So you’re doing Kai Chi Do regularly and your breath feels open like the air fills more of you. Your mind is clearer, your body feels juiced, and your posture is just a little straighter. Now that you’re feeling great, you might be thinking about eating great too.
One of the highlights of our Kai Chi Do Weekend Retreats is sharing our meals together. They’re yummy happy celebrations of abundance. (My mother always says, “If you don’t have leftovers, you didn’t make enough”). We can’t take credit for the Falafel – which is made fresh for us by Bread and Butter deli on Saturday mornings. But we do make lots of other goodies ourselves – Like the Carrot-Fennel soup, Carrots with Basil (we really like carrots), Greek style Chicken with Mushrooms and Artichokes, Greek Salad with Garlic-Oregano dressing and Skordalia (a very garlicky spread that is usually made with potatoes but we make it with pureed cauliflower). Makes your mouth water just thinking about it, doesn’t it?
What you don’t find at our family-style buffets are bread, pasta, potatoes, pastry. Okay, so we do make a Vegan Rice Pudding with ground vanilla bean, but that’s for the little bitty carb eaters among us. I’m one of them – Love that rice pudding.
And these meals are typical of how we eat. Cook at home, from fresh ingredients. Lots of fruits and vegetables. For protein we eat poultry and fish and beans and legumes. We buy fish fresh, the same day we eat it. We drink lots of water. We eat family dinners – it’s a special time each day that we look forward to. In fact, if one of us eats at an odd hour, we ask, “Will you sit with me?” so that we can still spend that time being together.
We rarely eat out in restaurants anymore. Frankly, the food is better at home. And we know what’s going into the food.
Our eating made a dramatic improvement when we discovered the world of food allergies. Okay, so let me just begin by saying we’re not giving medical advice and we’re not making health claims on the prevention or cure of diseases, and it’s a good idea to talk to your qualified health professional before making diet changes. That said – I’m mentioning food allergies because it helped us to learn about them and to investigate our own food sensitivities. Avoiding foods that were a problem for us greatly improved our health. Most people know about environmental and seasonal allergies, but they often forget to consider what they are eating as a possible trigger.
I was the first to discover my food allergies – I was having episodes of breathlessness. I’d run out of breath before I could finish a sentence. The doctors thought I might be developing asthma. I also had a small dime-sized scaly burning rash on my face. Once we considered food allergies as a possible culprit, it was pretty easy to correlate shortness of breath with eating tomatoes – tomato sauce actually, and salsa. Eliminating tomatoes helped, but then it was easier to see the other triggers – foods with red pepper, or chili, or paprika, or jalapenos – all of which I loved, by the way. And there it was – an allergy to the food family known as nightshades. Bye, bye salsa. (I don’t smoke, never have, but for those who do, you might want to know that tobacco is also a nightshade). And once the nightshades were eliminated, it was easy to see another trigger – dairy. It made me snotty. Apples made my lips swell and my ears itch, so it was a reasonable guess that I was allergic to those. Carrots gave me a rash so I had to eliminate those. A panel of skin sensitivity tests showed allergies to soy (which I was eating by the pound because I was a vegetarian at the time and I relied heavily on soy products for my protein), an allergy to nuts (all of them, including peanuts, which are not technically a nut), and a very strong reaction to wheat. All of these foods were stuff I loved – I craved them! The craving should have clued me in. Craving is not a good thing. For some perverse reason, our bodies sometimes crave the very stuff that acts on us like a poison. I waited years to give up wheat products (I had a great recipe for home baked braided onion bread!) and it wasn’t until I gave wheat up that my body started to feel much better. No more stuffy head, no more thick throat in the morning, no more sinus infections. Remember how I said we like carrots? Once I eliminated the wheat, I was able to eat apples and carrots without any adverse effects – It seems those two food “allergies” were actually a results of some kind of leaky gut syndrome.
Years ago, Charles had a pretty bad case of psoriasis that wasn’t healing, despite topical steroids that made him feel whiggy. I found a book called Healing Psoriasis: The Natural Alternative by Dr. John Pagano. And Charles began following a low carbohydrate diet to heal his psoriasis. He was already off dairy – Years before we recognized that he was lactose intolerant – and we figured out that his ongoing struggle with sinus inflammation was a soy allergy. No soy, no sinus symptoms. With a low carb diet, and daily Kai Chi Do, Charles lost about 80 lbs. and has only a small patch of psoriasis left to heal.
Shanti saw Charles get healthy, and she put herself on low carbs. (What an awesome kid!) She was already off dairy – an allergy that was diagnosed by a great specialist, Dr. Jaime Kratz. After we found Dr. Kratz, Shanti’s recurrent sinus and respiratory infections finally ceased.
So…Here’s what we don’t eat: Soy, nuts, dairy products, wheat, beef, pork, corn, bread, potatoes. We rarely eat rice. We don’t eat cereal, but we do grind up millet and flax cereal and use it for bread crumbs, in small doses. I’m completely off nightshades, but Charles and Shanti can eat them. I adapted a great recipe for a tomato-sauce-replacement! And you can find a similar product, ridiculously overpriced IMHO, called Nomato Sauce.
What we do eat is simple, plain, deliciously fresh food. Shared with friends and family. Just like the Breath, food has Life Energy – prana.
Got any full-of-Life-Energy recipes you’d like to share? Add them as a Comment! Or try our recipes and tell us what you think.
One of the things I love about Kai Chi Do is how open my breathing feels for days after a session. It feels like I have more room to breathe. Like I’ve expanded.
So I was really pleased when one of our regular participants in Kai Chi Do told me he quit smoking – He said to me, “I just couldn’t keep doing this process, feeling great, and then light up a cigarette.”
I’ve never been a smoker, but I’ve coached many people who’ve quit, so here’s a few tips for support:
1. Find your reason for quitting. Don’t just wait for the reason to dawn on you; Go looking for it. What makes you want to quit? Sometimes it helps to make a list – what you like about smoking, what you don’t like about it, and what you might like about being smoke free. Uncover your own personal reasons to quit. The reasons don’t have to be about your health. One of my favorites was a guy who told me he was quitting because he didn’t like the idea of cigarettes having control over him. Or a woman who told me she quit because smoking causes wrinkles.
2. Find your urgency. Why now? Why do you want to quit NOW? Why do you NEED to quit now? How important is it to you? How much does smoking contradict the goals you have for yourself? How much does smoking contradict the person that you want to be?
3. Find your strength – If you’ve quit before, how did you do it? What helped? What led up to you starting again? You can use information about your past relapses to identify your vulnerabilities and proactively plan some strategies to cope with them.
4. Ruin it for yourself. You want to get to the point where you just can’t enjoy a cigarette anymore because any pleasure you used to get out of it is outweighed by the desire to quit.
5. Plan a reward. The cost of cigarettes is a great reason to quit. Think up a great way to spend the money you save in your first month of quitting.
6. Plan stress busters. Many, many, many people smoke when they feel stressed. It’s the most common reason I hear for relapse in people who’ve quit. Smoking suppresses feelings. Logic says that smoking is not going to help fix your problem, but smoking has helped you avoid and stuff your feelings before, and when you’re just looking for some quick relief, that’s the time you’re most likely to pick it up again. You need to plan for this in advance. Some great healthy stress busters are: Exercise (Kai Chi Do!), 10 connected breaths, 2 minutes of Chi circles with SA breaths, listen to music, watch a movie, take a hot bath, sing out loud. Anything that will reduce your level of frustration and clear your head.
7. Stay busy. Boredom is the other end of the stress continuum – and just as risky. Get a hobby, start a project, get a job, volunteer, but get busy.
8. Sit through the storm, as Charles would say. This means you listen to your feelings without acting on them. You pay attention to how you’re feeling, in fact you heighten your awareness of your feelings. You recognize and acknowledge them, but you don’t act them out. You don’t kick the dog. You don’t yell at your husband. You don’t reach for a cigarette – or a Twinkie. You sit with your feelngs. You notice them. You wait. You quiet yourself. And the feelings pass.
9. Put a fence around it. Set up some new rules to further restrict your smoking. Rules like: no smoking in front of the grandkids, no smoking in the house, no smoking in the car.
10. Get a buddy. Ask someone to quit with you. It will get your competitive juices flowing. Caution about this though: If your buddy starts smoking again that doesn’t mean the game is off and you can smoke now too.
11. Delay. Make a decision to wait longer and longer intervals between smokes. If you’re smoking every 3 hours, make a decision to wait 4 hours today, 5 hour tomorrow. Keep training yourself to wait longer – It will build your confidence that you don’t NEED it.
12. Change your routine. If you usually smoke after meals, make the decision to give up meal time smokes and only smoke at some other time of day.
13. Ration and reduce. Count out a supply of cigarettes for yourself each day. Gradually reduce the number of cigarettes you allow yourself each day. Smoke only half of each cigarette.
14. Stop buying them.
15. Set a date. Make a commitment. Tell somebody about it.
16. Quit again. If you fall off the smoke-free wagon, quit again – immediately. Don’t let one cigarette be your excuse to smoke another. Look at the relapse as a lesson in what not to do – and plan a strategy to overcome whatever suckered you into it again.
17. Know that the craving will fade in time. Revisit your reasons for quitting often. They’ll help keep you motivated.
18. Breathe. Do Kai Chi Do or breathwork or pranayama to breathe more deeply and to put your attention on your breath. Healthy, open, easy breathing. Life energy in, then relax. SA, then Aaahhh. You’ll get inspired!
Last month we saw Charles’ father and stepmother, who came down from New Jersey for a huge family reunion in St. Petersburg, Florida. And all his dad could say to Charles was, “WOW! You look great! What have you been doing?”
It’s often several years between visits with his dad, and each time he sees us, Charles seems to be getting younger. He’s not Benjamin Button, but take a look for yourself. This photo was taken of Charles 22 years ago:
Charles was a chubba-bubba back then.
Three things account for his weight loss and “youthing”:
* Creating a happy home,
* Healthy eating, and
* Doing Kai Chi Do nearly every day.
(Well, a good haircut helps too, but they didn’t have good haircuts in the 80’s.)
Creating a happy home has a lot to do with being in love and putting connection first. That’s a subject worthy of a separate blog. (Stay tuned).
We always thought we ate healthy. But there were a few major improvements we needed to make, and it took us several years to figure it out. Here’s how we eat now:
No refined sugar. Period. That also means all the stuff that’s made with refined sugar. Skip it. You don’t need it.
After that, there are just 6 things we avoid (Susan eats these in limited quantity. Charles doesn’t eat them at all): Bread, Rice, Pasta, Potatoes, Cereal, and Corn.
It’s very important to replace those starches with fresh fruits and vegetables, and not just load up on protein. We find it’s important to eat some protein every day, but too much of it and we feel heavy and sluggish.
Fresh fruits and veggies are about 80% of our diet. We eat raw veggies and also cooked, and we occasionally eat frozen vegetables (very occasionally), but we don’t eat canned.
That’s it really: just 7 foods to avoid.
And the other thing that keeps Charles looking younger every year is Kai Chi Do. Take a look at him now:
“The brain is much more like the heart than we thought … They find that exercise increases the ability of the brain to produce new baby brain cells, which nobody thought was possible, anyhow, as an adult, until a few years ago.”
Kai Chi Do rejuvenates your brain. Yup – exercise produces brain cells. Healthy, sweet, new brain cells. Neurogenesis. It wasn’t too long ago that the medical community thought that wasn’t even possible.
So what could you do with a few more healthy brain cells?
- Improve your memory.
- Improve your attention and concentration.
- Manage stress easier.
- Learn quicker.
- See the humor in things.
- Fall in love.
- Problem solve.
- Be original. Be wildly, blessedly creative. Think a thought that’s never been thought before.
- Sleep better.
- See patterns and trends hiding in plain sight.
- Make insightful decisions.
- Speed your reaction time.
- Find the right words.
- Be alert.
- Think clearly.
- Feel more positive (yup, your brain affects your mood).
- See the big picture.
- Find your keys.
- Coordinate your thoughts and actions.
So that’s a good thing!
We can regenerate ourselves. What would you do with some healthy new brain cells?