Thursday, October 2, 2008

Cheap, easy & profoundly effective steps to feeling and looking younger

Perhaps you’ve heard the new buzzword: Anti-oxidants. Which essentially means “against oxidizing,” for our purposes lets think of oxidation as what you see when you burn something, the blackened burning tissue is a good visual. So, of course, getting something to protect your skin from oxidation sounds like a great idea…and it really is. However, it’s not that simple. We can put all the sunblocks, and polyglycols on our skin but we won’t see the results we want unless we look at it from a holistic perspective.

Let’s start from the start, when you were an embryo and gaining form, there were 3 layers of tissue, an outside (ectoderm), a middle (mesoderm) and an inside layer (endoderm). One of the first things to form was your spinal cord and brain, this starts out as a bunching up of ectoderm, and coincidentally enough, this same layer of tissue forms your skin, and mucus membranes. Mesoderm forms bones and muscles, and endoderm the organs.

This means that your skin and your gut, like your brain and peripheral nervous system are giant receptors taking in your external environment in a way that protects, and reflects upon, your delicate internal environment (tissues and organs and blood). In short, what you eat and think is key to healthy skin, mind and emotions-their beauty shines from within.

Sugar is easy to oxidize, it is energy ready to burn, literally. The more sugar you take in your diet the more complicated it becomes for your body to maintain balance, much less, optimal health and emotional harmony. Perhaps you’ve noticed that you get pimples or acne from eating a lot of sugar?

Skin isn't the only place it takes it’s toll, lots of sugar also affects those organs that produce adrenaline, the adrenal glands, which stabilize our moods. Adrenaline is so vital to survival, as it is a buffer for stress, ensuring that the brain functions as well as it can under stressful conditions, that without it we wouldn’t last a single day! Yep, you can die quickly if you don’t have the adrenaline to respond to the effects of stress on your body. That’s why people who are taking very strong medications like prednisone, a synthetic form of cortisol (the precursor of adrenaline), can not just stop taking it—after taking it for more than a few days the feedback mechanism in your brain recognizes there’s enough in your system so it turns off or sharply turns down your body’s own production of cortisol. And, if you were to abruptly stop taking prednisone, your body would be completely thrown off. It takes some time to dust off the machinery and get the endogenous levels up to par. So please consult with your doctor before discontinuing any medications (especially steroids)!

In short, sugar is the basic material for energy but too much of it leads to lots of oxidation.

Another key element to add is fat; yep, fat is actually good for you if it is the Omega-3 type chains. You see, fats are long chains of carbon molecules, and there are 3 main types of chains: Omega-6 (most prominent), Omega-3 (most anti-inflammatory), Omega-9 (found in olive oil). The standard american diet is flooded with Omega-6, (i.e. big macs, fries, etc) and this leads to inflammation—inflammation goes hand in hand with oxidation, in that it can damage tissues, lead to aging and added stress on your blood vessels, organs, and skin. Perhaps you’ve stubbed your toe sometime, the pain, redness, swelling are all signs of inflammation. Now every time you’re about to eat a juicy steak or fries, think of that stubbed toe…your blood vessels may not ache now, but it will certainly add up over time. Which, brings me to the most important act for great skin and overall balance: Moderation!

A steak, fries, alcohol, etc., are fine in moderation because we are blessed with an excellent response mechanism that is natural to the body—that is to find balance in the face of temporary setbacks. Moderation will work with your body’s natural abilities to find balance; overdo it and you override a most important and brilliant mechanism meant for your basic protection and innate ability to thrive.

I know, moderation is a challenge sometimes. With all the wonderful delicacies and experiences the world offers it can be easy to slip into habitual indulgence, but your more than a slave to your habits, right? I have had days where a piece of chocolate cake and a glass of wine with a steak seem the perfect solution to my mood stagnation. So, let me pass on 2 gems that help me move through it with fluidity and that let me keep my ability to choose to indulge if I would still like to.

The 2 items that help me keep my balance and my ability to indulge are: water and fiber. Yep, that’s it! If I decide I want to indulge, I first pledge to my good natured body that I will first indulge in what will help it cleanse itself of any damage I might do later; I am not talking about binging and purging (I guess this order would be purging than binging, anyway both are extreme and therefore harmfully counterproductive). So, I make a deal with my Self that I will have some number of glasses of water (usually three 8 oz glasses) before I drink any "indulgent" liquids (this could be soda pop, wine, etc). And if its a food, I commit to eating 2 fiber-full fruits or vegetables. I usually match flavor categories, sweets with fruits/savory with vegetables. For example, if I want to eat a piece of chocolate cake I ensure that I eat 2-3 full apples or pears first. If I want to indulge in a juicy hamburger, I first eat 2 cups of salad greens, a full carrot and celery stalk. If I’m in a hurry or about to go on a dinner date, I drink a full 16 oz of fiber drink (16-20 g of fiber).

This is a great game if you want to maintain or lose weight. And, sometimes that mood that has us reaching for items from the outside to dump into the inside is really just asking for some play time, so engage your Self in a playful way. This is a practical and satisfying food/drink game, that you can extend to other areas. If you want to procrastinate on finishing that project and indulge in a movie instead, you might first take out a musical instrument or a book of poetry and use your voice, your body to create sounds and rhythm—you may find that the block in your desire to get on with your action list just needed to have some freedom to flow. Dancing is also highly recommended, and with children it's positively rejuvenating. Until next time, keep your heart in tune with time’s delightful glide in gratitude.

A recap
1. Decrease amount of sugar and simple carbohydrates in your body

2. Increase amount of good fats in your diet, Omega-3, found in wild fish, flaxseed, etc.. Replace inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids with good ones like borage oil, or evening primrose oil.

3. Moderation, help your body be at its best by creating manageable conditions for balance. Don’t overdo it or it will be hard for your body to keep up with, much less repair, the damage.

4. Satisfy your cravings all you want, but first indulge in those two items that will help your body prepare for and eliminate any toxins; water and fiber.

5. Play! Create games that allow you to get what you want while offering a healthy challenge so that you can feel deservedly good about your choices

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