4min readHealth 30 December 2019
As humans, with the curiosity to learn and the drive to create + experience, we can nourish our minds, souls, and bodies to the fullest extent possible. Yet recently, and especially within the wellness space, we have exploited the notion of balance. We've created conflicting diets, programs, and trends that tell you to eat "x" and avoid "y" at all costs. It can leave us obsessive, anxious, frustrated, or shameful. We forget the power of food as medicine and turn it into a way to look our best.
After years of trying various different diet plans out there and being vegan for 2 years, healthy or "clean" eating to me looks like enjoying beautiful, wholesome foods that you actually look forward to and completely S A V O R. It's developing an active and healthy intuition-based relationship with food. It's being able to listen to your body and eat what you know your body wants. When we eat from a place of love - a love for the food itself and the experience of eating or sharing a meal - we are so much more able to give our body exactly what it needs.
The idea of having "balance" can be overused and lose its potency. It's a beautiful notion, but if we obsess over the purpose of maintaining a perfect balance in everything we do, we set ourselves up to fail. We're never going to obtain balance, but if we can decide to show up as we are then, we're able to rise and meet our highest self. Balance is eating a leafy, veggie-rich salad because your body hasn't had greens in a while; it's also enjoying a decadent cup of hot cocoa while snuggled up on the couch with your family. Finding balance and tapping into your intuition is never fear-based or controlling, it's listening inward and following mindful food choices that lead to a strong sense of what works for YOUR body and eventually leads to your everyday reality.
Clean eating and maintaining balance comes from following your intuition and cultivating a healthy relationship with food.
You have to determine what works for YOU and you alone. Each meal is a gift and energy you have the opportunity to create. Give yourself forgiveness and release any guilt you have around food. Choose to rediscover your body through food.
Tips for maintaining balance + eating clean in 2020
● Keep a food journal. Start with 3 days and write down everything you eat and how you felt after. After three days, notice if any patterns or observations that come up. Every food has a different energy and responds to your unique body differently.
● Each meal is an opportunity to start fresh. Say, for example, there's a night where you had bowl after bowl of ice cream, and you end of feeling a wash of shame over it (as we so often do when it comes to what we eat). Instead, tell yourself that you can start the day fresh tomorrow with a nutrient-dense brekkie. We can always begin again. A bump along the way is just that — a bump — not a detour.
● Practice gratitude. While you're preparing your food or during a meal, find gratitude in the practice of fueling your body with the bounty given us here on the planet. Listen to soulful music that brings you happiness and makes you want to dance as you pour love into your meal.
● Similarly, try to prepare your own food as often as you can! You're so much more intentional in what you eat when you make a dish yourself and know what ingredients are going directly into your body. This will also give you the opportunity to make more health-conscious substitutions. For example, if you're gluten-free and the recipe calls for flour, you can sub a wheat-free, nutrient-dense flour.
● Allow yourself a treat every once in a while! It's a source of pleasure and a way to let go. There are 365 days in a year, and if we commit to fueling and nourishing our body then there are definitely times here and there when we can enjoy the birthday cake, cookies, fries, etc. that feel GOOD at that moment.
● Create a clean food kitchen. Toss out anything processed, anything with high fructose corn syrup, anything with gluten, and anything that you question whether it's healthy or not. Don't be afraid to let it go, I promise you you can always find it again at the store if you MUST have it.
● Don't worry so much about calories [that's so 1990's! ]but instead about nutrients. If you eat nutrient-dense foods, you will be full and satiated for longer. The rule of thumb when you're eating is to think about NUTRIENTS, not just energy/calories. Ask yourself what NUTRIENTS are in your meal, not just putting empty calories into your body. For example, when reaching for a snack, don't eat 5 rice crackers because they are low in calories, eat an apple, and a handful of almonds because then you're getting vitamins, fiber, protein, and good fats (and you'll stay fuller longer!).
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With so many groundbreaking medical advances being revealed to the world every single day, you would imagine there would be some advancement on the plethora of many female-prevalent diseases (think female cancers, Alzheimer's, depression, heart conditions etc.) that women are fighting every single day.
For Anna Villarreal and her team, there frankly wasn't enough being done. In turn, she developed a method that diagnoses these diseases earlier than traditional methods, using a pretty untraditional method in itself: through your menstrual blood.
Getting from point A to point B wasn't so easy though. Villarreal was battling a disease herself and through that experience. “I wondered if there was a way to test menstrual blood for female specific diseases," she says. "Perhaps my situation could have been prevented or at least better managed. This led me to begin researching menstrual blood as a diagnostic source. For reasons the scientific and medical community do not fully understand, certain diseases impact women differently than men. The research shows that clinical trials have a disproportionate focus on male research subjects despite clear evidence that many diseases impact more women than men."
There's also no denying that gap in women's healthcare in clinical research involving female subjects - which is exactly what inspired Villarreal to launch her company, LifeStory Health. She says that, “with my personal experience everything was brought full circle."
“There is a challenge and a need in the medical community for more sex-specific research. I believe the omission of females as research subjects is putting women's health at risk and we need to fuel a conversation that will improve women's healthcare.,"
Her brand new biotech company is committed to changing the women's healthcare market through technology, innovation and vocalization and through extensive research and testing. She is working to develop the first ever, non-invasive, menstrual blood diagnostic and has partnered with a top Boston-area University on research and has won awards from The International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering and Northeastern University's RISE.
How does it work exactly? Proteins are discovered in menstrual blood that can quickly and easily detect, manage and track diseases in women, resulting in diseases that can be earlier detected, treated and even prevented in the first place. The menstrual blood is easy to collect and since it's a relatively unexplored diagnostic it's honestly a really revolutionary concept, too.
So far, the reactions of this innovative research has been nothing but excitement. “The reactions have been incredibly positive." she shares with SWAAY. “Currently, menstrual blood is discarded as bio waste, but it could carry the potential for new breakthroughs in diagnosis. When I educate women on the lack of female subjects used in research and clinical trials, they are surprised and very excited at the prospect that LifeStory Health may provide a solution and the key to early detection."
To give a doctor's input, and a little bit more of an explanation as to why this really works, Dr. Pat Salber, MD, and Founder of The Doctor Weighs In comments: “researchers have been studying stem cells derived from menstrual blood for more than a decade. Stem cells are cells that have the capability of differentiating into different types of tissues. There are two major types of stem cells, embryonic and adult. Adult stem cells have a more limited differentiation potential, but avoid the ethical issues that have surrounded research with embryonic stem cells. Stem cells from menstrual blood are adult stem cells."
These stem cells are so important when it comes to new findings. “Stem cells serve as the backbone of research in the field of regenerative medicine – the focus which is to grow tissues, such as skin, to repair burn and other types of serious skin wounds.
A certain type of stem cell, known as mesenchymal stem cells (MenSCs) derived from menstrual blood has been found to both grow well in the lab and have the capability to differentiate in various cell types, including skin. In addition to being used to grow tissues, their properties can be studied that will elucidate many different aspects of cell function," Dr. Salber explains.
To show the outpour of support for her efforts and this major girl power research, Villarreal remarks, “women are volunteering their samples happily report the arrival of their periods by giving samples to our lab announcing “de-identified sample number XXX arrived today!" It's a far cry from the stereotype of when “it's that time of the month."
How are these collections being done? “Although it might sound odd to collect menstrual blood, plastic cups have been developed to use in the collection process. This is similar to menstrual products, called menstrual cups, that have been on the market for many years," Dr. Salber says.
Equally shocking and innovative, this might be something that becomes more common practice in the future. And according to Dr. Salber, women may be able to not only use the menstrual blood for early detection, but be able to store the stem cells from it to help treat future diseases. “Companies are working to commercialize the use of menstrual blood stem cells. One company, for example, is offering a patented service to store menstrual blood stem cells for use in tissue generation if the need arises."