Peaceful Eating: Creating Calm Throughout the Holidays

Christie Caggiani, RDN, LDN, CEDRD

We have arrived at holiday season. Here we are.


This time of year is fraught with crazy busy schedules, high expectations, traditions, emotions, exhaustion….and food is often central to all of it. But does food need to add more confusion, or can it actually help us create some peace, balance and sanity during this festive time?

It is my belief and experience as a nutrition therapist that we often interact with and respond to food as a reflection of the way we “do life”. So if food is our Life on a Plate, then it’s no wonder we feel overwhelmed with food choices when we enter this intense, calendar-packed time of the year. Can we celebrate, be fulfilled and feel joy – both with food and our holiday experiences?

To get to the answers, we must first identify the pitfalls that typically ensnare us. We either:

Try to control, because we’ve been brainwashed to believe that holiday weight gain is rampant and we must fight against it. So we diet, skip meals, delay eating or vow to avoid our favorite foods.

Don’t care at all, believing that making supportive choices is impossible, and vowing to just wait and start over in January.

Tune out, going through the holidays in a bit of a blur, not enjoying food, relationships, events or the meaning of the season.

Combine all of the above, vacillating back and forth between attempted control, over-hunger, overwhelming emotions and situations. These lead us to give up, tune out, and eat mindlessly, only to repeat the cycle in some manner the next day.

But Hallelujah! Peace is possible, if we only stop trying so hard. In fact, as we allow food on our plate intentionally, we’ll find the rest of our holidays are more in sync as well. Here’s how:

1. Honor your signals. That starts by eating 3 regular and timely meals, whether it’s Thanksgiving, the day before a party or a typical workday. Every single day, eat actual meals. Saving up for a meal at a later time confuses our signals and leaves us feeling unsatisfied and/or overfull. This also creates a sense of being disconnected, not only from ourselves, but from others as well.

2. Keep snacks with you at all times, because many days aren’t routine this time of year. Being prepared for a longer-than-expected shopping day or late evening holiday concert will keep your brain and body fed, helping you handle stress and chaos with ease. Believe me, your family will appreciate that your afternoon snack helped prevent your transformation into the Grinch.

3. Eat what you like. Really. That means include your favorite holiday foods, and truly, completely savor them. When we eat what we enjoy, we’re more likely to find satiety.

4. Take a peek at hors d’oeuvres, the menu or the buffet so you can choose what you truly want. By using a plate, you can best tune into the amounts that match your hunger level at that moment.

5. Stay mindful. Start by taking a breath before you enter a party, sit at a table or begin eating. Using all our senses, we can be more in the moment, and optimize what we get from our food, our social opportunities, and our relationships.

6. Stop when content. Aim for the feeling of “just right”, reminding yourself that you can eat this food again, whether it be tomorrow, next week or when you want pumpkin pie in July.

7. Have gratitude. Take a moment to pause before every single time you eat, bringing awareness to the food in front of you and appreciation for it and the people in your life.

By aiming to tune in to our food, we are more likely to keep perspective throughout the season, laugh, rest, and celebrate what’s truly important.

Christie Caggiani, RDN, LDN, CEDRD, is a co-founder and nutrition therapist at Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches.  In addition to seeing clients, Christie enjoys participating in speaking engagements and workshops.

Detachment in Love

“In true love, you attain freedom.  When you love, you bring freedom to the person you love.  If the opposite is true, it is not true love.” 

Thich Nhat Hanh, True Love

unnamedIt’s no secret that romantic relationships are complicated.  So many of us strive for perfect relationships based on unrealistic standards, or love out of familiar family patterns.  We may find ourselves feeling stuck in our relationships – mindlessly living day by day in unhappiness or feeling trapped by our partner’s expectations.  With so much relationship advice floating around, how do we find the right tools to cultivate true love in our own lives?

When clients seek me out for relationship guidance, I explain attachment versus detachment.  In unhealthy relationships, partners are attached to each other.  Partners may be unclear as to what keeps them connected, and might be fearful, jealous, or afraid of being alone.  Symptoms might include constant bickering, insecurity, or jealously.  Partners may attempt to regulate each other, or project issues onto their partner.  Codependency may be the foundation of the relationship.

The opposite of attachment is detachment.  In healthy relationships, detachment is essential. Detachment values autonomy.  Individuals are able to function independently, and choose to be interdependent in  expression of shared intentions. As Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free, not only outside but also inside.”  When detachment is practiced, individuals are safe to share their thoughts, feelings, and suffering with each other.

Building a healthy relationship free of attachment begins with self-awareness.  Instead of focusing on your partner’s actions (or inaction), bring your attention inward.  Ask yourself, “Am I lovable?”  What are your feelings of worth? Developing mindfulness of our attitudes, perceptions, and emotions will promote detachment.  “When we practice deep looking directed toward the heart of reality, we receive help, we receive understanding, we receive the wisdom that makes us free.”

By looking inwards, we transition from the ego state, identified as prideful and willful, to an open willingness which allows us to truly be present for our partners.  This enlightenment journey will look different for each person, and the signals of growth are change and progression.  Even if only one person is willing to look inward, changes will naturally occur in the relationship.  I like to remind others that there are no failures, only evolution.

On the path from attachment to detachment, it is important to practice self-compassion.  Difficult feelings will arise – be with them.  Practice tenderness with yourself, and compassion will bloom.

Clara Bossie, LMFT offers a True Love book study.  For more information, visit or call 561-278-6033.

Meditation on College Campuses

Asia Adams, Staff Writer

Take projects, presentations, term papers and exams, throw in a job, and then add family and social life to the equation, and you have a recipe for lots of stress. I know – I was there over a year and half ago! With an increasing number of demands on college students, it’s no wonder many of them are seeking ways to reduce the harmful effects of stress on both mind and body.

Putting aside a little bit of quiet time each week to recharge and focus on something other than schoolwork is important, and this is where meditation comes in. It’s free, can be done virtually anywhere, anytime, and is highly effective. What more could a college student want from a practice?

While doing some research, I was pleased to find that many universities across the country are designing meditation spaces and cultivating a mindful culture within their campus communities. Carnegie-Mellon, has a designated “Mindfulness Room”, open 24 hours a day, where walls are filled with inspirational messages from fellow students. Closer to home, the University of Miami offers weekly meditation classes at their wellness center. UCLA has even gone so far as to dedicate an entire research facility to mindfulness.meditation

There are a variety of easy and inexpensive resources for college students who would like to learn more about mindfulness:

✥   The Little Book of Mindfulness, Dr. Patrizia Collard

✥   Mindfulness for Beginners, Jon Kabat-Zinn Ph.D.

Online meditation and mindfulness resources for college aged adults. Many online meditations are available.

✥   Beginner’s meditation is also available at Sacred Treehouse, Mondays from 10 – 11 a.m.

Mindfulness is a simple and powerful tool which can help promote overall wellbeing for stressed out college students.

Learning to be the Expert of Your Own Body

Learning to be the Expert of Your Own Body

Stephanie Burstein, MFT, Registered Intern, Child & DBT Coach

We live in a society filled with mixed messages about body image, health, and what loving ourselves truly means – it can be overwhelming!  How do we navigate the confusion and learn how to be experts of our own bodies?  What does it take to deconstruct social myths about health, replacing fallacies with a greater understanding that each body is unique and wonderfully different? 

Luckily, there is an organization dedicated to teaching others how to have healthy relationships with their bodies.  The Body Positive, based in California, empowers individuals through trainings and public awareness.  This past month, I was thrilled to participate in The Body Positive’s professional training at Florida Atlantic University.  Participants learned about the Core Competencies of Intuitive Health Model, found in the organization’s book, embody: Learning to Love Your Unique Body (and quiet that critical voice!).  I am excited to share what I learned and hope you embark on your own journey towards body acceptance.  The following competencies can stand alone, but when combined they create an enormous feeling of empowerment and positive change.   Here is my take on each competency:

(1) Reclaiming Health

Working at the Oasis has taught me to take an intuitive and mindful approach to life.  By developing a mindfulness practice that has helped me identify my body’s needs, I have embraced a health-centered approach to self-care versus society’s weight-centered tactics.

(2) Practice Intuitive Self-Care

Self-care is not a cookie cutter process – it’s about listening to your body’s needs, not what society thinks you need.  My intuitive self-care routine varies from movement to creativity.  If I am feeling restless at my computer, I will walk.  Intuitive self-care helps you cultivate a more authentic version of yourself.

(3) Cultivate Self-Love

Learning to love yourself will help you discover self-compassion.  Self-compassion means practicing care and understanding for ourselves, and providing validation when things don’t go our way.  The more self-compassion and love we have for ourselves, the more likely we are to take chances and make life-affirming choices.

(4) Declare Authentic Beauty

Once we have cultivated self-love, we open ourselves to authentic beauty.  Authentic beauty means that we are able to see others and ourselves from a compassionate perspective rather than society’s perspective of superficial beauty.  We are able to appreciate our own beauty for its uniqueness.

(5) Build a Community

This competency espouses finding people who share your vision of self-compassion and health.  Individually, we may find it difficult to change the media and society, but together we are able to empower each other by creating a community where principles of self-love and compassion take precedence over harsh judgments.

I look forward to incorporating The Body Positive’s core competenticies into my life, both personally and professionally.  For more information,  visit

Let’s Color! Adult Coloring Books for Mindfulness

Asia Adams, Staff Writer

Secret GardenColoring books aren’t just for kids anymore!  During a recent trip to Barnes & Noble, I was surprised to come across an aisle consisting entirely of adult coloring books.  Until then, I didn’t know that such a thing existed, let alone what a fan of them I was about to become!  I ended up walking out with Secret Garden by Johanna Basford in hand.  Bursting with intricate floral designs, the book has proven to be a tremendously therapeutic, and dare I way, easy way to incorporate mindfulness into my daily life.  I’ve pulled it out on numerous occasions; to pass the time on long flights, when I wanted to divert my attention from a stressful situation to a more pleasant one, and when I was simply in need of a creative outlet.  For those who just can’t seem to get into a yoga or meditation practice, these coloring books may be an enjoyable way to experience mindfulness in daily living.

Early Morning Movement by Anni Johnston, MS, LMHC, BC-DMT

Anni Johnston1

Our lives can be so busy that we can burst past opportunities to enjoy the “slow moments” of our lives.  The first moments upon waking are such an opportunity.  Rather than jump out of bed and get moving straight away, why not try the following body-focused techniques to promote greater peace, gratitude, and centeredness in your day.  Done together or as you please on a daily basis, it can change the way you relate to loved ones, your work, and yourself.

First thing even before opening your eyes, try taking a few moments to place your hands upon your uppper chest and notice your beating heart and moving lungs.  This is a way to connect to the wisdom that pulses through you all day, every day.  Before moving your hands, try focusing on those things for which you feel gratitude, big or small, and allow this sense of gratitude to permeate your chest.  The same approach can be taken with the diaphragm (the soft area just below your rib cage).  Let your hands rest very gently here and notice the ease at which your breath moves through your body.  A beautiful meditation option is to bring into focus small ways in which you have received gifts, support, or unexpected good events.

You can take the time to do some simple stretches even before you leave the bed.  Of course if you still have a sleeping spouse or partner, you might choose to do these on a carpet, but if you’re able, it can feel quite luxurious to stretch while still cozy in bed!  Here are some ideas – pick one or two, or do the whole sequence:

• Circle your feet, first in one direction, then in the other.  Repeat this with your hands.

• Stretch your arms above your head while simultaneously stretching your feet away from your hips. Hold this for a few moments, then repeat.

• Let your head turn all the way to the right, then extend the left arm at an angle away from the shoulder joint.  Repeat on the other side.

• Bring your knees up into a tent position; let them fall to the right and then twist the upper torso to the left.  Hold this for a few moments.  Repeat on the other side.

• Prop your upper torso up upon your elbows and let your head hang backwards while opening up your chest, follow this with laying flat again and curling your knees into your chest.

• End with some invigorating breaths such as “breath of fire”.  While keeping your mouth closed, breathe deeply and vigorously, emphasizing the navel contracting strongly towards the spine.  15-25 is plenty to energize you, but you may add another sequence if you are feeling sluggish.

These are some simple suggestions for interjecting new ways for self-care.  As always, honor the limits of the body and approach these as gifts you can give yourself.  Enjoy!

Summer Reading: No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering

No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering by Thich Nhat Hanh
Sara Goldstein, Staff Writer

The date was Saturday, May 9th, 2015. After my first experience with Dr. Shutt’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction silent retreat, I immediately drove to Barnes & Noble in search of more literature to keep me inspired. In retrospect, this was not the wisest decision. My car, under the influence of my relaxed mind, glided down Military Trail. As I pulled into the chaotic parking lot, I realized that I was not ready to overwhelm my brain with sensations.   There were too many lights, sounds, and people to navigate.

I gravitated toward the religious shelves and stood before Buddhism. My fingers brushed against Pema Chodron, Deepak Chopra and many titles with the word “zen”, stopping at Thich Nhat Hanh. Thich (pronounced like the word tick) is an old favorite of mine. There are countless titles to choose, spanning several decades and many different subjects. Like No Mud, No Lotusa shark drawn to a shiny object, I picked up No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering. The exterior is beautiful, but the words inside are even more exquisite.

Many of us have made it our mission to avoid emotional and physical discomfort. Readers are challenged to accept their suffering, inviting in all unpleasant experiences rather than trying to avoid them through consumption, addiction, or denial. In clear and comforting prose, Hanh explains how we are able to blossom from difficult experiences. The book invites readers to look at their suffering through practicing mindfulness. Many mindfulness techniques are outlined, including breathing meditation, mantras, metta (compassion) meditation, and incorporating mindfulness into daily activities.

No Mud, No Lotus was the perfect companion to my MBSR training. Since it is a quick read, I purposefully slowed down – only allowing myself one chapter per day. As with all of Thich Nhat Hanh’s books, I felt like I was having a quiet conversation with a good friend. I imagined a soft-spoken voice reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s introductory quote: “Most people are afraid of suffering. But suffering is a kind of mud to help the lotus flower of happiness grow. There can be no lotus flower without the mud.” This book brought me gratitude for all of the mud that has helped transform me.


In May, Team Oasis had the pleasure of meeting Lindsey Averill, feminist activist, scholar, and filmmaker.  Averill, a PhD candidate at Florida Atlantic University, is currently working on her first documentary.  Fattitude explores representations of overweight people in popular culture, which often include unflattering stereotypes, discrimination, and ridicule. Through interviews with scholars and activists, Fattitude reveals to viewers that every body is worthy of love, pleasure, and acceptance.

Ms. Averill shared the Fattitude trailer, as well as unreleased clips.  After viewing, we spoke passionately about the objectification of women’s bodies, the false correlation between thinness and health, and even fatkinis.  It was evident to all in attendance that cultural perceptions of body image need to be examined and discussed openly, regardless of the reactions of others.

Fattitude is an ambitious project currently in its post-production stages.  Fundraising efforts have already generated over $44,000; however, costs have proven to be higher than anticipated.  Here is what we ask of you:

  1. View the trailer at:
  2. Help spread the word!  Discuss Fattitude with friends, family, and co-workers.
  3. Follow Fattitude on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
  4. If you feel compelled to give, make a tax-deductible donation.

Just this past weekend, body shaming made national news.  We cannot wait for Fattitude to change minds and hearts.  What are your thoughts?

Staff Spotlight: Ashley Leising, M.S., Registered Mental Health Counseling Intern

Staff Spotlight
Meet Ashley Leising, M.S., #IMH13586
Registered Mental Health Counseling Intern

What is your academic background?

I double majored in Psychology and Family and Child Sciences, and graduated with my Bachelor of Science from The Florida State University. I then went onto obtain my Master of Science from Palm Beach Atlantic University in Mental Health Counseling.

Favorite Self-Care Activities:

Massages, going to the beach/on the boat, hanging with my cousins, working out, getting my hair and nails done, shopping, cleaning.

What is your approach to therapy?

I have an integrative approach with a focus on Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. Each client is different, and I tailor my approach toward their needs.

What influenced you to become a therapist? When did you know that you wanted to work in mental health?

At a young age, I had the opportunity to help my aunt coach children with autism. During
undergrad, I interned at a private practice and have always enjoyed helping others. Through my internship, I began to realize that I have a passion for helping and working with people. I enjoyed my undergraduate coursework and knew mental health was a field I wanted to pursue higher education in.

Why is therapy important?

Sometimes, we just can’t doing everything ourselves. Therefore, we seek the help of others. Therapy is a place for clients to focus on themselves.

Ashley is available for individual therapy sessions and DBT coaching.  Call (561) 278-6033 to schedule an appointment.

Staff Spolight: Stephanie Burstein, M.S., Registered Marriage & Family Therapy Intern

Staff Spotlight
Meet Stephanie Burstein, M.S., #IMT2307
Registered Marriage and Family Therapy Intern

What is your academic background?

I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Florida Atlantic University. Upon
graduating, I moved to NYC, where I have an aunt who is a psychiatrist, and interned at a state clinic. Soon after, I began looking into graduate programs, and ultimately decided to come back home to be closer to my family. I attended Palm Beach Atlantic University, where I recently obtained my Master of Science in both Marriage and Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling.

Favorite Self-Care Activities:

I love to work on my art journals and experiment with mixed media. I find it relaxing to lay out all my materials on a table and just start to play! I also really enjoy comedy. Whenever I’ve had a rough day, I have go-to comedians that can brighten my mood! To quote Audrey Hepburn, “I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.”

What is your approach to therapy?

As a Marriage and Family therapist, I take a Systems Approach. I see individuals as part of a system that impacts them. Luckily, I work alongside some amazing therapists who challenge and support me. I am continuously growing as a clinician and love every minute of it.

What influenced you to become a therapist? When did you know that you wanted to work in mental health?

I think I always knew I wanted to work with people on a personal level, but was not sure to what extent. I toyed with the idea of becoming a teacher, but the idea of being able to really help create positivity in a person when they needed it most seemed like it was the best path for me. It was during my general psychology class that I decided to change majors. This class sparked more of my interest to understand our behaviors.

Why is therapy important?

We all want to be understood and ultimately therapy helps facilitate that desire.

Stephanie is available for individual therapy sessions and DBT coaching for children, teens and parents.  Call (561) 278-6033 to schedule an apppointment.