Tag Archives: Lifestyle Diseases

Overwhelmed?

4be3ee456ac09d15ac1209115ed342ee

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?

images

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!

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.

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?

I’m Seeing Red (meat, that is.)

Cow Face Tongue

Low fat.  No, low carb.  Butter.  No, margarine.  No, butter.  (We use pasture butter in our house.)  Who do we believe?  How do we keep up?  Nutrition is one of the least studied sciences (although I believe that is changing now.)  The facts, as we know them, change frequently as we learn more and more.  For those of us who try to keep up, it is often frustrating and difficult.  For those of us who don’t really pay attention, it is even more frustrating and more difficult!  And when we are unwell, we visit doctors, who have had very little nutrition instruction (and it is likely not up-to-date, either.)  No disrespect to doctors here.  Our system is set up for doctors to be ill-care, not well-care practitioners.  Hopefully this is changing too.

The further we move away from living life as nature intended, the more our “lifestyle diseases” such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and many others are reducing our quality of life.  Even our lives, themselves.  Not moving as much as our bodies need, eating more food-like products and less real food, and introducing innumerable toxins into our bodies and environment does not bode well for any of us.

We can find so much information that tells us “this is healthy,” and just as much information saying “this is not healthy,” whatever “this” happens to be,  So what about red meat?  It is a food, not a food product (I’m not attempting to visit processed meats now), so that must count for something, right?!  Red meat, as we currently know it and consume it, is definitely not good for us or for the environment.  There is no question about that.  But why?  First let me ask you a question:  Have you ever seen a cow, out in nature, grazing on a corn stalk?  (Me neither.)  Cows were designed to graze and roam.  That is how they stay healthy.  Eat right and move more?  What a concept…  <smile>

Conventional beef:

  • Omega 6 fat (too much causes cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases)
  • Hormones and Antibiotics (many possible health problems)
  • E. coli (bacteria that lives in the gut of cattle and other ruminants)
  • Feedlots (potential damage to humans, the environment, and the cows…)

So why eat it?  Red meat, if raised and consumed responsibly can be very healthy.  some of the benefits include:

  • Omega 3 fat (twice as much of this heart-healthy fat than conventional)
  • Vitamin B3, selenium, zinc, phosphorus, vitamin B12, choline…
  • Complete protein (much leaner when pasture-raised)
  • Less environmental impact than feedlots
  • MUCH less E. coli (fascinating information – see Eat Wild below)
  • More humane

We all have the same nutritional needs, yet each of us has slight differences in our chemical makeup requiring specific attention.  Can most of us be healthy without red meat?  Absolutely.  Can most of us be healthy with it?  I believe so.

Again, moderation is key.  An adequate portion size of red meat for most adults is 4 ounces. If eating a varied diet, red meat would be only one of many protein options.  The average red meat consumption per person in the U.S. in 2010 was 59.6 pounds per person.  This means that many of us ate more than that since many of us also ate less or none.  Eating a healthy portion as part of a varied diet would decrease the need for such tremendous production processes, minimizing any negative effects to our bodies and to our environment.  When consuming organic, and/or pasture-raised, and any negative effects are even more greatly reduced.  Enjoy responsibly.  

Resources:

http://www.aafp.org/news-now/resident-student-focus/20101020nutritioneduc.html
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12442909
http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/safer-food-healthier-you
http://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/general/index.html#where
http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/ar/archive/jul03/feed0703.pdf
http://www.npr.org/2010/04/08/125722082/the-truth-about-grass-fed-beef
http://www.eatwild.com/foodsafety.html
http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/273335/oce121e_1_.pdf