Tag Archives: healthy eating

The Read List: The Mind-Gut Connection, by Emeran Mayer

mind gut connection

Combining cutting-edge neuroscience with the latest discoveries on the human microbiome, a practical guide in the tradition of The Second Brain, and The Good Gut that conclusively demonstrates the inextricable, biological link between mind and the digestive system.

We have all experienced the connection between our mind and our gut—the decision we made because it “felt right”; the butterflies in our stomach before a big meeting; the anxious stomach rumbling we get when we’re stressed out. While the dialogue between the gut and the brain has been recognized by ancient healing traditions, including Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, Western medicine has by and large failed to appreciate the complexity of how the brain, gut, and more recently, the gut microbiota—the microorganisms that live inside our digestive tract—communicate with one another. In The Mind-Gut Connection, Dr. Emeran Mayer, professor of medicine and executive director of the UCLA Center for Neurobiology of Stress, offers a revolutionary and provocative look at this developing science, teaching us how to harness the power of the mind-gut connection to take charge of our health and listen to the innate wisdom of our bodies.

My Thoughts on The Mind-Gut Connection:

I know … two posts in one day. What is the world coming to?

(No need to answer. I kind of hate thinking about what the world is coming to these days.)

So I read The Mind-Gut Connection because Trish at TLC Book Tours sent me the description and it looked like something I’d be interested in. And while I’ve been wrong before (and oh, have I ever been wrong before!) I was right about this one.

If you’re interested in that colony of bacteria that resides in your gut and how it affects your life, The Mind-Gut Connection is the read for you.

What colony of bacteria, you ask?

If you put all your gut microbes together and shaped them into an organ, it would weigh between 2 and 6 pounds–on par with the brain, which weighs in at 2.6 pounds.

This “forgotten organ” is quite incredible, and The Mind-Gut Connection goes into detail about exactly why it’s so incredible.

In addition to references to lots of scientific studies that back up how these microbes in our gut affect our brain, this book also has a bit of a holistic feel to it. There’s an entire chapter on intuitive decision-making that makes you want to recognize the next time you’re relying on your intuitions so you can “go with your gut”. And I wished the author had talked a bit more about working with dreams (although that doesn’t have much to do with your gut microbes. But still: interesting!)

Science has shown that chronic stress has a very detrimental effect on the interaction between your gut bacteria and your brain, and I  found myself wishing science would also spend a bit more time on exploring the effect positive emotions have on this interaction as well. I mean, it would be good to have some solid, scientific evidence pointing to what happens when we experience positive emotions.

After reading all about how the microbiome in our gut affects our brain, I was very happy to read the final section on how to optimize your brain-gut health.  I was a little disappointed, though, to learn it’s very difficult to actually change your gut microbial diversity. But still, there’s more than enough reason to continue with the probiotics and fermented foods.

And I’m definitely leaning toward a Mediterranean diet now, big-time. Veggies, here I come!

Snapshot: May 21, 2015

The Victoria Day long weekend really threw me off—I normally write my Snapshot posts on Tuesdays, but when Tuesday came around I thought it was Monday, and on Wednesday I wanted to write about something else so I’m doing my Snapshot post today. Whew. That was a long, and probably unnecessary explanation!

Time: 2:09 pm

Feeling: I wish I could say refreshed, because I’ve been feeling quite refreshed the past few days, but wouldn’t you just know it, since I’m writing a Snapshot post of course today I’m feeling tired.

Eating: I’m about to make my anything-goes veggie soup. So delicious, and with heaps of veggies in it. And parmesan cheese.

Drinking: Water. Lots and lots of water. It’s my latest thing, drinking water, and I’m really liking how it makes me feel. Plus I’m starting to recognize again when I’m thirsty (which is fairly often).

Reading: Still working my way through Good Omens; it’s been mostly in my bag, so I’m not getting through it as fast as I would if it was an “at home” read. It’s good and funny and just a great read for when I’m out and about.

I also started A Game of ThronesI just couldn’t resist the temptation. But I only read the first couple of pages, because I’m just not ready yet to be caught up in a whirl of down-the-rabbit-hole book addiction the series promises to be. I’m witnessing that firsthand anyway: my older son is still working through the series; he started book 4 yesterday.

Listening: I’m almost finished Ready Player One and am wondering WHY it took me so long to get to this book. It’s so good, and Wil Wheaton is perfect narrating as Wade Watts.

ready player one

And some slightly related fun: Dylan downloaded the Akinator app on the weekend, and yesterday we had a such a fun time with it. Akinator is a genie who’s able to guess the character you’re thinking of, simply by asking you a bunch of questions. I was slightly awed by how he managed to guess Wade Watts. I did manage to stump him several times, though, with characters from and authors of some of my favourite, but older, reads. If you want to give it a whirl, here’s the web version. Warning, though: it can be slightly addictive!

Writing: Yes, I’ve been writing! Yay! So okay, it’s only been a few paragraphs to start off a couple of short stories, but I also pulled out my half-completed manuscript for the dark fantasy I’ll be workshopping this summer in Kelley Armstrong’s writing class. I have the next scene in mind, and in the meantime I’m rereading it to get reacquainted with all my characters. It’s progress!

Working: The indexing load has been nice and even, which helps a lot when it comes to my stress levels. I just finished an indexing deadline, and have another one next week, plus an article. In other news, I’ve signed on as the marketing manager for my first author at Booktrope, and it’s been such fun working with her.

Creating: Nothing yet. *sob* So much for being creative every day, right?

Exercising: I’ve been trying my best to keep moving throughout my day, and I’ve also been using my standing desk, too. Tomorrow is my first walking date with my friend; we’re meeting at 8:00 a.m., a time at which I’m usually still sleeping, so wish me luck!

So that’s the Snapshot of this past week. All my focusing on stress reduction seems to be working so far – yay! How has your week been?

Snapshot: May 12, 2015

Time: 10:42 p.m.

Feeling: Tired. And you know, it occurs to me I’ve been saying this in every one of my Snapshot posts lately. Really need to do something about that!

Eating: I’ve decided that this month of small healthy changes should include eating more veggies. Starting today. For lunch I had zucchini and mushroom soup and for dinner I had celery, green pepper and mushrooms (with a chicken burger, no bun). So I think I can say I did pretty well today.

Drinking: A glass of malbec.

Reading: I finished The Fifth Gospel and now Ward is reading it (I’m no longer calling him the book-reading demon because after that first month of being a super reader, he’s not been anywhere near as diligent and in fact can be found most nights watching something on his laptop rather than curled up with a good book. Ah well, it was good while it lasted).

The Fifth Gospel was really good, so now I’m looking for a good novel to follow in its footsteps.

And I am woefully behind on each of the three readalongs I was doing. So far behind, my reading of each of the books has been virtually non-existent.

Listening: I just finished listening to Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography, which was a very fun audiobook. As with most celebrity memoirs in audio where the celebrity is also the narrator, I’m very glad I did this one in audio format.

And today I started listening to this:

jurassic park

A couple of months ago I was looking around for an audio version of Jurassic Park, both on my library’s digital reads site and also at Audible. And it turned out it wasn’t available as an audiobook (other than as a CD set). Then I noticed Audible had a pre-order notice on it—and today I received an email saying it was now available. Of course I just had to get it, since it’s been on my mind for a few months now.

I’m not too thrilled with the narrator, who reads in a manner that’s a little too dramatic for my taste. But the story itself is pulling me in; it’s been a long time since I read this book, so I’m really looking forward to this reread.

Writing: Need I say it? Nothing. But I’m hoping my new mechanical keyboard will make a difference over the coming days.

Working: I’ve got an index due tomorrow, and I’ve finally stepped fully into my new book marketing position—I’ll post more about it later this week. So right now I’m knee deep in developing marketing and social media plans, and it’s so much fun coming up with ideas.

Creating: Nothing, but I’m hoping that will change. When I get a bit more time.

And about that zombie apocalypse: So on our way home from his hip hop classes, I had the following conversation with Dylan:

Dylan: I’ve been learning how to eat slowly.

Me: Oh, that’s good. Why?

Dylan: In case there might potentially be a zombie apocalypse.

Me: Why would you need to eat slowly if there’s a zombie apocalypse?

Dylan: Because there won’t be any stores or anything. So if you get an apple or something, you can’t eat it all at once. You have to make it last.

Me: Ah. I see.

So that’s been my day/week. How has yours been?

Snapshot: May 5, 2015

Time: 9:38 pm

Feeling: Tired, but in a good way—I actually worked out today! Yay! While I’ve been talking about doing ten minute workouts, I decided to go with Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred. Figured I might as well go with the tried and true. We’ll see how it goes.

When I’m exercising, I have this tendency to visualize my body getting into shape (by this I mean I actually see in my mind’s eye, for example, my upper arms getting toned, as if I’m watching a time-lapse video)—I don’t do this intentionally, it just kind of happens. It’s good in that it keeps me motivated, but not so good because I end up with very high expectations! I actually expected my pants to be a bit loose today when I put them on. Which they weren’t, of course.

Eating: I was so good all day! Had a banana for breakfast, spinach and green peppers with a chicken burger (no bun) for lunch. Then souvlaki made with chicken, a big Greek salad and a small portion of Greek rice for dinner. But (you knew this was coming, right?) I was still hungry when I finished (it was only one stick of souvlaki—that’s my excuse, anyway) so now I’m noshing on a slice of cheese pizza. Sigh.

Drinking: A glass of wine. Ahhhh. Yes, it does go well with pizza!

Reading: I finished Lowcountry Boneyard by Susan M. Boyer on the weekend (review coming this Thursday). It was a good read, and as usually happens after a good read, I dived into a number of books to find the right one for my next read.

Here’s what I decided to read next:

fifthgospel.jpg

I’m just in the first chapter but it’s looking pretty good so far.

Listening: I just finished a reread of John Grisham’s The Pelican Brief; it was published back in 1992 but doesn’t feel too outdated. I must admit, though, I didn’t quite get why Darby was still being targeted by the bad guys once it was clear that her brief (the pelican brief) had been circulated among several FBI agents plus the White House. I don’t remember pondering such a question way back when I originally read it in print, so perhaps I missed something in my listening of it this time around (it happens sometimes—I find when you’re listening to an audiobook, you can get distracted for 30 seconds and miss something quite important). The version I listened to is narrated by the lovely Lorelei King, one of my favourite narrators.

Writing: Nope. Nothing. But I’m hopeful, as always.

Working: I had a big index due last week, and some articles due this week. But things are looking pretty clear for the next week or so, which is good since my mom’s being discharged from the rehab facility on Thursday and she’s decided to go back to her place rather than stay with me. So I’m not too sure what my days will be like for the next little while, and not having too many deadlines will let me figure out my time without too much stress.

Excited about: A while back I signed up for the SmithsonianX course “The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact On Pop Culture” on edX, and it started today! Stan Lee is one of the instructors. Yes.

Now I just have to figure out how to make time for it …

Wednesday Inspiration: Healthy living

This post* isn’t so much about creative inspiration as it is about life inspiration. One thing that’s become really clear to me over the past few days is how important being active, eating well and generally having a healthy lifestyle is, especially as you get older.

I’ve been just so inspired by my mom’s recovery from her hip surgery. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about how difficult hip surgeries can be when one is older, but so far my mom’s been doing really well. She did have to have a blood transfusion because she lost a lot of blood during the surgery, and her blood pressure also dropped a little too low for a while there, but other than that there haven’t been any problems. She looked great when I saw her today, animated and lively like usual.

She’s a very active individual, has a busy life doing things she loves (which includes a lot of human rights activism, including protests!), is very interested in healthy eating and meditates daily. And I think all this is playing an important role in her recovery.

I should be eating this more often

I should be eating this more often

I want to be doing all these things when I get to her age. Which really means I should be doing all these things now, because they’re the kind of life habits you don’t build in a day (or even a few months—it’s more like years, right?). And honestly, right now I am way less active than my mom was before she broke her hip, and I definitely don’t eat as healthily as she does.

So I figure, now’s probably a good time to start. I haven’t been meditating regularly for at least a month, the last time I worked out was … well, let’s just say it wasn’t actually any time in this current year! And I was eating well when I was low-carb, but definitely don’t eat as well now. As for the busy life doing what I love, well, I’ve got the busy life down pat, but the doing what I love part? Working on that!

It’s probably a good thing I’m reading Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before. I can definitely use help in setting up some good lifestyle habits!

*I know today isn’t Wednesday, but I wrote this post yesterday and it was supposed to post–and it didn’t!

Seven Or More Servings a Day?

 

jiangyi_99_vegetables

Photo credit: jiangyi-99

I’ve been on a bit of a “get healthier” track, so when I read an article in the New York Times recently about a study that suggests we should be eating seven or more servings of vegetables and fruits a day (which, by the way, I cannot find no matter what keywords I plug into Google, so here is the BBC’s take on the study), I decided to take a close look at my veggie and fruit eating habits.

You’d think being married to a former vegan who does all the cooking would mean my daily vegetable and fruit intake would be more than adequate, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case at all. First of all, when my husband was vegan, he had a tendency to concentrate on proteins rather than vegetables and fruits (which wasn’t surprising, since there was also a year previously when he became vegetarian and afterwards we realized he should have called himself a “cheeseatarian”). As you might have guessed, now that he’s doing regular omnivore eating, vegetables and fruits still aren’t at the top of his list when it comes to cooking.

I decided I’d better remedy my rather woeful track record of eating vegetables and fruits. When I was in my 20s, my idea of a snack was to cut up a green pepper and mince some garlic and do a quick stir fry. I’m not sure what happened between then and now, but I had definitely lost my way when it comes to healthy eating.

So first things first. I had to figure out what a serving actually meant. According to Canada’s Food Guide, one serving is a medium fruit or half a cup of fresh, frozen or canned vegetables. The American Heart Association says one serving is one cup of raw leafy vegetables, half a cup of other vegetables, half a cup of vegetable juice, a medium fruit or half a cup of chopped, cooked or canned fruit. Clear enough, then: to get seven servings of vegetables and fruits a day I’d be counting half cup serving sizes, unless I’m eating raw leafy vegetables, in which case I’ll use the one cup measure.

(By the way, while I’m more used to saying “fruits and vegetables”, I’m mostly using “vegetables and fruits” here because, according to the study I mentioned, fruits are okay but don’t have as much of an impact as vegetables. And I’m sure there are probably some vegetables – kale, anyone? – which likely have more nutritional bang for the buck than others.)

Seven servings therefore means I need to eat three and a half cups of vegetables and fruits a day (ha! I guess basic math does come in handy later in life). At first glance, this seemed to pose quite the challenge, especially since I was eating maybe one and at most two servings a day.

But once I made a commitment to more vegetables and fruits, it wasn’t as difficult as I’d thought it would be.

First of all, I now think “veggie” and “fruit” at the first signs of those snacking urges (I don’t know about you, but for me, these usually come when I have a book in hand). Yes, steering myself away from the potato chips (they are definitely my main source of unhealthy eating temptation) has been difficult. But then I tried the humus my husband makes for himself as a snack, and I fell in love. I pair it with lots of celery, carrots, radishes and cucumbers, and I’ve gotten so diligent I now pre-chop my celery and keep it in a container in the fridge for ease in fulfilling my snacking urges.

I rely on my nightly plate of veggies and humus to make up for whatever servings I might have missed during the day. But I also now have veggies with my breakfast (zucchini stir fry with my scrambled eggs!) and of course, as part of my lunch. I’ve also been reminding my husband we do need to have a veggie component to our dinners – even if it’s just tomato or cucumber slices.

And instead of my juice and flaxseed concoction I now make a fruit and kale and flaxseed smoothie (finally! I’m using that Magic Bullet I bought so long ago!) and it tastes so much nicer than what I was drinking before.

And kale! Oh, kale, I hear you are so good for me. Well, except that raw kale may be problematic when it comes to thyroid issues. So I now regularly cook up two batches of kale: one in water and one in broth. I freeze each batch, and use the kale cooked in water cubes in my smoothies and the kale cooked in chicken broth cubes in my soups. Very easy.

I’m sure I’ll come up with more ways to eat more vegetables and fruit. I love my vegetables and humus snack, but I’m sure variety is important, too. For me, snacking on vegetables and fruits is definitely the way to go, though!