A few months ago I was asked for my thoughts on a new baked good developed by a company to specifically help manage and/or prevent PMS symptoms. I had heard rumblings about the company on social media, but didn’t know their baked goods sold at a premium price (I mean, I should have guessed, but…). The “PMS-curing brownie” in question was I think around $15. For a brownie. Literally, a brownie with ingredients you can buy at most grocery stores, nutrients that are abundant in a variety of very reasonably priced whole foods (like fruits and vegetables) and an added oil that is allegedly “a known warrior against PMS.” Other health claims for this magical brownie are that it’s great for a “stronger libido” and the ever popular “adrenal support.”
these foods have most of the nutrients in this questionable brownie (and then some!)
What gets me really fired up here isn’t just the potentially bogus and totally exaggerated health claims – these are maddening, yes, but they’re also everywhere, all the time, and impossible to control. It’s the insinuation that in order to achieve better health, or in this case, ease symptoms that 51% of the population will have, currently has or has had on a monthly basis, you have to have the means to shell out an insane amount of dough for a damn brownie (pun intended. HA!). This is just one example of a sort of “elitist” culture in the health, wellness and self care area, and it seems to be growing rapidly thanks to social media. So many of my patients and clients are led to think that wellness and self care are unattainable unless they have some pretty hefty resources to use towards them. Hell, sometimes I’m led to think this too! And it just isn’t true.
So I thought I’d list out some really great ways to care for yourself that are affordable and likely more beneficial than an overpriced brownie or so many of the other extravagant specialty foods and practices circling the inter-webs.
Go for a walk outside. This is very simple, but immersing yourself in nature can have profound stress-reducing, mood-boosting effects. There have been studies on this (here’s a report on one), and there are also physicians who prescribe nature walks to depressed or anxious patients before medication. I also regularly include nature walks in my recommendations for clients, and have seen first-hand how helpful they can be. Parks totally count if you’re a city-dweller.
Pet a dog. Yes, I am absolutely biased here, but there is research to back me up! Dog owners live longer, happier lives, and even the simple act of petting a dog can lower stress levels. I see this every time our therapy dog comes to visit patients getting chemotherapy, but also every time someone starts smiling goofily when they see Peanut walking down the street and she stops to say “hi.” If you don’t have a dog, shelters always need volunteers to walk dogs or spend time with dogs, and it can be so fulfilling to both parties. Dogs are way more magical than any brownie, if you ask me.
I mean… ❤
Keep nutrition simple. These days, we tend to over-complicate nutrition. Buzzwords tend to make us think foods have to have specific special properties or be “free” of something, “adaptogenic,” “superfood,” “gluten/grain/soy/dairy/etc. free,” “immune-boosting,” “anti-inflammatory,” “clean,” … I could go on. This stuff makes my head spin and I can’t imagine how someone who isn’t a nutrition professional weeding through the research every day feels. Add in dietary supplements and it gets even more overwhelming. There seems to be a supplement marketed to “support” so many things – the immune system, the adrenals (again with the adrenals!), the liver, the gut, “beauty,” the list is endless. It’s so important to keep in mind that dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA. Manufacturers can almost literally say anything on their packaging and do not have to show efficacy, safety or even prove that what they say is in their product and the amount listed on the label is actually there. Stick to a variety of whole, delicious foods that you crave and keep it simple. This is healthier for your body, your brain and your wallet.
Shut off and censor the technology. Feeling present is becoming increasingly hard, and even going 30 minutes without instinctively checking your phone can seem like a lifetime. How did we get here? And what do we miss while being totally buried in our phones? Take a self-imposed break from social media, email, even texts for a day (or more!) and notice what you notice. And what you don’t miss. I try to do this for at least part of the weekend, and have a rule of no social media before 7:00 a.m. or after 7:00 p.m. every day. It’s so nice to have a sort of “cut off” point, and I’ve definitely found myself being more productive and present. While you’re at it, unfollow, de-friend or block anyone who makes you feel inadequate, exudes negativity or promotes $15 brownies for optimal wellness.
Cook a simple meal. The act of preparing a meal, from shopping for ingredients to chopping, following a recipe and enjoying a finished product can be so therapeutic. It’s nourishing beyond actual nutrients (though those are great too!), and usually a lot less expensive than ordering takeout. Cooking for someone else can feel fulfilling and nurturing, but I find just as much satisfaction cooking for myself. If it’s just “you” and you’re hesitant to put together an entire meal for one – so many of my clients are – know that you’re worth it. And leftovers exist for a reason!
this is an easy but so hearty and satisfying option – curried lentil soup from Run Fast Eat Slow (one of my favorite cookbooks!)