Tag: meditation

5 Tips For Surviving The 2022 Holiday Season

Veronica, Brandon, Coco on beach

The holiday season is a paradox: it’s the best of times and it’s the worst of times. It’s the best of times because everything is so festive and beautiful. 

But the holiday season creates anxiety for many people, whether it’s getting together with family that you don’t see eye to eye with or running around all over town buying last minute gifts. 

In the cold weather months, you’re more likely to get sick than you are in the summer. Yes, some of that has to do simply with weather; viruses thrive in colder weather and are able to circulate and replicate in stagnant, indoor air. But stress is just as much of a contributing factor, if not more so. 

So what can you do to manage your stress this time of year? Follow these 5 tips for surviving the holiday season…

yoga for stress

Take Mini Meditation Breaks

Not much of a meditator? Does keeping the mind free of thought seem like an impossible task? The good news is that you don’t need to be a Zen master to quiet your mind. And you also don’t need to meditate for hours upon end to become one with the universe. All it takes is a few minutes of consciously focusing on inhaling and exhaling. Stress managed! It’s really as simple as that. 

And if while you are sitting still (a chair is fine; you don’t have to go into deep Lotus pose), thoughts creep in, that’s fine. Just bring your mind back to your breathing. Five long seconds inhaling, and the same on the exhale. Try to inflate your chest and belly like a balloon on the inhale. Deflate on the exhale. 

Still thinking about all the bills you have to pay while you’re breathing? It’s fine. Do try and not let those worries consume your thoughts. But just remember the name of the game is not to rid your mind completely of thoughts. Rather, the goal is to focus on your breathing. Because breathing is healing. 

Take Mini Exercise Breaks 

Some people make the excuse that they don’t have the time to go to a gym or take a class because they’re so busy. But nobody should be so busy that they can’t take the time to take a mini-exercise break. 

Something fun I recently started doing is dancing for 3-5 minutes in my home while listening to a song on Pandora or Spotify. I also have a standing desk/desk riser and while I’m pecking away on my laptop, I sashay my hips from side to side. Yes, shaking your groove thing is possible while working. 

As the saying goes, sitting is the new smoking. Standing all day while working is impossible. And like sitting all day, standing for several hours is also bad for circulation. But alternating between sitting and standing several times a day is ideal for good blood flow and keeping the spirits high. 

You can also set a timer and do a three-minute yoga routine every 90-120 minutes. The bottom line is that you don’t need to exercise for a long time in order to manage holiday stress. You can do a few mini movement sessions per day and reap the same benefits.

grain

Eliminate Processed Carbs

This might be the holiday survival tip you dread. If you struggle with eating too many carbs, the good news is that you don’t have to completely quit carbs. I’ll explain in a sec. 

But first, let’s take bread as an example. For people who follow a low-carb lifestyle (Keto Diet), bread is a no-no. Eating bread raises blood sugar levels and puts more demand on the pancreas to release insulin. 

The more bread and other processed carbs you eat, the more insulin your body needs to keep blood sugar levels steady. If you keep eating bread, bagels, muffins, cereal and other baked goods made with white flour (wheat flour isn’t much better for blood sugar levels), your cells will become resistant to insulin. This places you at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

But not all bread is created equally bad. About 99% of supermarket breads are empty carbs. But artisanal sourdough bread contains beneficial bacteria for your gut. You can also buy 100% whole rye bread which contains a lot of fiber. When you see that a bread contains at least a few grams of fiber, it means that the blood sugar spike won’t be as high as bread with little or no fiber. 

If you’re at brunch and you’re considering getting a stack of pancakes, think of the pancakes as a giant bowl of sugar. Foods prepared with white flour break down very quickly, metabolizing into sugar. 

The problem with this is that sugar suppresses the immune system. Eating a tiny piece of cake at a holiday party is no problem. But if you have trouble controlling your portion sizes, it’s better to just say no than to indulge. Studies have shown that consuming sugar puts your body’s infection-fighting white blood cells to sleep for several hours!

So instead of eating refined carbs, eat whole grains like wild rice, farro, emmer wheat and quinoa (technically, quinoa is a seed but let’s not split hairs). 

beach yoga

Take A Social Media Detox

If you’re feeling anxious this time of the year simply because it’s the holidays or for whatever other reason, consider putting your phone down. 

Make a phone call, text if you have to, but in order to feel more peaceful, I recommend chilling out on social media for a while. 

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that recent studies reveal that social media damages teenagers’ mental health. Even if you’re not a teenager anymore, chances are that keeping up with the Joneses or Kardashians on social is negatively impacting your life. Unless you’re using social strictly for work, consider a 3 Day Cleanse. (And if your body needs to physically detox, check out Chef V’s Cleanses.)

In the Dalai Lama’s Art of Happiness book, one of his tips for being happy is not to compare yourself to anybody else. When you’re on social media, it’s hard not to compare yourself to others. 

No News Is Good News 

Tip #5 for surviving the holiday season is much like my advice to do a social media detox. Unfortunately, news and politics have made us divided and no more is that evident than on social media. In addition to detaching from social media to avoid the news, do the same from cable news, newspapers, talk radio and magazines. 

And last but not least, under no circumstances should you discuss news and politics with family who don’t share your point of view. It’s not worth the energy. The more you get triggered, the more stress hormones circulating through your bloodstream. When stress hormones flood the blood, digestion slows down. And when digestion becomes impaired, you’re more likely to pack on the pounds. In light of that metabolic fact, is it really worth arguing about who should be president? 

Hopefully these tips will come in handy and make you a happier, healthier person for the holidays…

Love,

Chef V

5 Easy Ways To Stay Positive & Healthy

Veronica, Brandon, Coco on beach

During the Long Dark Winter…

If you feel like eating tons of comfort food and hibernating this time of year, I don’t blame you. But it’s so important to stay active and healthy this time of year and I’ve got some easy, fun tips to do it! 

It’s 5:30 p.m. It’s pitch black outside and freezing. All you feel like doing is plopping down on the couch and vegging out for a few hours. If that’s what you’re feeling, should you give in? After all, aren’t you supposed to listen to your body? And if your body is telling you that you should grab the cashmere comforter, a few of your favorite snacks, a glass of wine and the remote … well … what's wrong with that?

There’s certainly nothing wrong with chillaxing—from time to time. But if that’s how you’re gonna roll from late fall until early- or mid-spring when the weather finally warms up and the days are longer, that’s not going to be good for your mental or physical health. 

So next time you’re feeling the winter blues, follow these tips:

meditate

Stay Positive & Healthy This Winter Tip #1: Meditate In Bed

This may not come as a shock but it’s important to state: In general, people who meditate on a regular basis are happier, calmer, and better able to attract what they want in life. There’s lots of research to support this—at least the part about people who meditate being more positive and calmer. 

The problem with meditation is that for people who have never tried it, it seems intimidating. But learning anything new is challenging. Beyond that, though, another problem with meditation is that many people assume that you have to sit completely still in the lotus position like a Buddhist monk, with your legs twisted into a pretzel. But that’s not the case at all…

I recommend starting each day meditating before you get out of bed, lying flat on your back. So how do you meditate? It’s simple. Listen to a meditation app. Try a guided meditation, which will tell you exactly when to breathe in and breathe out. Or, if you’d rather just listen to soothing meditative music, with Tibetan singing bowls or other ethereal sonic blissed out sounds, there’s no shortage of YouTube videos or smartphone apps for that. 

Start each morning with a 10-minute meditation before you get out of bed. It will really set the stage for an awesome rest of your day. 

yoga pose

Tip #2: 5 Minute Yoga Routine

After you’re done with your meditation routine (and your potty routine), despite how tired you are and despite how cold it may be, force yourself to do a 5-minute yoga routine. 

If you live in an apartment without central heating, before you start your meditation practice in bed, turn on your space heater in the living room where you do yoga. Get the room nice and toasty. If you’re not sure which 5-minute yoga routine to do or how to do yoga at all, there’s a ton of intro yoga videos, many of them free. 

I recommend doing a flow that keeps your body moving, from cat/cow to downward/upward dog or sun salutations. After just 5 minutes of a continuous flow yoga practice, you’ll feel like a new person, totally energized, in good spirits and ready to take on the day’s challenges. Try my easy yoga pose routine to stress less, feel better.

healthy snacks

Tip #3: Seasonal Snacking

Let’s fast forward to the evening hours when there’s no kids around, all your work and errands are done and it’s tempting to get your Netflix on and snack away. This is the most challenging part of the day. Because even if you were successful at incorporating meditation and a mini yoga session or two (or other activity), succumbing to late-night snacking can sabotage all your healthy habits from earlier in the day. 

And just like meditation is associated with a more positive attitude, snacking is more associated with depression

So what can you do when it’s 9:00 at night and it’s time to watch a few episodes of your favorite show? Personally, I try to stop eating and drinking anything with calories by 8:00—unless I’m going out to dinner. Studies on the health impacts of late-night eating are conflicting. 

If you have type I diabetes, it may be essential to have a late-night snack to prevent dangerous blood-sugar drops. If you want to manage blood sugar levels and don’t have type I diabetes, however, eating late at night has been shown to contribute to metabolic diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes. 

But other studies suggest that having a small meal before bed does not appear to be harmful—especially if you exercise on a regular basis. 

I realize that not everybody can resist the temptation to eat something. So if you are going to eat while watching TV on the couch late at night, eat a healthy, delicious mini-meal. 

My favorite healthy mini-meals are seasonal roasted veggies with some healthy fats and spices. 

    • Sweet potato with a tbsp of grass-fed butter and a dash of cinnamon
    • Brussel sprouts with avocado oil and sea salt and pepper
    • Carrots with hummus and 'Everything But the Bagel' spice (Trader Joe’s) or Zhatar
    • High-fiber toast (100% rye) with canned pumpkin and a dash of local raw honey
    • Almond flour crackers with cucumbers and lemon and pepper seasoning

I’m not going to demonize late-night snacking. The temptation this time of year is much too great. But do try your best to avoid all snacks with white flour and wheat flour (even 100% wheat). These common flours get metabolized too quickly. That means they turn into sugar and get stored by the liver as extra body fat. 

But the healthy mini-meal snacks above metabolize slowly and may even help to keep blood sugar levels within a normal, healthy range. 

read

Tip #4: Read

When’s the last time you read a good book? Many people go all day and all night staring at screens, hardly, if ever looking at printed pages, with the exception maybe of a restaurant menu. 

Reading actual books keeps your mind sharp. And when you get in bed, opening a book gets your mind and body ready for restful sleep. Sorry, reading on a tablet isn’t the same. In fact, studies show that the blue light emanating from tablets at night lowers sleep quality. 

“The use of commercially-available tablets may have consequences in terms of alertness, circadian physiology, and sleep,” the researchers concluded. Reading books has several health benefits, including keeping your mind sharp, reducing depressive symptoms, lowering blood pressure and heart rate. 

So crack open a book and get reading. If you fall asleep after reading just one page, so be it. Let reading be your best sleeping pill.

Tip #5: Eat Before You Party

When I’m invited to a party, I never know what kind of food will be served. Will it be pigs in a blanket, deli finger sandwiches and chips and dip? Most of the time, you get what you pay for, and if the food is free, it’s going to be low quality. So what I do is I have a little Organic Green Drink and then a little later, about an hour or two before the holiday party starts, I’ll eat a full healthy meal. That way, I won’t fill my belly with empty carbs and veggies that have likely been sprayed with pesticides. 

I’ll still indulge a little bit because I’m only human and when in Rome, ya know…

Hopefully, following these tips will keep you more positive and healthier this winter. 

Cheers,  Chef V

5 Tips For Surviving The 2021 Holiday Season

Veronica, Brandon, Coco on beach

The holidays are stressful enough without a global health crisis. But now that the media blitz is scaring the bejeezus out of many people with a new variant, surviving the holiday season requires extra fortitude. Chef V is here to keep you calm and grounded with these 5 tips for staying sane during the holidays…

The holiday season is a paradox: it’s the best of times and it’s the worst of times. It’s the best of times because everything is so festive and beautiful. 

But the holiday season creates anxiety for many people, whether it’s getting together with family that you don’t see eye to eye with or running around all over town buying last minute gifts. 

In the cold weather months, you’re more likely to get sick than you are in the summer. Yes, some of that has to do simply with weather; viruses thrive in colder weather and are able to circulate and replicate in stagnant, indoor air. But stress is just as much of a contributing factor, if not more so. 

So what can you do to manage your stress this time of year? Follow these 5 tips for surviving the holiday season…

yoga for stress

Take Mini Meditation Breaks

Not much of a meditator? Does keeping the mind free of thought seem like an impossible task? The good news is that you don’t need to be a Zen master to quiet your mind. And you also don’t need to meditate for hours upon end to become one with the universe. All it takes is a few minutes of consciously focusing on inhaling and exhaling. Stress managed! It’s really as simple as that. 

And if while you are sitting still (a chair is fine; you don’t have to go into deep Lotus pose), thoughts creep in, that’s fine. Just bring your mind back to your breathing. Five long seconds inhaling, and the same on the exhale. Try to inflate your chest and belly like a balloon on the inhale. Deflate on the exhale. 

Still thinking about all the bills you have to pay while you’re breathing? It’s fine. Do try and not let those worries consume your thoughts. But just remember the name of the game is not to rid your mind completely of thoughts. Rather, the goal is to focus on your breathing. Because breathing is healing. 

Take Mini Exercise Breaks 

Some people make the excuse that they don’t have the time to go to a gym or take a class because they’re so busy. But nobody should be so busy that they can’t take the time to take a mini-exercise break. 

Something fun I recently started doing is dancing for 3-5 minutes in my home while listening to a song on Pandora or Spotify. I also have a standing desk/desk riser and while I’m pecking away on my laptop, I sashay my hips from side to side. Yes, shaking your groove thing is possible while working. 

As the saying goes, sitting is the new smoking. Standing all day while working from home is impossible. And like sitting all day, standing for several hours is also bad for circulation. But alternating between sitting and standing several times a day is ideal for good blood flow and keeping the spirits high. 

You can also set a timer and do a three-minute yoga routine every 90-120 minutes. The bottom line is that you don’t need to exercise for a long time in order to manage holiday stress. You can do a few mini movement sessions per day and reap the same benefits.

grain

Eliminate Processed Carbs

This might be the holiday survival tip you dread. If you struggle with eating too many carbs, the good news is that you don’t have to completely quit carbs. I’ll explain in a sec. 

But first, let’s take bread as an example. For people who follow a low-carb lifestyle (Keto Diet), bread is a no-no. Eating bread raises blood sugar levels and puts more demand on the pancreas to release insulin. 

The more bread and other processed carbs you eat, the more insulin your body needs to keep blood sugar levels steady. If you keep eating bread, bagels, muffins, cereal and other baked goods made with white flour (wheat flour isn’t much better for blood sugar levels), your cells will become resistant to insulin. This places you at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

But not all bread is created equally bad. About 99% of supermarket breads are empty carbs. But artisanal sourdough bread contains beneficial bacteria for your gut. You can also buy 100% whole rye bread which contains a lot of fiber. When you see that a bread contains at least a few grams of fiber, it means that the blood sugar spike won’t be as high as bread with little or no fiber. 

If you’re at brunch and you’re considering getting a stack of pancakes, think of the pancakes as a giant bowl of sugar. Foods prepared with white flour break down very quickly, metabolizing into sugar. 

The problem with this is that sugar suppresses the immune system. Eating a tiny piece of cake at a holiday party is no problem. But if you have trouble controlling your portion sizes, it’s better to just say no than to indulge. Studies have shown that consuming sugar puts your body’s infection-fighting white blood cells to sleep for several hours!

So instead of eating refined carbs, eat whole grains like wild rice, farro, emmer wheat and quinoa (technically, quinoa is a seed but let’s not split hairs). 

beach yoga

Take A Social Media Detox

If you’re feeling anxious this time of the year simply because it’s the holidays or for whatever other reason, consider putting your phone down. 

Make a phone call, text if you have to, but in order to feel more peaceful, I recommend chilling out on social media for a while. 

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that recent studies reveal that social media damages teenagers’ mental health. Even if you’re not a teenager anymore, chances are that keeping up with the Joneses or Kardashians on social is negatively impacting your life. Unless you’re using social strictly for work, consider a 3 Day Cleanse. (And if your body needs to physically detox, check out Chef V’s Cleanses.)

In the Dalai Lama’s Art of Happiness book, one of his tips for being happy is not to compare yourself to anybody else. When you’re on social media, it’s hard not to compare yourself to others. 

No News Is Good News 

Tip #5 for surviving the holiday season is much like my advice to do a social media detox. Unfortunately, news and politics have made us divided and no more is that evident than on social media. In addition to detaching from social media to avoid the news, do the same from cable news, newspapers, talk radio and magazines. 

And last but not least, under no circumstances should you discuss news and politics with family who don’t share your point of view. It’s not worth the energy. The more you get triggered, the more stress hormones circulating through your bloodstream. When stress hormones flood the blood, digestion slows down. And when digestion becomes impaired, you’re more likely to pack on the pounds. In light of that metabolic fact, is it really worth arguing about who should be president? 

Hopefully these tips will come in handy and make you a happier, healthier person for the holidays…

Love,

Chef V

Chef V Predicts 2022’s Top 5 Natural Health Trends

Veronica, Brandon on beach

Move over yogurt, kombucha and DIY sourdough bread. Y’all were so 2020. OK, so those three aren’t going away anytime soon. But what will be the biggest health trends next year? Chef V gazes into her crystal ball and offers her predictions for the biggest natural health trends of 2022. 

It’s been a whole year since I made health trend predictions. And I bet you dollars to gluten free, apple-cider-vinegar donuts that 99 out of 100 people wouldn’t remember what I predicted for 2021. Chances are, some of the biggest natural health and food trends of 2022 will be the same as I predicted last year: low-carb diets, prebiotics/postbiotics, mushrooms, vitamin D and adaptogens. 

So I could have pulled a fast one on you by just rehashing last year’s article. Of course I wouldn’t do something disingenuous like that. But in case you didn’t read last year’s predictions, you can do so here, after reading 2022’s predictions. Without further ado, here’s what I’m seeing for next year’s top trends…

gut health

Top Natural Health Trends 2022 #1: Armoring Up

All five predictions I made for 2021 (see above) relate to supporting the immune system. I don’t know about you but I sure miss the days when worrying about the immune system was just a seasonal issue. 

But the silver lining today is that if you’re more health conscious than you were before, the global health crisis has probably made your immune system stronger. 

Because of the pandemic, more people are focusing on armoring up their immune system. That means eating a zero-added-sugar-diet, doing intermittent fasting, and the other recommendations I made last year. 

“Armoring up” also means taking gut-health supplements like probiotics because 70% to 80% of immune cells are in the gastrointestinal tract. Supporting your immune system 365 days a year isn’t cheap. It requires budgeting if you plan on taking immune-support supplements like zinc, vitamin D, quercetin, Chinese herbs, etc. 

I’d rather spend a little less money on entertainment and more on things that will support a robust immunity all year. Instead of paying for cable TV, splurge on a yoga retreat and armor up with immune supplements. 

robot meat

#2: Robot Meat

Is lab-produced meat coming soon to your supermarket shelves? The future may be sooner than you think. Today.com says that Artificial Intelligence or AI is helping food companies create things we could have only dreamed of a couple of years ago. 

For example, one food technology company is perfecting a vegan dairy doppelganger. In other words, it’s a protein that looks and tastes identical to dairy protein yet 100% plant-based. 

AI will likely introduce faux eggs that if we didn’t know it, we’d swear it was from a backyard hen. The company behind the vegan eggs found a way to isolate a protein from mung beans to create the chicken-free eggs. 

Today.com also references a company using AI to make a vegan milk that “froths, foams and blends just like dairy.” The plant-based milk is made from pea protein and cabbage juice, and other vegan ingredients. 

I’m conflicted about these lab-created foods. On one hand, reducing the number of animals exploited for their meat seems humane. And in comparison to factory farming, fake meat and other engineered vegan food seems at first glance much more environmentally friendly. 

But I also believe, even as someone that’s about 97% vegetarian, that animal products provide ecological balance—if the meat and dairy are raised in a way that I predict will be another huge health trend in 2022. See top natural health trends #5, below.

golden milk

#3: Functional Beverages

People need something more fun to drink than plain, purified water. Even a regular cup of coffee and tea are in need of an upgrade. With more people working from home, experimenting with water, coffee and tea has become an art. And it’s not just the taste people are altering. It’s the nutritional quality. A functional beverage means that it’s a drink with added ingredients that may (or may not) provide extra health benefits. 

For example, coffee or tea with mushroom powder. CBD-infused seltzer. Golden Milk

As for ways to make drinking water more palatable, add cucumber slices and infuse the water with little pieces of strawberry. It’s like drinking spa water. Have you ever been to a spa that offers this first-class treatment? Treat yourself to spa water at home.

And if you want a functional beverage with some of the world’s most nutrient-dense veggies on the planet, try Organic Green Drink. It’s great for breaking your intermittent fasting or replacing breakfast. It gets delivered to your house fresh so you don’t have to shop, chop and clean up. 

#4: Veggies From The Sea

If you eat sushi and have a kid who loves roasted seaweed snacks, then eating sea veggies is nothing new for you. But most Americans never eat any sea vegetables such as seaweed and kelp. 

And that’s too bad because sea veggies are ounce for ounce the most nutrient-dense substances on the planet. They are super rich in minerals. Because of stress and the typical American diet, most people don’t get enough minerals. 

I predict that seaweed snacks will continue to rise in popularity. But I also think that we’ll see more fresh seaweed products featured on supermarket shelves in 2022. For my vegan customers, I highly recommend kelp because it contains phytonutrients that are really hard to get without consuming sea veggies. 

#5: Regenerative Agriculture

I’m totally in support of 100% plant-based diets. But I’m also a realist. We will likely never live to see a future where everybody swears off eating meat for good. So we may as well support animal products that are grown in the most environmentally-friendly and humane way possible. And this is what regenerative agriculture is all about. 

Already, I’m seeing more vendors at local farmers market advertise their 100% grass-fed beef products as having been produced using regenerative farming practices. In a nutshell, “regenerative ag” increases soil biodiversity and organic matter. This creates healthier soil. The majority of the food that you eat is grown in soil that is lacking in minerals. Healthier soils are better able to resist the detrimental impacts of climate change such as flooding and drought. When we eat any food grown in soil using regenerative agriculture, be it animal- or plant-based, we consume the nutrients from that healthy soil. 

I previously wrote about regenerative agriculture here if you want to learn more about it. I predict we’ll be hearing much more about it in 2022. 

To a happy, healthy 2022!

Love, 

Chef V

© 2021 Chef V, LLC.