Tag Archives: diet

My poor self-sacrificing telomeres!

Fountain of youth?!  How easy is it to attain?

Fountain of youth?! How easy is it to attain?

Could our telomeres be the key to the fountain of youth?  (If you are not interested in the science, skip the next two paragraphs.  You won’t feel like you missed much.)

The blueprint for everything “us” is in our DNA.  Our DNA is neatly packaged in chromosomes during cell division.  “In human bodies, cells divide nearly two trillion times every day.”  (ASU)  Each time a cell divides, the DNA is replicated, and the end of each chromosome is slightly shortened.  Telomeres protect the DNA by covering the ends of the chromosomes (like an aglet protects a shoelace.)  Each time they replicate, it is the telomere that is shortened, protecting the DNA.  Imagine that you are an architect and you have a blueprint that needs to be duplicated many times for all of your contractors.  But every time you make a copy, part of the original is removed.  The end result would not be a very healthy building.  It would be disastrous.  (UCSF)

And so it is with our chromosomes.  Rather than allowing the ends of the DNA to fray with each replication, the telomeres protect the tips and are whittled away with each copy made.  “The ends of our chromosomes are made up of cells with a DNA sequence that protects the threads of DNA from unraveling, a natural fraying effect that is part of cell division.”  (How Stuff Works)  Thank you, telomeres!  Your selfless acts of self-sacrifice allow me to keep replicating my cells in a healthy way!  But once they are gone, the cell can no longer divide.

What can we do to preserve our telomeres to protect our DNA?  “One study so far has observed an increase in telomerase activity (which protects and lengthens telomeres) by persons enrolled in a health program including eating a healthy diet, getting daily exercise, and using stress reduction techniques such as yoga and/or meditation.”  (Telomere FAQs)

Bottom line:  Why does it matter?  It matters because it appears that we can actually lengthen our telomeres by implementing a healthy lifestyle, which in turn allows our cells to continue replicating longer keeping us younger and healthier!  What is the latest superfood of the day?  What fad diet it spreading like wildfire?  What is the most recent exercise craze?  The beautify of is that It doesn’t matter!  What does matter is that we adopt healthier lifestyles.  Exercise more.  Eat healthier foods.  Eat less of the unhealthy foods.  When you increase your telomeres, you quite possibly increase your life!

Remember:  Balance.  Moderation.  Variety.

“Date” Yet one more four-letter word.

Tzolkin Calendar - hsc08a

No, not that kind of date!  It can’t be healthy to eat food past the “expire” date, can it?  What about the “sell by” or “use by” dates?  These labels are confusing, and really don’t mean very much.  We might as well use an Aztec Calendar Wheel for the same amount of clarity!

They give us the the date by which the manufacturer has deemed the food to be closest to the taste that the manufacturer decided was best.  “But companies want people to taste their products as best they can at the optimum, because that’s how they maintain their business and their market shares.”  (Institute of Food Technologists)  “There should be a standard date and wording that is used. This is about quality, not safety. You can make your own decision about whether a food still has an edible quality that’s acceptable to you.” (Harvard Food Law & Policy Clinic)  All sources say the same thing.  Smell it.  Taste it.  You can tell if a food has gone bad.

This is much different than contamination.  “Bacteria, viruses, or parasites mainly cause foodborne illness. Many foodborne illnesses are a result of bacteria or viruses, which are microorganisms or “germs” that occur either naturally in foods or are spread as a result of poor practices, such as cross contaminating foods or improper handling during food preparation. Bacteria can rapidly multiply under the right conditions.”  (MDH)

Bacteria growth in food 2

Bottom line:  Let your senses (including common sense) guide you, and take basic precautions including hand-washing and sanitary kitchen practices.  (Information on food safety here.)

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?

Image (Image: )

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!

Diet. A Four-Letter Word?

diet image - diet

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?

How to Put Your Best Foot (and the Rest of You) Forward

work-life-balance-words

Although this post is geared towards those of us who may be out of work or underemployed, it is appropriate for all of us who want to get more out of the lives we are currently living.  

Would you like to excel on your next interview?  Are you having trouble lining up that interview?  We all know the obvious:  network, research, prepare, etc.  But what happens when we put all of our time and effort into the job search at the expense of our health and wellness?  We will not be at our best, for sure.  Whether on that interview or networking with peers (or at the local market… you never know where that next big break will appear!)  Let’s get back to basics.  We need to put ourselves first so that we have the resources to excel.  Note:  No-one can do it all, all the time, or all at once.  As with anything, it is often best if we pick the most important and most changeable items and start there.  Baby steps!

According to The Under Cover Recruiter, the top seven qualities an employer is looking for are:  intelligence, leadership ability, integrity, likability, competence, courage, and inner strength.  In order for us to possess and display these attributes, we must have balance in our lives and take care of our health and wellness.  “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” (The WHO.)

Our bodies are designed to heal themselves.  All we need for normal repairs and growth is the proper resources (sleep, nutrition, and exercise.)

SLEEP:  According to WebMD, short-term lack of enough sleep can cause decreased performance and alertness, memory and cognitive impairment, stress, poor quality of life, occupational injury, and automobile injury.  Long-term lack of enough sleep is “associated with numerous, serious medical illnesses, including high blood pressure, heart attack, heart failure, stroke, obesity, psychiatric problems including depression and other mood disorders, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), mental impairment, and many others. (WebMD)

None of these conditions will benefit our job search, to say the least!  It should be pretty obvious that to perform on a professional level and to display our strengths properly, we need to be well rested.  Not just on the day of the interview, but every day.  There are many resources available to help us sleep better.  The first steps are to stick to a regular sleep schedule, pay attention to our food and drink consumption, create a bedtime ritual, set the conditions for sleep comfortably, limit naps, get regular exercise, and manage stress.  (For detailed information:  MayoClinic.)

NUTRITION: Living on coffee and nutrient-deficient snacks or meals is not going to give our bodies what they need to survive, let alone thrive.  As an employer, would you be more likely to hire someone who is vibrant, clear and sharp with a healthy glow, or someone who is haggard and listless?  Nutrition is surprisingly simple (to understand, anyway):  We need to take in a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole carbohydrates, and lean proteins in reasonable portions and on a regular schedule.  Eat foods that our grandparents would recognize as food!  That’s it.

Variety is important because each different type of food has different raw materials our bodies need.  Each different color of vegetable contains different phytonutrients our bodies require, for example.  As always, excess is unhealthy.  Period.  Even drinking too much water (too quickly) can kill you.  Seriously, it can (water Intoxication.)  Many of us unemployed think we can’t afford to eat healthy.  The truth is, we can’t afford not to.  Tips to eat healthy on a budget:  MyPlate.  There are many others sources a few keystrokes away.

I am sure we all know how important it is to start the day (after an eight to twelve hour fast) with a good meal.  Personally, I love leftover dinners for breakfast.  Talk about quick and easy!  Going too long between meals causes blood sugar drops and feeling tired or sluggish (certainly not an optimal way to be job hunting), can slow metabolism, and cause us to gain weight.  (Fit Day)  Our brains need the nutrition and the energy to function!

EXERCISE:  The benefits of regular exercise cover every aspect of MindBodySpirit wellness.  “Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning,” says Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Ratey.”  (USA News)  The evidence abounds.  Move it or lose it!  Again, no need to go crazy.  Move a little bit more than you did yesterday, then make it a habit.  Exercise helps with sleep, too (although too close to bedtime may not work for you.  It keeps me up for many hours!)

Remember those seven things employers are looking for?  They are:  intelligence, leadership ability, integrity, likability, competence, courage, and inner strength.  When you are healthy and taking care of yourself, you are much more likely to not only grow these attributes, but to also present them well.  As job-seekers, we are in the business of selling.  We are the salespeople, and we are the products.  We each need to know our product in order to sell it.  As any salesperson will tell you:  the easiest products to sell are the ones of that sell themselves.  You can showcase your attributes clearly and vibrantly because you are taking care of yourself.  Be a positive and effective product and you will find it much easier to sell yourself for the perfect position!

Wishing you success in your life, and career.  Remember, put your health first and everything else will follow!

Photo credit:  Dr. Ancheta.

It’s All in Your Head

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Sometimes we know we aren’t well.  When the doctors can’t find anything physically wrong we may be told:  “It’s all in your head.”  It may be, it may not be.  But we’re talking about a lot more than hypochondria, here.  We tend to forget how very powerful our minds are.  The distinction between brain and mind, as I see it, is that our brains are organs like our heart or lungs.  Our minds encompass the usage or functioning of the brain (and then some.)  

In order to improve our health and wellness or prevent the loss of functioning, we need to take care of our whole selves – body/mind/spirit.  I think, therefore, that our brains fall under “body”, while our minds…  well, that’s self-explanatory!  Yet, it’s not that simple.  The more I think about it and research it, the more crossover there is.

Keeping the organ of our brains fit is much like keeping our hearts healthy.  Diet and exercise are important to keep the blood vessels clear to allow our brains to absorb the nutrients we need, and we can only use those nutrients if we consume them.  Just like our muscles, our brains can atrophy or waste away if we don’t use and challenge them.  “Just as aerobics sculpt the muscles, so mental training sculpts the gray matter in ways scientists are only beginning to fathom.” (WSJ)  The tips in the following article cover all areas of brain health (exercising – mental and physical, challenging our brains, eating a healthy diet, taking necessary supplements, what to do in moderation, taking safety precautions, reducing stress, increasing sensory stimulation, and being social.):  “Brain Power: 100 Ways to Keep Your Mind Healthy and Fit.”  

Not covered in the preceding article is the area of neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity.  “The term refers to the brain’s recently discovered ability to change its structure and function, in particular by expanding or strengthening circuits that are used and by shrinking or weakening those that are rarely engaged.” (WSJ)  Meditation, and even the way we choose to think can rewire our brain.  We can actually change the connections!  Dr. Wayne Dyer says:  “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.  I know this to be true.  Try it, you’ll like it!

When we are mindful and monitor our thoughts, and we find them going to the old, negative, ‘broken records’, we can try to change those thoughts and see if it makes a difference.  “You’re in charge of whatever thought goes into your mind.” (Dr. Wayne Dyer – Video 2:32)  If we do it often enough, our brains will actually rewire.  I find that so exciting, hopeful, and fascinating!  I know that when I have negative thoughts, they tend to breed, but when I turn them around, I see and feel the good that is always surrounding me instead of being dragged down by the negative.  

Understanding Cholesterol. As easy as 1-2-3.

Microsoft PowerPoint - Attia Lipoprotein Trafficking.pptx [Read-

Photo credit:  The Eating Academy

Our bodies (our livers, actually) produce cholesterol because we need it to function properly.  Some of cholesterol’s responsibilites:

  1. It aids in tissue and hormone formation
  2. It protects your nerves
  3. It helps with digestion (WebMD)

When tested, our cholesterol results are:.

  1. HDL (high density lipoprotein) – the good or “happy”
  2. LDL (low density lipoprotein) – the bad or “lousy, lazy, or lethal*” one
  3. Triglycerides (extra calories transported to our fat cells via our blood)  (AHA)

What numbers do we want to see?  Generally speaking:
HDL cholesterol at least 40 mg/dL, optimally higher than 60 mg/dL.
LDL cholesterol under 100 mg/dL. (WebMD)
Triglycerides under 150 mg/dL
A ratio between 3.5:1 and 5:1 (Calculated:  Total cholesterol (including triglycerides)/HDL (
Mayo Clinic)

*The “L” words are only to help us remember which is which.  The LDL takes the cholesterol throughout our body.  It is much needed.  If there is too much, though, it can be deposited on the walls of our arteries, and that’s when our health problems begin which is why it was termed “bad.”  HDL, on the other hand, removes the excess cholesterol from our bloodstream and protects our arteries from the excess. This is why the ratio is so important.  Our bodies produce cholesterol from any type of food – carbohydrates, fats, or proteins.  (Harvard)  

It’s not just genetics, though.  What we eat definitely affects our cholesterol numbers.  Many of us have been eating “low-fat” for a long time in an attempt to be healthier.  Unfortunately, carbohydrates (and especially added sugars) are impacting our cardiovascular health tremendously.  A study on sugar and cholesterol:

“In this study, there was a statistically significant correlation between dietary added sugars and blood lipid levels among US adults… our data support dietary guidelines that target a reduction in consumption of added sugar.”  (Jama)  

One of the theories is that because sugar is inflammatory (unfortunately I can attest to this fact), it can damage the artery walls, giving cholesterol in our blood a rough surface to stick to.  (Dr. Aieta and others.)

So, what do we do if our numbers are too high?  First and foremost, we need to consult our doctor.  But if we want to make positive changes for prevention, it is very simple.  The same habits that increase the HDL also decrease the LDL and triglycerides:

The first steps in treatment to lower triglyceride levels include eating a healthy diet, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, and aerobic exercise on a regular basis. A diet low not only in fats, but also sugars; simple carbohydrates (the white stuff….potatoes, pasta, bread); and alcohol helps lower triglyceride levels.  (Cleveland Clinic)

Again, it boils down to a healthy lifestyle of balance and moderation of the “bad” things.  Move more, eat less processed and sugar-added food products, drink less alcohol…  As we make some lifestyle changes (baby steps, one thing at a time), we begin to feel better, our quality of life increases, and we don’t have to worry about cholesterol, diabetes, or the myriad of lifestyle diseases that are robbing us of our health and our wealth.  One day at a time, one choice at a time.  What will you do differently today?