Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Spring Renewal Challenge March 28 - May 9, 2010
Many factors contribute to our overall winter season malaise, including a lack of external stimuli like gardening, hiking, and daylight. The natural cycle of hibernation accompanies decreased physical movement. Our psychological hunger for connection to something beautiful and profound is often dampened by a motivational deficit due, in part, to cold weather. We may just have an insatiable desire to hunker down with a good book. Too often, we’ve chosen the cozy lazy boy recliner rather than the tennis shoes, or sought solace in a late-night bowl of ice cream right before bed.
Passing through the holiday season without partaking of our favorite treats was not an option for the vast majority of us. Now, we can’t seem to shake off those extra pounds, although we know in our heart of hearts that at any moment - given the right time - we’ll reach for those tennis shoes rather than the remote control. When the time is right, we think, we’ll feed our bodies the fuel they need rather than the empty calories our minds crave. And we are happy for a moment at the mere thought of these good practices.
Listen to your intuition. The stirring inside you is simply your body asking for attention. You are being called to action by your highest self! As the winter doldrums pass, the Earth makes room for budding maples, soft ground, and the warmth of the sun. Now is a perfect time to follow nature’s cues and join in the celebration! The baseboards can wait. Traditional renewal practices include prayer or meditation, movement, fasting, and giving. These activities – in any form - will jumpstart your mind, body, and spirit into greater health as we head into the spring thaw.
Begin your Spring renewal by turning the kitchen into your home’s power station. Organize your tools, and box up everything that complicates efficiency. In other words, if you have fourteen dull knives, pick four to sharpen and ten to donate. Purge the twenty-year-old Tupperware collection, cast out the aluminum cookware you’ve been saving for your grandchildren, and move your favorite utensils into an easy-to-reach cabinet. Rid your pantry and refrigerator of negative obstacles as well. Either finish off that container of Chunky Monkey, or watch it melt in the sink. Make a conscious decision not to replace it during your renewal period. Read your food labels. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, remove the offender from your home. Otherwise, the temptation for backsliding may be difficult to overcome. You must take the offensive.
Think of your body as a castle in need of protection. High fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils are deadly enemies of your castle. Gather the sentries, and guard your door with fresh seasonal vegetables, organic raw cheeses, and high quality protein. Befriend kind people who will help you learn the tricks of the trade; cooking nutritious and delicious meals does not require deep pockets or chef’s training. You will be pleasantly surprised by how your efforts - regardless of their breadth - will lead you to discover a newfound joy of good, clean, and affordable food.
Center your daily activities on movement. If you have a sedentary job, stand up every time the phone rings. Walk to the sink and fill your water glass once an hour. Before drinking, whisper a simple thanks to the water for nourishing, replenishing, and cleansing each cell in your body. It will make you smile, and a smile is the best movement of all.
Make your Spring Renewal a time for initiating positive change. It doesn't have to be about deprivation; think of it as taking something back – taking control of your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being! Below are a few tips to help you on your way:
• Set your sights, but be realistic. Baby steps sometimes precede giant leaps; find your stride, and you’ll learn to recognize the beauty in both.
• Choose a theme, or focus. If sugary soft drinks are your demon, take control of this addiction and replace it with water. If caffeine is overtaxing your metabolism, replace coffee with herb tea. If you have read about gluten intolerance and think you may suffer from grain insensitivity, consider undertaking an elimination diet.
• Be prepared for the short-term negative effects of detoxification. You may experience headaches, breakouts, bloating, insomnia, fatigue and irritability during the first ten days or two weeks. Hang in there! Once these challenges pass, you will rapidly move into a phase of high energy and happiness. These positive changes will become your motivation as you continue your quest for renewal.
• Partner with a friend, co-worker, or family member, and stay strong together. Keep out of harm’s way; if your goal is to give up alcohol, stay out of bars.
• Plan on shopping for fresh produce more than once a week. If vegetables intimidate you, ask for help from another shopper, or from the produce manager. People love to talk about food!
• Purchase a metal steamer basket; it will become your best kitchen tool.
• Begin your morning with a glass of water. Eat or drink something your body recognizes as good for it first thing upon rising.
• Move your body through dance, yoga, resistance training or other daily exercise.
• Consider adding probiotics to your morning routine; they will help your gut support dietary changes.
• Weigh and measure your hips and waist on the morning you begin your renewal; then, avoid the scales for at least two weeks - longer if you can. Weigh and measure on the morning your renewal ends, being sure to wear clothing similar to your initial weigh-in (or wear your birthday suit). Weigh on the same scales, and use the same tape to measure. If a friend measured you at the beginning of the renewal challenge, ask the same friend to measure you at the end.
• See your doctor before beginning any new health plan; don’t discontinue any medications without consulting with your doctor first.
Easy Recipes to Get You Started
Good Morning Tea: mix the juice of one lemon with hot water, a small spot of Grade B maple syrup, and a touch of cayenne pepper. Sip slowly and enjoy. Good for the liver!
Energy Bumps: mix 2 tablespoons of your favorite nut butter (read the label – no high fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated oils), a cup of ground raw almonds or walnuts, and a cup of raisins in a food processor. Add more nut butter if the mix is too crumbly. Roll into several bite-sized balls, and dust with cocoa powder. For an extra treat, add cacao nibs to the mix. This recipe can be doubled, tripled and custom-designed. Experiment! Make a batch ahead and keep them in the freezer. This is a sugar-free recipe, but the raisins add sweetness.
Steamed Greens (collards and kale are excellent this way): rinse in cold water and trim the leaves away from the hard middle stem, if necessary. Roll the leaves together and cut into medium shreds. Set your metal steamer in a pot with an inch or so of water. When the water boils, add the greens; set your kitchen timer to 4 minutes; don’t overcook! Carefully remove the basket from steam. Dress with a touch of extra virgin olive oil, a little balsamic or apple cider vinegar, and a dash of good quality sea salt. These are delicious for breakfast with a boiled egg and a piece of toast, or leftover cold for lunch. (Beet greens and spinach are best cooked in boiling water for NO MORE than one minute; these greens contain measurable amounts of oxalic acid which can aggravate kidney or bladder problems; once they are quickly cooked in water, the oxalic acid is removed. Drain, and dress to your taste.)
Beet Salad: wash and trim the greens from three fresh beets, saving the beet greens for later. Grate the beets. Add a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and sea salt to taste. For added punch, add some Dijon mustard or mixed herbs. Dill is grand with beets!
2010 Spring Renewal Challenge: March 28 – May 9
Up for it? Email me if you’re interested in participating in a group Spring Renewal Challenge: firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll receive a weekly email featuring easy, nourishing recipes, words of encouragement, and insight into how the challenge is being met by others undertaking the renewal journey with you. Safe travels!