Healthy Habits for Mind, Body, Soul and Spirit

Happy New Year!

PaleoSpirit.com

2014 is already upon us, and all I can say is…WHAT happened to 2013? Wow, that went fast! Is it just me, or does time really seem to go by faster when you get older? I remember as a child that the lead-up to Christmas Day and all the excitement and anticipation seemed like an eternity, but now it goes by in the blink of an eye. All of a sudden, “Poof!” It’s a new year!

Of course, what would a New Year be without a resolution? If you’re like me, you probably view the New Year’s resolution with equal parts conviction (because this year, you’re REALLY going to do it!) and dread (because you know how hard it can be to live up to as time goes by). But take heart, because you CAN do it. You can take control of your physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Is it going to be easy? Probably not…but then, what worthy goal is ever easy to achieve?

There is so much focus on diet and exercise at the beginning of a new year. Not as much attention is paid to the emotional and spiritual well-being. But there are habits we can cultivate that will help us become more well-rounded individuals, healthy in mind, body, soul and spirit. Today I am sharing the Ten Habits for a Well-Rounded Person (referenced in the Healthy, Happy, and Free post) and which I’ll summarize below:

10 Healthy Habits for Mind, Body, Soul and Spirit Continue reading

Roasted Tomatillo Peach Salsa with Pan-Fried Halibut

Pan-Fried Halibut with Roasted Tomatillo Peach Salsa | Paleo Spirit

The peach kick continues with this recipe for Roasted Tomatillo Peach Salsa. Tomatillo salsa, also known as salsa verde, contains roasted or otherwise cooked tomatillos.

Tomatillos - PaleoSpirit.com

In spite of growing up in Texas where tomatillos were plentiful, I do not recall ever eating a fresh one. I feel a little lied to! No one told me tomatillos are delicious raw. Our CSA grows them so this was the first year we had several gorgeous, green gems lying around just calling out to be turned into salsa….or eaten fresh?

cut tomatillo

The salsa is the best I have ever made and I am a bit of a salsa snob. The combination of roasted and fresh flavors is delicious and the smooth and chunky texture makes it perfect as a dip or a relish to go on meat dishes.

Roasted Tomatillo Peach Salsa

We made the salsa on a weekend that included a bit of outdoor fun. The nearby Delaware Water Gap area is a gorgeous place that is only a bit more than an hour west of New York City. The funny thing is I read the “Paleo Indians” along with the Lenape tribe used to roam these hills. How appropriate! We frolicked in the river that included a few mossy rocks from which we jumped into the cool waters of the deep pool.

Lea at waterfall

Later we hiked up the mountain and enjoyed the beautiful views. I love this photo of my oldest son, Benjamin, because just a couple of days after our hike he told me of his intention to become a Christian. His faith and courage are inspiring and I’m so proud of his decision.

On Mt Tammany

Ben told us he is ready to be baptized but said he wants it to be private (not in front of the entire church) and he does not want anyone to get “mushy”. Good luck with that last part, Ben. :-)

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Don’t Give Up Hope: Finding Joy in Tough Times

“If the world seems cold to you, kindle fires to warm it.”

~Lucy Larcom (1824-1893), American poet

This past week was a rough one. Our family got some bad news and it has caused us to re-evaluate a few things in our lives. I have faith everything will turn out fine. But it does take some effort to see the bright side right now. One thing I have learned over the years is that happiness is mostly a result of our attitude. Being grateful for the good things in our lives is a powerful tool to combat the negative and the depression that often follows. To that end I am making it a habit to notice the good things in my life and acknowledge them specifically. I thank God for blessings each day even when I don’t feel like it.

The other major change in my life that has helped me cope with stressful circumstances is cleaning up my diet and getting my vitamin D levels into the normal range. These things have done wonders for my mood. I do not need medication for depression. The winter months used to leave me feeling blue but now I find even the gray days of the season calming and pleasant in their own way.

Frozen Lake

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Paleo Banana Cardamom Bread

Well, today a new chapter in my life begins. I’m starting a new job after being home full-time with my boys for almost two and a half years.

It’s a big day for me and I’m excited and a little nervous. Being home has been wonderful and I have enjoyed every second of the time with my children. Having the time to be able to focus on healing my body and soul has been priceless. With help from God, a few good friends and loved-ones, I have come a long way. Working on this website has been a creative outlet for me and I have enjoyed all the comments and emails I have received over the months. But, with new found health and vitality, the time has come to take on a new challenge. While I will definitely be busier than ever I fully intend to keep posting here.

In fact, I am quite sure I will need to come up with strategies for managing our paleo diet while working a very intense schedule. When I was preparing for my busy week ahead I decided to make some paleo banana bread to store away for breakfasts for at least a couple of days. We usually eat meatier fare in the mornings and I have had the luxury of time to devote to kitchen clean-up. Now, not so much!

Paleo Banana Cardamom Bread

The addition of cardamom came about mainly because I wanted to make something a bit different from the standard banana bread flavor. But the motivation to use this particular spice was the result of my own disorganization when it comes to grocery shopping. I was recently making a recipe that called for cardamom as one of about a zillion ingredients. When I was in the grocery store I could not for the life of me remember whether or not I had ground cardamom. So, of course, I bought a big jar of it. Come to find out, I already had two other jars! So I tried desperately to figure out what flavors go with cardamom. This spice has a strong, unique taste, with an intensely aromatic, resinous fragrance. In addition to being used in Indian cooking, cardamom is used in baking in many Nordic countries. Once I heard this news it occurred to me that it might compliment the flavor of banana – and I was right. Whew! That’s a relief. Something to do with the cardamom now.

paleo banana bread

When using almond flour I almost always add some coconut flour. Almond flour seems too wet and the addition of coconut dries it out a bit. The combination of the two seems to hit the “sweet spot” in grain-free baking. I had to make this a few times to come up with the right ratio as well as the best sized pan and oven temperature. The recipe for paleo banana cardamom bread you will find below is moist and aromatic – perfect with a cup of coffee in the morning or tea in the afternoon.

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Happy, Healthy and Free

“What we think, we become.”

It was my honor and privilege to be one of the speakers at a Ladies Day event yesterday hosted by the Bridgewater Church of Christ (at Garretson Rd) . The theme of the event was “Do You Know Who I Am?” and my topic was “Happy, Healthy and Free”. This is a subject very near and dear to my heart because I am very passionate about health and fitness for the WHOLE person Mind, Body, Soul and Spirit.

The starting point for my talk was the Bible verse Luke 2:52

Jesus grew in wisdom, and in stature, and in favor with God and Man.

That verse encapsulates the entire 18 year period of Jesus’ growth from age 12 to the beginning of his ministry at the age of 30. It tells us that He grew mentally, physically, spiritually and socially. And I propose that we too need to focus on growing in these areas of our lives in order to be well-rounded individuals. I proposed how, instead of Happy, Healthy and Free, we are often Sick, Stressed and Depressed. This is something with which I am familiar because I have been all three of those things at certain points in my life. I shared some of what I have learned about the Mind-Body connection and how our bodies respond to stress. And lest anyone think that focusing on our own health is somehow self-indulgent, I argued that we NEED to work at our health in order to become more pleasing and useful to God.

What we think, we become. And just as the Lao Tzu quote expresses, our habits become our character which becomes our destiny. With that in mind, and through my own experiences, I have come up with Ten Healthy Habits for the Well-Rounded Person: Continue reading

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Dose of Beauty – Solitude

“Laugh and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone….” 

The poem “Solitude” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (below in its entirety) is a powerful exploration of an undeniable reality of human nature. There is a natural desire to seek out that which exudes happiness and cheer and to avoid pain and darkness. It extends to our tendency to gravitate toward other people who are joyful and happy and full of positive energy. This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I think it is healthy to surround ourselves with people who are positive and encouraging and exhibit love, joy and peace. No one wants to be around those who are constantly negative, cynical, sarcastic and depressing. So in one sense, this poem is a clue to the reality that others are attracted to us if we endeavor to be cheerful and positive rather than negative and gloomy.

But understanding this truth of human nature also informs us we should not ignore those around us who are hurting. Even though our natural tendency is to seek out joy and happiness and people who exude those things, the reality is we should cultivate within ourselves a desire to help others in their time of need. We all go through difficult times and need help from others who are in a stronger place in their lives – people who can reach out to us and draw us out of depression, grief or other pains.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox emphasizes the uncaring world by exploring not only how we humans often flee from those in pain, but how the earth itself is indifferent to human suffering: Continue reading

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Healthy, Not Unholy – Part Two

In Part One of “Healthy, Not Unholy” we discussed the benefits and importance of physical fitness. Specifically, that exercise is important for physical and emotional health, how it teaches discipline and can contribute to our confidence. Today, I want to outline the potential downside to making physical fitness an important part of our lives.

To understand how the pursuit of physical fitness and attractiveness can potentially lead one away from God, it  is important to understand the meaning of the word “idolatry.” Idolatry is one of those words that immediately stokes the imagination. It may bring to mind images of ancient civilizations and mystic ceremonies where people dance around large statues and make violent sacrifices to strange and exotic deities.

Ok, ok….sometimes I let my imagination get away from me….but while what I described is accurate, it is not the whole story. According to the dictionary, the primary meaning of idolatry is “the worship of a physical object as a god.” As Christians, we do not acknowledge the existence of any deity but the God of the Bible. Therefore, it is accurate to label the worship of another supposed supernatural being or physical object as idolatry.

And God takes a very dim view of idolatry. In fact, He considers it sinful. We know this because He told us so several times. For example, in the Old Testament book of Exodus, His dislike of idolatry is revealed to Moses as the 1st Commandment:

Exodus 20:2-3

I am The Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.

Remember, God gave Moses 10 Commandments, but the very first one describes His view of idolatry! In verse 5 of the same chapter of Exodus, God elaborates further:

Exodus 20:5

5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me. Continue reading

Healthy, Not Unholy: Part 1

1 Corinthians 9:24

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

I have a confession to make:

I’m into physical fitness.

That’s right. I exercise regularly. I do it for many different reasons.

I use the word “confession” to make a point: some Christians may believe the pursuit of physical fitness, health and attractiveness are not worthy goals for Christians to pursue. While I disagree with that position, I admit their concerns can be legitimate in some cases. In a series of three posts I would like to explore:

Part 1) the benefits and importance of physical fitness

Part 2) the potential downside to pursuing fitness

Part 3) the reasons we NEED to put effort into our physical well-being in order to be more pleasing to God.

Let’s look at the positive impact exercise and fitness can bring to our physical bodies as well as to our spiritual lives. Paul’s choice of a sports metaphor in the quote from 1 Corinthians 9 was not accidental.

Exercise is Beneficial to Physical Health

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The Strictly Paleo Plan

When I first discovered the Paleo lifestyle in February of 2011 I dove in headfirst and completed a strict Paleo eating plan for the first 30 days. My motivation was to figure out if what I was eating might be contributing to my fibromyalgia, fatigue, chronic respiratory infections and depression. I was already fairly lean but not especially healthy and I was frustrated with doctors who could not explain my symptoms. All my tests were normal and yet I was NOT okay. With the new year I am starting another “reset” by going Strictly Paleo© and thought it would be helpful to others to outline exactly what this means.

During my previous “experiment” I discovered certain food groups had been negatively impacting my health. The changes I have seen and felt since going Paleo have been pretty dramatic. If you have any unexplained aches and pains, inflammation, allergies, skin or digestive problems or other ailments or if you simply cannot manage to lose weight or keep it off you should seriously consider how the food you eat may be impacting your health. A Strictly Paleo reset may be just what you need to change your life.

What is Strictly Paleo©?

Most simply stated, Strictly Paleo means eating real food that excludes certain potentially problematic food groups for an experimental elimination period of at least 30 days.

What you DO eat:

  • Meat
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fats from nuts, seeds and fruits

Here’s a handy guide to help with shopping.

What you DO NOT eat: Continue reading

Does the Paleo Diet Make Sense Only in Light of Evolution?

The Paleo diet (or Primal if you prefer) is based on the premise that we humans are genetically adapted to the diet of our ancestors. There is a heavy reliance on the explanation that Darwinian Evolution is at the root of this – that we have EVOLVED to eat this way. Now I consider myself an intelligent person. For what it’s worth, while far from being the universal designation of intelligence, I do have a couple of degrees from great universities. I like to examine facts and evidence and use logic in making decisions. But guess what? While I acknowledge adaptations and the like, I am not a believer in Darwinian Evolution and I am not alone. There are many other people like me. The point of this post is NOT to debate evolution or change anyone’s mind (please, let’s not go there). But I would like to explore why it is that I am a devotee of a diet and lifestyle that appears so rooted in something I do not embrace.

Instead of relying so heavily upon human evolutionary theory, the Paleo diet makes sense for other reasons. I believe the argument “cavemen did this so you should too” is illogical. Sure, I like the fun, iconic caveman as much as the next person. There’s no reason we can’t have fun with this, right? But I believe as Matt LaLonde, a biochemist with a Ph.D from Harvard and a strong interest in Paleo nutrition, stated in episode #68 of Robb Wolf‘s podcast, that looking at what our ancestors ate is instructional at best. It can point us in the right direction but does not rise to the level of a convincing argument.

In fact, LaLonde said, Continue reading