Tag Archives: Carbohydrates

Overwhelmed?

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I am overwhelmed.  Who hasn’t said that?  But what does it really mean?  The definition is “to load, heap, treat, or address with an overpowering or excessive amount of anything.”  That is certainly true when it comes to all of the health and wellness advice that we hear.

I truly believe that everyone wants to feel good and to be healthy.  There are so many reasons that we have trouble striving for, and reaching, improved health.  These reasons can be emotional, physical, political, and many others.  Add in the vastness of information at our disposal, much of which is confusing and contradictory.  How are we supposed to navigate all of this, and who has the time to do it anyway?

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Sometimes we have to make the time if we are faced with serious illness in our lives.  We need to be able to find reliable and valid information.  Please, please, please remember that what we read is not always true just because it comes from an excellent public speaker and/or a doctor.  Solid starting points are:  WebMDHealthfinder.gov, US Department of Health and Human Services.  Take advantage of their search functions.  Also, Wikipedia is always a great place to start a search, but keep in mind that the information can be posted by anyone at any time and always needs to be verified.

prioritize

So what is the most important aspects of health and wellness to concerns ourselves about?  Exercise?  Diet?  Stress control?  Should we worry about butter vs. margarine?  Alkaline vs. acidic?  Carbs vs. fat?  Organic vs. conventional?  The concerns seem endless.  And for each concern there are multiple and conflicting opinions as to what we should be doing.  Then, just when we think we have it figured out, the experts discover something new and everything we know as true is turned upside down.  Frustrating?  Yes.  Yes it is.  But it is also the nature of the proverbial beast.  As our technology and understanding evolve and increase, so do our core beliefs on what is healthy.

Certainly when our lives are effected by a specific illness we tend to concentrate on that one as the most important.  If we are predisposed to a disease, that should be of greater importance to us to learn about.  Knowledge is power… as long as we are willing to implement that knowledge.  Just how much time and energy do we need to spend researching all aspects of health and wellness in order to improve our health and quality of life?

Good_News

The good news is that for most of us, simply being mindful goes a long way toward improving our health and wellness.  Start with the basics, my personal mantra:  balance, moderation, and variety.  They all are all different, yet each ties in with the others:

download     Balance:
Work and play, good food and junk food, spending and saving, exercising and relaxing… It doesn’t matter what it is.  Too much of one and not enough of the other infringes on our health and happiness.  When we balance all aspects of our existence we can enjoy a healthier, happier life.

images (2)     Moderation:
Anything taken to the extreme can be harmful.  As I’ve mentioned before, that includes drinking too much water.  Not only do we want to balance relaxation with exercise, we also want to exercise in a safe manner and not push harder than our bodies can safely handle.  If we are not active, we need to work up to strenuous activities.  “Weekend athletes” suffer injuries due to their lack of conditioning.  If we “work hard and play hard” we are balanced, but if we are pushing ourselves too hard in each of them, we will suffer from the lack of moderation in both.

Variety of fresh vegetables at market. Siem Reap     Variety:
We all know how important it is to have variety in our diet.  Different colored fruits and vegetables each provide distinct health properties.  We need a variety of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in order to survive and thrive.  Most of us eat wheat (white or processed whole wheat) at every meal and for snacks in between.  Many of our bodies are rejecting the wheat we are consuming at every meal (and it’s not the same wheat our grandparents ate.)  We are complex organisms.  When we consume a large variety of healthy foods we don’t have to concerns ourselves with the specifics of eating the right combination of nutrients.  When we vary our exercise routines we are working different muscle groups and different systems.  By varying our mental activities, we work different parts of our brains.

When we are mindful and aware of what we are doing to and with our bodies, we can do so with balance, moderation, and variety which will increase our health and wellness.  Will you start with being mindful and perhaps throw a little more balance, moderation, and variety in?  I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the outcome!

Sweet, Sweet Addiction

Sugar Lips

A decade ago I read a book that saved my life.  Really.  I know, I am not a fan of sensationalism – at all.  When something is introduced to me with shock factor I tune out.  I don’t trust it.  I am not being sensational.  I was an addict.  Not one person believed me at the time, it seemed silly to them.  And it seems silly for me to be admitting this publicly the very same time I’m looking for employment!

We joked with Grandma about her chocolate addiction.  My father was an alcoholic.  But those things had nothing to do with me.  I thought I was happy.  The truth is, I was depressed, yet I didn’t know it.  I had spent most of my life ‘high’.  Sugar made me feel better, but I had no idea that was happening.  I started hearing whisperings of sugar being ‘bad.’  But that’s just dumb.  Sure, sugar is empty calories.  So what?  It was cheap, readily available, and it was “food.”

So I blissfully ate more and more of it because I liked it, or so I thought.  I ignored what was happening to me – why would I correlate it to my sugar and processed food consumption?  I attributed the joint pains to ‘old age.’  I was, after all, in my thirties then!  Sure, I would feel depressed sometimes, but life isn’t always a bed of roses, right?  Eventually self-medicating stopped working.  The depression got worse.  I went to doctors, but their drugs didn’t work.  The depression continued to worsen.  I was in a very dark place.  A psychologist thought I had fibromyalgia, so I started researching that.  I do love my research!  That led me to sugar.  Sugar is an inflammatory.  Huh…  I had to read on as the joint pain was unbearable.  So I kept reading and researching and I found the book Potatoes Not Prozac by Dr. Kathleen DesMaisons.  As I read it I knew it spoke directly to me, and I was able to follow the program (with a lot of support from the community), and live, as they say, happily ever after.  

Notice that I didn’t say it was easy!  Addiction is a very complex issue.  I know, that seems like such a strong word for a proclivity for sweets…  “What people often underestimate is the complexity of drug addiction — that it is a disease that impacts the brain, and because of that, stopping drug abuse is not simply a matter of willpower.”  (WebMD)  Drug addiction?!  Ha!  We’re talking about sugar.  Sugar a drug?  That’s ridiculous.  I know.  “In lab studies, rats that binged on sugar had brain changes like those of getting off drugs. In humans, just seeing pictures of milkshakes triggered brain effects like those seen in drug addicts.” (Slideshow, worth the view.)  Also, “Mutant mice that exhibit behaviors resembling mania seemed to get a bigger kick than normal mice from sugar water, cocaine, and electrical stimulation of the brain’s reward center.” (National Institutes of Health, NIH)  Again and again we see that sugar affects the areas of brain that cocaine and opiates do…  It affects some of us more than others for the same reason that some people can drink in moderation, and for others it leads to alcoholism.  We are all different.  

The Mayo Clinic defines drug addiction:  “Drug addiction is a dependence on an illegal drug or a medication. When you’re addicted, you may not be able to control your drug use and you may continue using the drug despite the harm it causes. Drug addiction can cause an intense craving for the drug. You may want to quit, but most people find they can’t do it on their own.”  Sugar is not an illegal drug or medication.  On the contrary, it is readily available and pushed, sorry, I mean marketed, to us and to our children.  But replace the term “drug use” with “sugar consumption” in the preceding definition and see if it resonates with you.  It sure did with me.

“…people describe symptoms of withdrawal when they deprive themselves of sugar-rich foods. They also describe food craving, particularly for carbohydrates, chocolate, and sugar, which can trigger relapse and impulsive eating. This leads to a vicious cycle of self-medication with sweet foods that may result in obesity or an eating disorder.”  (Page 8, NIH)

Addicted to a food?  That’s just dumb.  Use self control, I was told.  It is true.  Self control works wonders (but only when not in the throws of an addiction.)  Self control, without treating the addiction, just sets us up for a binge, relapse, whatever you want to call it.

What scares me most is that addiction protects itself.  Those of us who most need to hear the message are protected from it.  As my daughter would tell you when she was three years old:  “Addiction tricks your brain.”  Denial can be deadly, and it can bankrupt us.  No, this isn’t sensationalism.  It’s true.

“Most people already know that too much sugar isn’t good for them, just as most people on heroin know that shooting up isn’t good for them, but you’ll see addicts go to great lengths to get their fix, justifying their habit until the consequences are painful enough to consider making a change. Let’s face it: We’ve been in denial.  The average American eats 130 pounds of sugar per year, which is approximately 17 cans of Coke per five days, a significant increase from our intake in the 1800s, when it was the equivalent of one can per five days. The truth is, America is high on sugar, and our lives are becoming unmanageable!”  (GoodTherapy.org)

“The American Diabetes Association (Association) released new research on March 6, 2013 estimating the total costs of diagnosed diabetes have risen to $245 billion in 2012 from $174 billion in 2007, when the cost was last examined.  This figure represents a 41 percent increase over a five year period.” (ADA)

And that’s just diabetes.  “You are more likely to suffer diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and many other health conditions when you indulge your sweet tooth too often.”  (LiveStrong.com)

Addiction is serious business.  Please treat it as such, before it’s too late.  Most of us can’t do it on our own.  If your addiction is a more serious substance, please contact a doctor or helpline.  In New Jersey:  “Dial 211 or 1-800-238-2333 which provides trained clinically supervised telephone specialists who are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to educate, assist, interview and/or refer individuals and families battling addictions.  Calls are free and information shared is confidential.” (DHS DAS)  A few keystrokes will bring you to a location near you.

My addiction was a gift.  It brought me to the place where I am now.  I found my passion:  health promotion.  I am in good, healthy place.  I have learned so much about myself, followed my passion, and I am now in a position to give back… to help and share with others all things health!  Those dark days are just history now!