Stay Hydrated with Flavored Water

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By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

I know I posted this picture and idea on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter over the weekend, but I wanted to make sure I recognized it on the blog as well.

It’s summertime and the heat is turned up, so it’s really important to make sure you are drinking enough water.  How much water do you drink each day?

When working with some people and I ask them this question, they tell me that they hate the taste of water.  I didn’t realize water had that much taste?

Well, I actually take that back.  Some well water can have a sulfur-like taste to it and some city water (especially at restaurants) can have a chlorine-like taste to it.  So, I guess I can kind of understand where they are coming from.

Funny story – one of the students from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition told the story of how she was asked to help a man who was complaining of a dry mouth.  He had gone to all kinds of doctors and they weren’t much help.  He was finally diagnosed with “Dry Mouth Syndrome.”  When he met with the student, she asked him what he drank during the day.  He said he drank about 5 pops throughout the day.  She asked if he drank coffee.  He said he did – about 6 cups a day.  She asked how much water he drank.  He said, maybe, 1 cup a day.  I’m sure you can guess what happened next.  She recommended he increase the amount of water he drank each day, which eventually “crowded out” the pop and coffee, and his “Dry Mouth Syndrome” went away – a miraculous recovery!

Aside from being diagnosed with Dry Mouth Syndrome, does this scenario sound familiar to you or someone you know?  Do you know people who use pop or beer to quench their thirst?  They might think it’s working, but it’s really not – it’s actually dehydrating them.  Nonetheless,  it’s important to stay well hydrated year round, but it’s especially important to make sure you’re drinking enough water this time of year, because you may be losing more water through perspiration.  So if you’re not big into the “flavor” of water, try adding some fruit, vegetables, or herbs to water and let it steep for a bit (at least 20 minutes or so) to let the flavors release into the water.

A little planning ahead can go a long way.  Try to make your choice of flavored water first thing in the morning, right when you wake up.  Then it will be ready when you want it.

Do you have a hard time getting your kids to drink water?  Get them involved in making their own special blends of flavored water.  Kids are always more likely to eat or drink something they have helped prepare – let them go crazy and have fun with it.  So they want to put grapes and watermelon in some water?  Tell them to go for it.  They think cantaloupe and blueberries sound interesting?  Let them try it.  Kids are so good at thinking outside the box, they will probably come up with a combination you would have never thought of and it may end up being your favorite combination!

So, over the weekend, here’s what I put in my water:

Fresh mint leaves

Cucumber slices

Fresh squeezed lime juice

Mike and I really liked it.  It wasn’t sweet, so don’t try this one expecting something sweet.  Some would recommend adding stevia if you want something sweet.  I’m still not sold on stevia, although a lot of others are.  You’ll have to make that call.

Today, I made some more flavored water and tried this combination:

Sliced strawberries

Fresh Mint

Fresh lime juice

That was really good as well.  Lindsey even liked that one.  Serve it up in a wine glass, and it tastes even better.

With all of the fresh fruits and vegetables available this time of year, the possibilities are endless.  I think tomorrow I’ll try this one:

Pitted cherries and nothing else

Actually, I’ve got some fresh lavender growing in the garden.  A couple of years ago I made some fresh lavender lemonade, so maybe I’ll try:

Fresh lavender flowers

Fresh lemon juice

You could even have a contest with your family – see who can come up with the best tasting combination.  Oh, the fun you can have :)

Let me know if you try something you really like and share it with the rest of us.

Stay cool and stay hydrated!

The Foodie Bitch on Feeding Animals

 

By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch 

DSC04288How many of you are pet owners?  I absolutely LOVE animals! I was never able to have pets while growing up (aside from a turtle and a hamster), so I think I overcompensated in my “grown-up” years!  We currently have 2 dogs, 4 cats, and 6 horses.  I say “currently” because that number changes – the girls and Mike, it seems, are constantly finding animals and rescuing them.  Some are fortunate enough to be re-united with their owners, and others have been dropped off or neglected and we have happened upon them at just the right time.

It’s a crazy mix, but it works for us.  I can’t imagine it being any other way.
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Part of being a Foodie Bitch, for me, is extending all that I have learned for humans and translating it into useful knowledge for our animals.  One such area that I really looked into last year, after going gluten free myself, was what was really in the foods we feed our animals.

I started to question, as a Foodie Bitch does, the ingredients in our dogs’ food, our cats’ food, and of course what we were feeding our horses.  After much research, I came upon my own conclusion that animals really weren’t designed to eat grain.  I found I wasn’t alone on this theory when it comes to dogs and cats. but, with horses, I came across a lot of people that thought I was crazy, or worse yet, I was putting our horses’ health in danger.

But horse people can be funny that way.  You ask 10 different horse people what you should feed your horse, and you will likely get 10 different answers.  I even called universities which specialized in animals and I got different answers to my questions than what I would get when I would talk to our vets.

So, when I come to a crossroad where there’s a lot of confusion, I back up and look at the situation from a different angle – from a natural perspective – simply the way nature intended things to work.  This is what I did in the case of our horses.

I recalled a conversation I had with our farrier in Florida the previous year about lactic acid build-up in horses.  He was finding that a lot of the horses he was working on had and excess of lactic acid, and he believed that was causing inflammation and muscle issues.  He thought perhaps digestion somehow played a role in this scenario.

At the time I didn’t think too much about it.  It was an interesting discussion, and I always love learning, but I couldn’t apply the relevance to my current situation.

Flash forward a few months and I discover that I am gluten sensitive.  I eliminated gluten from my diet, and I noticed my bloating go down. I discussed with my chiropractor how I need to give my intestines a chance to heal from the probable inflammation that was occurring due to the gluten.  Hmm…

Soon after, I watched “Food Inc.” for the first time and took copious notes.  There is a part in the movie where they show how grain effects the gut of cows – how they are not designed to eat grain, yet that is what a majority of the cows we eat are fed.  The level of e-coli in their gut goes way up on a grain fed diet, but in just 2 weeks of being off grain, the e-coli is nearly eliminated.  Hmm….

I started to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together, and I theorized that horses are not designed to eat grain either.  If you’re not familiar with what horses eat, most are typically fed a diet of grain (usually some combination of corn, oats, and molasses), hay and grass.  When we first got our horses, we fed them grain, either because that’s what their previous owners fed them, or because that’s what we were told we should do.  At first it was a processed sweet feed, as they call it (processed and with a lot of molasses).  Then, I switched to a local feed place that mixed their own feed – not processed, whole corn, oats and lower in molasses.

But as time went on, and I continued to do my research, I realized, I really needed to take our horses off of grain.  I had a hunch that it was causing some side effects in our horses.  This was not a popular concept in the horse world, but I was used to going “against the grain” (pun intended).  I had to listen to my instincts as well as my research.

Well, to make a long story short, it’s been over a year since our horses have been off of grain, and I’m happy to say they are all doing GREAT!  As an example, rather than worming them twice a year with chemical wormers like most owners do, I choose to do what’s called a McMaster’s test, which tests their fecal matter for parasite eggs.  We’ve always had a couple of horses which have had a higher parasite count.  But for the first time ever, this past July, I had them all tested for parasites and all the results came back negative. Not a single one of them had parasites. Yay!

Also, you can really tell a lot about a horse’s health by looking at their coat, and our horses’ coats have been shiny, with deeper colors than before.  One of my horses no longer paces at feeding time in anticipation of the sweet grain (addiction, maybe?).  And, our vet bill has gone way down.  In fact, one of our vets commented on how long it had been since they had been out.  I hadn’t really realized it until he said something, but he was right.  Overall, our horses are healthier.
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All of this to say: pay attention to the quality of food you feed, not only yourself and your family, but also your 4 legged friends!  Now, I’m not saying that just because humans have trouble with something that animals will too.  It just happened to work out that way in this case.  Each individual animal has unique systems, digestive tracts, and biochemistry, and they should be treated as such.  Again, do your research, ask the tough questions, and demand what’s best for all of the beings in your life!

Mind Over Medicine – Just as Important to your Health as the Right Foods

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By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

I was sharing with you that last week was Health Week for the Foodie Bitch – I decided to focus on taking care of myself to make sure I was feeling the best I could.  Well, despite all of the extra nurturing, I wound up sick!

I haven’t been sick in quite some time. I’m looking over what I did this past week to figure out what may have gone wrong (I tend to over-analyze things… this could be part of my problem).

I realized that even though I was eating great, exercising, sleeping well, and getting plenty to drink, my mind and thoughts weren’t quite where they needed to be.

This connection shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me.  After all (have I ever mentioned?) I do a lot of alternative healing -B.E.S.T., or Bio-energetic Synchronization Technique especially, which is a way of removing the conscious and sub-conscious interference from your life and taking you out of “fight or flight” mode so your body can heal. I also do some other energy work, and a lot of stuff with essential oils.

In all of my studies for alternative healing, it’s evident that even if you eat right, get good sleep, get plenty of fresh air and water, and exercise… if your thoughts are not supporting you, and you are putting yourself in a fight or flight state (stress), your body will become weak and open to infection, degeneration, and disease.

Today’s stressors are everywhere – we really can’t avoid them.  But we can deal with them more effectively to ensure that we don’t get stuck in this mode.  Our beliefs about who we are, what we are capable of, what the world is like, and our place in the world (among many other beliefs) play a huge role in our health.

I strongly believe we must pay very close attention to how we are talking to ourselves, as well as become aware of the limiting beliefs we hold about ourselves, to be fully healthy.

I think another important aspect of our emotional health is to remember that life can be (and should be) fun!  I think too often we tend to take thing too seriously, and as the old saying goes, there’s no need to make mountains out of mole hills.

I think also, especially for me, I spend a lot of time in my head.  I can be a very analytical person and I love to solve puzzles and try to figure out why things happen the way they do.  While this definitely serves me,  too much time in my head and not enough time actually living can get me in trouble.

And I think that’s the stress that took me down this week.

So, recognizing this, I pulled out one of my books I recently purchased, “Mind OBver Medicine,” by Lissa Rankin, M.D.

I had scanned through it a bit before, but last night I was trying to go to bed in a better “state”, so I pulled it out and started reading it.

Turns out the forward was written by Kris Carr – the author of “Crazy Sexy Kitchen,” which one of my followers had recommended (thank you michaelawanders!).  Just reading those first few pages reminded me that I need to initiate some stress-relieving activities in my life on a more consistent basis.

Here are some ideas from Lissa’s book for decreasing the stress in our lives and turning on the body’s healing capacity:

Meditation

Playing games

Gardening

Yoga

Exercise

Being with animals

Taking walks

Allowing yourself to express your creativity (whether through cooking, art, dance, sports, architecture, writing….)

Laughing

Taking a bath

Getting a massage

Enjoying nature

There were many other options to consider. Obviously Lissa delves much deeper into this subject in her book, and it’s a great read – check it out, or visit her blog here to learn more!

All of these easy, simple options will calm your body into a state of rest and self-repair – the best medicine!

So, today, as soon as I’m done writing this post, I am going to go sit outside on this perfect day (sunny and 80 degrees), among our purple butterfly bushes and Russian sage, and write down 5 activities that would help me elicit this healing response in my body.  But I won’t stop there.

Then, I will actually go and do one of them.

Would you like to join me?  What are 5 activities that you could do that would nourish and nurture your Soul and help your body heal?

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The Benefits of Switching to Organic For Those With Eating Disorders

By Shannon, contributing Foodie Bitch

I had moderate expectations when I started becoming a Foodie Bitch: what I did not expect was that the benefits of organic eating would have a dramatic (positive) effect on the eating disorder I have carried with me my whole life.

Shannon’s Story:

I was treated for severe depression in 2006—a bad year for me, all around. My depression had gotten to the point where I was non-functional. I left school and finally sought help, though it was too little too late. I’d ruined my credit, my grades, and some of my relationships.

It was a dark time in my life, and I hate to think back on it.

Three rough years later, I managed to return to school—a little bruised, a little bent, but eager to try again.

I suppose I was “predisposed” to develop an eating disorder. As a child, at sleepovers or parties I would eat and eat all the delicious food my parents wouldn’t normally allow me, until I literally made myself sick and would vomit.

The stress of returning to college and the pressure I put on myself made fighting my depression much harder, especially because I was no longer on medications due to the cost and side-effects. I felt better, mentally, but no one had really taught me to cope with my issues. When they resurfaced, I turned to food as a comfort.

I had started working in a café and bakery at this point, and one of my favorite things about it was being able to take home big paper bags full of leftover goodies. I ate, and ate, enjoying that little flare of comfort I got from the food. I relied on it to push down the things that were niggling at me.

Soon, however, I was eating to the point where I felt ill. And I kept eating past that point. The comfort was gone, the joy missing. I was miserable, but still for some reason I couldn’t stop.

Purging seemed the natural way to solve this problem. I was no longer uncomfortable—in fact, I had room for more. Better yet, that ritual gave me something I was unable to attain other ways. It let me cry; it let me feel bad and then feel better again in moments. It was my own strange version of healing my hurts, manifesting them physically and then “curing” them. I felt exhausted, I felt ashamed, but there was a cathartic element to the cycle that I needed desperately.

I remained “mildly” bulimic for about two years. Some days I needed it more than others. When my living situation changed, I found myself relying more and more on it. The stress was worse as I moved closer to finally graduating and entering the real world, and I had the misfortune of living with a borderline anorexic who would often make criticisms about my weight that horrified and hurt me.

Somewhere around this time, I found a stray dog, and brought her home to live with me. She was a pretty little thing, and lean like a Whippet, but her experience on the street gave her the same problem as me—she was a dog bulimic. I had to hide her food, because if she found the bag she would eat until she was round as a ball and the food had nowhere left to go but back up. I controlled her portions carefully to make sure she was at an optimal weight, and would run home from work on my lunch break to dole out her tiny, perfectly arranged meals that I planned out and prepared to keep her metabolism up and her risk of gastric torsion down.

One day she got into something she shouldn’t have, and filled herself up. I remember being furious and upset to the point of tears; not because she had been naughty, as I would have thought to be upset over, but because she had destroyed my diet plan for her. I stood outside with her and cried bitterly because she might gain weight.

I called for help the next day. At this point I was purging regularly—around six times a day. I was horrified that I was passing this obsession along to my dog. What if I had children? Would I go on to destroy my daughter with my own sickness? I didn’t want her to go through what I was: disgusting reliance and self-hatred. I didn’t want her to lose control as I had.

The process of getting mental health assistance at a public university (or most anywhere, it seems) is terrifically, shamefully bad… but that’s an article for another day. The first psychologist I met with asked me why didn’t I just stop purging?

Jeez, what a novel idea.

I moved onto another, who was less judgmental but firmly believed I should be in group therapy.

Shy and uncomfortable, the last thing I wanted to do was sit in front of a group of strangers and tell them the personal details of my life (ah, how times  have changed!) and explain to them that I had lost control. That I physically couldn’t control my own actions. Mortifying! I prided myself on being cool and controlled, and I wanted others to see me that way… even strangers in the same boat.

I settled with two regulars: a psychiatrist who prescribed me medication (anti-depressants) and spoke with me a little regarding the development of my eating disorder. He postulated that I had developed it as my own coping mechanism; unable to work through my own emotions and frightened I would turn back to the comatose life that was my depression, I had made my own way of “handling” the situation.

He asked me, tentatively, if I would consider checking in for a hospital stay during treatment, but I refused. I had no health insurance, no one to watch my dog for me, and a GPA already wounded from the classes I dropped out of during my first round of school.

Besides, I was sure he was being overly cautious—I stubbornly chose not to believe that I had let myself become so ill that I required medical attention.

The second person I visited regularly was the school nutritionist. Her attitude toward food was “instinctive eating.” She wanted to teach me how to remove the stigma I had built around eating, and just get in tune to my body’s nutritional needs. It was a slow process, but it seemed to have a nice payoff at the end: only eating when I needed to.

With their combination, I worked hard at conquering my issues. I did as the nutritionist suggested—I ate my “trigger” foods and the foods I had avoided for their ability to send me into an eating frenzy. And, lo, she was right. Letting myself taste the forbidden fruit (or forbidden chocolate chip cookies, in this case) removed some of that intoxicating desire to slip off the “good path” and consume it. No longer forbidden, it was less appealing.

The medication I started shortly after. It had the miraculous effect of entirely shutting off my hunger drive.

While at first this was freeing, it was also fleeting. A week or two of only eating to survive (sometimes forcibly because I was so adverse to food that I skipped meals and got dizzy and weak), and slowly that little urge in the back of my head would come back on. Food would gain back its appeal and then some, and I’d up my dose a little bit and start all over.

One of the unfortunate effects of that particular pill was exhaustion. Every time I upped my dose, I also tacked on a few more hours I needed to sleep. Everyday life was becoming difficult to continue seeing how I needed to lie down about eight times a day. Classes, social life and work seemed more and more daunting, and I was finding myself right back in the worst part of my depression, sleeping through everything in total oblivion and with nothing on my mind but when I could shut it all out again.

In the end, financially and for my sanity, it was easier to go off the medication. I went on with what the nutritionist had taught me, and an awareness of what I was doing to myself mentally and physically, and I dealt with it.

Time passes, and dealing with things gets easier. I stopped having “accidents” and slip-ups. I learned that yes, there really are just certain foods I need to avoid if I didn’t want purges to happen. I forced myself to cope with my problems rather than seek out comfort in another way.

Life got better, as it usually does, and gradually my eating disorder stopped ruling me. But it never went away.

You’re never cured from an eating disorder, or an addiction. Always, it remained in the back of my mind.

I continued to avoid certain foods—salty, packaged meals, noodles, and some sweets, especially, because they would wake up the little murmur in the back of my mind and make it roar.

I would try not to eat to the point of being full, because my body would react like I was having an anxiety attack, demanding I get the food out of me. I would get twitchy and angry with my companions if I were eating with friends or family, and need to go be alone to work through the problem.

I tamped it down and I lived with it, as so, so many of us do. Some days I lost the fight, but I’d start fresh the next day, and it became a smaller and smaller part of who I was.

The Beginning of the Foodie Bitch Journey

A few months ago, I started the Foodie Bitch journey.

I began working more organic, whole, and unprocessed food into my diet. It was a slow switch, but the more I added in, the more I found that I wanted to switch over entirely. About a month in, I was eating almost entirely organic, low gluten, cooking my own meals as much as possible, and eating out less. If my family made a meal, I would start out having a bite (who doesn’t love French fries right from the oven?), but soon, it lost all its appeal sitting there. I didn’t even want a taste.

Even when they brought home my favorites, or fast food, I didn’t feel driven to partake, and was only happier to prepare and enjoy my own clean meals.

My zealousness surprised me—I hadn’t expected to be so invested in this change. Yes, the food tasted a lot better, and I was noticing I had more energy than my usual empty tank, but there was something more to it that I wasn’t openly acknowledging.

That’s when I realized that the little demanding creature that always lurked in the back of my head was silent.

It had never been silent before.

Quiet, yes. Sometimes sleepy or just bored with my refusal to give in. But, always—I think for my whole life—it had been saddled up in there, driving me and pushing me and giving me a constant obstacle to overcome. The medication had silenced it, yes, but so briefly that I never lost the sense that it was there.

Now, it was missing, and I suddenly understood that my enthusiasm for this diet change had in part been driven by the fact that the more processed foods I avoided, the quieter the urges and the cravings became. The desire and worry surrounding food no longer consumed me most of my waking moments.

I had separated myself from my eating disorder to an extent I never thought possible.

I won’t say I’m cured; I don’t think people can ever be cured from addictions. But it’s made my life substantially easier, calmer, and happier, and that’s why I wanted to share this with you.

In all the treatments, they focused on the psychology of the issue—not once did the fact that much of the problem might also lay with the food itself ever come up in those awful conversations. No one mentioned the benefits of organic eating, and how it could aid in my recovery.

Considering what I’ve been learning about processed foods as part of the Foodie Bitch team, this is surprising. In all the books I had to peruse, and the meetings with nutritionists who sought to get to the root of my addictions, never was there mention that the foods I was dependent on were designed (inadvertently or not) with that intent.

Yet, why not teach that? We’re surrounded and stuffed with foods with additives specifically to inspire cravings, that disrupt hunger signals, that trigger overeating and addictions (See “Super Size Me” for a real-life example) and alter our brains to think that eating these products is making us momentarily happy (called “the bliss point”), or have been colored, textured, and designed to make us want to eat them. Looking back, it seems so simple.

Maybe I’m more sensitive to these triggers. Maybe my genetics (coming from a family with a history of addictions), in combination with all of those other stressful things in my life, made it all too much for me… like the estimated 10 million other Americans struggling with an eating disorder.

I don’t know.

All I know is that a relatively simple switch in my diet has done more for me than medications—without the harmful side effects like serious exhaustion, and that numbing, overall disinterest in food. Where’s the pleasure in eating simply because you must? Food is amazing, and meant to be enjoyed and meant to fuel you.

It’s just not meant to rule you.

I’m Polish and I was raised to love great, hearty food and the process that goes into preparing it. Working in the kitchen brings me closer to memories of my Grandmother—rolling out pierogies on the kitchen table or filling and wrapping delicious golumpki.

Erasing the dread I built around meals and reigniting the joy is an experience I am so grateful to have returned to me.

I still munch “regular” food now and then, but since I’ve become more in-tune with my body’s signals, I recognize that even a few bites or “just a little taste” inspires me to have just a few bites more, or a bigger taste, or seconds.

Having this comparison has made all the difference. I now know and can notice that something in me is reacting unhealthily, and I can step away from it now, where before I would be trapped.

Every person and every situation is different, of course. I urge anyone struggling with an eating disorder to seek help and support through traditional channels, but to also look to the source.

I encourage you to consider the benefits of changing part or all your diet to non-processed foods. Dealing with all of the other issues surrounding why eating disorders occur is hard enough on us without the extra burden of foods that trigger addiction.

I can only hope that breaking that chain of dependency will help free others reading as it has me… I am happy, relieved, energized, and my love for great food has been renewed and unburdened, the guilt and stigma I built around it finally released. To put into words the pleasure that has brought me would be impossible.

I wish all Foodie Bitches reading health, and a full life rich with great food and great memories.