3 Simple Ways to Practice Ayurveda

Ayurveda is a big word that simply means “life science”. It is also the world’s oldest system of medicine, with many practical applications in our busy, modern lives. Here’s three simple daily practices that will help you begin to explore the benefits of an ayurvedic lifestyle:

1. Balance the skin. Toss commercial cleansers and lotions that interfere with your body’s natural oil production, and replace them with less expensive, holistic alternatives. Coconut oil, massaged into the skin (even the face!) and rinsed with warm water, clears toxins and leaves a healthy glow.

2. Balance the gut. Drink a large glass of warm lemon water first thing every morning, before eating. This practice stimulates elimination, essential for total body health.

3. Balance the mind. Close the door, set a timer, and sit in silence for five minutes each day. Listen to your breath. Notice what is happening. Are your inhales longer than your exhales? Are you breathing into your chest, or all the way into the belly? Let the breath get deeper, and allow the mind to quiet. It will seem like nothing is happening at first, but you will, over time, learn how to use this practice to heal your mind, body and spirit naturally.

Little by little, these practices will shift the way you think about food and self care, and open doors to the may other practical applications of this time-proven science.

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photo: kimberlysnyder.net

#TBT: What Can We Learn From Our Past?

When I started this blog, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to say. I just knew I needed to start sharing this incredible journey I have been on for the past twenty years. I learned so many lessons about overcoming common health issues all by myself, and it was hard. I hoped that by sharing here, I might spare others some of the pain and frustration I endured.

Since I started writing, God has been encouraging me, inspiring me, and leading me to keep digging deeper into the reasons behind my struggles, and what I learned from them. It’s been a process of refinement for sure, but it’s led me to exactly what I hoped to find: clarity about why we struggle now more than ever, to get healthy and stay healthy, and how I can help change the culture.

It’s interesting to me, to remember that more than one doctor along the way has suggested that my aches and pains were all in my head. It was laughable, to sit face to face with someone who claimed to be a healer, feeling like I’d been run over by a truck, and be told that my pain was not legitimate.

My pain was very, very real. In a way, though, those doctors were partially right. Part of my problem was in my head. It was what I believed about healing, that stood between me and pain-free living. I believed that we healed ourselves by visiting doctors and taking medicine. A very linear and closed-minded perspective that is common in our culture, even today. It was only when I started looking at my challenges from new angles, that I found what I had hoped for all along. Yoga opened my mind, body and spirit to a multi-dimensional approach to healing and prevention that transformed my life.

Little by little, I started to see that most of my ailments were self-induced. I was allergic to much of the food I was eating, and I was not exercising. Living reactively, rather than proactively, and slowing digging a ditch that I would only escape through years of introspection, exercise, and healing foods.

I talked about the five undeniable truths that I discovered along the way, and how my family history affected my beliefs, on my Facebook page today. These messages are important themes in my book, and the stories of the women in my family help put it all in perspective.

And BTW, in case you are wondering where I’ve been…ever since I started writing my book, I have found it easier to chat on Facebook than write blog posts. Faster, less formal. Please join us there at My Crazy Healthy Life, if you haven’t already. I’ll be back here writing from time to time, but you will find me popping in on Facebook (and on Instagram at mycrazyhealthylife) much more frequently–as always, I’d love to hear from you!

Namaste,

Amber

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#tbt 1972:  Four generations of my family, each with a unique story about how societal “norms” affected their health. The crazy baby on the right is me. : )

My great grandmother Cora (middle) worked on a farm every day of her life, and was fit as a fiddle. My mom always said she was a saint (look closely, you will see the kindness in her eyes). They were poor, and struggled to make ends meet, but real food and constant movement enabled Cora to live a happy, faithful life into her mid-90s.

In contrast, my Grandma Lou sat behind a desk most of her adult life, and watched TV when she was home. I remember her as being very cranky and having a lot of health issues. She died much younger, in her 70s. Lou had a hard life as a single mom, in an era where it was uncommon to be a divorced mother. She graduated college and began work in the 1940s, just as convenience foods began to emerge in the marketplace. Her sedentary lifestyle and lack of proper nutrition led to diabetes, and later heart complications that ultimately took her life.

My sweet mama, Joy (right), was up and down her entire life. She tried to be happy, but she felt bad a lot. She also suffered more than her fair share of traumas. Like her mom, she relied on convenience foods, and rarely exercised. She was known for her red hair and determination (stories you wouldn’t believe, even if I told you). The one challenge she never seemed to master, though, was her health. Her weight fluctuated, and she had frequent headaches, insomnia, and depression. She battled cancer twice, before losing her life to ovarian cancer at the age of 56. I was 26 at the time.

And then there is me, pictured in Mom’s lap. I battled my weight, chronic pain, insomnia, and depression for two decades. Things got markedly better when I found yoga and became a vegetarian, but I still struggled. Six years ago, after having my third daughter in three years, I was diagnosed with autoimmune thyroid disease, and have struggled with it ever since. I am certain that the junk food I grew up on, and my lack of exercise as a kid (I watched a lot of TV) played a major role in all of my health challenges.Thankfully, committing to real food and yoga has taught me how to control my health naturally. I am profoundly grateful for what I have learned on my journey, and that it keeps getting better, day after day, year after year.

As I look at this photo, I can’t help but feel sad for what society did not know then, and hopeful for what we do know now. My parents and grandparents were duped by marketing, and took for granted what processed food and a sedentary lifestyle would do to their health. Today, we are blessed by the emerging awareness of how our food is produced, and how it effects our bodies.

If what we want most is to be happy, we must accept these undeniable truths:

1) We already know what to do, to get healthy–eat real food, and exercise every day.
2) The best things in life are always hard earned–trust the struggle.
3) Worrying gets in the way of our goals–we need to stop worrying about our weight, what we look like, and what others think about us.
4) We are leaders and we need to act the part–every choice we make informs the choices of the people around us.
5) Excuses get in the way of what we want most–do whatever it takes to be the best we can be, every single day.

This is what it means to be crazy healthy. It’s not easy to exercise daily and change how we eat–especially if you have autoimmune disease and chronic pain as I do–but it’s always worth it. My hope is that my kids will grow up knowing this, and pass it on to their children as one of the most important lessons in life. ॐ

Never Diet Again

ImageI started dieting when I was in high school, even though I was not overweight at the time. I just thought I was fat, because all the girls around me were talking about how important it was to be skinny.

I was never particularly good at dieting, esoecially when I did pack on the pounds later, but I kept forcing the issue anyway, and hated every minute of it. Except the one time I was on that diet, that let me have frozen fat-free chocolate yogurt with granola for lunch. I actually liked that one. But I had to give it up when I realized that it didn’t really work.

So, I kept on keepin’ on, struggling with my weight, into my 20s and early 30s. I read the diet books, bought the diet foods (Slimfast and Snackwells, anyone?), kept the journals, and promised myself I would stick to the plan. But, no matter how hard I tried, I always felt like one of Cinderella’s stepsisters, trying to fit my foot into a shoe molded perfectly for someone else. What seemed promising at first, always wound up disappointing me in the end.

As a result, I struggled with my weight for years, and I felt bad about myself a lot. Especially when I had to go buy new clothes, because I could no longer zip my skirts.

This cycle went on for two decades. Diet. Lose. Gain. Diet. Lose. Gain. I kept reinventing the wheel and calling it something different, every time. It never worked.

Until, one day, one of my yoga instructors shared what I still think is the most brilliant perspective about food I have ever heard:

“At some point, you have to ask yourself: is what I am eating really food?”

It changed the way I thought about grocery shopping, meal-planning, and eating out, forever. I never dieted again.

Instead, I changed what I believed about food. I decided that food is fuel for my body, and instead of eating to lose weight, I should eat to become the best version of myself that I could possibly be. How’s that for a novel idea?

I became a truth seeker, insistent on understanding exactly what I was putting in my body. I read labels, scoured the internet for nutrition facts, and started eating at home more often, so I could know exactly what was in my food.

The more I focused my attention on fueling my body, the better I felt. I finally accepted what I had known all along, but had been too stubborn to admit: everything I eat effects me either positively or negatively. And the more I moved toward nourishing myself, the more I wanted more of the same.

This is how I became passionate about the importance of real food, and broke the cycle of dieting for good. It was one of the most liberating experiences of my life, to stop trying to eat like everyone else, and decide for myself what works best for me.

The say the truth will set you free, and never is this more applicable, than when we are trying to lose weight. The truth is that diets don’t work, and you should never, ever diet again.

Eat real food, instead. All day, every day. Exercise every day. And trust the struggle. The more we distance ourselves from processed foods that dull our taste buds, and nourish our bodies with real foods and exercise, the more we crave real foods and movement, the more inspired we are to eat from the earth, and the better we feel and look.

Learn more about real food in this insightful post at The Atlantic, and pick up a copy of “Eat To Live” by Joel Fuhrman, MD.

Have you liked My Crazy Healthy Life on Facebook? Join us there, for crazy healthy recipes, tips, and inspiration!

 

Photo: http://www.drsharma.ca

6 Things Everyone Should Know About Thyroid Disease

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Listen up, friends:

The fatigue, headaches, insomnia, mood swings and weight gain you are experiencing might not all be in your head. They might be in your neck.

The thyroid gland, located just below our adam’s apple, produces hormones that effect every cell in our bodies. When it’s not working properly (which is common), we can have a wide variety of distressing symptoms, often at the same time.

In 2008, when I first got sick with autoimmune thyroid disease (Grave’s Disease), I thought I had the flu. My eyes swelled, I had cold sweats, muscle aches, fatigue, headaches, and I lost a lot of weight really quickly. It took three doctor visits, several weeks, and a full blood panel, to figure out what was making me feel so awful.

What followed after is a long story, full of specialists not returning my calls, giving me bad advice, and leading me down dead end paths that cost a lot of money. It was an overwhelming, frustrating, and disappointing experience.

But, it taught me some lessons that everyone should know about thyroid disease:

1. Thyroid disease is incredibly common, and often goes undiagnosed. I am amazed by how many people just deal with it for years. No one should have to do this! Unfortunately, this problem will likely continue, because thyroid disease is widely misunderstood. This is why it’s important to get tested, and take the time to understand what your levels mean. You need to know not only the numbers, but also where you fall in the range for the test. I was half a point outside the “normal” range when I first got sick, and could barely get off the couch for months. It turns out that what is “normal” for my body is not what is “normal” for most people, and treating me for hyperthyroidism (despite a number that would not concern most doctors) made all the difference.

2. It’s complicated. There’s no simple fix, so buckle your seatbelt and hang on for the ride. There’s a lot of conflicting information about thyroid disfunction on the internet, and if you see three different doctors (including naturopaths), they will give you three different diagnoses/treatment plans. Endocrinologists will tell you to have thyroid removal surgery, or suggest that you “kill it off” with radioactive iodine. My doctor wanted me to do this, and “just take Synthroid for the rest of your life”. (Synthroid contains contains talc, which is believed to cause ovarian cancer, which I am already at risk for, because my mother had it…so, no thank you!) Naturopaths will put you on supplements. And other doctors might even act like it’s not a big deal, because they don’t understand how serious it can be.

3. This disease changes constantly. Hormone levels in our bodies fluctuate daily, and evolve over the years. And, just like estrogen and testosterone, thyroid levels are harder to balance as we get older. It is especially important to know that, if you are diagnosed with hyperthyroidism (as I was), there is a good chance that your thyroid will eventually “burn out” and you will have hypothyroidism instead. This can be very confusing. I knew it was possible, but I was still caught off guard when it actually happened to me this past year. Had I been paying better attention, the transition would have been easier.

4. Thyroid disease is a really, really big deal. Don’t let anyone make you think otherwise! It effects our metabolism, cognitive function, moods, immunity, and much more. I’ve been living with autoimmune thyroid disease for at least 5 years, and probably even longer. Prior to my diagnosis, I think it had a lot to do with my chronic migraines, sinus infections, insomnia, depression, fertility issues, who knows what else! I could have spared myself a lot of heartache, had I known about this sooner.

5. We have to be our own advocates. There is a lot we can do with food and exercise to relieve the symptoms. This is why it is essential to get educated. Read up on the subject, and figure out who you can trust. A good place to start is with this article, the best I have seen about thyroid disfunction. If you think you have thyroid issues, or have unexplained ailments, get your thyroid levels tested, and always keep copies of the results to refer back to later. Don’t wait to do this! Treating this disease can be a long trial and error process, so the sooner you start asking questions, the sooner you will feel better. And if, like me, you absolutely need thyroid hormone supplementation, there are cleaner alternatives to Synthroid–ask about compounded drugs and understand what fillers are being used.

6. It can get better. There is hope, for those living with thyroid disease, but you have to take care of yourself. Eat nutrient-dense foods. Remove processed foods, sugars, caffeine and alcohol from your diet, and exercise every day. Drink lots of filtered water. If you think you are hypothyroid, avoid foods that inhibit thyroid hormone production, such as cruciferous vegetables (kale, brussel sprouts, spinach, cauliflower, etc.) and strawberries. If you think you are hyperthyroid, add more of these foods to your diet. Also, if you are diagnosed with hypothyroidism (which is way more common than hyperthyroidism), consider liquid iodine and selenium supplementation. And shop around for a doctor you respect and trust.

Most of all, don’t feel bad about yourself. Before my diagnosis, I thought my recurring ailments were my fault, and I just had to live with them. But now I know better…I just have a temperamental thyroid and need to handle it with care. I think there are a lot of people with the same problem, so we need to support each other in this fight.

That’s what this blog is all about…sharing information that helps others get healthy, and stay healthy. Feel free to share your questions and insights here, or on our Facebook page. The more we help each other, the healthier everyone can be. ॐ

Photo: http://www.washingtonendocrineclinic.com