healthy living

Health Isn't Just for Hippies

This has been on my mind for a while, and I know I'm not alone. I notice many people equating healthy living for being something hippies do. Moreover, it's often insinuated to be funny, weird or wrong, in some way. It's not funny. It's not weird. It's not wrong. It's just outdated. 

I get that many folks associate health and the healthy lifestyle to the 'hippie movement' but it's not the 1960s and 70s, anymore. It's 2014 and there are plenty of reasons and plenty of people who choose health and don't identity as being a hippie. I'm one of them. 

Self-identified hippies are great folks, don't get me wrong. I know because I used to be one, nose piercing and all. Today, I totally DO still identity and associate myself with much of what hippies were about, namely an ideology based on love and peace and questioning globalization and big government, taking care of the earth, my body and mind, the bodies and minds of others, etc. By the way, if you look up the definition of hippies and hipsters (and I used Urban Dictionary because why not), you will see such beautiful overlap that it's almost funny. Or it's just called "cultural evolution".

So! Let's evolve toward a culture that says anyone can eat a diet of organic, whole foods and not be labeled a "hippie". As long as we keep doing this, we associate a lifestyle and diet focused on personal and ecological health and limit it to a specific time in history and a specific group of people, many of whom were white and upper-middle-class. Because the benefits of clean, whole foods make us and the planet happier, I'd like to move us away from calling whole foods "hippie" foods and toward "happy" foods, or something like that. You can call me a dork, I don't mind.

Come up with a different term, I don't care. I just see so many similarities between this movement from the 60s and what's happening today, and yet I know many people sharing the values esteemed by hippies without actually identifying as such. In the 60s, younger folks were pissed at the government, pissed at their parents, pissed at "the Man" and fought back with the tools they had, namely dissension. They created cultural norms around food, hairstyles, clothing, music--pretty much everything--with a strong focus on loving and nurturing themselves, their bodies and the planet, especially with the food they ate. A big piece of this was a focus on eating whole grains and organic produce. Organic was a new-old concept back then, considering pesticides and herbicides weren't exactly something that came over on the Mayflower nor were they used on the regular by the indigenous or First Nation folks who lived here first. We've seen the trends around "organic" rise and fall with each decade since Rachel Carson's Silent Spring came out in 1962. If you have no idea who she is or what this book is about, click here.

We have these folks to thank for "bringing organic back", or like the bumper sticker I saw that said:

"Organic, what your grandparents called food"

Now, it's sort of like this stamp we put on anything and everything healthy. This is for hippies, because hippies eat vegetables. STAMP

No, people eat vegetables. People eat whole grains. People don't agree with many acts of the government. People save water and electricity and recycle plastic and use energy-efficient washing machines. People do these things who have all sorts of identities that may or may not be that of "hippie". This really hit home for me as my own identities evolved. For a brief stint in my mid-20s, I really looked the part of the "healthy, crunchy Granola hippie". In fact, one of my 8th grade students at the time made me a mix CD (I kid you not) and called it FOR GRANOLAS because the kid really got into my revisionist history Social Studies curriculum and felt like we were kindred spirits. Years later, I cut my hair and took out my nose ring but my ideology remained intact. I didn't look "Granola" but my investment in feeding myself well and leaving as little impact as possible on the earth grew ever deeper. I didn't need to be called a Hippie anymore or look the part in order to express my ideals, interests and lifestyle choices. In fact, it was the adoption of those values and my initial expression of them that helped more and more diverse and expansive identities and expressions become possible.

I am curious how many people of different identities want to adopt healthier habits but keep associating those choices with terminology, or that one word "hippie", that limits their expression as individuals. As long as we keep health and healthy living as something associated with one group of people from a certain period of our country's history, we don't allow for it to become the mainstream culture that would benefit all of us.

Peace and love.


Being Sick Sucks: 5 Immune Boosts

Yep. It's January 22nd, 2013, and I have not been sick since... wait. I can't remember when.

Not to say I haven't been stressed. Oh my, yes. Transition isn't a walk in this park...actually, no. It is. I am actually enjoying myself a whole LOT! Life is incredibly different for me these days and WAY more fun and enjoyable. Is it like this for everyone, trans* or not? I know it's not. That's why I'm working my ass off to help more people love their lives. And be happier, healthier people. *we are taking over*

Back to being sick.

I am either extremely lucky  or I'm doing things right. Since I was chronically ill from the age of 17-33, I will say it isn't luck. I wasn't "born" with a healthy, thriving immune system. Someone suggested that to me the other day and I smiled. He doesn't know my past, and that's ok.

My past included a lot of unhealthy habits and behaviors that caused me to be so ill. Some folks have to work harder to be healthy, either because of their age or other immunity challenges. But everyone can choose the healthiest habits possible for their situation, and thrive in the midst of those choices. That I do believe.

Here are 5 tips I've been following to keep healthy despite this flu thing ravaging my city. Sounds bad and scary and I hope I don't get it, but I can only do my best. I'm not doing anything crazy over here. No daily doses of handfuls of vitamins or anything. *knocks wood*


1) SLEEP: I can't stress this one enough. If you want a strong, healthy immune system, you need to sleep. A lot. Every night. I don't mean sometimes or twice a week. I mean every single night for 7-8 hours. I'm not a biologist or anything technical like that, I'm a healthy living coach. If you're not sleeping and you're sick a lot, I know there is scientific evidence that talks about the importance of sleep from a biological and physiological perspective. I hope you Google that if you need more evidence beyond what you're experiencing right now. If you ARE sleeping a lot and still sick--keep reading...

2) EAT GREENS: Leafy greens are your friends. They are jam-packed with vitamins, minerals and they cleanse your gut and colon. This means bad things don't have a chance to hang around and fester and cause issues. They strengthen your immunity and are especially good for clearing up respiratory and sinus symptoms. Iceberg lettuce won't cut it. The darker and greener, the better. Do whatever you have to do to them (one client pureed them with cream cheese in a food processor for her bagels) but just eat them.

3) PROBIOTICS: Whether you take a wee pill from Whole Foods or the health food store closest to you or eat fermented foods, take these good bugs. These bacteria live in your body anyway, so don't feel weird about ingesting more of them. The more you have, the more you can fend off the bad guys. Think of it like a military strategy: you want guys on the ground, snipers, the jets, tanks, etc. Each bacterial strain is like another superpower so get a pill or eat foods with a range of strains. Got it? Good.

4) REDUCE STRESS: A stressed system is susceptible to illness. You can eat the greens, get the sleep, take the bugs but if you're constantly worrying or stressed out about life, your immune system will have to choose between keeping you alive to combat the stress or succumbing to the bad bug. Think about it. Don't make your poor little body work harder than it already is this time of year. Take it easy. It's winter. Enjoy this time of year to eat and rest and read books. Your pile is falling off the bedside table. Get on it!

5) REDUCE SUGAR: Speaking as a sugar baby myself, I can tell you this works. When I eat sugar these days, I can almost hear my body protest. "NO!!!" it says. "Yes," I reply. But I eat sugar in VERY REDUCED AMOUNTS compared to my all-too-recent past. As recent as three years ago, each morning started with Starbucks hot chocolates and scones. And what a waste of my freakin' money! That stuff doesn't even taste good. If you're going to eat sugar, at least take 30 minutes on a Sunday and make yourself some damn good muffins.

Since I've stopped eating so much sugar, I've had fewer colds in the past year than I did in a week just a few years ago. And it's not like I live in my house and never leave. I interact with a lot of people every day of the week.

Those are my tips, beautiful friends. 5 of the most basic, simple steps you can amp up to increase your immunity. Post comments below, keeping in mind that I publish what will add to the learning and love of my readers.

Each Moment is the Perfect Teacher

"Each moment is the perfect teacher." I read this sentence from Pema Chodron, so I'll just put that out there. It's not mine, but it inspires me in every moment. A lot of people think happiness, gratitude and easy living come by running from pain and discomfort. If they are struggling, they will change jobs, situations, relationships and believe the change will bring the relief and the life experiences they want to have.

They also think it will make them the person they want to be.

I learned years ago that this isn't the case. In fact, running and changing situations and exiting when we are uncomfortable only begets more pain, frustration and suffering. Many years ago, I stopped jumping from lily pad to person to thing to thing whenever I felt uncomfortable or challenged. It's true that I do change my circumstances from day to day, but now it's because what I'm experiencing isn't aligned with my deepest values of love, honesty, compassion, respect and mutual appreciation. I think there's a difference between leaving when those values aren't there and leaving because you choose not to create and share those values. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference. Which is why I look to what people do and not what they say they are doing, or what they say they will do---at some point in the future. Because our future begins with what we do now. And our ability to see that, clearly.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. -Aristotle

Each moment is the perfect teacher to see if I am running from something because I'm afraid or running toward the thing that brings me closer to my truest self, even when all I see are the ways I need to grow. Each moment is the perfect teacher to show me, and it allows me to hear, words I use, the way I speak, the ways I behave. And each moment allows me to decide if I'm practicing what I expect from myself in that very moment or pretending it will magically happen someday when "things change".

Pema also says that people can spend their whole lives on a meditation cushion or in a yoga pose and never really live out their yoga. Or practice compassion, for themselves or others. Or really feel their fear. She said people can go through the motions of achieving enlightenment in very convincing ways, to themselves and others, and still be trapped in their habitual patterns of fear and ego. We all need to try and fail. But I've known many people who try and fail and quit, not seeing that success (in this case, enlightenment) comes from endless attempts at trying and failing.

I learned a long time ago not confuse people who are "doing" with people who are "being".

At this point in my pursuit of living as a bodhisattva (spiritual warrior), I have found a happy middle place. Definitely somewhere between knowing and being present with my fear and ego and not giving into it, too much. Somewhere between hearing myself say what I want and seeing myself either doing it or not doing it every moment of my life. Because that's where the work is. That's when it happens.

Having listened to and read Pema's teaching for the past 12 years and knowing many good, good people who can echo back those values to me, I feel closer and closer to being the person I want to be. And each moment is the perfect teacher, to show me where my work continues.