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For my annual post on SAD, I wanted to share a passion project I’m working on in my new business, Eat to Love. I hope you enjoy:

 

For many years I had the same experience:

I woke up some morning in mid-November and felt like my limbs had turned to wood. I looked at the clock and calculated how many hours there were until I could go back to bed. I moved about my day as if an invisible wet woolen blanket was draped over me, weighing me down, making everything I did feel more difficult.

This experience always seemed to catch me by surprise. After a week or so, I’d remember that the same thing had happened the year before, and the year before that.

Then one autumn a couple of years ago, I learned to anticipate feeling this way. I learned about Seasonal Affective Disorder, its symptoms, and how to work with it. Somehow this made all the difference.

Knowing what to expect didn’t keep SAD at bay, but it did help in 3 specific ways:

  1. It helped me feel less confused: I learned the biological basis for SAD, which actually makes a lot of sense. Changes in the seasons and in the light we are exposed to changes the ways our brains and bodies work.
  2. It helped me feel empowered: By anticipating SAD, I could relate to it differently. I recognized that it was a real condition that comes at a predictable time. That the symptoms I experienced weren’t permanent or wrong, and that there were steps I could take to change them.
  3. It helped me to get ahead of it: By knowing that the biological changes associated with SAD start happening as early as September, I learned what steps to take and when to prevent and manage it as best as possible.

Knowing what to expect was a powerful change that happened for me. And it is one of the main reasons why my colleague Dr. Peter Bongiorno and I are offering a class on October 20th at the 92nd Street Y. We are squeezing a lot into this class, including the causes and symptoms of SAD and:

  • Sleep hygiene
  • Environmental toxins
  • Light and light box therapy
  • The role of exercise
  • Specific foods and eating patterns to help you feel better
  • Dealing with cravings
  • Support, stress management, and spirituality
  • Complementary medicine
  • Dietary supplements

Don’t wait until you feel the full weight of SAD. Take steps now to prevent and manage this condition so you can enjoy the beauty of winter without the burden of the blues. Hope to see you there!

 

DETAILS

Date: Mon, Oct 20, 2014, 6:30 pm

Location: Lexington Avenue at 92nd St

Venue: Classroom

Price: from $24.00

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TO BUY TICKETS, Click HERE.

winter

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This is a program I’m co-teaching with two people I really respect and thought that Drinking to Distraction readers might be interested!

 

Yoga. Meditation. Nutrition. We each know these are the building blocks of true health, yet it seems impossible to stay with it all amidst the craziness of everyday life.

Three teachers have put together a completely doable method for restoring you to the path of inner and outer fitness. In just 21 days, you can begin to detoxify through this simple but comprehensive yoga, meditation, and nutrition program. Constructed to slot into daily life with minimal to no hassle, this video-based immersive experience will guide you day by day to a more vibrant and peaceful sense of being.

On May 16th, you will gain access to the following:

Eight yoga videos from Pranavayu founder David Magone

David is known for both the physicality of his practice and it’s focus on relaxation. If you are a beginner, don’t worry, you will be carefully led into the practice. And if you’re an experienced yogi, don’t worry either! There will also be flowing sequences to really get you moving, twisting, and sweating. In addition, David has created a yoga video just for relaxation: a complete Savasana experience designed to help you experience a relaxation response.

An introduction to meditation from Open Heart Project founder Susan Piver and four videos to support your practice

Learning to settle and balance the mind goes hand in hand with settling and balancing the body. New York Times best selling author and Buddhist teacher Susan Piver has created four videos especially for this program, to bring meditation into your life easily and comfortably. They are meant to be used throughout the program and include a 10-minute fully guided meditation suitable for both beginners and more experienced meditators, a 20-minute meditation for those times you want to sit longer, and a special loving-kindness meditation video for use as we relax and encounter our hearts. In addition, there is a 20+ minute talk on the benefits, joys, and misconceptions about meditation.

A mindful nutrition program and three videos about “eating to love” from nutritionist and author Jenna Hollenstein

Along with yoga and meditation, you will be supported to eat foods that support mental clarity, emotional calm, and physical vitality. Jenna is known for her “Redefining Fullness” counseling, which is about bringing mindfulness to your relationship to food—the way you think of it, prepare it, consume it, and relate to it in general. One video introduces the nutrition approach to the mind-body detox, a second guides you through a mindful eating exercise, and the third is a simple five minute discussion of reconnecting with your body.

A comprehensive workbook to guide you

There is a suggested schedule for each day of the program and guidance for entering it as easily as possible. In addition to the schedule, the workbook contains journaling exercises, suggested readings, and place for you to keep a “Practice Journal.”

Three group check ins with the group and teachers

Each week, the group will meet online with all three teachers discuss progress, ask questions, and share reflections. It will be recorded for those who cannot participate live and a link sent out.

Private community page

A place to check in 24/7.

Upon completion of this program, you will have learned lifelong skills for inner and outer fitness.

Cost: $324 USD Payable in full or in three weekly installments of $108 USD each.

Early bird sign-up begins April 14, 2014 – Save 10%

Regular price sign-up begins: April 29, 2014

No cancellations

PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER: As with any exercise, eating, or meditation program, please consult your physician before participating in the 21-Day Mind-Body Detox. This program may not be appropriate for everyone, particularly those with an alcohol or drug addiction, an eating disorder, or individuals undergoing medical or psychiatric treatment for these or any other conditions. If you are taking prescription medication for these or any other conditions, do not discontinue them unless indicated by your physician. The exercise, nutrition, and meditation instruction herein is not a substitute for medical attention, examination, diagnosis, or treatment.

Not all exercise is suitable for everyone and this or any exercise program could result in injury. To reduce the risk of injury, never force or strain. Always take care when determining your ability to do the exercises offered in class, particularly if you have a specific injury or condition. If you feel pain, discomfort, or dizziness, discontinue and consult a medical professional.

The creators, producers, participants, and distributors of this program disclaim any liability or loss arising out of or in connection with the services, instructions, exercise, and advice herein.

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The following is what is becoming my annual post about seasonal affective disorder, written from my new platform at Eat to Love. Previous posts on the topic can be found here, here, and here. I’ll be following up with a recipe for my favorite anti-depressant stew and some more thoughts on nutrition for depression.

 

Feeling S.A.D.? You’re Not Alone. Here Are 6 Things You Can Start Doing Today to Feel Better

The holidays are upon us, there’s an invigorating chill in the air, celebrations to enjoy, but you’re feeling anything but festive? Does your body feel heavy and leaden, your mind sluggish and unclear? When you wake up in the morning, do you look forward to the moment you can get back into bed? I know I do.

If this sounds familiar, you might have seasonal affective disorder. S.A.D. is a type of depression that hits about the same time each year. The exact cause of S.A.D. is not 100% clear but it is likely a combination of seasonal changes in your circadian rhythm and your body’s levels of melatonin and serotonin. Women, people who suffer from depression, and those who have a family history of S.A.D. and/or depression are at the greatest risk for S.A.D.

I have struggled with S.A.D. since I was a child, yet every November I’m surprised by it. I feel like the tin man on my yoga mat, my eyes sit at half-mast, and if I open an email from the Humane Society, I am reduced to a sobbing puddle for 20 minutes. After the initial shock and indignation wears off (it usually takes me about 3 days to say “It’s happening again…”), I put on my big girl panties and deal with it. The following is a list of the things I have found most helpful in managing S.A.D. [Continue reading]

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P1000078On December 28th of 2012, I was laid off from my job as a medical writer at a biotechnology company. I was with that company much longer than anticipated since the job, at the time I got it, was an escape hatch from the disastrous job I started right after I quit drinking. I planned to be at the biotech company only a year at most while I collected myself and began to understand what life was like sober. One year became four years and, during that time, I had what looked like a promising career with a handful of successes and a solid salary. But I knew there was something else waiting for me.

As the 28th of December approached, I was facing a world of uncertainty when “the perfect job” landed in my inbox. But after a whirlwind interview process, I didn’t get it. I remember getting the call. It was nighttime in Sicily. I walked out of my boyfriend’s parents’ house into the backyard to find a little bit more cellular reception and looked out across the Mediterranean as I heard the words “we decided to go with the other finalist.” But as I walked back into the house and told everyone my news with just a shake of my head, I knew that this was the right thing.

Working one job or another since I was 12 years old, I now had an opportunity to explore my own wants and needs without an obligation to an employer. Between the safety net of severance and savings and, more importantly, a supportive family and partner, I decided not to do what I thought I “should.” Instead I left myself open to the possibilities. And in the last year, those possibilities have included:

  • Traveling back to Sicily and Paris and exotic Upstate New York
  • Taking continuing education classes, attending conferences, and completing a free “How to start a small business” course in New York City
  • Networking, opening up to people, making new friends, and reinvigorating old friendships
  • Visiting friends and family near and far
  • Formalizing my commitment to Buddhism
  • Translating/interpreting a children’s book from Italian to English
  • Taking care of myself physically and mentally, attending ballet barre and yoga classes, going for acupuncture and therapy
  • Volunteering with the New York City Coalition Against Hunger
  • Cooking, sleeping, watching trashy TV, and cuddling with my boyfriend and our fur children, Rufus and Darwin
  • Writing a book based on the Drinking to Distraction blog [Stay Tuned!]

And deciding to start my own nutrition counseling business. Some of you already know that my education and early job experience was in nutrition and that I have long wanted to get back to that field. Given the time and space I was fortunate enough to have during the last year, I came to see starting my own business as a risk worth taking. And about two weeks ago, I launched my mindful nutrition business, Eat to Love, which integrates meditation, therapeutic approaches to addiction, and Intuitive Eating.

Besides taking an inventory of what the hell I’ve been doing for the last 11 months, I’m writing this post to acknowledge that none of the things I have done in the last year would have been possible if I had not quit drinking nearly six years ago. That was the first step out of my own cocoon, my coming out of hiding. A process that was furthered by beginning to meditate, by beginning to write about my experience here, by not trying to keep making all the “right” moves in my life or to please everyone else. Starting this business is taking the next step.

Gradually I will begin to spend more time on this new venture, which opens up new possibilities for the Drinking to Distraction blog. I always viewed the blog as a shared space where readers could post their own stories about drinking, mindfulness, meditation, and coming out of the cocoon. Now, more directly I invite you to submit your story, to experience the therapeutic release of writing your own narrative, and to help others by letting them know they are not alone.

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Last week I was in yet another hip-opening yin yoga class. I was seated on the floor with my legs out in front of me and I was folding forward, resisting the urge to yank on my feet to give the illusion of flexibility. I looked down at myself and saw the soft rolls of my belly and the sides of my upper legs splayed out against the floor. Immediately I thought, How ugly, fat, flabby, out of shape, big, unfeminine, and unattractive, too much chocolate, not enough calories burned. The thoughts were uncomfortable and I wished to distract my mind with something else. So I thought about the lunch I was going to have after I left class.

A few minutes later we were doing another pose that was challenging for me. My left leg was folded over the right. We were meant to fold forward over our bent legs, but this was not happening for me. I came into the pose and quickly reached the edge past which I could not comfortably go. As seemingly everyone else was folded over, going deeper into the pose, I sat up and noticed my right knee and upper leg. Automatically I thought, Too big, unacceptable, abnormal.

This time, I stayed with those thoughts a little longer. I realized they were habitual, as was my tendency to compare myself unfavorably with others. I noticed that as real as these thoughts felt, they were a matter of perception. I wondered, what if I looked at this same leg and saw pure and utter beauty.

During the remainder of the class, I played with this new attitude, an unconditional friendliness toward my imperfect body every time I found myself hardening, judging, and rejecting. After all, what was there to lose? Was I in danger of deluding myself, going easy on myself, letting myself off the hook? Or perhaps this is part of practicing imperfection.

Reaching down to touch misshapen feet, I thought, how beautiful.

Big, strong, muscular legs, Gorgeous.

Interesting. I felt light and more spacious.

Leaving class, I took my new attitude with me. Broken out, dry, and fine-lined skin, How lovely. All my physical insecurities, Wonderful, yes.

Widening the circle, I recognized my doubts about my intelligence, uncertainty about my professional and personal future, fears about whether I’m living my life well, and I thought, These are just as they should be.

Each time I found myself criticizing, doubting, or judging, I roused a sense of friendliness and love for this person struggling so, this person who is just fine right now. Applying the same warm welcome I would for anyone coming to my home, I think, How can I care for you? What can I do to show you my love? You are welcome here.

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Part of what has always attracted me to Buddhism is the concept that every experience – every moment – presents an opportunity to meet the present, to wake up rather than grasp or repel and go to sleep. There are no throwaway moments!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about what I have to work with. In it, I realized that the very problems I would love to trade for someone else’s will allow me to either wake up or go to sleep.

Recently I began taking a Yin yoga class at my beloved Physique 57 studio. The class, taught by Debra Downs, seems like yoga as it was meant to be – not a competitive sport or a sweaty workout. Debra weaves together aspects of Buddhist and Taoist philosophy with her extensive yoga, anatomy, and psychology knowledge, connecting the how and the why of each pose and changing the experience altogether.

Debra guides the class to pay attention to thoughts, how they change from moment to moment, and how we judge ourselves, often harshly. Along with a sense of relaxation and release, I always take some piece of wisdom from her class. Last week, that nugget was to pay particular attention to my responses to my perceived limitations and how this might provide insight into how I deal with struggle on a larger scale.

I have always had tight hips. When I was 8 or 9 and taking jazz class with Miss Rose at the Oceanside Dance Conservatory, my splits were right angles compared with everyone else’s beautiful 180 degrees. Since becoming aware of this limitation, my tight hips have accumulated a complex set of feelings: shame, embarrassment, inability, and stunted growth; like there is something very wrong with my body at the most basic level.

Whenever I attend a yoga class that focuses on hip opening, I think:

Oh great, I’m not going to get anything out of this!

Why do we have to focus on something I’m so bad at?

What’s wrong with me???

Last week in class, I realized that this is very related to how I handle problems outside my body:

Why is this happening to me?

This is so unfair!

What’s wrong with me???

Enter the practice of noticing, releasing judgment, and meeting things as they are. Tight hips are something I have to work with. And working with them gets better when I don’t judge them – love them even – and start from that place.

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