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Robin D. Stone is a New York City based psychotherapist, coach and consultant who works to help you achieve your most optimal self. 

Posts tagged healthy
Lift Your Spirits, Boost Your Health
 

One study showed that spiritual or religious practice like prayer can help fight off depression – especially if depression runs in your family. 

The brain-mapping research at Teacher’s College at Columbia University found that found that people who valued their religion more and prayed regularly had thicker cortices when compared to those who did not. It seems that a thinning cortex is associated with depression. Regular church attendance was not a factor; the focus was more on how much people valued spirituality in their lives.

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Another study, by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, shows that meditation may improve symptoms of anxiety and depression. So much so that meditation appeared to provide the same kind of relief as that from antidepressants, the study’s leader said.

Other research points to countless benefits from spiritual practices, from relaxation and stress reduction to faster healing of surgical scars to increased immunity to just being happier.

The outtake: Spirituality and spiritual practices like prayer and meditation are not just good for your soul; they can actually boost your mental and physical well-being.

Docs may never write ’scripts for “take two prayers and call me in the morning,” but as we seek ways to recover and heal from whatever ails us, it’s good to remember the benefits of sweet and soulful surrender.

 
Making a Wheat-Free Pie Crust
 
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In blogs past I’ve written about the perils of eating wheat for some of us; how the protein gluten that’s found in wheat can lead to painful intestinal trouble and autoimmune problems as well as sluggishness and belly bulges. So if the coming holiday season inspires you to contribute something homemade and sweet to the table, here are a few alternatives to traditional pie crusts. 

Pre-packaged mixes:

William Sonoma featuring Cup4Cup, the highly praised flour blend created by a chef as a substitute for regular flour

Namaste, for biscuits and pie crust and other stuff too

Bob's Red Mill for sweet or savory crusts

Do It Yourself:

A recipe to make a piecrust from scratch 

 
8 Ways to Stay on Track This Holiday Season
 

It’s holiday time, and with the family gatherings, the mistletoe and hot toddies come temptations to eat and drink to excess. We all look forward to the festivities, but if you’re not careful, those joyous holiday gatherings can be diet disasters waiting to happen. Here’s a plan of action that makes it easy to enjoy the get-togethers and goodies without piling on the pounds.   

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1. Make Time to Move  
 

  • Schedule in a workout – for everybody. Suggest a new family holiday tradition: taking a walk together after your holiday meal to burn some calories and “make room” for dessert. Or crank up the iPod and get everybody dancing down the “Soul Train” line. Combining family time with exercise will give you a chance to bond and give you a break from the holiday fuss. Build snowmen, shoot some hoops, go ice skating, even rake up some leaves.
  • Dust off your home gym. You may be too busy to get to the gym, but you can work that stationery bike or treadmill while watching the morning news.
  • If you’re traveling, take your workout with you. Pack light stretch bands and a favorite exercise DVD and put them to use!                 


2. Don’t Skip Healthy Snacks and Meals Before Parties

Starving yourself before you go out won’t help you mind your portions. If you step up to a buffet and you’re famished, chances are you’re going to eat too much. Make sure to eat a light but satisfying midday lunch, and before you head for the party, take the edge off your hunger with a snack like a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit.


3. Only Eat What You Really Like

Be a food snob! You don’t have to sample everything on the buffet. If you don't love something, don’t even bother tasting it. Check out the spread for foods and flavors you adore and skip what you can have anytime. Indulge in your holiday favorites, then find a seat, take your time, and savor every mouthful. 


4. Choose Wine Over Mixed Drinks

Wine has substantially fewer calories compared with other alcoholic beverages. Wine weighs in at about 125 calories, as opposed to vodka and tonic (165 calories) or eggnog (320 calories).


5. Alternate Alcohol With Water

Since alcoholic drinks are loaded with calories, try alternating each drink with water or seltzer. You’ll save calories - and stay grounded!


6. Get Enough Sleep

With all the shopping, the cooking and taking care of guests, sleep gets shoved to the back burner. A lack of shut-eye can do more than compromise your skin and appearance. It has been linked with a higher incidence of obesity, hypertension, and other metabolic disorders. Sleep-deprived folks also exhibit higher levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates appetite.


7. Socialize Instead of Eating

Don’t stand around the food table when you’re at a party. Focus your energy on spending time with family and friends instead of raiding the buffet and bar!


8. Bring your own dish

I have a friend who is allergic to wheat and dairy. If she eats just a bit of cheese or bread she ends up in digestive despair. Whenever we go to a dinner party, she brings her own dish. She even brings a plastic sandwich bag to restaurants with rice crackers or rice bread. If you bring your own food, you’ll have just what you need to indulge worry-free.

 
Simple Steps to Low-Carb Eating
 
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Pizza. Pasta. Bread. Once upon a time, I couldn’t get enough of them. I began each day with a bowl of cereal. Started almost every dinner with a roll.  Celebrated Fridays with a large cheese pie – and some cheesy bread. These days I steer clear of refined carbohydrates, but I still feel a client’s pain when she says, “Seriously? You want me to give up my bagels?!”

Before we get into the idea of “giving up” foods, my first question usually is, how did it become “your” bagel? Or “your” toast,” or “your” muffin? After highlighting her too-close-for-comfort relationship with said food, we start to explore the nature of refined carbs and their effects on diet, metabolism and overall health.

Pizza, pasta and bread are comfort foods that few of us are reluctant to give up. Most are made with refined wheat flour and pack a glycemic punch that sends blood sugar soaring and encourages insulin resistance, fat storage and chronic health problems like diabetes and heart disease – the nation’s leading cause of death. Refining strips whole grains of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Products labeled “enriched” have only some of those nutrients replaced. White flours have been bleached. So unbleached doesn’t mean “whole.”

A new study confirms what many healthy-living experts have been advocating for years now: a diet low in carbohydrates – even with some added fat – lowers weight and leads to better heart health than a diet that’s low in fat.  The message is not to start ladling lard into your dishes, but to consider that fat is not the dietary demon it was once made out to be. So eat fewer carbs, slightly more good-for-you fats, throw in some exercise (of course you would), and you’ve got a healthier body all around.

Note that low-carb doesn’t mean no-carb. Just as your body needs fat and protein, it needs carbohydrates to thrive. But consider the source of your carbs: your body benefits from whole grains (plus fruits and veggies, beans and nuts) much more than it does from refined-flour pizza, pasta and bread. And note that this isn’t a low-carb diet. It’s not a quick fix, but a conscious way of eating for life.

In time, my client becomes versed in the effects of refined carbs on her body. Then we move on to that notion of “giving up” foods, focusing not on what she “can’t” eat, but all the good stuff she can eat, like whole, unprocessed foods, lean fish and meat.

Before we’re done – and this is very important – my client and I explore what might bring her comfort that has nothing to do with food. Calling a friend. Taking a walk. Working it out with yoga or Zumba. Writing about it. Meditation or prayer.  These satisfy hungers that no food can. And while comfort foods may bring brief relief, they have nothing to do with lasting healing.

Eventually my client moves pizza/pasta/bread from main event to sideshow, and then to an occasional appearance if at all. And all that talk about giving up foods that weren't "hers" in the first place? Gone.


Chart from wholeshift.com 

 
Ready to Declare Your Independence?
 
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We’re now in the thick of summer, but the 4th of July is still on my mind. As we remember family reunions, picnics and barbecues, let’s consider the significance of the 4th – the national holiday celebrating this country’s adoption of The Declaration of Independence from the Empire of Great Britain.  Sometimes, especially since it’s been more than 200 years, we get so caught up in the celebrations that it’s easy to forget the meaning of the day.  Did freedom cross your mind when the fireworks lit the sky on the 4th? Did you celebrate that freedom?

I’d like to suggest a challenge for the rest of the summer – and beyond.

Let's make a personal declaration of independence – to be awake and aware enough to say:

I ______________________________, do solemnly declare:
I’m the one who determines my daily habits. I will take responsibility for seeing that I get the food and exercise that I deserve. I won’t blame my schedule or my mate or my kids or lack of knowledge for the choices I make.
I will pay closer attention to how I eat and what I eat, and how I treat my body. If it’s not good for me, I won’t do it.
I will be more aware of the people I let into my life. I’ll push haters, naysayers and negativity to the outer circle of the sphere that influences me.
I will explore what I believe about things – from the quality of my food and relationships to the work I do to the way I cultivate my spirituality. I’ll determine what works and what doesn’t.
I will celebrate my independence every day.

At its core, Freedom is the ability to choose. But as Eleanor Roosevelt once wrote, "Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility." As a health coach, I am here to help you choose a lifestyle that leads to your best health so that you can get the most out of life. I'm also here to hold you to your promise to yourself to do just that. The best way to start is to become more aware of your habits, to keep the ones that work for you and to toss those that don’t. 

So let’s declare our independence from manufacturers, marketers and agribusiness, from peer pressure and those who don’t have our interests at heart. Let’s be responsible, independent thinkers and choose options that lead to only the best of health. Now that’s a Freedom worth celebrating.

How will you exercise your Freedom?

Healthy eating,
Robin 

 
Do You Have Multiple Eating Personalities?
 

One client often ordered what her guy did when they dined out. Ribs and mac and cheese was a once-in-a-while treat, she reasoned. Plus, she’d vow to get right back on track.

Whenever another went “home” to visit relatives, she forgot all the newly adopted strategies that helped her eat cleaner, lose weight and feel better. Her pedometer went from 6000+ steps a day (three miles) to fewer than half. She wondered why she returned to her real home feeling heavy, sluggish and sad.

Not wanting to be the subject of colleagues’ constant commentary about her diet, a third client ate typical on-the-road fare whenever she was on the road for work. 

All three suffered from a similar syndrome: multiple eating personality. All three struggled to lose weight.

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The symptom is clear: like a chameleon, you conform to your environment, instead of making your environment conform to you. You morph into co-worker eater, sweetheart eater, or family-size eater, feasting on foods and portions that the new, improved you would you’d never touch. 

Could that be you? Consider the situations below. Then review the counter-intelligence to realize the power you have to control how well you eat and feel.

1. It’s easier to go with the crowd so you don’t have to explain or defend yourself.

Don’t let peer pressure get to you. Ignore comments from the folks who have something to say because your plate has mostly greens and fruit or just a palm-size of chicken (that’s really one serving). “That’s all you gonna eat?” Somebody will ask, and quite loudly too. “Yep,” is all you need to say – if you say anything at all.

2. You can eat like everybody else because you deserve a “treat” now and then.

Find other ways to “treat” yourself that have nothing to do with food. And change your perspective: don’t think about what you can’t eat, but what you can eat because it’s good for you. You’re more likely to stick to healthier eating habits when you feel it’s your choice. So powerfully choose to eat what’s good – and you’ll find it easier to avoid what’s not.

 3. You tell yourself “I’ll make up for it,” or “just once won’t hurt.”

Don’t sabotage your progress. If you haven’t had extra servings of anything in a month, don’t take a second – or third – helping just because that’s what relatives do.  Think before you eat: What does your body need? Note how that’s different from what do you crave or what just looks good. Keep up your exercise routine – invite your fam to come along.

Remember that you you take you wherever you go. So wherever you are, eat “cleanly” – whole, fresh, unprocessed foods with lots of water. Move consistently – cardio, flex, resistance. Cultivate these habits until you do them without a second thought.  The only way to get there is to remain consistent regardless of what changes around you.

If you become a chameleon, you veer off track of your eating and exercise goals. Then you have to start over and work your way back. That can lead to frustration and unhealthy yo-yo dieting and giving up. By forcing your environment to meet your needs, you stay on the path to your goals.

Recently I met a friend for breakfast at a soul food restaurant. After almost a year of eating wheat-free, I no longer have an appetite for pancakes or toast or even grits (made from corn, of course, but they often make me feel as stuffed and sluggish as when I eat bread). Instead of adapting to the environment – really, how can you have a soulful breakfast without grits? – I asked for o.j. and salmon cakes with a green salad and vinaigrette on the side. Yes, a salad at 10 a.m. My body doesn’t know that lettuce and tomatoes and cucumbers are off limits before noon – that’s all in my head. I ate heartily and left satisfied with the protein, fat and carbs I needed to start my day.
Losing weight for good is not easy or simple or quick. It’s a slow, steady process in which each step forward should make the next one easier. Those multiple eating personalities get in your way. Ditch them and you’ll reach – and keep – your goals.

Do you conform to your environment or take your healthy habits wherever you go?

 
My New Film Highlights Black Women's Stories about Stress & Self-Care
 

I was honored to premiere my mini-documentary "THICK: Black Women Weigh In on Body Awareness, Food, Stress and Self-Care"  recently at the Black Women’s Life Balance and Wellness conference at Spelman College in Atlanta. Featuring the stories of nearly 20 Black women nationwide – myself included – the film asks how can we take care of ourselves in the face of stressors like job demands, relationship issues, family drama. 

    Black Women's Life Balance and Wellness conference, Sept. 19, 2015.   

 

Black Women's Life Balance and Wellness conference, Sept. 19, 2015.
 

THICK centers on healthy weight, as Black women contend with weight-related health concerns like heart disease, diabetes and fertility problems in disproportionate numbers. This project was a part of my master's thesis, which focused on using narrative techniques like storytelling and writing to promote healing among Black women.

Joining us were two of the sisters featured in the film who are from Atlanta. They loved seeing their stories on the big screen. One, Elizabeth Montgomery, shared that she was thrilled to go from "homeless" -- a reference to her tenuous life as a young adult -- "to Hollywood!"

We followed the film with a powerful writing workshop focused on the body and self-care. The women gathered, wrote and witnessed, and some shared from deep within their hearts. 

I now incorporate narrative techniques in my coaching work. A beautiful thing about writing for healing is that it is a way to get your “stuff” down on the page. Sometimes you don’t even know what you’re struggling with until it’s there in front of you, talking to you, telling you about itself. And once you name it, whatever it is, you can begin to deal with it. 

I look forward to showing "THICK," to writing and sharing our stories, and to continuing conversations about what it takes to be healthy and whole.

Click here for a preview of "THICK," and let me know what you think at robin@robinstone.com.

 
Bored With Your Workout? Add Dance to the Mix!
 

I once had a client who swore she didn’t like to exercise. “Nope, nah, no way,” were her responses to my suggestions to do yoga, lift weights or try a spin class.

She found workout routines boring and was adamant that boredom kept her from including regular exercise in her routine. Instead of reminding her about the benefits of exercise for weight loss, which she already knew, I suggested that she not do anything she felt “forced” to do, but to consider what kind of movement she liked.

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“Really?” she said, “All I like to do is dance.”

And really, that was all she needed.

I suggested she put together a “move your body” soundtrack and sent her fun DVDs like Shaun T’s “Hip-Hop Abs.” And I encouraged her to commit to dancing for 30 minutes straight at least twice a week.

Not everybody likes the gym, or to work with trainers, or to even put on a sports bra. But I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like to dance.  Getting your groove thing on goes beyond burning calories; it can even lift your spirits.  Just get moving and keep moving until you work up a sweat. Start in the privacy of your own home, and if you’re adventurous enough to give a class a twirl, sign up at your local community center or Y, your house of worship or more formal studios.

From salsa to African to tap to belly dancing, you can find a class that suits your taste and level. If you’re a couple, take a class together as a new way to connect.  If you’re single, try a dance class to meet and mingle. 

Dancing boosts our bodies and our moods: It burns calories (anywhere from 250 to 500 per hour) and builds endurance and muscle strength – improving posture as it works your core.  It also releases those feel-good hormones called endorphins.

Dancing also helps your mind and memory. Studies have found that folks who practice ballroom dancing have a reduced incidence of dementia.  Evidently, the mental concentration you need to learn new dance moves keeps your mind agile, like crossword puzzles or learning a new language.

 So if you’re like my client and all you like to do is dance, then get on the good foot – and get it in!

 
5 Steps for a Food Hangover
 
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Ok, so after a couple days of feasting on fabulous Memorial Day fixings of potato salad, baked beans, barbecued chicken and turkey hot dogs (yes, hot dogs) and apple pie, I faced the down side to veering from a clean diet.


For three days I felt as if I was hung over – not from too much drink but from too much food. Instead of an achy, foggy head and upset stomach, I feel stuffed, sluggish and stopped up.

That might be too much information, but when you’re eating clean – as in lots of fresh fruit and veggies, whole grains and simply prepared fish, chicken and lean meats – food passes through you easily and regularly. 

 
 

Regularly as in at least once and sometimes more a day. But when I went off the grid and ate too much typical-though-lightened-up holiday favorites, adding extra fat, sugars, and processed foods to my system, I felt the effects almost immediately.

It started with sleepiness just after dinner on Sunday, the day I cooked. And I didn’t just cook, I burned. Put my foot up in it, as some folks say. The kids were ecstatic that we had “real” food for a change, instead of my usual (though not predictable) grilled chicken/fish/shrimp and salads. And I enjoyed longtime favorites right along with them, eating small portions, but taking second helpings. Then sleepiness set in. Along with a bulging belly, that was a sure sign that I’d eaten too much.

I felt full when I went to bed and I still felt full the next day when I woke up. But I had another helping of for lunch anyway, and then for dinner, then topped it off with another slice of pie that night. Not once all day did I “feel” my body telling me it was hungry. By Day 3, I recognized that I was veering back to old habits, so I stopped and switched gears. 

It took about three days to get my system back on track. Here’s what I did, and what you can do to cure a holiday food hangover:

* Drink more water – more than your daily 6-8 glasses – to help get things moving again

* Eat cleanly and simply again as soon as possible and for as long as possible. Fruit and protein for breakfast, a light salad for lunch and lean meats and simple veggies for dinner. No prepared, processed, wheat or dairy.

* Boost exercise – I went from a 2-mile walk every other day to a 2½ mile walk/run three days in a row, then off one day. Moving your body helps aid digestion.

* Leave 12 hours between your last meal of the day and your first of the next (snacks included!) – to give your body a chance to process what’s already there. You should feel hungry when you wake – The sensation of hunger tells you that your body is processing properly and is ready for more. 

* Be patient. It typically takes 48-72 hours for food to make its way through your system. So while you may be back on track with clean eating, your body is still on overdrive, processing all the excess calories, carbs and sugars from your splurge. It may be five days before you sense your body responding to changes you made three days ago. Think of this adjustment as turning around a big oceanliner: You can't just spin on a dime. But follow these strategies and your body will respond and "catch up" with your clean routine. A sure sign that it's catching up: You're "regular" again.

Have a Healthy Day.
Robin

 
Why HealthJones? For a Healthier You!
 
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If you ask them, most of my friends and family would say I’m a certified health nut. I don’t see myself that way. But I do get excited about making a “traditional” recipe just as tasty but better for your body. And the seasons’ bests thrill me: summer’s sweet, sweet strawberries, cherries and corn on the cob, fall’s full-bodied squash, pumpkins and yams and spring’s awesome asparagus.

I eat real food and for the most part avoid stuff that’s fake—that is, stuff that’s processed or bioengineered or and packaged in boxes or bags. I don’t really care for working out or taking the stairs instead of the escalator, but I like the results: doing so keeps me fit, firm and feeling my best. I regularly make time to move my body and quiet my mind.

The last time I was in a fast-food spot, it was for a bathroom break last spring while visiting the World Trade Center memorial. As soon as I stepped in, I knew why I hadn’t been in a fast-food restaurant in years. The smell of grease and hyperprocessed food turned my stomach so much that I had to wait for my friend outside. I could "hold it" till I got somewhere less offensive. Call me a health nut, but my body knows when stuff is no good for me. 

I believe in Hippocrates’ quote “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” We have become addicted to eating, turning to foods to nourish areas of our lives that it can’t: relationships, satisfaction on the job or in a career, spiritual peace, entertainment, happiness. Meanwhile, we’re growing sicker and sicker, and looking to drugs and medical intervention to heal us when it only salves the symptoms and patches us up. The answer to what ails us usually starts with what we put in our grocery carts. We simply need to stop and think before we buy.

That’s why I started HealthJones, a holistic health and nutritional consulting practice. I work with women in particular to help them learn to think before they buy what will ultimately heal or harm them. Often that means helping them get out of their own way so they can identify, embrace and then realize their health goals. I’m thrilled when I can help my clients to do just that: Whether its losing 20 pounds or getting rid of GERD or finding more energy or reviving long-dormant dreams, we work together, step by step, to drop old habits and adopt a new way of looking at food, fulfillment and fitness that works just for them.

On a bright day in late fall, with mellow jazz in the background and mimosas front and center, I shared that philosophy with more than 40 guests who joined me to celebrate the official launch of HealthJones. We feasted on a gluten-free menu featuring a seasonal favorite, squash-infused Carrot-Ginger Soup, along with Tortilla Quinoa Salad with Cilantro-Lime Dressing (so good somebody asked if they could take the dressing home), Turkey Chili and a Salmon Pasta Salad (made with Ancient Harvest quinoa “Pagoda” pasta and low-fat mayo). For dessert: a wheat-free version of my “world famous” Oatmeal-Cranberry Flaxseed Cookies (gone in no time flat). All dishes made by me and with love (and all recipes found on this site).

We chatted about women’s most common and pressing health challenges: sorting through conflicting and confusing information. Feeding a hungry family. Finding time and making room for simple changes that have profound and lasting effects. Generating energy. Quieting a turbulent digestive system. Conditioning a body to serve you well. My HealthJones custom program does all of that and more.

I told my guests that, as I neared my 48th birthday, I intended to enjoy another 52 summers (my favorite season) and I want them all to be able to celebrate with me. I want clients to take the long view – to look beyond tomorrow’s parent-teacher meeting and Sunday’s service, that big project at work and parent’s doctors’ appointments. To—as the flight attendants say in the event of an emergency—put your mask on first. Do you first. That way, you’ll be here to do all those other things too. That’s what HealthJones is—your fix for healthy living. And what’s nutty about that?