The Bucket Analogy

A few days ago I ate a piece of cake.

I know. Ground breaking.

I do have a point though so please bear with me.

As I watched the cake being sliced and passed around, it would have been all too easy for me to decline.

But the truth is, it looked really good. So in the spirit of celebration and sharing in the special milestone, I ate the cake.

And I felt fine.

No energy crash, no digestive discomfort, no desire for more sugar later on in the day (or the next), and no noticeable symptoms in my body (i.e. digestion, skin) the days following. Most importantly though – no drama or guilt associated with eating the cake.

I boil much of this down to having a relatively empty bucket.

If you’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about, allow me to explain.

Enter: The Bucket Analogy (in all its fine glory)

I learned this little gem many years back when I was first studying nutrition and holistic health, and if you’ve ever worked with me in my private coaching practice you’ve likely heard me reference it at some point or another because it serves as a beautiful illustration (in my opinion, anyways).

Okay, stay with me.

Your body is like a bucket…

To start, visualize a bucket with an out spout or “drain” at the bottom.

This one kind of works, but imagine a larger out spout at the bottom, or multiple out spouts.

Now imagine pouring water into this bucket.

As the bucket starts to fill up, the water naturally drains out the bottom of the bucket through the out spout.

It’s really quite a nifty little system actually, because in this case we’re not looking to accumulate water because we don’t want our buckets to become too heavy for us to carry around, nor do we want our buckets to overflow and spill all over the place.

From the day we are born and as we progress through life interfacing with the world around us, we continue to fill up our imaginary bucket with this imaginary water.

What is this imaginary water actually made up of?

So glad you asked ;)

The Contents of the Bucket (in a nutshell)

  • Allergens/Sensitivities (food, environmental)
  • Various Toxins (pollution, industrial, water, food)
  • Diet/Lifestyle choices
  • Infections (bacterial, viral, fungal, parasitic)
  • Stress (physical/emotional)
  • Trauma (past/present)
  • Genetics

So in other words, basically anything and everything that comes into our life experience can ultimately contribute to the content (and weight) of our bucket.

When we’re born, we enter this world with a relatively light load and then we start to fill’er up as we go about living our life (by the way we all have different size buckets – no two buckets are exactly alike!).

You would think babies are born with empty buckets, but according to the Environmental Working Group this isn’t quite the case. In one study there was an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants found in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies.

I know, frightening.

Don’t worry though, it’s not all doom and gloom.

This is where the 2nd part of the bucket analogy equation comes into effect.

Next up: The Out Spout, aka the Drainage System

Naturally we want to have an efficient and well-functioning drainage system in place so that our buckets can keep up with the demands of our world.

This “drainage system” is actually our body’s detoxification system and it’s comprised of all of the organs involved with processing and eliminating. This includes our lungs, skin, lymph, liver, kidneys, bowel and digestive system as a whole.

We eliminate through our breath, sweat, urine, and bowel movements (I know, sexy talk).

So what happens if our bucket starts to fill too rapidly and the drainage system can’t keep up?

We’ll have an overflow of course, or perhaps a flood in more extreme cases!

This spillage = your symptoms

The bucket (actually your body) literally can’t handle anymore and your symptoms start to spill out everywhere.

Speaking from a dietary perspective, this is why you might be able to handle varying amounts of “sensitive” foods throughout different periods in your life.

For example, maybe you can handle a little bit of wheat here and there without any noticeable symptoms, but as soon as you start eating it at breakfast, lunch and dinner, you may start noticing that you’re not feeling so hot.

Or you eat the cake, but then you go on to eat the ice cream and the doughnuts too. And drink all the wine. Oh, and you’re also dealing with some pretty heavy stuff in your life, and all of a sudden (or so it seems) you’ve gone and spilled your bucket all over the floor and no amount of mopping will stop the flood of symptoms.

This is of course a more obvious example but it demonstrates a great point: diet is rarely black or white.

Sometimes it’s not a question of having to eliminate a food completely from our lives, but just a matter of not overeating it (not rocket science, I know).

So as you can see there’s actually two critical parts of this bucket analogy that we need to address:

1) Those things that fill up our bucket (aka our bucket-fillers)

2) Making sure we have an efficient, and smooth-running drainage system that will ultimately keep up with what we’re throwing in

I know of course it’s not quite as straightforward and simple as I describe above.

Sure, there are those obvious bucket-fillers (i.e. cigarette smoke, alcohol, pollution), but there also inconspicuous ones too – like sneaky chemicals in our food, personal care products, and household cleaners, or even toxins our bodies produce internally. Even so-called healthy foods can create unpleasant symptoms based on the microbes in our gut, and until our gut health gets sorted out, we may have to limit certain foods that once gave us no issues at all.

Enter my role as a nutritionist.

Not only do I guide you in pinpointing and limiting all of those things that fill-up your bucket too rapidly, but maybe more importantly, I also help to ensure your “drainage system” is well-functioning, because I know that you’re not living in a hermetically sealed bubble closed off from the real world.

This is where diet, supplementation, fine-tuned digestion, and other lifestyle habits and practices come into play.

Because at the end of the day?

I’d love for you to be able to enjoy a piece of cake from time to time too without your whole world going up in flames.

I know, I know, a little bit dramatic, but it helps drive my point home.

When you’re really able to tune into your body and learn its language, you usually know when things are running smoothly, or when the bucket is fuller than ideal (relatively speaking, of course) and some changes need to be made in your life.

You can really only gauge the water-line based on how you’re feeling in this moment, on your lifestyle and dietary choices you’ve been consistently making, and by reading the language of your body.

Sometimes eating the cake might not be the best choice, there’s no arguing with that.

Other times it just feels right (Hint: if it is, you likely won’t have any feelings of guilt about it).

And on this particular day, for me, it did.

So I fully enjoyed it, and all is well in my world :)

 

Gentle Winter Cleanse (aka Digestive Reboot)

Feeling sluggish? Low energy? Bloated? Digestion not up to par? Trapped in a cycle of overeating?

If you feel like you need a little help in this area I’ve got just the prescription!

I call this a gentle winter cleanse, however, it’s really more of a digestive reboot or reset.

While cleansing is something that’s recognized as a great tool for the change of season, particularly spring and early autumn, you can still support your body’s natural built-in detox mechanisms all throughout the year by paying attention to what you’re eating, along with other lifestyle choices.

What I’m offering today though is a simple little protocol that you can put into action anytime or place whether you’re feeling sluggish or low on energy, or feeling like your digestion isn’t running as smoothly as it could be (i.e. you’re experiencing indigestion or bloating), or maybe you’ve found yourself in a pattern of overeating less than ideal foods and you’re having a hard time breaking the cycle.

This protocol can help you get back on the right track and give your digestion a rest, all while still providing your body nourishment.

You can follow this plan for as little as one day, but I suggest following it for at least 2 (or even 3) days for best results. This will depend on your current health status, lifestyle, and the intensity of the plan you wish to follow.

It’s really quite simple and you have full control over the menu.

Basic Guidelines

1) Consume any of the following during the protocol. Herbal teas, fresh vegetable juices, green-based smoothies, veggie broths, bone broths, and blended soups. You can pick and choose based on your preference. Unsweetened dairy alternatives are okay, as are seasonings for soup (i.e. sea salt, herbs, a drizzle of olive oil). You’re taking a break from: alcohol, flour, grain, meat, beans/legumes, nuts/seeds, and added sugar (with the exception of the optional raw honey I noted in the menu below), along with most other solid food.

2) You control the intensity. For example, consuming only fresh veggie juices and broths will be more cleansing (and intense) than blended smoothies and soups.

3) Drink plenty of pure water. Although this protocol is very hydrating already, be sure to drink pure water throughout the day. You can also sip on herbal teas and broths.

FAQ

Q. Can I still drink coffee?

A. This is the most commonly asked question! Ideally you will stick to herbal teas but I know that this one factor alone is one of the biggest excuses people give for not following it, or the reason why they will put it off for a more “convenient” time (I’ve fallen into this category many times too). So with that said you can still have one cup of coffee if you really want it (either taken black or with a splash of milk/cream or dairy alternative – NO sugar though). Although there may be many other reasons to take a break from coffee, since it’s technically a liquid you can still enjoy the digestive rest aspect of the protocol (unless of course it contributes towards digestive-related symptoms that you’re aware of – then avoid it).

Other Logistics

  • I personally stop taking all supplements during this protocol with the exception of a probiotic. You’ll have to decide what’s right for you. This does NOT apply to doctor prescribed medications.
  • Take into account your lifestyle and modify as necessary. For example, the last time I followed this I went for 5 days while keeping up with my regular busy work schedule, and workout routine (i.e. spinning classes and heavy weight-lifting). For this reason I added in some protein powder to my smoothie that I had post-workout. If you’re only following the protocol for one day this likely doesn’t apply to you – and if this is your first time following something similar then I would suggest more gentle exercise like walking and yoga.

Sample Menu

* Use all organic ingredients where possible

** Make quantities suitable for you (i.e. for soups you can always make bigger batches and store in the fridge)

Morning

Ginger tea with fresh lemon

Breakfast

Green Smoothie (2 handfuls of baby spinach, 1 chopped ripened Bosc pear, ½ ripened banana, ¼ avocado, ¼ tsp of grated ginger, a few sprigs of fresh mint + water for blending. Optional: add some lemon juice.)

Lunch

Broccoli Soup (Directions: steam broccoli florets until soft and then blend with a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of sea salt, and water and/or veggie or bone broth. Reheat on stove as needed.)

Dinner

Leek and Potato Soup (Directions: simmer chopped up leek and potato in some water until soft, drain and transfer to blender. Blend with a drizzle of olive oil, pinch of sea salt, water and/or veggie or bone broth. Reheat on stove as needed.)

Night

Warm Golden Milk (1 cup of dairy alternative whisked w/ ½ tsp of turmeric powder. Heat on stove until hot but not boiling. Optional: small drizzle of raw honey is okay)

This sample menu is simply to give you some direction and inspiration. Follow a menu that suits your tastes and lifestyle using the allowable foods/liquids noted under the guidelines above.

Here’s an easy recipe for veggie broth that I posted on Instagram.

Here’s a link to homemade bone broth. You can make it in a slow cooker or stove top.

Here’s a recent juice recipe I made that’s nice for the wintertime (if you have a juicer!)

This is how I store my soups and broths.

Have questions?

Write them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them!

xo Elaine

 

Post Holiday Eating Guide

Post Holiday Eating Guide

Can you believe it’s the last day of the year!?

I hope you’ve enjoyed the holidays.

I spent the last full week visiting my family in Niagara. It was so nice to kick back, relax and reconnect with the faces I hadn’t seen in a while. Plus I got to meet my new adorable baby niece who was just born last month.

Then of course there was the food, and plenty of it. There was no shortage of holiday goodies, including my mom’s annual Christmas baking.

Yes, I indulged and enjoyed. And I didn’t waste one second feeling guilty about it.

I knew it would only be temporary, plus I always know exactly what I need to do to get myself back on track afterwards if I veer too far off course.

The truth is, after a week of indulging in richer and heavier foods, my body naturally gravitates back towards lightness, and for the past few days since I’ve been back home what I’ve mainly been craving are vegetables and lots of them! I’ve been appeasing these cravings with huge veggie salads, vegetable sautés, and wraps made with cabbage leaves. I love how my body knows best, and I’m listening to it!

So if you’re feeling overstuffed after a few too many holiday indulgences and looking for a little post-holiday eating guidance look no further!

I know the New Year can bring with it pressures to start fresh by eating perfectly on January 1st or by beginning a new diet. But overhauling your diet in one night isn’t always the best solution, which you may be well aware of if you’ve been down this road before. You know how it goes, stick to an overly strict diet for the first few weeks of January and then slip back into old habits by the end of January when either the New Year excitement has worn off, or the diet is no longer sustainable.

This is why what I’ve outlined below is pretty simple, straightforward, and doesn’t involve you having to completely overhaul everything in one night.

The beauty of these tips is that you can start from wherever you are right now, regardless of your current diet AND without necessarily giving up your favorite foods (if you don’t want to at least). Sometimes though just knowing you can have something if you really want it is enough for you to drop your desire for it all together. Sneaky!

So if you’re looking to lighten up in January or just want to integrate some healthier habits – read on!

Post Holiday Eating Guide

Get Vegetable-Centric

It doesn’t matter what type of diet you follow, you can be vegan or paleo and the sentiment is exactly the same. Heck, you can be on a twinkie diet (heaven forbid) and still implement this tip. All you have to do is aim to eat at least 50% vegetables at each meal. This could be a combination of both raw and cooked, however it’s always a good idea to at least eat some veggies in their raw, uncooked form.

This isn’t an exact science and doesn’t require you to make any calculations. At one meal you might eat less than half your plate in veggies and at the following you might eat more, such as in the case of centring your meal around a huge raw salad. The point is to eat more veggies than you are now. I didn’t make this the #1 tip in my Hip, Healthy & Holistic Makeover Guide for nothing! You can download it for free here.

Swap out the Grain

Another easy way to lighten up your meals (and eat more veggie-centric) is by swapping out the grain for – you guessed it – veggies! How about trying your favourite bolognese sauce over spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles instead of pasta? Or stir-fry over parsnip “rice” instead of regular rice? If you really want to step outside the box and get fancy you can try making pizza with cauliflower-crust rather than regular wheat. As they say, the real magic happens outside of our comfort zone. Get creative!

Try Something New

Speaking of stepping outside the box, commit to buying just one new veggie at the grocery store each week. Eating vegetable-centric will be difficult and downright boring if you’re accustomed to buying the same old tomatoes, carrots and iceberg lettuce each week. There’s a whole new world of veggies out there just waiting to be discovered.

For instance, black radish! This was my new veggie this week. I used to walk by them in the produce aisle and would almost always mistake them for beets since they look pretty much the same except a bit darker in colour. I finally decided to pick one up and bring it home, and I’m glad I did! I’ve been enjoying it grated it over my salads, as well as sliced thinly and eaten raw with a dash of sea salt. Yummy!

Create some space

I don’t mean clearing clutter from your office space, although that can do wonders for your mental outlook. I’m talking about creating some space in your GI tract to give your body a rest from digestion. If you’ve been grazing on goodies throughout the holidays or just eating heavier in general there are a few simple tools you can use to optimize digestion and get back in touch with your true hunger.

Each and every night our bodies naturally undergo a fast until we break it with “break-fast”. Even just extending that fast until lunch by swapping your morning meal for a nutrient dense vegetable juice, or at the very least just waiting a few hours after you wake up before eating your first meal can give your body a much needed rest. Another easy way to reap the benefits of a mini fast would be to stick to some combination of vegetable juice, broth, herbal teas, cooked vegetables and/or salads for one full day. If a mini-fast feels to extreme for you, even just limiting snacking between meals can do wonders for your digestion.

Try Food Combining

Speaking of digestion, if things are feeling a bit off in this department and you’re constipated, bloated or just feeling plain sluggish, another way to ease the digestive burden and free up energy is by following the principles of food combining.

To sum it up, our bodies need simple, digestible food that nourishes us then leaves us, efficiently and effortlessly. By eating foods in easy-to-digest combinations we can ensure that things are moving smoothly all the way through (if you know what I mean). Even just properly combining 1-2 meals per day (ideally breakfast and lunch) can do wonders for our digestion. Not familiar with food combining? I wrote a whole post about it here.

Prep (just a little)

I’ve never been one for dedicating an entire Sunday afternoon to food prep, and most of the clients I work with usually aren’t interested in doing so either. With that said though, a little bit of food prep can be essential for making healthy choices during the week, especially when you’re caught in a pinch and need to throw something together fast.

An easy way to integrate food prep into your routine is to do it when you’re doing other tasks or household chores that need to get done anyways. For example, how about baking some beets or sweet potato chunks while you’re waiting for your laundry to finish? Or boiling half a dozen eggs while you respond to your emails (or ahem, watch tv)? Get strategic and fit in food prep where you can so it doesn’t feel like one big daunting task.

Apply the 80/20 principle

If you’re wondering where ice cream and chocolate croissants fit into the mix then the 80/20 principle is a great rule of thumb to follow. Aiming to make healthy choices at least 80% of the time can alleviate some of the pressure we put on ourselves to be perfect 100% or the time. Remember, progress not perfection. Overtime you might even find that a 90/10 ratio is more up your alley!

Now I want to hear from you! Let me know in the comments below which tips you’re going to put into practice this January.

Wishing you a healthy and happy 2015!

xo Elaine

Cut the Sugar, Keep the Sweetness!

jean harlow

If you found yourself dipping into the Halloween candy this past week or weekend, you may find yourself craving more of the sugary stuff this week.

It’s just the way your body is programmed.The more sugar you eat, the more you crave it – and as long as you continually give into your craving for it – the more the cycle is perpetuated.

So before you find yourself down at the drugstore purchasing discounted Halloween candy (oooh so tempting), or hitting up the pastry counter with your morning coffee, check out my suggestions below for satisfying your sweet tooth without the added sugar.

And let’s face it. There’ll be no shortage of sweet stuff coming your way in the coming weeks with all the holiday parties and events. Might as well give your body a break now;)

Cut the sugar but keep the sweetness with these ideas…

1) Baked apples (or pears). Slice them up and drizzle them with coconut oil and cinnamon (no need to add sugar), and bake them in the oven.  Feel free to top them with chopped walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds. This used to be one of my go-to treats when I was a kid. Actually I just made these a few weeks ago – here’s the picture!

2) Cocoa sweetened with Stevia.  This can take many different forms from a stove top homemade hot chocolate (raw cacao or cocoa powder, stevia, plus dairy or nut milk) to a chocolate flavoured protein powder or greens powder (Botanica makes a yummy one) mixed with almond milk. This can be the perfect little snack in the evening hours when you desire a little something chocolaty. The key is that the sweetness is coming from stevia (a zero-calorie natural sweetener) rather than added sugar.

3) Root vegetables. Choose one or a combination of any of the following: beets, turnips, parsnips, carrots, rutabaga, and sweet potato. Chop them up and roast them with garlic and fresh herbs. As the veggies roast in the oven the starches naturally break down into sugar, making them not only easier to digest, but sweeter tasting too. They’re delicious eaten hot or after they’ve cooled in the fridge.

4) Winter squashes. I can’t get enough these days! Acorn, kabocha, hubbard, butternut, pumpkin, etc. Cut them in half, scoop out the seeds and roast them in the oven with some coconut oil, cinnamon, and sea salt. You can puree them into a soup or a side-dish if you desire, but my method of choice is to just eat them straight with a spoon. And yes, I eat the skin too!

5) Dark chocolate. Okay, technically there’s added sugar here BUT if you stick with a higher cocoa content (70-85%), and just a few squares, the added sugar is really quite low. The caveat of course though is if you can’t stop at just a few squares and find yourself regularly chowing down on half the bar (or the whole thing), you might want to reconsider this a viable option – especially if you’re determined to nix the sugar from your life. I posted a picture of my favorite 85% bar here. If you’re a dark chocolate fan you’ll love it!

Now I want to hear from you!

What do you reach for when you want something sweet but without the sugar? Share your favorite naturally sweet or low-sugar treats below!

xo Elaine

photo via pinterest