Eat, Move and Sleep with the Seasons

I love tropical fruit and strawberries. My good friend Emily suggested I eat fruits more in season back when we were in school for Phys Ed. I took her advice to heart and have made an effort since then to choose fruits and vegetables in season, although I do admit to buying berries year round if available.

Practicing and studying Traditional Chinese Medicine, I have learned that it is ideal to eat more cooked, warm foods in the winter and cool, raw foods are best in the summer. This makes it easier for the body to digest the food we eat, as we work harder to stay warm in the winter and could use a little help to stay cool in the summer.

The amount of sunlight changes with the seasons and our sleep patterns can go along with that. Sleep a bit more in the winter and a bit less in the summer.

When I first studied psychology, we did a short questionnaire to determine how much of a morning or evening person we were and I was surprised to learn I was in the middle. This appears to be genetic to an extent. Here is a questionnaire to take and find out your type:

https://www.cet-surveys.com/index.php?sid=61524

Be sure to scroll down after you get your results, as the questionnaire will list your estimated peak time of melatonin production and your ideal bedtime. Provided that you are able to answer the questions based on your true ideals(you must know them somehow), it is ideal for you to keep a sleep schedule based on the bedtime listed. I have known since the start of university that I am not a morning person, and this has not changed at all!

Exercise in the winter is different, as the weather makes it difficult to go for a bike ride or run, walks are possible, although not the same. Winter activities like skating, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, downhill skiing, and snowboarding are great when available. Ordinarily, one could exercise at the gym, which are unfortunately closed at this time. That leaves us with home workouts for now. No better time then winter to get into more mindful movement like yoga and tai chi, which fulfills the need for movement in a mindful way.

How Does Acupuncture work?

Sometimes things work backwards. I would never have agreed to become a yoga teacher 10 years ago, so yin yoga was even more of a stretch. It is not my thing to sit still, and it remains more natural for me to not sit for more than 20 minutes, since it is my tendency to move. I believe it is a natural inclination to fidget or not and apparently it burns more calories.

I started to study Traditional Chinese medicine over 4 years ago with interest in herbs first, then it became a goal to become a Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner of herbs and acupuncture. I had no plan to be a registered acupuncturist, and here I am practicing Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture. Needles still scare me and I have learned to peacefully coexist with them. I take great care to be gentle inserting needles during an acupuncture treatment, treating patients as I would like to be treated. Having practiced on quite a few willing subjects in the past 4 years, I can say I am becoming more and more of a believer in acupuncture, seeing the benefit and difference people feel after receiving a few needles.

You may wonder- how does acupuncture work? On the simplest level, acupuncture works by providing the body with a stimulus (fine needle) to elicit change. How does that change happen in 10-20min with needles retained or within seconds with Japanese style contact needling? The change happens within the body- insertion of the needle affects the nervous system, which transmits (energy)signals within the body. Ideally the treatment calms the nervous system and the specific selection of points provides stimulus for healing or bringing balance to the body. Key concept is all change starts on an energetic level first, then it becomes physical.

Various health professionals can perform acupuncture and it really matters WHO gives you the needles. The more the practitioner knows about the human body/mind and the potential impact of the needles the better. My dad persistently calls needles ‘noodles’ and I do not correct him, since it makes a scary word seem harmless, plus it is funny! Allow me to make an analogy with ‘noodles’ here, imagine an acupuncture treatment as a session where you and the professional are working together to cook ‘noodles’ to the perfect consistency (al dente). You and the acupuncturist are working together to help you feel ‘just right’ (more like yourself- refreshed), so ideally the needles are inserted in the right places for you.

How do we find the right points for insertion of needles? This is a skill with a major variance between practitioners. There is approximately 20 square feet of skin on a human body, 600 muscles and over 360 acupuncture points. We are looking for impact with an acupuncture treatment, a little can go a long way, especially as a form of preventative medicine. In my experience so far, acupuncture is highly effective for regulating energy in the body. For example, heartburn and nausea can be relieved with acupuncture and this is accomplished by encouraging the body movement of the contents of the stomach downwards, which is ‘normal’. All processes in the body have an orderly movement and is more likely to stay that way when a person lives a healthy lifestyle, keeping everything moving as best we can. Acupuncture encourages this ideal circulation.

It is a process to understand traditional chinese medicine and acupuncture, simultaenously simple and complex, so I will keep writing on this topic to offer explanation.

Wishing you all the best for 2021!

What to look for in a health and wellness professional

At this uncertain time in the world maintaining our health is more important than ever and in some ways it has become increasingly difficult to sort through the limitless amount of information coming through at our fingertips. One can use the internet to learn about almost any topic. When it comes to health, is internet research the best course of action? The short answer is no, it is not a good idea play Dr Google and become an overnight expert on your own condition. There is a lot of individuality in health and we all need guidance.

We all need good health and wellness professionals to help us take care of ourselves. Some of us are more privileged and can invest more in these services. In Canada, we have universal health care and it remains important to advocate for ourselves. We can better advocate for our own health and empower ourselves with knowledge by developing good relationships with health professionals.

Having been in the field of health and wellness for over 20 years, here are my recommendations on what to look for when you are seeking professional health related services:

Client/patient centred care: The professional prioritizes your needs and is dedicated to serving to your best interests. If a professional comes recommended by a friend, ask them about their experience with that professional. There are new professionals that are amazing right off the bat, so a long history in practice is not necessary. It is always about your comfort level with the professional.

Education: There are many forms of ‘alternative/natural’ health service offerings where the professional is trained with courses, certifications, degrees, diplomas and seminars of varying standards. More formal education for a professional in the field of health, shows a commitment to learning, which promotes improvement in practice. In an ideal world, we would have more integrated health care- a professional with education in science can help you receive the best of care in alternative health and conventional medicine. Most health services have a price range for that field, and generally speaking, the slightly higher investment in the more educated professional is an excellent value for the level of expertise they bring.

Communication and relational skills: The professional is an excellent listener, is able to understand your needs and concerns AND educate you on best practices to improve your condition. You need to feel comfortable with the professional and how they relate with you. A sense of humour always helps!

Integrity: Does this professional practice what they preach and lead by example? Adhering to ethical standards shows integrity- how does the professional handle various situations and potential conflicts of interest?

Empowerment and motivation: A great health and wellness professional is able to educate and advise you so that you gain an understanding on how to improve your health and feel motivated to do so for your own well being. Having been in the field of fitness for so long, I have heard many times, a trainer needs to look the part. I have never fully embraced this concept, as health cannot be judged by appearances alone. While there may be some short term motivation in seeing an ideal you wish to become, remember that our bodies are always changing. Learning ways to manage your own well being at any stage in life are lasting life skills, while looking great for a few months (especially if it involves a diet) is quite transient.

These are guidelines I have used myself in choosing various health professionals to work with to my great satisfaction, as I have worked with some wonderful people. As you may know, I have been studying Traditional Chinese Medicine the past 4 years and have recently started practicing acupuncture. Choosing a professional to give you acupuncture needs further guidance-although it may be a bit biased coming from me, since I am very sensitive to and afraid of needles! Acupuncture is a form of therapy where needles are inserted into specific sites to elicit some form of change in the body. Yes, a needle (hopefully fine and gently inserted) goes into your body(!) To me, this is a big deal, so I have been very picky about allowing needles to be inserted into my body. I have experienced a few mishaps with being needled and it took some time along with great beneficial effects before I became a believer in acupuncture. I actually went from being quite skeptical of acupuncture to being a believer, which amazes me. Many classmates learning of my aversion to needles asked why are you even studying acupuncture? I was interested in traditional chinese medicine first and foremost, herbs were the priority and acupuncture was part of the program. A young lady who is also afraid of needles mentioned acupuncture was recommended for her and she decided she needed to seek out a practitioner that specialized in giving acupuncture, which is an excellent plan in general and especially if you are nervous. Quite a few licensed health professionals are free to give acupuncture after weekend courses for training. This goes back to my recommendation above for education. Someone who has studied acupuncture for 4 years is different than someone who studied for 3 weeks. Feel free to ask questions. Your body is being ‘punctured’, so feeling comfortable with a practitioner takes on even more importance. If you are at all nervous or afraid of needles, it is imperative that the practitioner is empathetic and helps you feel comfortable. If you get the feeling they don’t really care about your concerns- run fast!

At this time of high stress, we really need to take care of our physical, mental and emotional health. There is a health and wellness professional around you that can help you feel better.

Cheers to your journey towards making life good with maintaining your optimal health

https://www.mahayaforesthill.com/vivian-law/

Recipe: Gluten Free Apple Muffins

My family went apple picking and I benefitted from the fruits on their labour. I asked for mutsu/crispin apples since that is the apple chef Doug Penfold uses for the most amazing apple tart ever at Chabrol. With these hand picked apples, I’ve been making some very delicious gluten free apple muffins. I find gluten free baked goods do not keep very well, so this recipe makes only 6-7 muffins. Enough to enjoy warm or kept until the next day.

1/4 cup chickpea flour

1/4 cup millet flour

1/4 cup brown rice flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp xantham gum

Dash of cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, nutmeg and salt

1/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1/4 cup melted butter

1/2 cup sour cream

2 small apples or 1 large apple diced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

In a small flour, mix together flours, baking powder, baking soda, xantham gum, spices and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk together egg with sugar then whisk in melted butter and sour cream until well combined.

Add dry ingredients to the medium bowl with mixed wet ingredients. Stir until just combined. Stir in most of the diced apple.

Spoon batter evenly into 6-7 muffin tins either lined or greased. Press a few of the remaining apple chunks onto the tops of the muffins. Bake for 20-25min or until golden brown

Enjoy warm or at room temp within a day or so.

Vivian Recommends September 2020

September marks the end of summer and the start of fall, a time of transition. In years past, I’ve seen people get more serious about their fitness at this time. Things seem different this year, so it is a good idea to work on the habit being active any time of the year. It’s not necessary to be serious, just get moving more regularly.

I’ve continued reading for fun and always for learning and last weekend I read an article where Warren Buffet highly endorses this habit as a way of going to bed smarter each day. Here are some books I recommend:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline-a fantastic read that reminds me of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory set in a not so distant future, which seems quite plausible at this time. Many thanks to my friend K who gave me this book years ago

Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth-a serious and interesting book that gives insight on the assumptions made in the economic models that drive our society and self interest. We can all do our part to regenerate the earth and care for others.

Chaos Point 2012 and Beyond by Ernest Lazlo-this book was on my list for some time and the themes very much echoed those in Doughnut Economics in how we must consider our impact on the environment and our consciousness.

I’ve recommended the Centre of Humane Technology podcast and this month there was a film that featured Tristan Harris, which shows the impact of technology on our well being, the Social Dilemma is a must watch film:

https://www.netflix.com/title/81254224

Last week, a client recommended blue light glasses to use while on the computer. These glasses (available online and at Staples) have made such a difference in making computer work easier on my eyes. It’s kind of amazing to purchase a device that ‘protects’ me from technology, go figure.

Making Life Good Recommends August 2020

It has been lovely to enjoy the Canadian summer weather even although things are so different than summers past. Outdoor reading is best at this time.

Here are some books I enjoyed and recommend this month:

Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan. Another fun and frivolous novel by the author of Crazy Rich Asians. Quite perfect escapism while travel is limited

Becoming Supernatural by Joe Dispenza. This book was a truly inspiring read that combines technical understanding of what happens during deep meditation and real life stories of healing. Great reminder to meditate and open your mind daily.

Stand Out of Our Light by James Williams. Great quick read that shows us some ways technology affects our attention and our lives along with some philosophy

In relation to technology I have enjoyed many episodes of this podcast, this is of particular interest since I do not appreciate the auto recommendations on you tube or spotify. This podcast explains what is behind the autoplay:

https://www.humanetech.com/podcast/4-down-the-rabbit-hole-by-design

Being in the field of natural health, I have observed some a disturbing trend of adamant misinformation along with a lack of critical thinking. I’ve been following the Conspirituality podcast and it brings great discussion:

Making Life Good Recommends July 2020

This month marks 20 years of being a fitness trainer for me. With a worldwide pandemic, life certainly is very different, which requires adaptation and at the same time maintaining our health and fitness is more important than ever. Traditional chinese medicine acupuncture will soon be an additional service I offer. Fitness remains my first love and I very much hope to get back to teaching classes again soon.

It has been my habit to read every book that inspires me or comes highly recommended for many years now. I started keeping track of what I read over a decade ago when a friend asked how many books I read in a year. My answer was 20 and when I actually checked to be sure I was telling the truth…it was the truth and the number of books has only increased over the years. What is measured, improves-

Here are my book recommendations for this month:

Atomic Habits by James Clear-great book that breaks down how we can make effective small changes that add up to be consistent new habits that vastly improve our live.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg-I cannot recommend Atomic Habits without also recommending this book, as it was also an excellent perhaps slightly more entertaining book. I very much appreciated learning about the ways our habits are shaped without our knowing.

The Death of Expertise by Tom Nichols-this book came to by attention based on this clip: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/problem-thinking-know-experts In this current environment of rampant misinformation, I found this book to be helpful in comprehending how we came to this sad state of affairs. I laughed a few times and also realized the gravity of having large groups of people be led by their feelings and bypassing any form of reasoning. One of the recommendations Tom Nichols had for having a more functional democracy is for the American population to be more engaged in civics and understand their political system. Interestingly, just before finishing the book, I learned of A Starting Point platform which Captain America (Chris Evans) launched for the purpose of educating and engaging more of the population https://www.astartingpoint.com

Being in the field of health and fitness, it has been so disheartening to find so much misinformation being shared on social media. This podcast was incredibly informative in understanding the forces behind the phenomenon: https://rebelwisdom.podbean.com/e/can-truth-survive-big-tech-tristan-harris/

This TED talk is shorter: https://www.ted.com/talks/tristan_harris_how_a_handful_of_tech_companies_control_billions_of_minds_every_day?language=en

So we really must be mindful of where we place our attention, plus sanity doesn’t sell

Vivian Recommends June 2020

This has been a challenging time, as gyms are still closed and I have been unable to engage with my pretend cult of fitness, a joke I like to tell at my classes. I thought about writing a rant or at least a strong statement for what I stand for and then realized I have had this blog for 8 years. I have held myself to the standard of speaking lasting truths and share positive energy, so this body of work can grow…I better stick with that and here are some recommendations I have:

I read a few books this month and I highly recommend:

Defending Jacob by William Landay. I watched the Apple Tv show of the same name first and found the emotional story along with the character’s perception of reality to be very engaging. Both the book and the show are great.

Evolve Your Brain by Joe Dispenza. This is a fantastic book that goes into the neuroscience of how emotions are held in the body and how we can rewire our minds to build a better version of ourselves.

Deep and Simple by Bo Lozoff. This is a book that Mr Rogers bought many copies of to give away and he lived by the principle himself in his shows of delivering a message that was deep and simple. Great book on important philosophies to adopt in life

These articles:

It has been my experience lately and it has also been building up in the past few years that it has become more challenging to have a civil discussion, where both sides are actually heard. It seems more and more people are experts of their own right with no education in addition to feeling entitled to impose their opinions.

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/problem-thinking-know-experts

Looking deeper into the Buddhist philosophy I came across this article:

It’s a long one and such a great reminder in what a mindfulness practice actually involves.

Here is a hilarious album by Chromeo, a Canadian band my brother and I discovered at a Canadian music week many years ago. The name Quarantine Casanova says it all and my fave track is Roni’s Got me Stressed Out:

This meditation I have managed to do a few times this month and have found it to be so helpful, building on the practice of the concepts Joe Dispenza teaches:

https://podcasts.apple.com/nz/podcast/dr-joe-dispenza-guided-space-meditation/id955266444?i=1000335916470

Hope you find these recommendations helpful in making life good-

Recipe: Banana Mousse

I like a little dessert, and I was looking into making chocolate mousse with the whipping cream I had on hand. Semi cooked egg yolks didn’t appeal to me, so I considered banana mousse since I also had some ripe bananas on hand. I would never order this anywhere without a taste test first, as banana desserts are only appealing to me when it is made with fresh banana. Here is the very simple and tasty recipe:

1 ripe banana mashed

1 tablespoon rum

2 tablespoons maple syrup

dash of vanilla extract to taste

1 cup whipping cream

In small bowl, mash banana and mix with rum, maple syrup and vanilla extract. In a chilled bowl, whip cream until stiff with electric mixer. Add banana mixture to cream and mix until blended. Chill and serve topped with chopped nuts for crunch. Makes 3-4 servings

Note: This can easily be adapted to coconut milk. The coconut milk needs to be full fat and chilled in order to create a whipped cream like texture

Cooperation Kindness and Peace

It has been an entire month of staying home for me. Major unexpected life change. Surprisingly, I have been okay, but I wouldn’t call it fun. Seems we’re all searching for a new normal, and the answer is not forthcoming with much uncertainty still on the horizon.

I will use my voice here to encourage cooperation, kindness and peace. In my limited interactions with people this month, I’ve seen plenty of the unpleasant side of humanity. In the age of information, we now have a culture of armchair critics and experts who feel their knowledge gained from social media or the news is enough to warrant their incessant judgement of others. Believing that you know better than everyone else is a sign of ego leading the way. No one has any experience in handling a global pandemic, caused by a virus with some semblance to the common cold with potential lethal effects, so logically, people with education in this field, doctors and scientists need to be the leaders to interpret the situation. Of course there will be differing opinions with the ideal being discussion and collaboration.

I’m about to enter practice in traditional chinese medicine, which is considered as alternative health. I will declare that I believe in integrated medicine that would be the purpose of advancement of human knowledge-to learn and create innovative solutions, with collaboration being most effective. We all have a choice every moment to take a step towards being peaceful.