Running Ahead

Finally a grey Sunday with no plans. It’s exactly one month until we leave for Mozambique and I desperately needed a day like today to get organized, set up a calendar, and make lists of everything that needs to be done before we leave.

Work is a challenge right now because we are transitioning to a new software platform which is set to go live on January 1st. I’m in the first group of employees being trained on the new software. We had two days of computer training this past week and now we are left with the capability of “playing around” with the program. It’s different, and there are definitely some unique features that are not present in our current program, but we will all learn it eventually.

I’ve just plotted out the next 4 weeks of home visits and possible telephonic assessments. Barring any major issues I could very well assess all of my December members (patients) as well as many from early January. I’m not being negative when I say that it is wishful thinking that I will achieve this goal. I am being realistic.

Things that will throw off my goal are members being hospitalized and discharged before I leave, new enrollees assigned to me, and members I am unable to reach by phone. When a member is hospitalized we are supposed to see them within 72 hours of discharge. New enrollees have to be seen before the last day of the month. I have one for December so far. Typically we know the month before, but I have been assigned new enrollees during the current month. The biggest challenge with my members is the ever changing phone number. I have never seen people rotate through phone numbers so rapidly. Because of this I have now amassed a large directory of phone numbers for each member including relative’s phone numbers and anyone else they can identify as an emergency contact. In the event that I cannot reach someone by phone I will make an unannounced visit in hopes of finding them at home. It is likely that all of these things will happen so I’ve tried to build in a little flexibility into my schedule.

Holidays and birthdays…The next few weeks are full of them! All are cause for happiness so definitely worth making room in the schedule for a little fun. We begin with Thanksgiving this week. My sister and I have invited some new faces to Thanksgiving dinner. This time of year has been clouded by the sadness of losing my stepfather on 12/2/1996. Thanksgiving was the last holiday we all spent together and it was his favorite holiday. Needless to say it’s never been the same since and some years it’s been downright miserable. Carlos changed that a lot and obviously we are much happier with him in our lives. Last year I invited a good friend to spend Thanksgiving with us and I just felt that he breathed new life into the day for us. This year Orlando and I have invited a friend we’ve never even met before, but he’s Mozambican and studying in Boston. OK that doesn’t exactly sounds like grounds to invite a perfect stranger to Thanksgiving dinner, but we feel like we’ve known him for a while now. He was introduced to us in a Facebook Peace Corps Mozambique group and he and Orlando have spoken on the phone a number of times over the last year or so. We are really looking forward to finally meeting him in person. He will be staying with us from Tuesday through Friday. My sister’s husband’s cousin, wife and son will also be joining us. They are from Brazil so there will probably be more Portuguese than English spoken.

On Friday we leave bright and early on the train headed for NYC. My sister and I have planned the first annual post Thanksgiving holiday trip. I’m not sure if that’s the official name for it, but we have been determined to start a tradition. Unlike most families we feel as though we lack traditions. Carlos, Orlando, my mom, her husband, my sister, her husband, and I are going to the Christmas show at Radio City Music Theater, out to dinner and then we will sight see the next day before returning home Saturday evening. I’m not sure we will do the exact same thing each year, but we hope to do something all together as a family the day after Thanksgiving each year. We will see how this goes!

My sister’s husband’s birthday is 12/15 and my sister and Carlos celebrate their birthday on 12/17. Carlos’ best friend, Tyler’s birthday is in December too. Carlos’ “friend” birthday party is on December 5th. It’s a winter pool party at a local school’s aquatic center. My sister is turning 40 this year. Nothing is set in stone yet, but her husband mentioned getting together on December 12th. On my son’s actual birthday we have tickets for an advanced showing of the new Star Wars movie which is set to open nationwide the following day. We are going with his friend Tyler. The boys are so excited. Light sabers are encouraged!!

Carlos has his own iCal color because his schedule is often more involved than mine. I have to work in religion class, karate, skating, and play dates. We have a couple of school events including his birthday celebration in the classroom. They do a really special ceremony with the birthday child sharing photos of each year of their life and a healthy treat for their classmates.

With all of that going on how could I even imagine training for anything? I’m not technically training right now. I have a fun run 5K on 12/6 that I’m doing with Carlos and friends. No pressure, no time goals, just fun and hot chocolate (maybe a soy latte for me!). Aside from that I’m feeling really loose about my fitness goals right now. I’ve been focused on incorporating a daily yoga practice into my life. It’s been going really well. I am up around 4:15 each day including this weekend and I have begun each day with 20-30 minutes of yoga. What I wouldn’t give to have the absolute freedom to become an accomplished yoga student. It is challenging, makes me sweat sometimes, my muscles feel the burn, and yet I always come away with this sense of calmness and serenity. I want so much to be good at yoga, to have the time to really master the postures, and maybe some day the skill to teach others.

I’ve also been throwing in some kettle bell swings after yoga and whenever I can throughout the day. Since my work is very sedentary it’s a good way to get the blood flowing and add a little impromptu strength training for whatever it’s worth.

Now to the real point of this post…running. I’m still running, not every day and with no plan. I just run when I feel like it and either however long I have time to run or however long I want to run. I have been consistently keeping an average pace of under 10 minutes/mile. Some days that pace feels smooth and other days it feels like I’m sprinting.

Overall this lack of structure was exactly what I needed post marathon, but I’m feeling ready to bring some focus back to running and begin setting some goals. I am definitely not planning to run a spring marathon. I didn’t enjoy training through the winter especially given the conditions we had last winter and the one before it. However, I do want to keep my eye on fall marathons and I don’t want to have to build my mileage from the ground up come July. So I’m hoping to use the next few months to begin working on increasing my speed and improving my endurance on hills. Nothing like a hill to warm you up on a cold winter’s day! My tentative race plans look like this:

December through February Snowstorm Classics – alternating 5K and 10K races every Saturday morning at a local park. The “race” are $5 and very low key. I’m hoping to do as many as possible as a means to improve speed and gauge my progress. I think it will also be a great incentive for getting outside to run when it’s cold.

February – Jones 10miler

March – St. Patrick’s 10K

April – Oleksak Lumber Half Marathon

June – Lake Wyola 4.8 miler, Vegan Power 25K trail race

August – Shelburne Falls 10K

September – Half Marathon (not sure which race yet)

October – Full Marathon (Wine Glass possible, but not my first choic

Peppered in throughout the races I will be including as many 5K races as I can afford. There are local $5 Thursday night races and a Summer Sizzler Series similar to the Snowstorm Classics. I know the 5K races will be beneficial to improving my speed.

However, I don’t want to just run. I recall from my training for Montreal, the year I PR’d every race, it is important to include strength training and regular yoga to help avoid injury. One more thing I am going to add to my calendar this month is a return to the gym for a more structured strength training session.

Ideally my fitness schedule would include strength training twice a week, yoga 15-30 minutes daily, and 3-4 runs a week with one being at least an hour or more. This week I will run my annual solo 10+ mile turkey trot on Thanksgiving Day. There are no turkey trot races close by so for the last 4 years (maybe more) I’ve been running at least 10 miles on Thanksgiving morning.

It’s 2:30pm on Sunday and I’m still in my pajamas! I haven’t done this in ages. I suppose at some point I should consider going to the grocery store and preparing dinner.


Yogi detox

Typically after I run a race there is another on the horizon. Going into Hartford, I deliberately planned a running respite to follow. I have actually been participating in something called the Yogi Detox run by Auyurvedic practitioner Cate Stillman. The detox began a couple of days after the marathon which was perfect timing. It’s a holistic detox that touches on all areas of life rather than simply a food cleanse. The program can be individualized and is designed to occur each fall and spring at the change of season. The idea is to clear out spiritually, physically, emotionally and spatially. 

I took a rather gentle approach as this was my first experience with the program. First I focused on re-creating my morning routine to once again include an early wake up, meditation, yoga, oil pulling (I know weird, but I cannot stop) and preparing for the day ahead. Oddly this all fell into place rather quickly and before I knew it I was back to waking up between 4 and 4:30 with little effort. I’m not perfect and it doesn’t happen every single day, but enough days to make me feel calmer, more organized, and a lot more at ease.

Cate incorporated the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo into this detox. I have read most of the book and while I would love to jump in with both feet to clear out my entire house that is not realistic for me right now. The idea is to  tackle your belongings by category rather than room. So the first thing I did was remove every stitch of clothing from my bedroom and elsewhere in the house and put it in my office. I went through each piece one by one, holding it, asking myself if it brings joy to my life and then either discarding it into the give away bin or putting it in a pile to keep. It was an interesting concept to use to determine whether or not I should keep articles of clothing. In the past I would have kept most of it by reasoning that I might find it useful again or there might come a day when it will fit or look good on me. I would say about 75% of my clothing ended up in garbage bags. I’ve done the same with my son’s clothing only we based his on what fit. If it’s comfortable and fits then it brings joy to Carlos!

The next project will be books/magazines and papers. Although the detox is a 4 week program the actual process of tidying up the Marie Kondo way might take me 6 months or more. I am a minimalist at heart, but my home does not quite reflect that yet.

The yogi detox recommends a few different styles of eating and supports a couple of rather drastic cleanses if you are so inclined. I was not interested in making any major changes to my diet other than to adhere to a whole foods plant based diet with an emphasis on raw foods and as few packaged foods as possible. This was not a huge departure for me, but it provided me with the challenge of not grabbing pretzels or other processed snacks on the go. I opted instead for fruits and vegetables if I was hungry. 

I have been struggling rather violently with binge eating and a 10-12 pound weight gain since fall of 2013. I’ve mentioned it here at times. Although I tend not to harp on it like I might have in the past, it sits at the forefront of my thoughts most days. It has caused a surge of emotions and an onslaught of negative messages in my own head. Over the last 6 months or so I’ve tried to reconcile my feelings with my reality. It has become quite clear that for the first time in my struggle with weight I’ve learned how to maintain my weight consistently over the course of many months. I stopped weighing myself regularly last November. I have a documented weight from November 2014. I weighed myself again for the first time a number of months ago and weighed exactly the same as I did in November 2014. I weighed myself last week and I’m about a half pound less than I was a year ago. While I’m not at the most comfortable weight for my body I have not exceeded this weight in a year. It’s not an astronomical weight gain. I can reverse it and get back to a more comfortable weight if I continue to eat the way I have been eating throughout the detox.

Oddly with few restrictions on my diet as I entered into the yogi detox I have found that within the last few weeks I’m not hungry all the time like I have been for the last two years. My cravings are almost non-existent.  I have not experienced a binge or even the urge to binge. It’s weird. I don’t understand it and I want to understand why I am suddenly feeling very differently about food. I wish I could say it’s because I’ve developed an iron will against my nemesis, but I don’t think that is it. I’m frustrated because I also want to know why I reverted back to old behaviors two years ago after running the Montreal Marathon. I know some might say don’t overthink this and just go with the flow. However, I fear the day the switch flips again. If I don’t know what triggers it then how can I prevent it?

I have dialed down my fitness to daily yoga, some kettle bell swings and a few runs a week. I run when I really feel like it and I run as long or short as I want to or my schedule allows. I am using the 30 days of yoga with Adrienne for yoga practice most days, but if time is short then I do as many sun salutations as I can. The idea is building a routine without the pressure of being perfect.

I’ve taken a similar approach with meditation. I have a strong desire to build a meditation practice in my life. I know from experience that even a few minitues of meditation every morning has a significant impact on how my day begins and often how it continues. However, I stink at meditation. My mind is all over the place. So rather than start with a lofty goal of meditating for 15 minutes or more daily I started with  5 minutes. I’m still setting my timer for 5 minutes sometimes 6 minutes. I think I did 8 minutes one day. My mind races in the beginning and then it settles a little bit and I remember to count my breaths because that helps me to stop thinking for a few seconds. Whenever I start thinking about something I begin counting my breaths again. I try to employ techniques I’ve learned from the free portion of the Headspace App and from various You Tube meditations. I may never achieve a complete meditative state, but I can continue to practice mindfulness and breathing techniques so that I am a calmer, kinder, and more relaxed human being.

The Healthy Lifestyle Expo conference could not have come at a better time. I was less than a week into the detox when I left forCalifornia. I did not have to cook or be around food unless I was hungry. I was able to do longer yoga sessions via my iPad. I ran one morning and went for walks during every break throughout the conference.  I wrote about my goals with the Yogi Detox and outlined some goals for the year ahead. Upon my return home I stayed focused on simplifying as much of my life as possible. 

As with every experience I open myself up to I’ve learned a great deal about myself and about how I want to go forward in my life. The idea of a spring and fall detox really speaks to my need to simplify and organize my life. The one theme that kept popping up in the weekly detox calls and on the online Facebook forum was the idea that the detox can be whatever you want it to be. It can and likely will become a deeper detox each time. This was a learning experience. I will continue to draw off of it throughout the winter as I strive to live a simpler, cleaner, more streamlined life and I will apply what I’ve learned to the next experience. 

I know this probably seems way out there and a bit kooky. Some of it was a little far out to me too and I may never commit to a detox that involves deep cleansing practices, but I think checking in with ourselves a couple times of year is an easy way to realign values and restructure goals while taking a little time to take care of ourselves holistically. 

LA in a Day

The conference finished on Sunday which meant I had Monday all to myself. I rented a car and took off to see as much of LA as I possibly could before I had to return the rental. It was a gorgeous day. I decided to head towards Santa Monica first. I’ve heard about the traffic in LA, but it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I had been on the roads at various times of day and there always seems to be a very slow moving back up of traffic on the highways.  I probably could have seen much more if had been drive faster than 20 miles an hour!

First stop Hollywood and a quick walk down part of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. There is only one star I wanted to see…Marilyn Monroe’s. I was obsessed with her when I was a teen.


I couldn’t let my first trip to California pass without catching a glimpse of the Hollywood sign. I drove part way up the road to the Griffith Observatory and then walked the rest of the way up. Despite the fact that the observatory was closed on Monday, there were bus loads of tourists, hikers, runners, and about as many selfie sticks as people. The views of LA from where the Observatory sits are spectacular. The city seems to go on forever.  The iconic Hollywood sign appears dwarfed as it sits nestled in the jutting landforms that surround it. It’s remarkable nonetheless because it represents the hopes of so many who have come from far and wide to pursue their dreams.

Griffith’s Observatory
Smoggy view of LA from Griffith’s Observatory
There it is!


Back on the freeway I went in search of the beach. The Santa Monica boardwalk is exactly as I had imagined, the Coney Island of the west perhaps? It’s bright and colorful, noisy, lively and whirring with energy. The beach sits off to the side of the mountains and it is the mountains I truly love. Having been to the coast in Mozambique, I’m not sure anything here in the U.S. can rival the pristine untouched Indian Ocean beaches, but the further you get from the boardwalk on either side the nicer the beach. I stuck my toes in the Pacific Ocean, checked out the boardwalk, and then walked into town. I had a delicious, but rather expensive raw foods lunch at Rawvolution complete with spirulina pie for dessert. Despite how unappealing that may sound I can assure you it was delicious. I try to sample new things whenever possible and this definitely fit the bill as new and different.

IMG_0165 IMG_0172 IMG_0171 IMG_0168
After lunch I walked about 2 miles from Santa Monica beach to Venice Beach. There is a large bike and walking path that links the beaches. It was a gorgeous day and I welcomed the opportunity to people watch while strolling along at my own pace. Venice is also as I had imagined. Lots of street vendors, performers, and other interesting characters along the way. There are restaurants, shops, and a beach that stretches on for as long as the eye can see.

Just hanging around
Venice Beach Boardwalk

I decided to drive up the coast towards Malibu instead of returning to Valencia the way I came.  I drove through Santa Monica on Ocean Boulevard for a while before getting on the Pacific Coast Highway. This may have been my first trip to California, but I was no stranger to the PCH. CHIPS anyone?! In more recent years this highway is more significant to me as part of the Big Sur marathon course which I hope to run someday. I sat in bumper to bumper traffic for ages. Sure the views are beautiful, but after a while I became so disillusioned I started researching other routes I could take and other attractions on my way back to the hotel. Using my phone was of no danger because I wasn’t moving more than a few hundred feet every 5 minutes or so.

The map showed I was close to Topanga Canyon. I excused myself from the PCH and took a right onto Topanga Canyon Road. Within minutes I knew I had made a wonderful decision. There was no traffic despite the slow speed limit. I found myself winding through the canyon with massive rock formations on either side. It was frightening and exhilarating at the same time. I love to witness varying landscapes and this was incredible. I tried to keep my eye on the road while soaking up all of the views. I saw a sign for Topanga State Park and in a split second my plan to head back to the hotel changed. I took a quick right and drove up to the park. I parked and hiked for about an hour. It was the absolute best part of the entire day. No photo could do the views justice. Had I not been alone and on a time limit to return the car I would have liked to explore more trails and stay to watch the sunset.
IMG_0175 IMG_0176 IMG_0177 IMG_0180 IMG_0182Talk about seizing the day! I saw Hollywood, the Griffith Observatory, Santa Monica, Venice Beach, drove along the PCH and hiked in Topanga Canyon. It was an amazing day. I miss my family, and I adore traveling with them, but I want to say something to people, women in particular, who have never traveled alone. Do it sometime. It’s empowering. I started traveling on my own in college when I lived in Mexico. I learned to dine alone, find my way around, ask questions, and find solace in being by myself. I always meet the most interesting people along the way. I love being able to do exactly what I feel like without having to please another person, hear someone complain, worry about someone else’s needs or make a compromise. That sounds awfully selfish, I know, but it’s more about self-care. I started each day on this trip at about 4:30 with meditation and yoga. I ate when I was hungry. I walked a lot. I ran a couple of times. I talked to people who were like-minded, but had different experiences. I heard things that made me really think about how I want to go forward with my life.  My batteries are recharged and I feel rejuvenated.

Running Questions

Before I launch into the last day of the Healthy Lifestyle Expo and a fun post about my last day in LA, I found this draft of a post I borrowed from Carina ages ago. I thought it would be a nice break from the conference talk.

Running Quiz

1.  Would you rather run along a beach path or on a mountain trail?
Mountain trail hands down! I love trail running although I don’t get to do it often enough. I really need a running partner to go out for longer trail runs.

2.  If you could choose the flavor of gatorade at your next race’s aid stations, what would it be?

I don’t care for gatorade. Nothing in nature is that color. If I had to choose a flavor I guess I would go for the lemon. If I had to create a flavor though I might go for watermelon with mint. My preferred drink at a water station would be cold coconut water.

3.  If I gave you a $100 gift card to a running store, what would be the first thing that you would purchase with it?

A new pair of Hoka running shoes. I really love these shoes. My feet never hurt after a run.
4.  Do you prefer to follow a training plan or wake up and decide then how far and how fast you want to run?

I thrive on a training plan. I’m going crazy right now because I don’t have one, but I also need the flexibility in my life at this time so it’s probably a good thing. I love how training plans push me out of my comfort zone and provide a structure that makes me accountable.

5.  Would you rather start your run with the uphill and end on the downhill or start your run with the downhill and end with the uphill?

I would prefer to start on the uphill and have it all be downhill from there.
6.  When you can’t run, what type of cross-training do you choose to do?

This is really something I need to get back into. I actually enjoy a combination of weight training, plyometrics, and yoga. My most successful marathon to date was the Montreal Marathon and my training consisted of an equal balance of all three along with running 4-5 days/week. Plus I’ve gone soft and I would really like to feel more toned again.

7.  What is your preference—  Out and back, point to point or loop runs?

I prefer a point to point. I find out and back runs painful. I don’t mind a loop course if it’s a really big loop, but a double loop is torture!

8.  If you could recommend ANY running related item to a new runner, it would be a:

smile and a positive attitude! Cheesy I know, but when you first start running it can be really challenging to progress. There are so many people turning to running these days and races are becoming the “in” thing to do, but I think sometimes people jump in for the wrong reasons. They have all the tech and fancy running gear, but they are miserable out there. Forget all of the “stuff” and just run. Later when you decide you really enjoy running and want to go further or faster then download a tracking app or buy a Garmin so you don’t have to run in mile loops to track your distance. Wear what feels comfortable not what is most expensive or in vogue.

9.  Do you ever see any wild animals while out on your runs?

Nothing crazy. I’ve seen deer, raccoon, and snakes. Once at the reservoir I was nearing the end of my run and getting close to where I parked my car. This guy was waving his arms overhead from the parking lot. I pulled my headphones off and he was yelling “there’s a bear out there.” He told me the bear had run in the direction I had come from just minutes before. Holy crap! I didn’t see it so it must have gone into the woods thankfully.

10.  Ever gotten lost while out on a run? No.

11.  If you could have one meal waiting and ready for you each time you got home from a run for the next 30 days… what would that meal be?

I would like a fruit platter and a delicious salad with lots of vegetables in a fresh lemon ginger dressing.

12.  Capris or shorts… what do you run in most often?

I have worn the same style of running capris for years now. They fit perfectly and there is a hidden pocket on the waist band big enough for my iPhone 5. They are Kirkland brand from Costco! You can’t buy them there anymore, but thank goodness for Amazon. I know I’m so fashion forward.

I cannot wear shorts. They ride up and there most definitely would be inner thigh chafing. My body simply cannot accommodate shorts, not for running or any other time.

13.  At what mile (or how many minutes) into your run does your body start to feel like it is warming up and ready to go?

It takes at least a mile or two to feel like I’m really ready to go. Every now and then I get into the groove right from the start. Those are usually great runs.

14.  What do you do with your key when you run?

Drop it right in the sports bra because I’m classy like that! My car key is too big to fit in my pocket with my phone.

15.  If you could relive any race that you have done in the past, which one what it be?

It would be the Middletown Half Marathon, my first sub 2 hour half marathon. Only this time I would have my family there at the finish.

16.  What type of run is your least favorite type of run?

Hill repeats are torture, but then there is this demented sort of pleasure I actually get out of them once the workout is finished.

17.  What has been your biggest motivation lately to get out the door to get your run on?

Actually I’ve only run a few times since running the Hartford Marathon. I’ve been focusing on daily yoga over the last two weeks. I will get back to running next week and my motivation will be the crunchy leaves, seeing the last of the fall foliage, and enjoying myself before winter begins.

18.  When you go for a run, do you leave right from your front door or do you drive somewhere to start?

For most of this marathon training cycle I ran right from my front door. It was painfully boring at times, but I didn’t have the time to drive places to run.

19.  When running in daylight:  are sunglasses a must or an annoyance?

I never wear sunglasses to run. I think they would be an annoyance especially with sweat dripping down my face. I also don’t own any that would be ideal for running. On sunny days I usually wear a baseball hat.

20.  When you get tired, what keeps you from quitting?

Tired? I don’t get tired! OK every now and then I feel tired and that’s when my goals kick in and remind me why I’m doing this. I also think about how truly lucky I am to have a fully functioning body. If I feel tired or frustrated during a run I usually dial it down to allow myself to enjoy the run because ultimately that’s what it’s all about.

Healthy Lifestyle Expo Day 2 Afternoon Session

Irminne Van Dyken, MD

Biohacking the Immune System

Dr. Van Dyken is sharp. If you ever have the opportunity to see her speak I would highly recommend going. She is young, bright, sharp and very articulate. 

Some key points from her talk:

  • Healthy immunity comes from good nutrition.
  • The immune system is overly complex
  • Chronic inflammation compromises the immune system. Acute inflammation is good. It means the immune system is working.
  • Diseases are the consequences of inflammation- Cancer, Inflammatory bowel disease, Rheumatoid arthritis, Ulcerative colitis, Atherosclerosis, etc. 

Whole foods that decrease inflammation

    o Circumin – the most active ingredient in turmeric
    o Chili and Capsaicin
    o Ginger
    o Black pepper
    o Cinnamon
    o Green Tea (ECCG)
    o Berry Polyphenols
    o Pomegranate
    o Grapeseed extract
    o Glucosinolates (broccoli spouts, cruciferous veg)
    o Milk Thistle

    Factors negatively influencing the microbiome

    o Medications – NSAIDs, Antibiotics, chemotherapy
    o Food
    o Stress
    o Soap, things we put on our skin
    o Infections

    • Hygiene hypothesis: less exposure to bacteria and parasites increase risk for illness.
    • You are only as healthy as your gut bacteria

    To create a healthy microbiome:

    o Eat a diet high in fiber
    o Eat fermented foods like miso, kimchi, sauerkraut, rejuvelac
    o Shower less and avoid antibacterial soaps and products with laurel sulfate
    o Avoid antibiotics
    o Get a pet
    o Open the windows in your home as often as possible
    o Use probiotics – if you buy over the counter probiotics be sure to get one that is enteric coated, has 7 different strains and 50 billion CFU of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium
    o Prebiotics – non-soluble fiber in dandelion greens, garlic, onions, asparagus, bananas, lentils, beans, chicory, flax

    • Cardioviva is a probiotic that has been prescribed in Canada and has been proven to lower LDL by 11.6%.
    • Telomeres are the caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes, like the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces. Every time our cells divide we lose a little at the end of the cell. Telomere shortening is linked with inflammation and aging

    Avoid things that speed up telomere shortening:

    o Smoking
    o Obesity
    o Environmental pollution
    o Stress
    o Fatty diet

    How to biohack telomere shortening

    • Increase fiber
    • Decrease waist circumference
    • Decrease protein type and consider changing the type of protein you eat
    • Omega 3
    • Antioxidants
    • Dietary restrictions, fasting
    • Exercise

    Through telomere maintenance we can change the rate at which we age

    Key point = decrease inflammation in the body

    Jane Esselstyn, RN
    Health Care is Self-Care

    Jane is the daughter of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, best known for his cardiovascular prevention and reversal program at The Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. Jane is an accomplished educator as well as co-author of the book The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook.

    Jane is a natural speaker. Her lecture was interactive and visual. She started by getting us all up and out of our seats for a little moving and grooving. I’m not shy, I shook my booty!

    Jane spokeabout a research study she assisted with published in the Journal of Pediatrics – Plant-Based, No Added Fat or AHA Diets: Impact on cardiovascular Risk in Obese Children with Hypercholesterolemia and Their Parents.

    The Plant Based diet resulted in more positive effects though both did demonstrate weight loss for the participants.

    Jane references 3 influential names in the WFPB movement:

    1. Dr. Neil Barnard – runs the PCRM and his research on Type 2 Diabetes has shown that a WFPB diet can reverse the disease.
    2. T. Colin Campbell – author of the China Study proved through his research that cancer is preventable. Read Chapter 3. 
    3. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn – His research on heart disease led him to begin treating the cause to prevent and reverse heart disease.

    Dr. John McDougall
    The eat more starch challenge…

    Dr. McDougall suffered a stroke at the age of 18 with resulting paralysis of his left side for 2 weeks. He still walks with a limp. After medical school he began practicing medicine in Hawaii. He grew frustrated with the lack of healing amongst his patients. His work on a sugar plantation brought him in contact with elderly immigrants from Asia where rice was a staple of the diet. He noted that as the generations progressed the diet became more westernized opting for meat, dairy and junk food rather than rice and vegetables. The third generation was obese and sick. This experience led Dr. McDougall to treating the modern day illnesses with nutrition and a return the diets of our ancestors. He can demonstrate that throughout time diets were based on starches – potatoes, rice, oats, etc. People were never as sick or as obese as they are today.

    What changed? Our food changed.

    Dr. McDougall advocates more starch in the diet for optimal health. Starches are low in calories (calorie dilute), low in fat and highly satisfying.

    He has been advocating a WFPB diet with emphasis on eating starch for more than 30 years. He has proof that his methods work through research, his patients, and the many people who have participated in his program.

    Dr. McDougall is cantankerous and sometimes downright rude in his response to questions. It was a bit of a turn off, but in talking to others who had seen him before he was apparently in a good mood at this conference. I’d hate to see him in a bad mood. His talk more than the others really got under my skin and after pondering it I realize it was because of his attitude. He speaks the truth. All of the speakers do. Their research and the research they reference proves what I know deep down, but sometimes don’t want to admit to myself because it would require me to make more changes. The way we eat is wrong. Food is not supposed to come from a package. We are not meant to ingest chemically produced food. We are supposed to eat carbohydrates in the form of whole grains. We need them to survive. We eat too much, way too much and we don’t move enough. Dr. McDougall is simply telling the truth, but I can imagine it gets exhausting repeating yourself over and over knowing most of it falls on deaf ears. 

    Bottom line for Dr. McDougall is “the fat you eat is the fat you wear.”

    I think this video says it all with very little words. 

    Healthy Lifestyle Expo Day 2 Morning Session

    I woke up bright and early to begin the day with a short meditation, yoga and a five mile run. It was rather dark until almost 7am so I stuck to well-lit main roads, safe but boring. I stopped for a kale, peach, lemon and ginger smoothie.

    I had a full day of lectures ahead, but I will try to summarize the key points from each talk. 

    James Bennie, MD

    Plant Based Changes in Real World Medicine

    Dr. Bennie specializes in nutrition and was hired by Whole Foods years ago as their physician in Los Angeles. He later returned to his practice at Redding Family Medical Group in Redding, CA and now works at the Redding Rancheria Tribal Health Center. The Tribal Health Center has a full time plant based dietitian on staff.

    · Health is the state of being free from disease.
    · Most people do the diet they want to be on rather than eat the way they should eat for optimal health.
    · Dr. Bennie had no nutrition studies in medical school.
    · Our current medical system in not healthcare it’s sick care. I say frequently one day I hope to work in wellness as opposed to sickness.
    · A whole food plant based (WFPB) diet has been shown to reverse autoimmune disorders like lupus, RA, fibromyalgia and MS. It has also been shown to prevent and stop early dementia.
    · No medication for chronic disease has ever been shown to stop or revere the disease. It only slows the progression at best and suppresses the symptoms.
    · To change your health you must be an active participant in your healthcare.
    · Lab work may show “healthy” numbers, but the results may not be indicative of health status. If someone is overweight and has pre-existing cardiac issues a normal LDL and total cholesterol does not signify that person is healthy.

    What diet does Kaiser Permanente, the largest health care organization, recommend for its employees? A WFPB diet because it yields:

    1. Less sick days
    2. Increased productivity
    3. Better overall mood
    4. Healthier employees ultimately yield more profit and that is the bottom line

    7 habits of highly healthy people

    1. Don’t smoke
    2. Eat a WFPB diet and eat 3 meals including breakfast – the brain needs carbohydrates to function
    3. Include 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise and 20-30 minutes of resistance training to maintain strong muscles and bones
    4. Drink water not soda, juice or other sugary drinks
    5. Limit alcohol to no more than 2 beers, 1 glass of wine or 1.5oz of hard liquor
    6. Get 7-9 hours of sleep
    7. Be present in the moment – seek emotional support, meditate, pray and do yoga

    One theme that seems to be running through the first couple of lectures is that it is really important to meet people where they are at.

    This was a great presentation by Dr. Bennie. He was very animated, knowledgeable and clearly very passionate about what he does.

    Dr. James Weiss of Ethos Health

    The World of the Physician Farmer

    · Dr. Weiss’ father was diagnosed with end stage cancer with metastatic tumors all over the abdomen which prompted Dr. Weiss to return home and start seeking other options of treatment for his father. He discovered a book about macrobiotics and brought his father to Boston to meet with Michio Kushi, a renowned leader in the study of macrobiotics. 

    Within 3 weeks his father was running 2 miles daily. 90 days later Mr. Weiss had a CT scan which showed a 30% reduction of tumors. In 9 months there was a 50% reduction of tumors. Mr. Weiss lived another 18 months instead of the 3 months he was initially given and he continued working and enjoying a good quality of life until 2 weeks before he passed away.

    · Dr. Weiss has a degree in botany as well as a medical degree

    · Feeling disillusioned with healthcare Dr. Weiss sold his assets, left his practice and bought a farm. He said, “Today I practice medicine right from the middle of this farm.”

    · Epigenetics – Researcher Michael Skinner said, “There is not a type of genetic mutation known that’s not potentially influenced by environmental epigenetic effects.”

    · Plant secondary components aka flavonoids or phytochemicals lend flavor and color to plant foods.

    · Without angiogenesis a tumor will only grow to the size of the tip of a ball point pen.

    · The most powerful anti-angiogenesis factors are plant secondary compounds

    · There is a proven increase in survival rates for breast cancer survivors who drink one glass of soy milk daily. Genistein the phytoestrogen from soy empowers the BRCA gene. BRCA gene suppresses and kills off breast cancer cells. You want to have the BRCA gene.

    · Whole foods act through a symphony of mechanisms to thwart a constellation of human illness.

    Final thought of the lecture – “Plants just fix us.”

    Healthy Lifestyle Expo

    I’m in Valencia, CA attending the Healthy Lifestyle Expo. I’m determined to post at the end of each day. 

    I flew in on Thursday night. I had a long shuttle ride to the hotel, but met a few really nice people and we chatted the whole time. One was a 70 year old woman who looked incredible and was heading off to a month long trek in Tasmania with her Australian boyfriend. Go girl! She was a hot ticket. She has trekked in Indonesia, Cambodia and climbed Kilimanjaro. 

    Friday morning bright and early I met a small group in the lobby for a bus tour around the area. We started at the Getty Museum. The grounds were just as interesting as the exhibits. 

     My favorite exhibit was the photography exhibit by Ishiuchi Miyako called Post War Shadows. It was fascinating. I enjoyed the Degas exhibit as well. 

    The views must be gorgeous on a clear day. 


    Lunch at Sharky’s was the secret menu item, the Chef AJ burrito which is vegan and oil free, but you would never know. 

    Unfortunately we didn’t go to the iconic LA sights. Time was short and traffic was abundant. But we did drive down the famed Rodeo Drive. 

    Our last stop was Universal City Walk which is nothing more than a shopping center and Universal Studios. Not my thing nor the others I was with so most of us convened at Starbucks and chatted. I was the youngest in the group, but I was easily welcomed and found a lot in common with most of the people. Ironically about half of us had either lived or spent time in Africa. One woman has climbed Kilimanjaro twice. This is my second mention of Kilimanjaro in this post. I’ve been saying since I was in my early 30s that I will climb Kilimanjaro when I’m 50. In June when I ran the Vegan Power 25K I talked with a woman who summited the mountain as well. I really don’t think this is a coincidence. I have 8 years to prepare for this expensive and physically challenging endeavor and I feel as though the path is beginning to form leading me towards my goal. 

    We returned to the hotel around 4 and had some time to rest before dinner. 

    After a really delicious vegan buffet we headed into the conference room to hear key note speaker Irminne Van Dyken MD.

    First of all she is a beautiful well spoken young woman. Her message is soft spoken but presented with confidence and ease. 

    She is a surgeon. She explained “Many of my patients have diseases that could have been prevented through dietary and lifestyle changes. My goal in life is to put myself out of business.”

    The theme of her talk was:

    10 Ways a Plant Based Diet Will Help You Avoid the Scalpel

    A few notes before beginning the list of 10:

    Leading causes of death in 2014

    • Heart disease
    • Cancer
    • Chronic resp
    • Accidents
    • Stroke
    • Alzheimer’s
    • Diabetes

    1900 vs 2010

    Leading cause of death in 1900 was infection

    Heart disease and cancer were largely nonexistent then. What changed? Our diets and lifestyle. 

    There is a magic pill/silver bullet – it is eating a whole foods plant based diet (WFPB)

    This does not apply to a junk food vegan diet. 

    Exercise is an important component that exponentiates a WFPB diet. 

    List of 10 ways to avoid surgical intervention:

    10. Avoid Atherosclerosis

    • Direct result of inflammation
    • Fatty streaks-endothelial dysfunction-plaques
    • 15-20 year olds are developing fatty streaks 
    • Dean Ornish MD – Lifestyle Heart Trial took very sick people and put them on his program which included dietary and lifestyle changes rather than meds and 82% had regression of their disease
    • Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn on how to reverse CAD

    9. Avoid breast, prostate and colon cancers 

    10 recommendations for cancer prevention

    • Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight
    • Be physically active for at least 30 min daily
    • Limit energy dense sugary foods
    • Eat more variety of whole foods
    • Limit red meat
    • Limit alcohol 
    • Limit salty foods 
    • Don’t use supplements to prevent cancer. Get nutrients from whole foods.
    • Breastfeed for 6 months if able
    • After cancer treatment follow above recommendations to prevent recurrence

    As far back as 1907 an article was published announcing the incidences of cancer increasing among meat eaters. 

    Neil Barnard, MD advocates diet as a preventive agent to decrease risk of cancer. 

    Breast cancer is most common cancer among women. 

    Exercise will decrease rate of recurrence of breast cancer. 

    Hula and Breast Cancer Survivorship – introduced hula dancing as a means of physical activity to breast cancer survivors in Hawaii where Dr. Van Dyken works. The study just closed but already finding better survival rates 

    Prostate Cancer 

    Like breast cancer it’s very hormone responsive. 

    Data driven studies to prevent prostate cancer note the following preventive measures:

    • Eat WFPB diet
    • Lycopene 
    • Yellow and orange vegetables
    • Get folic acid from foods not supplements
    • Avoid fried foods
    • Exercise at least 3 hours a week
    • Supplement with a conservative amount of zinc

    8. Colon cancer (CRC – colorectal cancer)

    • Preventable and detectable early by colonoscopy
    • Increased risk correlated to red meat intake. High intake of red and processed meat is associated with an increase in CRC. 
    • Preventive measures: fiber rich foods, grape seed oil, milk thistle (promoted cancer cell death), turmeric root (very important antiinflammatory properties), green tea (antioxidant)
    • Limit alcohol intake because it is metabolized into a carcinogen in the GI tract and supresses B vitamins
    • Tobacco is directly related to increase risk of CRC

    Circumin (turmeric) benefits in the body are enormous. Lots of research being she and pharmaceutical companies have a vested interest in this root. Combine with black pepper for even more benefits. 

    7. Avoid obesity

    • Liver can be replaced with fat cells causing inflammation and eventually cirrhosis with liver failure. Fatty liver is an unwanted product of obesity and our lifestyle. 
    • Obesity predicts risk of complications during and after surgery 
    • Vegans have a much lower BMI than people who eat everything 
    • Hara hachi bu engrained in Okinawan culture which means stop eating when you are 70% full

    6. Eating more fiber reduces risk of constipation, diverticulitis and hemorrhoids

    • Lowers cholesterol and blood sugar
    • >3 million cases of hemorrhoids in the US. They are painful and cause misery.
    • One formed BM is a misconception. 
    • Diverticulitis are little poured in the colon. 200,000-3 million cases. Not found in less developed countries. Directly related to fiber in the diet. When diverticula burst it is an emergency and may result in a colostomy. 
    • People in the US need to be looking at fiber intake rather than protein. We all eat much more protein than we need. 

    5. Have more constant blood sugar to avoid type 2 diabetes 

    • All risk factors for type 2 diabetes except height are modifiable by dietary and lifestyle changes. 
    • Complications of diabetes: cardiovascular disease, decreased kidney function, neuropathy, infections

    4. Decrease cholesterol

    • Vegetarians have little to no reported cases of gall stones which are made primarily of cholesterol. 
    • Gall stones are preventable with WFPB diet

    3. Decrease degenerative disc disease and the need for joint replacement surgery

    • WFPB diet relieved the symptoms of osteoarthritis 
    • Nutrition and activity should be first line treatments for osteoarthritis not medications
    • Obesity, inactivity and otsteoarthritis are pro-inflammatory factors. 

    2. Have more radiant skin, feel your best and have more self esteem 

    • Nutrition is a causative factor in acne
    • Avoid plastic surgery by changing diet and activity 

    1.  Epigenetics – pass the health on to your progeny

    • What I eat today may affect my child and grandchildren 
    • ITC is chemical term for broccoli sprouts – epidemiological studies link a high intake of broccoli related vegetables with a lower incidence of cancer. Chemopreventive effects. 
    • EGCG is green tea and possesses antiproliferative, antimutagenic, antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral and chemopreventive effect
    • This is an up and coming area of study. If you want to know more check out Epigenetics Explained

    Dr. Van Dyken ended by stressing that it’s important to meet people where they are at. I couldn’t agree more.  The WFPB movement should lead by example and not impose judgment. I present this material as information to anyone who might be interested. I eat a WFPB diet, but it has taken me a long time to arrive at this lifestyle and as always I admit that I am a work in progress which is why I’m constantly seeking wisdom. I welcome questions and encourage curiosity.