Healthy Epicurean Q&A: WWB ICON Maria Benardis is back to Visit with a Greekalicious Newly Released Cookbook ‘My Greek Family Table’

May 5, 2017 by

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If you haven’t heard yet, the Mediterranean Diet is the only diet in the world with extensive scientific research behind it’s claims. What does it claim? It claims to help with weight loss, a decreased risk for heart disease, diabetes, depression, and dementia! In other words Western diseases and conditions. There is no one militant Mediterranean diet to follow like many trendy diets offer, simply because there are many eating patterns spread across many cultures living in the Mediterranean region of the world. This makes it the best flexitarian diet in the world too. One we can all get on board with because of it’s flexibility. But there is a key common foundation of the Mediterranean Diet. It is abundant in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and olive oil. It generally features fish and poultry—lean sources of protein—over red meat, which contains more saturated fat. Red wine is consumed regularly but in moderate amounts. And oh yeah, let’s not forget, they generally lead an active lifestyle, and I don’t mean Spinning classes at the Gym!

Today we focus on Greece and talk with Maria Benardis. She has published three cook books titled “My Greek Family Table” now released here in in USA/Canada this month and previously released in Australia in 2009 by Penguin Books which won the Gourmand World Cook Book Award 2009 – Best Mediterranean Cook Book in Australia and “Cooking and Eating Wisdom for Better Health’ published by Balboa Press.  She also has an ebook titled “A Greekalicious Feast”. Founder of Greekalicious she has offered cooking instructions and coaching at many venues both in Australia and the USA. These include the Intuitive Well in Sydney, Australia, The Brooklyn Kitchen, NYC, The Natural Gourmet Institute, NYC and Haven’s Kitchen, NYC. I am so honored to have her back, as some of you you might remember I named her WWB ICON in 2014.  A true World Wise Beauty dedicated to advancing wellness culture. Learn more about Maria and her beautiful journey to wellness through cooking below…

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Welcome Back Maria! I am so happy to feature another of your wonderful cookbooks! More than just a cookbook, this is really a personal memoir and tribute to your Greek heritage and family. Through your memories and stories we really get a sense of the Greek culture and how important food is to the people of Greece. You are truly a World Wise Beauty having lived on 3 continents. I bring this up because your book is  also a story of immigration. You shared so many touching parts of your childhood in the book. I can imagine through empathy what it was like for you as a child to suddenly have to move to another part of the world and all by yourself on a plane. I will let you tell our readers why you moved from Australia back to Greece as a young child.

Maria Benardis: When I was 3 ½ years old, my younger sister and I went to live on the island of Psara, Greece. My mother was very ill with cancer and my father sent us to live there with his mother, Katina. We didn’t know it at the time, but our mother succumbed to cancer shortly after we left. If I board a plane today and happen to see children traveling unaccompanied, my mind travels back to that first flight to Greece with my sister. Even though it was such a traumatic time, I can’t help but smile at the memory now.

Lauroly Q- What a heart-breaking experience Maria and so glad you can smile now for those two brave little girls on their journey. Despite the turmoil and displacement you were in some ways blessed to live with your Grandmother and had the opportunity to soak up the beautiful culture of Greece. I love how you created your own private sanctuary growing your own herbs and vegetables as a young girl. Tell us about your little Garden on the island of Psara, Greece…

Maria Benardis: I loved to go on walking expeditions around the island. One day, while on one of my regular walks, I stumbled across a small enclosed, deserted area, with just a few weeds growing. I decided that it was now going to be mine and that I would create my own magical fruit and vegetable garden. I decided not to tell anybody about it, especially my grandmother. To create my garden, I took some of the herbs and vegetables my grandmother grew and planted them there. I grew all sorts of things: small tomatoes, thyme, oregano, wild greens, zucchini, chamomile leaves, and native flowers. It was an extremely colorful and happy garden and it became my favorite place on the island—somewhere I could escape to, to dream and be free. I derived great joy from watching my plants grow.

Lauroly Q- Your upbringing is so foreign to many Americans who grew up with packaged meat, and processed food sources. Only those who lived on farms can relate and understand your experience. Yet this may be what’s missing today–a real connection to our food sources. While living with your grandmother you had chores every morning that included feeding the chickens, collecting the eggs, milking the goat, and picking the herbs and vegetables. Sounds so simple, yet it’s hard work! You ate mainly seafood and vegetables, which seems to be the mainstay of the Mediterranean diet. You referred to meat as a rare luxury in the book. Tell us more about this and how your Greek family viewed eating animal meat…

Maria Benardis: Animal meat was considered sacred and before any animal was sacrificed for our enjoyment our island priest would bless it. We ate meat on special occasions only such as Easter, Christmas, when someone got married on the island, birthdays etc. In Greek Orthodox culture, many people may not know that we have meatless Wednesday’s and Friday’s amongst other days in the religious calendar in any case. Additionally, we closely aligned our eating habits to those of our ancient Ancestors. As many would know in Ancient Greece many were vegetarians, vegans and fruitarians.

As outlined in my other book/eBook “Cooking & Eating Wisdom for Better Health.” “In ancient Greece many people avoided animal flesh altogether. They believed that by eating the flesh of animals that had been slaughtered they would be ingesting pain and that this was detrimental to ones health. Plutarch ( Greek biographer and essayist) tells us: ‘Man is by nature not a carnivorous animal’. ‘It is not natural to mankind to feed on flesh, we first of all demonstrate from the very shape and figure of the body. For the human body no way resembles those that were born for ravenousness’. ‘Shall we reckon a soul to be a small expense.’ ‘Animal food is injurious: it clogs and confuses the mind’ and the ‘mind weak and feeble’. It operates unfavourably on character’. ‘If we must eat flesh let it be with sorrow and pity; not tormenting and abusing the poor animal before taking its life. Animals have senses’.”“Who knows the bodies of animals may contain the souls of deceased men.”

Lauroly Q- Thank you for sharing great wisdom we all need to revisit. There are so many interesting stories like “The Grape Leaf Lady’ weaved throughout the book, but we can’t forget the wonderful delicious recipes! I think I mentioned in our last interview together that Greek food is one of my favorite cuisines. I was fortunate to visit Greece more than once, and I have wonderful memories of eating. I think it was the simplicity of the food that worked for me and the aromatic herbs and spices. I remember going to a Greek restaurant outside the city of Athens and there was no menu! They just brought out various dishes of food to the table, as if we were family. They mainly served fish and vegetable dishes and it was all so delicious! What herbs and spices are commonly used in Greek cooking? I love how you call them healing ingredients as many spices are. Food really can be medicine don’t you think?

Maria Benardis: There are many spices and herbs still used in Greek cookery that were used by my ancient Greek ancestors. I cover their medicinal properties observed by them and now at the back of my book and throughout “My Greek Family Table”. They include basil comes from the Greek basilius, meaning “king” or “royal.” the king of herbs and the crowning herb in Greek cuisine. The father of medicine, Hippocrates, regarded basil as beneficial to the heart and prescribed it for the treatment of constipation and for the prevention of vomiting. Other include mint, dill, cilantro, Bay Leaf, Marjoram, Oregano ( is derived from two Greek words: oros (mountain) and ganos (joy) (i.e, “joy of the mountain”)), parsley, Rosemary, and Thyme. Laura, you are absolutely right Food is Medicine and in the wise words of Hippocrates “Let Medicine be thy food and food thy medicine”. I was ill for many years with cysts that were going to turn into cancer and the doctors were not able to help me. I turned to food and mind medicine and healed myself.
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Photograph from ‘My Greek Family Table’ Book

 

Lauroly Q-My favorite part of the book ‘My Greek Family Table’ is where you talk about returning to Greece after living in Australia for a long time. It was on that trip you discovered your calling and true love of Greek food. Can you share a little bit of that story?

Maria Benardis: Yes, I have the whole story in my book. Briefly in August 2004 I went on a life-changing trip to Greece. It was my first visit back there since leaving Psara all those years before. While there, I visited Kalamata and many of the beautiful islands. However, it was on the island of Mykonos that my life changed forever, when I visited the small church of Saint Fanourios. It was there that my decision to pursue my passion for food was sealed and my destiny set on a new course. Saint Fanourios is a very small church on one of the main winding streets in Mykonos. Beautifully whitewashed, the church proudly hangs the Greek flag hangs proudly outside. It had an inviting look about it and I felt compelled to go in and light a candle. The church was adorned with beautiful icons painted with vibrant colors and finished off with gold and silver. In the corner there were many candles that had being lit that day by people who had passed by. I felt a peace in my soul that I had not experienced before, and the sweet fragrance of the holy basil heightened my sense of tranquility. Suddenly I experienced an epiphany and saw all that was about to happen in my life pass before me. I realized it was time for me to reinvent my life, and in that church I saw a new path set out for me to follow. I decided then and there that I was going to dedicate myself to bringing Greek food and culture to the rest of the world.

Lauroly Closing- Thank you so much for joining us Maria, I could ask you so many other questions, but I think your book is really special. Everyone needs to read your story while turning the beautifully photographed pages of your Greekalicious dishes and classic Greek tables. They will not only find delicious Greek recipes, but perhaps a fresh perspective on their own relationship with food. Thank you for sharing your inspiring story, and love of your Greek culture and heritage. Mission accomplished Maria! Greece will live on in you and now in us.

Maria Benardis Closing: Thank you for interviewing me and for your time. In closing I would like to end with some words I have in “My Greek Family Table” in the acknowledgments section. This book is for all the Greeks (and I believe we all have a bit of Greek within us all) over the world. You are all so fortunate to be part of a civilization that has contributed many things, such as democracy, philosophy, medicine, astronomy, mathematics, theater, arts, healing therapies, and most importantly of all gastronomy; forgotten by the world but now time to be remembered.

 

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WWB Ideal Finds: What’s in the Box? How to be Wise Selecting a Subscription Beauty Box & WWB’s Ideal Find…

May 2, 2017 by

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Beauty connoisseurs may already be familiar with subscription sample boxes but for  many of my wellness focused readers, it may be something new.  Simply described, sample subscription boxes are a great way to try new products. The beauty category is filled with options to subscribe to.  Since I am not your typical beauty blogger I thought I would share a quick excerpt from ConsumersAffairs here, and if you’re really interested you can review some of the beauty boxes that receive high ratings at their site. What I appreciate about the guide by Consumer Affairs is they do an excellent job educating you on how to select the right subscription box. Of course as I always encourage, the first question to ask is ‘What are my values and how does it effect my health, animals and the planet?”.  I highlighted the criteria I would consider first in green below. It is a lot to think about but why not aim for an A+ Life! One of my WWB icons wrote a book called ‘Little Changes’ and it’s an excellent book that will help you become savvy about personal care products, home cleaning products and ingredients.

What I’m passionate about at World Wise Beauty is focusing on wellness culture–wellness for us as individuals and wellness for the beautiful planet we live on. Below are the savvy tips from Consumer Affairs, and just beneath that is my ‘Ideal Find’ for the subscription sample box category. My choice is focused on conscious beauty and personal wellness which satisfies my values criteria. I hope you get to know this company, as they are well established, and very committed to curating the best in green and conscious beauty. What I also like is they are seasonal and you won’t be overwhelmed every month with product. After reading the savvy tips, scroll down for WWB’s Ideal Find!

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WHAT FEATURES MATTER MOST?

Excerpt from Consumer Affairs

Price

When ordering a beauty box subscription, consider the total cost of each box. Perhaps start with a subscription without a long-term commitment to see if you find the box to be a good value.

  • Per box: Most subscription boxes are available on a month-by-month basis with no commitment. However, subscriptions are typically billed and shipped automatically until you cancel them.
  • Annual savings: Some companies offer a discount if subscribers commit to a multi-month subscription with the largest savings available to those who sign up and prepay for a year’s worth of boxes.
  • Promos: Some companies offer discounts for new customers. Search for a promo code before making your purchase.
  • Shipping: Make sure the shipping is included in the subscription fee, or factor the shipping fee into the total cost of the box.

Samples

Although most companies do not reveal what products will be included in future boxes, their websites should give you a sense of the types and number of products you can expect. Look at their previous boxes to see if they usually include products you’d like to try.

  • Size: Beauty boxes may include trial-size or full-size products. Unless the website specifically states that all products in their boxes are full size, assume that the majority will be in trial sizes.
  • Quantity: Consider how many products come in each box. Check to see if the website lists the number of samples or the minimum manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of the items included. A box with a minimum total MSRP might offer more consistent value.
  • Brands: Look at the beauty box websites to see if partner brands are listed, so you’ll know whether you’ll likely get prestige or drugstore brands. If a box includes both, you can also look at past boxes to see the ratio of prestige to drugstore brands.

Gifts

Beauty boxes and beauty box subscriptions make excellent gifts for makeup lovers, selective consumers and discerning loved ones. Most companies make it easy to send their product as a gift.

  • Subscriptions: Some companies allow you to set up the subscription so the recipient’s first box simply arrives in the mail.
  • Gift cards: Some companies offer gift cards. Once the recipient has received the card, she or he can order the box online.

Product ingredients

If you have sensitive skin or have ethical concerns about the beauty products you purchase, determine whether the ingredients in the products included in each box will meet your needs and standards.

  • Cruelty-free: If you avoid products that have been tested on animals or that contain any animal by-products, look for boxes that include only cruelty-free products.
  • Natural: Those with sensitive skin or who worry about chemicals in their beauty products and cosmetics should look for boxes with hypoallergenic or organic products.
  • Labeled: Regardless of your preferences about ingredients, make sure you will be able to view a full ingredient list for every item in each box. Products should be labeled clearly in case you have questions or concerns.

Tutorials

Because beauty boxes are designed to help you discover new products and brands, look for ones with tutorials so you can learn how to use all the items in the box.

  • In box: Most boxes contain written instructions and photos in each subscription box.
  • Online: Some companies offer video tutorials online, so you can watch a professional use the product.
  • In store: Companies that also have retail locations may offer free in-store tutorials.

Customization

Because your skin is unique, you want to know the products you receive will work for you. Look at whether a company customizes its subscription boxes to match consumers’ tastes and needs.

  • No customization: Some boxes are not customized based on your preferences. These boxes typically include products that work for a wide number of people and a variety of skin types.
  • Limited customization: The majority of boxes are somewhat customized for different consumers. For these boxes, you usually need to fill out a profile detailing your skin needs, beauty concerns and preferences. Boxes may be customized further after you begin to review products included in your boxes.
  • Full customization: A few companies allow customers to choose all of the products included in their box. These usually include fewer samples and may be more expensive.

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The World Wise Beauty ‘IDEAL FIND’ for the beauty and personal care subscription box category is ‘Yuzen’.  They also have a very price-conscious gift box you can send to loved ones on Mother’s Day! Click the image to discover what their box offers. Here is the selection criteria straight from the founders of Yuzen…

What are our criteria for inclusion?
“We always look to quality, mission, and integrity before we put it to our Yuzen test. We evaluate its performance, experience the benefits first hand, and then we share our favorites.  The selected companies are the highest of quality, transparent in mission, and beautiful.”

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WWB Wise Guru Q&A Series: Newly Released Book ‘The Nature Fix’ Presents Cutting Edge Science on How Nature Affects our Health & Well-Being from a World Wise Perspective…

Mar 15, 2017 by

NatureFix_2 with frame.jpgWWB Wise Guru: Florence Williams is an American journalist and nonfiction author whose work focuses on the environment, health and science. She is a contributing editor at Outside magazine and a freelance writer for National Geographic, the New York Times, New York Times Magazine, The New York Review of Books, Slate, Mother Jones, High Country News, O-Oprah, W., Bicycling and numerous other publications.

Her first book, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History, received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in science and technology and the 2013 Audie in general nonfiction. The New York Times named it a notable book of 2012.

She was a Scripps Fellow at the Center of Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado. She is a fellow at the Center for Humans and Nature and a visiting scholar at George Washington University. She serves on the board of nonprofit environmental magazine, High Country News.

WWB Featured Book: ‘The Nature Fix, Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier and More Creative’ explores the science behind our connection to nature and proposes that for optimal well-being, regular doses of nature are not only recommended but required.

 

Lauroly Opening- I am so honored and pleased Florence Williams could join me for a Q&A. Her book is a favorite of mine, and so glad she wrote it. Perhaps it’s a favorite because it speaks to me on a very personal level. Nature has always been my fix, without a doubt. Having said this, I never classified myself as ‘Nature Girl’. I didn’t camp as a kid and I didn’t hike until my 20’s. But being outside and playing in nature was always a big part of my life experience. I can thank my Dad for that. I have this in common with the author! I only saw him on weekends growing up, and every weekend, weather permitted, we were either horseback riding in the woods, walking in the woods, or rowing a boat on a lake next to the woods. Those early experiences and the need to be outdoors has never left me. I like the term Florence used in the book, “drinking the tonic of nature.”I wrote a piece for this very blog on Nature Therapy in 2015 and briefly discussed ‘Forest Bathing’ in Japan which she covers quite extensively in the book. Later in my life, traveling for business, I would always make a point to find a Public Garden no matter where I was, so I could reconnect with nature and myself. Reading ‘The Nature Fix’ confirmed what I have had always felt intuitively about nature…I’m a part of it and it’s a part of me.

Besides my personal connection to the topic of your book, I found it to be the perfect non-fiction book. It is well researched, highly informative and very entertaining as well. I love how she takes us through the research via her own personal travel. Her travel takes us to Japan, Korea, Singapore, Finland, Sweden, Scotland, and we learn a lot about their cultures and wellness philosophies. Florence packed so much into this book, I found myself really challenged about where to start. I remind myself that I do these Q&A’s to recommend books and motivate people to go and read the books. I hope to touch on some of the many important findings in this book…

 

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Lauroly Q- Welcome Florence Williams! So if everyone hasn’t heard yet, nature is good for civilization!  What you set out to do is to find the science to support why nature is so important to our humanity and our everyday well-being. To do that we need to understand our senses and how much of how we function is synced with nature.  It seems to me that when we are out in nature we are fully alive, because many of our senses are engaged in our experience. This explains to me personally why I am generally happier when I am outside. There is an enlightening chapter where you focus on a man in Sweden who experienced a personal tragedy and later came to understand how important nature therapy is to patients with depression. Yet like everything else with humans, the dose of nature varies from human to human.  What do we know so far about nature as therapy? Tell us more…

 

 

 

flopromoBarrOutdoorFlorence Williams: Yes, Lauroly, you are exactly right that it does seem to be the full-sensory experience that awakens our sense of well-being, and that there are many studies that support this idea. But the science is still young, and many of the studies are very small. It’s actually quite difficult for scientists to tease apart exactly which elements of nature are most helpful or which senses are most engaged. I was struck by the studies in Japan, led by Japanese anthropologist Yoshifumi Miyazaki, that measured physiological changes to the nervous system after just 20 minutes of being in the woods. These studies showed a 20-minute stroll on a forest trail can reduce your blood pressure an average 11 percent and lower your cortisol hormones (a measure of stress) by six percent. Perhaps because of the practice of forest bathing in Japan, people there are attuned to using all their senses in the woods – so they’re really paying attention to what they’re smelling and feeling and hearing and seeing. It seems that shortcut to mindfulness really helps us feel calmer and relaxed more quickly when we’re out in nature.
 

Lauroly Q– Glad you started with Japan. We can’t discuss your book without talking about ‘ Shinren Yoku (Forest Bathing)’. What is it about the Japanese culture, that has them embracing Forest Bathing so fervently that it has become part of their national healthcare policy? When you asked Miyazaki why nature is so important to their culture, he had this to say, “In our culture, nature is part of our minds and bodies and philosophy. In our tradition, all things are relative to something else.” Loved his answer. But it is amazing how the Japanese ended up being so far removed from the very thing that defined them isn’t it?

Florence Williams: Japan industrialized very quickly. The cities grew fast and there was intense economic competition for good jobs, good schooling and feeding the corporate culture. People are stressed out there, and they work and study incredibly long hours, effectively removing them from a lot of time in the countryside. But it would be mistake to say that modern life has disconnected them from nature. The Japanese still internalize a close connection to plants, for example, in their practices of bonsai and flower arranging, in their tiny gardens and through their lens of wabi sabi, which celebrates the seasons and simple nature. I think in many ways the Japanese definition of nature is more generous that the western one, which looks at spaces like parks and wilderness areas, rather than integrating elements of the natural world into everyday life and homes. That said, the Japanese do seem to relish getting outside when they can. As a result of Miyazaki’s data, the country has designated 48 “forest therapy” trails where overworked, urban citizens are now urged to go unwind, and it looks like more trails are being created.

Lauroly Q- One of the things I was wondering about while reading about your research in Finland, is related to Vitamin D (sun) and the deprivation they experience in winter. Have any researchers looked at how tree therapy might counteract the negative effects of not having enough sun? This is a good time to tell us about why Cypress Trees seem to have such a positive effect on our senses. As you put it, in the book “we enjoy a neural bath of happy hormones”! Below is a quick video you created to illustrate the beneficial effects of nature…

 

Florence Williams: Trees are certainly magical and wonderful, and hit a lot of our happy buttons, from providing rich visuals, especially fractal patterns (known to promote alpha brainwaves) to creating habitat for birds that in turn relax us with their birdsong. The smell piece is fascinating, as tree aerosols from cypress trees in Japan were found to lower blood pressure and increase Killer T immune cells in humans. That said, even in Finland and even in winter, being outside provides more brightness and full-spectrum light than being inside, and so the light aspect is still important. Full spectrum light is linked to wellbeing, and vitamin D is linked to all sorts of good things, from shaping our retinas to strengthening our bones. The lumens outside is generally 10 times greater than the lumens inside, except of course at night. Even the darkness, though, can help reset our circadian rhythms so we sleep better.

Lauroly Q- As a psychology major I found a lot of the research on education, and brain disorders like ADHD fascinating with respect to nature. Besides the specific special needs of children on the spectrum, your book explores the idea that children in general really need nature and play. I loved the section on Friedrich Frobel and his research. He focused on cultivating curiosity and freedom in childhood. Tell us how ‘kindergarten’ was originally conceptualized, and how nature was at the center of child education…

Florence Williams: Friedrich Froebel, who was born in Germany in 1782, was an educator heavily influenced by Rousseau, who said, “Everything is good as it comes from the hands of the Author of Nature.” Rousseau and Froebel both made a case for allowing young children to explore and learn based on their own curiosity. Froebel believed that an education filled with nature and art could instill a lifelong readiness to learn and also develop empathy and a love for living things. He really invented kindergarten, and it was nature-based from the beginning. Unfortunately, many cultures now consider kindergarten the new first-grade, and are taking children inside to sit at desks and learn their academics. We are not devoting enough time to considering what has been lost in this new model.

Lauroly Closing: I hope we don’t lose that model. Cultures change, but we don’t have to lose the wisdom that has already been acquired, especially when it comes to child development. Thank you Florence for joining me at World Wise Beauty, to discuss your important and wonderful book. I am going to make it my personal duty to share this book with everyone! I know they will love it and your research will resonate for them. I believe we are realizing nature is not a luxury but an absolute essential to our personal wellness, our humanity and our culture. See you out there Florence!

Florence Williams Closing: Thanks so much for your interest, Lauroly. It was so much fun reporting and writing this book, and it’s certainly made me spend more time outside. I will hope it will influence others as well.

 

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WWB WISE GURU SERIES: Q&A with Dr. Rachel Carlton Abrams–Author of New Book ‘BodyWise’ Discovering Your Body’s Intelligence for Lifelong Health & Healing

Jan 3, 2017 by

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WWB Wellness Wisdom Book Selection: BodyWise

Wise Guru & Author: Rachel Carlton Abrams, MD

Author Profile: Rachel Carlton Abrams graduated PHI BETA KAPPA from Stanford University and received her MD from UC San Francisco. She also has a Master’s Degree in Holistic Health from UC Berkley, and is Board Certified in Family Medicine and Integrative Medicine.

In 2008 she opened the award-winning Santa Cruz Integrative Medicine Clinic. Dr. Abrams treats many of the world’s most influential people, from CEOs to billionaire entrepreneurs to Nobel Peace laureates. She has been voted “Best Doctor” in Santa Cruz County every year, from 2009–2016.

 

 

 

 

Lauroly Opening: I will admit I am generally excited to introduce experts and authors here at World Wise Beauty, but this book in particular really resonates with me big time! I think my readers can guess why, by looking at the title of the book ‘BodyWise’ Discovering Your Body’s Intelligence for Lifelong Health and Healing. Anyone that follows World Wise Beauty or even WWB’s Facebook page knows my mission is to encourage inner-wisdom and wellness. Most importantly, I am always reinforcing the idea of being your own guru. This doesn’t mean to reject knowledge or expertise, but to recognize that your own bio-individuality is truly unique. What is good for someone else may not be good for you. Knowing and understanding yourself (mind, body and spirit) is key to a life of fulfillment, happiness and wellness. This featured book shows you how to truly live with yourself in harmony. When you read more about her work below, you will understand why I have selected Dr. Rachel Carlton Abrams as the 2017 WWB Icon. It was an easy selection because she truly represents a World Wise Beauty who is comfortable in her own skin, and she educates all women to do the same.

 

Dr. Rachel Carlton Abrams

Dr. Rachel Carlton Abrams

 

Integrative and holistic health practitioners offer alternative options to treat conditions and disease differently than main-stream doctors, but my role is not to recommend one over the other. I only seek to encourage people to explore and discover what works best for them. I happen to prefer integrative doctors and DO’s personally because I believe in addressing the underlying cause of dis-ease. I also believe in the resounding message of this featured book. ‘Know thyself’.

We can all be ‘Body Wise’ and we all know our own bodies better than anyone, if we only take time to listen to it. I have a unique personal story that makes me particularly passionate about this subject of this book. I grew up with two sick parents, and this life experience really challenged me to look within. My mother through living with her own auto-immune disease experience taught me to listen to myself and body. As a young teen I didn’t always listen, but her constant reminders eventually clicked, and I learned to develop a healthy relationship with myself and my body. I hope everyone reading this buys Dr. Abrams book and no matter where you are in your wellness journey, you become comfortable in your own skin and BodyWise…

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Lauroly Welcome: Thank you so much for joining me Dr. Abrams! I am honored to chat with you and so excited to share some of the ideas in your new book ‘BodyWise’! As said, I am particularly excited about sharing your book with others and especially women, because we generally have so much extra stress added to our lives in the roles of mother and caretaker. To compound this, we now have full time careers in addition to our roles in family, as you share in your own personal story. I think a good place to start is to help us understand the overall trajectory of body wisdom. I love how what you said in the book, “think of it as gathering information about our well-being from the outside in.” I always talk about inside out wellness, but when we live complicated lives, we have to start with what is going on right now in our lives and work our way back in. Tell us more about the four levels of body intelligence. This is a blog so we can only touch on ideas, but I am positive almost everyone will be rushing to read your book for the full comprehensive read.

 

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Dr. Rachel Carlton Abrams

 

Dr. Rachel Carlton Abrams: Thanks so much for inviting me, Lauroly! And for your excitement about the book—I so appreciate it! In response to your question, I think that the most powerful diagnostic tool I have in the treatment room is my patient’s own body intelligence. I often say that we will order tests, but that the best test I have is your insight about your own body—what you feel and why, when you are likely to feel that way, what makes your symptoms better or worse. Listening to what you knows about your experience is the key to unlocking the puzzle that causes you pain or suffering. When my patients pay attention to this natural intuition, the results can be quite extraordinary. No expert lives in you, other than YOU! Which is why it is so vital to learn to speak the language of your body, and begin to follow the guidance that you receive from within, in regard to diet, diagnosis, treatment and even selection of health care providers or even friends.

In BodyWise, I teach women (though this process is completely applicable to men!) to begin to listen to the signals that their bodies are giving them. This happens in four steps.

MEASURE: Gather measured observations of health (such as blood pressure, weight or labs)

SENSE: Attend to body sensations (become aware of what you sense inside)

FEEL: Note feelings or intuitions about your body (what feelings might those sensations be connected to?)

DISCERN: Look for patterns of experience that are trying to tell you something, including those influenced by the unconscious mind (dreams, visions, symbols) 
 I think of these four steps as learning the language of the body. Sensing is the basic vocabulary, feeling is metaphoric expression, and discerning involves telling the story of the experience.

Lauroly Q- Your four steps are so important, because when we pay attention to all parts of ourselves, we begin to see the interdependency of mind, body and spirit. This is not only a very insightful and wise book, it is also very practical and grounded. I love all the charts and mini-test you offer throughout the book. I also appreciate everything you explore is approached with medical expertise, and the humble recognition that every patient is different. You demonstrate this, by acknowledging both natural and pharma supplements have their own dangers and each individual responds to different substances differently. You share stories about how many patients walk through your door who are on several drugs and supplements and have no idea how they interact with each other is incredible. What is one wise takeaway you can share about taking natural or pharma drugs and supplements? Is one truly better than the other, and what should we explore before taking anything?

 

Dr. Rachel Carlton Abrams: Great question. 🙂 It is always my preference as an integrative physician that my patients feel well putting as few pills or concoctions into their mouths (other than food!) as possible. This said, there is much to fear about pharmaceutical medications which are, catch this, the third leading cause of death in the United States. No joke. And, as a physician, I still love medication when we truly need it. We just need to optimize self-healing and minimize medications for optimal health. Many supplements and herbs can be safer than medications, but not all! Which is why I think it is important to listen to your body and either be very well informed or have trustworthy guidance about what to take. And is it possible to take too many supplements? Absolutely.
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Dr. Rachel Carlton Abrams

 

Lauroly Q- There is a really interesting story in your book about intuitive body wisdom and how one women had a dream that was really guiding her about her illness. I don’t want to give away the story, as I think it is worth reading in the book. You really do a wonderful job of covering the sensitive subject of how much we are responsible for when it comes to our own health. Immediately people think “Oh you are going to blame me for my illness? I made this happen to myself?”

I always think our bodies often are trying to communicate something we are struggling with. When I was taking care of my dying mother, I literally came down with a frozen shoulder. I felt like I had the world on my shoulders and my shoulder just stopped working! Of course there were other external factors, but I got the message! I knew I was struggling. Just going to Physical Therapy was remedy for me. I had to stop and think of myself if only for that time in treatment. I passed on the pain drugs and committed time to Physical Therapy. I healed and magically the pain is gone. My body forced me to face my feeling of overwhelm. My body (and in this case my spirit) has cried out before in my life and because of my Mom’s early influence, I usually can connect life’s circumstances with my body ailments. Tell us more about the fine distinctions of this very sensitive subject. How does our mind, body and spirit work in tandem?

 

Dr. Rachel Carlton Abrams: After decades in clinical practice, I do believe that the body can speak to us metaphorically and manifest physical illness, discomfort, and pain. Your ‘frozen shoulder’ is a perfect example of this. I also firmly believe that not all illness or pain has emotional or psychological roots. It is true that how we think and feel, our responsiveness to our bodies’ clues, and the behaviors that we choose absolutely affect our health. And ignoring the obvious cues from your body that something is wrong can manifest in more serious illness. But it is not true that we are personally responsible for the illnesses that we have.

What I mean is, some- times “shit happens.” This was my not-so-eloquent response at a public talk to a very spiritual, healthy young woman who was diagnosed with leukemia. The panel I was sitting on included experts on the mind-body connection and its impact on illness. The young woman at this talk was very upset by the implication that if you are ill, it’s your fault, and she wanted to know if we believed that she had caused her own cancer by her thoughts or behaviors. This is a subtle distinction, but the fact that we can influence pain and illness with our thoughts and behaviors does not mean that we cause all of our pain and illness. My vegan meditation and yoga teacher patient got cancer last year. Sometimes, shit happens. Blaming illness on the person suffering (especially if that person is you) is never helpful. If someone, including you, wants to make meaning of the illness—I need to take more time to rest or be with those that I love or eat more healthfully—that is perfectly legitimate. That is not the same as “I caused my illness by not doing those things.” We should listen to our bodies and discern the meaning of pain and illness. We must not get bogged down in the cycle of self-blame or shame about having the illness.

 

Lauroly Q- Thanks so much for addressing that sensitive subject Dr. Abrams. Another great line in your book is “Everything you put into your mouth has complex biochemical messages for the body.” This is a pretty intense idea, but falls in line with ‘You are what you eat’. It must be such a hard idea to get across to patients. Food is such a complicated topic for us humans. Our family and culture shape our eating habits and we are all so different. Science is already confirming that a plant-based diet is generally better for everyone, yet many experts will tell you protein is necessary and each person has different nutritional needs. It gets confusing. Unpack this just a little bit for us…

Dr. Rachel Carlton Abrams: No matter who you talk to in the health and wellness field, they will agree that more fruits and vegetables (and the more brightly colored the better), are good for you. And no one would argue that you need a healthy source of protein. I would argue that it is ideal if that source is organic (if plant sourced, such as nuts and beans) and also “grass-fed” or “free-range” if animal sourced (eggs, cheese, milk, yogurt and meat). I do think that most vegetable sources of protein are good for most of us. And some of us do better with more animal derived protein. Those are individual decisions to be made based on your personal experience, your body intelligence, and your values. And I really don’t think anyone would argue that you should avoid fast food and fried food, and limit refined grains (white flour and white rice). Many people feel well eating whole grains, which are rich in nutrition. And some people react to gluten or other grains—again, it’s a place to use your body intelligence to see what works best for you.

 

Lauroly Q- The burgeoning trend of yoga and meditation has connected mind, body and spirit and has put the practices at the center of wellness. You state in the book, that from a health point of view, the particularities of meditation and spirituality don’t matter. This is another fine example of how you recognize our diversity and difference while also finding the common. Ultimately finding time for silence and reflection is a healthy ritual, and we all have our own practices. What matters is how these rituals help our individual health and well-being. Why are things like prayer or meditation so important to our overall health? What is happening in our bodies when we do? I always feel nature is my church and I can feel the positive changes in my body when I take time to be quiet in nature.

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Dr. Rachel Carlton Abrams

Dr. Rachel Carlton Abrams: You are very much in line with the latest research, which shows abundant health advantages from being exposed to nature, from lower stress and cortisol levels to lower blood pressure to less anxiety and depression. I think that the purpose of meditation, prayer or simple reflection is to reduce stress and cortisol levels, in a world that is far more stimulating than our bodies are built for. Manifold studies show the impact of meditation and prayer on reduced cortisol levels, reduced depression and anxiety, reduced risk of heart attack and stroke, etc. And these simple moments of reflection allow us to gain perspective on our lives. To extend the beneficial effect of slowing down to contemplate, to the rest of our life, as we take the insights gained and apply them—honking less at other drivers, yelling less at the kids, berating ourselves less.

 Lauroly Closing: Thanks so much again Dr. Abrams for writing this much needed book, and for joining me for this Q&A.  ‘BodyWise‘ is a ‘wellness bible’ and one I would recommend for everyone’s wellness library. I’ve only touched on a few topics covered in your book. It is truly comprehensive, and you show us just how ‘doable’ living healthy can be, when we tap into our body intelligence. Once we start listening to the wisdom of our bodies, we can begin to take care of our mind, body and spirit holistically. While all of us have different lifestyles and challenges, we all retain the gift of being able to tap into our inner-wisdom. How lucky we humans are!

Dr. Rachel Carlton Abrams Closing: Thank you so much for this opportunity Lauroly, and blessings to all of you reading this!

 

 

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WWB WATCH: ‘Healthy’ Food in a Package? The FDA Wants Labels to Catch Up With the Real Science…

Oct 3, 2016 by

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Last year, the Food and Drug Administration told the maker of Kind bars that some of its nut-filled snacks couldn’t be labeled as “healthy.” Now the agency is rethinking what healthy means, amid evolving science on fat and sugar. Ryan Kellman/NPR

 

WWB WATCH: HEALTH FOODS & LABELS

 

Better late than never right? Nobody wants to be Debbie Downer, but I share this information because I have been a human guinea pig just like you at different times in my life. When I first became a vegetarian over 25 years ago, I experimented with all kinds of foods found in the health food store. There was no Whole Foods yet, and your local health food store was a mini-version of Whole Foods. One of the uninformed mistakes I made, but learned from pretty quickly, was embracing fruit juices and granola snack bars and believing they were healthy. I quickly discovered that many products in the health food store have ingredients that were just as worrisome ( example cane sugar vs high-fructose syrup) as other processed foods in regular supermarkets. High amounts of sugar is a problem, no matter what label is on the product and no matter what store you find it in. As I am not a nutritionist or doctor, I won’t get into it in detail here. I interview many experts in wellness, so you are sure to learn from them if you follow my blog.

Below is the excerpt from NPR, and I’m happy to see they have quoted one of WWB’s respected experts Marion Nestle. See my Q&A with her here, and follow Marion at Food Politics.

The key takeaway today is, ultimately it’s really hard to eat healthy when you are consuming packaged, processed food. I know this is pretty frustrating, because our ‘culture’ runs on fast-food living and we are constantly looking for ‘fuel’ on the go. So to be realistic, if you are going to eat a snack bar because you are starving and have to eat something, then go for it. But just know that it is not necessarily a ‘healthy’ choice. Real fruit like apples, and real nuts, can hold you over much better and also can prevent a host of diseases and chronic illnesses. Even eating a small piece of 70% dark chocolate is a better choice than some processed snacks. I bet that little tidbit lifted your spirits! Just don’t eat an entire bar in one sitting okay!

If the snack bar is your only option, then eat it, but it really shouldn’t be considered a healthy meal replacement. I’m not here to pick on snack bars. I only want to bring to light some commonsense knowledge about the food you are eating. Processed food of any kind has two big challenges. First challenge is to make it tasty to eat. How do they do that? Usually with either generous amounts of salt and sugar or ‘like’ substances. The second challenge is keeping it fresh, which involves additives and preservatives your body doesn’t necessarily need or digest well.  Again, sometimes you have to do what you have to do, but for your own health,  packaged and processed food shouldn’t be a regular part of your diet. Research from around the world has proven this and our country is just catching up with the latest research. The following story from NPR on the FDA’s updates is a good piece on why packaged foods need to update or remove their claims. As a consumer, I understand the culture I am living in. Just sell me things for what they are. Convenient yes. Treat maybe. Health Food? Not so much!

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Excerpt NPR’s The Salt

FDA Is Redefining The Term ‘Healthy’ On Food Labels

So, you’re looking for a quick grab-and-go snack, and there’s a row of energy bars at the checkout counter. Are they a healthy option?

The maker of Kind bars thinks so. The company has used the phrase “healthy and tasty” on some of its products that contain lots of nuts. But, here’s the issue: The bars contained too much fat to meet the Food and Drug Administration’s strict low-fat definition of healthy. So, as we reported last May, the company helped launch a petition to challenge the status quo.

Now the FDA has begun the process of redefining the term “healthy” on food labels. Policymakers are looking for input from food makers, health experts and the public. You can weigh in with your ideas about what factors and criteria should be used for the new definition. (Submit electronic comments directly to the FDA).

“As our understanding about nutrition has evolved, we need to make sure the definition for the ‘healthy’ labeling claim stays up to date,” writes Douglas Balentine, who directs the Office of Nutrition and Food Labeling at the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

So, how has nutrition science — and the thinking about what’s healthful — evolved?

Let’s start with fat. The fat-free era has come and gone. “The most recent public health recommendations now focus on type of fat, rather than amount of fat,” Balentine writes in a blog post for the FDA.

For instance, the type of fats found in avocados and nuts are considered healthful fats. We’re encouraged to eat more plant-based fats and omega-3s from fatty fish, whereas the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting saturated fats — the type of fat found in meat and other animal products — to less than 10 percent of your total daily calorie intake.

The modernized definition of “healthy” will also likely address sugar content. The FDA is taking into account all of the newer evidence linking excessive sugar intake to heart disease and obesity.

“Our thinking about sugars has changed,” Balentine told us, “so I would think the amount of sugar in products is something we [will] take into account.”

In an ideal world, people wouldn’t need labels to signal which food choices are healthful. As nutrition guru Marion Nestle of New York University, tells us, “if people want to eat healthfully, we know how to do that. That’s eating lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.” And she says we should eat packaged and processed foods in much smaller amounts.

“I don’t think we should have health claims [on food packages] at all,” Nestle tells us. “They’re inherently misleading,” because food companies use them as a marketing tool.

But the FDA’s Douglas Balentine pushes back, pointing out that Americans are looking for information on food packages to help them make better decisions.

“The typical consumer makes a purchase decision in three to five seconds. They don’t have a lot of time,” Balentine says. So, he says, an up-to-date “healthy” label will give people a quick way to identify better-for-you options. “We want to give consumers the best tools and information about the foods they choose.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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