WWB’s ‘Book Wise’ Fall 2017 Surprise: Two Inspiring Books Explore Cultural Ideals and Values for a Life of Happiness & Wellness. Special Q&A with Two International Bestselling Authors…

Nov 2, 2017 by

WWB BOOK WISE FALL 17 (2)

Book Wise Category: Non-Fiction/Wellness Wisdom & Inspiration

 

 

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Author Profile: LOLA A. Akerstrom, Author of ‘LAGOM’, The Swedish Secret of Living Well

Having lived on three different continents — Africa, North America, and now Europe — for extended periods of time, Lola (Akinmade) Åkerström is drawn to the complexities and nuances of culture and how they manifest themselves within relationships.

She holds a master’s degree in Information Systems from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Lola worked as a consultant and programmer for over a decade before following her dreams of becoming a travel writer and photographer, exploring various cultures through food, tradition, and lifestyle.

Today, she’s an award-winning writer, speaker, and photographer represented by National Geographic Creative. She regularly contributes to high profile publications such as AFAR, the BBC, The Guardian, Lonely Planet, Travel + Leisure and National Geographic Traveller, to name a few –
She has received photography and writing awards, including recognition from the Society of American Travel Writers and North American Travel Journalists Association. In addition, Lola is the editor of Slow Travel Stockholm, an online magazine dedicated to exploring Sweden’s capital city in depth.

Author Insight: “For me travel is about being an open minded sponge.”

 

HGAuthor Profile

Héctor García  author of ‘Ikigai’ the Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, is a citizen of Japan, where he has lived for over a decade, and of Spain, where he was born. A former software engineer, he worked at CERN in Switzerland before moving to Japan, where he developed voice recognition software and the technology needed for Silicon Valley startups to enter the Japanese market. He is the creator of the popular blog kirainet.com and also the author of A Geek in Japan, a #1 bestseller in Japan.

Author Insight: “I enjoy more creating things than consuming them, I’m a dreamer.”

 

 

Laura Connolly, Founder of WWB Opening (aka Lauroly)- It is only when we read books like yours, that we realize how important ‘ideals, values and rituals’ are to a happy society, when they are baked into the culture. Culture is a way of life and a collective mindset. What I enjoyed about both your books, is you manage to distill the little rituals and habits that any person in any culture can adopt. We hope so anyway! The challenge for a big melting pot like the United States, is we have so many cultures within one country, and the only common one we all seem to relate to is our love for success and independence. Starting from this premise, how does a country like the USA adopt ‘wellness mindsets’ like yours when our philosophical pillars are so different? ‘Independence’ as a way of life is very different from an ‘interdependent’ socially connected way of life. How will your prescriptions for happiness and wellness translate to a place like the United States?

Lola: You can tell a lot by a culture based on how it handles stress. I often say that some cultures prioritize fighting stress first so they can be productive while some other cultures try to be productive while working through stress. Sweden (and many Scandinavian countries) fall in the former category while the US falls in the latter category. And what are the sources of stress in our lives? Getting adequate food, shelter, money, healthcare, education, etc, as well as other physiological needs. What happens is, cultural mindsets that prioritize fighting stress first will put structures in place to create as much harmony, order, fair access and organization as possible first, while cultures that fight through stress can create more ingenuity and competitiveness to deal with stress. Both mindsets have their pros and cons. However, Sweden (and other Scandinavian countries) have been consistently ranking in the Top 10 for high quality of life, overall happiness, work-life balance, and other social indices for decades. So there is something we can clearly learn and adopt on some level from their cultural mindsets. This is why it was important for me to tackle the “why” of the lagom mindset on a deeper level in my book, not just “what” a lagom mindset superficially does (i.e., fika recipes, eat cinnamon buns, declutter, etc). A lagom mindset is all about balance and anything that tips that scale heavily to one side or the other (not too much, not too little) can be considered a form of stress so the mindset continually re-calibrates itself (just right) by trimming excess and unnecessary things – be they physical, relationships, or tasks.

Hector: I like to thing in terms of individualism(independence) vs collectivistic mindset. As you say U.S culture is very individualistic and that leads everyone to be always in a mindset of continuous competitiveness. Japan is a very collectivist society, there is competition but at group levels. If you try to be individualistic here and stand upon the group you will most probably fail here. You have to be much more careful and mindful about others by default just by being here embedded in the culture. So, how do you implement a wellness mindset in a place like the United States? I believe it all starts with having an awareness of things. It seems easy but is not. One way to gain awareness is by asking ourselves WHY are we doing certain things. Many times we will realize that we are just doing things to show off or to gain the approval of others (for example checking smartphone first time in the morning is a reaction of wanting to know if we have the approval of others on Facebook, Instagram etc.). Once we have the awareness that we are being driven by a very “independent” mindset the next step is to start finding what we really want to do in life, our IKIGAI. This is also not easy, but one of the first steps is to start by eliminating bad habits from your life. A simple one is to not check your smartphone during the first 2 hours of the day. When you start eliminating bad habits, you will naturally tend to start doing more of the things that you really like and love. Your life will start shifting naturally to your IKIGAI--your reason for living.

Lauroly Q- One of the things I found when reading your books, is both cultures value ‘simplicity’ and ‘nature’. It seems in your cultures, you do not separate the home from nature. In other words, your ‘interdependent’ mentality extends to nature as well. Share with us, how this leads to happiness in the home and the community in your culture…

Lola: Indeed. The Swedish love for nature is rather intrinsic and has been cultivated since youth (as early as kindergarten). Kids are bundled up under layers of clothes and left to play for hours outside regardless of weather (barring full blizzards). Many schools follow an active outdoor program. Babies sleep in strollers outdoors. There are several government policies in place (including Allemansrätten – every man’s right) that allows you to fully enjoy nature, camp. pick berries/mushrooms and use any public land as freely as possible. So Swedes see nature as their home and are proactive in terms of cleaning and taking care of it, just like our physical homes.

Hector: Simplicity is key in Japan. When I arrived here with my European mindset I found Japanese shinto shrines so simple that I was not impressed at all (I was used to European cathedrals and churches). But with time I came to appreciate more and more the beauty of Japanese shinto shrines precisely because of how simple they are. I learned that simple does not mean easy. We humans tend to get attached to all kinds of objects or possessions. Training our minds and souls to be happy with as less as possible is not easy, but once done we will feel freedom in our souls. I will use the same analogy with nature. Japanese shinto shrines are almost always surrounded by nature, even when found in cities, the shrines are filled with trees that cover them in green. Japanese know that nature is not part of life, they understand that nature is life.

Lauroly Q- Daily rituals are a big part of both cultures. Which rituals do you think are driven by the cultural values of your country? Can you connect the value with the ritual? Which ones do you think can translate and work in any culture?

Lola: One of the most notable rituals is the daily act of observing fika – which is breaking several times a day (3-4 times even) to enjoy coffee and a sweet treat with colleagues, friends, or family. While on the surface it may seem like just a sweet tradition, it is a form of re-centering to keep that internal lagom scale balanced. Working too much is an antithesis of lagom. Work-life balance is collectively pushed within the Swedish psyche through lagom. Partaking in fika is an act of re-calibration, so you can carry on processing the day from a point of balance and harmony. The tradition of fika is firmly rooted in lagom.

Hector: One big daily ritual in Japan is to bath in hot water. It is done most of the times before going to bed. It has been shown lately that both hot water baths and saunas 3-4 times per week have many benefits to our health. This is just one of the most common rituals, but Japan in general is a ritualistic culture, in which “micro-rituals” embed the life of everyone. For example, before starting any business meeting there is always the same business card interchange ritual with very precise manners that sets the mood of the meeting. It is not about specific rituals that will change your life, it is more about using rituals or micro-rituals to do things daily without having to be stressed to make decisions or be stressed about doing something. Rituals automate many things in our lives and help us to focus on what is important.

Lauroly Closing- I am so honored to share both your books as ‘Book Wise’ picks at World Wise Beauty. Both books are inspiring and together create a healthy cultural cocktail we can all enjoy and digest. I would suggest including each of them in a loved ones stocking for Christmas. Or each can be given on days of Hanukkah!  Here is to a lovely holiday season full of wellness ideals like slowing down and spending time with family and friends. we have to find a way to make this more of a daily experience in our lives.

Lola Closing: Thanks so much Laura. The beauty of observing how other cultures work and what they do exceptionally well is that we can pick and choose which elements of their mindset we can adopt to make our own lives richer in many ways. Lagom doesn’t hold all the answers in life but what it does hold is the mental key to free us from overt and needless consumerism by paring down what we truly need to be focusing on, buying, or maintaining in our lives.

Hector Closing: Totally agree Laura. We have to slowly shift our awareness from always trying to stand out, be successful and compare ourselves to others to being more present to our friends and family. The more we listen to the people we love, the more they will start also listening back and forgetting a little bit about getting more likes on their social networks. We humans, we are social beings, let’s be together in our lives and not alone and “individualistic”. In a way it can also be something to make us better, since the more love we give the more supported we will feel by the people around us, and the more love we feel, the healthier we will be and the longer we will live. This is what we discovered when visiting Ogimi, the village of the longest living in the world to write our book about IKIGAI. They live in very close communities in which they all support each other. Thank you for featuring us!

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WWB Wise Guru Series: Nobel Prize in Medicine went to Research on Circadian Rhythms. WWB Joins the Sleep Doctor, Dr. Michael Breus, for a Q&A to Discuss Why it Matters to Us…

Oct 11, 2017 by

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Laura Opening- Welcome back Dr. Breus. For all those who haven’t read your book ‘The Power of When’, here is a chance for them to learn more about your important work and pick up your book. Before we get to your ground breaking research, we first have to acknowledge the Nobel Peace Prize award in Physiology or Medicine that went to three doctors who have discovered molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm. Now when we just say this, many will wonder, well why would that matter to me?

At World Wise Beauty I try to present important research, medical science and wellness wisdom in real context. The first question I always ask is, ‘Why does it matter?’ But before we get to this, let’s start first with a simple question. What did this Nobel Prize winning research specifically unveil for us from a scientific perspective that is so ‘eye opening’? No pun intended!

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Dr. Breus: The basics behind the research showed that in fruit flies (who actually have very similar circadian rhythms as humans) the researchers were able to isolate the gene that controls our daily biological clock. This gene encodes a protein that accumulates in a cell during the evening and degrades during the daytime. This clock regulates behavior, weight loss, hormones levels, sleep and body temperature. Understanding this mechanism helps us all understand why we experience jet lag, how our internal biological clocks affect disease, our hormones, and literally everything we do. As you may remember in my new book, ‘ The Power of When’ this is EXACTLY what I have been writing about.

Laura Q- Yes you did, and hopefully more people will discover your work with this post! Now that we understand how our genes control our daily biological clock, what does that really mean if we are all different bio-individuals?

Dr. Breus: Actually we are more similar than you might think. The genetic studies that are going on in Sleep Research are on “common species” areas.

Lauroly Q– Why do circadian rhythms matter and why does understanding our unique biological clocks matter to our health?
Dr. Breus: So here is where it gets so fascinating, when I was in school, we learned that basically there was one central biological clock for time passage ( aging) and there were a few others that controlled hormone regulation, etc. Now we have found over 100 different control centers in the body. They each send information to each other. I think of it like grand central station in New York City. There are trains coming from all over the place to one central location. If one train is late, it could mess up all of the other trains going in or out. So the timing of these clocks actually controls our health, completely. These systems have a regularity to them or a rhythm. They become predictable, and more efficient. This is how the immune system, metabolic system, sleep system, all systems function.

Lauroly Q-  There is our answer. Sleep is a real regulator to everything in our ‘ biological system’. Should we all be in sync with sunrise and sunset for optimal health?

Dr. Breus: Yes, but it is really unrealistic to think that we can do it correctly. Remember that we have at least 4 different chronotypes, so there are some of us, who are more prone to late evenings and others who are morning people. As a side note, there was a great study on insomnia, where they took insomniacs out into the woods camping for 2 weeks. By the end of the study, everyone’s sleep had significantly improved. It was likely due to the sun exposure, and a reduction of EMF exposure talk about in sync with he sun!
Lauroly Q- In your book you identify many different types in the context of sleep needs.  Does the circadian ‘sync’ vary from person to person?
Dr. Breus: It does vary based on Chronotype. Lions (early risers), Bears (in-betweeners), Wolves (late nighters) and Dolphins (poor sleepers). If you want to know your type go to www.thepowerofwhenquiz.com and get it for free.
Lauroly Q–  So does this mean that some people are just genetically wired to be night owls?
Dr. Breus: Absolutely. I am. Interestingly enough you can even get this tested at 23 and Me, due to the genetic nature of chronotypes. It is based on the PER3 or Period 3 gene and its length. It effects sleep drive and timing.

Lauroly Q- While we are different genetically, is there still some unifying wellness wisdom when it comes to sleep that all human beings need to listen to?

Dr. Breus: Yes, consistency is the key. Most specifically in your wake up time, keep the same for weekdays and weekends, everything gets better, assuming you are sleeping by your chronotype.
Lauroly Q- The first thing I think of when it comes to circadian rhythms, is cultures living in the Northern Lights part of the world. How does the abundance of light exposure and then the significant decrease of light effect their circadian rhythms?
Dr. Breus: There are a lot of issues with sleep in these areas of the world. Sunlight appears to play a significant role in the human biology, from Vitamin D production to being the re-start button for the brain each morning.
Lauroly Q-Have their genes adapted over time living in these areas?
Dr. Breus: To a certain degree, yes. But I doubt that anyone is completely unaffected.
Lauroly Q- We know there is more depression associated with the decrease of light. I suppose even if you don’t live in these areas, but are vulnerable to depression, getting sunshine would be important. This correlates with the Vitamin D hormone that activates when we are exposed to the sun and then chemically regulates our serotonin synthesis. As we know, serotonin is one of the happy chemicals in our system. Take it from here Dr. Breus, I’m just trying to connect all the dots!

Dr. Breus: Light therapy is used in both depressive diagnoses and some sleep disorders. In depression the light helps re-set the persons circadian rhythms, which sends all of the other systems back in sync. This appears to play a role in the recovery from depression. While it is not the whole reason, it does seem to have a significant effect.

Laura Closing- Thank you for sharing your expertise with us Dr. Breus. Now that we are learning more about our biological clocks and our connection to nature, we can begin to see how everything is interdependent in wellness. As Plato so wisely said “The Part can Never be Well, unless the Whole is Well.” I encourage everyone to read ‘The Power of When’ and learn more about your own body’s internal clock. Sleeping will become a healthy habit, just like a good diet and exercise is.

Dr. Breus Closing: Thank you so much for having me, and if people want to learn more they can check out my website www.thesleepdoctor.com or learn your chronotype at www.thepowerofwhenquiz.com

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WWB WISE GURU Q&A: Featuring the International Best Seller ‘The Telomere Effect’: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer

Jun 2, 2017 by

TelomereEffect


WWB WISE GURU:
Elissa Epel, Ph.D is a leading health psychologist who studies stress, aging, and obesity. She is the director of UCSF’s Aging, Metabolism, and Emotions Center and is associate director of the Center for Health and Community. She is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and serves on scientific advisory committees for the National Institutes of Health, and the Mind and Life Institute. She has received awards from Stanford University, the Society of Behavioral Medicine, and the American Psychological Association.

 

WWB FEATURED BOOK: The Telomere Effect  Groundbreaking book by the Nobel Prize Winner who discovered telomeres, telomerase, and their role in the aging process, and the psychologist who researched specific lifestyle habits to protect them and slow down disease and lengthen life.

 

WWB WORTHWHILE READ:  Have you wondered why some sixty-year-olds look and feel like forty-year-olds and why some forty-year-olds look and feel like sixty-year-olds? We discover through science, that aging is more than just an attitude. Healthy aging and longevity correlates with specific habits and mindset on a personal level, and is affected by the relationships, community and culture we are a part of.  All of which can be cultivated wisely.  Read this book and start lengthening your telomeres! ~TrulyHerself, Lauroly

 

 

 

DrElissaEpel

Dr. Elissa Epel, Ph.D, Co-Author of ‘The Telomere Effect”

 

 

Lauroly Opening: Welcome Dr. Epel to World Wise Beauty. I am so pleased you could join me for this Q&A. This is an important book that will help accelerate wellness culture, and encourage us all to lead healthy lifestyles. It covers the latest scientific discovery about telomeres and your research on how we can protect our telomeres with as your sub-title says, “a revolutionary approach to living younger, healthier and longer.” Who doesn’t want that!  But first I have to ask a basic question for my readers, so we can move on to the important ideas in your book. What are telomeres? We have been learning so much about epigenetics in the last few years and now the discovery of ‘telomeres’ takes the science on genes to another level with real world context.

 

Dr. Epel: Telomeres are a tiny part of each cell in our body that play a critical role in how our cells age. They are the caps that protect the ends of chromosomes. They protect our genes from breaks and mutations, and they also allow our cells to go on dividing and replenishing. The problem is that each time our cells divide, the telomeres can shorten, and when they get too short, the DNA can easily become damaged, the cell becomes aged, and, worst of call, it cannot go on dividing. This creates a buildup of old tissue that is pro-inflammatory. Also, as we age, there is wear and tear to these caps, shortening and damaging them.

Lauroly Q- Your study and expertise is focused on how stress damages our telomeres on a cellular level, and the devastating effects it can have on our health and longevity if left unchecked or not managed. FYI for our readers, the book also presents all the positive ways you can stop the damage already done and avoid further damage. When all the research came out about epigenetics I think a lot of people just assumed they were stuck with their lottery of genes. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and this is where your important research comes in. All our lifestyle habits especially related to stress management can contribute to lengthening your telomeres or reducing them. It seems to me that popular quote “It is not what happens you to in life, but what you do with what happens to you” really applies to our telomeres! The fact is we can train our telomeres. One of the ways we can do this is keeping our immune system biologically young. Can you describe direct examples of this?

Dr. Epel: Laura, you said it well! We will all experience difficulties in our days, and traumatic events in our lives, and these cannot be avoided. But it is how we view these events in our mind, and manage them, that determines whether an event turns into ‘chronic stress’ in our mind or whether we may end up on the other side of the event even more resilient than before. So we need to focus not on stress ‘reduction’ but stress resilience. We tend to create angst, worry, and rumination with our habitual thought patterns and these can keep our endocrine and nervous system on ‘high’—a vigilant mode that wears us out sooner. Having higher levels of stress hormones, like cortisol and catecholamines, even while we sleep, is associated with shorter telomeres. High quality sleep is also related to longer telomeres, and something we can foster. The little things we do each day can add up to have big effects on telomeres.

People who tend to eat more vegetables tend to have longer telomeres ten years later! So we are talking about small little habits during our life that really add up to healthy cell stability later in life when we are typically so vulnerable to diseases of aging. People with longer telomeres are 20% less likely to develop heart disease. Even in young healthy adults, those with shorter telomeres, when experimentally exposed to the cold virus, tend to get more cold infections, with more severe symptoms, more tissues needed (the work of Sheldon Cohen). So it’s not just about doing things now so we don’t get disease of aging later. Experimental studies have shown that programs that last several months tend to give us a boost in telomerase or maintain our telomeres better –that includes aerobic fitness, omega-3 free fatty acid supplements, support groups, meditation programs, or Dean Ornish’s lifestyle integrative program (eg, vegetarian diet, yoga, social support).

 

Lauroly Q- When I read your book, it just solidified for me that lifestyle as medicine is really the ‘secret’ to wellness and longevity. We humans love the idea of ‘secrets’ but the truth is understanding our own bio-individuality and taking good care of ourselves wholistically is all it takes to live well. The blueprints may vary for each of us, but the reliable pillars of wellness hold for all of us.

Let’s come back to your expertise on stress. Managing our stress is extremely important, and it seems to me your tips and prescriptions for managing stress should be practiced by all of us, but some people have a biological sensitivity to stress more than others and can experience depression and anxiety in a very debilitating way if left unchecked. In your book you said “Anticipating a stressful event has the same effect on the brain as the body experiencing the stressful event.” We can see why mindful techniques and practices are so important to our society today. You devote a lot of data and tips on how to protect yourself from depression and anxiety. Some people may not be open to mindfulness techniques or feel they have the time, what are other lifestyle habits that can help protect us? Some would also ask “isn’t depression and anxiety a normal response to life and part of our human experience?”

 

Dr. Epel: We will have different traumatic events happen to us, and some of us will suffer more in life, and some of us are more prone to respond to stress with depression or anxiety. When adverse events happen to us as children, un-tempered by the support or resources we need to cope, it can leave a lasting ‘scar’ in the form of shorter telomeres. But that is not something to harp on, because even with short telomeres it’s how we live our day that can keep them stable through the years going forward. As you said, it is how we react to things, that can make a big difference going forward. We can learn to ‘surf the waves’ more than crash under them. We have habits of mind that we can become aware of. I include quizzes in our Telomere Book to help people see what their stress response style is – how much they see things as ego threats, or how much they ruminate. And also how much they have buffers to stress like optimism or purpose in life.

Awareness is a first step. Then there are ways to build our inner resources so we can experience stress as small surfable waves. For those interested, learning meditation can help but that does take time and dedication. Even if you don’t regularly do it, it can help you get to take an introduction course, to know your mind and the habits that can hurt you If you are unaware of them. Any mind-body activities can help with emotional balance. These are often ‘body up’ to mind—the calmness in the body creates a cushion of stress resilience so we don’t have those strong stress reactions. Having strong social support probably creates the biggest cushion. For me, my yoga ‘cushion’ helps me build reserve.

Even if you have short telomeres, what matters is how you live this day, and the choices you make each day from here on. Our telomerase, the anti-aging enzyme that protects telomeres, and our telomeres, appear sensitive to many different behaviors (exercise, certain nutrients) and exposures (nature, pollution, certain chemicals). We detail these in the book, and the best way to learn from the book is to choose one or two things from the list of telomere bolsters that matter most to you, that you know you can improve.

 

Lauroly Q- You made so many compelling points about how telomere science offers molecular proof of the importance of societal health (what I call wellness culture) to our well-being. You even suggested in the book that we call for policymakers to add a new phrase ‘Societal stress reduction’ to the vocabulary of public health. You included a Telomere Manifesto at the end of the book. Another (there are so many in this book!) important statement you made is “The foundation for a new understanding of health in our society is not about ‘me’ but ‘we’. Why do you think we miss how important inter-dependency is to our personal health as well as to the survival of our planet? I know that is a big question!

 

Dr. Epel: When we look at solutions to becoming a more compassionate society, arrows point to our culture and education. Our strong culture, and the way we raise and teach children, reinforce the idea we are autonomous and competitive creatures. There are programs starting at early ages that promote better understanding of interdependence, compassion, and of how our mind works that will help make a much needed shift in our culture. Change needs to come both from policy, societal stress reduction policies, and from inside — our minds, our hearts. Why don’t masses of people smoke anymore? It wasn’t just the tobacco tax and policies. It was a change in our beliefs and social norms. We can all start that right now, from within, and in our local networks. We impact those close to us, we impact strangers too. Let’s use our positive impact! If it helps to know that our very cell aging is impacted by our neighborhood’s health, then spread the word and work, to change these together.

 

Lauroly Closing:  Excellent answer Dr. Epel! Thank you so much for your groundbreaking research and writing ‘The Telomere Effect‘! It really is two books in one. One for creating a personal blueprint for longevity and wellness and the other for raising awareness about how we can stop the health crisis of the entire planet. The second one is even more urgent as we need a healthy planet to live on!

Dr. Epel Closing:  Thank you Laura for your wonderful summaries and sharing these messages.

 

 

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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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