Why Your Body is like a Bucket

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 :)

 

Sometimes Being “Extreme” is Necessary

Are there certain foods that you over-consume on a regular basis that you know deep down to your core are holding you back from feeling your best?

But regardless of how hard you try to limit or cut them out, you just can’t make any meaningful progress? (By the way, this includes drink too – alcohol, coffee, soda, etc.)

What I’m about to say may sound contradictory to what you’ve heard me say before about the importance of transitioning from where you are to where you want to be, or in other words, the whole “learning to crawl before you can walk and learning to walk before you can run” idea.

For example, when I work with a new client in one of my nutrition programs I always first have them fill out a health and lifestyle assessment, along with a food diary. This allows me to gain a deeper understanding of their diet and eating habits before we even meet. Then once we do hop on the telephone or meet face-face via Skype, I’m able to ask more probing questions that reveal so much more beyond what they’ve put to “paper” previously.

So keeping this in mind, let’s say an individual is consistently making certain choices that are clearly not in alignment with how she wants to feel, or with certain goals she has for herself. (Sidenote: this isn’t always crystal clear in all cases because even foods that are deemed healthy by most standards can exacerbate certain symptoms in some people).

Since I don’t want to pull the rug out from under anyone this is where I’ll zero in on the habits that I believe will make the biggest difference in the short-term and start there first, rather than eliminating a bunch of things all at once and setting her up for failure because she’s unable to stick with it for more than a week or two.

Another example of transitioning would be cutting back and reducing something overtime rather than eliminating it all at once cold turkey.

Going ALL in.

With all that said sometimes you just have to go ALL in.

This comes down to how much pain you’re feeling. And it’s not just about physical pain, this includes emotional pain too.

How much of your life are you dwindling away feeling this way?

Some people believe it’s extreme to give up certain foods and substances. Then again, I’m referring to the mainstream idea of what society believes to be extreme.

Do you believe it’s extreme to not want to be in pain?

I’m guessing not, but it seems that people often associate giving up the action that’s causing the pain to be too extreme in many cases.

This was actually one of the principles I talked about in this post I wrote here titled The 10 Principles for Mastering Your Diet and Toasting Life at the same time – point # 7 was sometimes extremism is necessary.

Sometimes you just have to draw that proverbial line in the sand.

In fact, I consider myself a pretty moderate person when it comes to food and diet, but, going cold turkey and ALL in was the only way I was able to effectively give up coffee for over a year.

I’m just using this merely as an example.

Is coffee inherently bad? No.

Am I suggesting you need to give it up? Nope.

Can it be abused? Of course.

Can a “moderate” amount exacerbate unpleasant symptoms for some people? Absolutely.

In the past I tried cutting down on it, or saving it for a weekend treat. And while that can work for a lot of things that you don’t have a strong attachment to, for me if I drank the coffee on Saturday and Sunday, when Monday rolled around I’d be craving coffee and I’d find myself drinking it again.

The only way for me to eliminate the craving all together was to give it up completely.

Again, this is my personal example, maybe your “poison” is sugar, wheat, or wine.

What I’m getting at here is that sometimes eliminating choice altogether actually makes it easier particularly with those things that you feel a strong attachment to (which I did with coffee).

(By the way, “newsflash” I do drink coffee again but giving it up for over a year allowed me to see what types of effects it actually had on my body, and now my relationship with it is much better. If you’re interested in whether or not coffee is a good drink for you, or you just want to learn how to upgrade your coffee hygiene, check out this post I wrote here. Please note that I actually wrote it before my experimentation in giving up coffee for over a year).

Also, I should clarify that I never committed to giving up coffee for a year. I started with a month. Quite frankly, after about a week I didn’t really even miss it, and once I reached the month’s end it was easy for me to commit to another month. And then another month, and so on. Never underestimate the power of “small wins” to propel you forward!

Another example that comes to mind when I write this…

One of my past clients (let’s call her “Stacey”) had what you would probably consider to be the “perfect” diet. Pretty much everything she ate on a regular basis was healthy except…she over-consumed wine (I know many women who can relate to this which is why I’m sharing this specific example). This wasn’t a secret and she was well aware that this was true, but it wasn’t something she was willing or even interested in giving up.

Now if you know me, you’ll know that I enjoy a glass of wine too and I’m not about to tell anyone that they need to give it up unless…it’s causing them pain.

You see, Stacey couldn’t just have one or even two glasses of wine and then stop there. On most evenings she was drinking more than half a bottle, and sometimes even the whole bottle to herself.

She complained of severe digestive issues, stomach pain, and nightly hot flashes (she was only in her late twenties).

It wasn’t until she committed to giving up wine for two weeks cold turkey that she saw a relief in her digestive problems and stomach pain, and the nightly hot flashes completely disappeared. She just never fully connected these symptoms to her wine consumption.

Now at least she’s aware. And even though Stacey still drinks wine, she doesn’t drink as excessively as before and is careful to always pair it with food if she’s having more than a glass. And for those times when she is more excessive? Well she knows that her digestion might not be great for the next few days, and she’s not surprised if she wakes up with a hot flash in the middle of the night.

So with that said…

Where do you perhaps need to be “extreme” in order to make meaningful progress and get the results that you want?

Keep in mind that sometimes those results are just about gaining information on how you may or may not want to be living your life.

All love,

Elaine

 

Super Easy Cashew Butter Cookie Recipe

Yes, sometimes the nutritionist eats cookies.

But not just any old cookies.

These ones are packed with healthy fats, protein, and are relatively low in sugar when compared to your typical cookie, or even “healthier” cookie recipe.

They’re sweetened with coconut palm sugar, and are flourless and gluten-free.

And yes (in case you were wondering), they actually do taste good. In fact, they’re downright delicious.

I’ve had my fair share of “healthy” cookie recipe failures and I’m confident to say that these ones will please the health conscious and not so health conscious alike.

Bring them to your next potluck, girl’s night gathering, or office party.

What I love about these cookies is that they contain minimal ingredients and they aren’t sickly sweet.

I also find them really digestible…although I can’t vouch for that if you decide to eat the whole plate at once ;)

Cashew Butter Cookie Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 small jar of smooth cashew butter (250 grams)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup of coconut palm sugar
  • 1/4 tsp of baking soda
  • pinch of sea salt
  • Dark chocolate chips (optional) – if using these I recommend scaling the coconut palm sugar back to 1/3 of a cup since the chocolate chips will add their own sweetness

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. Mix all ingredients well in a large bowl
  3. Scoop out mixture onto parchment paper into small cookie shapes (they will expand so leave room in between each one)
  4. Bake for approximately 10 minutes.
  5. Let cool for a few minutes and enjoy!

Makes approx 12 cookies

Do you have any favorite cookie recipes that use healthier ingredients?

Go ahead and share in the comment box below!

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