A Suprising Practice to Boost Your Creativity

still life with vegetables isolated on brown background

It’s here!  Day 21 of my 21 Day Purification.

No matter how many times I detox, it’s always different. I continue to be amazed at what comes up for examination. I get to look at people, patterns, and projects from a different perspective and notice how each contributes to or detracts from my health and well-being.

One thing that doesn’t change is the thrill of crossing the finish line.

Don’t get me wrong.  Day 22 is going to look very much like Day 21.  If I’ve learned anything in the last 21 days, it’s that my body and brain love it when I clean up my act and eat whole, nutritious meals that I consciously plan and prepare.

Knowing this and practicing it on a daily basis are two different things. Doing the 21 Day Purification puts the practice part up front and center for enough days to become a habit. This is deceptively difficult to do. But once the habit is established, it’s easier to continue with the practice than to stop and start all over again.

The thing I look forward to the most is not watching the pounds melt off (because sometimes they don’t) but witnessing how much better my brain works and how much quicker my creativity kicks in. My increased energy level is sustainable with no slumps or spikes. I can focus easier and think clearer.

Artists are often given a wide berth in the bad behavior department.  It’s like we’ve unconsciously bought into the belief that great talent is too much for mere mortals.  So we put ourselves in an altered state and drink, drug, smoke, gamble, screw, or spend ourselves silly in order to be worthy of our creative inheritance.

The truth is the only altered state we need to be in is one of mindful presence and persistence mixed with a hint of humility. Genius will gladly guide us if we ask it to and clear some space for it to work its wonders.

A few years ago I decided that in order to do my best work, I had to be my best self. I had to feel good in the skin I was in and my brain had to be firing on all cylinders. I couldn’t do that if I was subtly or not so subtly sabotaging my own success.

If I numbed myself out with excessive sugar, overloaded on carbs, or jacked myself up on caffeine, I ended up with the kind of thoughts that lead people to believe they’re good dancers after several drinks.

The kind of consistent creativity I cultivate now comes from having my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual ducks in a row.

It turns out that after years of wandering around the desert, studying with gurus, and practicing all kinds of alternative paths to crack the creative code, the surprising practice I overlooked was accessible all along. What I eat and how I nourish myself dramatically impact the quality and quantity of my creative output. Input really does equal output.

I can con myself into thinking creativity is a mysterious practice based on the whims of a capricious muse. Or I can clean myself up and invite it over for a healthy, nutritious meal, followed by a walking meeting.

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What about you?  When do you feel your best?  How do you invite creativity into your day?  Share if you dare in the comments below.

Break Up with Your Scale

Weighting scales with  measuring tape. Diet concept. 3d

It’s Day 14 of my 21-Day detox and we’re heading into the homestretch. While the daily discipline required to stay on course is intense, I’m loving the confidence that comes with cleaning out my body and mind while connecting deeply with my soul.

There are as many reasons to do a cleanse, detox, or a purification as there are people who do them. Many people, however, do them to lose weight. And if they diligently follow a particular protocol, they usually do.

Unfortunately, unless they continue with the habits put in place during the detox, the results usually aren’t sustainable. Granted, the first couple of days, no one wants to continue after Day 21. But about half way through when they start feeling better, they might consider it.  By the end of it, they may have lost all desire to go back to their pre-detox habits.

I’m all for breaking up with unhealthy habits. Because breaking up is hard to do, my first rule when detoxing is to Become a Badass. I mean this in the best possible way.

You must be kind and compassionate to yourself and others. But you must be ruthless with the terrible tales you tell yourself about your inability to stick with anything for more than a minute.

Cleansing requires considerable courage. Toxins come in many forms – from the foods we eat to the air we breathe to the people we surround ourselves with.

When I detox, I’m no longer able to tolerate toxins the way I did before. Becoming a Badass is an act of bravery. I have to let go of things I no longer need since holding on to them sabotages my health and well-being.

For example, as my first official act of Badassery, I broke up with my scale. To me it was a liar, a terrorist, a tyrant, and a thief.  I decided to no longer accept its feedback as a measure of success or failure during the detox or any time.

I refused to let the scale diminish anything I might innately know about my body, like how it feels, what it needs, how I nourish it, or how I find pleasure in it. I refused to let an ever elusive number impact my day, my mood, my perspective, or my relationship with myself or others.

I have no need to give my power over to something as fickle as a firecracker. A scale can’t measure if I feel lighter, leaner, or more confident. It can’t begin to measure how much clearer my thoughts or complexion are or how much more emotionally available and spiritually connected I am. It cannot imagine the thrill of embodying fully.

The thing is I’ve always possessed the power to expose the scale for what it is. I  trusted it more than myself when I was younger. But not anymore. I trust my body to weigh whatever it wants to when I am nourishing it well and moving it meaningfully.

As a Certified Eating Psychology Coach, I know the damage a scale and what it represents can have on self-worth and body image.  I’ve seen how it contributes to a multitude of eating disorders.

If you have a healthy relationship with your scale, you may not need to break up with it.  Maybe your issue is with something else. Whatever it might be, call it out.

This is necessary in order to follow my Second Rule of Badassery:  Take back your power from whoever or whatever shamed you or made you feel less than all of who you are.

I’ll leave you with these words for advice. “Never ask if anything makes your butt look big. Assume you look marvelous because YOU are marvelous. You’re a Badass, for goodness sake. 🙂

Who or what do you need to detox from this week?  I’d love for you to share if you dare in the comments below. 

Also, if you are interested in learning more about detoxing, I’m starting a new project called The Detox Diaries.  If you’d like to follow along, let me know and I’ll send you an email when the blog is ready.

The Nuts Are Complimentary

bob and penny up close laughing

My all time favorite joke goes something like this.

A guy walks into a bar…

Instead of the usual grief, he’s hears, “Hi there, Handsome,”  “Well, aren’t you a breath of fresh air?”You work so hard, you deserve all the respect and success you have earned and then some.”  On and on it goes, everything he’s ever wanted to hear.

Imagining he must be dreaming, he says to the bartender, “What’s going on?”

The reply?  “Oh, that’s the nuts.  They’re complimentary.”

I love that joke for many reasons.  It’s funny, it’s clean, and like the nuts, it’s complimentary.

Who wouldn’t love to walk into a place where everyone knows your name and the very things about you that make you extraordinary, endearing, valuable, and lovable?

With this in mind I am on a mission to surround myself with things and people that complement my life. Easier said than done, of course.  But this is the impetus behind the relentless removal of that which does not spark joy.

In the past month I have deleted over 1,000 emails from my Inbox, 7 boxes of books, 9 bags of clothing, 3 boxes of pantry items, a truck load of miscellaneous garage and basement stuff, and I’m just getting started.

Although Bob is generally elated about this, when he saw me eyeing my shoe collection, he thought about calling my family for an intervention.

Shoes are sacred territory in my world.  If they went, he feared he might be next. But shoes, by their very nature, are made for walking. Bob is one of those complimentary nuts I want to keep around.

At this time of year I’m usually in full flower frenzy. This year, however, a clean sweep is in order.

My first clue that I had some cleaning to do was when my computer refused to function. Apparently it had been quietly accumulating updates and all kinds of miscellaneous clutter over the years to the point that my hard drive was full.

If it had been attempting to inform me of this all along, I didn’t pay any particular attention.  Freezing up and holding all my content hostage, however, did get my attention.

After a few choice words, I had to laugh at the literal perfection of this predicament.  After a year and a half of non-stop training, learning, and accumulating knowledge there was literally no place else for the download of information to go.  My cup runneth over.

Knowing how dramatically two dietary detoxes within a six month period could improve my health, I decided to apply the same principles to my home, my office, my bookshelves, and a few relationships.

Like changing my eating habits, changing my environment would require an undeniable reason to do so and a fool-proof plan.  These came in the form of a little book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up  and an understanding that in order for new things to come into my life, I must release what’s over and done with.

While there is a certain amount of melancholy that accompanies the letting go of unexpressed potential, there is great joy in surrendering to who I am now.  A quirky coach who can help people get their groove back. The only real requirement was that I do the work first and get my own house in order.

Although I have gotten my groove back, I still have some tidying up to do.  And if I do it right, I will free up enough room on my internal hard drive for life’s latest upgrade.

What about you?  What’s spurring you into action this summer?

Share if you dare in the comments below.

If You Give a Moose A Muffin…

Elk in the woods

There is a series of children’s books written by Laura Joffe Numeroff  and beautifully illustrated by Felicia Bond detailing the outrageous shenanigans that follow when a child takes a seemingly innocent first step like giving a moose a muffin, a dog a donut, a cat a cupcake, a pig a pancake, or giving the mouse who started the whole thing a cookie.

When I stepped into this experiment called getting my groove back a year ago, I had no idea I would be stepping into a similar situation as the unsuspecting character who gave the moose, the dog, the cat, the pig, and, of course, the mouse what they wanted.

As we’ve all learned even if we haven’t read these fabulous fables, one thing leads to another and another ad infinitum.  Some of these things are hilarious, some are mischievous, some are expensive, some are silly, some are unfortunate, and some are surprising.

And surprise, it turns out, is one of the things that most of us try to avoid.  But according to the authors of the fascinating book called Surprise: Embrace the Unpredictable and Engineer the Unexpected, it’s one of the things we should embrace in order to spark the best kind of change in our lives.

The thing about my journey or any journey is that we don’t ever really know what we’re in for, even if we think we do.  The brilliance of our ignorance or beginner’s mind is absolutely essential if we are to be open to what lies ahead.

Preconceived notions or assumptions of how long it is going to take, how much it is going to cost, how easy or difficult it might be are usually based on our past experience or that of someone else.

Even though that experience may serve as a helpful guide, it will continually pull us out of the here and now if we are not open to the element of surprise and the many gifts of an unpredictable present.

For example, at the end of my How to Get Your Groove Back class I wanted to give participants the opportunity to physically experience what we had been discussing and understand what it felt like to change eating habits, improve energy levels, curb cravings, reduce hormonal fluctuations, etc.

So five of us embarked on a 21-Day Purification with the assistance of a functional medicine doctor and me, their newly certified Eating Psychology Coach.

Having done something similar six months ago, I thought I knew what we were getting into.  Suffice it to say, I did not.  Surprise!  The first day my predominant thought was, “What was I thinking?”  I’m sure the others were wondering the same.

But as the days progressed and we figured out what we could eat, found our comfort foods and figured out how to prepare them, and started losing weight and noticing a difference in our energy levels, skin, moods, and stress levels, we were amazed at how quickly we were adapting to the new world order.

In a very short time, we were able to make significant shifts in our outlook and health that previously none of us thought would be sustainable. Ironically, as much as we looked forward to Day 22, that’s when the real work started.

Like the unlikely actions that follow feeding a moose a muffin, I’ve become this version of myself I’d only imagined I could be.  I’m actually excited about kitchen knives and cutting boards, joining a co-op, and spending  the weekend tackling the clutter around every corner (while listening to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo).

As Einstein said, No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” It wasn’t that I was unhappy before.  I just knew if I wanted to get to my own personal Promised Land, I was going to have to take a different route if I intended to get there this lifetime.

So I did what we all need to do from time to time.  I did what graduates and retirees and entrepreneurs the world over are urged to do.  Give a moose a muffin.  And let the adventures begin!

Share if you dare in the comments below. What grand adventures await you?

Detox Take Away #9 – Invoke the Sacred

Girl on swing at sunset

It’s easy to count our blessings on days designed for giving thanks and celebrating the abundance of good food, good health, family and friends. Anyone can find something to be grateful for on the good days.

But how many of us regularly give thanks for the ordinary, the mundane, the million little things we couldn’t live without yet take for granted every day?

I’ve kept a gratitude journal for years, writing down the things, relationships, and experiences I am thankful for on a daily basis. Noting them has helped me recognize these moments of grace as they are happening. It has also made me aware that they are happening all the time.

During the detox I realized that while I’ve learned to appreciate many moments, I seldom experienced those moments around food. Given the number of people involved in growing, producing, shipping, marketing, and selling it, food is worthy of an abundance of appreciation. It also sustains life, putting it right up there with oxygen and water as one of the essential elements to be extremely grateful for.

I found that if I took a few moments to breathe, get present, and acknowledge the source of the course before me, I felt nourished in an entirely different way than when I attempted to multitask during a meal.

This prompted me to invoke the sacred not only when I consumed a meal, but also when I consumed someone’s creative or intellectual outpouring, when I attempted something new, or made a difficult decision. This required much more practice than I initially assumed.

I was curious as to why we are wired to be so cavalier about anything that requires us to slow down and get present in order to invite a fresh perspective – especially when it comes to food.

In his fascinating book, The Culture Code, cultural anthropologist Clotaire Rapaille asserts that we all acquire a silent system of codes as we grow up in a culture, making us uniquely American, French, German, Japanese or whatever nationality we happen to be.

In America, for example, the code for food is fuel. We think of eating as refueling and want to “fill up” on food fast, making fast food a favorite. Like a self-service gas station, all-you-can-eat buffets provide plenty food available immediately.  We devour our food without making the connection to where it came from, how it was prepared, or even how much we’ve eaten.

Whether we personally feel this way or not, growing up in a culture that unconsciously embraces the idea of the body as a machine and food as a way to keep that machine moving influences our choices.  If we go against the code, we’re bound to experience internal conflict.

Unfortunately, most of us chalk up our inability to buck the system or break bad habits to lack of willpower or some other deficit on our part instead of looking to the cultural waters we’re swimming in.

Enter mindfulness.

By mindfulness I mean paying attention.  I mean allowing yourself to breathe, center, focus, collect your thoughts, feel your feelings, give yourself a moment to get present in your body, not just your head.  It doesn’t have to take long. Remember Ten Zen Seconds?

From this place you can invoke the sacred.  And when you do, ordinary moments become extraordinary.

Your Turn

I’d love to hear how you invoke the sacred throughout the day.  I’d also love to hear how you view food or what you think the code for food is in your country.

Leave your comments below.

Detox Take-Away #8 – Sleep On It

Newborn Baby Boy in a Teddy Bear Costume

I’m a big fan of sleeping, dreaming, snatching some shut-eye, napping, you name it. Sleep provides the necessary perspective that excess caffeine or carbs can’t quite copy despite our attempts to chemically induce enlightenment.

It turns out sleep is also a really important player in the weight loss game. Experts consider it as important to health, well-being, and weight as diet and exercise. Yet almost two-thirds of us don’t get enough sleep in a typical week.

Most of us know what it feels like to be sleep deprived. But we may not be aware of its consequences.

Because fatigue dulls the activity in the part of the brain where decision making and impulse control reside, making good decisions becomes increasingly difficult when drowsy. When we’re overtired, the brain’s reward centers seek something that feels good. Temptations we may have been able to resist when well-rested cause us to cave when can’t keep our eyes open.

The type of foods we want when we’re sleepy tend to be of the energy dense, high carbohydrate variety.  Think candy bars, cookies, chips, soda, or energy drinks. These cravings coupled with a lack of impulse control can lead to bigger portions, late-night snacking, and all kinds of actions that can lead to weight gain.

Lack of sleep messes with our metabolism as well as hunger and satiety hormones like gherlin and leptin that clue our brain in to when we’re hungry and when we’re full. Cortisol can spike, sending the message to conserve energy and store fat. Insulin can also be impacted, making it difficult to process fats in the bloodstream and adding to the hunger hormone havoc.

Realizing this, one of the new habits I incorporated during the detox was getting more sleep.  This meant going to bed earlier. This was challenging because I often don’t get home from work until 7 or 8pm and then there’s dinner, dog walks, a little tv time, and tending to my blogging business.

I had to give up my late night routine of regularly bathing my eyes in the artificial light of my electronic devices and engaging in activities that stimulated my brain (Lumosity, anyone?). I needed to shift from work mode to relaxation mode. While unplugging a device shuts it down immediately, unplugging myself takes a little while.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry that I had eaten a heavy meal or consumed alcohol or caffeine before bedtime during the detox. However, it did make me realize how often doing so had interfered with my sleep.

By creating a reasonable regular bed time, I also established a natural and consistent waking time.  (No alarm clock for me, thank you.) I used to live for the weekends so I could sleep in. Now I find myself getting up at approximately the same time no matter what day it is. Mainly because my brain is badgering me to write and my belly is begging me to eat.  At last I have the energy and enthusiasm to create a day worth writing about.

What about you?

Do you get enough sleep? What helps you get the rest you need? How does not getting enough sleep impact you? What steps can you take to get more sleep?

Leave a reply below.

Detox Take Away #7 – Rhythm Is Gonna Get You

eating design

One of the concepts I am learning from my Eating Psychology coaching certification program is that timing is everything. From when we introduce new concepts to our clients to when and what we feed ourselves, there is a rhyme and a rhythm that can help us get results quicker or sabotage every step.

For many of us time is of the essence.  We hurry about grabbing meals on the go, eating in our cars, at our desks, and at all times of the day or night. We skimp on sleep, forgo our intentions to exercise, and collapse on the couch.  The accumulated impact over time can lead to weight gain, digestive issues,  sleeping challenges, you name it.

We’re a society out of sync with our rhythms. While that may not sound like a big deal, think back to the last time you traveled across multiple time zones and attempted to seal the deal on a major account as your body was desperately seeking sleep.

Our bodies really do talk to us. And not just once in a while. Like streaming video, our bodies are a constant feedback system. Our job is to listen. If we ignore the messages the body sends, it will pump up the volume.

One way I’ve learned listen  to my body is to eat when I am best equipped to metabolize meals. The first meal sets the rhythm for the day.

Eating breakfast lets our bodies know the fast is over.  Since there is no threat of starvation, there is no need to conserve energy and slow down metabolism.  Eating breakfast heats up the fuel burning mechanism in our bellies and prepares us to process the nutrients we need to get through the day.

Metabolism moves into it’s peak when the sun is highest in the sky. By eating our biggest meal between 12-1:30pm, we deploy our best digestive agents into active duty.

Body temperature then dips between approximately 2-5pm.  This explains that afternoon slump or the need to nap. Then temps start to rise again around 4-6pm.

Metabolically speaking, it makes sense to eat a healthy breakfast, substantial lunch,  and moderate evening meal.  Unfortunately, that’s the opposite of what people practice.

Many of us have a mini breakfast (if we eat at all), followed by a moderate lunch, and then go all out at dinner. This can be difficult pattern to change since the evening meal may be the one time your family gathers during the day.  It may be the only time you have to make a meal or the first time you get to relax and unwind.

I get it.  It’s a challenge for me as well.  I work long hours and often times I don’t eat lunch until 2 or sometimes 3pm. I usually don’t get home until 7pm, making dinner late as well. My new goal is to eat lunch by 1:30pm.  I’d also like to eat less during the evening meal (preferably before 7pm) leaving me with time to take a walk and digest my meal before going to bed.

It’s one thing to know better and an entirely different thing to do better.  I share this information with you not to so you have another item on your should do list but so you gain some awareness into the part rhythm plays in our overall health and well-being.

Recovering your rhythm can take some time.  You can start by experimenting with when you eat, even if you have no interest in changing what you eat.  Notice how you feel. Then pay attention to when you naturally want to move, sleep, work, and play and how you feel when you honor your instincts and follow your own rhythm.

I’d love to hear about your experiences. How does the timing of meals impact you?

Share if you dare in the comments below.