Heart Centered Learning: Menopause

In my quest to educate myself about healthy aging and menopause, I have been keeping my eyes open for good resources: especially ones focussed on providing support to women. I have been particularly impressed with the work of Dr. Sara Gottfried, Dr. Mary Claire and Dr. Jenn Gunter. I follow them all on Instagram and they provide easy, actionable advice on a daily basis. I recommend that you check them out!

Carpe Diem – Seize the Day

One of my dear friends turned fifty this week. We celebrated this significant milestone by spending a beautiful afternoon together at the local sauna, rotating between the infrared heat, eucalyptus-infused steam room, and cold plunge pool. We finished with a quiet dinner at our favourite sushi restaurant. The experience offered us many hours to talk and reflect about this momentous time of our lives and what it means to us.

Up until this point, I have felt like there is nothing ahead but wide open space and possibilities. It always seemed like there was an abundance of time: time to dream, time to plan, time to realize ambitions. I still have two and a half years until I hit fifty, but it is approaching fast; and when you reach half a century of life, it causes you to pause, take a breath, and reflect upon your journey to date.

I previously shared about being a member of the ‘sandwich generation‘, with the challenges of raising a young child, and caring for aging parents. It is a tricky place to be. In recent weeks, my mother’s health took a turn for the worse, and my uncle passed away. There have been a lot of deep and painful emotions. It has been a difficult time: watching the people I love struggle, fade away and let go. It is both frightening and humbling to witness the ‘adults’ in my life reduced to such a vulnerable state. Fragile. Afraid. Helpless.

This experience has reminded me of the finite nature of existence. Our time here is truly fleeting. When we are young, we imagine there will be endless opportunities in the ‘future’ to complete our bucket list, and live out our dreams. The reality is we only have a handful of good decades to do this work, in good health, if we are truly lucky. Every moment is precious. Every year is a gift. No phase of our lives should be lived on auto-pilot. This is easy enough said, and much harder to do, especially when you are in the thick of it.

During our time at the sauna, we met a couple visiting Victoria for the weekend. In their early fifties, they recently quit their jobs, sold their house in North Vancouver, and moved to the Comox Valley. They do not know anyone in their new community. They just felt the calling to take action and simplify their lives. My next door neighbours share a similar story. They packed up their family and moved from Ontario to British Columbia during the height of the pandemic: seeking a life that better aligns with their values.

My friend and I discussed the limitations that we put upon our lives in following the path of least resistance: doing what is expected of us and pursuing society’s definition of ‘success.’ Go to school. Secure a job. Partner up. Get married. Buy a house. Have children. Settle in. Do not take risks. Stay safe and small. In reality, life is pretty fluid. There is no ‘right’ path. There are multitudes.

Each of our children graduates high school in the next four years. As we are both single, unattached women, possibilities abound. Nothing needs to remain static. It presents an opportunity to implement change and pursue new options.

In the meantime, I am working my way through my bucket list. I have signed up for a salsa class and I am planning to ski more next year. I am writing a few pages of my book every day and practicing French to improve my fluency. I am ensuring that I spend quality time with friends and family. I am paying attention to my diet and exercising more to ensure I age well. I am organizing trips with my daughter for the next few years: both close to home and further afield. I am dreaming and putting my dreams into action. One baby step at a time.

Heart Centered Learning: Chef Babette

A seventy-two year old, world-class chef, fitness expert and motivational speaker, Chef Babette runs a successful Inglewood, California restaurant, Stuff I Eat, while also producing online cooking classes, and participating in health summit and speaking engagements all around the country. She is an amazing, inspirational human being who lives her life from a place of love. I hope that you will take some time to learn about her incredible journey.

Things I Love

In an effort to keep fitness easy and accessible, I am always looking for fun new ways to exercise at home. I was excited when I recently came across a new offering through Netflix called Nike Training Club. This is the first exercise program of its kind that I have come across on a streaming service. I hope that it is reflective of more to come!

Each program has multiple episodes — a grand total of 30 hours of exercise sessions released in two batches. The programs are available in multiple languages, on all Netflix plans, with workouts for all fitness levels and interests (e.g. strength training, yoga and high-intensity workouts).

While only the first batch of fitness classes has been launched, the streamer has said additional programs will be released in 2023. To find the collection of workout videos, just search ‘Nike’ on Netflix.

A Christmas Miracle

On November 11, 2021, my best friend woke up in the middle of the night and suffered a catastrophic brain hemorrhage. She was only forty-six years old. Prior to entering the operating room, the surgeon gave her a 1% chance to survival; and even if she did survive, he predicted that she would be unable to eat, walk or function with ‘normal’ brain activity again.

A year and a month later, Sara is back at work full-time and engaging in her life at pre-surgery levels. She is really and truly a living miracle. I look at my friend and I often have to pinch myself that she is still here. I am blown away by her courage, strength and resilience. Her story of survival reminds me not to take anything in this life for granted and to cherish each and every moment with the people we love.

Groundless Ground

Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

Along with many of my friends and peers, I am a member of the sandwich generation; this is defined as a person who is both caring for caring for parents, as well as for children. Nearly half (47%) of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older, and are either raising a young child, or financially supporting a grown child (age 18 or older). People who are part of the sandwich generation are pulled in many directions. Not only do many provide care and financial support to their parents and their children, but nearly four-in-ten (38%) report both their grown children and parents rely on them for emotional support.

It is really difficult to work full-time, care-give, and grieve loss, while attempting to keep it all together for your young children at home. The adults you once relied on for support, knowledge and guidance are now looking to you to provide the same. It all comes down to you. We truly become the “adults” in charge and, as a good friend of mine friend describes it, “Adulting is hard.” As an independent parent, I feel this even more acutely, without a partner to lean on for support. This period of my life feels like trying to walk on groundless ground.

Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion. Stressed caregivers may experience fatigue, anxiety and depression. As a person responsible for the care of others, it is so important to start with yourself, so you have something left to give. There are various support tactics that help to combat caregiver burn-out. I wanted to share a few with you that I recently learned about from the Mayo Clinic, as I thought they would be helpful:

  • Accept help. Be prepared with a list of ways that others can help you, and let the helper choose what he or she would like to do. For instance, a friend or family member may be able to run an errand, pick up your groceries or cook for you.
  • Focus on what you are able to provide. It’s normal to feel guilty sometimes, but understand that no one is a “perfect” caregiver. Believe that you are doing the best you can and making the best decisions you can at any given time.
  • Set realistic goals. Break large tasks into smaller steps that you can do one at a time. Prioritize, make lists and establish a daily routine. Begin to say no to requests that are draining, such as hosting holiday meals.
  • Get connected. Find out about caregiving resources in your community. Many communities have classes specifically about the disease your loved one is facing. Caregiving services such as transportation, meal delivery or housekeeping may be available.
  • Join a support group. A support group can provide validation and encouragement, as well as problem-solving strategies for difficult situations. People in support groups understand what you may be going through. A support group can also be a good place to create meaningful friendships.
  • Seek social support. Make an effort to stay well-connected with family and friends who can offer nonjudgmental emotional support. Set aside time each week for connecting, even if it’s just a walk with a friend.
  • Set personal health goals. For example, set goals to establish a good sleep routine, find time to be physically active on most days of the week, eat a healthy diet, and drink plenty of water.

Heart Centered Learning

“One of the biggest food lies we were told: All calories are created equal.⁣

Take a class of sixth graders. Show them a picture of 1,000 calories of broccoli and 1,000 calories of soda. Ask them if they have the same effect on our bodies. Their unanimous response will be “NO!” We all intuitively know that equal caloric amounts of soda and broccoli can’t be the same nutritionally. But as Mark Twain said, “The problem with common sense is that it is not too common.”⁣

I guess that is why the medical profession, nutritionists, our government, the food industry, and the media are all still actively promoting the outdated, scientifically disproven idea that all calories are created equal. Yes, that well-worn notion—that as long as you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight—is simply dead wrong.⁣

The law of conservation of energy states that the energy of an isolated system is constant. In other words, in a laboratory, or “isolated system,” 1,000 calories of broccoli and 1,000 calories of soda are, in fact, the same. I’m not saying the law was wrong about that. It’s true that when burned in a laboratory setting, 1,000 calories of broccoli and 1,000 calories of soda would indeed release the same amount of energy.⁣

But the law of thermodynamics doesn’t apply in living, breathing, digesting systems. When you eat food, the “isolated system” part of the equation goes out the window. The food interacts with your biology, a complex adaptive system that instantly transforms every bite.⁣

When it comes to the soda, your gut will quickly absorb the fibre-free sugars such as fructose and glucose that will then spike your blood sugar, starting a domino effect of high insulin and a cascade of hormonal responses that kicks bad biochemistry into gear. ⁣

On the other hand with broccoli, you’d get many extra benefits that optimize metabolism, lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and boost detoxification. The glucosinolates and sulphorophanes in broccoli actually change the expression of your genes to help balance your sex hormones, reducing breast and other cancers.⁣”

~ Dr. Mark Hyman

Joy Journal

Joy Journal #25: November 12, 2022

Now that the time has fallen back, and there are less hours of sunlight in the day, my friends and I are back to swimming in the ocean in the early morning hours. Rich in magnesium, seawater helps release stress, relax your muscles and promote deep sleep. Swimming in the sea has also been linked to stimulating the parasympathetic system which is responsible for rest and repair and can trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin. 

Exposure to full spectrum sunlight in the morning causes our bodies to produce serotonin, which not only helps later on with nighttime sleep, but improves mood throughout the day. Bright lights have been used for a long time as standard treatment for seasonal depression. Outdoor light, even on a cloudy day, delivers considerably more lux than indoor light.

I love this special time with my friends. We always laugh a lot and it is a great micro opportunity to catch up on each others lives. Although I never want to go into the cold water (and it does not get easier), I never regret doing it. It makes my body and mind feel electric for the rest of the day. #JoyBlogging

Things I Love: New York Times Cooking

As a working mom, I am always looking for heathy, inexpensive and delicious recipes for my family. Thanks to a recommendation from a friend, I recently signed up for a one-year subscription to the New York Times cooking app and web site. It is a digital cookbook and guide with a massive library: at $50 (Canadian), it is good value. I have been really impressed with the quality and variety offered by this resource so far. Recipes are rated through a five-star system and users provide additional feedback and ideas through the comments. Check it out and let me know what you think!