After 20 years producing food magazines, cookbooks and reporting on the food industry, I learned that the father of my co-designer, Nellie Williams, had lung cancer.
I've worked with Nellie for nearly a decade and consider her to be something of a little sister. Her family lives in the small town of Washington, Missouri (just outside St. Louis), which at the time, did not have access to medical marijuana. Her dad, Fred, spent several years enduring one grueling treatment after another, with no real results. In 2016, I put a call out for edibles to my cannabis-using friends in Chicago—chocolate edibles, specifically. The lymph nodes in Fred's neck were severely swollen, making it painful to swallow. I knew chocolate would melt on his tongue.
Fred downed three chocolates in about 20 minutes. I warned him to slow down but was relieved and excited to see this very sick man finally experience some relief—relief that came from a plant rather than opioids. It was life-changing for everyone in the room; his wife and six daughters were so grateful to see their husband and father finally—after all these terrible months—eat a full meal and get some real sleep. That day was the last time I saw Fred. He died in June 2016.
My experience with Fred was the catalyst for Kitchen Toke, a quarterly magazine devoted to the culinary, health and wellness benefits of cannabis. Aside from watching my parents smoke pot when I was very young, (and trying it myself in high school), I knew nothing of marijuana. And as I looked for entry-level information on the subject, I realized there wasn't much available. It occurred to me that there was a white space to be filled for people who don't want to smoke marijuana, but might be willing to try it in food—for nutrition, health and wellness. Kitchen Toke was born.
Food as medicine
Why would a person introduce cannabis into their diet? For the same reasons people choose organic foods over non-organic foods. For the same reason people use healthy oils and other healthy fats: Cannabis takes health and wellness to the next level. Add to that the option to use cannabis without getting high, and the reasons grow.
When I say cannabis, by the way, I'm referring to the whole plant. I'm a huge proponent of eating foods in their "whole" entirety—just yesterday I had a conversation about eating the outer-skin of garlic. Garlic skin is loaded with heart-healthy, anti-aging properties, like phenylpropanoid antioxidants. As a matter of fact, most "skins" are good for you, whether it be from fruit, fish or vegetables. Cannabis is no different.
How to start
For people lucky enough to live in a state where you can grow or buy cannabis leaves, I suggest eating them raw. Cannabis leaves are packed with tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), the non-psychoactive acid form of THC known to ease symptoms of epilepsy, chronic pain, digestive disorders and more.
For those with medical cards, I recommend buying a cannabis flower with higher CBD content than THC, (approximately 4-to-1). Add it to a high-quality good coconut or olive oil and use it throughout the day. Hemp-derived CBD, which is federally legal and available nation-wide, contains 0.3% or less of THC and is great for hesitant first-timers. The product options are wide, with new CBD-infused honeys and olive oils and even salts showing up on the shelves every day.
Personally, I love starting my day with cannabis. By the time my stress kicks in, I feel like I've already beat it the punch. Stress, as we know, is a silent killer. But do we know why? From the hectic morning commute to the call from the kids' school to working on deadline, the compilation of individual daily stresses triggers a release of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine. In more permanent states of stress, the amount of cortisol in the body can lead to weight gain, anxiety and insomnia. Weight gain has been linked to heart disease. Lack of sleep triggers a vicious cycle of further cortisol production—and thus more weight gain and less sleep!
Break the cycle
In 2011, while training for a triathlon, I discovered I had an insulin-resistance problem. I practiced "brick-training"—running, biking and swimming in a single day—several days a week, and to prepare for those days, I would fuel up on carbs the day before. I was trying to do some good for my body but ended up gaining more weight than ever. I knew something was wrong. I felt awful. My clothes didn't fit, and I was in a constant state of inflammation.
My doctor ordered a blood test. The results revealed that all those carbs weren't being properly broken down and as a result, insulin was flooding my body. I decided then and there to take control of my own health. I finished the triathlon and began an 8-week eating program of healthy fats, low-carbs and no dairy. My insulin returned to normal levels, and my weight dropped by 20 pounds. I succeeded at hitting the "reset button," and I looked and felt better than ever.
My discovery of cannabis took my eating and health and wellness program to a whole new level. I was already fit, but with the integration of cannabis into my diet, my overall inflammation dropped, my sleeping improved dramatically, and my post-workout muscle recovery is significantly quicker. I hope my story inspires you to do some research, look into what CBD can do for you. Starting with CBD is a great entry point and accessible for everyone.
Here's my favorite salad recipe with torn cannabis leaves
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."