How I Learned to Crave Healthy Living
I’m Kari McCloskey — a mother, grandmother, registered dietitian, certified personal trainer and an advocate for health. I’ve spent 30 years in the medical field training thousands of people to live healthier lives. I now want to spread my passion for wellness to everyone. So, I’m starting a movement to help others reclaim their connection to nature. I want to help others reform their cravings to CRAVE healthy. That means craving good nutrition, consistent exercise and meaningful meditation.
The Nature Shift
Our company name — The Nature Shift — generated from my journey to shifting to a healthier, natural lifestyle in three ways: nutrition, exercise and meditation. Nature has provided us powerful resources to live healthy, thriving lives, and I want to help people restore their connection to it.
How I Transitioned from Craving Junk Food to Healthy Food
I used to eat large amounts of synthetic food (what is commonly called processed or junk foods). I ate burgers all the time, candy for snacks and drank Diet Coke on the regular. But, eventually I changed. What made this change? Once I learned about the importance and health benefits of phytonutrients and antioxidants in whole foods found in nature, I felt drawn to eat them.
I knew that the cells in my body needed fruits and vegetables, and even though I didn’t have a palate for them, I decided to eat them.
For me, it was much easier to like and want to eat food from nature once I knew more about its benefits. I started to keep a mental note of how many fruits and vegetables I was eating and made a goal to eat more.
My transition to nature’s foods was difficult. It was not an epiphany or one-time event, rather it was a process of experiences. Through trial and error, I brought produce into my world. Even to this day, as a transformed lover of produce, I have to consciously organize my time to cut up a cucumber or carrot and grab an avocado or a “to go” pack of guacamole so I can have a healthy afternoon snack rather than rely on my prior go-to chocolate protein bar.
Eating from nature takes more time and planning, but I put in the effort because of the health and energy I receive when I do so.
How I Help Others Crave Healthy Food
I’ve worked with thousands of people over the years who want to be rid of chronic diseases, get stronger, feel better overall, or lose weight. Usually my clients come to me as lovers of the Standard American Diet — which includes eating pizza, burgers, tacos, chips, crackers, ribs, sandwiches, french fries, cookies, cupcakes, brownies, and drinking sodas, juices, energy drinks, shakes, wine, beer, and/or mixed drinks. They consume these foods and beverages because they are abundant at almost every event or gathering they attend, convenient, affordable and enjoyable.
Some of my clients find that when they go down the path to change their foods and beverages, the change process triggers psychological issues that they need to deal with. Maybe they discover that they used food to cope with difficult challenges in their lives. Others feel they just like to eat and drink. What I tell my clients is relevant to all of us: In order to permanently change our health, we need to modify which foods and beverages we like to eat.
Over time I’ve seen my clients create new sensory habits and patterns to help permanently shift their craving to healthy foods and beverages.
They find themselves craving clean foods directly from nature. One client that I have been seeing for the past two years declared that she no longer snacks on cookies in the afternoon, but looks forwards to and craves plain yogurt with fresh blueberries. She went from hating the sour taste of plain yogurt to craving it!
Probably the most amazing outcome of my work has been the shift I’ve witnessed in my clients. I’ve seen the transformation in their body, mind and soul. And, when this transformation of improved health occurs, it not only strengthened them, but trickles down to every aspect of their lives, and the people they come in contact with.
How I Learned to Love Running
One day in college, a friend challenged me to join the cross country team. I had always hated running, but I was desperate to find a new sport since I had been active in gymnastics and cheer in high school.
If I told you I loved running from the start, I would be lying to you. Every step was punishment. I got shin splints, pulled my Achilles tendon and suffered through horrible side aches. My feet hurt since I ran in shoes that were too small because they were the only ones I could afford at the time. I wanted to quit but also didn’t want to give up the one exercise activity that worked with the rest of my schedule.
After several months of running, my body adjusted to the motion and the soreness went away. I actually started to look forward to the next day when I would run again. Through school, career, marriage, kids and on and on throughout the years. I ran races and then marathons. I trained for these by meeting together with friends in the community for training runs. Running helped me circle back and re-live my social childhood days.
To date, running remains a part of my life. Some of my closest friends are the ones I have been running with for the past 20 plus years. I no longer do marathons but will occasionally run a half marathon if it fits my schedule and/or budget. Running gave me the physical ability to branch out into other sports that I now enjoy, like biking, skiing, mountain climbing and swimming. I also found a love for weight lifting, but had to get there through the same initial physical pains as I did for running. Now that I’m a personal trainer, I get neighborhood friends together for circuit workouts at parks so we could enjoy social time while working our muscles.
I can’t imagine life without exercise. I love the strength and stamina I feel after a workout and after an active day. Being outdoors, moving and socializing with friends and family is my happy place.
How I Help Others Learn to Love Exercise
Throughout the years I’ve had the pleasure of working with people just starting to exercise. From my own experience I understand that exercise isn’t enjoyable at first. It takes months of consistency to get to a comfortable physical level. Perhaps the best tips I could give to anyone just starting out is:
- Be patient
- Be patient
- Be patient
When you first begin to exercise, your nervous system is taxed in a new way. It takes time for your nerves to navigate new pathways to increase circulation and deliver oxygen to muscles that previously were not challenged or stimulated. Expect to feel some initial discomfort from exercise. During a workout you may feel your chest burn, or your muscles fatigue. Or, after a workout you may be sore or feel excessively hungry (which is usually a signal that you’re thirsty and need to drink).
If you push through and keep going back to it I promise it will get better. Your body will adapt and you will find yourself looking forward to your next workout.
I have the privilege of helping many people get through the initial physical hurdle of exercise and become regular exercisers in whatever sport they enjoy. If you need support in the beginning phases of exercise, here are some suggestions that work:
- Find a partner. Swap workout shoes so you and your partner have to show up to give the shoes to each other.
- Switch it up. Try different activities to see what fits your time and interests. Some activities you could try are dancing, online workouts, hiking, biking, yoga, walking, jogging, aqua jogging, or martial arts.
- Locate a community. Join with others who are equally engaged in whatever activity you like doing. Look for classes in your area that offer fun ways to move your body.
- Get a coach or trainer. Pay someone to get you going. When you put some monetary value to your efforts it usually stimulates you to get moving.
- Get outside as much as possible. Chances are you’ll be more active when you’re outdoors. Being outside in the fresh air helps invigorate you. It can also ease anxiety, stress, depression and may help you be more creative and improve your focus.
How I Learned to Crave Meditation
Every morning before I get out of bed, I meditate. I found that meditating first thing gets my brain jumpstarted for the day. First thing in the morning is the best time for me to meditate because my brain is alert and I have no interruptions. I learned to focus my brain on:
2. Areas in my life I can improve
3. The direction I am going
4. The higher power that supports me
Starting my day with meditation has helped me handle my stressors and responsibilities in a more productive way (without being too impulsive or getting upset). It’s allowed me stay healthy, active, strong, well nourished, trained, and most importantly, it has helped me establish healthy relationships with those I love.
I am more adaptable in my life because of meditation. Personally, since I’ve been meditating, I’ve noticed that I’ve been more calm in situations that previously caused me to get upset. Meditation has allowed me to think through my reactions before I blow. I feel that I have the ability to identify and regulate my emotions better now that I meditate.
I also attribute my capacity to eat well and take care of my body as two healthy outcomes of meditation. After years of practice, I feel that I’m instinctively mindful about the quantity and quality of the food I put into my body and how full I feel after a meal. Meditation has changed my eating and my life for the better.
How You Can Benefit from Meditation
When you meditate, your brain changes in positive ways. Meditation and mindfulness practices are associated with neuroplastic changes in distinct areas of your brain. Multiple areas of your brain are activated during meditation and like a switch board, these areas light up and work in tandem. Over time multiple meditation events strengthen these connections and positively re-wire your brain. One brain function that improves with meditation is the increased capacity for open and receptive attention towards present-moment experiences. This means that you become better at paying attention to what’s going on in any given moment, like being aware of your food choices.
In other words, meditation can lead to eating more food from nature.
There is a long list of benefits that come from meditation and mindfulness. Meditation can help you:
- Regulate your blood pressure and heart rate
- Make good decisions
- View yourself in a more positive way
- Achieve greater self love
- Forgive and love others
- Cultivate your creativity, intuition, and compassion
- Control your impulses and emotions
- Shift away from depression and anxiety
- Achieve greater happiness, relaxation and emotional balance
Both mindfulness and meditation are responsible for helping you create a heightened awareness of yourself and your actions. When it comes to eating, being mindful helps you pay attention to what’s going into your mouth and how those foods may either be helping or hindering your future goals and dreams. During the shift to eating more from nature, an increased awareness can give you the strength to stay the course, which will ultimately enrich your life.
Good Nutrition, Consistent Exercise and Meaningful Meditation
Focusing on good nutrition, consistent exercise and meaningful meditation has made me a much happier and healthier person. These 3 pillars have also greatly helped thousands of my clients reach their optimal, healthiest selves. The Nature Shift, and my life’s work, is built on helping people reconnect to nature through these 3 pillars. This reconnection, and SHIFT to craving healthy living, can be done through the 6 NATURE steps.