You CAN Have Your Cake (and Eat it Too.)

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I just love this graphic (and the article that goes with it) and had to share it.  But that’s the literal-thinker in me.  I just can’t help myself sometimes!

I woke up this morning with a burning desire to share…  Is sugar ‘evil’?  Of course not.  It’s an object.  A substance.  Evil comes with maliciously causing harm.  (More on this later…)  So why, now, do we hear about so much about sugar being evil, and how diabetes and heart disease – all related to sugar consumption are at epidemic levels?  Sugar has been refined since 642 AD, and in “the 11th Century AD. Crusaders returning home talked of this “new spice” and how pleasant it was.”  642 AD.  That’s a looooong time ago!  So, what has changed?

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Quantity has changed, that’s for sure.  Some by choice, some not-so-much.  We used to have a small amount of homemade confection on the rare occasion, a holiday perhaps, because as we’ve all learned:  “food is love.”  And when we are fed food that makes us feel good it must mean we are loved more, right?  With increasing technology and science, sweeteners became more physically and financially available to more and more people.

As the technology has advanced, and the processing increases, not only is it more affordable, it is often the cheapest “food” source.  The only available option for many where quality foods are not available at grocery stores are the highly processed foods often high in sugar.

As if that’s not enough, the food products industry has learned to use our predilection for sweets (our bodies’ own survival instinct) against us.  “Even the common “sweet tooth” may be rooted in survival instinct, he suggested. Carbohydrates, typically sweet, are a vital energy source to a wild animal continuously on the go. The evolved ability to associate sweetness with energy may lie behind our present-day preferences for ice cream and candy bars, Pritchard speculates.”  This is why, in addition to insidious advertising, our food products are laced with sugar and salt and chemical concoctions to keep us coming back for more.  And the ‘evil’ encroaches!

So, what is one to do?  It’s a hard call.  I am all about balance, moderation, and variety.  I think it is very important not to deprive ourselves because deprivation causes us to feel bad, lacking, angry… and it can cause us to binge.  If you can occasionally have a ‘sweet treat’, then by all means enjoy it.  Preferably homemade and less processed…

As I learned from Potatoes Not Prozac, I work best when coming from a mindset of abundance, not deprivation.  By changing my diet and slowly cutting back the ‘sweets and treats’ and increasing the different ‘real foods’ I was eating, not only did I begin to feel and look better, now I am able to eat so much more than before.  And since I LOOOOVE to eat, this is a definite win-win for me!

Balance.  Moderation.  Variety.  Have that very occasional dessert if you are so inclined, if you can.  That doesn’t work for me.  If I have some, I want more.  The addictive component of sweeteners is too strong for me.  I choose to stay away completely.  It’s a personal choice.  Choose what works best for you, your body, your heath and well-being.  And enjoy your life!

To clean or not to clean?

 

“Our house is clean enough to be healthy, and dirty enough to be happy.”  ~Author UnknownImage

Clean!  Definitely we need to clean to keep our homes safe and healthy (and mine is dirty enough to be happy!)  I think we all agree that breathing in, consuming, or absorbing toxins is not a healthy choice.  Sometimes we just don’t have an option.  When it comes to cleaners, so many are made with toxic (harmful or deadly, by definition) ingredients.  What can we do?  First we need to realize why we choose the products we do.  A few of the reasons are:

  • Convenience
  • Lack of awareness of toxins and/or their possible effects
  • Lack of (perceived) cleaning options

I was going to quote from an article titled “How Toxic are your Household Cleaning Supplies?” but realized I don’t have room here to share all I wanted to.  Please see the link for the myriad of health issues related to ingredients in many commercial cleaners.

While reading an article about cleaning products, I was reminded of a few things:  Labels do not tell us all we need to know, antibacterial cleaners can do more harm than good (by killing the bacteria we *need* to be healthy, and by breeding resistant microbes which is very dangerous), and that many products are unsafe.  I realized that I still use some hazardous cleaning products.  Why?  Partly for the above mentioned reasons, and because at one point I made what I thought were good choices when shopping and then conveniently forgot about it.  Products do change over time.  I have used Simple Green for as long as I can remember.  It appears now to be ‘safe’, but it appears that it was not for a while.  

Is it easier (and more cost-effective) to make our own cleaners?  A quick internet search results in an almost endless list of how tos.  I found Eartheasy to be quite comprehensive.  If you are looking to make the switch to homemade cleaning solutions, that is a good place to start.  There are also healthier options on store shelves.  See “Awareness” below.  

In order to eliminate some of the toxins we inhale or absorb, we must address these three reasons:

  • Convenience:  Look over some of the suggestions in the Eartheasy article.  Do I have any of those products in my home (or can I easily pick them up)?  I want to start easy.  For instance, I can easily clean my chopping block (cutting board) by rubbing with a slice of lemon to disinfect the surface, and for tougher stains squeeze the juice and let it sit on the spot 10 minutes before wiping. 
  • Awareness:  The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a great resource for protecting health, human and environmental.  An article from 2012 cites many products that may be dangerous.  I strongly recommend perusing their site – it is a wealth of information.  
  • Options:  The options are almost endless.  Once you determine what is important to you and do a little bit of legwork (the links here are a good starting point), you can determine if you want to make your own or purchase healthier options.  (EWG’s Consumer Guides is a great place to start looking at our options.)

We are responsible for our own health (and that of our families.)  As always, moderation is important.  We cannot escape toxins.  We can only do our best to become aware and make small changes that add.  I try to keep things simple.  I don’t like to vacuum, so we have almost exclusively hardwood floors and don’t wear our shoes in the house, for example.  The less I have to clean, the better!

Please comment if there are any areas you would like me to cover in more depth.  This is a huge subject matter!

We Can’t Afford to NOT Eat Healthy

Cost of Eating Healthy

Yes, a double negative to make my point!  Illness is very costly, every which way we look at it, and wellness doesn’t have to be expensive.  Starting on a very small scale, let’s take potatoes.  A pound of potatoes costs $0.69.  A pound of potato chips costs $4.50.  So we can buy four and a half pounds of potatoes for the same price as one pound of chips.  Although it takes about four pounds of raw potatoes to make one pound of potato chips, we are not getting four times the nutrition.  As a matter of fact:

One ounce of potatoes has 28 calories, 0 grams of fat, and 6 grams of carbohydrates.  One ounce is considered mildly inflammatory (-17).  Regarding inflammation, “Sears calls inflammation a silent epidemic that triggers chronic diseases over the years.”

One ounce of potato chips has 153 calories (5.5 times our spud bud), 10 grams of fat, and at 14 grams, more than double the carbohydrates.  They are considered mildly inflammatory (-73).  According to the Nutritional Target Map and Caloric Ratio Pyramid:  Potato chips are less filling, less nutritious, and the caloric ratio has moved from mostly carbohydrates to mostly fats.  But I must ask…  Who eats only one ounce of potato chips?!

When we move to a serving size of 8 ounces of chips (which I feel is generously underrating how much we actually eat), the Inflammation Factor shoots to strongly inflammatory at -594, with a whopping 1,242 calories, 85 grams of fat, and 1192 mg of sodium!  The Inflammation Factor of a large potato (70 grams more than the bag of chips) comes in at moderately inflammatory (-179), 278 calories, 0 grams of fat, and 30 mg of sodium.

The potato is just one example of how healthier whole food is often much less expensive than its processed counterpart.  Remember, nutrient density is so important in not only how we spend our money, but how we spend it wisely on nutrient-rich foods.  In addition, if we are consuming (and over-consuming) the chips and many other convenience foods that are high in fats, sugars, calories, and inflammatory effect, we are greatly increasing our chances of disease.  Diabetes is just one of the lifestyle diseases that is currently plaguing us.  “People with diagnosed diabetes incur average medical expenditures of about $13,700 per year,” and that does not include loss of productivity, income, etc.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford medical bills like that!  Besides, I would much rather spend my money on food, shelter, and doing fun things with my daughter when we can…  “A sane diet alone would save us hundreds of billions of dollars and maybe more.”  –Mark Bittman.

An Internet search for ‘eating healthy on a budget’ will bring up a lot of information.  One comprehensive resource is Eating Well.  Like anything else, it takes some practice to plan ahead and prepare the foods.  We can do it!  If we don’t have time during the week, we can prepare ahead of time and stock the refrigerator and freezer.

Exercise is another component of a healthy lifestyle.   There are so many free or inexpensive options.  Arnold Schwarzenegger said:  “I’ve never paid for a push-up or a sit-up in my life – and I’ve done millions.”  We can lace up our shoes and go for a nice brisk walk with friends.  How about dancing?  That’s a personal favorite!  The secret is to do what we enjoy, and to make it a habit.  A couple of resources:  100 Free (or Cheap) Ways to Exercise, and Six Ways to Build a Better Body on a Budget.

There are many other components to a healthy lifestyle and improved quality of life, including our mental and emotional states.  Diet and exercise play such a big role that I will leave off now with a reminder:  Balance, moderation, and variety…  In all things.

Why can’t I just ______________ ? (Fill in the blank.)

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Why can’t I?  It’s the same story, over, and over, and over again.  We want to.  We really do.  But we don’t/can’t change our behaviors.  Why?!

We may want to lose weight, make different choices, or change any myriad of circumstances in our lives.  Why is it so difficult?  The answer is a different recipe for each of us as we all have different beliefs, values, priorities, excuses, etc.

Some of the reasons I have found include:

  • Desire – without it, nothing will change, but it’s not enough
  • Fear – can stop us in our tracks – fear of the unknown, of change, etc.
  • Motivation – is the fuel toward reaching our goals
  • Priority – determines where we use our limited time and energy
  • Resources – necessary to implement the change or growth
  • Knowledge – or lack thereof – needed to advance toward change
  • Ability/Skills – needed to implement the steps toward the change
  • Reward – for our current behavior is known, yet unrealized for the future
  • Comfort – our current discomfort often seems more comfortable than change
  • Beliefs – we have amassed many beliefs while traveling this big blue marble
  • Values – many of which we were born with, and are very deep-seated
  • Conflict – we often get stuck between “I should” and “I don’t want to”
  • Habit – old habits are hard to break, new habits take time and energy to make
  • Peer Pressure – a support system is very important for our success
  • Behavior Change Stage – we need to be ready, willing, and able
  • Energy and Commitment – without them we quickly revert to our old behaviors
  • Perfection – expecting perfection is a sure path to ‘failure’ as it is unattainable

I’m sure there are many other reasons why it is difficult for so many of us to do the things we know we should, or even want to.  The bottom line is that it is difficult and it takes work.  The good news is that we are all capable of change, of bettering ourselves, our health, our positions.  And the better news is that it is worth it!

How?  So how do we make the shift from “I can’t.” to “I did!”?  It is a different path for each of us and starts with introspection.  Being truly honest with ourselves.  We don’t allow others to lie to us, and we have to stop lying to ourselves!  That includes excuses.  So we need to stop and ask ourselves many questions.  It will depend upon our own journeys, but a good starting place is to consider:

  • What am I getting out of my continued behavior?  What is my reward for continuing it?  Is it that the feel-good I get from overeating overrides the eventual feeling-good-all-the-time that is promised in the end?  (Do I even believe the promise of what is to come?  Am I afraid of it?)  We don’t do things that we don’t get some sort of reward from.  The practice of physical self-harm, for example, offers relief from emotional pain (AAMFT).  Once we realize why we are doing what we are doing, we are more able to see the value of alternatives.
  • How important is making the change?  What is it’s priority in my life?  Until I decide that the change is worthy of my time, effort, and even money, I will not be able to move forward.
  • Are my goals realistic and realizable?  Or am I setting myself up for failure?  Goal:  “I want to lose 50 pounds this month.”  That might start out with a bang because perhaps I can visualize myself thin in a short time.  But it will surely fizzle and die.  We need to be realistic with our goals and have a plan that we can monitor to see that we are reaching them.  Small steps toward the end.  Remember that two steps forward and one step back is the Cha-Cha!  (Please allow some poetic license here!)
  • Do I have a support system?  Or is my current situation going to sabotage me?  In this digital age it is so much easier to find the support we need.  Reach out.  We as humans really do want to help one another.  And like we learned in school “if you raise your hand you will see that others had the same question but were afraid to ask.”  Finding a buddy, an accountability partner, makes it so much easier, and more fun too.
  • What is my excuse?  And, more importantly:  Why am I allowing this excuse to prevent me from working toward my goal?!

I could go on and on, but for the sake of brevity I will stop here.  Please respond if you would like me to continue the questions to ask ourselves section, and how to realize the results we truly desire.  Or with any of your own questions.  I am happy to do so.

The bottom line is this:  It is up to us to figure out the “Why?” based on our own introspection.  Sometimes asking those close to us can be a big help (if we are willing to hear what they say without taking offense to their honesty if it is painful to hear.)  We need to figure out what is holding us back as we are all capable of things far bigger than we ever imagined, once we get out of our own way!

Two steps forward, and one back is still moving forward, and we need to learn to enjoy the journey.  Just like the Cha-Cha, or any dance steps I’ve tried to learn, I’ve had the most fun while tripping over my own feet (and occasionally someone else’s!)  Not taking ourselves so seriously allows us to enjoy the journey and continue on our path, often inviting others to join us.

Ballroom Dancers Latin 01

What’s the deal with Type 2 Diabetes, anyway?

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How many of us truly want to be overweight, obese, or suffering from diabetes or the myriad of other lifestyle diseases?  I haven’t done the research, but my best guess is few to none.

Diabetes is something we all know about, right?  We always hear about it.  Too much sugar causes problems with insulin (however that works) and often leads to overweight/obesity, they say.  Do we really know what diabetes is and what it does to us?  “Diabetes causes more deaths a year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke.”  (ADA)

For the moment, let’s put aside the diminishing quality of life, hardships, and complications that come with this disease.  Even without those tremendous factors, it is a huge financial burden both personally and nationally:

People with diagnosed diabetes incur average medical expenditures of about $13,700 per year, of which about $7,900 is attributed to diabetes.  AND The total estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes in 2012 is $245 billion, including $176 billion in direct medical costs and $69 billion in reduced productivity.(ADA)

By 2050, if our current course as a nation continues, one in three American adults will have diabetes. The cost to this country — in lives, lost productivity and hard dollars — will be an enormous personal and societal burden that could overwhelm our healthcare system and bankrupt our nation.  (ADA)

I was not aware at the breadth and depth of complications associated with diabetes type 2.  Also found on the ADA website is a list of complications.  Some of these include:  Glaucoma, cataracts, blindness, many skin conditions (including bacterial and fungal infections), nerve damage which can be painful or dangerous if it results in lack of feeling, foot disfigurement, foot and leg amputations, high blood pressure, mental health issues leading to depression, hearing loss, gum disease, kidney disease, stroke, and others.

Here’s the kicker:  For most of us:  IT’S ALL PREVENTABLE!

Research as found that it’s not just the sugar:  “Being overweight does increase your risk for developing type 2 diabetes, and a diet high in calories from any source contributes to weight gain. Research has shown that drinking sugary drinks is linked to type 2 diabetes.”  (ADA)

If you have type 2 diabetes your body does not use insulin properly. This is called insulin resistance. At first, your pancreas makes extra insulin to make up for it. But, over time it isn’t able to keep up and can’t make enough insulin to keep your blood glucose at normal levels.  (ADA)

So, why is it so hard for us to eat right and exercise to simply prevent this, and many other lifestyle diseases?  Consuming a healthy diet and getting our daily exercise can be so elusive it is frustrating to us all.  The answer to this question is more complicated than most of us can imagine.

The importance is to start.  Start where?!  That depends on knowing ourselves and what works for us and what is important to us.  It starts with awareness.  Why do we eat what we do, when we do?  Can we make small changes for ourselves and our families toward greater health?  It isn’t always easy, but the answer is a resounding YES!

This is an Inflammatory Post!

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I avoid television commercials whenever I can.  But I have recently been hearing in the background something like “if you have inflammation, take this drug and you’ll be back to yourself again.”  I get so frustrated by that.  Shouldn’t we care what is causing the inflammation in the first place?  Our bodies are trying to tell us something, but we aren’t listening.  We drug them into submission.  Before I go any further, a little bit about inflammation.  

Like many things that we deem “bad”, our bodies rely on inflammation to protect us.  For instance, when our bodies need to fight an infection, it is an inflammatory process that causes the fever.  The fever’s purpose is to kill the intruder.  (A more detailed description of fevers.)  

Inflammation comes from the Latin word “Inflammatio” which means to set on fire. It is ironic that this protective response to remove harmful stimuli from the body in order to initiate healing is also the main mechanism of diseases caused by microbial, autoimmune, metabolic, and physical factors.  (Hawiger)

Inflammation is good, and healthy.  It is when our bodies are in a constant state of inflammation that we have problems.  

Chronic inflammation can induce the excessive formation of reactive oxygen that attacks healthy tissue, which is called oxidative stress.   Chronic inflammation is mainly triggered by improper nutrition, particularly deficient intakes of nutrients regulating the inflammatory response and excessive calorie intake leading to obesity.  (USDA)

When it comes to preventable conditions and a ‘quick fix,’ heartburn/Acid reflux is my favorite.  There is no reason to deal with unnecessary discomfort.  Eat and do what you want, and just take a little purple pill.  (A little purple pill…  How cute is that?!)  On their website, Nexium does offer lifestyle factors to consider and foods to avoid.  But why give up “what we love” when we can just take that cute little purple pill and continue to enjoy life as we know it?  Why listen to our bodies saying “Please stop it!”?  Also on Nexium’s website, besides the more serious possible side effects, the most common ones are:  headache, diarrhea, nausea, gas, abdominal pain, constipation, dry mouth, and drowsiness.  Wow!  I can eat as much of whatever it is I want and get all that too?!  (Sarcasm intended!)

Type 2 diabetes is easily prevented for most of us by proper diet and exercise, yet for many reasons we don’t know this, don’t believe it, don’t have the tools to act on it, don’t believe it is as bad as it is, or we don’t think it will happen to us.  There are others who truly don’t have a choice, but that’s a post for another time.  

I knew I had to write this post when I recently saw a lawyers’ commercial on behalf of people with diabetes who took medication (Byetta, Jnuvia, Bydureon, Victoza, Janumet…) for their diabetes because it can cause pancreatic cancer.  I knew a woman, a wonderful woman and mother of five, who left them all behind because of pancreatic cancer.  “About 95 percent of people with pancreatic cancer die from it, experts say.”  (CNN)  As of right now, “it does appear that there may be an increased risk of these drugs having adverse effects, but further safety studies are needed to confirm this.”  (NHS)  

The point of this post is not to tell you to stop taking drugs you may need, but to present the case for awareness and promotion of prevention:  When these lifestyle diseases are so preventable, why do we continue on a course of inevitable self destruction (or at least self harm?)  The reasons are as numerous and complicated as the number of people affected.  (No, I have no scientific research to back that up, I’m just making a point.)  This is not an easy battle.  Together we can overcome the barriers. 

healthy dietary intakes with the reduction in fat intake (especially trans and saturated fat) and the increase in fruits, vegetables, and whole grain* consumption seem to be associated with the improvement in subclinical inflammatory condition.  (PubMed)

Disclaimer:  I recommend whole foods, not food products.  We don’t usually eat wheat berries the way we eat oats, quinoa, rice, etc.  Eat potatoes with the skin, whole grains whole… etc.

Babysteps.  Toward health…  

Diet. A Four-Letter Word?

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What is a diet?  According to my friends Webster and The Merriams, diet is defined as:

:  food and drink regularly provided or consumed
:  habitual nourishment
:  the kind and amount of food prescribed for a person or animal for a special reason
:  a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one’s weight <going on a diet>

Our “diets” are what we habitually eat (and drink.)  That’s it.  They are not “good.”  They are not “bad.”  They are what they are.  They may be good for us (or not), but they are nothing more than a list of foods and food products.  We choose to label them, and then often judge ourselves for being “bad” or eating “bad.”  Our negative self-talk only serves to propagate our unhealthy behaviors.

Also according to Merriam-Webster, the origin of the word “diet” is:  “Middle English diete, from Anglo-French, from Latin diaeta,from Greek diaita, literally, manner of living, from diaitasthaito lead one’s life”  Manner of living, or lead one’s life.  How wonderful is that?!

So, our diets, what we habitually consume, are our manner of living and lead our lives.  If we think about that, it is certainly true.  What we eat fuels our bodies (and our minds), and allows us to live the full and meaningful lives we so desire.  Of course if we are eating food products that damage our health, we are leading our lives in the opposite direction.

Most of us are no longer plagued by plagues and infectious diseases, but are suffering and succumbing to “lifestyle diseases.”  It is our responsibility to change that.  We have effectively redefined the term “epidemic.”  It used to be an infection affecting a disproportionately large portion of the population.  You can’t “catch” obesity and lifestyle diseases, but they are at epic proportions and are being considered epidemics by many.  

So.  Have you been “on a diet”?  It appears that there are some 500 to choose from.  A few of the classifications include:  belief-based, vegetarian/vegan, low-calorie, low-carb, low-fat, crash/fad, detox, and others.  Many, many others.  A study in the UK found that “the average 45-year-old has been on 61 diets.”  (MailOnline)  It doesn’t take much to figure out that if 61 “diets” haven’t worked, maybe it’s the act of dieting that is to blame!

The next time we want to lose a few pounds and feel a bit better physically and emotionally, we can think about going on yet another diet*, or we can think about making a few small, manageable changes to our diet and lifestyle.  We can consume a few more nutrient-dense calories, a few less nutrient-void foods, and move a little more today than we did yesterday.   (*Most diets are extremely successful.  Not for weight loss, of course, but for the authors!)

I am in no way saying that it’s easy, or that everyone will lose weight by making these more manageable lifestyle changes.  There are many reasons that people are unwell and/or overweight.  But most of us can experience a significant change in our bodies and our health by making simple changes.  Healthier choices.  We can feel so much better!  We owe it to ourselves, to our children, to their children…  Small changes matter.  

So what one or two changes are you going to make today?