How a baby bird taught me to begin again

How a baby bird taught me to begin again

Cats, birds, and nature don’t always  – or maybe ever – mix. We get busy and distracted in our important lives – starting a new practice, entertaining and improving my level of fitness and oops. Right now I’m grateful to a tiny baby bird, who reminded me about the courage to begin again and again, to make space for practice.

Here’s what happened

Two days ago, a baby bird came into our lives and reminded us about moral clarity. I was pulling weeds in my garden, stood and came around the corner of the house and there it was – a naked egg-shaped baby bird between the paws of my two-year-old cat Bandit. Clearly alive. Clearly struggling.

My beloved and I live atop a hill overlooking an undisturbed field (no spring cut). There are too few uncut fields anywhere these days. A type of bird in New England nests in fields – I don’t know its name but I can show you two of them right now, perched in the tall grass courageously watching their nest and babies – I believe they are endangered.

I scooped up the hatchling so it would not be eaten alive, showed Craig, brought it inside, and made a little nest out of cotton and leaves in a flower pot. I thought I would just make it comfortable as it died and I tried to forgive myself for said death. I googled, made calls and started to find my way to people who could help with information or maybe even save this little one. That might take me off the hook for this possibly endangered bird that my cats have been feasting on while making me feel as though I was doing my part – check!

Fearless fighting Freddie lives

I found out that you can feed them softened cat food. It was clear this little one was not going to die immediately, his neck strained and little beak opened wide for the dropper. He grabbed that dropper and sucked with force. Wow. Impressive.

Through that first night, with (fearless fighting) Freddie cheep-cheeping every 45 minutes, and me rolling over to feed it, it was clear that 1. he might actually live and, and 2. we needed to – as every bird-oriented wildlife person will tell you –  keep the cats in to give the other babies a fighting chance. Maybe weeks. Or forever.

Freddie dies but lives on

Freddie died the next day after a valiant effort – he spent much of a day and a half in that upstretched open-mouthed position that is so cute. He/she died for a hundred possible reasons including that he was too warm/cold/over-hydrated/underhydrated/had internal injuries/the wrong food/or handled too much. I loved that little bird. I could recognize his/her voice cheep-peeping every 45 minutes. Craig loved him too – we decided, after he made it through the night, that we would roll him into the family – do what we had to to take care of the little fellow. This in spite of the mess and stink and the fact that I really do not like bird-pets. We also have 3 cats.

Through the experience, we were reminded that once in a while doing the right thing comes and smacks you in the face. We have to keep the cats in, regardless of how cute they are as they scamper to the door when we make the slightest move in that direction. Maybe for weeks. At least until those two parents are no longer guarding their nest. Maybe indefinitely.

It reminded us, too, that as conscious beings we have to practice – we can’t just wander on and let nature and life take its course. We had a lot of house guests around the time Freddie came into our lives and had stopped practicing. We were less connected to nature than usual. Tending the land comes with responsibility – now that we know those birds are there, we can’t let the cats out. If a little Freddie shows up because we didn’t know or weren’t paying attention, we try to rise to the occasion. Peep peep!

Now what? The answer is always practice

Freddie is now resting-in-peace near his nest. I am grateful to that little fellow and to the practice of mindfulness that allows me to slow down enough to learn from all the crazy things that are unfolding around me.

A good reason to think about joining our online group – to begin (or begin again) to practice mindful living.

Prediabetes Symptoms – Here’s How it Feels

Prediabetes Symptoms – Here’s How it Feels

The last couple years have been tough. Through my challenging time, I had a personal experience of how prediabetes symptoms feel – I don’t recommend it. For me, it was the wake-up call I needed to refocus on lifestyle.

One indicator of how life is going generally is my eating – for years I had it together, surfing life’s ups and downs while my relationship with food was stable and happy. It helped that I work at a yoga center famous for its healthful food, and that I’ve studied nutrition for almost 30 years (still fascinated!). Being an “expert” actually heightens the misery – I’m sure many of you know of what I speak.

Over the past two years, when I realized several of those big life fears (I watched the love of my life die, quick and gruesome…then…he came back to life! wait, wha?), the place that slipped was eating (of course!). In my despair, movement-related self-care was also just too hard to keep up. I moved a little but not enough – and I just could not find the joy I always felt with dance, movement and fitness.

Through this time, my A1c crept up. While I know in great detail how to address it (hello, moderating carbohydrates and moving more) it hasn’t been easy. My progress until now has been rather slow. One thing that I’ve experienced (I think) is how someone feels when their blood sugar is on what I call the blood sugar roller-coaster, giving you prediabetes symptoms.  It is a profound feeling and impacted nearly every moment of my day, and has a set of unhelpful thoughts attached.

Prediabetes Symptoms

While many people with prediabetes do not have symptoms, here are a few that can happen.

Fatigue. First, you’re tired. Really tired and unmotivated. It’s hard to comprehend a reason to get up and out of bed, and why-botherism is right there, pretty much all the time. There are moments of light, but mostly grey. Tired and unmotivated.

Unwellness. Then, you feel sort of crummy. Most of the time. Low energy and achy deep inside for no real reason.

Increase Thirst & Urination. I’ve always been a water drinker and didn’t notice this one, but some folks do.

Weird things begin to happen physically – blurred vision, skin things, digestive things, that have never happened before and don’t help with moving forward.

Cravings. For me, eating my favorite comfort/trigger foods (starch for me – mashed potatoes) became a heightened experience. I got trapped in a familiar cycle of emotional eating – stress, think of mash potatoes – eat mashed potatoes, overeat mashed potatoes – wish I hadn’t eaten mashed potatoes as I feel over-full.

What to Do if You Have Prediabetes Symptoms

Get ye to your doctor. Have labs drawn. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1 in 3 Americans have prediabetes, and 90% of those that don’t know it.

Know that it’s action time.

Gather helpers. My counselor/therapist – weekly through the worst of it, gave me someone to get into the muck with – to go deep deep into my fears and feel them, honor them. I could never have moved on or begun to release my fears around losing my dude without her.

Find yourself a good dietitian. Every town has at least one excellent dietitian – that’s is the right fit for your personality and pocketbook. More dietitians take health insurance, and more dietitians also offer premium services like custom fitness routines, custom meal plans, and seriously regular meetings.

What is Prediabetes Anyway?

Prediabetes is when you begin to have problems with your blood sugar but you are not quite to the place of having a diagnosis of diabetes. It is action time, my friend.

Specifically, by the numbers, prediabetes is when:

  • A1c (a measure of blood sugar over several months) between 5.7 -6.4%
  • A fasting blood glucose of between 100-124 mg/dL

There are other indicators, like an oral glucose tolerance test, blood lipid levels that can also point to your risk of having prediabetes.

Here is a quiz on risk factors from the American Diabetes Association.

Why do I say it is action time? Because you can change it.

prediabetes symptoms

Update – My Story

At times, progress seemed a game of inches – sort of exasperating. It does, as you might imagine, heighten the excitement to also be an expert in the field. That’s where self-compassion comes in.  Then, as I tried to show up for my own life, and my family’s life, over and over day after day, it began to slowly shift. I had a great leap forward – normal labs! Now, I’m feeling better, eating better. My mindset is better and I’m heading in the right direction. I just show up, over and over, and participate in my own life (I wasn’t for a while). Recovery is one step forward, one step back. Sometimes it’s two steps forward, one step back and I do my best to notice and celebrate that.

Everyone, when it comes to health and well-being, has both unique challenges and resources. I am not recovering without support and friends. I have support from the medical community – I live in the great state of MA – a place that attempts to provide care for all – and that care for me (and my husband) has been nothing less than life-saving. I have access to mental health and physical health care.

Take Your Next Step

As part of my healing and hopefully helping, I am now in private practice – both telehealth and face-to-face in Great Barrington, MA. Find out more about my personal lifestyle coaching.

Tell Me

What’s your story? What are the challenges and resources you have to heal your life? I want to know!

Annie’s Health Philosophy – What’s Yours?

Annie’s Health Philosophy – What’s Yours?

Hi, I’m Annie

I’ve been a clinical nutritional biochemist for over 20 years, a yoga teacher and therapist for 15, and a student of the psychology of how people change and of consciousness for all my career.

Through my years of helping groups and individuals improve their health through lifestyle, I have seen hundreds (maybe thousands) of people who want to eat a healthful diet that supports who they are, but don’t.

It’s Tough to be Healthy

They can’t get started, can’t sustain it or get sidetracked by things that don’t work. It can be nearly impossible to eat well in our current (nutritionists call it toxic) nutrition environment.

Our modern culture is filled with mixed messages about food, weight, and how we should look and feel. The same is true for other aspects of healthful lifestyle – we want to be physically active yet our worlds are set up to be sedentary. We want to practice mindful resilience and stress-management yet we don’t have time because of the 24/7 culture of work, family, life.

Where I Fit In

I am an unapologetic proponent of spirituality as essential to health. Mind body and spirit have been fractured in our modern culture, and re-uniting and fully occupying our multidimensional selves in balance with the earth is the path forward that resonates for me.

One of the gifts of living right here and now is that we have the potential to be the re-integrators. We have at our fingertips the modern health sciences, and we also have new and accessible interpretations of ancient wisdom-sciences such as shamanic plant work, Ayurveda and tantra. Many practices from these wisdom traditions are proving to be effective modalities for addressing the mind-body-spirit split and toxicity of modern life.

Here’s How I see Health

Practicing an integrated life (imperfectly but regularly) maintains wellness and supports dynamic well-being. For a variety of reasons, most people don’t or are not able to sustain regular practice. Enjoying a plant-based diet, moving, taking time for rest and contemplation, and connecting with family like-minded people are components of a life that keep things in dynamic balance. Your unique variation on that lifestyle fuels your life force – healing is a feeling. But life, for nearly everyone, inevitably becomes imbalanced. It is our nature and indeed the nature of life here on earth to become imbalanced.

I also think that feeling bad about ourselves is overall the largest chronic health problem. Please please don’t feel bad about the choices you make. It’s the critical first step to change.

And Healing

The opportunity of imbalance is to learn more about who you are and why you are here.

You can become a discerner of the array of therapeutic options from evidence-based and wisdom realms, or find others you trust to help you sort it out. You can become a students of who you are – each of us are unique, and what works for someone else will not necessarily work for you. Then you can become a thoughtful experimenter of what works.

With time, life comes into a (often new) balance. Dynamic, changing balance that requires ongoing tending and practice.

It’s a long-term project and a lifelong dance. The alternative, for many, is to get sick before your time. You can do this. I’m honored to share what I know to show you how.

What’s your health philosophy? What’s most important for your health and well-being? I want to know!

Practice Finding Peace – Begin Mindful Living Online Group

Practice Finding Peace – Begin Mindful Living Online Group

Mindfulness is the skill that seems custom-designed for modern life – so it’s popular.   I can’t tell you how many books I saw (many from new graduates of mindful meditation courses) – at the most recent Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics (AND) conference. The more the merrier, really – all attempts at helping people begin mindful living are welcome!

I’m sure you’ve heard about the fascinating studies that suggest the simple (but not easy) practice of mindfulness helps with nearly any chronic condition, from stress to diabetes. True. But, you have to practice regularly, and I do think you have to practice reasonably well (not to be confused with perfectly – intention counts). For bet effect, you aim is to let go and be deeply and completely absorbed in what you are doing. I’m in the camp that thinks that mindfulness is a little more than just paying attention to what you are doing, though paying attention is a marvelous thing.

Here is a fun and easy solution to that tricky problem – each season, I hold an interactive online group called Begin Mindful Living. It’s been a hit! Because it works.

So, what is mindfulness?

Mindfulness – a meditative practice of focusing on what happens moment to moment with an attitude of non-judgmental awareness – seems like medicine for what ails us in modern life. It can begin to change us from the inside out.

In the past couple decades we’ve learned a lot more about just how this happens. There are short -term neurological mechanisms, and longer term genetics at play in the inside-out change of mindfulness. There are also mindset changes that, over time, reinforce the primary two mechanisms of neurobiology and genetics.

Why it can be so hard to start & maintain?

Mindfulness is a way of being. It’s a big shift in how you approach life. I think of the things you do in life – your habits and choices – as a flowing river. You flow along, doing what you do. When you begin to practice mindfulness, it’s like putting an oar in the water – it starts to make waves. It takes energy and skill and determination to keep it going. Practice. That means it’s easy to give up when you don’t see quick benefits. It’s easy to give up when it gets a little challenging.

Community to the rescue!

Annie Kay

That’s why it’s great to launch mindful living in a group under the guidance of a skilled facilitator. Having the touchstone of others that will motivate you to try try again catapults the likelihood that you’ll keep it going. That you’ll press through when things get tougher.

Now, a word about online groups. I’ve given a number of interactive webinars for national health organizations, and conducted several of my own online groups. I love the magic that happens in groups and it’s the center of the work I do. There have been some recent advances in online interactivity that – while there is nothing like face-to-face – do the trick to connect you with others. You can see them, you can speak to them. It is an online kula – an online gathering. Overall, for the cost and time, it’s awesome.

Begin Mindful Living Online Group

I love this group!

Here is an easy way to launch mindful living that focuses on your self-care. Self-care is anything you do to do well by your whole being. It’s everything from making a balanced choice for breakfast – then enjoying every sensory bite of it; to taking a slow mindful walk in nature as you breath and receive the beauty of your surroundings.

I’ve begun to do a 4-week session every season, and our summer offering goes off between July 18- Aug 8th, Thursday evenings at 6:30 pm EST.

Join us!

begin mindful living

 

 

 

 

Each session will have a theme and your learning will progress over the month. One week before each session, you will receive a tip sheet with an introduction of the topic, an easy suggested practice and a journaling question.

 

Week 1: Intention & Mindful Practice

  • Get clear on why, and begin the experiment with easeful practice. 

Week 2: Mindful Self-care

  • Health care IS Self-care. It’s for everyone, even you. 

Week 3: Mindful Relationships

  • Others in our lives give us our greatest opportunity to practice! 

Week 4: Take it Forward into Life

  • Clarify what you’ve received, and set intention for moving forward. 

Each week, we’ll discuss overcoming challenges! 

I so look forward to seeing you in our mindful living kula! Here’s more information. 

Ready to sign up? Sign up now.

Have questions? Ask away.

Annie b kay

Getting it Together with CoSchedule

Getting it Together with CoSchedule

My first sponsored post – I am writing this review to reduce my subscription to a marketing tool that has the promise of helping me get it together to get the word out about my work (books, workshops and practice) with a bit more aplomb. If you follow the links in this post and decide to try coschedule too, I’ll get a little discount to my subscription.

Slow but sure. So far so good.

The Promise

The promise of Coschedule is that all my communication will be integrated – my monthly newsletter, weekly blog, and daily social activity will all be singing like a choir in tune. So that people – my people – my online tribe – will gather around my excellent teaching and together we will change this world. Influencers will gather about me, oohing and aahing. The perfect brands will also gather – the brands my readers may actually want, begging me to somehow get them in front of my readers.

Current State of Affairs

OK, phew. I used Coschedule for about a month before I took a pause to polish up an approaching retreat. In that time, things got started – not quite as quickly as I’d wished, but I did move forward. There was a bit of education as to how to think. Now, I have a MS in Communication and do have a marketing mindset, but this was different – thinking in terms of everything I do in terms of a campaign, or defining into some other communications thing, was a little next-level for me. I know I need to go there – it’s the natural next step for my blog and teaching. But, like life itself, it’s a process.

I’m excited by the possibilities of Coschedule, and can see the outline of how it works. Much of the learning within the app is geared toward team communication, and at this writing I am a solo entrepreneur looking to this app to be a certain type of automated assistant. As I begin to work with more organizations this may change and I guess it’s good to know that the app can expand as I grow, but right now, finding just the support that helps me fast-track what I am looking for is…not yet found. Taking a little more time and focus than I’d hoped. But, I’m back from my international travel and ready to dive in again.

So, I am going to try it – at this writing, I am thinking I’ll experiment with it for a year. But, it’s got to make me feel better (and save me time and mind-space) within a couple months of giving it a good try. I’ll measure my success in how well I reach new people who resonate with my work, how much my list grows, books sell, private practice fills, and how well my (under development) courses grow. Got it? I am going to watch and adjust and aim to grow. Hoping Coschedule helps me – and helps you.

Want to check it out? If you use this link, I will get a small discount on my subscription.

Eat Well for Less: Doable and so Worth It

Eat Well for Less: Doable and so Worth It

Quality food and produce – organics, artisanal, delicious –  is more widely available than ever before. Yet when I check out from my whole foods grocery – especially when I’m preparing for a special holiday or family dinner, I imagine my father (a rural farmer cash-on-the-barrel sort of guy) fainting dead away at the grand total.  Yipes! The price of high-quality (like organic grass-fed) meat or dairy, and fresh produce can take your breath away. You can eat well for less.

It takes some time and effort, but once you get into the swing of the practice, it’s just how you do it. The nutrition and taste benefits are very worth the effort.

If you feel the desire to eat high-quality food, but you aren’t independently wealthy, here are 7 ideas to help you eat well on a budget:

1. Try mindful eating.

Many Americans simply eat too much – be it healthy food or not. But just how much is enough? We’re designed to know. Mindful eating can help you find out how much food fills you up and gives you energy throughout the day. In fact, mindful eating is a practice that can help you turn down the external messages about what and how much to eat, and to tune in more deeply to your internal guidance system.

You can experiment by becoming a little more aware of the portion sizes you eat, and use mindful eating to help you experiment with just how much is enough. It’s a real sweet spot – adequate without over nor under-doing eating. It’s a practice for sure, and we humans by nature seem to over- or under-do it. So, if you struggle with this, you are not alone! Be patient and keep practicing.

How about an experiment –  quality over quantity?

Begin by experimenting with mindfully eating various foods – from treats like designer chips, whole foods take-out, gourmet pizzas and stevia sweetened sodas to more healthful choices like fresh vegetables and fruit, beans, nuts and whole grains. See how different foods make you feel, and how much seems to be enough to satisfy and give you energy through the day (I know, easier said than done). Eating lightly (and for some, passing on snacking) can be both healthful and cost-effective. The practice of mindful eating is a great place to begin to explore just what eating lightly means for you.

2. Enjoy plants. 

If you have more than one serving of animal protein each day, you may be healthier and more frugal to look to plant-based protein to replace some of the meat and dairy you’re eating. Need some ideas on a delicious way to focus on plant fare? Check out my recipe page, and my friend The Veggie Queen, who dedicates her working life to helping you enjoy more plants easily.

3. Consider a CSA or community food CO-OP.

Cut out the middleman and ensure the freshest local produce makes it into your kitchen all season long through a direct relationship with a local farm. To get stared check out Local Harvest. They will tell you how to get into the mindset, prepare to join, and help find your nearest community-supported agriculture (CSA) farms and CO-OPs.

4. The bulk food aisle (or discount website) is your friend.

Get a break on nuts, spices, whole grains and just about everything beyond fresh produce. If you don’t live near a grocery store that offers bulk staples, of course the internet marketplace is there wherever you are. The Spruce has a good article on their favorite online grocery sites.

5. Browse your market’s circular.

If you are so inclined to browse your supermarket’s circular, you really can shave a lot off your weekly food costs. My husband (astonishingly) does this as a practice – he plans our shopping around the meat and seafood that is on sale –  and he is truly amazing at it. The deals he gets are phenomenal! You do have to be aware that items on sale might not be the most healthful, so you need to practice discretion here.

6. Organic online coupons? Yep.

Check out All Natural Savings – a gal dedicated to online couponing –  to get you started. Whole Foods also has a weekly deals and sales page.  So many ways to use them to eat well for less.

7. Keep it all in perspective.

There’s a certain new math – a longer-term economics we need to consider when we think about the higher cost of clean whole food. That new equation is hidden beneath cheap subsidized corn, sugar, meat and dairy.  As a nutritionist for the past 25 years I know that this cheaper refined food is responsible for a world of disease and pain.  In my practice I see people improve their health every day through committing to higher quality nutrient-dense, low chemical load food. Most people feel better right away when they move away from the standard American diet and learn to make small choices toward health while enjoying what they eat and feeling great regardless of the number of the scale. The benefits continue to build over time with longer, healthier lives.

When it comes to quality food, no one can eat perfectly all the time unless they have limitless income, their own farm and a small team of vegetable choppers at the ready.

So, do what you can to eat well for less, and let the rest go. Small changes can add up, over time, to transformation.