Thursday, October 27, 2011

Therapy Thursday: Heavy Metal Detox

Mounting evidence over the last couple of decades suggests that modern humans are exposed to a larger amount of heavy metals than ever before.  Metals and metal compounds like arsenic, mercury, and hexavalent chromium are just a few of the known carcinogens that we may be exposed to daily.  Living in the city certainly increases your risk of exposure, but even people in the country are at risk.  Water tables near industrial areas can become contaminated; air pollution from cars, aircraft and factories increase metals in our air; food supplies are increasingly at risk of contamination; and certain occupations heighten employee danger of exposure.

The fact is we are all exposed to these metals at some level daily.  Within alternative health fields, many experts recommend doing a heavy metal detox once or twice a year.  If you're really concerned, search online for possible symptoms of mercury, lead or other metal accumulations.  You may need to be tested for levels of metals in your body before deciding what kind of detox program you want to start.  However, if you just want to safely eliminate heavy metals a couple times a year, there are several things you can do.

There are several herbal cleanses available online.  How effective these are and the quality of them is something you will need to research.  Alfalfa and cilantro are two herbs that you can use at home to help remove metals.  Both have been studied for their ability to chelate metals from the body.  Other herbs that apparently can remove metals are burdock root, garlic and onion.

Two other products are worth mentioning here: chlorella and zeolites.  Chlorella is a blue-green algae like Spirulina, but is considered the most effective algae in removing toxins and metals.  Zeolites are made from volcanic ash and sea water and have been clinically proven to remove metals and other toxins from the body. I suggest researching these products and finding a good source.  Assisting the body in getting rid of toxins is almost always a good thing.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Workout Wednesday: Eating and Exercise

Countless articles and books examine what we should eat to improve our bodies and gain muscle, lose weight, become more flexible, etc.  Experts in every field have suggestions about what to drink before and after a workout, what kind of recovery food we should eat and where the best form of protein is found.  This blog is not meant to be comprehensive, because this is a complex subject that could fill a book.  I'd like to just give some basics on the subject from a raw, plant-based diet perspective.

First, we should all learn more about our bodies.  We can do this by paying attention to it during different times of the day and after we've made any kind of change.  For example, when you workout, notice how much water you drink before and after.  Is this satisfying?  Do you feel dehydrated at anytime?  Because each of us is different, it's important to find out what works for you.

Eating before exercise can cause issues for many people.  Most fitness experts warn against eating a large meal, but some agree that eating a small snack is okay for some people.  The fact is that the energy required for a workout comes from carbohydrates and fat that are stored in your muscles, liver and cells.  There really is no reason to eat before working out, unless you have blood-sugar issues.  However, there are some superfoods that you can drink with water that can give you a little boost of energy.  I prefer a little maca in water before I go on a hike or head to the gym.

It's also important to remember to hydrate before working out.  Be sure to drink pure water from a trusted source.  If you are hiking or working out in the heat, make sure to have extra water with you.  Working out while dehydrated drains the body and increases your risk of injury.  After exercising, continue to hydrate to help your body eliminate lactic acid, which can build up in the muscles from exercise.

Most information about diet and exercise places a huge emphasis on protein.  There's no reason to downplay the role of protein in our diet; after all, amino acids are the building blocks of life.  But there is a myth that you can't get enough protein from a plant-based diet.  Health magazines push high-protein diets like Atkins and the South Beach diet, encouraging people to eat more animal products and turn away from bad carbs like bread and pasta.  On a raw diet, the goal is to eliminate all of these foods and get our nutrition from non-processed plants.

If you do work out frequently, your calorie and protein needs are going to be higher.  Living on salads and fruits can get one into trouble nutritionally.  The goal here is to consume calories from a variety of foods.  Green leafy vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, fatty fruits like avocados and olives, coconut meat and oil and superfoods like Spirulina, sea vegetables and Chlorella are great sources for protein and fat.  Fruits and vegetables, sprouts, juice and smoothies can provide healthy carbohydrates that give energy.  If you tend to lose weight easily, increase your intake of protein and fat.  One of my favorite protein products is Sun Warrior protein powder, which is raw and vegan.  It's a very digestible form of protein that is great for post-workout recovery.

The important thing here is to pay attention to your own body.  Experiment with different foods and amounts. Find out what foods slow you down.  Are you more flexible when you eat greens or fat or a combination of both?  You know your body better than anyone, so start listening to it.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Green Smoothie Fields Forever

Growing up, we were all encouraged to eat our greens.  For most of us, we gagged them down until we eventually got used to them.  Watching Popeye eat spinach never tricked a single kid I knew into liking it.  But, is it normal for children to have an aversion to green foods?  It may be, but in my experience, kids that are raised from the beginning on whole, natural foods tend to be more open to green vegetables.  Could it be that eating processed grains, sugars, fats and denatured proteins distorts the taste buds and the sense of smell?

Regardless of the answer, as adults, we all know (almost intuitively) that greens are healthy and important in our diet.  Modern research certainly supports this, and we can all attest to how eating cabbage, spinach, kale, leafy lettuce, etc. makes us feel.  Greens are loaded with bone-building minerals, vitamins, complex carbohydrates, protein, and chlorophyll.  Some research suggests that greens contain cancer-fighting properties, protect the heart from damage, and help digestion.

While green juice provides a lot of absorbable nutrients, most of us don't have a lot of time to juice every day.  Well, that's all changed.  The Green Smoothie Revolution has arrived and it's now easier to get your greens then ever.  One of the biggest promoters of raw, green smoothies is Victoria Boutenko and her raw family.  Victoria goes into great detail about the benefits of greens and how to create awesome green smoothies in her book, Green Smoothie Revolution.

When creating your own green smoothie, it's important to find a combination that you'll like.  Pick one or two greens (leafy salad greens are milder are good to start with), but always rotate your greens (all plants have some anti-nutrients that can build up if eaten daily).  In a blender, place a handful of greens, a seasonal fruit (banana, mango, apples, etc.) and water.  Blend until smooth and enjoy.

Over time, you'll learn what tastes good to you, but you might want to start reducing the sugar and get used to eating more green tasting smoothies.  One of my favorite combinations is celery, kale, cilantro, parsley, apple and banana.  Sometimes, I even throw in some ginger or garlic for a little kick.  The key is to be creative so you can find combinations that you like.  If it's torture, you probably won't continue doing it.  So, go out and buy some greens and join the Green Smoothie Revolution.  Your body will thank you.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Superfood Sunday: The Power of Maca

High up in the Andes, an ancient radish grows above 10, 000 feet and is revered by the people of this area.  Like many foods that grow in extreme conditions, Maca has developed unique superfood qualities that help humans adapt to stress in the environment when consumed.  These foods are commonly called adaptogens.  Ginseng is another popular example.

Adaptogens help to balance the body's systems, and Maca is well-known for its effect on the hormonal system and is commonly used for libido.  Beyond its reputation as a sex herb, maca also stabilizes the nervous system, the cardiovascular system and the lymphatic system.  Athletes often take the herb for energy and bodily stress reduction.  In fact, the ancient Incas are reported to have used Maca before going into battle.

Because Maca can stimulate the body, I recommend taking it in the morning.  The flavor is strong and pungent, so most people have to find a way to use it that agrees with them.  Personally, I prefer to blend it with raw cacao (chocolate).  Cacao is also somewhat stimulating, so this is the perfect morning drink.  Usually, I make about 12 ounces of tea (use different herbs daily like mint, Cat's Claw, Holy Basil, etc.).  I put the warm tea in a blender and mix with one tablespoon of cacao powder, one teaspoon of Maca, and a little sweetener.  This creates a rich, dark chocolate drink that tastes good, nourishes the body and gives sustained energy for hours.

Like most superfoods, start off with a small portion and work your way up to a full dose (one to two teaspoons a day).  You may find that Maca does wonders for your health.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sexy Saturday: Take Care of Your Skin and Health with Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has a long history of use in many parts of the world.  It comes from the flesh of the mature coconut and is extracted using hot or cold methods.  By far, cold processing yields a better quality coconut oil.  The oil is very heat-stable and is commonly used for cooking.  It can also be used on the skin as a moisturizer.

In the middle of the 20th Century, coconut oil began to get a bad rap for internal use, due to it containing a high amount of saturated fat.  Some of you may remember eating theater popcorn that was popped in coconut oil.  The smell and taste were unmistakable.  By the end of the 70s, though, that was history and popcorn was never the same.  During this time, all saturated fats were lumped into the same category and authorities urged the public to avoid these fats.  Because coconut oil was easily replaced by other "healthier" oils, it received the worst rap, and animal fats continued to be eaten with great zeal.

Fast forward a couple of decades and new research reveals something totally different about coconut oil.  Virgin (not hydrogenated) coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids, which are much easier for the liver to digest than other fats.  Founder of the Coconut Research Center, Bruce Fife is considered one of the world's experts on coconut oil.  The author of several books and essays on the miraculous oil, Dr. Fife concludes that coconut oil taken internally and used externally contains numerous healing qualities.  Some of its notable properties include being antiviral, anti-fungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory.  Research also shows that it can help the liver, blood sugar, intestines, immune system, thyroid, and kidneys. It's actually good for the heart too, which is the opposite of what was believed 50 years ago by Western medicine.

One of the best kept secrets about coconut oil is its effect on the skin.  When applied to the skin, coconut oil can protect it from free radicals and slow aging.  It's also one of the best moisturizers, healing dry skin, even helping with severe skin issues like psoriasis and eczema.  As a person who likes to go in the sun a lot during the summer, I have found no better oil to heal my skin after a long day of sun.  Any light burn quickly heals and turns into a tan.  If your skin is not too sensitive to the sun, you can even use coconut oil as a natural sunblock as it protects the body from UV rays.

When choosing a coconut oil, be sure to find a company that uses a cold, centrifugal process.  Also, make sure the oil is unrefined, with no added preservatives or chemicals. has a great, truly-raw coconut oil that you can eat or use on the skin.  If you have never indulged in this oil, do yourself a favor and try it.  Be good to your health and your skin.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Free Friday: Sugar Me Sick

According to a 2009 report by the American Heart Association, Americans guzzle 22 teaspoons of sugar a day EACH!  Most of this comes from soda and candy.  One soda alone carries around 8 teaspoons of sugar.  Alarmingly, teenagers raise the average for Americans by consuming up to 34 teaspoons of sugar in one day.  Recommendations from the AHA allow 6 to 8 teaspoons of sugar a day, depending on your size.  Personally, I think the goal should be 0.

Processed sugar comes to us in many forms: white sugar (from cane or beets), corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and many other disguises in our food.  It's hiding in almost anything packaged like cookies, crackers, pasta sauces, peanut butter, salad dressings, mayonnaise, you name it.  Even bread, meat and soup can be loaded with sugar.

So, what's the problem with sugar?  Well, humans haven't been consuming these quantities of refined sugars for very long, so the long-term effects are just beginning to occur to us.  Many experts blame high consumption of refined sugar for a plethora of diseases.  Diabetes is the most obvious, but many recent studies indicate that sugar may play a huge role in hundreds of other diseases.

In her book Lick the Sugar Habit (which I highly recommend), Dr. Nancy Appleton references dozens of studies that implicate sugar in connection with cancer, heart disease, obesity, tooth decay, mineral deficiencies, depression, intestinal disorders, free radical damage, constipation, asthma, and the list goes on.  With as much sugar as humans consume daily, it would not be surprising if scientists soon discover that sugar is the main problem in most chronic diseases.

Why wait until science clearly tells us what we all already know?  Refined sugar is toxic and contributes to disease.  Cutting this out of your diet in all of its forms will do nothing but contribute to your health and well being.  As humans, we should be getting healthy sugars from fruits and vegetables.  Concentrated, denatured sugar is nowhere to be found in nature.  Even honey is a rare treat for an animal in the wild that dares to penetrate a beehive.

If you have a sweet tooth, learn to enjoy foods that are naturally sweet (like fruit and dates).  If you have to have sweets, find ones that are sweetened with less harmful sweeteners like agave, coconut palm sugar or stevia (ultimately, the goal should be to avoid any form of concentrated sweetener).

I would also recommend learning to enjoy the other flavors that food has to offer.  Bitter is a taste that most people stay away from, but you can develop a taste for slightly bitter foods by introducing them with other foods like in a green smoothie.  Sour, salty, spicy, pungent, and astringent are some other tastes that can be enjoyed.  Learning to enjoy flavors can be exciting with plant foods, because there is so much variety.  Be adventurous!  Enjoy food.  Be healthy!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Therapy Thursday: Intestinal Cleansing Part II

As promised, this is the second part of my blog on intestinal cleansing.  Although I plan on covering this topic more in the future, this specific two-week segment is about the Ejuva cleanse.  This is the second time I have taken on this intestinal cleanse, and it's been difficult both times.  Juice fasting was challenging, but hunger went away after about 7 days.  With the Ejuva cleanse, a lot of deep toxins, habits and emotions are stirred up.  I find it difficult to lessen my eating as I go along.  In fact, I get hungrier and have more cravings.

The fourth week has been the most challenging.  Last Friday, I was supposed to begin juice fasting only, but I ended up eating more.  So, I slowed down the fast and allowed myself to eat when I needed to.  Over the last week, I've slowly been preparing myself to eat less food and gradually work back into the fast.  Tomorrow, I'll be full board again on juice and herbs four times a day.

While this has been disappointing for me, I'm learning to just let it be what it is.  After 30 days on a juice fast, keeping up with a regular exercise routine, losing around 30 pounds, and starting a daily blog, I think I have a lot to be proud of.  The cleanse has been great for me, and, even though I didn't get the maximum benefit from it, I certainly did my body a great service and released a lot of toxins.  The next week will be a great indicator of how much progress I've made.

Once again, I highly recommend doing a short or long intestinal cleanse.  Not only can you release toxins that build up in the body, but you may also be shown emotional baggage you've been holding onto.  Most of us have a lifetime of emotional eating from stuffing our faces when we're sad, lonely, angry, guilty, whatever.  Letting go of these stuffed-down emotions is not easy, but it can be done.  Be healthy.

Mystic Merman

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Workout Wednesday: Stretching for Health

For most athletes, stretching remains a cornerstone of their exercise routine every day.  Without it, they know the risk of injury increases dramatically.  However, if you pay attention to what most people do before working out, you'll notice that many of them stretch very quickly or not at all.  This could be one of the biggest mistakes people make when working out.

Studies on stretching show that, when done correctly, it may increase your athletic performance and reduce the risk of injury.  By creating more flexibility in your muscles and joints, your body can move more freely through each movement.  This can help decrease the risk of immediate or long-term injury.  Any book or website on athletic performance will tell you that a full range of motion is the goal.

Additionally, stretching increases the amount of blood to your muscles, warming them up and allowing more flexibility.  It's important to make stretching part of your warm-up and cool-down routines when working out.  Your body will thank you for it.

When you choose a stretching routine, make sure to cover all the major muscles groups.  If you are spending more time on your legs that day (hiking, running or biking, for example), focus on leg stretches.  Also, don't rush through stretching.  Consider it part of your workout routine and take at least 30 seconds for each stretch, going as deeply as feels comfortable.  Also, be aware of your own body, paying attention to the areas that may need more focus.

At any time during the day, you can stop for a few minutes and stretch your body.  I have found this to be very effective at work, where I am sitting all day.  My neck and shoulders can get very sore, and stretching them a few times a day can relieve tension and pain.  After a few weeks of daily stretching, you will certainly begin to notice a difference.  Take care of your body and be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Mock Tuna Salad

When getting into raw, plant-based food, recipes provide tasty, transitional meals that can sometimes imitate the original, cooked version.  Some of these recipes are complicated and require expensive equipment or take hours to prepare.  However, there are a lot of really easy, fun recipes to make that don't require a lot of time.

Last weekend, I made this for a raw potluck and it was quite a hit.  I've tried Mock Tuna Salad from several recipes, but my favorite comes from Matt Amsden's book, "Rawvolution."  The only thing you need is a food processor to grind the soaked sunflower seeds, which are the "meat" of the tuna salad.  Here are the ingredients for each part:

For the Salad:

3 cups soaked, raw sunflower seeds, ground in a food processor
3 to 4 stalks celery
1/2 bunch scallions, diced
2 tablespoons dulse flakes
1/4 cup dried dill

For the Dressing:

1 1/2 cups young coconut water (you can get these at an Asian market or natural food store)
6 cloves garlic, peeled (I found this to be too much, try 3 or 4)
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 1/2 cups raw cashews (pine nuts or macadamia nuts work too)
1/2 cup stone-ground mustard (I used whole mustard seeds)

Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.  Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a blender and blend completely.  Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well.  Serves 4.

So, there you have it.  An easy to prepare, delicious and nutritious meal.  I like to put this on top of my salad or eat it with flax crackers.  Also, it lasts in the fridge for several days, so if you're making it for yourself, it will give you a few good meals.  Enjoy and be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Monday, October 17, 2011

Manic Monday: Nature and Mental Health

According to a study published on, only 5 minutes in nature shows an impact on human mental health.  The study also found that people are affected more by green areas with water.  In other words, if you live in the city, try to get to a park, natural trail or the beach.  Walking outside in the city is great, but we need a daily connection with nature.

Many other studies have been conducted in the US and other countries.  Most of them find that people who live in more natural settings or spend a lot of time in them live longer, healthier lives.  Some studies also have shown that office workers have less stress when they have a view of nature.  If you don't have this at work, take your 15-minute and your lunch breaks outside in the sun.  You'll notice a huge difference in your attitude.

Urban sprawl has certainly increased the amount of mental health issues in our society.  Television, computers, driving, texting, noisy restaurants, loud music, busy streets, all contribute to stress and anxiety.  Because of this, we all need to spend more time in nature.  Mother Nature soothes our minds and relaxes our bodies.  The sun gives us depression-fighting vitamin D and the fresh oxygen alkalizes our blood.  Additionally, nature is almost always slow, which helps to rejuvenate the brain after hours of mental stimulation.

Make a commitment to spend time in nature every day.  If you don't think you have time, commit to 5 minutes a day.  Once you see the benefits of spending more time outside, you will only want to increase it to 15 minutes, 30 minutes or even an hour.  If you exercise regularly, try doing it outside a few times a week instead of the gym.  Even in cold climates, 10 to 15 minutes outside can make a huge difference.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Superfood Sunday: An Ancient Chinese Superfood

Two weeks ago, I introduced you to my favorite superfood, the Camu Camu berry.  Today, I'd like to introduce you to another super berry that has a long history in Chinese herbal medicine: the Goji Berry.  Also known as Wolfberries, the Goji berry is part of the huge Solanaceae family that includes tomatoes, potatoes, and many peppers.  What's remarkable about these little berries, though, is the nutritional content they pack.

Goji berries contain 18 amino acids, making them a good source of protein.  Depending on the source, they're also loaded with around 10 essential and 20 to 22 trace minerals, vitamins, essential fatty acids, and up to 5 carotenoids, including beta-carotene.  This may be one of the reasons the Chinese revere this berry and place it at the top of their list of medicinal herbs.  It has long been considered a top longevity herb and protector of the immune system and eye health.

One of the most important constituents in Goji berries are the polysaccharides, which can comprise up to 30% of their weight.  These polysaccharides are believed to be one of the reasons Goji berries are powerful immune builders and anti-aging berries.  In fact, the Goji berry has gotten enough attention over the last ten years to inspire several short- and long-term studies on the effects of aging and other benefits.

Like all food, you need to make sure you know where your Goji berries are coming from.  Most of the berries on the market are low quality and come from areas of China that are highly sprayed.  Goji berries should be organically grown, preferably at high elevations away from toxic farming practices.  Of course, I recommend as they have the best I've ever had.  Try Goji berries alone, in a trail mix, on your cereal or (like the Chinese) as an herbal tea.  Be kind to your immune system.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Friday, October 14, 2011

Free Friday: Setting Goals

Last Friday, I talked about the time killer, Procrastination.  As a follow-up to that, I'd like to discuss one of the enemies of procrastination, Goal Setting.  While goal setting is something that has been going on in human behavior for thousands of years in some form or another, it's only been examined and marketed in the last century.  Nowadays, you can find websites, books, classes, seminars, and personal coaches to help you set and achieve your professional and personal goals.

At a personal level, goal setting is fairly basic, because the goals are based on your desires.  No one else can tell you what you should achieve in your life (unlike the goals of a company which are dictated by upper management or owners).  Of course, if you are in a relationship with another person, some of your goals may have to be modified to accommodate the other person.  Ultimately, however, your goals should be based on your personal needs and aspirations.

If you've never used goal-setting, start off with just a couple of easy goals.  For example, decide that you want to include green leafy vegetables in at least one meal every day.  Give yourself a couple of weeks to implement it.  Write down your target date, tasks you need to do to accomplish it, any obstacles you might come across and how to overcome those obstacles.  Every day, keep track of your progress, learning from mistakes and successes.  Beating yourself up is always counter-productive, so don't do it.

Once you get into the habit of setting, keeping track of and reaching smaller goals, you should begin to write down some long-term goals.  Losing fifty pounds, saving $5000 and getting a degree in nutrition are just a few examples of long-term goals.  Be realistic with the time frame on these goals, giving yourself enough time to complete it.  Also, break large goals up into chunks or mini-goals.  For example, break the fifty pounds down into tens and shoot for each ten pounds in a smaller period.  When you are keeping track of your progress, notice which tasks work better than other tasks.  If you fail to accomplish a certain task, pick it up again the next day.  Persistence is key, but be gentle with yourself.

Overtime, using goal setting as a tool to accomplish things can change your attitude and behavior.  Certain things will become easier and you will notice that success will start to spill over into other areas of your life.  If it makes it easier, join an online goal-setting site.  I recently joined, a free goal-setting website that gives you articles, videos and book suggestions for each of your personal goals.  You can also join groups and find friends that have similar goals for encouragement and challenges.  Whatever you decide to do, make it fun and change it up frequently, so you don't get bored.  You can do it!  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Therapy Thursday: Intestinal Cleansing Part I

After my 30-day juice fast, I decided that it was a good time to commit to a really good intestinal cleansing program.  Fortunately, one of my co-workers had an entire kit that he was not going to use.  The program I'm using is by the company Ejuva, which designs and manufacturers some of the best cleansing products on the market.  The intestinal cleanse is over $300, but it removes toxins, old fecal matter, metals and other poisons from the intestines, stomach, liver and blood stream.

The program is not as difficult as it sounds, however.  During the first week, you're required to take the herbs (which are all in tablets) once a day, followed by a fiber shake (mixed with juice or water).  You can also eat three meals a day (the designers of the program recommend a plant-based diet, raw if possible).  The second week, you take the herbs and shake twice a day and eat two meals with as much juice as you want.  Each week adds herbs and shakes and subtracts a meal until the fourth week, when you are taking the herbs four times a day along with the shake.  Only juice is taken during the last week.

Over the years, I have worked with or spoken with dozens of individuals who have completed the Ejuva cleanse or another similar cleanse.  Many of them have expelled what is known as mucoid plaque, a black or dark greenish substance that apparently collects in the intestines through years of eating processed food.  I'm on my third week of the cleanse and I've noticed pieces of this material, but no long strands as shown in pictures online.  Hopefully, my fourth week will expel some of this.  Hey, better out than in, right?

Next Thursday will be the next to last day of the cleanse, so I will continue this discussion next week.  Be clean and healthy!

Mystic Merman

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Workout Wednesday: My Workout Week

My second week of real commitment to working out proved to be more successful than my first.  As I discussed last week, I decided to keep my gym membership and check out some of the classes.  Last Wednesday, I participated in my first class, which was called Body Pump.  This vigorous, one-hour workout combines cardio and strength training. The instructor had us squatting, extending, bending, jumping, and just about everything else with a barbell or weights in hand.  Thursday morning, I knew I'd had a great workout.

On Thursday evening, I chose a lighter class at the gym.  This class was in the pool with resistance weights under water.  While it was still a great workout, it gave my joints and muscles a bit of a rest.  Spending an hour totally focused on getting a full-body workout makes a lot of sense and saves a lot of time.

On the weekend, I took a long walk on Saturday evening, then got up early for a three hour hike up and down a mountain.  It's so great to be able to go this distance without having to worry about deep pain in my foot.  What a delight that the inflammation is almost completely gone.  Of course, I'm still experiencing some pain as my body has been so sedentary for the last few years.  However, strength is appearing in my muscles, joints and heart and lungs.

By Monday, I was pretty sore, so I swam for 20 minutes in the pool and sat for another 20 minutes in the sauna.  Then, on Tuesday, I decided to take a class called Body Attack.  From the title, you can say that I was warned.  This was probably the most difficult one-hour workout I've ever experienced.  My endurance is great because I made it through the whole class, but my strength was really tested, as I could barely pick my feet up by the final peak!  This was another full-body workout and certainly a real challenge.  I'm intrigued by this class, so I plan on showing up next week.

For my final workout, I climbed Cowles Mountain tonight with a friend.  For San Diego citizens, Cowles represents the ultimate uphill workout.  The climb to the top ascends nearly 1,000 feet in about 1.5 miles.  The beginning and end switch back and forth, while the middle is the real killer.  By the time you get to the top, you've had a good 45 minute workout.  The view makes it worth the effort.  A 360 degree view of beautiful San Diego from the mountains all the way to the Pacific Ocean.  The first time I made it to the top, I spent an hour just trying to recognize all the landmarks in the county.  I'll definitely be doing that again soon.

Well, I have to say, I'm pretty proud of myself this week.  Having a lot of variety really works.  I promise to continue to move in the direction of health and vitality.  Life is good!  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: A Raw Food Kitchen

Starting a raw food diet can seem challenging and expensive, but there are so many things available now that we can start off small and add as we go along.  The easiest part of a raw food diet is that most of the food we eat is ready just as Mother Nature provides it.  For example, what could be easier than eating an apple, a pear or a watermelon?  Fruit needs little to no preparation and is full of nutrients and naturally filtered water.  Salads are extremely versatile, especially if you have access to amazing, organic produce all year and learn how to make a few raw dressings (more on salads and dressing on another day).

Of course, for most people, eating fruit and salad every day can become monotonous and lack excitement.  While I do encourage people to learn how to eat more simple, raw food recipes add variety, flavor, color and fun to our diet.  When I first started experimenting with raw food in 2000, there wasn't a lot of good recipe books or master chefs.  However, over the last 10 years or so, creativity with raw food has exploded.  If you go to a raw food restaurant, you can have everything from Italian pasta dishes, Asian cuisine, Mediterranean appetizers, soups, Mexican food, and some of the most amazing desserts you'll ever have.

How do people make all these things?   Well, the raw food kitchen needs a few appliances.  For me, the most essential is my Vita-mix (a high-powered blender).  This handy tool creates smoothies, soups, seed flours, mousses, juice, and so much more.  Another great tool to have is a dehydrator.  With a good-quality dehydrator, a world of delights is possible.  I've made mini-pizzas, onion bread, flax crackers, dried fruit, tostado shells, nutrition bars, and so much more.  These two appliances are a bit pricey, but you will have them for the rest of your life.  Sell your microwave and invest in something that is going to enhance your health, not destroy it.

Other great tools for a raw kitchen are a good food processor, a good beater, sharp knives (try ceramic), peelers, a garlic press, and any other tool you would use for regular cooking.  Over the next few months, I will introduce a few recipes that I've made.  I encourage you to go on the internet and find some good raw food recipes and start having fun with your food.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Monday, October 10, 2011

Manic Monday: Breathe Your Way to Health and Sanity

If you've ever taken a yoga class, you're probably familiar with proper breathing techniques and the importance of it.  Most of us are totally unaware of how we breathe, but when we start to pay attention to it, we realize that it's not healthy.  Stress and inactivity cause shallow, chest breathing, which deprives the body of oxygen.

Fortunately, our breathing is something that we can control.  Conscious breathing exercises have a plethora of benefits to the body.  They can reduce stress, calm the body and mind, and have also been shown to help improve the immune system and enhance digestion.  There are hundreds of breathing exercises available on the internet or through workshops on yoga and other Eastern traditions.  If you've never experimented with breathing, I highly recommend exploring its benefits.

As a smoker for many years, I learned about the importance of breathing the hard way.  Smoking and shallow breathing kept my lungs from working at their full capacity, and I often found climbing stairs or short hikes difficult.  Since quitting, I have explored different ways to increase my lung capacity like holding my breath under water (I'm really trying to become a merman), diaphragmatic breathing (slow or quick and sharp), and other yogic breathing techniques.  Strenuous exercise requires a lot from the lungs as well and is a great way to keep the lungs and blood healthy.

Ultimately, the goal is to learn how to breathe properly through the diaphragm.  Deep, slow breathing should be natural and happen when we are not conscious of our breathing.  However, this takes time and effort.  Practicing conscious breathing every day for a minimum of 15 minutes can benefit anyone.  Happy breathing!

Mystic Merman 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Free Friday: Procrastination Nation

"Procrastination is like a credit card: it's a lot of fun until you get the bill." Christopher Parker

We all know procrastination well.  Most of us could write our own book on it, but we'd never get around to it. It's been said that it's the killer of time, the robber of success and the pillar of laziness.  And it doesn't seem to be getting better.  Modern life beckons us with distractions like television, video games, the internet and fast food.  Putting important things off becomes easier and easier year after year.  We all procrastinate sometimes, and many of us procrastinate daily.

So, how do we overcome this social ailment?  Being a procrastinator is not something we're born with; we learn this behavior.  From the many studies that have been done, experts agree that procrastinators are often perfectionists or people who are afraid of failure.  Also, many people give themselves too many things to do and become overwhelmed.  The good news is that learned behavior can be unlearned.

Many people overcome their habit of procrastination by setting goals for themselves.  These goals need to be realistic and mostly small.  If you set a large goal for yourself, it helps to break it down into chunks that can easily be managed.  Once you set goals for yourself, select a few that are easy or that you know you'll do.  Many people also find that a reward system is very motivating.  Once you begin to create new habits in smaller areas of your life (i.e. taking a half hour walk daily or cleaning the bathroom on Fridays), you can conquer another one that might seem a little bigger.

For me, procrastination has definitely created a lot of frustration in my life.  One thing I find that really works for me is to keep trying.  No matter how many times I tried to quit smoking, change my diet, start exercising, read more, etc., I always came back to it again.  Anyone who is successful at anything will tell you that they didn't get there on their first, second or third try.  They likely fell on their face many times, but they got back up.  This is the key to succeeding: keep trying!  Eventually, you have to get it right.

Mystic Merman

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Therapy Thursday: Juice Fasting for Health

Fasting stretches back thousands of years in nearly every tradition including Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Christianity and Buddhism, but has also been used by scientists and doctors to treat diseases.  Although modern allopathic medicine scoffs at fasting, calling it pseudo-science and dangerous, thousands of people every year find relief from a wide spectrum of ailments from cancer to arthritis while doing safe fasts.

Traditionally, fasting has mostly been on water, which should always be done under the supervision of an experienced professional if done more than two or three days or in cases of severe illness or emaciation.  However, in the last century, many people have employed the benefits of fasting from solid foods on freshly-pressed, raw juices.  Dr. Max Gerson used juice fasting and other therapies to cure thousands of patients from "terminal" illnesses, especially cancer.  His daughter continues his work in Mexico (she is not allowed to practice in the US).

For most people, juice fasting is a safe and effective way to clean the body and begin a healing process.  Juice provides many of the nutrients needed by the body, but gives the digestion a rest, allowing the body to eliminate accumulated waste and freeing up energy for healing.  There are countless studies and testimonials of people who have cured themselves of "incurable" diseases.  If you are interested in trying a juice fast, I recommend trying a short fast first (one or two days).  With no experience, going longer than this can be difficult and possibly unsafe.

Over the years, I have done several juice fasts from three to ten days.  After watching the film Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead a couple of months ago, I became inspired to do a 30 day juice fast.  The first week proved to be very challenging, but I persevered.  Once I hit my 8th day, things got much easier and I started to really feel good and drop weight more rapidly.  By the end of the fast, I had lost 30 pounds, had no more inflammation in my right food, had a heck-of-a-lot more energy and had glowing skin.  This was also a good impetus for getting back on a raw food diet and starting this blog.

In order to make sure that I was getting a lot of nutrition and that my blood sugar was at a safe level, I used a lot of greens in my juice.  Here is an example of the ingredients I would put in my juice: kale, collard, celery, parsley, cilantro, mint, lemon, carrots, apples, garlic, ginger and cucumber.  You might want to start off with just a couple of greens and more carrots and apples until you can handle less sweetness.  Also, lemon really takes the edge off the bitter greens and is a great detoxifier.

The juicer I use is one of the most expensive on the market, but I believe it's the best: the Green Star juicer.  With double gears that move toward each other , the Green Star crushes the fresh food instead of cutting it, which extracts more juice than any other juicer I've ever used.  It's worth the extra cost for something you will likely use for the rest of your life.

Start a short juice fast and see what this therapy can do for you.  Happy juicing!  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Workout Wednesday: To Gym or Not To Gym

If you live in a place that's relatively warm all year (like San Diego), it may seem pointless to join a gym when there are so many activities to do outside.  People who live in colder climates welcome the heated gym to get exercise during the winter months.  Because I live in a warmer climate, I do prefer to spend most of my time outside.  In fact, I've joined a gym three or four times, signed the year promise and watched as they charged me every month, even though I stopped going.  I currently have a membership, which I was actually about to cancel.  However, I'm giving it another shot.

The most difficult thing for me about the gym is monotony.  Pumping iron or working out on a machine feels good for a couple of days, but it eventually becomes boring and I'm not motivated to go.  A friend at work suggested that I try the many classes that the gym has to offer.  When I looked on the schedule, my membership includes yoga, Zumba, ab workouts, tai chi and several other classes.  I don't have to get my workout at the gym every day, but when I do go, I can find the variety that I need.

Finding variety is actually an important part of exercise.  If the body copies the same motions, resistance and actions every day, it becomes more rigid.  It's good to give that body something different to do every day.  Joining a good gym can help accomplish that.  At the gym you can work major muscle groups with weights, practice yoga and other flexibility training, hop on a stationary bike and more.  If you have something different to look forward to every day, the gym won't be such a bad place.  Of course, for me, it will just supplement my outdoor activity.

On a side note, I've been doing great with exercise this last week.  I've gone on two hikes, walked a couple miles on the street, took an outdoor class on a Martial Art and I'm now heading off to the gym to do an aerobics class.  Staying motivated is the key and a clean diet really helps in having the energy.  Happy workouts my friends.  Stay healthy!

Mystic Merman

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: The Benefits of Fermented Foods

People from all areas of the globe have been fermenting foods for thousands of years.  Most of us are familiar with fermented alcoholic beverages like wine, beer and ciders, and even Kombucha is gaining popularity in the West.  There are also fermented dairy foods like yogurt and kefir, which help to diminish the negative effects of eating dairy products, as well as fermented meats and fish.  Plant-based ferments, however, are the most popular, with dozens of types existing.  Asians make kim chi, tempe, miso, natto and zha cai.  The Germans are famous for sauerkraut and grain brews.  And Americans certainly love pickles, Tabasco sauce, vinegar and wine.

With all the varieties of fermented foods out there, it may be difficult to decipher which ones are healthy.  Many companies use white vinegar, harmful sugars and salts, and poor ingredients.  In fact, most pickles on the market can hardly be considered a health food.  But the benefits of fermented foods are undeniable.  As long as the alcohol is very low, fermented foods provide a host of probiotics, which help keep the gastrointestinal tract healthy and enhance digestion of nutrients.  In addition, they increase the bio-availability of amino acids, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids.  They are also known to decrease certain toxins like oxalic acid, which is found in many vegetables.

The best way to get all the benefits of fermented foods is to learn how to make them yourself.  I highly recommend the book Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz.  Although this book is not completely vegan, he does give some of the best advice and recipes for making fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, kim chi, pickles and miso.  The process takes a while to learn, but it's fun and you can creatively ferment just about any vegetable. Once you learn how to ferment foods, you will be amazed at how much food you can create and preserve for very little cost.  Fermenting foods is a great way to eat healthy and save money.

While I am new to the process of fermenting foods, I've decided to jump right in and try several things.  I have a jar of pickles going in my kitchen right now (I found heirloom gherkins from a local farmer).  I also finished a batch of hot carrots with onions, jalapeƱos and heirloom eggplants.  These turned out okay, but I'm definitely still a novice.  I also have a good-sized batch of sauerkraut going on its third day.  This is the most basic recipe, and I recommend starting with it:

3 heads of cabbage (save some outer leaves)
1 tablespoon of good sea salt (Celtic or Himalayan are the best)
1 glove of garlic

Chop or grate the cabbage finely and place into a large bowl (you can do one head at a time if you don't have a large enough bowl).  Add the salt and begin to mix in with hands.  Continue to do this, squeezing the cabbage firmly.  This will begin to create a brine.  Once you have enough brine, put about a cup of it in a blender and blend it with the garlic and a few cabbage scraps.  Poor the brine back into the cabbage and mix again with hands.  Once you have a lot of brine, place the entire contents into a glass jar and press down with fists.  Make sure enough brine comes to the top to cover the cabbage.  Top off with some of the saved outer leaves of the cabbage and place a plate or heavy item on top.  Set on your counter top for three to seven days.  Check every day for a sour smell.  In the summer, the fermentation will happen faster than the winter.  Also, adding more salt slows down the fermentation process.  Once the kraut is ready, store in the refrigerator and enjoy.

Here is my favorite video on making fermented veggies:

Happy fermenting!

Mystic Merman

Monday, October 3, 2011

Manic Monday: Stress, the Big Killer

While hiking with my best friend this weekend, we were discussing the different factors that contribute to degenerative diseases like cancer and heart disease.  Dozens of factors certainly contribute to life-threatening diseases, we agreed, but there is one that acts as a trigger for most people: stress.

Life is full of stressful situations.  We all have to deal with difficult people, concerns over finances, driving, family and marital challenges, stressful jobs, and the list goes on.  However, being in a stressful situation doesn't mean that stress is present.  The inability to adapt or adjust to the situation creates stress in the organism.

While there are different levels of adaptation and some people are better at it than others, the best way to tell how you are adapting to a stressful situation is to pay attention to your body.  Everything from slight agitation to rage affects your body's chemistry.  Depending on the level of stress, breathing speeds up or becomes restricted, muscles tighten, the heart rate increases, and some people even become dizzy or nauseous.  Consequently, the body releases cortisol and other stress hormones. Numerous studies have been conducted by public and private groups indicating that stress and stress hormones are a big factor in immune suppression and the onset of disease.

The key, of course, lies in coping with stress.  The easy way (and eventually deadly way) to deal with stress is to take a shortcut like drinking, drugs, overeating, oversleeping, escaping with television, etc.  But these only get the mind off of stressful things temporarily and create their own long list of health issues.  If we want to follow the path of health and vitality, we must learn to recognize our reactions to stressful circumstances while they are happening and determine how to control them.  In addition, we must learn healthy ways to release stress and tension from the body.

One thing I am learning about myself is that reacting negatively to situations I perceive as negative or stressful has become a habit, even an addiction.  If you look up "drama queen" in the dictionary, I'm sure you'll see a picture of me.  I love to turn something small into a big deal.  Fortunately for me, I am learning to recognize this in myself while it happens.  Over the last couple of years, I have become better at stopping myself from reacting, blaming, and mocking.  My life and health are too precious to let life's inevitable bumps damage them.  Also, the changes in my diet and exercise profoundly control my stress and tension levels.

My goals for managing my stress include becoming more aware of how I react to life's challenges, paying attention to my body when I am under pressure, breathing more, exercising daily, and taking time to still my mind each day.  This is important to my mental and physical health, and I'm important enough to meet the challenge.  May you have a stress-free day.

Mystic Merman

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Superfood Sunday: An Antioxidant Powerhouse

There are so many great superfoods, so it was difficult for me to decide which one to showcase first.  For me, a superfood should have properties that benefit one's health on many levels.  While considering which one has benefited me the most, one specific food continued to come to mind: the Camu Camu berry.  

Indigenous to the Amazonian rain forests of Peru and Brazil, the Camu Camu berry packs more vitamin C than any other available food in the world.  In fact, many people have stopped taking synthetic vitamin C because of the potent amount of C in this berry.  Additionally, Camu Camu has a decent amount of amino acids, bioflavanoids, and other phytochemicals that are known to strengthen the immune system, enhance the mood, and support the eyes, sinuses and heart.  Several experts on herbs, including Gary Null, place Camu Camu high on their list of the most effective herbs.

When I was first introduced to Camu Camu, I had battled with serious sinus issues for years.  Breathing through my nose had nearly become impossible, disturbing my sleep and giving me a perpetual dry throat.  Although a change in diet helped, it wasn't until I started taking Camu Camu regularly that my sinuses cleared up completely. Also, there is no superfood that has strengthened my immune system more than this magnificent berry.  Although there is little research done on it, I believe Camu Camu will be recognized as a powerful, natural medicine in the future.  I highly recommend researching and trying it.

Because of the high vitamin C content, Camu Camu is a sour fruit.  It has a deep red skin and a bright yellow pulp.  Most people add the powder to their smoothie or a glass of water.  I find that it's best to take Camu first thing in the morning with MSM (natural sulfur).  As always, check the source of the product before you make a purchase.  Sunfood ( sells the best quality I've ever tried.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sexy Saturday: Looking good at any age

Everyone wants to feel good about how they look, no matter what age or gender.  In my 10 years of experience in the natural health industry, this has always been one of the main goals of most people I have come into contact with.  And there is no better way to keep the body, skin, eyes, hair and vitality young than a clean diet and positive outlook.  On Saturdays, I would like to discuss topics relating to this field.

The skin is the body's largest organ and reflects one's health to the world more than any other organ.  When I see young people in their teens and twenties that have poor skin, dark circles under their eyes and too much fat around their middles, it saddens me.  Their diet most certainly is a major factor in how they look.  The Standard American Diet (SAD) creates toxicity that finds its way to the skin.  By eating more fresh, raw, organic plant foods, learning more about superfoods and feeding our skin with natural oils, we can all look and feel sexier.

My personal goals in this area include taking better care of my skin, hair and nails with a more natural lifestyle, reaching and maintaining my optimum weight, learning more about beauty and longevity secrets from around the world, and creating a positive outlook and confidence that will appear in the way I present myself to the world.  Blogs on this topic may include eating the right foods for skin health, oils and gels that improve the look of the skin, natural hair care, getting a safe and healthy amount of sun, weight-loss plans, and creating confidence and positiveness.

Join me every Saturday as I discuss a different topic on looking good and feeling sexy.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman