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A Sicilian family story


Ragusa, Sicily
In Brooklyn, New York, in 1936, my grandmother was around 10 years old. Her parents came from Sicily, like a lot of families did in that area of the city at that time and – upon their arrival – they stepped onto U.S. soil with many hopes, traditions and a love of good food (who doesn’t love good food, right?). Back then, a lot of families centered their whole lives around meals and church. Everything was about the meal, especially, if you were Italian!

My great grandfather worked very hard when he settled here in America, opening a small grocery store with beautiful fresh produce, Italian meats and different, tasty cheeses. My great grandmother spent many hours in the kitchen cooking fresh sauce and healthy meals for the family that included a lot of garlic and beans. From what I’m told, the aroma of the house was always filled with the smell of fresh basil and garlic. She spent many hours teaching my then 10-year-old grandmother how to cook and sew. Thankfully, her traditions stayed alive and have been passed all the way down to me.

My great grandparents had a beautiful garden in their backyard, and my grandmother used to tell me how fresh the tomatoes were. On Sundays, they would all gather and eat outside on a large farm table, eating fresh Italian bread with homemade sauce made from tomatoes in their garden. I have many pictures of my great grandfather playing the mandolin as smiling relatives drank red wine. They each had a laugh that could be heard for miles. I can feel myself sitting there with them now, as I share this with you. Oh, how I wish I was alive than! These were happier times for my family – before the war and when life was simpler. I think it was simpler for a lot of folks at that time no matter what culture you were from.

One family member brings to mind a story that my grandmother would share with me when I was a kid. A four-legged, furry member named Trixie – the family dog. I don’t know if Trixie was Italian, but from what I hear he sure acted like he was! Attitude and all. I think he barked Italian. Trixie was white and stood about knee high with floppy ears. From the old pictures, he had a contagious smile and a sparkle in his eyes.

Back then, Brooklyn looked more like the country. Trixie, in all his smartness, had free run of his domain around the outer parts of my family’s home. One day in the spring, my great grandmother was in the kitchen cooking up a fresh pot of sauce and my great grandfather was working happily in his garden. Trixie was soaking up the sun and enjoying another lazy day of bird watching, and looking forward to dinner. Like all dogs, he knew the schedule of the day, and always anticipated those extra scraps that great grandpa would toss under the table behind my great grandmother’s back. But, this day Trixie wasn’t going to settle for scraps – he had high hopes for something better.

My family had a neighbor a few houses down with chickens freely grazing on their property. They enjoyed fresh eggs every morning. Trixie knew the chickens well, and always had his eyes and his ears on them. The chickens knew him well too, and they were always ready for any of his tricks. Trixie was feeling daring this particular day. As my great grandfather kept his back turned and tended to his garden, Trixie decided to take a little walk over to the neighbor’s house. Within minutes, my great grandpa heard a gunshot. He turned around and Trixie was gone. Was it his Trixie?! He frantically stood up and looked around. He couldn’t see anything. He called for Trixie, yelling his name louder and louder. All of a sudden Trixie came running through the tall grass with a large object in his mouth. My grandpa had a sigh of relief that Trixie was alive, but didn’t expect the sudden surprise when he walked over and placed a very nice sized, fresh and organic chicken at his feet.

My grandpa was shocked, yet proud, of the catch Trixie made. He picked the chicken up and shook his head with a smile. He noticed poor Trixie was bleeding on the side of his hip, so he quickly picked him up and saw a bullet on his side. Not wanting to worry my great grandmother, or ruin Sunday dinner, he quickly took Trixie into his toolshed and performed a Sicilian operation – using his own tools to pull the bullet out, sow and clean him up, get both Trixie and the chicken all ready for dinner within minutes.

My great grandma never knew a thing and that Sunday dinner was special. Not a word was said about the day’s event, not even an Italian bark. No scraps for Trixie this night, he was getting the real deal that he worked for. Fresh, organic chicken served.

Do you have a Trixie grocery shopping for you? I wish I did! While food and the environment have changed, the need of nutritious tasty food hasn’t. In my next post, I’m going to share how you can shop (safer than Trixie!) for the wholesome food your body craves. Stay tuned!

 

 

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My favorite “EATS” in Denver.

True Food Kitchen in Denver has to be my favorite place to eat by far!  Anytime I travel, I always try and eat at places that cater to quality taste, healthy menu choices and a cool vibe! True Kitchen provided just that!  They offered Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian, Wild Fish, Grass Fed Meats and they use all organic produce.  They have an awesome open kitchen to watch your food being made too.  Take your time drinking some organic tea, or cider while you wait!
 
 As True Kitchen quotes from their site….”The basis for an anti inflammatory diet isn’t meant to deprive a healthy body of great flavors, it’s meant to take popular trends in cuisine and pair them with healthy living.”  I love that!
 
Check out their restaurant in Denver and other places in California and Arizona!!  You won’t regret it!
My True Food Kitchen experience…….
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The evils of conventional (GMO) foods

I’m taking you back to 1989. I was a freshman in high school, hair bands were in and The Gap was selling comfortable, cool styles. Gas prices were $0.97 per gallon and the average rent was $420 a month. Recently, my mother pulled out old checks showing she was able to grocery shop for four people for under $65. Wow – I would love to see those days come back!

For most of grade school, and through my senior year, we hardly had any sick kids in school. By sick, I mean we hardly had any kids that were overweight, underweight, had allergies, autism, digestive issues, depression or any major social disorders. Today, it seems to be a completely different arena when speaking to parents about their kid’s issues. It seems most kids, and adults, today have some ailment or disease that affects their short- and long-term health.

In the many years I’ve spent as a massage therapist and personal trainer, I’ve interacted with folks to see where some of their behaviors and choices are coming from. I witness lack of time, laziness and ignorance as the main drivers for poor decision making. That’s why making the right food choices is a good place to start.

As a health coach and organic cook, I’ve spent many hours over the years in different grocery stores. In Florida, and other areas of the country, there are well-known stores as well as many small chain stores that specialize in natural and organic foods, with more and more supporting local farmers. When I was a kid, we didn’t have as many choices as we do now. So, how do you know what food choices are the right ones to make for your family? What is the difference between conventional, GMO, locally grown and organic food?

I’m here to help you with a quick brief summary of the types of foods that you can choose from. Use this as a guide to learn more in this blog post and those that come. Let’s get started on some definitions to know when shopping and looking at food labels.

Question: What does GMO mean?

Answer: GMO stands for genetically-modified organisms. They can be defined or broken down into plants, microorganisms or animals where the DNA has been changed in a special way that isn’t natural by mating. This is done by biotech companies and is known as modern biotechnology, gene technology and genetic engineering. It takes selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, and also between non-related species (also known as gene splicing).

Question: What is the purpose of GMO foods and why are they so bad?

Answer: This type of farming is very toxic to our environment and uses unnatural ways to create a species. They use heavy pesticides and an herbicide chemical known as glyphosate to dry wheat faster and kill weeds. This chemical is also killing the nutrients in your food, and doesn’t come off your food once it’s settled. It’s not safe for consumption. Drones are used to farm these types of crops and covered suits are worn for worker protection while farming your food! This is all done to achieve a faster turnover of crops and cheaper prices. But, how cheap are you willing to go for cancer?

Question: I’ve been eating GMOs and conventional food my whole life, along with most of my friends and family. I have a lot of digestive issues and battle weight problems, as well as a lot of friends that have cancer and different diseases related to inflammation. Would GMOs contribute to this?

Answer: Eating pesticides and consuming glyphosate isn’t healthy, and there’s plenty of research online that’s proven how toxic it is. You can look at the cancer statistics, the dramatic rise of autoimmune diseases and the alarming rate of digestive and thyroid issues in the United States to see that GMOs are not contributing to better health. If food is your medicine, than this isn’t good medicine.

 Question: What foods have GMOs?

Answer: Most foods at high risk for GMOs include:

  • Soy (94% of U.S crops since 2011)
  • Corn (88% of U.S crops since 2011)
  • Sugar beets (95% OF U.S crops since 2011)
  • Alfalfa (First planting since 2011)
  • Canola (90% OF U.S crops since 2011)
  • Cotton (90% OF U.S. crops since 2011)
  • Zucchini and yellow summer squash (approx. 25,000 acres)

Less risk, but known to have GMOs:

  • Chard
  • Siberian Kale
  • Bok Choy
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Turnip
  • Squash
  • Flax
  • Rice
  • Wheat

Question: Where are most of these GMO foods hiding?

 Answer: All packaged foods that are not organic. You will also find them in most, if not all restaurants, unless it’s an all-organic and non-GMO supported establishment. This also includes food found at locations such as hospitals, schools, airplanes, hotels, theme parks, movie theaters, food trucks, catered businesses, nursing homes, daycares, work and church socials.

Some of the most common derived ingredients from GMO crops include: yeast products, xanthan gum, non-organic GMO vitamins, sucrose, vegetable protein, monosodium glutamate, maltodextrins, lactic acid, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, high fructose corn syrup, amino acids, aspartame, ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, vitamin C (non-organic and GMO), citric acid, sodium citrate, ethanol and flavorings (natural and artificial).

Question: How long have GMOs been in our Food Supply?

Answer: GMOs hit our grocery stores in 1994. In 1999, there were over 100 million acres worldwide planted with genetically modified seeds. After 1999, most of our main supply of conventional, non-organic crops have dominated our stores.

Question: How can I avoid GMOs?

Answer: There are many ways to avoid GMOs in your meals. Here are some guidelines:

  • Plan meals ahead.
  • Avoid going out to eat.
  • Avoid purchasing conventional foods.
  • Avoid packaged foods.
  • Avoid non-organic alcohol and wine.
  • Pack your lunches.
  • Buy mostly organic if possible.
  • Avoid non-organic vitamins.
  • Avoid all sodas.
  • Avoid using non-organic cotton on your face.
  • Choose European beers that label “non-GMO” since a lot of countries don’t allow GMOs in their food supply (even some restaurants and pubs now offer them).
  • If you dine out:
    • Choose foods that are not from the high-risk list.
    • Decline salad dressings at restaurants and use apple cider vinegar, if possible.
    • Order wild caught seafood and avoid most beef, chicken and pork unless organic. 13.
    • Get creative and google organic restaurants or health food stores in your area and while traveling. Think ahead and step out of the box.
  • If you’re in a long meeting, traveling or in a rush try to always have an organic, raw GMO- and gluten-free protein bar with you or pack organic plums, peaches, bananas and nuts.

Question: What are some possible symptoms of consuming toxic food over long periods of time?

Answer: Eating and consuming anything can have an instant, or cumulative, effect on the body, and can cause acute and chronic issues if toxic. Spanning the last 20 years, I gathered the below list of symptoms from people who consume non-organic foods on a regular basis.

Common related symptoms (when eating toxic foods) include: high estrogen levels, fatigue or brain fog, slow metabolism, slow digestion, liver problems, acne, headaches, depressed immune system, bad breath, joint inflammation, foul stools and constipation, cold sores, lower sex drive, depression, anger, thinning hair, cysts, fibroids, gallbladder problems, high glucose levels, early menopause, terrible PMS, exhaustion, poor sleep, inflamed or hardened abdomen, increased anxiety, liver spots, high blood pressure, back pain, kidney stones, skin tags, cellulite, flaccid or itchy skin and high cholesterol.

Question: I have some of the symptoms listed above. What happens if I don’t change my diet to start eating cleaner foods?

Answer: The final outcome varies based on your genes and how long you’ve been eating bad foods. Some people are willing to continue feeling less than healthy. They’ve submitted to taking prescription drugs to mask the warning signs, however, eventually the immune system will hit a wall and be open to various types of diseases related to the symptoms above.

Below is a complete list of diseases that I’ve seen repeatedly with my clients, and have increased in the last 10 years. I don’t think I go one week without hearing of someone having one of these listed below – it’s rather eye opening. When your immunity is low and you’re inflamed, you’re open to becoming a victim of many diseases.

Think how many people you know that have one or two people in their families with one of the following: lupus, thyroid cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, endometriosis, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, diabetes, fibromyalgia, liver disease, Lyme disease, bipolar disease, arthritis, autism, multiple sclerosis, leukemia, allergies, heart disease, helicobacter pylori, sleep apnea, degenerative discs, peptic ulcers, obesity or lymphatic cancer.

Have your eyes been opened by this information? Do GMO and conventional foods scare you as much as they do me? Are you willing to power yourself up and make some changes? You can do this! It’s really simple.

You’ve read all this so far and have gained a little bit more knowledge … which is power. Doesn’t it feel good?! In my next blog post, we’ll look into what organic foods are. I can’t wait for you to learn more and wish I could grocery shop and cook with all of you. God bless!

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Combating Toxic Overload

When we’re healthy all of our body systems function in harmony. We have energy, sleep well, go to the bathroom easily, have a stable weight, good posture, upbeat attitude and are truly at peace. This is homeostasis.

When we become injured, or sick, the body becomes inflamed – working hard to repair itself and get back into balance. We begin to feel fatigued, constipated, overweight, grumpy, smelly, depressed and sick. If our tissues, digestive system, liver or immune system are all toxic and lacking nutrients, we will be prone to disease or bacteria, fungus and parasites. So, how do our bodies become overloaded with toxins? Through our food, the environment, poor cleansing and stress.

For the next four to twelve weeks , we’ll dive into how toxic overload occurs in the body. We’ll break down some of the contributing factors by exploring organic versus conventional (GMO*) foods, stress, water, alcohol and caffeine, heavy metals, prescription drugs, vitamins, synthetic versus organic (non-GMO) marijuana, parasites and mold/fungus/yeast.

We hope you stick with us on this journey to better health!

*Genetically-modified organisms.

 

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So glad you’re here!

 

 

Traffic, bills, work deadlines, screaming kids, a dirty house, long grocery lines, no sleep, tighter pants, back pain and no peace of mind…sound familiar? Do you need a moment to yourself? Do you want to scream, “Help!” 

Are you getting enough sleep and eating what you should? Who or what is taking you away from being the best you? How long would it take to clear your mind, clean your whole house, get in the best shape of your life, and take a long enough vacation where rest and fun was your only priority? How long would it take to catch up on work or those long lost friendships that you’re too busy to foster? When was the last time you spent hours just laughing and not thinking about where you had to be and what you had to do?

I know how you feel!

We have so many conveniences today, yet our to-do lists are longer than ever. Our bodies are fragile. Many different factors contribute to the stress and poor health that’s so common today, and the responsibilities of life can take a toll on all of us over time.

With more than 25 years of experience in the health and wellness industry, I’ve applied my passion and knowledge in a way that holistically helps people like you feel better. With a heart for helping those in need, I have dedicated my life to caring for and enabling people to increase their overall wellness through nutrition management, physical activity and massage therapy.

My expertise spans many important components of overall health and includes teaching group fitness classes and personal training; massage specialization in sports and Swedish massage, reflexology, myofascial release and trigger point therapy; organic cooking and nutrition management.

As your personal wellness partner, I invite you to learn how to be your own natural pharmacy right in your kitchen, get rid of pain, sleep better, maintain a healthy weight, lift depression from your mind, balance your hormones, have more energy and live a fuller life.

On a daily basis, I see and hear about various ailments and disease from people on my massage table. This blog shares information about foods that help heal and prevent inflammation, exercise tips on how to stay strong as you age, advice on food shopping and how stress impacts your body’s homeostasis.

You’ll also find resources such as my favorite articles along with guidance on how you can prevent health challenges from creeping up on you. My hope is that by keeping an open mind about new food, exercise, routines and ways of thinking, you’ll embrace these ideas. They will plant many good seeds in your life and, little by little, you’ll adopt a new way of living.

Hopefully, you’ll be as energized by my guidance as I am by sharing it with you. I dedicate this blog to you – for all of the things you will do as you become more educated and aware of the healthier life choices you can make. Please allow me to join you on your journey to wellness.

God bless and enjoy!