Archive for March, 2019

March 26, 2019

Never Surrender!

Never surrender your best self!!! You may have noticed that in the Preparation for Healing series of posts I have not mentioned the need to surrender, be present in the moment, be vulnerable or forgive.

Many years ago when I began to focus on finding a path to heal, I kept reading that surrender was critical to the process. I simply couldn’t absorb that concept. For me, surrender meant giving up. I had been fighting all of my life to keep the soft, compassionate, loving parts of me from being obliterated by my family environment. To surrender in those surroundings would have cost me myself.
sign
Surrender, being present and vulnerable, and forgiving sound like things an evolved being should embrace. They probably are. They are oft written about and touted by experts. If they don’t sound positive to you, don’t worry. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. In fact, it could make perfect sense.

If you live in a family that punishes you for being your best self and you surrender to them, you need assistance with your judgement. If you allow yourself to be vulnerable with anyone and everyone because you crave connections you missed out on, you do yourself a disservice. To strive for forgiveness without first healing is like pouring salt into an open wound. If you have lived for any period of time in a situation that felt dangerous, cruel, or neglectful, the idea that staying present in the moment is positive may, in fact, sound laughable, uninformed, or stupid.

The wounds of previous trauma can make your present feel the same to you as the traumatic times. For those of us who have had such experiences, this is normal. We hold the emotional memories and psychic wounds in our bodies. Our past is never in our past. It is ever present.

This is not our fault. It does not define us. We are not damaged. We are not mentally ill. We have a wound that was inflicted by someone else. If they had broken our leg instead of our spirit, doctors would put a cast on the leg to support it while it heals and law enforcement would charge the person who injured us with assault.

If medical, mental health, and law enforcement entities viewed traumatic wounds in the manner in which they view a broken leg, they would not treat us as disturbed, weak minded, emotionally deficient, or ill. Instead, they would support the parts of us weakened by our wounds until they have healed and hold our attackers accountable. The lack of this type of support is a reflection of a deficiency (blind spot) in our culture, not in us.

Being present, surrender and forgiveness may not be possible at the beginning of the healing process. Until I have learned to release the muscles in my upper back that stay braced for attack, I cannot be fully present in the moment. Until I let go of the anger that covers my constant fear and find friends who treat me with love and kindness, surrender will only harm me. As long as I feel constantly vulnerable, I cannot determine who or how to ask for help, know whose compliments to absorb, or have any idea how to accept love. Constant vulnerability numbs judgement. All of these things are a barrier to forgiveness.

None of us begin in the same place. Some of us are surrounded by those who mean us harm, do not value us, or are oblivious to our pain. These may include our parents, siblings, teachers, physicians, counselors, and ministers. We often create beautiful, intricate, situationally perfect structures to protect ourselves. It is only when we are free from danger that we can learn to see that those beautiful solutions can also hold us back.

If you can’t surrender yet, don’t worry. You may need to grieve that you have not felt safe enough with anyone to do so. If you cannot stay present in the moment, that’s okay. Try a mindful practice like yoga that encourages breathing in sync with movement. If you feel constantly vulnerable, building better boundaries may help. You can eventually work your way toward forgiveness.

The most brilliant definition of forgiveness I’ve ever heard was uttered by a TV character:
“People generally think of forgiveness as the flip side of contrition, the obligatory response to an apology. It is not. To forgive is to answer the call of our better angels and bear our wounds as the cost of doing business. It is that rarest of things, simple and pure…transcendent… without strings.”
— Mary Shannon (Mary McCormack), In Plain Sight, Season 1: Iris Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Maybe someday I’ll get there.

In the meantime, I keep following the sensations in my body with curiosity. I allow my feelings to bubble up even when they don’t make sense. I let go of my defenses layer by layer. I carefully choose who gets the honor of experiencing my vulnerability. I relish my ability to stay in the moment more often without an emotional flashback. I surrender to the process over and over again, but I never surrender my best self to anyone who does not have my best interest at heart.

https://besselvanderkolk.net/the-body-keeps-the-score.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Plain_Sight

March 20, 2019

Preparation for Healing: What is Readiness?

I want to circle back to our exploration of the healing process with a simple question: How do you know if you’re ready to heal? Even if you recognize that readiness is crucial for healing to begin, how do you know if you’ve reached that point?

We all like to think we’re ready. Some of us are but think we can’t be because we haven’t done any deliberate prep work. Some of us have spent years preparing and still aren’t ready. I know that defies logic. The path to healing is not logical.

Clear, sound reasoning-a logical path-comes from the mind. Healing involves the whole being working in concert. Often, it is the disconnection of body, mind, and spirit that generates the need for healing in the first place.

What is readiness if not being prepared?
ready
Readiness is a state of willingness.

Duh, huh? I hate it when people say things like that. I never know what they really mean. To more clearly see how willingness relates to readiness to heal, try asking yourself the following questions:

Am I willing to stop avoiding?
Healing will sometimes mean feeling all of those emotions we work too much, sleep too much, drink too much, eat too much, watch TV too much, and medicate in order to avoid. Sometimes we are not willing to give those things up. If not, we are not ready to heal.

Am I willing to clearly state my intentions?
We have already explored the process of setting intentions. A willingness to set intentions is an indicator of readiness.

Am I willing to let go of expectations?
Staying married to the expectation of a certain outcome will hamper healing. Being willing to let expectations go shows a level of readiness.

Am I willing to trust my body?
You may not trust your body right now. That is okay. The real question is, are you willing to learn to trust it by exploring methods like somatic experiencing and mindfulness practices?

Am I willing to allow feelings to flow?
You may not be able to do this yet. If you have lived in danger, you may have had to suppress, disassociate, or hide your feelings in order to survive. It can take a long time to be able to feel and let the feelings flow. A willingness to try is all you need to get started.

Am I willing to stick with the process?
A healing journey can take you into territory that you may not immediately understand on a cognitive level. If you stick with the process, this will work itself out eventually. If you are not willing to stick with the process you can quickly get stuck in a cognitive loop. The mind cannot make this journey alone. Sometimes the body must lead.

Am I willing to stop muscling through?
It is possible to white knuckle your way through many things for a period of time, but that is not a sustainable method for change. Pushing yourself to confront your fears, for example, will have a different long term result than allowing fear to bubble up, acknowledging it, and sitting with it until it dissipates.

Am I willing to feel momentarily unsafe in order to ultimately feel more whole?
No one wants to feel unsafe, but we can all tolerate it in small doses as long as we are willing.

Am I willing to treat myself with respect and kindness?
Deep emotional and spiritual work can be as physically draining as lifting weights or running. Giving your body nutritional support, regular gentle exercise, plenty of sleep, and planned moments of beauty and pleasure are especially important for supporting the journey. A willingness to examine and revise self-talk when needed can boost your mood and energy level.

Am I willing to see what is?
This is a big thing. It sounds so easy. I’m in touch with reality. I’m sure you are too. Obviously, we see what is, right? Unfortunately, we may not. We all have blind spots and a great capacity for denial. If you come from a destructive, dysregulated, or dysfunctional family, seeing things as they actually are can be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.

It is painful to see your mother’s repeated and prolonged cruelty toward you for what it is – cruel, unloving behavior. You just want her to love you. You will bend yourself into any shape, do anything, make any excuse that allows you to believe that she does…or will someday.

It feels impossible to reconcile your husband’s verbal abuse with the fact that he says he loves you. It’s easier to morph what you’re hearing into a scolding you must need and deserve.

The sadness of neglect might simply consume you if you didn’t develop the ability to weave imaginary connections.

We learn early how to cushion ourselves from the harshest of realities. A willingness to release ourselves from the skills we developed for protection is part of the healing process. Because we internalize both the wounds from other’s destructive behavior and the skills we use to survive, releasing ourselves from these can feel like we’re losing ourselves and our story. We may experience grief, loss, uncertainty, and unbridled terror.

While we may know we are also releasing the things that prevent us from fully becoming our best selves, there will be moments in which it is difficult to hold that thought in our minds. When the lower brain is triggered to fight, flee, freeze, or fawn, we cannot force our way out of that state (over time we can change our relationship with the trigger points and hopefully reintegrate traumatic memories). If it were as simple as thinking our way out of this spot, no one would suffer from PTSD or complex PTSD.

Seeing what is may also mean seeing ourselves differently. Recognizing our blind spots and our contributions to dysfunction when we’re already feeling vulnerable is asking a lot.

Again, seeing what is is a BIG thing. It is not easy. You may feel more willing to explore this when you remember that on some level you already know anything you are becoming willing to see. This idea could be restated as a willingness to know what you know. You know how your mother’s cruelty feels. You know how your husband’s abuse affects your self-confidence. You know the ache of feeling invisible.

You may only recognize these things on a subconscious level. They must move to your conscious awareness for you to see them. Conscious awareness brings the feelings to the surface where you can make a decision regarding your response. This is how you will shift from the feeling position of a wounded victim to the feeling position of a powerful self-advocate. This is how you gain or regain yourself!

Am I willing to face any relationship consequences that may occur?
Once you see what is, you will have the opportunity to reevaluate your relationships. Some will be toxic and need to end. Some will need to be minimized. Some will morph into deeper, more supportive levels of love and concern. Being willing to let relationships evolve will allow you to find support for healing.

Am I willing to let go of the payoff I get from dysfunction?
Once we see what is, we may discover that we rely on unhealthy behavior to gain attention, feel supported and loved, solicit assistance, advance at work, or control our family environment. When we give up the unhealthy behavior, we will also give up the payoff.

Willingness does not require mastery of any skill. It does not require a certain level of understanding. It is not a declaration that you’ll do any particular thing. It is not an obligation or a timeline. Willingness is simply a state of being open to exploring whatever may come as you allow yourself to shift and heal. If you are willing, you are ready.

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/preparation-for-healing-managing-expectations-begins-with-setting-clear-intentions/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/preparation-healing-manage-expectations/

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March 11, 2019

I’m Saying Cheerio to Cheerios®!

I’m saying cheerio to Cheerios! In fact, I already have. I don’t plan to ever eat them again. Why? Let me show you…
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I’ve been struggling with one of my worst breakouts of dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) in years. By struggling, I mean it’s all I can do not to claw myself until I bleed. I can’t sleep because I itch. I can’t concentrate because I itch. I’m irritable, you guessed it, because I ITCH!

If you have this skin version of celiac disease you know what I mean. There is nothing that itches like this. Sixteen years ago, it was the itchy rash that drove me to the doctor with celiac disease. That wasn’t my only symptom, but it was the one that was hardest to ignore.

Now I am aware I just need to find whatever it is that’s triggering my immune system and stop consuming it. By process of elimination, I finally landed on oats. Since Christmas, I have eaten Glutenfreeda instant oatmeal, Nature’s Path Organic instant oatmeal, and Cheerios. All are labeled gluten-free.

According to glutenfreewatchdog.org, both General Mills and Nature’s Path begin with oats that have been contaminated with wheat, barley, and/or rye. They then mechanically and optically sort the oats to remove the contaminants. General Mills tests and validates the resulting flour, then at the end of the process again tests gluten levels.

In order to label a product as gluten-free, it must contain less than 20 parts per million gluten. In 2015, General Mills recalled 1.8 million boxes of Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios due to wheat contamination. One sample in that lot tested at 43 parts per million gluten.

I don’t necessarily believe that another accidental contamination has occurred. It’s much more likely that I encountered a hot spot of contamination in the cereal. This could be true and the tests could still be compliant.

In other words, General Mills is not misrepresenting test results. The question mark comes from the way the contaminants are removed and the tests are conducted.

After contaminants are removed from the oats, Cheerios begin with validated gluten-free flour. This validation is based on the mean test results from a 24-hour production cycle of flour. Once the Cheerios are cereal, the product test is also based on the mean results of a 24-hour production cycle.

Gluten Free Watch Dog describes the protocol for determining a lot mean as:
(As reported to Gluten Free Watchdog and confirmed October 12, 2018)

To arrive at a lot mean for gluten-free Cheerios, the following protocol is followed:
Twelve to eighteen boxes of cereal are pulled during a production cycle or “lot”.
The contents of each individual box are ground.
A sub-sample of ground product is taken from each box.
The sub-samples are composited—meaning they are combined.
The combined sub-samples are subject to additional grinding.
A minimum of six, 1-gram sample extractions are taken from this combined, ground sample (Note, formerly this was a minimum of twelve, 0.25-gram sample extractions).
Extractions are tested using the Ridascreen Fast Gliadin (R7002) and cocktail extraction solution.

Once the product is ground and mixed, the test is no longer necessarily giving an accurate representation of what may be in your spoon or bowl. It is also worth noting that the number of samples taken decreased from 2015 to 2018.

Testing protocols like this could help explain why a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2018 found that celiac patients adhering to a gluten-free diet typically consume up to 244mg of gluten per day. The study estimated the average inadvertent exposure to be 150–400mg using a stool test and 300–400mg using a urine test.

This inadvertent exposure is significant. A mere 15mg can cause symptoms in some of us. The damage underlying the symptoms undermines our attempts to be healthy. We certainly don’t spend our time reading labels, asking uncomfortable questions, missing out on our favorites, and enduring eye rolls just to end up ingesting gluten anyway. It is disheartening to know that labels may not present an accurate representation of the amount of gluten contained in food.

Of course, packaged foods are not the only source of gluten contamination. Restaurant food is a gamble as well. Some kitchens are better than others at avoiding cross-contact.

No matter how much awareness of gluten sensitivity increases, there is an ever-evolving question regarding the best way to navigate everyday life and avoid gluten. It isn’t realistic to think I can grow my own gluten-free grains, nuts, and seeds and grind my own flour. It is too isolating to never consume restaurant food.

I can cook the majority of my food at home. I can observe adverse reactions to specific foods. I can research sources of oats and testing protocols. I can eliminate Cheerios.

Due to my recent experience, I will no longer purchase “gluten-free” oat products that come from known contaminated sources. That means the remaining Nature’s Path oatmeal in my pantry is being donated. Once this round of DH heals, I will try Glutenfreeda oatmeal again…maybe. The memory of this itching will have to fade first.

The good news is, my rash is diminishing and I learned something about gluten-free oats. I cannot go backward. I must trust that my body will heal as miserable as I may be while it does.

I could have chosen to visit a dermatologist who may have prescribed Dapsone. That approach might have given me temporary relief, but once I quit eating Cheerios, I was better as quickly as the rash would have responded to the prescription. For me, a long-term solution is worth the time it takes to find it. You may not feel the same.

Each of us has unique tolerance levels, priorities, and health goals. We have to find the balance that works for us. Information is critical to finding that balance.

Now that I know more, I’m saying cheerio to Cheerios!

https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/updated-testing-protocol-from-general-mills-for-labeled-gluten-free-cheerios/

https://www.cheerios.com/our-gluten-free-process/

https://www.allergicliving.com/2015/10/06/gluten-free-labeled-cheerios-recalled-due-to-wheat-contamination/

https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/oats-produced-under-a-gluten-free-purity-protocol-listing-of-suppliers-and-manufacturers/

https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/107/2/201/4911450

https://consumer.healthday.com/diseases-and-conditions-information-37/celiac-disease-962/one-third-of-gluten-free-restaurant-foods-in-u-s-are-not-study-738383.html

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/dermatitis-herpetiformis-leaves-little-rough-around-edges/

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

March 4, 2019

Let’s Go Green With Avocado!

Even if you don’t recycle, you can still go green with avocado! It’s time to bring the focus back to food for a minute. Spring hasn’t quite arrived, but I’m already craving salads made from fresh, tender spring greens. The farmers market in my neighborhood will open in April. In the meantime, I’m creating salads using red cabbage, baby arugula, and kale.

I’m not a big fan of most bottled dressing so I usually toss something together at home. I use a variety of vinegars-balsamic, apple cider, rice wine, and white wine-and pair them with extra virgin olive oil. Sometimes I’ll buy oil or vinegar infused with herbs, peppers, or fruit for some extra flavor dimension. For creamy dressings, I used to start with yogurt. Now I prefer avocado.

Avocados have a creamy texture and plenty of fat to serve as a base for dressing. They’re a great dairy alternative. And they provide lots of yummy nutrients.
avocado
One-third of a medium avocado has 1 gram of protein, .3mg of iron, 250mg of potassium, 11mcg of vitamin K, 45mcg folate, .7mg pantothenic acid, and .1mg copper plus iron, vitamins C,E,& B, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, and manganese.

That same serving of avocado has 3g dietary fiber and no sodium, sugar, or cholesterol. The fiber content combined with unsaturated fat makes avocados filling, heart-healthy, and diabetes-friendly.

Here’s an avocado dressing recipe I’ve been using:

Spicy Avocado Dressing

One ripe avocado
1 tbsp COYO natural flavor coconut yogurt alternative
1/2 tsp Sriracha
1/4 tsp salt
4 grinds black pepper
1/2 tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice
Squeeze of lemon or lime juice (optional)

Place avocado, coconut yogurt, and Sriracha in food chopper and pulse until smooth and creamy. Place avocado mixture in medium bowl. Stir in salt, pepper, and orange juice. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Keep the avocado turning from turning brown by adding a squeeze of lemon or lime juice before refrigerating.

If you’re not in the mood for salad, you can always use avocados to make guacamole. In addition to the traditional dip or salad, I sometimes use guacamole instead of mayonnaise or mustard on a sandwich to give it a boost in flavor and moisture. It’s especially good with roasted or fajita chicken.

Don’t forget to add avocado to your poké bowl. It’s delicious with rice, tofu, cucumber, carrots, edamame, and salmon, tuna, shrimp, or chicken.

Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t mention avocado toast. If you don’t want to make it at home, it’s most likely served at a coffee shop near you although it may not be gluten-free.

I’ve seen recipes that call for adding avocado to salsa, margaritas, and even pudding. I can see using them in muffins or fruit breads in the place of butter although I have not tried this.

But that’s what going green with avocados is all about…using them more often and in more variety. Have fun going green and bon appétit!

https://www.californiaavocado.com/nutrition/nutrients

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270406.php

https://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/slideshow/40-avocado-recipes-so-you-can-eat-as-much-avocado-as-possible

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/bombarded-words-eat-healthy-really-mean/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/secret-always-kiss/

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”