Without The Weight

How To Heal: Ayurveda with Natasha Gayl

Natasha Wellness.png

This week, I connected with Natasha Gayl of Natasha Wellness to get the inside scoop on all things Ayurveda! In this interview, we talk about the history of Ayurvedic medicine, a basic outline of what Ayurveda is, and Natasha’s own journey to living and teaching an Ayurvedic lifestyle! I learned so much during this interview so I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Carolyn: Hi Natasha! I’m so happy you could meet with me today! Tell me a little about yourself, what made you become a wellness coach?

Natasha: Hi Carolyn! Well, I got into this a little over a year ago. I've always wanted to be a coach since I was in high school but it wasn’t really a job back then. I had pressure from my Russian family to get a degree, which I did. I worked in my field for a couple years then transitioned because I wasn't feeling fulfilled. At the time, I was enrolled in a yoga teacher training and the whole experience was focused around Dharma. Through that, I realized that my Dharma was to help people through food and healthy lifestyle. With the support of my husband, I left my unfulfilling job and began building my business.

Carolyn: It’s always so interesting to me how each “dead end” in life just repositions you towards creating the life you truly want. What was it about food that made that deep connection for you?

Natasha: Through my own health struggles, food was always my way of managing it. I kept learning and figuring out different diets, aka I was my own guinea pig. During the yoga training, I learned about Ayurveda and it just made so much sense! Not everyone is going to do well on the same diet (hence why I could never stick to one) and Ayurveda really honors that and recognizes that we are all different and require different diets, habits, and practices. I started practicing Ayurveda on my self then decided to take an health coach training that was focused in Ayurveda. That’s what led me to where I am today.

Carolyn: Everything flows for a reason! Had you worked with any holistic practitioners before?

Natasha: I interned with a Chinese herbalist, acupuncturist, and chiropractor. I was trying to figure out my own health issues and doing so led me to connect with holistic practitioners and eventually the beginning of my path, although I didn't know it at the time. Yoga teach training was a launching pad and I'm so grateful for my experience.

Carolyn: Yoga is such a gift, truly, and it’s connected to Ayurveda, is that right?

Natasha: Yes! Ayurveda is the sister science of yoga. It hails from India and is over 5,000 years old!

Carolyn: Wow! So it comes from centuries upon centuries of practice! Can you tell me a little about the history?

Natasha: Sure! Ayurveda comes from Vedic texts that have been translated over time. Ayurveda is similar to traditional Chinese medicine in the way it treats us holistically, but Ayurveda really focuses you as an individual. Each person is made up of a combination of the 5 elements air, ether, earth, water and fire. There is never blanket answer in Ayurveda, it understands that we are all different and require different healing paths. It looks at food, lifestyle, and habits as a way to come back into balance. Ayurveda uses Dinacharya (daily rhythms) to reconnect your body with its circadian rhythms and essentially reconnect us back to the way infants and animals live. Waking, moving, eating, sleeping, etc. in tune with the sun and daily patterns is what reconnects us to our higher selves.

Carolyn: I really love the idea of treating each person as an individual instead of following a blanket plan like most diets on the market today. How does Ayurveda break down who should eat what?

Natasha: There are 3 different Dosha (mind-bod) types that we fall into and it’s all about finding balance between the 3. Protocols depend on each person’s dosha and goals, but essentially if they’re eating and living in balance, no matter what they’re goal is, it will be met.

Carolyn: That’s a powerful promise! Can you break down those types for me?

Natasha: Absolutely! You have Vata, Pitta, and Kapha types that describe different body types.  

Vata is made up of air and ether. This is a wind type so there is a lot of anxiety, ungrounded creativity. A Vata type is usually thinner with smaller features and dry skin. Generally they struggle with digestion issues like gas and bloating. A Vata type needs a lot of grounding and cooked food, meditation, and slow practices like yin yoga. They tend to love running or flow vinyasa but that’s just adding more wind which can increase anxiety..

Pitta is made up of fire and water. Typically a Pitta type will have dry, red, and warm skin. They love spicy food, making lists, and working really really hard. My husband is this type and he’s non-stop - a burning ball of fire! Pitta types have a lot of drive and passion but they can get burned out easily. They love hot yoga classes and intense workouts but they need more cooling practices like a yin yoga class, walking/weight lifting, and cooling foods like cucumber or aloe.

Kapha is made up of earth and water. Together they make mud so they’re heavy, wet and dense. It’s common for them to have big eyes, big lips, and curves. They love sweet and heavy foods that are nourishing and keep them grounded but they need the opposite. Generally, they have a bigger build and are more emotional. They tend to be steady and loyal people. Kapha's should eat lighter cooked foods like warm broths, less grains and meats, and lighter foods in general. They need a lot of movement in their life, especially vigorous movement. They need to get out of their cocoon!

Your dosha shifts throughout your lifetime and can shift through the seasons which is why I offer the seasonal cleanse.

Carolyn: I think I’m a mix of Kapha and Pitta, but I’m not 100% sure. I should probably enroll in your cleanse! Can you tell me a general outline of how the 7 days would go?

Natasha: I’d love to have you join a cleanse! I call it the seven day whole foods and self care cleanse and I offer it in groups and through private coaching. I always have people ease in for the first 3 days - that’s when you figure out your dosha and prepare to go deep. I offer a robust cleanse guide with recipes, self-care practices (dry brushing, tongue scraping, oil massage) and why we're eliminating certain foods. I offer multiple recipes available based on your dosha for each meal. You get to choose your own adventure and you don’t have to eat anything you don’t like!

Carolyn: That’s good because I hate diets that make me eat food I don’t enjoy!

Natasha: Of course! This is all about self-care and you should enjoy your food! The whole point of the cleanse is to bring people back to themselves. I want to teach people how to cook and take care of themselves. The recipes are all anti-inflammatory and then there’s levels that people can choose from. That way an "experienced" cleanser and a "novice" can both find the right cleansing path for them. My cleanse is not meant to be so intense your body fights the process. I want you to work in sync with your mind-body to uplevel your current state of being. If you can’t imagine getting rid of everything at once, then you can choose to only give up certain things. If you’re already in a place where you’ve given other things up, we can start more advanced. We’re all in a different place and we don’t want to shock the body. This is a lifestyle shift and we want to make it sustainable!

Carolyn: That sounds incredible. What is the main message you want someone to take away from your cleanse?

Natasha: Don’t be afraid to cleanse! Cleansing is a really wonderful introduction to healthier living and, from what I’ve found, it’s the most approachable. The cleanse is just seven days, anyone can do it, and it’s a great way to dip your toes into Ayurveda. There’s open communication and support from me the whole time so it’s not something you do on your own. I’m happy to hold your hand through the process. Plus, you can basically eat any of the recipes after the cleanse since they are plant-based and nourishing. This ain't yo mama's juice cleanse!

Carolyn: Having that support makes all the difference! Thank you so much for meeting with me today. Where can people find you to sign up for your class?

Natasha: Of course! They can find me on my website, on Instagram, and on my Facebook page as well!  

Interviews by Carolyn from Without The Weight, Inc. are meant to share all the different options available to heal your mind, body, and spirit from a holistic lens. Any advice or recommendations are meant to work as complementary therapies alongside any treatment provided by your medical practitioner and are not suggested as a replacement for medical care.

How To Stop Hating The Process & Have Fun Losing Weight

Does Motivation Really Help?

Every time I've ever gone on a diet, I had to pump myself up like crazy the day before. I'd go out and got a stack of health/self love related magazines, buy a giant haul of fresh foods from the market, and stay up all night putting together recipes and meal plans. 

Every single time, I refused to allow one negative thought to come into my brain. This was it. After almost 2 decades of trying and failing, I was finally going to lose the weight. 

But after a few days of being perfect, weighing myself daily, and feeling a surge of confidence... a familiar little voice popped in my head. 

"You've been doing SO WELL, you deserve to cheat. Just a little bit. What's one meal?" 

I'd try to shake the thought and do anything else, but the longer I ignored it, the louder it got. The thought of food would take over my brain whether I was hungry or not and, no matter how many glasses of water I drank, I couldn't shake the idea. I desperately wanted relief from the hunger in my brain and my resentment grew with every healthy meal that couldn't satisfy my urge.

Before I knew it, the motivation would dissipate and I'd feel miserable. I just wanted to be normal and happy, to be able to eat food without gaining 10 lbs overnight, and I hated the amount of effort it took just to "be good". 

So, I'd give up to the urges which usually led to a binge and a whole lotta self hate the next morning.

What Was I Doing Wrong?

I HATED the whole process and loathed that I had no choice. I felt trapped between doing something I really didn't want to do and something I knew I had to do. 

Notice how I said I just wanted to be normal. Happy. And for some reason, I assumed that would come from weight loss. I'd done something that most of us do - I attached an emotional association to weight loss that didn't actually exist. 

I could've pushed myself to lose weight, but it didn't mean I'd be happy once the weight was off. It didn't mean I'd be more confident, comfortable, or successful. The things I was looking for from weight loss, It turns out, didn't have anything to do with weight loss at all!

But when my MS flared, my mindset changed. Losing the feeling on my right side, the ability to walk for 4 months, made me appreciate the process because of where it would lead me. 

Suddenly, that green smoothie wasn't a replacement for bacon and eggs, it was a vehicle to walking without a cane again. Getting to the gym became easier because every time I could do an extra minute meant I was closer to getting my life back. 

I put myself in a headspace of working for a goal that made me happy and, even though none of the actual work had changed, it turned out that the only thing that needed to change, was my mind.

So How Do You Enjoy The Process?

When I was heavy, I was already happy. I loved my family, friends, boyfriend and degree. I had everything I wanted, I just couldn't figure out how to the conquer the weight and it consumed me. 

I felt like my weight was preventing me from being happy, so I prevented myself from enjoying my life. I put experiences on hold until I could hit my goal and refused to just allow myself to just enjoy the moment because I always had my weight on my mind. 

I was MISERABLE trying to lose weight, so how could I ever expect to have any sort of success from it? You would never work that hard to do something you hate...

So once I regained the ability to walk, I knew I needed to maintain motivation. The memory of my illness wouldn't be enough - I needed bigger goals.

I started choosing goals that I loved and actually wanted to train for. I wanted to travel, to ride in a bike marathon, and to hike mountains. Suddenly, my choices weren't based on the scale, they were based on my abilities, and I needed to make the same healthy decisions regardless of the goal. Food became a source of energy instead of calories and trying new and healthy recipes became a game. I decided to try one new "healthy-but-indulgent" recipe a week that would satisfy my sweet tooth, but that didn't ruin my path to success.

I continued to workout, but I started realizing how much I hated certain workouts. If I was going to love my life, I needed to spend my time loving what I was doing, so I chose exercises that felt fun. I tried yoga, hiking, swimming, hula hooping, boxing, dance classes - anything that would make me WANT to get my workout done. Now, I look forward to my workouts every week and I'm always up to try something new!

Lastly, and most importantly, I dedicated time every day to feel grateful for the process. I felt so grateful that my body was able to do these things and as I reflected on that, I got an instant boost of happiness. This kept me on track and allowed me to see the benefits of my work instead of on what I was "missing". 

Just Remember...

You are in control of your experience. When you sit in the mindset of a negative experience, you can only get a negative experience. So if you're ready to stop waiting for your life to be as amazing as you know it can be, use these tools to make happiness your vehicle to success and let the frustrations fall to the side. 

It's time to live your life, Without The Weight. 

With love & light,

Carolyn Rachel

 

 

 

 

Why I Quit My Job For A Check Off My Bucket List

I made the decision to quit my job in the middle of a date. 

It was November and the weather was just starting to change, an inescapable reminder that another winter was on it's way. As we sipped red wine and laughed over dinner, we talked about all the things we wanted to do with our lives. 

After coming from a lifetime of making excuses, my list was long. Ever since I was a kid, I've always put off experiences because of my weight. I wanted to do all those things, but not until I was thinner. Then, when I was diagnosed with MS, that only fueled my excuses. I was happy enough in my day to day routine that I didn't think about all that I was missing.

But eventually, the decline of my health made me hate my daily experience and all I could think about was what I was missing. 

Then, in 2014, I ran out of time. With years of severe chronic pain and a new cane in my hand, I knew that later was quickly becoming never and the sicker I allowed myself to become, the less I'd be able to do. 

From that summer forward, I put all my energy into healing myself and it worked! I lost the weight, ditched the cane, and I went back to work full time. 

I felt like I was on top of the world... except I wasn't. I'd put in more heart and soul than I knew possible to heal my body and the idea that I did all that to work just so I could sit behind a desk seemed preposterous! 

The lightheadedness from the wine kept me giggling, but our conversation felt heavy in my gut. My thoughts were racing and I couldn't stop thinking about how I was wasting time. How I could always get another job. How I needed to go enjoy my life, the life I'd worked so hard for. 

I knew, right there and then, that I was ready for something different. 

I couldn't keep myself together. I looked at him and said "I think I'm going to quit my job in January and go somewhere. Maybe South America." 

He immediately responded, "I absolutely think you should." 

It was the tiny bit of validation that I needed to lock in my decision. Now, I just needed to tell everyone else. 

Visiting Machu Picchu in March 2016

Visiting Machu Picchu in March 2016

Quitting that job was the hardest thing I'd ever done. I loved my boss, my office, and my sweet parking spot right in the middle of Cambridge, but I knew that I needed to have an adventure. 

So I put in my notice and, the following January, I took off for Peru. 

Going on that trip alone was terrifying, nothing l'd ever done before, but at that time, it was the only thing that made sense. 

Life is short, but we make it feel impossibly long. The pain and suffering that came from living with morbid obesity and Multiple Sclerosis taught me that and I wanted, more than anything, to take advantage of the time I'd created for myself. 

I wanted to see the world, to push myself to new limits, to live my life, without waiting.

So, I did. And it was the best decision I ever made. 

For anyone reading this. I want to urge you to listen to your gut. To make decisions based on what would benefit your health and happiness. To stop waiting for the right time and to start experiencing what you want from life right now. Nothing is guaranteed, so what are you waiting for?

It's time to live your life, Without The Weight. 

With love & light,

Carolyn Rachel

How To Start A Meditation Routine

I started researching meditation the day I yelled at my dad. 

Now, don't misread me... my dad is THE BEST and we're super close (BFFs!), which makes it tough to admit - I used to yell on the phone with him a lot.

It's not that I was mad at him, I was just going through too much. When I was really sick, everything felt like an uphill battle. I'd have complete meltdowns over every little thing because I felt so weighed down by the stress of my illness, the stress of my weight, hell - the stress of my life... I just didn't have the patience for the natural curveballs of life! 

My dad was willing to take the brunt because he knew how much stress I was under (he's actually the best dad ever) and I used him as my personal sounding board day after day.

One night, we were on the phone and I was on one of my usual tirades. 

I was crying, yelling, and arguing with every solution he offered until the true reason for my issues came out. I finally yelled:

"DAD. I DON'T CARE ABOUT THIS. I JUST HAVE NO STRESS MANAGEMENT SKILLS."

I heard it loud & clear the moment it came out of my mouth. When we hung up, I took a few deep breaths and thought - girl, you better get some!

I googled what I could do for stress and hated what I saw. Meditation? Mindfulness?

NO THANK YOU. 

I didn't have the time to "slow down" and the idea of sitting still made my skin crawl. 

So, I just kept on keeping on, getting stressed and having meltdowns. As you can imagine, this was amazing for my health (Hello, sarcasm!) and life felt a little harder with each passing day. 

I didn't know how to get myself to meditate. I tried, but it all seemed so overwhelming, so I focused on the part of my wellness plan that felt easier: diet and exercise. I started feeling better and losing weight and my stress felt a little lighter. I was definitely happier, but I could tell my lack of stress management skills was still making me sick. 

I felt lost and stuck, so in 2016, I quit my job to have an adventure. I decided to travel around the US for a bit but I wanted to do something more. Something wild. So, I decided to head to Peru.

The plan was to spend 5 weeks in South America. Two and a half with a friend and then two and a half on my own. I wanted to see the sights, but I also craved spontaneity. I wanted to wander around and find experiences as I journeyed through. 

Before I left, I only booked two things: Gate tickets to Machu Picchu (of course) and a 5 day silent meditation retreat.. I knew I needed to learn how to do this, away from all distractions, and what better place than on an island in the middle of Lake Titicaca?

While I was on my retreat, I discovered what it felt like to be calm for the very first time in my life. Within a day, I had no MS symptoms and by the end of the retreat, I was unrecognizable to my friend and her family because of how much weight I'd lost. 

I knew then how important it would be to keep this up, so I came home and made it a mandatory part of my routine. I struggled with keeping up with it, making it a habit, but after lot's of trial and error... I figured out how to begin a meditation routine at home. 

Now, I want to share my top 3 tips with you! 

If you're desperate to manage stress but feel intimidated by meditation, these tips are FOR YOU!

Three Tips To Start A Meditation Routine

1. Start with 5 minutes. You don't have to start with 30 minutes of morning meditation, that's actually CRAZY to ask anyone to do! Start with 5 minutes and build up from there. Everyone can find 5 minutes in the morning (turn off instagram and set your timer!) and it's the absolute best way to clear your brain before a busy day! 

2. Listen to a guided meditation. Having a voice to guide you makes it SO MUCH EASIER to focus! There are apps like Headspace, Insight Timer, or even Youtube where you can find easy to follow guides!

3. Simply follow your breathing. Thoughts are going to come into your head and distract you. That's TOTALLY NORMAL. The trick to meditation is noticing that you've gotten lost in thought so you can come back to your breath. In the beginning, this is honestly HELL, but don't get frustrated... every time you do it, you strengthen that muscle in the brain to build focus. I promise it gets easier, practice makes perfect!

When I came home, I started with 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening and now, I do 30 in the morning and 30 in the evening. My stress levels have dropped SIGNIFICANTLY and the benefits are amazing. I feel confident, aware, healthy, and ready to take on WHATEVER the universe throws at me. 

Do you have any tips or tricks that have worked for you? Comment below and let me know!

With love & light, 

Carolyn

 

How To Work With Your Heart Rate

Note: If you don't want to read the whole story, skip to the bottom to find out how to calculate your heart rate!

Last May, I was given an incredible gift. I went an entire day without pain. 

I couldn't believe it. 

My mom was visiting me for Mother's Day and I was so excited, I ran into her room and jumped on the bed, my eyes filling with tears. I hadn't gone a day without pain in almost a decade!

I went to bed that night with my heart full of gratitude. I couldn't sleep. I didn't know how long this could last and I wanted to appreciate every single moment. 

Luckily for me, that day was just the beginning. With the pain gone, I started noticing other symptoms that I'd forgotten about. Symptoms that had been drowned out by the constant tidal wave of severe chronic pain. 

But before I knew it, those symptoms started to dissipate as well. I prayed every night, swimming in gratitude and not asking for anything, because I was already getting so much more than I thought possible. 

It got to the point where the only time I was getting symptoms was when I exercised.

I loved to lift heavy, do sprints, and run up the stair master. Anything that made me feel strong, powerful, and soaked in sweat, but it left me with numbness in my feet and heavy fatigue. I'd been doing this workout for years, despite the plateau on the scale, but I felt I needed to keep it up if I was ever going to finish losing weight. 

I brought it up with my doctor and we made a deal. He told me that, if I start getting symptoms, I should take a break and drink some water. I agreed and made the promise.  

Just the next day, I'd had a rough time at work and I was READY for a workout. I hopped on the stair master and set it to a level 7, essentially running up the stairs.

Oh man, it felt great. Hip hop music pumped through my headphones as sweat started pouring through my shirt. I was absolutely crushing it and the stress of the day was just starting to melt away when all of a sudden, my feet went numb. I hadn't even been on the machine for 5 minutes!

But, I'd made a promise, so I stepped off the stair master and grabbed some water. As I stood there, waiting for some sort of sign that I could get back on, I realized how hard my heart was pounding. I decided to take my pulse and realized... I have no idea what that number means, so, I did what anyone else does when they don't know something - I googled it. 

I discovered the different heart rate ranges and how, by pushing myself so hard, I was putting myself in my fight or flight stage. My body didn't understand why I was literally running up the stairs and it immediately assumed that I must be in danger.  Why else would I be pushing myself so hard? 

When you're in your fight or flight, there's a bunch of chemical reactions happening in your body, but I'll simplify it for the sake of my long winded story. 

In regards to this conversation - fight or flight does two very important things. First, it burns your sugar stores so you have enough energy to either run from or fight an attacker. Second, it creates inflammation around your cells and tissue, just in case you get tussled up in an attack or a fall from running. 

By stressing yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally, you're constantly burning sugar which means, yep - you guessed it, those sugar stores need to be restored as soon as you're out of your fight or flight state (and into homeostasis). That's why we all get that craving around 4pm to hit the vending machine for carbs or sugar and why binge eating is so prominent at night when you're at home in front of the TV. 

You can be "good" on your diet all day, but if you push yourself too hard, you will have no choice but to refuel. Your body's desire to survive is significantly stronger than your willingness to hit a goal. 

I stood there at the base of the stair master in shock. All these years, I'd been working this hard just to make it even harder for myself to hit my weight loss goals! I was creating inflammation in my body which stimulates my immune system AND setting myself up to binge! Sure, I was burning calories and building strength, but they were calories that I'd most likely make up (and more) later that night!

To say the least, I was pretty upset, but then I had another thought. If I was in my fight or flight, I was also stimulating my central nervous system so that my brain and spine could tell my body how to react to "danger". Not only was I creating inflammation, I was literally stimulating my disease and the numbness in my feet was my body's way of telling me I was going too hard. 

I couldn't believe it, but it made so much sense. 

That night, I researched how to monitor my heart rate effectively. I quickly discovered my "fat burning range" and decided to try it out for the entire week. 

Turns out, I didn't need the whole week to see results. 

The next time I got on the stair master, I had to drop the speed from a level 7 to a level 1. It was brutally slow, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was actually sweating more than I did when I was running. Best of all? I did the entire workout without any MS symptoms. 

Breaking binge eating came later, I still had to reprogram that habit, but working on it became significantly easier after I stopped making it a chemical demand. 

Now, it's been almost a year since I started monitoring my heart rate and not only do I avoid symptoms during my workout, but I go completely symptom free almost every single day. I still have this disease, but I no longer have to live in the experience of it, and that has been an incredible blessing. 

My target heart rate range is 115 - 133 beats per minute because I'm 29 years old. You can find yours by finding 60 - 70% of your max heart rate by following a simple equation. See my example below and then do it for yourself! 

(220 - 29) x .6  = 115

and (220 - 29) x .7 = 133 

It's too simple to ignore and if you struggle with binge eating or have a disease that is triggered by inflammation, you're doing yourself an injustice by not following your heart rate.

Do you monitor your heart rate? If so, comment below and let me know what benefits you get from it! 

With love & light,

Carolyn