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 :)


Thoughts on Food Freedom (Revisited)

What images pop into your head when you think about living a healthy lifestyle?

Perhaps your mind wanders to fresh-pressed green juices, a plant-based diet, and regular yoga classes.

Maybe images of “skinny” lattes, egg white omelettes, and grueling workout sessions dance around in your head.

Or maybe it’s a leisurely meal enjoyed al fresco in the countryside complete with fresh, and seasonal ingredients and great company to go with it. (Oh wait, I think that’s one of my images ;))

Of course we all have many different ideas when it comes to living healthily, and they by no means fit so tidily into the boxes I mentioned above.

The ultimate question that matters the most though is whether these ideas serve us well in our life, or if they hold us back.

Do they feel restrictive and leave us “on and off again” a diet?

Or do they feel liberating and pleasurable, like we could live this lifestyle forever?

I talked a bit about beliefs in my post last week.

These beliefs can be so deeply ingrained that we never stop to consider whether they even make sense anymore.

But maybe we should. Especially if those beliefs make us feel miserable.

It always saddens me when I see grown women still caught up in this miserable game. Spending too much of her precious life force obsessing over what to put in her mouth, rather than enjoying her life, and her food.

I believe the key to sustainable eating is finding the place where fuel, nourishment, and pleasure ALL intersect.

This is what I get most excited about when working with my clients – helping them to relate to (and experience) food in a whole different way.

I call it food freedom, and I wrote a post about it a few years back.

Some people believe that food freedom means indiscriminately eating up anything and everything whenever they desire, and that to actually let themselves experience it would surely mean throwing in the towel, or giving up on their health and body goals (whatever those may be).

But the kind of food freedom I’m speaking of here, doesn’t come at the expense of feeling great in your body or overcoming health challenges (because that wouldn’t feel very freeing, now would it?).

Please don’t equate food freedom with a lack of self-discipline, because in my opinion, you can’t have true food freedom without it.

Okay, so experiencing this freedom isn’t likely the reason why somebody initially comes to work with me and they may not word it in this exact way, however, I find that it’s often an underlying desire, whether a conscious one or not.

Perhaps they want to figure out their stomach issues, their digestion, lose the weight, or prepare their body for a healthy pregnancy.

And of course, we’ll work on these things.

You see, education is the easy part. Some people really just need the knowledge and the guidance to put all of the pieces together in a way that jives with their body and life best. They take the knowledge and hit the ground running.

If only it could be this simple for everyone.

Implementation is what trips people up the most. And not because they don’t want to make the required changes, but because sometimes those changes can be really uncomfortable.

When the soother is taken away, we’re forced to deal with the negative emotion head-on. No numbing out.

Of course a soother can take on many other forms (i.e. alcohol, shopping, work), but for many of us it’s food.

And while the journey may not always be smooth sailing, I think it’s worthwhile to hang in there for the ride and figure it out.

Because living in a diet prison = no fun.

By the way, just to clarify, it is completely possible to be on a restrictive diet (out of necessity) and not feel like you’re living in a diet prison.

Sometimes not eating “the food” (whatever it may be) is actually MORE liberating if doing so leaves you with debilitating symptoms or feeling lawful.

In other words don’t get sucked into a false sense of freedom and then let restriction slip in the back door (in the form of unpleasant symptoms that restrict your life).

Remember, the freedom I speak of includes feeling good in your body.

At the end of the day, each of us gets to decide what we choose to believe about healthy living and eating as a whole.

That’s the beauty of free will, my dear.

You can choose to live behind the bars, or break on out of them.

Didn’t you know that they were self-imposed, anyways?

All love,


p.s. I always love hearing from you. In the comments below, let me know which beliefs about health have been serving you well in your life. Are there any beliefs that you’re ready to give up?

3 Healthy Eating Excuses that Keep You Stuck

Changing our eating habits can be really hard, there’s no denying that.

But have you ever stopped to consider that maybe it’s the beliefs you have about eating healthy that hold you back?

We of course all have different notions regarding what constitutes healthy eating, but what matters the most is whether they elicit positive or negative emotion in us.

Do they propel us forward, or do they keep us stuck?

It’s important to keep in mind that beliefs are just thoughts that we repeatedly think over and over again. They may feel true for us, but they’re not necessarily the ultimate truth.

Because if heaven forbid these excuses are true? Well then yeah, healthy eating is going to feel hard and challenging.

Can you see how disempowering this is?

So today I’m focusing on a few of the excuses that I hear repeatedly when it comes to healthy eating.

You may think they sound innocent enough, but that’s what makes them so insidious.

See if you identify with any of them, and if so, let’s reframe them so that they don’t stand in your way.


Excuse #1

Healthy Eating is…Expensive

Sure, healthy eating can be expensive depending on what you’re spending your money on, but it’s completely possible to eat healthy without breaking the bank.

If you think you need to drop your cash regularly on fresh pressed green juices, “superfood” smoothies, or $15 salad or grain bowls at the latest and greatest organic eatery, then of course you’re going to equate healthy eating with being expensive.

Likewise if you’re spending your money on fancy powders, supplements, and expensive packaged goods. Sure these things can add some fun to our diets or spruce up a dish, but make no mistake: the true healing foods are the ones grown from the earth (i.e. fruits and veggies), and not the packaged ones sold at the health food store.

Think about focusing the majority of your diet on whole foods with single, or minimal extra ingredients. Everything else is nice to have, but not absolutely necessary.

And keep in mind that the term “superfood” shouldn’t be equated to exotic ingredients found in far off locales; it might be something you picked up at your local grocer or market (hello, wild blueberries!).

Eating seasonally is another way to save money, and don’t think that you need to eat all organic either. I suggest familiarizing yourself with the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists to find out where it may be worthwhile opting for organics, and where it’s okay to skimp.

Hit up the bulk section for your whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and for all of your baking needs.

When it comes to foods like eggs, dairy, and other animal products, I suggest buying the best you can afford, or purchase them from a reputable source that you trust. I certainly don’t buy all organic but I do opt for grass-fed sourced options when it’s an option, and buy from a source that I trust.

Do a little research if you’re not sure what’s available near you, and keep in mind that if you’re forgoing most of the packaged health food stuff you’ll likely find that you have a little extra money to buy better quality in this area.

Also, don’t forget canned goods like chickpeas, wild salmon, and sardines – all relatively inexpensive options.

To return to my earlier point about smoothies and juices, definitely consider investing in a good quality blender and/or juicer to save yourself tons of money in the long term.

For example, I’ve had my Vita-Mix Blender for almost 10 years now and still use it almost daily. I also invested in a good quality and relatively inexpensive juicer several years ago, and it’s still serving me well too.


Excuse # 2

Healthy Eating is…No Fun

You’ve surely heard this one before: No gluten, No sugar, No Dairy, No Fun! (Or some version of this, anyways)

While I’m not a fan of needless restriction, and I actually prefer when ALL the foods are on the table and you can choose intuitively the best choices for you and your unique body, I understand that a) this isn’t always easy for people (particularly if you have a history of restriction and overeating), and b) sometimes people may need to restrict certain foods as part of a therapeutic or healing protocol, at least in the short-term.

In a circumstance like this it really comes down to mindset.

For example, let’s say that for whatever reason you need to restrict dairy. Rather than thinking to yourself, “I can never eat ice cream again and my life sucks”, (and complaining to everyone around you), consider reframing the situation by saying, “I can have the ice cream if I really want it but I’m not going to because I feel a lot better when I don’t eat it (read: diarrhea is no fun). This of course is just one tiny example.

I understand that you may have many other reasons for believing this excuse, but again, it truly is a mindset issue.

Oftentimes people believe it has to be one extreme or the other.

Restricting OR eating with reckless abandon.

Kale salads and quinoa OR croissants and French fries.

Socializing and eating out OR isolation and hermitry (lest you slip off your regimen).

But can’t all of these things co-exist…at least on some level?

There’s a dangerous way of thinking that says, if I’m not doing it ALL then I won’t bother doing anything at all (it’s often unconscious).

But what if you could drink the green juice and eat the ice cream? (Minus the diarrhea of course.)

It doesn’t have to be one hundred percent or nothing at all.

Could you accept being somewhere around 50 or 60% if it meant that you were at least moving forward?

I feel like there’s a lot more I could say on this one but I’ll leave it at this: If you really believe eating healthy is boring, let’s have a chat! :)


Excuse #3

Healthy Eating is…Time Consuming (and Complicated!)

Okay, that’s two excuses in one. But in this case they kind of fit together.

Let me explain.

It’s not uncommon for people to get tripped up when they first set out to change their diet because they think they need to spend a ton of time slaving away in the kitchen, or poring over complicated recipes.

This couldn’t be further from the truth!

I consider myself a true foodie who loves indulging her inner gourmand, but let me set the record straight. I keep my day-to-day REALLY simple.

It’s all about getting a little creative with a few basic ingredients.

Remember that the flavour is in the freshness. For example, think about the complex tastes of peppery baby arugula topped with sun-ripened tomatoes and fresh goat’s cheese, or crisp and crunchy cucumber topped with a bit of sea salt, or baked salmon topped with fresh dill and drizzled with lemon juice, or the taste of a ripe juicy peach in the midst of summer.

Keep a well-stocked arsenal of fresh garlic, ginger, herbs, spices, sea salt, EVO, and perhaps some butter. These are the elements that truly make even the most basic dish spring to life with vibrant flavour. Take otherwise “boring” veggies to a whole new level by sautéing them in a little crushed garlic, grated ginger, and butter.

And don’t forget the old adage: Cook once, eat twice.

Take an hour on the weekend (when you’re doing something else, i.e. laundry, vacuuming) to roast some veggies or potatoes, boil some eggs, bake some chicken, or cook a batch of grain to save you time during the week.

Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be.

In closing, I’ll leave you with one final sentiment, because sadly I see this time and time again.

Don’t wait for a diagnosis to make your health a priority.

Because at that point? You might not have the luxury for excuses.

Then again (and I say this lovingly), for some people the health scare is the best wake-up call they could ever have.

What do you think?

xo Elaine

Upgrade Your Eating Habits in 5 Steps

Originally published on

Want to feel healthier? Lose weight? Improve your digestion?

While upgrading your food choices is naturally a great place to start, in reality, it’s only half of the healthy eating equation.

Have you ever stopped to examine “how” you eat? In other words, playing close attention to your eating habits.

You see, changing your diet and upgrading your food choices is typically the easier part.

Your eating habits on the other hand, now they can run deep.

Implement the following steps below and reap the benefits of better digestion, increased energy, and a flatter stomach!

1. Avoid (Too Much) Liquid with Meals. Drinking liquids with meals dilutes the digestive secretions needed for breaking down our food. Small sips are okay, but definitely avoid gulping large amounts of liquids. It’s actually best to drink most of our liquid (ideally water) on an empty stomach between meals so that you’re already hydrated when you sit down to eat. Speaking of which…

2. Sit Down and Relax. Enjoy your meals distraction-free. Rushing, stress, worry, and anxiousness are all antithetical to good digestion and are a recipe for bloating, gas, heartburn, and stomach aches. When our sympathetic nervous system is activated, aka, “fight or flight” mode, our ability to digest and assimilate our food is greatly reduced. It’s important we get into parasympathetic “rest and digest” mode in order to give our bodies a fighting chance to digest the food we’re feeding it. If necessary take 5-10 minutes to relax before eating, and if the option is to hurriedly eat to make a meeting, you’re better off skipping the meal, eating something light, or waiting until later.

3. Chew Your Food Well. Keep in mind that your stomach doesn’t have teeth! Chewing well breaks down food into smaller more manageable particles, easing the digestive burden on our stomach and intestines. Smaller food particles also allow for easier absorption of nutrients and negates the likelihood of opportunistic bacteria to ferment larger undigested food particles, which can increase symptoms of gas and bloating.

4. Don’t Graze. Many people never experience the feeling of true hunger because they’re constantly nibbling throughout the day. If you’re constantly grazing or snacking consider transitioning back to a 3 meal per day approach to enjoy the benefits of optimized digestion and fat burning, freed up mental space that’s otherwise preoccupied with food, increased energy that’s otherwise thwarted towards digestion, and getting back in touch with true hunger and satiety signals.

5. Avoiding Eating Heavily Within 2-3 Hours of Bedtime. When we go to bed with a stomach full of food not only is it a recipe for disrupted sleep and indigestion, but it also impedes the process of healing, detoxification, and cellular regeneration that would normally occur during this time of nightly slumber (because energy is diverted towards digestion). The idea here is to be done your main meal within 2-3 hours of lying horizontal. You can still eat within this time frame if necessary, but ideally it will be a lighter meal (i.e. soup or salad) or small snack.

While it may not be possible or easy to transform your eating habits overnight, the first step in effecting change is just becoming more aware of your eating habits in the first place, and noting where they could perhaps use a little upgrade!