Monthly Archives: October 2015

Life Lessons From Nature

I always find autumn to be a time of reflection.  I am tempted to go outside whenever possible knowing that soon the extreme cold will limit my exploration.  My eyes seem to gain acuity realizing they will be starved for months to come.

Over the past month on my hikes, quirky things have jumped out at me, which seem to be nature talking to me – little life lessons from nature.  I think they are worth sharing because these images spotlight and mimic some common struggles we humans experience.  You might get a different message from these pictures, but just contemplating them leads to a sense of peace and calmness.  And sometimes calmness is a nice place to be.  Calmness gives us energy for other areas in our lives.

Life Lessons From Nature:  Know When To Let Go

dandelion rootSometimes we hold on to opinions so deeply we lose sight of what the opinion was founded on.  The attachment to that opinion becomes the cause of the fight.  And like nature, where moisture, soil, sun and nutrients can change, conditions in our own lives change and warrants us always to try to observe with new eyes for more better understanding.

Life Lessons From Nature:  Make The Best Of Your Gifts

tomato plant on the curbWe are all dealt our cards in life, our genetics that determine our personality, our health and our looks.  It’s so easy to compare and judge someone else’s cards in life and forget to make the best of what gifts we have.

Accept your hand of cards, play them to the best of your ability and bear fruit!

Life Lessons From Nature:  Get Out Of The Rut

Get Out Of The RutIt’s so easy to fall into a routine and become stuck in our thinking.  I remember how hectic it was trying to balance raising three children along with work, managing the household chores and finding personal time.  My form of adaptation was to always get up early and keep to the routine.  I found over time that keeping to the routine was my own personal kind of rut.  Over time I learned to be more creative with my use of time and break out of some of the conventional thinking I was raised with.  I broke up household chores into small increments done daily between waiting for something to boil, preheat or bake.  I was more mindful about the notion of cleanliness and with what frequency.  I learned to look ahead and anticipate needs of my kids, work and home in order to avoid feelings of last-minute stress and keep a steady pace.  Getting out of the rut affords the opportunity to be creative with how one thinks and acts on life.  It’s energizing and empowering.

Life Lessons From Nature:  Believe In Yourself

believe in yourselfThere are times in life when it feels you may be going against the current.  The people in your life may disagree with your life choices but you need to follow your gut and be true to yourself.

Standing alone can be scary and cause uncertainty but those feelings come and go with conviction.  If you are following your heart and you believe in yourself, anything is possible.

Life Lessons From Nature:  Adapt To Life’s Challenges


If your current environment is keeping you from thriving, then decide to either change it or change your perspective on it.

Blaming the environment instead of making changes will stunt your growth and keep you from finding lasting happiness.

Life Lessons From Nature:  Everyday Is An Opportunity

Sunrise from Cadillac Mt, Acadia

We all make mistakes and have regrets, but tomorrow is a new day.  Wake up each day with renewed fervor.   Make amends whenever possible, but otherwise, let go of the past because it is stealing your present.  And today is the beginning of the rest of your life.  All things are possible for you.

Lessons From Nature: Nurture

IMG_2989Some of life’s most important lessons can be learned from observing nature.  I look around in my back yard and feel that my plants are talking to me.  It just takes being present in the moment and a keen eye to “hear” the lessons from nature.

Look closely at the picture to the right.  This is kale growing in my garden that I’ve been putting in my daily smoothie.  At first glance you might not even notice what I see, but if you really look you will notice how the kale on the right side of the row is much shorter and less dense than the kale on the left side.  The exact same amount of seed was planted, watered and fertilized in the row but the reason the kale on the left is more prolific is simply because it got picked more often.

You would think that picking more frequently would make it bare, but in this case, it stimulates growth as long as you don’t pick the terminal bud found at the top center of the kale plant.  By giving just the right amount of attention to kale, it actually becomes more prolific.  Can’t we say that about ourselves too.  When we nurture ourselves and others, don’t we become more prolific and grow more into our potential?

Lessons From Nature: Nurture Yourself

In short, nurturing yourself means taking care of you.  I believe self-nurturing consists of eating the right foods in healthy amounts, getting enough sleep, exercising daily and maintaining life balance.   Life balance for me means fulfilling my sense of purpose, doing for others and having personal recharge time.  I find if I pay less attention to one area and more to another I feel less nurtured, I get more self focused and I become needier.  When I’m nurturing myself in all ways, I’m able to connect better with people, think more creatively and have more energy.

Lessons From Nature: Nurture Others

Nurturing others in your life is done by helping to create a supportive environment to facilitate their growth.  My kale grew well because it was planted in compost-enriched soil, watered, bathed in good sunlight and carefully picked.  I actually had a 12 foot row of kale and found that each day I went out to pick kale for my smoothie I had enough by the time I got half way down the row which is why the kale on the end was sparser.  I never realized that ignoring the kale on the end was going to stop it’s growth.  I did a great job evenly picking the leaves from the beginning of the row, but did not give enough attention to the ones on the end.

Nurturing others means giving them attention in just the right way and right amount so that they can grow abundantly.  Nurturing others means acknowledging someone’s hard work, encouraging someone when they are feeling doubtful, and giving constructive feedback even when it may be difficult.  Nurturing others means helping them be their best selves.

Nurturing Nature So Nature Can Nurture Back

Nurturing has a circular path.  When the kale is well nurtured, it nurtures us back with great nutrition.  When we nurture ourselves, the people around us respond more positively which helps us to feel nurtured.  When we nurture other people in our lives, those relationships become stronger and more meaningful.  I think I will start picking my kale from the left side from now on.

Barbara helps clients with weight management, diabetes and general health improvement. Barbara can be contacted at  Enter you email address on the home page to get Barbara’s health blog delivered to your inbox or “Like” on to get blogs on your facebook page.

Eat This Instead, Part 3

Learning to eat healthier starts with understanding what you are putting in your mouth.  I used to think that all vegetables were the same – that there was no difference in an ear of corn versus a bunch of broccoli in terms of nourishing my body.  They are both veggies so what’s the big deal?  There is certainly nothing wrong with eating a couple of ears of corn with your meal, but combine that with some watermelon, bread with your BLT and maybe a spoonful of potato salad and all of a sudden you have a TON of carbs on your plate and a nap will soon follow.

That carb load will cause a glucose spike stimulating the pancreas to produce more insulin. Eating this way over time stresses the pancreas – especially in someone with a family history of type 2 diabetes ( a more inheritable form of diabetes) or of a certain race:  Pacific Islander, American Indian, African American or Asian American.  These races have what we call the “thrifty gene” meaning their bodies adapted to periods of famine in the past by slowing down their metabolism in order to survive.  When these races are exposed to a heavy carb diet, this thrifty gene works against them by putting a strain on the pancreas, eventually leading to type 2 diabetes.  Furthermore, this extra insulin leads to weight gain since insulin causes our bodies to store fat.

And diabetes is closely related to heart disease.  People with diabetes not only have a problem with their insulin but they also have a problem with fat metabolism.  It is just as important to reduce the amount of saturated fat in the diet since the liver can not handle too much saturated fat.

When you look more closely at some common food choices at dinner you will understand how to reduce the amount of carbs, increase the fiber and reduce some of the unhealthy fat that can lead to diabetes and heart disease.

Eat This Instead:  Brown Rice Instead of White Rice

brown vs white rice1/4 cup dry brown or white rice, which is 1/2 cup cooked, delivers about the same amount of carbohydrates – 35 grams.  But look at the difference in fiber.  Brown rice has 4 grams of fiber while the white rice has none.  Getting enough fiber is part of feeling full.  It also reduces the amount of time that cancer causing substances stay in the GI tract.  It also has many of the B vitamins, the powerful antioxidant selenium, and manganese and helps to lower the bad LDL cholesterol.  .


Eat This Instead:  More Broccoli, Less Corn and Peas

peas, corn vs broccoliThe picture to the right:  peas, then corn, then broccoli, are nutrition values for about the same gram weight.  However there is a big difference in total grams of carbohydrates between them.  Corn and peas have 21 gms and 12 gms respectfully, in a 2/3 cup serving, while broccoli has only 4 gms of carbohydrates in 3/4 cup.  The extra carbs in peas are mitigated by the ample fiber – 4 gms in one serving.  That extra fiber helps to slow down the spike in blood sugar.  In the end, it comes down to portion sizes and how many other carbs are on your plate.  Other carb sources are milk (lactose in milk is a sugar) and sweetened drinks, fruit, breads and grains, beans, starchy veggies like potatoes and winter squashes, and obviously desserts.

How Many Carbs Should You Eat?

The percent daily value (PDV) for carbs for someone eating about 2000 calories a day is 300 mg.  This amount of carbs should be divided over the course of the day, so about 100 mg a meal.  A 20 oz coke has 65 gms, a medium banana has about 30 gms, a piece of bread has about 20 gms.  A cookie can have about 20-30 gms depending on the size.  You can see how carbs add up.  And if someone has any prediabetes or diabetes then the amount of carbs consumed should be reduced even further in order to take the work load off the pancreas.  Talk to a dietitian if you need further recommendations if you do have diabetes.

Eat This Instead:  More Ground Turkey, Less Ground Beef

ground turkey vs ground beef

ground turkey vs 85% ground beef

In a 4 oz serving of turkey, there is only 1 gm of fat.  In 4 oz of ground 85% lean beef there are 17 gms of fat with 7 of those being the heart unhealthy saturated fats.  Because there is more fat – delivering 9 calories per gram – there are twice as many calories in this beef than turkey!  On top of it notice that the ground turkey even has more protein and protein is the third component to the feeling of fullness.  Most Americans do not get enough of it at all their meals but it is a critical component to maintaining muscle mass and metabolism.  It just needs to be lean and should come mostly from fish, poultry, eggs, and plant protein.


Eat This Instead:  Hummus Instead Of Cheese

hummus vs cheeseCheese has much more fat than hummus – 9 gms vs 1.5 gms per serving.  One ounce of cheddar cheese also delivers 6 gms of heart clogging saturated fat and 110 calories.  And how many people just eat 1 oz?  Two tablespoons of hummus only delivers 40 calories and zero saturated fat.

Eat This Instead:  Edy’s Slow Churned Ice Cream Instead of Hoods

Edy's Slow Churned Ice Cream

Edy’s slow churned ice cream on the left.

Edy’s Slow Churned has much less fat, therefore fewer calories than regular ice cream.  In 1/2 cup of Edy’s there is 100 calories, with 3 gms of fat.  The same serving of Hood’s delivers 140 calories with 7 gms of fat – with twice as much coming from saturated fat.  Saturated fat is what sticks to the walls of our arteries, narrowing them and making them more rigid, therefore decreasing the amount of blood flow.



How Much Saturated Fat?

The American Heart Association advises that we keep saturated fat to no more than 5-6 % of our total daily calories, that amounts to 11-13 gms for a 2000 calorie diet.  A cup of Hood’s ice cream would deliver 9 gms, almost the daily limit.  Add a little butter on that corn and the limit has been reached.  Can you imagine what those arteries would look like in someone who is regularly eating beef and cheese on top of ice cream?  All the Lipitor in the world is not going to unclog those pipes.

How These Changes Can Add Up

Let’s compare two meals making the recommended changes versus not.  Let’s compare someone who has a hamburger, with white rice, corn, snacks on cheese and has Hood’s ice cream for dessert vs someone who has the exact same portions but substitutes it with ground turkey breast, brown rice, hummus, broccoli and 1/2 cup of Edy’s ice cream.  The first person would be eating more than 230 more calories, 27 more grams of total fat and 14 gms of it coming from saturated fat (more than the AHA recommendations), 15 more grams of carbs, 5 fewer gms of fiber while getting the exact same amount of protein.  Even if you made your burger with half turkey breast and half 85 % lean ground beef and skipped the cheese you would cut down your saturated fat by over 9 gms.

Making these substitutions don’t have to happen all at once.  Personally, I would start where the change is easiest then branch out from there.  Reduce the portions of foods with unhealthy fats and gradually add more foods with healthy higher fiber carbs from whole grains and vegetables.  Look at your desserts and find ones with fewer saturated fats and be mindful of portion sizes.  And some days of the week, skip the desserts and just have some sliced apples sprinkled with cinnamon.  That might be radical, but so is having diabetes and heart disease.

Barbara can be contacted at  Enter you email address on the home page to get Barbara’s health blog delivered to your inbox or “Like” on to get blogs on your facebook page.