Category Archives: Women’s Work/Life Balance

As the song says, we can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan…but the balancing act between work and life can be a tremendous challenge. There’s no one-size-fits-all secret recipe, but Candace and Kyle share success stories and inspiration in this collection of posts.

Now what was I coming into this room for???(musings on keeping your memory sharp)

What I am doing here? who is this???(compliments of "Menopaws"

What I am doing here? who is this???(compliments of “Menopaws”)

I would bet that most of you have experienced at least one moment of wondering why the heck you wandered into a room…..and then just stood there looking around in hopes that some sort of message would magically appear reminding you of your purpose. I cannot tell you how many times that has happened to me but I can say it has happened far too often.  I am also going to assume that most of you are concerned with memory loss and the possibility of dementia and/or Alzheimers as you age.  As many of us are destined to live longer lives, it becomes more likely that our minds will age along with our bodies: a scary thought indeed. Ah, but there are many strategies available to us in our quest to keep our minds and memories sharp as we age. Gracefuly aging in all aspects of our lives is the key to living a higher quality and quantity of life.

So let’s review some of the strategies that we have at our disposal to keep our minds sharp and our memories intact as we do begin to age.  I heard a wonderful piece this morning on NPR that talks about some of the latest research re: memory and the best ways to make sure that we stretch and grow new neuronal connections as we get older, which will enhance our ability to keep learning, stay vibrant and store new memories as well.

http://www.npr.org/2014/05/05/309006780/learning-a-new-skill-works-best-to-keep-your-brain-sharp?ft=1&f=3

Learning a new skill can help your brain be sharper and improve your memory

Learning a new skill can help your brain be sharper and improve your memory

In addition, getting regular exercise is another pillar of memory strength. I have always loved to work out in some form or another(running in my 20’s and 30’s, walking regularly since then, swimming, pretending to play golf(seriously that is one fun but frustrating sport!), hiking, and skiing.  I took up tennis almost 2 years ago and it has been a blast. There is quite a learning curve involved and I am definitely still climbing up that curve but it has forced me to think while I build new muscle memory. There have been some studies that promote this kind of thinking while exercising as one of the better ways to build memory, but any aerobic and active type of exercise enhances the brain’s potential for learning and storing new information. The most important thing is to just get out there and get active. Here is a link to the importance  between exercise and brain health:

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improve-memory-thinking-skills-201404097110

Exercise is not only great for your body: it is also essential for your brain and memory…find something you love to do….another essential of balance

Exercise is not only great for your body: it is also essential for your brain and memory…find something you love to do….another essential of balance

Vitamin D also plays a role in brain health and cognitive strength. According to Dr. Oz, “Scientists hypothesize that improved cognition may be linked to the sun’s effect on the body’s internal clock; exposure to daylight(natural vitamin D) may boost the production of the neurotransmitter seritonin, which in turn spurs growth of the hippocampus, that part of the brain crucial to forming and storing memories.” He recommends( as do I) that every day we should go outside and spend between 15-20 minutes  before applying sunscreen so that our bodies can make Vitamin D ourselves. In general, we still do need to take additional vitamin D: more on that in a future blogpost. Bottomline, make sure you get outside every day possible as this will help both your brain and your mood.

Adequate sleep also clearly has an effect on our memory. Most of us(myself included, far too: often, mea culpa) get far too little of this precious activity most days.  In general, 7-8 hours of sleep is recommended to help our bodies and our brain to restore and rejuvenate. Think of sleep as time to recharge your battery. I imagine you have the same reaction that I do when I see that dreaded message on my cell phone: “less than 20% battery” and I have left my cord at home: panic! I usually feel the same way towards the end of a busy work day when I stayed up and out too late the night before and I am dragging, just not as sharp as usual. Note to self: get more sleep.

A baby seal taking a 'catnip' on the beach: ah, the bliss of a deep sleep…..

A baby seal taking a ‘catnip’ on the beach: ah, the bliss of a deep sleep…..

One more memory/brain potential robber: STRESS!!! We have touched on this in previous blogposts but briefly, when we are under stress(prolonged, frequent, unrelenting stress), cortisol is released to help our body fight “the attacker”, real or perceived.  Unfortunately, this adaptive response often leads to a maladaptive state, leaving our mind and body depleted. The result: poorer learning capability and difficulty storing new memories. Studies of inner city children, faced with the stresses of poverty, crime, poor nutrition and inadequate social support, have shown over and over how difficult it is to try to learn in school when under chronic stress. The same concept applies to all of us, whatever our stresses may be.  So managing your stress is something each of us must learn to do.  Think exercise, meditation, eating whole foods, making time for yourself, your family, your friends, take regular vacations, prayer…more work is not usually the answer…

Meditation, exercise, quiet time…all ways to manage your stress.  Be sure to find time each day for activities like these.

Meditation, exercise, quiet time…all ways to manage your stress. Be sure to find time each day for activities like these.

I haven’t touched on everything that can impact your memory but these are some of the more powerful things that you can work on.  Obviously eating whole foods diet and balancing your hormones are both essential for brain health as well. Hopefully that goes without saying if you have been reading our blog for awhile.

As always, we welcome your comments, thoughts and ideas . Stay tuned as Candace and I are getting ready to do some webinars together starting in July. We will provide the links for these so that you can log in and listen.

To building  great memories…..and remembering them, LOL.

 

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Filed under Essentials, Hormone Imbalance, Kyle Bell McAvoy, Whole Eating, Women's Health & Happiness, Women's Work/Life Balance

Gluten-free for 19 days and what have I noticed?

First of all, I cannot believe how quickly these last few weeks have gone by. The first day of my gluten-free journey I found myself at a wonderful Italian restaurant with my husband Joe and son Conor: dilemma #1: don’t reach for yummy warm focaccia and dip it into spicy extra virgin oil, as I would normally do. Temptation averted, the rest should be easy! I chose polenta and sausage for my entree, thus avoiding pasta and felt quite satisfied sipping on a glass of full-bodied red wine and walked away not feeling quite as stuffed.

Red wine, Pinot noir in particular, is rich in resveratrol, an antioxidant protector of healthy cells against aging. When taken in moderation (no more than one glass a day)  it also is known to have hormone balancing benefits.

Red wine, Pinot noir in particular, is rich in resveratrol, an antioxidant protector of healthy cells against aging. When taken in moderation (no more than one glass a day) it also is known to have hormone balancing benefits.

It’s those first few days of making a change that are always the hardest and most daunting but once I settled in to my new routine, I found it easier every day to not reach for the pretzels….or grab a piece of whole grain toast for breakfast….sneak a bite of a cookie that someone(usually me!) brought in to work….grab some pita chips to dip into my hummus….order pizza for dinner or bagel and cream cheese for breakfast(these are some of my favorite foods, by the way).  Instead I made up a big batch of quinoa which I would have for breakfast with some cheese or eggs( in lieu of toast) or some polenta to have with roasted veggies and some protein for lunch or dinner. I often had thin rice cakes with hummus or nut butter for breakfast and I found some very tasty quinoa chips at our local New Seasons Market.  It took a little bit of planning and an occasional , ” oh right, I can’t have that right now” moment but it has been  fairly easy to eliminate gluten and wheat from my daily diet.

So what have I noticed? I don’t feel as full or bloated after a meal, my waist is at least 1 inch smaller, I haven’t felt as hungry between meals, my blood sugar feels more even and I haven’t had as big an energy dip after lunch. That last one is huge as I usually get up at 4:30 am during the week so I can get to the gym and walk my dog before work…so when 2:00pm rolls around, the temptation to take a nap can be pretty big(those Latin cultures with their afternoon siestas are ONTO something). Sleep has also been deep and restful , another substantial  plus as we all know how important getting adequate sleep is for restoring our adrenals and keeping cortisol levels balanced, equating to less belly fat: wow , this stuff really does make sense, doesn’t it? Avoiding gluten/wheat not only helps to even out our insulin production but it also helps to regulate our cortisol levels, both of which then help to reduce that dreaded belly fat/muffin top/menopot which we all are trying to avoid or diminish.

That dreaded belly fat! Reducing consumption of gluten-containing foods can help you to lose it

That dreaded belly fat! Reducing consumption of gluten-containing foods can help you to lose it

Now that I can see the finish line of this experiment, I am left wondering how I will apply what I have learned from these 21 days to my future diet and lifestyle.  As I suspected, my digestion, mood  nor skin haven’t changed so I don’t think I personally have gluten intolerance.  But I do think I will benefit from minimizing its consumption on a regular basis so I will treat eating wheat and gluten-containing products like I do sweets: small amounts, occasional consumption more like a condiment than a staple of life. That way I can indulge in a piece of pizza, a nice hot piece of focaccia, a warm chewy cookie from time to time.f

And that is the way we should eat, the way Michael Pollan has so eloquently laid out for us: “Eat food(whole), not too much , mostly plants”. If we all followed this advice, our level of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease , inflammatory diseases, and even mental illness would drop greatly. Adapting a whole foods, plant-based diet leads to optimal health and wellness, hormone balance and an improved quality of life. What could be better than that???

Spring is in the air and flowers are popping up everywhere: definitely adding to our quality of life...

Spring is in the air and flowers are popping up everywhere: definitely adding to our quality of life…

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5 days gluten-free, 16 to go

I cannot believe it is already March 6th and I am officially gluten-free, at least for now. So far, it has been way easier than I had imagined, which is great because I often feel a pang of guilt when I recommend trying this style of eating to some of my patients. I always suggest deleting gluten from the diet of patients with Hashimoto’s(an autoimmune version of hypothyroidism) , insulin resistance and diabetes, arthritis, IBS(Irritable Bowel Syndrome), diverticulitis, fatigue, weight issues and even mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Those who have followed this advice often report a significant reduction in their symptoms, so much so that they are happy to stay off gluten indefinitely.

For breakfast, I have had either gluten-free toast with peanut butter and homemade jam, rice cakes with hummus,  Greek yoghurt with fruit and nuts, eggs with lots of sautéed veggies  or quinoa with cheese. I have not felt deprived at all.

Lunch is usually a salad loaded up with veggies, a source of protein or two and some nuts thrown in for crunch(I am definitely drawn to crunchy, salty and spicy foods over others). Snacks include sliced up apples or pears, a handful of grapes or a small portion of nuts(10 almonds/walnuts, or 40 pistachios is just the right amount).

Dinner has consisted of roasted veggies and goat cheese, tomato sauce over steamed broccoli with parmesan cheese(here is where my Italian roots come out: I just love a hearty tomato sauce and have found it to be quite wonderful served over veggies instead of pasta: another way to lower sugar and gluten consumption), chicken + yams + a salad, seafood and quinoa and veggies: really the possibilities are endless. I went to one of our favorite Italian restaurants last weekend and chose the polenta with sausage: YUM! I avoided the warm crusty Italian bread with olive oil: ouch…but I survived and happily so. I honestly believe this is a good change for me as I am one of those who often fills up on bread if it is there.

I have noticed that 1. I feel great: lots of energy. 2. I am not as hungry between meals( I am quite the grazer usually) 3. My clothes around the waistline feel a little looser.  So these are subtle changes but it has only been 5 days. I will keep you posted throughout the next 2+ weeks.

Bon appétit, sans gluten.

Another fun birthday celebration(they just keep coming, thankfully): this time gluten-free for me

Another fun birthday celebration, Melinda’s(they just keep coming for all of us, thankfully): this time gluten-free for me

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A cleanse with a conscience

Day 2: we are 1/5 of the way there! So far, so good. How are you all doing????  Please share any insights and/or challenges you are noticing.

Last night I received a text from my dear friend Mary saying that she was excited to join in with us for the cleanse. In addition, she suggested tying our consciousness cleanse to a spiritual cause. In her words, ‘the money saved on wine for the week could be donated to Mercy Corps for the Phillipines or Syria’.

I love it! For some of us, it will be the wine or happy hour we are giving up, for others it will be chocolate or lattes or whatever is your favorite indulgence. I know many of us have been wondering just how to help all of the unfortunate people in various parts of the world.  Just this past weekend in our own nation we were faced with the devastation caused by the tornadoes in the midwest.

Each of us is touched by different things that we see and hear and I do think Mary’s idea is a terrific one. As we become more conscious about our own consumption of food and beverages, we do become more thoughtful about all of the choices we make each day.  Sometimes we are left feeling so helpless in how we can reach out to others, so if this idea resonates with you, I encourage you to add up how much you are saving during these 10 days(it can be as little as $10 but even that goes a long way when many give in unison) and donate to a cause that means something to you.

A toast to a cleanse that has local and global impact! Thank you Mary for sharing this idea with us(Mary and I have walked together for years, by the way and ideas do fly!).

Mary on one of our morning walks with RIley and Ringo

Mary on one of our morning walks with RIley and Ringo

Kyle walking with RIley (and Mary and Ringo)

Kyle walking with RIley (and Mary and Ringo)

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4 days til our “Fall Consciousness Cleanse” starts : are you ready???

As many of our faithful readers know, I have been trying to set aside two separate times each year during which I turn my attention more fully to the things that I eat and drink for 10 days.  I have called these time periods  ‘ a consciousness cleanse’ as opposed to a true cleanse (or a detox), which is usually quite a bit more entailed and rigorous.  The goal of setting aside 10 days each fall and spring for cleaner eating and drinking is more aimed towards increasing our awareness of what we consume,  in hopes that by doing so, we can slowly change our habits in the long term.

The rules for OUR cleanse are simple: eat whole foods, avoid alcohol, the whites(see end of post for link to specifics), and caffeine for 10 days. Benefits? Decreased belly fat, improved sleep, increased energy,clearer thinking, balanced mood and the satisfaction of doing something absolutely incredible for your body!! One more thing: there is something so satisfying of sticking to a wellness program for the entire duration, just knowing that you CAN.

Some healthy and delicious food choices, packed with powerful nutrients

Some healthy and delicious food choices, packed with powerful nutrients

This fall the kick-off begins Sunday , November 17th and runs through Tuesday, November 26th and is designed to increase our consciousness right before the superbowl of holiday feasting(Thanksgiving day) arrives, with all of the subsequent festivities that occur between that day and the coming of the new year. Did you know that the average American gains up to 12 # during said famed holiday season? That is an alarming thought indeed, as anyone watching the news knows how the epidemic of obesity is causing a plethora of chronic health problems in our country(see some of our previous blogposts on this subject).

Some of my favorite herbal teas and sweetener to enjoy during the cleanse

Some of my favorite herbal teas and sweetener to enjoy during the cleanse

The best part of doing the ‘cleanse’ at this time of year is that you will have some excellent company. This year both Candace and I will be doing it together, along with at least 10 others.  It really is so much easier(and fun) to take on a challenge like this with some support. As an extra added incentive, if you sign up as a follower AND post at least 2 comments during the 10 days about YOUR experience on the cleanse, we will enter your name into a drawing for a copy of the wonderful book, “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin.  She offers some wonderful ways to take inventory of your life and make changes, all designed to bring more happiness and balance to your life.

Here are some more specifics about the cleanse from a previous post that I wrote:

http://menopausibilities.com/2013/01/05/preparations-for-our-cleanse/

Please refer back to that post and the several that follow it as you get ready to join us. And don’t forget to sign up as a follower(if you haven’t already done so) and comment along the way: you might just win that book for some terrific fall and winter reading. Plus we love to hear from you….

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Fall cleansing is in the air

We have been truly blessed with a warm and sunny ‘Indian summer’ here in the Pacific NW this year but 2 days ago, the autumn switch turned on, dropping the temperatures down into the 50’s by day and 40’s by night. Any illusions of an endless summer were quickly abandoned, so back indoors we go for the majority of our waking hours.

I imagine many of you, like me, find yourself purging your house of excess things, rearranging cupboards and closets, raking up the fallen leaves and turning over the soil in the garden. There is something about the transition from living outdoors as much as possible to nestling inside that makes me want to simplify my surroundings before adorning the house with decorations for our fall and winter festivities. One of my fall rituals is moving all of my spring and summer clothes(after taking all of the ones I still didn’t wear to Good Will for a better home) from my bedroom closet to my spare one,  in exchange for my fall and winter wardrobe.  Doing this always makes the seasonal change so definite for me.  I actually enjoy this ritual as it makes me reflect on the activities of the past few months while thinking ahead to the upcoming holidays.

Fall lights add to a warm and cozy atmosphere: I can't resist!

Fall lights add to a warm and cozy atmosphere: I can’t resist!

For those of you who are faithful MP blog followers, you know that fall also means thinking of ways to be more conscious and mindful about the food and beverage choices we will be making in order to stay balanced despite the holiday festivities. This can be a huge challenge to many of us: avoiding unwanted weight gain, getting inadequate sleep, feeling stressed out about shopping(perhaps on a more limited budget than in years past), getting burned out by the extra demands placed upon us, all of this leading to cortisol overdrive and its many associated symptoms(irritability, insomnia, anxiety, depression, belly fat, salt and sugar cravings, to name a few).

So we will be hosting another “Consciousness Cleanse” starting on Sunday, November 17th and will run for 10 days, ending just in time for Thanksgiving. As in years past, there are 4 major food/beverage groups that we will avoid during the ‘cleanse’ . These are caffeine, alcohol, sugar and ‘the whites'(white flour, rice, potatoes, pasta and again white sugar).  Some of you who want to do a deeper detox/cleanse of sorts may also want to eliminate gluten and/or dairy and/or soy, particularly if you suspect a sensitivity to a particular food type.

Some examples of the kinds of food you CAN eat and that will make you feel wonderful

Some examples of the kinds of food you CAN eat and that will make you feel wonderful

Last year we had approximately 60 people participating in our fall ‘cleanse’ and it was pretty remarkable to listen to the various comments people had about their personal experiences.  To view these, please go to ‘Kyle’s blog’ and scroll back to Oct 2012 and March 2013 blogposts to learn more about the cleanse and the reactions of the participants.  We are excited to be doing this again and we hope that you will join us.

For those of you who are interested in a longer term detox, please click on this link

http://bit.ly/HkqEyt

to work along with Andrea Nayakama and her staff of functional nutritionists for 21 days starting on Monday November 4th. Once you click on the link, you can listen to the  webinar she did yesterday: Tipping the Scales. This which was a really nice overview of the link between what we eat and our hormone balance and I recommend that all of you take the time to listen to it. We have written quite a bit about the importance of hormone balance and health/ optimal weight over the past 2 years so some of the content will be familiar to many of you, but I know that no matter how much I learn about this amazing and complex topic, I inevitably take away another ‘pearl’ with every new talk or article I come across.

Stay tuned. We will be posting more in the upcoming weeks to help you get ready for your 10 day fall cleanse. I promise you that if you partake in either the deeper detox or the 10 day mini-cleanse, you will gain a new awareness that what you put into your mouth  really matters . More about the details and benefits in upcoming posts. For now, remember to drink tea(all types but green is great for weight control and immune system), plenty of water, choose organic foods as much as possible, exercise  a minimum of 4-5 days a week and get at least 7 hours of sleep every night for optimal health and wellness.

Fall morning walk at sunrise: a lovely way to get daily exercise

Fall morning walk at sunrise: a lovely way to get daily exercise

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Don’t miss it …..here it comes…..

I have had the pleasure of working with an amazing woman in Portland, OR these past 6 months. What you may not know about me is that I am one of those people who love to network and make connections . As a result, I am able to help my patients on a broader level by putting them in touch with other providers and experts who offer different skills that they might need.  My ultimate goal for each of the women I see is for them to achieve optimal health and wellness and this often ‘takes a village’.

Candace has been educating all of us about the links between unbalanced hormones, unhealthy weight, unmanaged stress, poor food and environmental choices and the risks of developing breast cancer and other inflammatory conditions. It is sometimes hard to understand the physiology behind all of this but bottom-line , “You are what you eat” and what you eat eventually catches up with you, either in a positive or a negative way. There is just no avoiding it so the sooner you make a choice to make positive changes in the way you approach food, the sooner you will feel better and be on the path to long term, sustainable health patterns. Believe me, it gets easier as you go! Little changes, big results(please read the post I wrote on Oct 8, 2012 for more about this):……really. I am not kidding. TRUST ME.

So back to the amazing woman: her name is Andrea Nakayama(functional nutritionist and educator) and she is hosting a terrific webinar this weekend that will explain how hormones and diet can help you achieve your weight goals and hormone balance. I am providing the link below to listen to her program. If for any reason the time that she is holding the live webinar doesn’t fit into your schedule, you will still be able to listen to her talk . That information will also be available through the link provided below.

Invitation to: Andrea Nakayama’s FREE 90-minute webinar, Tipping the Scale: The Role Your Hormones play in Influencing Your Health, Happiness & Weight Loss Goals that’s happening THIS Saturday, October 26th at 9am PT/ 12pm ET. This class will help you to learn the tell-tale signs that your hormones are out of whack. Head to the enrollment page to retrieve a free hormone honing handout, plus 2 additional gifts after you register for the call!

If you have any problems connecting to this link, please e-mail me at kylebmcavoy@gmail.com and I will help you. You can also leave a comment on our blog.
Wishing you balance through lifestyle and awareness. Namaste

Wishing you balance through lifestyle and awareness. Namaste

 

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