.There is no Planet Earth 2 – The Ecological Footprint.

Ecological footprint! What does this even mean? The ecological footprint measures the amount of nature’s resources an individual, a community, or a country consumes in a given year. Let’s focus on Canada. Here are some numbers for you taken from the WWF Living Planet Report:

As far as energy usage, Canada is ranked third in per capita and ranked in the top ten for Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. The average Canadian household uses 500,000 liters of water annually. Canadian households generate 31 million tons of garbage each year. That is 2.7kg per person per day! Canadians toss more than 140,000 tonnes of electronic waste into landfills each year. Plastic use? Worldwide, over one million plastic bags are used per minute. We throw out 100 million plastic bottles every day! There are roughly 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of the ocean. Sick yet? Let’s talk food.

In Toronto, single-family households discard about 275 kilos of food waste each year. Worldwide, 50% of food produced is wasted! Households waste an average of $1,456 worth of food annually. You like salmon? Over 85% of the world’s fisheries have been pushed to or past the point of collapse. Unsustainable methods such as bottom trawling, drift nets, dynamite, electro and poison fishing are being used.

Fashion? Do you love fast fashion? Consider, water pollution, toxic chemicals, carcinogenic dyes, sweatshops, waste. Have you ever wondered how it is possible to produce a sweater sold for $7,99?

What can be done?

Decrease Your Footprint:

Reduce, reuse, then recycle. Share, DIY, buy used, buy local (farmers market), buy toxin-free. Eat less meat and choose high-quality meant and sustainable seafood. Cook at home. Use less energy, drive less, turn down heat/AC, power down gadgets and standby lights. Get involved. Talk, volunteer, share, lobby, engage store managers, bosses, schools etc.

Buy less stuff! Before you buy, ask yourself: Do I really need this? If it is replacing something, can it be fixed? Can I do without it? Can I make it myself? Can I grow it? Who am I supporting when I buy this (small family business vs multi-national cooperation)? Is there a way to buy this from a local business? Is there a more sustainable option (Fairtrade, organic, recycled, sustainably made)?

Make smarter food choices! According to Statistics Canada, the average Canadian has 26 tsp of sugar daily; teenage boys have 41 tsp! Only 1/4 of Canadian families eat a homemade meal made from scratch every day, compared to half of the families in 1992. On any given day, 1 in every 3 children eats a fast-food meal. Children see 10 million ads a year just ion their ten most visited websites – 90% of those ads are for unhealthy food.

Avoid Farmed Fish! This includes salmon, shrimp, mussels, oysters, trout, bass, and tilapia. The main concerns are: Extreme over-crowding leads to antibiotic use and poor health. Farmed fish is fed with Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)-meal, often with added dye hence the nice pink color. Atlantic salmon is engineered with a growth hormone gene. GM (genetically modified) Atlantic salmon eggs are produced in Prince Edward Island (PEI), shipped to Panama to grow, then to the US for processing and finally back to Canada for sale. Yikes! The problem is the missing transparency in Canadian Regulation of GMOs for example product labeling. To be on the safe side: buy only wild – and not farmed salmon, or no salmon at all unless you really know where it comes from locally.

Meat: Overall, reduce consumption to what your body needs. Find a good farmer for meat, eggs, and dairy. Go to organic butchers that source locally. Emphasize grass-fed, hormone-free, GMO-free feed (the meat tastes so much better!) Did you know that “grass-fed”, “grass finished”, “pasture raised” are not regulated terms? Antiobiotic free means only that the animal didn’t receive antibiotics for a period of time before slaughter. Ethically or humanly raised terms are meaningless. Again, organic meat is best, ideally 100% grass-fed.

Eggs: Try to buy organic feed, animal welfare standards, and local (farmers market!). Do you know what it means when it says Cage-free on the egg carton? Cage-free means that hens are not confined to battery cages (but no access to outdoors and no idea what feed is). Free-run means hens can move around in open-concept barns (may still be overcrowded and may not have access to outdoors). Free-range: Hens can go outdoors. Yay!

Watch this: Michael Pollan’s documentary Cooked (actually, read and watch anything by Michael Pollan!)

“Cooking for yourself is one way to take back control of your diet from the food scientists and food processors” – Michael Pollan

Lifestyle questions to ask yourself:

How far is too far to walk or to cycle? What is the smallest amount of money you could live on for one year? What was the last thing you bought that you really didn’t need? Why did you buy it? Could you live without a car? How would it affect your life? Do you think that the best things in life are free? If you had no money, would you still have the same friends? How do you decide what clothes to buy? Do you know where your food comes from? Are you willing to buy second-hand? Are you comfortable borrowing things?

Stay healthy. Stay happy.

.Eat this: Kimchi Spring Rolls & Almond Butter Dip.

Readers keep asking me if I could share more healthy, quick and easy to make recipes (not too many ingredients). Your wish is my command. I will share one recipe weekly in addition to my regular blog post. On this blog, check out the Beauty & Food section for more recipes and (homemade) beauty products. Also, big news. My new holistic nutrition website will be up and running in a couple of weeks. Yay!

Hungry? No idea what to eat? How about Kimchi Spring Rolls. There are super easy to make, healthy, insanely delicious and filling. Enjoy this fresh and bold flavoured kimchi and cashew blend from heaven.

Ingredients:

Dipping Sauce:
1 cup raw almond butter
1 Tbsp freshly chopped ginger
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic
add a bit of Cayenne pepper if you want it spicy

Kimchee Filling: Yields 4 cups (makes 7-8 wraps)
2 cups cashews (soaked for 1-2 hours and drained)
1/2 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup raw tahini
1T maple syrup/honey/agave syrup (optional for sweetness)
3-4 cups pre-made kimchi

Fresh veggies of choice
Collard Greens (remove the hard stem) and/or rice paper wrappers

How to:

Process cashews, sesame oil, tahini, maple syrup (if using), and ginger in food processor until chunky consistency is achieved. Mix with roughly chopped kimchi and set aside. I used collard wraps and rolled 2 Tbsp of kimchi filling, organic spring mix and julienned veggies (cucumber, bell pepper, and carrots are best!) For the dipping sauce, blend all ingredients in a blender. So easy and incredibly tasty!

Seriously, you need these wraps in your life!

xx

.How to: Intermittent Fasting.

Everybody talks about intermittent fasting these days and it grows rapidly in popularity. What is intermittent fasting and how do you do it? Are there benefits and who should avoid it. Interested? Read on.

What is intermittent fasting?

In a nutshell, you basically eat the same amount of food that you usually do but during a shorter period of time. The term fasting refers to any period of time when you do not eat food. Actually, we fast every night when we sleep. It is important when we eat. Because everything is available 24/7, we can get in this habit to constantly eat all around the clock, especially late in the evening/night. What uncontrolled eating does is, for example, it creates appetite irregularities and up-and-down blood sugar patterns which can also negatively impact sleep.

Three types of fasting methods.

Eat-Stop-Eat (“5:2”). This type of intermittent fasting means you eat in your usual manner for five days of the week and either restrict food intake on 2 non-consecutive days (for example Tuesday and Thursday) or fast altogether on those days (no food for 24 hours). Personally, I find this method quite restrictive and have not tried it myself but heard of some people who love it.

16:8/18:6. These are just different options for lengthier fasts that involve no food intake for 16-18 hours and eating over a span of 6-8 hours.

Time-Restricted Eating (TRE). This type of fasting is based on the science of the circadian (natural) rhythms and means that we eat during the day and stop eating at night. With TRE you want to focus on an eating window of 10-12 hours and fast for 12-14 hours.

Some important Benefits

  1. Intermittent Fasting supports cardiovascular health. It can help to reduce cholesterol, especially low-density lipoprotein (LDL aka the “bad one”)
  2. Autophagy. Auto-what? Autophagy is basically a cellular cleansing process that occurs when cells have insufficient sugar. It causes them to start breaking down their own damaged, old or diseased cell fragments to create new energy and also newly regenerated cells. Pretty neat, huh! Usually, this occurs in longer fasts but we also experience it a bit during overnight fasts of 12-13 hours. Of course, we do not want autophagy to occur all the time because that would mean we are starving.
  3. Better gut health & Inflammation. We usually do not feel like eating when we are sick. This is a natural reaction and signal the body sends out asking for a break. Intermittent fasting can lower inflammation which means less disease, better immune function, and a healthier body overall. Since fasting helps reduce inflammation and reboots immune function it can be beneficial for autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s. Of course, always speak to your doctor if you have concerns.
  4. Improved Blood Sugar Balance. Let’s dig out my Biochemistry book: Whenever we eat, the sugars from food signal the pancreas to produce insulin to rush it into the cells. The liver then stores fatty acids in fat cells and converts sugar to glycogen. Do you still follow? Now the body has stored all the sugars and fats from the meal and insulin and blood sugar drop. The pancreas secretes a hormone called glucagon to signal the liver to convert stored glycogen back into sugar to release it into the bloodstream to balance blood sugar. This “storage” and “burning” mode usually happens cyclically all day long and the body uses remaining stores when we sleep at night. Problems may occur when we constantly or irregularly eat all day, especially high sugar and fatty food. Then the body is stuck in “storage mode” and too much insulin is secreted all the time which can lead to insulin resistance or low/high blood sugar. Intermittent fasting is a great way to improve insulin resistance, fatty liver, and conditions associated with blood sugar regularities.
  5. Weight loss. Intermittent fasting can aid weight loss because the body is allowed to exit “storage mode” and burn internal resources instead. It is also great to regulate appetite because it balances satiety hormones (ghrelin and leptin) and hunger.

Who should avoid (intermittent) fasting?

  • Those who try to get pregnant, are pregnant or breastfeeding moms
  • Anybody dealing with extreme stress (any extended fasts (14+ hours) are stressful for the body because the body will perceive those fasts as periods of famine)
  • Diabetics. They should consult a doctor first.
  • Anybody with a history of eating disorders. Always make sure you consult a doctor before exploring with fasting and diets on your own.
  • Anybody who is new to intermittent fasting should aim for 12-13 hours.

I experiment with intermittent fasting for about one year now and I respond really well to it. I usually follow an 11 am-7 pm eating – 7 pm – 11 am fasting rhythm, usually 3 days a week but of course, there are exceptions because this is life.

There is also a great app that you can download that allows tracking fasting/eating windows.

Have you ever tried intermittent fasting? Please share your experience and leave questions and comments below.

.Today was a Good Day.

There was no clown (or balloons) in the sewer on this rainy morning walk to school. I did not see the ghost that haunts the house next door. A construction worker did not climb over my balcony peaking through the windows but was actually on his way up to fix a leak on the roof while I practice yoga half-naked in my bedroom next door.

There were no technical issues while I worked on my new website all day. It will be epic and I will share updates soon! I was able to help someone who suffered from low stomach acid, eczema, and under-active adrenals with nutrition and supplements and she feels significantly better. No one said, “You cannot do this or this won’t work!” No one said, “Keep still, this will be over before you know it.” No one said, “Oh my god, it never looked like this before. Usually, Botox does not have this effect on the skin!” No one asked me, “You are not from Canada, are you?” No one said, “Gesundheit!” when I sneezed and was alone in my home. No one slapped me hard across my face and told me to chill and relax. I saw a woman with oxygen tubes in her nose today. I don’t need oxygen tubes in my nose.

I did not need to crawl through an air duct to be free. I did not need to cut my hair very short and bleach it in a gas station restroom to change my personality. I did not need to burn off my own fingerprints or make a tiny escape tool out of a needle, pencil, and sharpener.

I did not have to hitchhike through the country. I did not have to find a place to sleep under a bridge or park bench. I did not have to beg for food. I did not raise my hands up to the sky and screamed, “Whyyyyy?”

I didn’t ask, “You did not cheat?” or “Was none of it true?” I did not answer, “What in the world were you thinking” or “Why did you do this?”

I did not experience road rage even though a BMW driver cut me off while on my bicycle and I almost rolled over the hood of his car. I did not throw my purse over the head of someone talking and texting forever on his phone in a movie theater (again). I did not need to figure out how to secretly smoke in prison while sitting on a toilet and use the suction of the air so nobody would smell it. I did not cut out newspaper articles and taped them to the wall to then connect words with a red string and send my findings to the Russians or French Intelligence.

I did not say: “Why did you do this”?, “You don’t know me at all”! “There is a ghost in the basement for sure”!, “What is the worst that can happen”?, “Good things take time”!, “If anybody is looking for me, I am at Wicked Wanda’s Adult Store to just look around!”

I did not choke on my buckwheat blueberry muffin this morning even though it tasted very dry and sad. Neither did my son. The red color under my son’s nose was not nosebleed but red sharpie. Glad, it was not black. I did not purchase the iRobot vacuum cleaner after we tested it for one day. So useless. My son does not want a pet that needs to be kept in a cage.

I realized that no fairy tales ever begin with: “Once upon a time, he blindfolded me in the back of the car.” No other woman’s hair clogged my sink. I learned that: a) it is awkward to call a woman: “Bud”, b) that a closet full of fancy clothes does not make you a princess or give you style, neither does a fancy car, c) anyone who seems like they never have a bad day occasionally have very, very, bad days, d) if a man won’t tell you where you are going on a date, you are going camping, e) if your only problem is where to go when your cleaning lady comes over to clean your house for three hours or how to how to remove the “servants bell” in your 18th century house, you really do not have problems.

Pretty successful day indeed.

.My Canadian Winter Mechanism – A Holistic Approach to Seasonal Affective Disorder.

I moved from New York City to Canada in August 2016 and my inaugural winter was a catastrophe. I did not own a proper winter coat or waterproof boots and did not see the need for it either. Initially, I thought I can get away with a pair of normal winter boots and a jacket that I can combine with something warm and lighter underneath. “That should do the job, ” I thought. It starts getting significantly colder here in Ottawa at around November 1st and I realized quickly, that my winter outfit needs to be improved. My friend tells me I have to toughen up and stop fighting the cold because I cannot change it. He uses the words “embrace the cold” actually. Again, I chose to live here but I take freezing temperatures (anything – 25 Celsius) personally. “Why are you doing this to me, winter?”, I hissed into the ice-cold wind the other day while jogging along the canal. Whenever it is super cold but there is some sunlight during the day, I am fine. It becomes challenging when it is just gloomy for days, more snow accumulates that then turns into ice followed by more snow. “The good times are gone”, I said to my friend who told me that spring is just around the corner. He means well.

I found this chart online but it is not even funny. It is shockingly accurate.

That first winter went on forever and I thought that this will be my last one in Canada. “I cannot do this anymore, ” I said to myself one morning in late March when I found out that another snow storm was around the corner. Then, some sort of miracle change happened and summer was here, just after one short week of spring. I am not exaggerating. This is Canada-weather at its best. During those long, cold months, I need something that cheers me up and makes me less depressed. Being indoors and not able to “play outside” makes me really sad.

According to research I have conducted, 2-3% of Canadians struggle with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which is a type of depression. This sounds like a small percentage, but the disorder affects nearly a million Canadians (and one German). SAD typically occurs within the long fall and winter months when there is just an average of 2-4 hours of sunlight (if even) per day in comparison to spring or summer when there is an average of 8-10 hours. Without enough sunlight, Vitamin D (the “sunshine Vitamin) levels in the body are very low. Symptoms usually are a feeling of depression, low motivation, energy, and fatigue, anxiousness, change in appetite (weight gain or loss), poor concentration and sleep problems to just name a few.

So, why is sunlight so important? Vitamin D levels in the body are increased through sunlight as it is synthesized through the skin and then triggered by exposure to UVB (Ultraviolet B) radiation. Research that examined the relationship of Vitamin D to SAD has found that just one hour of light therapy or exposure to sunlight can dramatically reduce SAD. According to Haas (2006), Vitamin D regulates bone formation. If Vitamin D is low, blood levels of calcium and phosphorus decrease and the body pulls these minerals from the bones which then may create demineralized and weak bones.

The sunlight (or lack of it) can cause hormonal changes. To make this easily understandable: serotonin levels drop and melatonin (our sleeping hormone) increases. The pineal gland, which is situated just above our cerebellum at the same level as our eyes, is responsible to produce melatonin. So, if there is limited amount of sunlight we find ourselves starting to get more and more tired throughout the day. I supplement with this Vitamin D product (the active form of D is commonly known as D3 or cholecalciferol which is the best!) and it seems to help me get through these super long winters in Canada easier. Make sure to either calculate your optimal individual intake for Vitamin D if you know how to or ask a pharmacist. Of course, I take every opportunity to expose my face to the sun and eating an adequate amount of vitamin D-rich food such as fatty fish (salmon, tuna), eggs, etc.

Serotonin is a chemical produced by our nerve cells and acts as a messenger between cells. Usually, serotonin goes hand in hand with tryptophan (like peanut butter and jam), which is an essential amino acid and needed to produce serotonin. A what? Essential amino acids mean our bodies cannot make it and therefore we should eat/add it. Tryptophan also promotes calmness, sleepiness, and relaxation. Before taking or recommending supplements, I rather choose to get the same effect through eating tryptophan-rich foods such as: pumpkin seeds, lamb, beef, turkey, chicken, oats, eggs or bananas.

Excercise. Other holistic approaches that help me get through this cold season are to exercise and to spend at least 30 minutes outside working out, especially if and when there is sunlight. Working out could just mean to take a faster-paced walk in the park if jogging is not your thing. Simply, just move and breathe in fresh air to reduce mental fatigue.

Essential Oils. I discovered Saje Pure Essential Oils a while ago and fell in love. It is a Canadian company that produces 100% essential oils. A Christmas gift to myself was their little pocket pharmacy with 5 essential oils good for stress release, eater’s digest, pain release, to strengthen the immune system as well as the ultimate peppermint headache oil. In several courses I have taken at The Institute of Holistic Nutrition, essential oils have been mentioned and their benefits explained. I use essential oils first instead of traditional drugs or medications; for example, peppermint oil as a headache remedy and lavender oil to sleep better and relax. I would like to share some essential oils that help me and are beneficial for Seasonal Affective Disorder:

  • Peppermint oil: Benefits: refreshing, anti-inflammatory, mental-stimulating, cooling. Blends well with patchouli, lemon, cedar or rosemary.
  • Lavender oil: Benefits: balancing, calming (mind and skin), mood-lifting, healing, decreases mood swings and insomnia. Blends well with lemon, cinnamon, pine, cedar, peppermint
  • Rosemary oil: Benefits: physical and mental stimulant, revitalizing for skin, grounding. Blends well with cedar, peppermint, grapefruit
  • Eucalyptus oil: Benefits: cooling, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, deodorizing, energizing. Blends well with pine and cedar (very good cold/flu remedy to inhale with, put under the nose to breathe more easily or put in the essential oil diffuser)
  • Lemongrass oil: Benefits: Vitalizing, purifying, regenerating. Blends well with basil, cardamom, spearmint
  • Mandarin oil: Benefits: relaxing, soothing, uplifting. Blends well with peppermint, franincese, cedar, rose, lavender

Be happy. Be healthy.

RESOURCES

Haas, E.M. (2006). Staying healthy with nutrition – The complete guide to diet and nutritional medicine. New York: Random House Inc.

.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.