Shiny Healthy Family

After spending a few years of curating community events, I’ve decided to declare 2016 as the Year Of Community and building what I’m calling the Shiny Healthy Family. I’ve learned that we have our family of origin and the family we create. During 2015, I spent half of the year in my family of origins home. My dad was sick and fading and I wanted to be there for him, my family and myself. I left my job and moved back home, following my heart and trusting that the universe would take care of me in this particular calling. This was the best decision for me and my growth and most of all, my relationship with my father. I was able to cook and prepare food that was healthy and therapeutic for his condition. We dance, hiked and played music from his childhood. We tried to meditate and continue doing yoga and breathing exercises. But most of all, we just sat in each others presence, sometimes in silence, sometimes in conversation and really made peace with our situation.

Prior to the diagnosis of leukemia in 2014, he had been living for 17 years with Alzheimer’s. This is when I realized that if someone gets diagnosed with a physical disease- cancer, a broken bone, severe burns, a stomach virus- the world comes to your aid and community abounds. But when you are diagnosed or struggling with a mental illness, an emotional challenge, the crowd scatters and you’re left to care for yourself or your loved one on your own. This is what happened to my momma. She ended up having to leave her profession to care for my dad and had very little support. She had to chase after him when he ran away, give up her freedom to be his touchstone, move their bedroom to the ground floor to prevent further accidents, take him to and from clinical trials hundreds of miles away. Her entire life was turned upside-down and only one or two of her friends kept up with her on a daily basis, otherwise she was alone.

Then I intervened and my big mouth began to cry and ask for help.  I started writing a blog about our experiences. I began to post on FB. People started moving and making things happen for us from around the world and I realized that we’re not alone. I realized that we have to ask. We need each other. You find strength in others. We’re not meant to be alone, to struggle alone, to suffer alone. Yes, I cherish my solitude, in fact, I love it, as it gives me time to replenish and recharge for more human connection and a deeper experience. But when it comes to the challenges of life, it is ok to ask for a hand, some guidance, help, a shoulder or a prayer.

And the magical part of it all is that help came, in so many ways. The struggles seemed softer, the people kinder, the world a more understanding place. Then I realized, you get what you give. And all those years my mom was giving herself to my dad and to us, came back in an endless bounty. We asked for assistance and the universe, you guys, strangers, friends, and loved ones came to our rescue. And in the end, the miracle of community is what saved us from insanity. So for that, I thank you, gratitude from a million suns. Truly and honestly, thank you.

Those times of silence with my dad allowed for loads of reflection and imagination. I imagined my dad as a child growing up in Brooklyn and all the friends and family who surrounded him on Hopkins street. I saw him playing wall ball, kick ball, stick ball, baseball to all hours of the night. Having neighborhood parties every weekend, people of all colors, shapes and sizes.  I thought of how all the frats wanted him, the little brown Puerto Rican Filipino man in middle America and how he built community throughout campus. I envisioned his dedication to his battalion in Vietnam and the trauma he held for all those brothers he lost. I thought of him at St. Joseph’s in Chicago coordinating the best care for his patients through his social work, gathering the doctors, nurses, dieticians and therapists. I remembered how everyone loved him, always. And I realized, he got what he gave for all those years too. Everyone wanted to take care of Benny, the man who bounced through life, heart wide open and always ready to serve, play and salsa.

Then I thought about the Camino de Santiago and how I was supposed to go with my parents and ended up going by myself. Arriving in France, cursing them for not being there for me, leaving me alone to walk a pilgrimage I knew nothing about. But quickly, I met my first angel, a man who spoke all languages and found us the last two beds in the village on my first night. Then trek up the Pyrenees, I realized that people are the same everywhere and I met my first Camino family, three Irish ladies who taught me to put vaseline on my feet to prevent blisters and to always stop around 10:30 to have a second breakfast. Then I met Donna, my pilgrim sister to this day, who told me stories of badassery as one of the only females on navy ships and her experience on 9/11. Everyone went from walking buddy to family within ten minutes of exchange and to me that was my biggest miracle of the Camino.

All these experiences brought me to here, to a place where I want to give back in ways that I have been slowly growing into. I want to heal the healthcare system by starting with the people involved on the front lines. I want to connect people to new friends and potential lovers through supper clubs and picnics. I want to cook delicious, nutritious food and bring folks together over the dining table, because I believe in the power of food to break down those barriers and break open hearts.

I’m planning Shiny Healthy Family retreats and talks, projects and events to make this happen. I’m building community and bringing folks in to teach about mind-body techniques, holistic living, and the power of vulnerability. I hope to bring people together who are suffering in similar ways- physical or mental- and encourage them to learn from each other. I want to start a dialogue about what healthy truly means and how to get there in this overwhelmingly stimulating and plugged-in world.

Professionally, I think I’m finally bowing out of the traditional clinic setting and going outside to teach about the benefits of nature and sunshine. I’m partnering up with a brilliant dietician to bring group visits and centering to underserved communities.  We’re also building a food business to make it easy to integrate healthy choices in your everyday routine. I’m in talks with a leader in Austin to develop a food/yoga program for healthcare professionals that will extend to the rest of the U.S. And in the fall, we’re doing something unprecedented in Austin that will bring these worlds together as well.

Community as medicine and therapy, that’s my spiel, my soapbox, my brand, my heart. All these years, I thought it was food, but like I’ve said before, that was my gateway drug. And if you need a little science behind my philosophy, check out social genomics. That will convince you that community is key and you really are ‘the average of the five people you spend the most time with’.

Hop along, follow us on FB and here to find out when events are happening. Know that all are welcome, everyone. Even those of you who like to hide away. We’ve all been there and understand your pain, but its time to peek out and realize that we’re all in this together. Come join us and become part of the beautiful Shiny Healthy Family.

Day 6: Food Pillar- Write It Down

Without a vision, we struggle. Without self-awareness, nothing changes.  Studies have found keeping a food diary can double a person’s weight loss according to Kaiser Permanente.  Another study found that women who wrote down the foods eaten throughout the day lost approximately 6 pounds more than those who didn’t.

A guy friend of mine asked me for help during the rough times with my dad last year. I couldn’t extend my services at the time, but I wanted to help him make small changes. He returned a couple weeks later after losing a few pounds saying “just writing my foods down, I became more mindful about why I was eating certain unhealthy foods”

Like everything else, it only works if you stick with it. I also believe its about telling your story. Writing down the WHY for certain cravings- stress, overwhelm, sadness, loneliness- can help you rewire and redirect your patterns. Also, if you write your story with baby steps, i.e. today I will drink 16 ounces of water 15 minutes before eating each meal, then you’re more likely to have a positive outcome.

Having an end goal of success with those baby steps is good too. I had a patient who bought a dress that was six sizes smaller than what she had on. Over the course a year and a half, she worked diligently towards her goals, food journaling, moving more, and becoming a mindful eater. Eventually she reached her goal and actually kept going losing more weight, feeling better and more confident! She had a vision and worked towards it and with small victories, she accomplished her goal.

So write it down, keep a journal, start a relationship with food that respects it as more than just fuel. And stick to it! And if you have any questions, ask me!! That’s what I’m here for.


Day 5: Community/Play Pillar!

This is by far my most favorite pillar. Even as a introverted with occasional extrovert tendencies, I have a need to feel the power of community regularly. When we were going through tumultuous times with my pops, we would not have made it through without my in-person community and virtual one. I would reach out during a storm and you all would come to our aid with your heart-shaped umbrellas.

The reason I mesh these two pillars is because they go hand in hand. When being dropped off at school, my dad would always say “have fun and learn something new!” This has stayed with me all my life and though I’ve spent most of it being a diligent student of science, my favorite thing to do is play and try my best to not take life so seriously. Not always the easiest thing to do, especially in clinic, but every moment I can laugh, joke, smile, goof-around, I do and it makes my body and mind so very happy!

There are endless benefits of community. I’ve written about the Roseta community and Rat Park. Drs. Mark Hyman and Amen went into a church and worked with Pastor Rick Warren to lead 15,000 members to lose a total of a quarter million pounds. They came together and rallied for healthier eating and living.

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” Jim Rohn. This is a truth of life. Make sure you’re choosing wisely. I met a new friend on Tuesday and of course instantly loved her. She said a few years ago she made the decision to only have Awesome people in her life. She knew if she wanted to reach the heights she aspired to, she had to be surrounded by folks who inspired her, supported her, pushed her limits in a good way and held her accountable.

You don’t have to go crazy planning and gathering a group to have fun, playful communal activities. Last night I decided I wanted to go rock climbing this morning. I sent out a few texts,  my friend Mike said yes. This morning we spent an hour climbing walls, then had breakfast at Imagine Art, a really special non-profit for artists who battle with mental challenges. There I found more community, super kind souls with so much to give to the world. I even left with a beautiful cauliflower and cabbage, a gift from the Imagine Art harvest! I didn’t make huge plans for any of it, simply put my intention out to the universe, reached out, and someone said yes and the rest went as beautifully as described.

It doesn’t take much to fill this incredibly important pillar of health. And since its the weekend, there should be loads of activities to participate in. Go to meet-ups, attend church, buy some goodies at the farmers market and talk to all the rad farmers, just put yourself out there and enjoy your fellow human beings. We’re pretty cool if you give us a chance.

Photo by Stuart Miles

Day 4: Meditation/Mindfulness/Resilience Pillar

If you think only buddhist monks and hippy PAs are the only ones who meditate, think again. It’s the one of the many whole health medications that you have access to at all times. There are myriad of benefits and I wrote about 77 of them here. Most people think about meditation being a remedy for stress, this is true, but becomes a stressor when we pressure ourselves to be ‘good meditators’. So I ask that you let this idea go and just focus on disconnecting for 1-2 minutes a day, that is it. If my pops could do it with his late-stage Alzheimer’s, I believe you can do it too!

I really got into meditation through Headspace.  I felt so freaking relaxed after a few minutes, I was hooked. Then I followed some other guided meditations for years until I had the tools to do 12 minutes on my own. Herb Benson is the pioneer of the Relaxation Response and a hero of mine. Just like we have a stress response our bodies can go into relaxation, with just a little more effort.

Here is his method:

1.   Sit quietly in a comfortable position.

2.  Close your eyes.

3. Deeply relax all your muscles,
beginning at your feet and progressing up to your face.
Keep them relaxed.

4.  Breathe through your nose.
Become aware of your breathing.
As you breathe out, say the word, “one“*,
silently to yourself. For example,
breathe inout, “one“,- in .. out, “one“, etc.
Breathe easily and naturally.

5.  Continue for 10 to 20 minutes.
You may open your eyes to check the time, but do not use an alarm.
When you finish, sit quietly for several minutes,
at first with your eyes closed and later with your eyes opened.
Do not stand up for a few minutes.

6.  Do not worry about whether you are successful
in achieving a deep level of relaxation.
Maintain a passive attitude and permit relaxation to occur at its own pace.
When distracting thoughts occur,
try to ignore them by not dwelling upon them
and return to repeating “one.”

With practice, the response should come with little effort.
Practice the technique once or twice daily,
but not within two hours after any meal,
since the digestive processes seem to interfere with
the elicitation of the Relaxation Response.

And if this seems too daunting, just take a moment away from all stimuli and breathe, seriously. Meditation, mindfulness, stillness, resilience building comes from just tapping into the inner wisdom we all have inside of us. Go to the bathroom and sit on the toilet and just breathe away from others, your phone, computer, kindle, ambient noise and listen to your breath. There. You’ve done it. Now keep on and you’ll see how your life transforms. I promise.


Day 3: Sleep Pillar

Arianna Huffington named SLEEP a Big Idea for 2016. I LOVE this. It’s so true. Sleep is vital for:

  • memory function
  • living longer
  • decreasing stress
  • cleaning out brain waste like plaque and protein (build-up leads to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s)
  • keeping weight off
  • improving mood
  • making you look better and more attractive (according to a 2010 study by BMJ)
  • better immune system function
  • improved athletic performance

Unfortunately, in our busy bee society, we definitely do not get enough sleep. Many of my patients and loved ones suffer with insomnia and the harder they try to sleep, the more difficult it becomes. Add in the anxiety of the day, the crappy food, the lack of movement, and the replay of the mishaps and the cycle continues.  So what can you do? Sleep CLEAN:

  • Take out an and all ‘blue screen’ electronics and technology from bedroom
  • Get blackout curtains
  • Legs up the wall is an effective way to get your body and mind into the parasympathetic system (rest and digest)
  • Avoid caffeine or alcohol 3-4 hours before bed
  • Watch something hilarious at night- laughter produces tranquilizers that set the brain to chill mode that help you sleep
  • Avoid heavy meals at night – especially meat and dairy
  • Make sure room is dark
  • Make sure you sweat throughout the day for at least 30 minutes
  • Drink some Chamomile tea at night
  • Using a elongated exhale to bring in your ‘rest and digest’ system, as shown here.

Like with everything, baby steps are key, so pick one and go with it. Your brain, your body and your belly will thank you.

Day 2: Movement Pillar

“Body movin’, body movin’
We be getting down and you know we’re Krush Groovin” -Beastie Boys

Good morning all! Pillar 2 of whole health is movement.

Our bodies were meant to MOVE! Whether you take the stairs, park a 1/4 mile from your office or do 15 sit-ups in the morning or run seven miles, please make sure you’re doing some kind of body moving. Your health-brain, belly, body, spirit, emotional health-depends on it.

Exercise is optional, movement is vital. We’ve been moving for ages. Exercise was invented in the modern world and often causes a cringe when mentioned. Movement is as old as time. We danced, played, walked, ran, crawled, hunted, gathered and sexed throughout the centuries. And now today, we sit. We sit all day, then sit all night, then lay down and wake up and do it all over again. Let’s get that body movin’ like the Boys say.

Here are some simple ways to change up your daily routine and get some movement in:

  • Get a standing desk. If your boss won’t get you one, make one. Pile books or crates and have it as a back up throughout the day.
  • Use a ball for sitting. This engages muscles that may have gotten lost over the years, find them again!
  • Fidget. A recent study found that fidgeting may be healthy for you. It’s little movements, but at least its something.
  • Body movin’ break. Get up for 5 minutes every hour and walk or have a private dance party or stand in warrior for 2.5 minutes on each side.
  • I’m a BIG proponent for getting outside, in Nature, as it has added benefits to your brain and body. Like increase in BDNF, a brain protein that boosts happiness and function.
  • And of course there is always – walk your dog, your cat, yourself, run, rock climb, bike, swim, golf, body pump, yoga, kickboxing, use those metal machines at gym, etc.

“The body will become better at whatever you do, or don’t do. You don’t move? The body will make you better at NOT moving. If you move, your body will allow more movement.”

-Ido Portal

Day 1: Food Pillar, Donkey Apple Parfait

Food Pillar Day 1!!

“You know what ELSE everybody likes? Parfaits! Have you ever met a person, you say, ‘Let’s get some parfait,’ they say, ‘Hell no, I don’t like no parfait.’? Parfaits are delicious! Parfait’s gotta be the most delicious thing on the whole damn planet!” – Donkey

That there is one of my favorite Pixar movies and I love it even more in spanish. Today, I made an apple parfait. We’re spoiled in Austin, because we have some baller famers like Yegua Creek Farms who do stuff like put Vietnamese cinnamon on pecans and make them even more delicious. This can be a Clean breakfast or desert too!

Donkey Apple Parfait Recipe:

  • 1-2 organic apples chopped into small aquares
  • gluten-free granola (make your own or use Udi’s)
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup (optional, apples have natural sweetness)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Yogurt (coconut or almond yogurt if you’re Clean, I try to avoid soy at most costs)
  • 1 teaspoon Coconut or walnut oil
  • local honey (optional)
  • pecans, walnuts, cashews (optionals)

Warm up teaspoon of oil in sautee pan, add maple syrup and heat.  Then add chopped apples and caramelize, sprinkle cinnamon about 4 minutes in. Total caramelizing takes about  5- 8 minutes.

Start layering granola on the bottom, then add two teaspoons of yogurt, then apples, top with nuts or seeds, then repeat.

Then EAT and say:
“Parfait’s gotta be the most delicious thing on the whole damn planet!”


2016 The Year of Self-Health

Shiny Healthy People is my baby, a vision that I have had since 2010. My motto is “Assisting, educating and empowering YOU to find the Healer within.” That is why I have decided that 2016, is the year of SELF-HEALTH, the year to take back control of your health and find the healer within.

You’ve always been the expert in your health, but our society, commercials, the GIANT industry called healthcare has led you to believe otherwise. Yes, I went to school for medicine. I am an expert on populations of people who have your disease, but you in fact have the power and control to take your unique situation, symptoms, lifestyle and change it.

This means you can take Dr. google and use it to your benefit rather than your detriment. It’s not to become a paranoid android, but rather a healthy investigator, without going overboard, of your health, symptoms, diseases, illnesses and find the most holistic, integrative way to take charge of them. These tools are something we can all learn, you don’t have to go back to school or have a medical degree to have a wholesome diet, take a walk outside or learn how to breathe again.

Integrative, functional, complementary, whole health means going back to the basics. It means making lifestyle changes that lead to big rewards. Baby steps, like drinking water instead of soda throughout the day. Walking outside for 15-30 minutes when the sun is out. Drinking a superfood smoothie in the morning. Going to meet-ups with folks that share your hobbies.

It doesn’t mean that drinking turmeric tea will help your chronic back pain if you continue to eat fast food, drink sodas or stay in an abusive relationship. It doesn’t mean that taking a probiotic for your depression or anxiety will heal your condition (though studies show it can help) if you drink beer every night, load up on processed carbs or refuse to connect to other humans.

Whole self-health means targeting the rainbow of wellness. My five pillars for patients, clients, loved ones and the world are:
Food, Movement, Sleep, Meditation (Mindfulness) and Play/Community. Each of these is infused with love, of course, and gratitude. “Gratitude turns what we have into enough”.

My hope for this year is to deliver a nugget or pearl of wisdom each day that embodies these five pillars. They ‘ll be on my website and have actionable steps to integrate them into your life too! I want to assist, educate and empower you to take control of your body, your mind, your health in 2016, your year of Self-Health’!

Who’s with me?!