It is hard to keep whole food nutrition in mind during stressful times. Often it seems easier to rely on takeout and pizza delivery than cooking, but I want to share my favorite method for stress-free cooking – Brain Bowls!
I could call it the “throw it in a bowl” method of cooking, but it doesn’t have quite the ring to it. I love a good acronym, so I’ve broken down the word BRAIN to help you build your own easy, nutrient-dense, brain-fueling bowl.
Easy Brain Bowls
B – base of greens or grains. I like quinoa, rice, or chickpea pasta. When I don’t want the heavier carb load, I use kale or arugula. Spinach is a great option for those who can tolerate it as well!
R – rainbow of veggies. Sauté, roast, air fry… throw on some avocado oil, your favorite seasonings, and cook them to your preferred texture. It can be a mix of raw or cooked veggies. I always aim for a minimum of three different colors or types. Frequent flyers are bell peppers, onion, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, white potatoes and sweet potatoes.
A – add your protein. Quality is important here to maximize nutrients. I love grass-fed ground beef, organic, pasture-raised chicken or eggs, or wild caught salmon or other fish.
I – include your favorite sauces, dressing, or spices. Stay away from any sauce/dressing that is made with vegetable, canola, or soybean oil. Those oxidize under high heat temps (like your digestive system), which sends free radical damage through your body – something your brain doesn’t need. I love Primal, Siete, Tessemae’s, and New Primal brands.
N – nuts or seeds for some crunch! I love throwing on pepitas, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, walnuts, slivered almonds, chia seeds, etc. Get creative!
The best part of this recipe is that you don’t need to be a chef or even follow a recipe. The more comfortable you are with throwing things together, the more you’ll sustain it – and the more you’ll get more creative as you go!
Want more food support? Registration is open for Feast 2 Fast Back-to-School Reboot, starting August 16. Feast 2 Fast is my four-week online coaching program that enables you to tune in to the needs of your body and learn to incorporate a wide variety of foods into your diet to optimize your metabolic health. No counting, tracking, or starving. Click here to learn more information and sign up.
The inner dialogue you engage matters for the health of your whole body. We have so much science to support that what you think affects the health of your entire body. Dr. Caroline Leaf is a pioneer in neuroscience research and she is changing the way we think about brain health.
In this episode, we explore her recent research and dig into neuroplasticity and why you aren’t stuck with the brain you have. Download here or download wherever you get podcasts.
Everyone knows creating a healthy marriage means putting in the work, but what work is valuable and what are some good ways to get started?
This episode dives deep into all the important marriage topics – with a brain health twist! Download and listen here or find wherever you get your podcasts.
Bill O’Herron, LCSW, is a corporate executive, practicing therapist, and writer who seeks to use his 33 years of financial sales management experience, 24 years of marriage, 15 years of counseling clients, and 8,500 hours of sitting quietly to help his clients better understand themselves and deepen their relationships.
Male and female brain differences and how that impacts marriage
How the male brain develops differently than the female brain
Healthy emotional self-regulation instead of partner regulation
How relationships are the most important thing in life
Chronic stress’ impact on relationships
Reticular activating system: how it works and how it kills the marriage
How relaxing can trigger old memories and activity causes us to avoid self
Tuning in with your 4th grade self and why that matters
The deeper emotions that anger covers up
Learn more about Bill and his counseling practice at Wholecounseling.com and grab his book, Waking Up Marriage.
Five things will always sabotage your mental well-being:
Lack of sleep.
Lack of nutrients.
Lack of sunshine.
Lack of movement.
Lack of community.
I could leave it at that. It’s a whole post in itself.
But I want to flip this, because most of us know these things on some level. However, during times of stress, we often forget to take care of ourselves. We forget that we humans are basically just plants, and plants left without care will wither and die.
We were not designed to stay inside all day, blinking back at a screen with artificial light, head and neck perpetually tilted downward while the rest of our body is unmoving, eating food that is filled with hard-to-digest chemicals and additives, with a schedule so packed we don’t make time for people who are important to us.
Yes, I know that was a massive run-on sentence. It was exhausting (and convicting) typing it out.
Times of brief stress and opposition can be helpful for the body, but when we are continuously stressed, doggy-paddling up to the surface of the water all day long, we will start to feel side effects. It will impact our physical body’s health, and it will most definitely affect our brain’s health. It will cause us to be unable to make clear decisions, show empathy, and connect well with others – because we are in survival mode.
Our bodies are amazing at survival – that’s why you’re here. You’re here because your ancestors survived during difficult times. You gain weight after you diet because your ancestors were able to store weight during famine and not die. Your digestive discomfort is physical evidence that your body knows how to respond to mental stress and anxiety. Your blood sugar fluctuates in order to adapt to emotional stressors and physical stressors on your body. Your hormones are wacky, because duh, it’s never optimal to reproduce when there is a famine or threat to your safety (remember – your body doesn’t know the difference between a stressful job or a T rex chasing you). Even your afternoon fatigue that hits you like a load is a sign that you are overflowing with stress chemicals, and your body’s response system is working properly.
Your body is doing all the right things it is supposed to do. Your body is on your side.
A few years ago, I said to my husband Richard, “Wouldn’t it be cool to have a type of counseling center that has regular counseling, all the helpful therapy support, along with nutrition, yoga, and other tools for healing?” He agreed it would be a great idea, and we said… “one day.”
Well that one day is here! We are so thrilled to follow the path that we believe has been so clearly laid out for us. We are going to be working together at a holistic counseling and wellness center in East Texas, called Living Well Tyler.
Tyler is a place that contains sad memories for me, but it is also filled with memories of so much hope and redemption. I first moved there at nine years old, fresh from the Bay Area of California, and six months later I witnessed the death of my grandfather on my front lawn. I spent my mentally tumultuous teen years in Tyler, but I also met my best friends there. I graduated college there. My first child was born there. I went on my first date with my husband there. Almost two decades after leaving, It feels special and fitting to be able to move our family there at this time.
This verse was read during a contemplative prayer session with the soul care director at Living Well a couple months ago, and it has been such a source of comfort as I process this transition:
“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” – Isaiah 43:16-19
Any kind of change – even good change – is a trigger for my mental health. The unknown, the “what ifs,” can heighten worry and anxiety.
April is Stress Awareness Month, and wow, what a year for stress, right? After devoting several presentations and podcast episodes to the importance of stress management, I’ve learned that the topic never gets old…because as much as we can manage it, stress never goes away.
Your body experiences stress on a physiological level. Every thought you think is a chemical messenger to your body, so when you are in “fight or flight” mode in your brain, the rest of your body listens and acts accordingly. Digestion may shut down, reproductive function can be altered, your blood sugar response may be affected, and your blood pressure will send signals as well.
Learning to manage stress matters, and it’s not something we are taught growing up. In fact, we often get the opposite messaging. Culture tells us to push through, work harder, and there aren’t enough hours. We’re led to believe that poor sleep, afternoon fatigue, and relying on caffeine for energy is normal. It may be common, but it should never be normal.
I say this all the time, but if we don’t learn to manage stress, our stress WILL manage us. It will show up in our bodies and cause all kinds of health problems. Stress creates inflammation, and inflammation creates chronic disease.
This is why I’ve created a list of my favorite stress-supporting products. If we can decrease our response to stress, we can decrease the effect stress has on our bodies.
To be clear, I often get to to try out lots of cool new products, whether it’s for social media promotion or podcast sponsors or podcast guests’ companies or suggestions. I’ve sorted through what I’ve been trying lately, and what follows are my favorites. Do you have to try them all, like me? Of course not! There is no one size fits all to health, and our bodies will all respond to products differently. I believe many supplements should be rotated seasonally, and sometimes it will even depend on the time of month – or even what phase of your menstrual cycle you’re in.
If you struggle with anxiety or depression, you know it affects your entire life. It affects how you move (or don’t move), your concentration, your ability to sleep, your interactions with others, even your bathroom habits. Because anxiety is on the rise, and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, I want to share some little-known triggers for anxiety that you may not be hearing about from anyone else!
Like everything I share, remember that your body’s response to food or internal/external stressors is individual to YOU. What is a trigger for one person might not be a trigger for you. Being aware of how your unique body responds to this world is only something you can determine.
Five triggers for your anxiety that your doctor might not tell you about:
Artificial sweeteners and dyes – not only do they disrupt nervous system function, but sucralose decreases beneficial gut bacteria and aspartame increases anxiety and depression (just another reason to lay off the Diet Coke). Sweeteners can also negatively impact blood sugar – which can increase panic attacks! Food dyes may trigger “mind-storms,” which are issues with the brain’s wiring or electrical activity. No bueno!
Too much screen time – blue light from screens can suppress the hormone melatonin which is needed for restful sleep. Screens can also disrupt the calming neurotransmitter Gaba, along with serotonin – the happy one.
Magnesium deficiency – magnesium calms your nervous system and prevents the creation of excess cortisol, the stress hormone. Some call it “nature’s Xanax.” It’s needed for just about every process in the body. It’s found in nuts, seeds, legumes, and leafy greens, but it’s also an inexpensive supplement! Two of my favorite formulations are the Plexus one, here, or Nutritional Frontiers, here.
Excess caffeine – a little is fine, but too much can stimulate the fight or flight response and trigger racing thoughts, or even panic attacks. Some people metabolize it slower than others, so keep that in mind when you have your afternoon coffee or tea break – your mind might be racing at 1 am!
Stored trauma that hasn’t been addressed– trauma can keep our bodies in that constant fight or flight state, which can lead to poor sleep, inability to concentrate, and panic attacks. Fortunately, there are a wide range of trauma therapies, and many mind-body strategies available to help your body unlock trauma and heal! EMDR and EFT (tapping) are two of the most popular. The wellness center I work with has some amazing trauma therapists and resources here.
Honorable mention: Blood sugar issues: when we’re riding that blood sugar roller coaster it can cause all sorts of poor mental health symptoms. Limit sugar consumption to limit the swing. Consume plenty of fiber-rich vegetables, brain-boosting fats and quality protein with each meal. Many times we fail to fill up on necessary nutrients so we stay hungry, reaching for quick fix glucose fuel and perpetuating the cycle of brain fog and hunger.
Poor digestion: If you can’t digest protein, you can’t make the neurotransmitters needed for mental health. Period. You know that old saying, “you are what you eat?” It’s not true. It should be, “You are what you are able to digest.” When we can’t create serotonin from our food nutrients, we can’t access melatonin either, which affects mood AND sleep. Taking digestive enzymes and working on gut health can help, something I love helping people with!
The next round of Feast 2 Fast, an online coaching group that pairs science-based nutrition principles with timeless spiritual truth to reset your mind, body, and soul starts May 3.Join the wait list here – or contact me directly for more coaching options!
Brain health truth bomb: When I am living under chronic stress, in “fight or flight,” I am physiologically incapable of accepting other perspectives and showing empathy. My brain can’t make sense of new information, especially information that is contrary to what I believe is necessary for my survival.
This is becoming more and more apparent to me, this year especially. I typically love welcoming other perspectives and opinions, which is the reason I will interview anyone and everyone on my podcast, no matter what side they are on for any issue.
So when I’m feeling triggered by something someone says, it’s a sign to me that I am not carefully self-regulating or taking care of myself the way I need to. I have to do a self check-in.
The Lent round of Feast 2 Fast, starting February 17, is open for registration!
Typically, Feast 2 Fast is 4 weeks long, as we systematically use a pattern of feasting and fasting to increase metabolic flexibility and restore nutrient density. The Lent round is six and a half weeks long. We start with a brief sugar detox and incorporate a weekly superfast. We are encouraging each other to give up a food/practice/poor habit for the duration of Lent, while also adding in a divine activity to level up the spiritual focus and become more mindful and purposeful in who we are.
We are simplifying our lives to focus on what truly matters, and I hope you will join us! For more information or to sign up, click here.
No calorie counting.
No logging macros.
No mandatory workouts.
No shakes or supplements.
In this program, we use intermittent fasting in a way that works for YOUR unique body. We introduce real food carbs, whole food carbs, and my favorite – heck yeah carbs – which not only encourages metabolic flexibility, it encourages a healthy mindset toward food as well!
Weekly Zoom meetings are available for those wanting more individualized support, but they aren’t mandatory. You get to go at your own pace and use what components work best for you!