The Importance of Giving & Receiving Kindness

When was the last time you experienced kindness? It may have been a thoughtful word, a smile, an act of generosity, or simply holding the door open for someone or having it held open for you. The beauty in kindness is that whether you are the giver or the receiver, it feels good, and the gestures need not be grand to be effective.

An example of kindness that comes to my mind immediately is the support I received from countless strangers during my 2,800-mile hike from Canada to Mexico along the Continental Divide Trail last summer. My journey was so much richer thanks to the individuals who gave me rides into town to resupply, purchased meals for me, and even invited me into their homes for a warm shower and a bed. These moments of consideration and generosity from strangers are some of the most powerful memories I have from that entire experience. Those acts of kindness inspired me to keep going when times were tough and to do my part to ‘pay it forward.’

Kindness is an integral part of humanity. In fact, it shows up as a core tenet of nearly every major religion. In Judaism, for example, Leviticus 19.18 states “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In Buddhism, the Metta prayer is a wish for all beings to be happy, safe, peaceful, and free. The Dalai Lama stated “My religion is simple. My religion is kindness.” There are countless examples across every culture demonstrating the importance of kindness.

Health Benefits of Kindness

Kindness doesn’t just feel good. Research indicates that there are a myriad of health benefits for the giver, the receiver, and even the observer. Both witnessing and performing acts of kindness produces oxytocin, often referred to as the “love hormone.” Increased oxytocin lowers blood pressure and increases self esteem.

Being kind to others also increases the production of serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of satisfaction, well being, and calmness. Furthermore, acts of kindness reduce pain via the production of endorphins, the brain’s natural painkillers. As if all of that weren’t enough, kindness also reduces the stress hormone cortisol, the overproduction of which is associated with a variety of health ailments.

Increased Connection to Others

Kindness increases empathy, helps us relate to others, and allows us to form more positive relationships. Practicing kindness has the transformational power to flip any situation upside down. For instance, if you’ve failed to reach a personal goal, kindness allows you to forgive yourself and to try again. In a professional setting, it allows you to see another’s perspective and to move forward with compassion in challenging circumstances.

Practicing Kindness

Kindness is a muscle that strengthens with practice. I invite you to make it an intentional part of each day. Here are some ideas to get you started: practice loving kindness meditation, perform a random act of kindness, make a donation, smile at a stranger, call a loved one, volunteer your time, buy someone a coffee. Small gestures can make a big impact. Finally, don’t forget that kindness practiced towards oneself is just as important as kindness given to others. 

World Kindness Day is November 13, so it’s a great time to go out of your way to give kindness towards others and towards yourself, but with all these benefits, why not treat every day like World Kindness Day?

Ready to take the next step in your health journey? Find more free resources here!

How to Get the Best Results from Your Diet

veggies

Are you focusing your health efforts on the activities that will make the biggest impact?

I see a lot of people spending way too much time on the things that aren’t moving the needle.

Things like:

Looking for the best protein powder.

Downloading new workout apps.

Researching supplements for weight loss.

Trying to decide if you should be intermittent fasting.

I get it. It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae. You can do all of these things until the cows come home, but without the foundations in place, progress will be slow at best. 

If you’re putting in effort and not seeing results, check in on the following:

  1. Focus on 80% whole foods.

Whole foods are ideal to ensure that you get the micronutrients to keep your body functioning optimally. The water content and fiber of real food will keep you satisfied longer. By choosing whole foods over processed foods, you’ll avoid inflammatory compounds like food dyes, preservatives, trans fats, and more.

  1. Pay attention to your protein and fiber intake.

Protein is the most satiating macro nutrient. It’s also essential for immunity, blood sugar balance, and muscle repair. The right amount for you depends on your weight, activity level, and goals.

Fiber is also satiating. Furthermore, it’s essential for a healthy microbiome, which affects everything from your cravings to mental clarity, immune health, body weight, and more.

  1. Balance blood sugar.

No matter what diet you eat, balancing blood sugar is so important in reducing cravings, balancing hormones, having the energy for a full day outside, and so much more. I have several posts about this on my blog. Essentially, you want to include fat, protein, and fiber at each meal or snack.

  1. Sleep 7-9 hours per night.

Sleep deprivation affects several hormones which impact appetite and hunger. Ever notice how you crave all the carbs when you’re sleep deprived? Not only can sleep disturbances affect your waistline and put you at higher risk for metabolic syndrome, lack of proper rest prevents you from putting in full effort during training sessions.

  1. Manage your stress.

The stress hormone cortisol wreaks havoc on your health in so many ways. Regardless of what style of eating you follow and no matter how healthy you eat, if you’re not managing your stress, you’re not going to see the results you want. Your body holds onto weight, muscle gain is stalled, recovery is slower, and fatigue increases. Stress management can be as simple as a few deep breaths to shift from a sympathetic dominant state back into parasympathetic. Check in with yourself often.

Focus on Foundations for Faster Results

Nailing these foundations support you in feeling better in the day to day by reducing brain fog, anxiety, depression, and fatigue. On your adventures, it means the ability to hike longer days, recover faster, keep up with your adventure partners, and have a body that’s capable of doing what you love until your last breath.

I write about how important it is to personalize your approach and learn exactly what works for your unique body. I absolutely believe that and it’s why I work closely with clients to support them through that process. That said, a personalized approach goes hand in hand with focusing on the foundations.

You deserve a long lived, healthy, adventurous life. If you’re not feeling great, check on your foundations before searching for the latest “hack.”

Ready to take the next step in your journey? Find more free resources here.

Prevent Stress to Optimize Physical & Mental Performance

stress

Stress in 2020.

How are you? Genuinely.

Take a deep breath and scan your body for any tension.

Because let’s be real: 2020 continues to be a hot mess.

From natural disasters to pandemics, economic challenges, & more, there is A LOT going on right now. If you’re experiencing heightened levels of stress in your life, you’re not alone.

I’ve experienced my fair share of obstacles this year & I can’t think of anyone in my life who hasn’t.

In fact, it’s one of the primary drivers of the concerns clients are coming to me with right now, whether they realize stress is at the root of their symptoms or not.

It’s contributing to:

>> unwanted weight gain, especially around the midsection, without changes in diet or exercise>> inability to fall asleep or stay asleep

>> waking up after a full night of sleep and still feeling tired

>> salt cravings

>> intense afternoon fatigue and an inability to get through the day without coffee and/or sugar

>> changes in appetite–either lacking an appetite or eating a whole pizza in one sitting (nothing inherently wrong with that, but if it’s not a conscious choice, there may be something deeper going on)

>> being set off into tears or a tantrum when anything goes wrong>> reaching for booze (or your escape of choice -e.g. food, cannabis, social media, retail therapy, etc.) as a coping mechanism

>> getting sick more often and wounds that won’t heal>> lacking motivation to work out, opting for another episode on Netflix instead

Stress affects how you think, feel, and behave. It manifests as full body fatigue, making workouts feel harder, as digestive issues like heartburn, stomachaches, and as a foggy brain, leaving you scattered, impulsive, touchy, and doubting yourself. It also wrecks your libido and, for another night in a row, you find yourself reaching for the ice cream instead of your partner.

Particularly in 2020, stress can be rooted in feelings of overwhelm and a lack of control.

But, here’s the good news: When it comes to your health, there’s a lot you CAN control during this time to replenish the body.

>>Assess your current stress load. The perceived stress scale (google it) is a widely used tool for this. Often we don’t realize we’re stressed until we quantify it.

>>Identify stressors which can be physical, psychological or even chemical. Financial concerns or an endless to-do list may be obvious, while others, like over training and toxic body care products are easier to overlook. It all adds up.

>>Now, are there any you can remove or lessen? The body will balance itself when we remove the roadblocks.

>>Incorporate restorative practices. Some stress is unavoidable so intentional stress relief is essential. I invite clients to create an ala carte menu of options such as exercise, time in nature, meditation, journaling, breathwork, & yoga.

>>Reduce stress via your nutrition by eating enough, balancing blood sugar with fat & protein & fiber, & reducing stimulants. Once diet and lifestyle is addressed, you can consider supplements, like adaptogens.

Take stress seriously. I’ve seen clients find reserves of energy, release stubborn weight, redefine their relationship with sugar/alcohol/caffeine, clear up brain fog, wake up motivated, and much more by addressing stress.

And lastly, I invite you to give yourself a break. If you’re feeling like everything is a little harder than normal right now, you’re not lazy. You’re a human. Which means your human body is susceptible to the effects of stress and it needs rest and nourishment.

Ready to take the next step on your path to optimal health? Connect with me here.

How to Keep Your Body Adventure Ready

adventure

Does the following sentiment resonate with you? 

“I want to be capable of doing what I love until my last day on Earth.”

I was recently having a conversation with a friend in the long distance hiking community about the concept of being a lifelong adventurer.

This is someone for whom adventure is an essential component of your identity. The adventure itself may take different forms throughout different times in your life, but the underlying spirit remains the same. For the lifelong adventurer, your excursions aren’t a “once in a lifetime” thing. They’re necessary for you to feel fully expressed and self-actualized.  

You do your best to get out there summer after summer. Living out of your car. Going days without showering. Well, maybe not living out of your car anymore. Or maybe you are. Either way, no shame in that. You do what you need to do to live a life that is meaningful to you.

While the adventures may look slightly different than they did a decade or two ago, you have no intention of stopping until your last breath. And having the health to do what you love, whether that’s hiking, biking, climbing, or just feeling good running around the yard with your labradoodle, is essential.

This hiking friend was telling me about how after he turned 40, he started noticing that he didn’t have quite the stamina he used to have and that he felt more stiff in the mornings. He’d started taking some supplements we discussed (more on that in a moment) and he shared how it helped him continue to crank out 30-40 mile days and recover faster after back to back to back hard days in the mountains.

Similarly, I worked with a woman who pushed her body running ultras in her early 30s and was now struggling with low motivation and lack of energy during runs and hikes. We developed a protocol to support her adrenals so that she has the energy to keep getting after it for years to come.

It got me thinking about the best ways to care for the body, that precious vessel, so that it’s capable of accessing wild places for decades to come. 

Here are 5 keys to keeping your body fit for adventure: 

Eat for longevity.


I talk about this topic ad nauseam, so I’ll keep it brief. Focus on whole foods. Include loads of antioxidant rich foods (think fruits & veggies). Keep blood sugar balanced by including fat, protein, and fiber at each meal. Remember, you don’t need to be perfect. Just shoot for 80/20 and know that what you put in your body 3 times per day makes a HUGE difference in how you feel and what you’re capable of in pretty much every area of life.

Manage stress.


Chronically high stress creates chronically elevated cortisol, which wreaks havoc on the mind & body, including weight gain, memory impairment, heart disease, digestive issues, depression, anxiety, and more. Life is wild. One of the kindest things we can do for ourselves is to set aside 10-20 minutes per day for intentional stress relief. Whether that’s a walk in nature, meditation, journaling, or a snuggle with your cat, find what works for you and make space for it. 

Supplement wisely.


Nutritionally speaking, we know that the body requires certain levels of nutrients to function optimally. We also know that due to the abundance of nutritionally poor foods available today, many of us do not get the daily requirements of several key nutrients. Furthermore, chronic illness, gut dysbiosis, exposure to toxins, stress, and heavy physical demands on the body all deplete nutrient stores more quickly.

As discussed above in regards to my friends, finding the right supplements to support your body can make a big difference. Getting blood work done is the best way to know where your current levels are and to determine what you may need. However, there are some supplements that can benefit nearly everyone.

I created a whole free guide about this which you can download here. It’s important to note that I’m not a doctor and you should educate yourself and make your own decisions. Side note: I wrote about the supplements I took on the CDT here

Train in seasons & learn to listen to your body.


I used to run 7-10 miles every single day. That eventually burnt out my adrenals and led to overuse injuries. Looking back, my body was sending me countless signals that it was not happy with what I was doing.

Have different ‘seasons’ for how you train. In the summer you might go harder because the days are longer and the weather is conducive to getting out more. In the winters, you may slow down and give your body time to rest and rebuild. Tune in and honor your body so it will keep going for years to come.

Personalize your approach.


An important component to remaining active and healthy in the long run is learning about your unique body. What foods does your body do best with? What types of exercise? What types of living environments? What supplements? How much social time do you need? 

When we’re not doing what’s best for our unique bodies in any of these areas, it can lead to inflammation, which has a cascade of negative effects on the body and is at the root of nearly every chronic disease. Take the time to learn what your body thrives on and honor that. 

Aging doesn’t have to be a slow decline into a sedentary life where the highlight of your day is watching the Price is Right (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the point is that if you want to live an adventurous life, you can!). With a bit of attention and self care, you can absolutely keep doing what you love for the rest of your life.

Your body is incredibly resilient and powerful!

Ready to take the next step on your journey? Let’s connect.

Dealing with energy slumps & cravings during a pandemic

relax digestion

Have you found it harder to stick with healthy habits with everything that’s been going on in the world recently?

Perhaps working from home has kept you more sedentary than normal, the fridge is just a few steps away anytime you need a procrastination snack, and alcohol feels a bit more tempting than usual.

If any of this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. I’ve heard this from a lot of clients recently.

If you’ve been trying to get back on track, I have a quick story to share and I’m curious if you can relate:

“I know what I should do, but I’m just not doing it.”

A client recently said this to me with guilt in her voice during our first session.

This smart, talented, driven woman explained to me how she “failed” at keto, at veganism, at going paleo, and with fasting. She told me how her body must be broken. And how she has no willpower.

She starts the day fasting, with the best of intentions. She eats a salad for lunch, and by mid afternoon, she’s on her 3rd espresso, dragging through the last meeting of the day. She eats her “clean” dinner only to end the night at the bottom of a pint of ice cream, in a puddle of shame and frustration. How did this happen again?

She doesn’t understand why she can’t “stick to her diet.”

This breaks my heart because not only is she not seeing the results from the effort she’s putting in, but she’s feeling like a failure in the process. On top of all the other stress she’s dealing with, she’s feeling like her health is a struggle as well.

She wants more energy, better mental health, and to lose a bit of weight, but it feels like nothing is working.  

Here’s the truth I tell her:

Your body is NOT broken. You DO NOT have a willpower problem.

Diets, food rules, and restriction do👏not👏work👏long term.

When you give yourself too many rules, the natural inclination is to resist and rebel. Only once you stop the steady stream of shoulds running through your mind, does space open up to hear what your body actually needs and wants.

If a certain style of eating is not satiating you, keeping you energized, nourishing your skin, hair, and hormones, and keeping your mind sharp, you haven’t failed at the diet. The diet has failed you. Just because something works for your boyfriend or aunt Becky doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

We’re all biochemically unique. But, in a world where we’re bombarded with so many “shoulds” around what we’re supposed to be eating, we forget that our own bodies actually know best. Imagine that 🤔

So, first and foremost, to make sticking with healthy habits easier, find out what works for your unique body. This goes for food, but also for exercise, supplements, stress management, etc. 

Additionally, here are 3 tips that you can implement today to regulate appetite and keep energy levels steady, especially in times of higher stress.

*Eat 20-30 grams of protein within an hour of waking.

As this study indicates, eating a higher protein breakfast can decrease levels of ghrelin, a hunger-stimulating hormone. It also slows stomach emptying, which means you stay satiated longer and have more consistent energy. This keeps you from reaching for that donut an hour after breakfast.  

By the way, if you intermittent fast and it’s working for you, keep on keepin’ on. Fasting works for some bodies and not others, particularly female bodies. It can raise cortisol which is counterproductive to your goals and lead to binges later in the day. So, if you’ve tried fasting and you’re not seeing results, try a different approach.

*Aim for 25-30 grams of fiber per day. 

Fiber keeps you full longer, stabilizes blood sugar, and supports a healthy microbiome. This can support a reduction in cortisol output. A healthy and diverse microbiome also means fewer sugar cravings. Most Americans get about 15 grams per day, by the way, so try tracking for a day or two to see how much you normally get. Go for whole food sources, like veggies, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds.

*Hydrate.

Thirst often masquerades as hunger. Whether on trail or off, start your day with at least a liter of water. Add sea salt and lemon, if it’s available, for a boost in minerals and energy. Drinking water before eating breakfast or a sugary snack ensures that you’re not confusing hunger for thirst. Staying hydrated also helps you avoid unnecessary blood sugar swings, keeping you from craving more sugar. Shoot for half your weight (in pounds) in ounces of water.

Getting your healthy food habits dialed in lays the foundation to build the other health habits on top of that. You have more energy and motivation for your workouts. When you’re feeling better from better food choices, you’re less tempted by the alcohol or the cookies.

In terms of improved energy and less cravings, these tips can work for you whether you’re at home or out on a wilderness adventure. 

You deserve a full, adventurous life (whatever that means to you!) and it starts with having a healthy mind and body. 

And it can be more simple than you’ve been led to believe. Which is why I do the work that I do: to take my own years of struggle and use it to support you in deepening your understanding of how food works in YOUR body so that you create the health you need to do whatever matters to you.

Ready to collapse the timeline on your health goals? Start here.

How to Improve Focus & Concentration

Your ability to focus and concentrate impacts nearly every area of life from career to relationships to creativity, productivity, and more. In an increasingly noisy world with multi billion dollar industries designed to capture your attention, the potential for distraction is endless and it’s easy to wind up feeling scattered, unproductive, and frustrated. 

Fortunately, the ability to focus and concentrate can be trained and enhanced with lifestyle choices. Try the following strategies to boost your ability to stay focused and attentive so that you can do more of what matters and tune out the rest.

Practice Mono-Tasking

You are always training your brain. If you have 17 tabs open and you’re jumping from one task to the next, your brain is learning to be distracted. You can support increased focus and attention by turning off phone notifications, keeping your phone on ‘do not disturb’ or in a separate room while working, closing browser tabs, batching email, and giving yourself boundaries around social media.

Keep in mind that the brain can only concentrate on one task at a time. While multitasking is possible, it requires the brain to jump back and forth from one job to the other. There’s a cost to this. For instance, have you ever been in the middle of writing an important document and someone interrupts you? It takes a moment to get back into the mindset of where you were. Imagine the time cost of this happening hundreds of times per day.

A couple of book recommendations: The One Thing, Deep Work, Essentialism.

Mediate

Research indicates that increased attention is among the many benefits of having a regular meditation practice. Meditation also provides the ability to put some space between you and your thoughts so that you can choose what actually matters to you and be intentional with your attention. Focus requires that you not only choose what matters in this moment, but also that you choose what doesn’t matter so that it can be eliminated.

Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

A diet high in colorful fruits and vegetables is packed with antioxidants that support optimal brain function. Omega-3 fatty acids are another key component of a diet that supports a healthy brain that’s capable of sustained attention. If you’re not sure where to begin, start with these 5 brain foods: leafy greens, blueberries, eggs, walnuts, and salmon.

Include Herbal Support

In addition to lifestyle practices, herbal allies are an excellent way to support enhanced focus and attention. Herbs such as gotu kola, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, lemon balm, eleuthero, and bacopa are all great for brain health. These can be taken as tinctures or teas.

Remember that your ability to focus and pay attention plays a large part in the quality of your life! Which of these tips can you incorporate into your life today?

Ready to take the next step towards a healthy, adventurous life? Start here.

Daily Women’s Wellness

womens wellness

During turbulent times, one of the most simple, yet powerful, ways to remain afloat is by focusing on small daily acts of self care. Daily wellness routines need not take up a lot of time and can serve as the anchors that hold you in place when it feels like the waves of life are pushing you every which way. 

As a woman, you may tend to put your own wellbeing on the backburner as you support everyone around you. However, to show up fully for others, it’s important to “put your own oxygen mask on first” as the adage goes. Incorporating a few key practices (what I refer to as stability anchors) in your day can have a big impact on your sense of groundedness and wellbeing. Stability anchors don’t have to be elaborate, time-consuming rituals; they just need to anchor you into yourself and the present moment.

What are your stability anchors? How can you start by adding just one more into your day today?

Here are some ideas to get you started: 

Consume a Nourishing Diet

How you feed your body throughout the day can be an act of self love. Food has a profound impact on your energy levels, your mood, and your mental clairy. Nourishing yourself does not require that you buy the most expensive superfoods available nor does it mean holding yourself to unrealistic standards and complicated food rules. 

Nourishing your body is about fueling in a way that makes you feel your best physically, mentally, and emotionally. Most women find that consuming a mostly whole food diet with balanced blood sugar meals containing protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates is a good starting point. Find what’s best for you and use your meal times as a way to practice self care.

Turn to Your Herbal Allies

Herbs can be a simple and effective cornerstone to your daily wellness routine. Two categories of herbs that can be particularly helpful during trying times are nervines, which have a restorative effect on the nervous system, and adaptogens, which help the body modulate the effects of stress. 

These herbs can be taken as teas, capsules, or tinctures, and can also be part of a mid-day wellness habit, such as a calming cup of mid-afternoon tea.

Carve Out “Me Time”

What sparks joy and makes you feel your best? Even if you only have 20 minutes available for yourself, it can make all the difference in your sense of wellbeing. Set this time aside in advance and make it non-negotiable. Use it for activities that fill your cup. Some ideas include going for a walk in nature, being in the sun, breathwork, meditation, journaling, or a cup of tea and inspirational reading. 

By creating small pockets of time throughout the day for mini wellness rituals, you can remain grounded and calm as the world swirls around you.

Ready to take the next step in your journey? Schedule a free strategy call here

Sleep Strategies to Boost Immunity

sleep

Could a lack of sleep be impacting the strength of your immune system?

Folk wisdom has long promoted the belief that “sleep helps the body heal”. Over the past 15 years, a  growing body of research has accumulated supporting the popular wisdom that sleep regulates the immune system and enhances immune defense. 

One mechanism for the impact of sleep on immunity is via the potential of sleep to improve the functioning of T cells, which are an important part of the immune system. Another way sleep impacts immunity is because sleep is when the body produces cytokines, a protein which targets infection and inflammation. Therefore, insufficient sleep equates to the production of fewer protective cytokines. 

Insufficient sleep -anything less than 7 hours per night for adults- is unfortunately common in our modern world. Many people struggle to fall asleep, stay asleep, or to get quality sleep. In addition to immune system suppression, chronically poor sleep can contribute to diseases such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, type II diabetes, and depression. 

Fortunately, there’s a lot that can be done to naturally support healthy sleep cycles. For better sleep and a well functioning  immune system, try the following tips: 

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene Throughout the Day

A healthy sleep practice starts as soon as you wake up. Start by maintaining a consistent wake time each day. To reset your circadian rhythm, which will support healthy sleep cycles at night, get exposure to natural light in the morning, ideally within an hour of waking.  

The habits you practice throughout the day also have a big impact on your sleep duration and quality. Give yourself a caffeine curfew, such as noon, or at the latest 2pm. This applies not only to coffee, but to caffeinated teas and even chocolate. Aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes per day, preferably outside, and no more than four hours prior to bedtime. In the evenings, avoid alcohol and nicotine, and try to finish your last big meal at least 3 hours prior to bedtime.

Create a Sleep Sanctuary

Your sleep environment is an important component of a good night’s sleep. Keep your bedroom temperature on the slightly cooler side. Thermoregulation strongly impacts sleep cycles. Studies have found that the ideal room temperature for sleep is around 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything above 75 or below 54 will likely cause some difficulty sleeping.

Reduce ambient noise and light. Did you know that your skin actually has receptors all over the body that can pick up light? If there’s light in your bedroom, your body is picking it up and sending messages to your brain and organs that can interfere with your sleep. Use blackout curtains or tape the blinds to get the room as dark as possible. An eye mask and earplugs can also work wonders! 

Make sure you have a comfortable mattress, pillows, and bedding. Paint and decorate your bedroom in restful colors. Keep the bedroom for sex and sleep only and try to avoid doing work there. 

Create an Evening Routine

While morning routines are well-recognized for their ability to contribute to enhanced wellness, creating a wind down routine is just as powerful. As with wake time, aim to be consistent with your bedtime as well. Additionally, to reduce melatonin-disrupting blue light, avoid looking at screens 1-2 hours before bedtime. 

You can also draw from these tools to help you wind down:

  • An aromatherapy bath with epsom salts and lavender oil
  • Reading light fiction
  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Stretching
  • Herbal support, such as adaptogens or nervine

Experiment with these strategies to find what gives you the best night’s sleep, knowing that you’re supporting a healthy immune system in the process!

Ready to take the next step in your journey? Schedule a free strategy call here