I smiled. He smiled back and signaled me to run towards him. What if this is it? What if this is all there is? Then I would be happy. I shuffle on. In his direction. Against my mind. Against my thoughts and fears. One foot forward. Everything is okay. Being alive is so awesome.

.Getting To The Heart of The Matter.

“Writing a novel is like walking through a dark room, holding a lantern which lights up what is already in the room anyway” – Virginia Wolf

I love coffee but I do not need it to fuel my mornings. Sometimes, when time permits, I write at a coffee store around the corner from where I live. It is such a nice, cozy and welcoming place. I usually go there alone when I work, but there is always someone to chat with or listen to. I am spending a great deal of time working on my second book, which can be exhilarating and exhausting, but always blessing. Despite all the craziness in my life and in the world, I must continue to do my work. Creating takes much of the artists time, and may seem a self-serving prospect. But my directive is, to offer something meaningful, that hopefully provides a transformative experience. May it be through thought, tears, laughter or illumination ignoring the voice in my head that wonders if I really have anything of value to add.

“Look behind you. You are not alone. Don’t permit yourself to be ambushed. Watch out for the snakes. Watch out for the Zeitgeist – it is not always your friend. Keats was not killed by a bad review. Get back on the horse that threw you” – Margaret Atwood

So there I sat, sipped my coffee and typed along while the snow came down quietly. I thought about my job search and the different turns my life may take soon when I saw the barista behind the counter wiping away tears. There is never nothing going on. While I think my problems are so severe, others are struggling as well or even worse. For the sake of keeping the costumers happy and caffeinated, this barista went out of her way but she had to deal with this one rude customer. Apparently, the argument was about a coffee order she got wrong and a tip of this costumer.

I usually leave something in the “Tip Jar” so this made me philosophize. I mean, really think about it – metaphorically, you could ruin someone’s life if you don’t tip them. Let’s say, for example, you did not leave the sixty-five cents change as a tip after ordering your large latte and ham and Gruyère croissant. Diane, the barista, now found herself short on bus fare to get to her second job because she is working to pay off her student loans. Had you tipped Diane more, she wouldn’t have to walk to her ex-husband’s house who read her a shitty poem in French that he had written after they broke up. Now they got back together, and Diane is miserable. Also, if you would have tipped her more, she could have afforded a haircut before her job interview with the government the next day. An interview for a well-paying full-time job. She did not get the job and decided to live with her ex-husband again because it is “convenient”.

The barista looked over, smiled at me and I realized who really deserves a commendation. I chatted with her a bit on her 20-minute break to learn more about her profession and cheered her up a bit. The conversation was unsurprisingly full of insight. Have you ever wondered what a barista deals with on a daily basis? Grab a Cup of Joe for this one.

So what happened earlier? Why did you cry? 

This customer is a “regular”. He comes here every single day and orders the exact same thing without even looking up from his phone. If it takes too long (in his opinion) he starts to argue with me or any barista here in a very mean way. I wonder sometimes how miserable his life must be if he treats me like this. What is going on in his life?  I am just doing my job the best I can. At least look me in the eyes when you order or invest just a few minutes in what is happening around you before you put in your order. Also, do not let your anger out on me because neither do I. It would be so much easier if we are all just nicer to each other.

Does it annoy you to see the same customers every day? 

Most people are very nice. They ask for my name, smile and have a little chat while waiting. For others, ordering coffee is just part of their morning routine and I respect that. What drives me crazy is, when customers come in every day, ask for complicated orders that are not on the menu and don’t want to pay for all the components of that order. It is that type of entitlement that really drives me crazy.

Do you judge patrons based on what they order? 

There are of course certain drinks that I think will taste better with less of this and more of that but that does not mean you should not order them. Of course, I will make you that drink because we all have different tastes, likes, and dislikes. The other day I was wondering why a customer wanted to have steamed milk over a brownie but hey, you like what you like. Your money, your order, your drink.

What’s your weirdest/funniest interaction ever with a customer?

Sometimes customers ask strange questions and I think that answering those feels like explaining Valentine’s Day to extraterrestrials. Kind of like, we give each other gifts because we love each other but then there is a mutant flying baby that also shoots people, but just metaphorically.  Sometimes it is also weird when I try something new with the customer such as new coffee blends or new ways of preparing different types of coffee (“Have you tried oat milk yet?”). Also, someone asked me once to put “Dick Rider”, “It’s Over”, “Hail Satan” or “Douchbag” on the cup after I asked him for his name. Also, I will not draw a penis on your cup.

Do you pay attention to who is tipping how much and for what?

I do pay attention to who does and who does not tip but not always. It is usually not how much but whether the customer tips at all. When someone does tip, I see it as a sign that they were happy and satisfied with my service or I feel like I connected with someone and they tip after I helped them in some way. I do understand that paying $5.20 for a latte is kind of expensive, that you probably do not want to tip when I put your croissant in a bag but we have to live, too. Don’t even ask how much I am making in one hour. Just don’t!

Do people still order real milk? 

Some do, but not many. People are really into soy milk these days, even though it is even more expensive. The latest thing, however, is oat milk. It is really growing since we started offering it as a milk alternative. I love the flavor and it is so easy to make at home, too.

Do you ever go overboard on caffeine because it’s free? 

Every. Single. Day.

.Holistic Nutritionist: Meet Kristin Jillian Shropshire – An Interview.

Photo credit: Laura Kelly Photography

This is an informational interview I conducted for The Institute of Holistic Nutrition. Find out what a Holistic Nutritionist does and many more interesting insights. Enjoy!

KRISTIN JILLIAN SHROPSHIRE 

is a Registered Nutritionist (IONC), Registered Acupuncturist (CTCMPAO), and Faculty Member emeritus of The Institute of Holistic Nutrition. Between 2015 and 2018, she taught Advanced Nutrition Research, Symptomatology 2, and Comparative Diets. Kristin also has a master’s degree in Natural Health Sciences, as well as certificates in Biofeedback and Advanced Tibetan Reiki. She has her private practice at The Glebe Health House. Her business website is www.kristinshropshire.comKristin focuses on stress and nervous system disorders, fertility and family planning, pain management, healthy aging, diet optimization, and meal planning.

What does a Holistic Nutritionist do?

“Simply put, a holistic nutritionist strives to advise people regarding what constitutes a healthy diet. Foods are considered for their individual nutrients, but also for their synergy. Foods are evaluated based on the quality of the nutrients they contain—not just the quantity.

A (w)holistic nutritionist seeks to support the health and wellbeing of the whole person by teaching them how to optimize their diet for their individual life situation. This includes—but is not limited to—age, activity level, metabolic type, food sensitivities, etc.). A holistic nutritionist understands that a healthy diet is rarely a one-size-fits-all proposition. He or she will, therefore, work together with their clients to design a healthy eating plan that will suit his or her clients’ health goals, as well as their lifestyle. I like to think that a good holistic nutritionist would also find a way to satisfy his or her clients’ taste buds along with meeting their health objectives.” (winks)

Why did you choose this profession?

“I was always very enthusiastic about health and wellness. At a very young age, I knew that I wanted to become a medical doctor. More specifically, I saw myself becoming a pediatrician. All of that changed when I was 14 after I suffered a severe side effect to a standard antibiotic. The results were swift and intense. After no more than 36 hours on the antibiotic, I developed symptoms of what was eventually to be diagnosed as anxiety and depression. My symptoms were extremely severe. For five years, I could barely step outside my front door without experiencing crippling panic attacks. I had to homeschool (in partnership with the Ottawa Carleton District School Board’s Visiting Teachers program) throughout the majority of high school.

After being told by my physician that there was nothing that Western medicine could do for me, I started to examine the healing options offered via alternative medicine.  Holistic nutrition, in particular, caught my attention. While I credit numerous therapies with helping me to regain my health, including Chinese medicine, homeopathy, Reiki, talk therapy, etc., there is no doubt in my mind that holistic nutrition played one of the most vital roles in my recovery.

After suffering the way that I did, I decided that I wanted to dedicate my professional life to helping others reclaim their health. I still feel so much gratitude for those who helped me along my healing journey. One could say that I wanted to pay that kindness forward. Since holistic nutrition and Chinese medicine were two of the modalities that I found helped me the most, that is where I chose to focus my own education and clinical practice.”

Share an experience you had in dealing with a difficult person and how you handled the situation?

“To be quite honest with you, I have been very lucky and have not been faced with any particularly difficult clients thus far. That said, if I had to pick something, I would say that my greatest challenge has lain in finding the balance between giving clients good value for their money while respecting my own time and experience. For instance, should a client email me with pages upon pages of new questions that would take me in excess of an hour to answer, I might suggest that these questions be reserved for their next appointment. Certainly, I am happy to answer quick questions, such as, “What was that brand of bread you recommended to me?” That is a quick and easy answer. I love helping people but, over the years that I have worked in private practice, I have had to learn that it’s okay to love myself enough to set boundaries when I feel that someone is (often unconsciously) taking advantage of my time and genuine desire to be helpful.

Tell me how you organize, plan, and prioritize your work?

“I like to think that am a fairly organized person. When someone comes to see me for an initial nutritional consultation, it is my standard practice to generate a report following our meeting, detailing the health information that I feel will help to empower them to make the lifestyle changes required to attain their health goals. I also include a sample one week meal plan based on their health goals, dietary preferences, and so on. Given that it usually takes me at least three hours to prepare my client reports and I am committed to delivering completed nutrition reports to my clients within a week of their visit, this can take a lot of planning!

While I strive to work on my client reports at my earliest convenience, I have chosen to only rent out office space at Glebe Health House four days a week in order to give myself an extra day to catch up on any required paperwork. On Tuesdays, I work from home, prioritizing completing client reports, bookkeeping, and continuing education.

I am strongly driven by a desire for self-improvement. That is why spare time usually finds me with my nose buried in a nutrition or Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) textbook. This is a regular part of my Tuesday work day. Continuing education happens on other days, too, but almost always Tuesdays.

I was blessed to grow up in a very supportive family. That said, I want to succeed based on my own merits. Part of that includes making enough money that I don’t have to be dependent on anyone. By virtue of well-structured planning and organization, I feel blessed to be able to do what I love, gaining a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment by feeling like I am making a positive difference in the world, without feeling financially stressed.

Life is all about balance. I strive to live a life I love while preparing for the years ahead. Plan for tomorrow, but live for today. If we can make a positive difference in the lives of those around us, while we do so, all the better.”

Provide an example when you were able to prevent a problem because you foresaw the reaction of a client?

“Whenever possible, I strive to warn my clients about the possible side effects of their lifestyle changes. For instance, if I have recommended that a client consider adding probiotics to their regime, I try to forewarn them that it is not unheard of for the body to respond to the new, beneficial bacterial cultures with symptoms ranging from bloating to gas to increased defecation. By educating my clients ahead of time regarding the possible side effects that their body might experience, while it adapts, I find that my clients and I are often able to circumvent problems that might have arisen from fear of the unknown. As they say, knowledge is power.”

How do you deal with “being a therapist”?

 “While I think that there is great value in having clear, compassionate channels of communication with clients, I think that it is very important for holistic nutritionists to be aware of their scope of practice.  A holistic nutritionist is not a psychologist. As such, when required, it can be very important to set clear boundaries. I have yet to ever feel the need to do so, but I always keep the possibility of recommending that a client consider seeking the professional help of a licensed therapist in the back of my mind should I feel that they need more help that I am capable of providing—help that cannot be solved by changing one’s diet.”

In your experience, what is the key to developing a good nutritionist/client connection?

 “In my experience, the key here is, to be honest, genuine, compassionate, and kind, while allowing the client to make the final choices regarding what they feel is best for them. For instance, should a client tell me that they wish to pursue a vegan diet for ethical reasons, even if I think that they might benefit from consuming animal proteins, I will cede to their wishes and help them to design the healthiest strategy to optimize their health, while staying true to their ethics. It is my place to help offer education, not impose my own opinions onto others.

Listening is vital. While I might have my own professional opinions regarding best nutritional practices, it isn’t my place to judge anyone else’s choices. Unless I have walked a mile in their shoes, that would be unfair.

Likewise, I strive not to ever judge my clients’ “missteps.” For instance, I would never wish to make anyone feel bad by asking them what they thought they were doing by drinking this milkshake or eating that cheeseburger. Should they make the choice to consume such foods, I try to ask them why they felt compelled to indulge in the milkshake or the cheeseburger. I seek to understand their motivations so that I can better help to offer them a more healthful alternative. When I have a better sense of their motivations, I am better equipped to make recommendations that might help them to more easily implement the healthy lifestyle changes I am recommending.

At the end of the day, it is all about wanting to help my clients. I am not a tough love person. If someone wants that, they had best seek out another practitioner. I am all about education, empowerment, and celebrating every little victory. After all, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I say, let’s celebrate each and every one of those steps.”

Describe the methods you use to develop and implement dietary-care plans and provide nutritional counseling.

“I like to work with each of my clients on a one-on-one basis. While I think that it is true that there are some global recommendations that can help most people, I find that I can best help my clients by tailoring my recommendations to them specifically. For instance, what are their favourite foods? Do they have any allergies, sensitivities, or foods they just don’t enjoy eating? What appliances do they have at home? If a client doesn’t have a blender, it isn’t going to do them any good to have me recommend a smoothie recipe. Likewise, if I don’t take a client’s likes and dislikes into the equation, they aren’t likely to enjoy my proposed dietary changes enough to stick with them for long enough to notice a significant change in their overall state of health and wellness.

I am a visual person. As such, when factual explanations don’t serve to adequately illustrate my point, I often rely on creative mental pictures to help explain things and get my messages across. For instance, while trying to explain why it’s important to prioritize healthy foods, I somethings explain that eating the “right” foods and the “wrong” foods can be seen as a “Good Team” vs “Bad Team” battlefield. Whenever we eat something “bad,” the enemy gets more ammunition. When we eat healthful foods, we are empowering our own army. The type of ammunition given out is influenced by just how healthy or unhealthy our choices are. For instance, if we eat too much fruit, we might be giving the “enemy” a slingshot to use against us. Lots of slingshots add up, but one isn’t really that big of a deal. If, however, we go out to dinner and eat a big, greasy pizza followed by a deep-fried candy bar, we might have just given the “enemy” a few cannons to use against us. Few people are going to eat perfectly all the time. The trick is to make sure that with are giving ourselves more “ammo” than we are giving the “enemy.”

What is the most challenging part of your job? Have your ethics ever been tested?

“I think that the most challenging part of my job is that I have to be an entrepreneur as well as a healthcare practitioner. One has to wear a lot of hats when running one’s own business. I love what I do, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that learning to balance all of the myriad aspects of my job has been stressful at times. I am not just a holistic nutritionist and an acupuncturist. I have to be a secretary, bookkeeper, and marketing manager, too. Thankfully, I am pleased to say that this has gotten much easier over the years.

My ethics have definitely been tested. On several occasions, I have been asked whether it might be possible to issue an acupuncture receipt for a nutritional consultation or vice versa. While my heart goes out to people who are just trying to optimize their benefits in order to improve their health, it’s against the Code of Ethics of my regulatory College to do so. As such, this is not something that I will do.

I consider it an honour and privilege to be entrusted with the health and wellbeing of others. As such, I will do everything that I can to support my clients in their efforts to get well. While I will not falsify receipts, if I have a client who needs more treatments than they originally thought they would in order to attain their health goals and they are struggling to pay for the treatments, if it is within my power, I will lower my rate in order to accommodate their need. It bothers me greatly when people can’t get the health care that they require because they can’t afford it. While I can’t afford to treat everyone for free, it brings me joy to do what I can to help others. After all, I know how much I would appreciate it if I ever found myself in a similar situation.

Please share an experience in which you taught (successfully?) a difficult principle or concept 

“That’s an interesting question, as it depends on what each individual client considers to be a difficult principle or concept. That said, I would have to say that teaching clients about the difference between glycemic index and glycemic load falls into this category. I love the “Aha!” moment that I see reflected in my clients’ eyes when they have learned how they can successfully incorporate healthy foods that they previously thought denied to them, such as cooked carrots and watermelon, without unbalancing their blood sugar levels.”

Is there a trick to persuade a person to change their behavior or way of thinking?

 “I think that it is important to recognize the importance of baby steps. Change doesn’t have to be extreme in order to be meaningful. In fact, so often, seemingly small things like drinking more water can make an enormous difference.

In my experience, long-lasting change doesn’t usually occur overnight. It is often enough to make slow and steady changes. To use the same example, if a client tells me that they only drink two cups of water every day, instead of suggesting that they jump right to trying to drink eight or more cups of water per day, I suggest that they aim to drink three or more cups of water per week. Once they achieve their goal, we celebrate the victory. We then move on to four, then five, then six, then seven, then eight or more cups until our ultimate goal has been achieved. Setting reasonable goals is a great way to keep people motivated.

I also find that clients benefit from having a solid sense of what is motivating them to achieve their goals. If their will to change their diet and/or lifestyle is strong enough, they will have the necessary motivation to overcome any and all obstacles that they encounter along the way.

Tell me about research you have planned, conducted, and/or evaluated? Please tell me about your teaching experience at IHN.

 “I am not currently working on any particular research. That said, since one of my primary clinical focuses is fertility and family planning, I am always reading the latest research on the topic in order to improve my knowledge. The more I learn from different experts, the better able I am to devise more complex treatment plans (when required) in order to best support my clients.

I loved teaching at IHN. It made me ridiculously happy to share my knowledge and help to inspire a new generation of holistic nutritionists. That said, as I got busier in the clinic, it became too much to teach at the same time. I might rejoin the IHN faculty someday but, for now, I have chosen to place my focus on my private practice.

 What is your top advice for me starting out my own business?

“I find that it is often prudent to have an alternate source of income when starting work as a holistic nutritionist. It is not easy to build a private practice. While it is possible to make a comfortable income working exclusively as a holistic nutritionist, doing so takes time, perseverance, and ingenuity.

In my experience, most students benefit greatly from leveraging their past experience and education. If possible, try to connect your previous work experience to find a niche that you are uniquely qualified for. Network. Use all of the connections available to you to politely request guidance regarding opportunities that might be a great fit, not only for you, but also for other people that they know.

If your past experiences and education don’t offer you appropriate job opportunities, I would consider adding additional certificates and diplomas. The knowledge gained in the holistic nutrition program at IHN is extensive, but I find that new graduates really thrive when they are able to combine holistic nutrition with something else. Sadly, for so many, certification as a holistic nutritionist alone isn’t enough to earn a comfortable wage.

In terms of work environments, I would recommend investigating available opportunities at popular medical and/or holistic clinics. While renting space might take a financial investment, working out of a location that already has a lot of traffic can help people to learn about you and the services you offer. This is of enormous benefit when starting a practice.”

How many clients do you see a week and do you have a final comment?

 “I see about 15 clients in an average week. Holistic nutrition is a wonderful field. I certainly feel proud to be a part of it. Thank you for being interested in my opinions and insights into this field that I love so very much.”

Thank you so much, Kristin.

.Consistency.

I mentioned this in previous posts but I have to say it again. This year has been one of the most challenging ones for me for sure. A lot of things changed. My environment and a lot of feel-good moments and habits just went out of the window. Add a ton of unnecessary stress, and the picture is perfect. After a while, this began to take a toll on my wellbeing. I reckon, there is only so much a person can take while keep moving forward. A little while ago, I made a couple of promises to myself that this insanity cannot bring me down and nobody can make my world fall apart or my empire crumble. I am strong. I promised myself that I will meditate every day, eat healthy and fresh food 95% of the time, to move my body and sweat, and to rest and sleep enough. This changed my life and eventually turned into a daily ritual. I would like to share how these little promises have kept me accountable and how I have been able to stay consistent over the last couple of months.

First, it is important to be realistic. It is easy to come up with goals in our head that we constantly repeat to ourselves. Some goals are often very big and rather discouraging from taking even the first step. I will graduate from The Institute of Holistic Nutrition soon and healthy living is obviously important to me. I also know that recommending clients to switch their diet and cut out everything they love to eat won’t work. Baby steps. For example, if you want to change your diet, cut out all refined sugars for a start. This is more than enough for most people.

I started meditating for 5 minutes initially. An hour might be unrealistic as a starting goal. Set goals that are easy to accomplish or alter them slightly to fit your needs. Listen to your body. Rest and say no when your body tells you.

Make time and prioritize. My little personal wellness rituals do not take away from my social time either. If I have dinner plans with friends for the evening but I haven’t eaten anything healthy all day, I may either go with them anyway and eat better the next day or I invite them over and we cook something healthy together. Or I will have herbal tea instead of coffee. Or an apple instead of a glass of wine (Yeah, right. There is no way those two cannot co-exist. It is the only way to make it sustainable!)

What it all boils down to is mindset and to be realistic. And the truth is, that accomplishing big goals just simply does not happen overnight. Usually, there is pretty hard work involved. I used to think all or nothing which usually stopped me from starting in the first place or made me quit shortly after. Things have gotten better as soon as I changed my mindset and recognized that everything counts towards the bigger picture. These days, one of my goals is to save money and rather invest in experiences than materialistic things. My friend is really good at saving money and I learned that finance is the best way to realize how every little thing counts. He saved that $1 the tooth fairy brought while I bought bubble gum. Oh, my son is about to lose his first tooth. Sigh! Playground talk: The tooth fairy rate is $5 or a small toy. When did that happen?

Staying consistent with my goals is of course not easy but I have created these promises from a place of self-love. It might sound cheesy but if the goals I am setting do not evolve from a loving place, I know I will end up hating myself if I do not measure up to perfection some day. There are of course also times when I over-spend, when I eat unhealthy food like nachos. There are also times when I do not have the best workout, especially not after those nachos but I forgive myself and promise to do better the next day. I have learned to fuel my rituals with compassion, love, and kindness because frankly, this is the only way to get to where I want to be. Self-hate prioritizes self-destructive activities over self-improvement.

.A Weekly Food Diary – A Holistic Perspective.

I went grocery shopping the other day and at the register, the cashier told me that I cannot use my debit card but have to either use cash or my credit card instead. I never believe(d) in credit cards. I am a cash girl, always and forever. I love to have money in my wallet instead of taking out these plastic cards. My friend lost his walled the other day and we realized that it is crazy to get money without these cards.  He had to cancel his cards and order new ones but in the meantime had no access to money. Then again, carrying too much cash is also not the ideal. I remember the time when I was a child and all my parents had in their wallets was actual money. What I am aiming for is to always carry $60 at all times, “just in case”. Other than that my rather very slim wallet contains 89 cents, a debit card, a credit card that I never use and membership card for museums.

I am a student at The Institute of Holistic Nutrition in Ottawa and not a Holistic Nutritionist yet but my life already revolves around food 98% of the time.  Most of my money these days is spend on food for my son and I. He grew a lot and changes; most of his clothes no longer fit and he eats so much. I included some meat in his diet because he craves it. To make him happy and nutritionally satisfied, I rather put the $60 in cash or any money actually toward organic meat and produce than purchasing clothing or anything for myself. Since we have to calculate and live on a very small budget, there is no way I can splurge too much on books, toys for him and personal things for myself. But there is always the library. And secondhand clothing. And local produce. Besides, I see this time of my life as a challenge which I make fun on a daily basis. My son understands that we have to be more considerate with money these days; he understands because he is a smart kid. Thankfully I was never into fancy handbags, clothing, and shoes. I  share how we shop as healthy and nutritionally- dense as possible in one week; I included some recipes with keeping minimalism and a small budget in mind.

Monday

$ 130 for most of the groceries for the week

This is a pretty standard shopping day for me. I go pretty veggie-heavy at Farmboy for example where I purchase local produce with minimal packaging. I also choose two to three proteins that can be stretched throughout the week (like chicken breast, eggs, turkey or ham). 80% of the produce is local which is important to me. I have to calculate our meals and aim to bring the amount of cost per meals per day for both of us down to $10. These days, I eat less so my son can have more.

Tuesday

Simple is key. For lunch, we had tuna sandwiches on buckwheat bread that I made. His favorite bowl of steamed broccoli not depicted. There was a time when we used to go out for dinner all the time even though my fridge was usually full of organic, healthy food that I purchased at Whole Foods. I have to shamefully admit that I was a huge food waster. These days, I try to save eating at a restaurant for the weekend after I used all my groceries I purchased at the beginning of the week.

Wednesday

For breakfast, we had homemade blueberry/banana buckwheat muffins with my mom’s jam. After, we had to run some errands and came home for lunch. I made us a small salad with homemade bread and cheese. Dinner was organic chicken, roasted asparagus, Brussel sprouts, and quinoa.

Thursday

We both had a banana/blueberry/coconut smoothie for breakfast. For lunch, we each had a Mini Mason Jar Greek Salad with a baguette. Mini Mason Jar WHAT? Put oil in a jar (2Tsp), 2 Tsp of Apple Cider Vinegar, 2 Tsp Maple Syrup, Oregano, Salt, Pepper and shake in a mason jar. Then add sliced cucumber, a sliced hardboiled egg, tomato, tuna, black olives, bell pepper, red onion, feta cheese, avocado or whatever else you feel like. Shake again and enjoy.

Friday

Since it is so hot these days, I prefer to eat light. I made an Avocado Salsa and we had Blue Corn Tortilla chips with it. For the Avocado Salsa: Chop tomatoes, bell pepper, cheese, cilantro, add lime, cumin, salt, pepper, a bit of cayenne pepper, oil (these days I use avocado/coconut oil), cilantro, and avocado. Mix it all up in a bowl. I added shrimp as a good protein source.

Saturday/Sunday

We spent the weekend at the cottage and ate “garlicky bites”, enjoying a cold beer and wine (just me obviously and not my son), steak, potatoes, steamed veggies, omelets with fresh veggies, garlic, and bread. Life is always good a the cottage!

I did not list every single thing my son and I ate in a week but keeping track of my spending while writing down most of the meals we had each day was definitely interesting. It made me think where and if I can save more money somehow by making smarter choices. Keeping a food journal is something most nutritionists recommend to clients and it is definitely helpful in the beginning. I also think it is okay if most of my money goes to quality food that nourishes my son and I and supports small farmers.

.Holistic Nutrition – Things to share.

I have been taking courses at The Institute of Holistic Nutrition for two months now and since some readers asked me to share what this is all about and my experience, I would like to give a little update here on the blog.

When I sometimes mention that I am studying holistic nutrition, people either give me the sad, puzzled look of, “poor thing, you cannot eat anything” or they ask me “what can you eat? Is this a raw food diet or vegan?” Well, none of the above. First, I would like to elaborate on the perfectionism around food and what people associate with eating, being healthy, self-love and self-care. I also want to share how to find that balance between to indulge happily for the sake of mental health while at the same time kind of simultaneously being strict about what you eat for physical health.

Studying nutrition does not make me perfect in the sense of I do not eat perfectly 100% of the time. I certainly do allow myself wiggle room once in a while because I think this is really important. That nutritionists eat perfectly all the time is somewhat a misconception people have. I definitely put an emphasis on eating and appreciating good, healthy whole food but the reality is different. We live in the real world. We go out with friends, we socialize, eat and drink wine and beer. I believe allowing yourself this wiggle room is really important which means this is also some type of “food freedom” that we all enjoy. Getting into a dogmatic way of thinking about it takes the joy out of eating delicious, good food.

I learned recently that peanuts are not the best type of nuts to eat since they tend to mold easily; especially when they come in plastic containers. Even though I know this, I love peanut butter once in a while. My options here are to get the “freshly made” type for example at Whole Foods. You know these peanut butter machines: peanuts in, bring your own container, place it below and press the button. This peanut butter tastes so delicious. I want some now.

I drink wine; I love wine. When I spend time camping or at a cottage I roast marshmallows. We have to stop getting rid of the idea to reach perfection, especially when it comes to food. Nothing is ever perfect. The only thing that happens is that we get discouraged, lost and stressed out about it all. What we can do though is, we can find the perfect balance for us. The goal is to be as happy and healthy as I can be – finding a balance for ME (and my son).

One important thing I learned is that there is no diet that applies to everyone and no food that applies to everyone because everyone is so different. We just have to experiment what foods are good for us and which ones are not. For example, when I am constipated all the time, I cannot sleep at night, I am overweight and I have dark circles I may want to consider the way I eat and live.

A couple of tips that work for me are to listen to my body by eating food as an opportunity to listen to my body. To understand what feels best for me, what I digest the best or things that react strangely in my system. Listening to symptoms you may have and then making the necessary shift in your diet is key. I know that a glass of wine or 3 is worth it tonight but I will most likely end up with a headache the next day. You have to ultimately decide if it is all worth it for you; food freedom, remember?

FYI: Alcohol is a diuretic (meaning, it makes you pee a lot) and B Vitamins are water soluble. When you pee a lot you are depleting your B Vitamins. So, to avoid a headache, drink water before and after sleeping, take a Vitamin B1 complex and drink fresh beet juice the next morning since it flushes the liver via increased bile production. Please be aware of recommended doses and amounts of use. I am not held responsible for any crazy side effects that may occur! Please supplement responsibly. 🙂

One more point I would like to add is that we learn how to make healthy alternative food choices without having the feeling of missing out. For example, my son loves Nutella and I let him eat it of course but he also eats the Nutella-version I make (Recipe will follow soon!). I enjoy simple home-cooked meals and I enjoy the preparation. When I learned one thing so far it is that healthy eating is so easy when I keep it simple. I also learned from my friend to just go the store, buy some items that are healthy and seem to go well together and throw them in the pan. Throw in some salad leaves too while using a simple wrist movement. Just create things without following a recipe all the time. There are just so many trends and recipes out there that distract from the simplest dishes. Overall for me, food should be real, whole and simple without a label or expiration date attached to it.

For more information on the school click here or send me an email if you have any questions.

Stay healthy.

Scale or No Scale.

One afternoon ze husband came home with a fancy “this-thing-literally-can-do-anything-even-bake-me-a-cake” scale. Apparently it can be controlled through his phone, watch and whatnot and monitors the exact calorie intake vs what he burns throughout the day (It can feed you too, I reckon). Do I need a scale like this? Hell no! I am definitely not the person who steps on a scale first thing in the morning and let this thing rule my day or mood. When ze husband went on the mission to Somalia, that scale went down in the garage (nope, I did not throw it out – yet!) to just prove a point. He is gone and so is this scale. Since we are moving soon, I found this high-tech thing again waiting patiently in the corner, collecting dust but silently invited me to step on it. “Step on me, I know you care, ” the things seemed to whisper. 

I am not attached to the scale anymore since I figured out how to measure and monitor my weight differently. I have this one pair of jeans that fits nicely when I am let’s say around 67 kg. As soon as my weight goes over this number, I know I have to take it easy on the chocolate cakes. 

These numbers on the scale hold little significance to me and I won’t get emotional. I think I am in control of my body (am I really?) but tracking calories on a daily basis, no thank you. Life is too short. There was a time in my teenage years when weight mattered to me. I was never obsesses but indeed stepped on my parents’ scale for weight management 101 every single morning and was in a good mood when the weight was “okay” and in a bad mood all day long when it wasn’t. Eventually, I stopped since I did not want to mentally chain me to measurements and numbers. It exhausted me to the point that I was close to an eating disorder. 

Frankly, it is basically common sense how to lose weight; not so common for some people so here is food for thought: 1) I have to eat less; 2) eat healthy and 3) exercise. Done! Well, or get surgery. I can read a ton of magazines about losing weight, exercising and getting all the gadgets (food diary and whatnot) the industry tells me to. But basically, all that is necessary is a pair of good sneakers and a park. No expensive gym membership either. It is all about finally “doing” it and moving around. I figured out that fast paced walking is way better for my joints than jogging. 

Food-wise: All these zero-fat products don’t work. Either I eat my veggies and then put on my sneakers and move around or I don’t. In case of the latter, the weight will most likely stay the same. Also, crazy dieting turns some people into insolent, crabby ass*****.  On the other hand, people who lost a lot of weight and are now “experts on nutrition and health” and preach what they “know” are pretty annoying as well. Why I did not become a nutritionist? Honestly, one day someone tells you chia seeds or coconut oil are the best thing to eat and the next day, this food is very bad for you. Every human being is different and for example raw food is not ideal for everyone. Paleo diet and whatnot, same thing. 

“It is so very important to eat a big healthy breakfast that is full of ONLY healthy fats, whole grains and chia seeds. Also make sure you skip snacking by taking your own food to work. AND THEN use the stairs instead of the elevator all the time. Also, eat eggs. But not the yellow part. ONLY the egg white.  Since I AM doing all this I am feeling sooooo much better, ” a friend told me not too long ago. I don’t actually want to hear this when I think about to rub “Häagen-Dasz chocolate chip cookie dough” all over myself. Also, whenever I bring lunch to work, it looks sad and not like the amazing dinner I had the lunch before. 

One more thing about sports and working out: I tried it all. From gym membership, (im)personal trainer who just hit on me, Zumba, QiGong, Karate, Handball, Volleyball, Basketball (I don’t like these kind of team-games). Working out for me means being by myself, with music (optional) in the woods or in the park. My mom told me about AROHA which is huge in Germany for whatever reason and that she is totally into it. I looked at her and asked, “What are they doing? What is this? I thought AROHA is a part of Hawaii”. She looked at me puzzled and I shrugged it off. 

I know that working out can be a total bummer. When I was a police officer I trained for a full marathon and finished it. Never again. Jogging and running was no fun anymore. It simply became a chore I needed to do and I ended up hating it. I am definitely not a gym-person either. Running on the treadmill for 30 minutes  staring at sweating people or posers is not much fun. Or trying to figure the elliptical machine or stair master out while looking like a complete uncoordinated moron, also not my thing. Plus, the smell at the gym. Yuk!  Hold on. What was I even talking about? 

The scale. I do care about my weight. I want to be healthy and I know that if I gain too much weight my joints will hurt and I feel uncomfortable. Whatever I do to keep my weight at a healthy level, I won’t waste an obnoxious amount of valuable energy. I don’t care what other people say about me. Comments, blablabla and whatnot. This society we are living in is so full of BS most of the time anyway and obsessed by measuring the value of a person through and by looks and appearance only. Just in case people forgot: There is more to a person than looks and weight. To be healthy and arrive at a good weight for my body I learned to listen to my body! Really listen. 

FASHION POST: Love/Hate Relationship with Skirts and Dresses.

Another hot day in Barcelona sightseeing. Wanderlust. No clue about fashion but my Lois Vuitton is usually next to me while traveling. 

After a long conversation with a very good friend of mine on fashion and why fashion blogs are so popular I had a packing/cleaning date this evening with my closet and realized again that neither skirts nor dresses feel quite right to me. I own a couple because I think I should own them. They are awesome when it is really hot, comfortable and make me feel feminine while shorts are more practical and boring in a way. I wear those when I chase Petit Joel around at the playground. I love my legs and I never regretted the tattoo that covers nearly my entire right leg. However, those awesome legs of mine never look as I want them to in denim shorts. Question: When are denim shorts simply too short? I am not into fashion at all and don’t know what is in style these days but I have seen a couple of “girls” today who wore shorts that seemed crotch-threatening. 

If you really want to pull this look off, you cannot have a face and have to hold something in your hand. At least you have hands. 😉 

So, why love/hate relationship? I put on a dress or skirt in the morning because it seems like a fun option since it is finally warm enough here in Canada. Secretly however I wish I could just change into my black or blue jeans. I love my jeans. All of them. I think I am officially addicted to jeans and plain, simple t-shirts.

For some time I gave up on dresses and skirts altogether. It seemed like I try to be someone I am not. I know that some clothes just look good or fit a certain type of woman and squeezing into something just because does not work for me either. Fashion industry tells me what to wear, what is in style or looks great. Since I question everything these days I have to say: Don’t tell me what to do, fashion industry! I can think for myself and decide what looks good on me! The other day I observed a woman in a secondhand clothing store trying on a dress. I could tell that the color was just wrong and the dress way too tight for her without any fashion knowledge whatsoever. But the saleswoman went on and on telling her how beautiful she looks in this dress. They want to sell thing, right?! “And this dress gives you this special glow which is so great since it is summer now!” I wanted to tell “the client” the truth but who am I? I have no clue about fashion while I look at secondhand cardigans from the 80s and know for sure that I can combine them with my white vintage Karate club t-shirt that rocks. 

I accepted that I just cannot wear certain things and I have determined a somewhat stylistic choice which states who I am and what my character and  persona is. Then again, it is just clothing and you don’t know me by just looking at what I am wearing. So many times, wearing a shorter skirt feels to me like being at a party that I don’t really want to attend in the first place but all my friends are having a great time so I am pretending I am in a good mood even though I feel like crap and want to go home and read.

I can also try to figure out my skirt/dress issue by simply noticing that it gets more and more difficult over time to think about why I don’t talk to certain ex-boyfriends anymore. It just doesn’t work and I stopped doing it. And I apply the silent treatment to things like fashion since, I reckon, this is a great way to deal with it. Otherwise, silent treatment sucks. Period. 

At the end of my cleaning/decluttering closet process tonight I put some of my dresses and skirts on and I like them. Maybe it is because they look more flattering since I lost a bit of weight, and I believe I will, before grabbing my regular pair of jeans, have a little feminine talk, and opt for the dress or skirt instead even though it is totally and entirely out of my comfort zone. A skirt forces me to think about matching tops and shoes and whatnot which is way too much stress in the morning. 

Will I transform this website into a fashion blog? Definitely not. My passion lies in thought, analyzing, writing and reviewing things rather than fashion. And this realization just feels like a nice, comforting little breeze around my nether regions while wearing a skirt. 

Things That Are Aging Me quickly For Realz.

So a couple of days ago I bought a bottle of good Portuguese wine since I will be going to a conference in Portugal soon and need to figure out beforehand how the wine situation is. The person at the register asked me for my ID. Did I get annoyed? Why would I? My question is always, “how old do you think I am?” He said mid-twenties. I bought another bottle of wine and left the store with my head held up high. Apparently, I look young, fresh and healthy. Inside, I felt tired, exhausted, stressed out and discouraged for the last week plus. I overheard this sweet conversation of two elderly ladies at the store the other day. They both said how nice it would be to just be twenty again, to have the opportunity to do it all over and that they both wouldn’t mind being healthier and with less wrinkles. Further, they added they would never get married again and who needs men anyway. 

I paid for my salmon, arugula, tomatoes and mozzarella (favorite dish for supper when it is hot outside) and thought about aging, the anti-aging market and eternal youth. Will the person at the liquor store still ask me for my ID in ten years? I know by now that creams, peels, lasers and all the chemicals like botox are most certainly not a solution. It just does not work. A cream cannot get rid of cellulite and why would I want to let a doctor inject the fat from my ass into my lips to make them fuller? Can I reverse the aging process somehow on my own? Is there a way to reverse the aging process? More wine? More Portuguese wine? Or is booze aging me the most? In moderation, most likely not. Well, I know what is aging me for sure. 

Stress. Stress is bad for me. Occasional stress is manageable but anything chronic kills me. Assignments, deadlines, tons of work and when usually everything comes together (Petit Joel sick etc.) I feel like curling up in fetal position to silently weep myself to sleep. It has been a rough couple of weeks but I am seeing a tiny light at the end of the tunnel. If I don’t get enough sleep and whenever I am tired for a couple of days in a row I feel old.  

 Lack of Sleep. There is no sugarcoating this one. Sleep deprivation for a long time makes me feel and look old. I am a Master student with tons of work so I know what I am talking about here when I am usually up at 1 am still. Being up so late is not doing me any favors and I actually cannot even concentrate at this point. These days, I try to go to bed by 11pm (so right after I sent this post out) and then read a bit until 12pm. That is it. I feel rested and I do need my beauty sleep and know that my body detoxifies during a nice 7-8 hour restful sleeping period. Whenever I don’t sleep enough, I cannot focus too well, my memory does not work which makes me drink more coffee and this then makes me feel old and dries out my skin. You get the idea? Isn’t it amazing how much bad stuff (alcohol, cigarettes, not enough sleep etc.) I did/do to my body sometimes but he still “forgives me” and keeps on working? Food for thought and change. 
 

Phone and Computer. Again, everything in moderation but I realized the other day how much time I actually spend on my phone or in front of the screen and it makes me feel old or age faster for some reason. I am not taking my phone to the playground anymore. I focus on my son and that is it. Also, I set a time limit to work on my school projects; like write for 2-3 hours then turn the computer off and do nothing else to give my brain some time to rest. By nothing, I mean nothing. No music, no reading or anything. Just laying on the couch for a bit listing to my body or the wind and just process the present moment. 

Sitting. Are you sitting down for this? Working at my desk for those 2-3 hours straight makes me feel so stiff that I want to go outside and run. I have this urge to move around, stretch and eat my lunch in the plank position. Too much sitting makes me feel old. Makes me stiff all over and my muscles ache. These days I take my bicycle everywhere to move around. Or I practice Yoga. Or a nice walk in the park. Swimming at the public pool is also awesome, especially since it is getting warmer here in Canada. Finally, eh! 

I just have to keep this in mind and make some changes here and there and I am on my way to the fountain of youth. 

What’s for Supper?

I cleaned my kitchen cabinets this morning to just get an overview on what I have hoarded. The fridge, freezers and storage cabinets are full with stuff and I still end up going to the store to buy more. Well, I actually realized that I don’t need to buy food at all for weeks. Seriously, that much stuff. I watched Michael Pollan’s documentary In Defense of Food the other day since the book was okay and inspirational. I also love to broaden my horizon whenever it comes to food and my health. And what I really like is flavorful, mostly organic food by trying to embrace the notion of the current season. I am fortunate to eat this way, I have to add. Organic healthy eating is actually not really that cheap and Pollan hasn’t paid too much attention or provided solutions on this topic for the let’s say, less fortunate community. 

Pollan describes different eating habits in countries like France for example. Whenever I am in France, I admire how people enjoy good, simple food just like cheese, a baguette and a bottle of good wine shared with friends. They take their time and rarely walk around with food in their hand; it seems eating is a celebration and sensation every time without stressing out. The same I observed in Spain when people come out of their houses early in the evening when it is not that hot anymore (usually by 8 pm!!) and meet at a local small restaurant to eat together and take their time. No stress, no drive-through ordering at Starbucks (or anywhere actually) ever and just taking my time to prepare a nice meal.  “Eating this way is what I want, too”, I said and I made some adjustments but overall, simplicity is key for me. 

Petit Joel and I spent this morning in the kitchen cooking and baking which turned out to be so much fun. He loved to help and made cakes with the homemade Playdoh I made for him. We sprouted seeds, made chocolate ice cream, bread and rolls only with ingredients I had already at home. The kitchen had this nice smell of freshly baked bread while I kept cleaning the cabinets, throwing things out that 1) I would never eat again or 2) are expired. 

Later and after we cleaned the entire kitchen, we took our bicycles and decided to have lunch in the park at The New Art Festival which is really well done and great to visit even with kids. Diving into art and learning about local artists and their artwork is just what rounded up this day nicely for me.  Our picnic blanket came in handy when someone was too tired and felt too hot to continue walking because his legs are old (Joel) so we stopped and ate our rolls, some sliced carrots, apples and he then waited patiently in line for some chocolate ice-cream drink at the festival. 

We spent the rest of the day outside, playing, talking to friends and enjoying the sun and warmth. So what’s for supper? Joel wanted more of my bread (yay!) with banana slices and some almond butter. This was basically it since we usually eat very light for supper. Of course, whenever ze husband is around we have homemade pizzas or pasta in any variation but usually, I just have some form of salad and take a paper-wrapped cheese or occasionally charcuterie from the fridge and lay it out nicely on a wooden board. I add some grapes and call it The French Revolution Night. I might open a jar of Pâté and eat this with a slice of crusty homemade bread. Heaven! Again, simple is key! 

After this long day we curled up on the couch with hot chocolate and popcorn to watch Moana again (Petit Joel’s favorite movie!). Thinking about food, traveling and what I already ate I have to say that I can adapt to anything, especially if it is  simple and rustic (German) but also fine dining and complex dishes (Delegates Dining Room United Nations). For me, variation is important because eating the same things every day gets boring and I want to try new things. Like pho. 

What I discovered in Ottawa today: 

While we ate supper today, we listened to Jazz. There is some sort of Jazz music playing at our house most of the time. These days I am into Kenny Barron. I found out today that he will be in Ottawa soon for the Jazz Festival. Hopefully I can be there to enjoy this fantastic artist even if it means to take Joel. He is used to my taste in music by now, I reckon. He better be! 🙂 Life is good. And I am listening to this while I am typing.