Want to Feel Good After the Holidays? Holly Westling Has an Idea.
I like sugariness. Donuts, chocolate, pecan pie... It's all good. But I sat down with Holly Westling a week ago to talk about her work, and now when I find myself reaching for some satisfying mouthful of sweetness, usually I let my hand drop. And here's the thing: I feel fine about that.
I'm even thinking of taking her cleanse in January, which believe me is not the kind of thing I do. But more on that in a minute.
Westling is the in-house nutrition expert at Open Door in White River Junction, and all she did was put in plain words why too much sugar can lead your body to bad places. It's not the sugar itself, of course--it's the chronic inflammation it can cause.
We're not talking about inflammation like the redness around a cut, which is your body breaking down damaged tissue and rebuilding with healthy tissue. No, instead too much sugar can create a state of chronic breakdown and rebuilding in your system, which over time can bring about heart disease, diabetes and general nastiness. "Sugar is the most inflammatory thing we put in our system, next to cigarette smoke," Holly says.
Don't get me wrong. She's not a killjoy. Cake's okay, in moderation. Her point is that what we eat underlies how we feel. Eating right can heal your body. Eating wrong... well, she's got this long checklist of medical symptoms, and on it is everything from itchy ears to swollen gums to poor memory to more dire stuff.
It's not all traceable to sugar of course. Some could be food allergies you didn't know you had. Some could be too much processed food of any sort. "Preservatives, artificial colors and flavors--those are chemicals our body doesn’t recognize, and therefore we need to give up antioxidants in order to process them," she says. "They're not empty calories. They're nutrient-depleting calories."
This is where the cleanse comes in. She'll be leading a post-holiday version that starts Sunday, January 6 at 5 pm at Open Door, which is all about treating your body right -- through diet, movement, and mindfulness -- to promote long-term health. "I use the word 'cleanse' out of lack of a better word," she says. "Sometimes I call it a 're-boot.' People use it as a jumpstart for a healthy lifestyle, but what I find most rewarding is it helps people achieve that 'Aha!' moment, where they go, 'I had no idea I could feel so good, eat real food, and not be hungry.' A lot of people know what to do. But they need the support and the accountability of checking in."
It's helpful here to know why Westling got into this line of work. She used to be an oncology nurse. "I felt kind of helpless," she says. "I was getting to people too late. Eating well is hard for some people to envision, but it’s like investing in your vehicle to make it last longer -- which lots of people are ready to do. Here you’re investing in your body and your long-term health. It can lead to reduced medical bills if you take care of yourself now."
A new year. A small new investment in myself. Yep, I can see that.