Health

This category contains 14 posts

Life is better with sprinkles! (Or: Let them eat cake!)

Life is about living. I’ve said this before. You only get this one life and if you don’t enjoy it, what’s the point? I’ve also pointed out that any “diet” that doesn’t let you live isn’t sustainable. Well, we put that theory to the test this past week. My son’s father turned 38 (yeah, he’s old… but still cute) and you know what birthdays mean… cake and food. In large quantities, generally speaking.

It started Thursday with a fairly healthy dinner of homemade hamburgers on fabulous whole wheat buns. But then came the cake… four layers of chocolate death, overloaded with miniature chocolate chips and filled with whipped cream. Top that with buttercream icing and you have a sugar coma just waiting to happen. We all had a slice (well, everyone but the little man, who still staunchly refuses to eat anything “normal”) and as we were all sitting there settling into our food comas I asked “so, who votes I take the remainder of this cake to work tomorrow?”

There was an immediate consensus, so there was no repeat of chocolate overload in our household the next day. Friday is our usual cheat dinner day so we had pizza. I love pizza Fridays. But then Saturday… Oh lord.

I took the birthday boy (err… man) out to dinner. We hit up a highly reviewed local Brazilian steakhouse. If you’ve never been to one, let me explain. It’s all about the meat. It is meat, meat, meat, and more meat. There’s a salad bar, sure, but as yummy as the offerings there, the main attraction are the numerous gauchos walking around with various cuts of meat on spits, offering you everything from lamb, to filet, to rib eye steak. There are sausages and chicken legs and bacon wrapped goodness everywhere you look. You pay a flat rate for each diner and in return you get a little disk.

When you flip the disk to the green side, you’re swarmed by gauchos, all sweet and polite and bearing meaty death anyway you like it. Flip it to red and they leave you to stuff your face in peace.

Needless to say I warned the birthday boy to wear loose-fitting pants. After overdosing on meat we went back to my sister’s house for beer and board games. My brother-in-law is a game reviewer, so he gets all kinds of cool games to play for free (in addition to press passes to events like Comic-Con, where he meets people like William Shatner, Robert Downey Jr., and Nathan Fillion… he’s such an asshole – because he never invites me!!! LOL).

Anyway, the games are always new and interesting and we have a blast playing them. On the way back to my sister’s house though, I said to the birthday boy “ugh… you better hope she’s not planning cake or anything.” This earned a very heartfelt groan from the passenger seat.

Our little man had a blast running around with his cousin, until he tried to slide under the railing to the stairs feet first. We all had a heart attack when my niece started yelling for us. Mind you, we were only five feet away, but the stairs are around a small corner in my sister’s usually very child safe house. Thankfully, our little snot is a little too big to fit all the way through and no harm was done (unless you count our nerves being completely fried).

A reprimand for the little boy and huge hugs for the little girl and all was well again.

… and it was time for cake. Oh, the poor birthday boy.

When the night of fun and games was over my brother-in-law was packing up the cake. I adamantly told him “we are not taking that home”. There was a small fuss, but in the end I was brooking no argument.

So, we lived this past week. It’s a good thing exercising is a part of living as well and that over-indulgence only happens on occasion.

Enjoy life. Overeat once in a while. Try new restaurants. But know when to say no. Don’t take the cake home with you because if it’s in your house, you’ll eat it all.

But whatever you do, don’t skip the experiences just because you’re on a “diet”. After all, life is always better with a few sprinkles and a little icing.

People! Chemicals Aren’t FOOD!!

“The problem is we are not eating food anymore, we are eating food like products.”

I don’t know anything about this guy, but when I saw it on a friend’s newsfeed, it struck a chord with me. In our quest to eat real food, we’ve encountered more difficulty than I expected. My sister, who is on a similar quest, is experiencing even more difficulty – due to geographic access to whole food. One would think that in the sprawling metropolis that I live in, where farms are scarce, I would have a harder time gaining access to real food than my sister; who lives in “the country” (or at least a more rural locale than I).

The difference is a simple matter of economics. The diversity and income scale of my urban setting sets the demand for a variety of foods (not just organic) whereas her more rural setting appears to be focused more on keeping cost low. From the Appalachia to Chicago, there is an enormous economic shift in priorities.

No matter where you are though, one thing is clear, access to food like product is far easier than access to quality (read: real) food. And, all other things equal, food like product is by far the less expensive (monetarily speaking) choice. Or at least it seems that way. You can purchase a double cheeseburger from McDonald’s for a dollar. But making burgers at home, from real beef with real cheese and real bread is going to cost you far more than that.

The reason why your burger is just 1 dollar.

Few people ever wonder about the cost of real food, I’ve learned. They don’t ask WHY often enough. Why a burger from McDonald is so cheap? Why is it possible for Kraft to sell Macaroni and Cheese on special two for a dollar? It’s not the economy of volume.

“Try Organic Food… or as your grandparents called it, “food”.

Sure, our grandparents could walk down to their corner market and purchase a bag full of groceries that included meat, cheese, vegetables, flour, milk, and eggs for five dollars. Obviously that isn’t the case anymore. Part of the reason is that real food is far more scarce in the US than the chemical laden food like product. When you pass a stretch of farmland, you think “Oh, how quaint. It’s a farm. It feeds people.” But, if you do a little research, you’ll find that the majority of farms in the US do NOT feed people. Those great long stretches of corn or soybeans you see don’t feed people. GMO corn and soy is used for animal feed, filler, and bio-fuel research and production; along

It used to just be called “food”

with about a thousand other non-food purposes. And growing crop after crop after crop of this highly engineered corn and soy has completely depleted the nutritional content of the land it’s grown on. It’s contributed to erosion, pesticide contamination of water supplies, and the death and/or disease of helpful insects and birds.

You pay more at the grocery store for real food. That’s the direct cost that you see. What you don’t see are the subsidies that are covered by our taxes. You don’t see the externalized costs in the chemical production (pollution, land restoration costs, etc.) There are a thousand costs every day that you pay for our access to “fast food”. Quick growing and pest free vegetables. Overweight, rapid growth animals. The chemicals and fillers that in take into your body every day through the food you eat presents a physical cost to you and your family.

We worry so greatly about our water. We purchase bottled (which is usually filtered tap, by the way) water, we purchase purifiers, we get reusable bottles with filters built it. We think we’re being smart by filtering water that already goes through a rigorous testing regimen (at least for those on City of Chicago water) and is cleaner than many versions of bottled water. But the plastic contains chemicals that can leach into the water, the plastics are refined in an air polluting manner, and even the disposal of the filters themselves presents a problem. I’m not knocking the desire for clean water, though it may sound like it. My point is, that you have to be an educated consumer. You have to ask WHY.

You have to ask WHY about everything.

My number one WHY at the moment is this. “Why would anyone choose to eat a food like product over REAL food?” Hell, I’m guilty of it. I was raised on the more is better philosophy. Three helpings of mac and cheese? Bring it! A whole can of Spagetti-O’s? I’m just getting started. A whole container of cookies filled with ingredients I can’t identify or pronounce? Just let me loosen my belt a little.

But I was never full and, even if I was, I was hungry again in 20 minutes.

Chemicals aren’t food. Only the sheer volume of what we consume when we eat those foods convinces us that we’re full. But that passes quickly and our bodies are left unsatisfied. Our bodies know when they need protein. They know when they need Iron or B Vitamins. They know when we need fiber. But we have learned to ignore those needs. Part of our Real Food love affair is learning to listen to our bodies. To pay attention to our natural body rhythms and learn what satisfies them.

People look at me funny when I start describing Real Food. I’m a tree hugger. A hippie. A gullible fool who has been taken in by the new “fad” movement. I ask that person if they thought their grandparents, who generally only had access to REAL food were hippies. It still takes more explanation than I would like to get the light-bulb to go off over their heads and, unfortunately, I know most people won’t give it any more thought than that one conversation. But even one conversation is better than none.  

So, if you ask me WHY real food?

I’m going to ask you WHY would you choose to eat Chemicals? Why are we so concerned with being more “Green” when it comes to polluting the earth but we don’t care how we pollute our bodies? And why can’t reasonable, educated people make the connection to the fact that the more we pollute our bodies, the more we pollute our earth in the process. The circle of life and food is still connected, whether you’re eating food like product or real food. It takes chemicals to make chemicals. It takes clean soil and water to grow real vegetables.

Real food isn’t a fad. It’s a tradition. It’s healthy. It’s sustainable.

 I’m hoping food-like products, which are only part of the last 100 years of human history, are the fad. Who, really, is the gullible person here?

Just my thought of the day with a side of food for thought.

20 Days Into Our Love Affair with Real Food.

  
Apple fruit
Apple fruit (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

We’re 20 days into our eating re-vamp and I have to say I’m extremely surprised at how well it’s going. After purging the kitchen of processed boxed foods and stocking it with wholesome real food we’ve found ourselves reaching for fresh fruit, veggies or nuts for snacks. Irish oatmeal or hardboiled eggs have replaced cereal on the breakfast menu and leftovers from dinner are my staple for lunch.

I’ve lost the 5 pounds I put on the last couple months and Vance is down something like 15 pounds (of course, he’s also training for a triathlon, so…. ) The only problem I have with real food is that it takes real work. Washing, rinsing and prepping foods and vegetables takes time. To be honest though, it doesn’t seem to take any more time than cooking boxed foods and luckily, I’ve always enjoyed the details in cooking a meal.

I’ve learned a few new things:

What you can and cannot successfully vacuum seal.

Organic fruit is generally more ripe than the non-organic, so don’t buy more than a few days’ worth at a time.

If you don’t have junk in the house, you don’t snack on it.

Black beans go great in just about everything.

It’s very easy to cut up a whole chicken (and save money at the same time).

Three four inch pancakes are more than just filling when they’re whole grain, they’re practically gut busting.

And…

Real Food goes further than you think!!

We’ve been working on matching our real food to proper portion sizes with great success. Yes, 3 – 4 ounces of protein per meal really is enough when it’s served with correct serving of starch and veg. Last night we had steaks with fresh steamed green beans (I purchased three one pound (+/-) bags of fresh green beans for less than $1 each on special and discovered that 1lb is perfect for two servings plus lunch leftovers!!) and an experimental dish of cheesy potatoes.

So here’s my breakdown on the potatoes (which turned out awesome, by the way.)

First of all, if you have a slicer, you’d be surprised at how quickly this side dish goes together.

Second of all, for what came out to be four servings, it only took TWO average sized baking potatoes. Yes, TWO sliced potatoes overfilled a 12inch sauté pan.

I boiled some 2% milk with a tablespoon of butter and added the thinly sliced (thank goodness for the mandolin slicer – they were potato chip thin) potatoes. They simmered for 15 minutes.

Lowered the heat and added 1 cup (+/-) “Quattro fromaggio” cheese blend from Trader Joe’s and stirred carefully for another 5 minutes on low heat, until the cheese mixed with the potato starch and a sauce formed.

That’s it. Quicker than boxed Au Gratin and far more tasty and, for less!! I paid approximately 50 cents for the potatoes and 2.99 for the bag of cheese (we used a little less than half the bag). Milk was like ¼ cup. So, the whole side dish was a few pennies more than $2. What do you pay for all the Chemicals in Betty Crocker’s Au Gratin?

Now, if you’ll remember, this “new” way of eating isn’t about denial or restrictions. It’s about making smarter choices when it comes to food and trying to limit exposure to today’s highly processed and chemical laden foods. We haven’t cut out any real food group. We still consume starch, fats, oils, protein, milk, etc. We’ve cut down on sugar intake and we’ve done our best to eliminate chemically processed foods wherever possible. I’m still at a loss for how to explain this to people when they ask. There is no true name for it. We’re not following the rules of “clean eating” in the strictest sense because I don’t think there’s anything wrong with white potatoes, egg yolks, or whole milk products, per se. It’s certainly not Paleo or South Beach or Atkins or whatever other fad diet is out there right now.

We’ve traded white flour for whole grain flour. Boxed for homemade. Sugar substitutes for natural sugar. Canned or prepared for fresh veggies and fruits. Takeout for quick family meals. Overeating for conscious eating.

We’re just trying to eat real food and we’re incorporating more variety. We try to be “clean” in that our food is as close to nature as we can get it, reasonably speaking.

But… we’re also allowed to splurge a little here and there. Recently we installed a bicycle seat for our son on my bike. He sits in front, not in back because, as far as I see it, if even Charlie Brown makes fun of “Back of the Bike day!” then I have plenty of reason not to want my kid to have to stare at my backside on bike rides. J

If we want ice cream or, more accurately for us, Italian ice, we can walk or bike ride over to our favorite storefront to buy it… and we’ve done just that. The point is that if it’s not in the house, it’s a treat that you’re less likely to overindulge in and you get a bit of exercise in the process of getting it. We also get constructive family time out of it and, hopefully, we’re teaching our son to be more active in the process.

However you look at it, we’re beginning to reap the benefits of eating better and we’re certainly feeling better about what we’re eating.  

photo : Utilisateur:Wilrondeau

photo : Utilisateur:Wilrondeau (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve learned one more important thing this month that I absolutely wanted to share to those people who are struggling with diet, exercise and weight loss.

 

When you eat real food, you don’t need to count calories. This is the most surprising for me but it also seems so simple that I can’t believe it took me so much time to realize it. We eat lots of vegetables, yes. But we also eat A LOT of fruit. I’m purchasing 20+ pounds of fruit every week now. Apples, Oranges, Plums, Peaches, Strawberries, Blackberries, Blueberries, Apricots, Watermelon, Bananas… the list goes on forever. We also consume nuts (legumes) in large quantities throughout the week. A couple of pounds a week is a large quantity to us. Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts and peanuts go quickly in our house. We consume a variety of cheeses with our nuts or fruits and veg for quick snacks. And we keep a dozen hardboiled eggs in the fridge for when we need a fast protein boost pre or post workout.

Now, I’ve heard of “diets” that restrict fruit or cut it out completely because of the natural sugar content. I’ve also heard of “diets” that limit nuts because of the calorie and fat content. I say Bah-Humbug to those “diets”. Fruit and nuts are filling and difficult to over-eat. (with the exception of cashews, I could eat a half a pound in one sitting! They’re my favorite!!)

So here’s some basic logic for you. When we think of snacks most people reach for: candy, potato chips, cookies, crackers, etc. These have been labeled “snack food” for whatever ungodly reason. They even come in 100 calorie snack packs to convince you that they’re okay to eat for a snack. These snack packs are generally 1-2 oz. So, you can eat 1.5 oz. of potato chips for roughly 100 calories. Open your hand, because that serving will barely fill your palm. Think that 1.5 ounces of fat calories and extremely high salt content is going to satisfy you until your next meal? Yeah, me either.

Now, let’s contrast that. For 20 calories less (on average) you can have a medium sized apple which can weigh between ¼ and ½ a pound depending on variety and season. Full of fiber, naturally sweet, and pretty filling all by itself… It’s certainly more filling than the potato chips and it doesn’t leave you thirsty afterwards. So imagine if you replaced 90% of the “snack foods” in your diet with real foods.

In fact, if you tend to over-eat at meal time, I would highly recommend having a piece of fruit before each main meal. First of all, fruit contains enzymes that help you digest your meal and secondly, the fiber helps fill you up while keeping everything moving in your system.

Scale

I stopped counting calories on July 1st and I’ve had better results on weight loss (which I’m not really trying for) than I did when I was working out four times a week (I SO need to get back to the gym, I’ve been so lazy since Warrior Dash) and tracking my calories to stay under 1200/day. I’m less stressed and, in general, feel better all around. I’ve practically traded my home scale for the fruit scale at the super market and I couldn’t be happier.

Now, to tour all of my local farmer’s markets looking for new finds and to check out some new “markets” to see their offerings. Who would have thought that simply changing how I think about food would become an exploration of my world as well?

Life as a Series of Crossroads

Life Lessons:

Life is a series of crossroads but no matter the direction you take, you end up exactly where you’re supposed to be.

Crossroads

Crossroads (Photo credit: MarkSmallwood)

Your life is a series of days strung together by choices that have been impacted and determined by previous choices. Every day there are new choices to make. Some are too small to give thought (So I want a tall or a trenta iced coffee) and some are so monumental that they appear almost impossible to wrap your mind around. As someone who used to obsess over every choice I encountered I find it interesting that I can now make decisions without thought. Every once in a while though… there’s that one choice that smacks me upside the back of the head and knocks me silly.

I’m a person of faith, not in the religious sense. I have faith in my life, faith in the people I love, and faith that, in general, everything is going to be A-OK. Everything works out the way it is supposed to in the end. That doesn’t stop me from wondering how in the hell things could possibly work out when I’ve got an impossible decision to make or I’m not sure which direction I should go with something. Faith doesn’t mean impervious.

I’ve embarked on numerous personal journeys the last four years of my life, some were voluntary, others were not, and all of them have led me to where I am right now. I’m facing another multitude of decisions that need to be made. Each of them requires thought and some of them have deadlines as soon as the next few weeks of my life. I’m feeling a little unsure and fragile at the moment, but it’s tempered by my cheerful outlook on life and the fact that I stand behind my decisions, no matter the outcome in the end.

You can’t cheat yourself out of the experience. You should never try to subvert your heart and you should always follow your instincts. I’m taking one step at a time on my own personal path of these crossroads with the knowledge that no matter how it turns I was brave enough to take chances, create my own destiny, and enjoy the ride.

The point of this lesson is that, as a person, I recognize my own insecurities enough to differentiate them from my instincts, and I try – every day – not to let them rule my life. I encourage you to ask yourself why you choose to react to life the way that you do. Is it instinct or insecurity?

Enjoy your crossroads, no matter the direction you choose to go and have faith that you’ll navigate your way to where you are meant to be.

 

Oops… There goes my food budget.

Our Clean Eating adventure began with a trip to one of my all-time favorite Grocery Stores: Trader Joe’s.

It’s like Whole Foods meets Aldi and I’ve been in love with TJ’s for years, if for nothing else than the cheese section. It took over an hour and a half, which, if you’ve ever been in a Trader Joe’s, you know is a long time, because the store itself is fairly small when compared to other local grocery stores. I went over my budget, by like, a lot and there was a mind-boggling amount of label reading involved, but all in all I’ll happy with the way my fridge and cabinets are stocked right now. Whole wheat pastas, ethically raised chicken and beef, organic fruit, and a couple of really phenomenal cheeses. I’ve got almonds, cashews, pistachios, and hazelnuts to snack on. There are lettuces galore – all beautifully vacuum sealed in my fridge – and fruit a plenty.

Last night’s dinner consisted of hamburgers, made with 94% lean beef and seasoned lightly. They were served on lettuce wraps, not because we can’t eat buns, but because I forgot to pick some up and didn’t feel like running out to the store to read the ingredient listings again. Add in some organic sweet corn on the cob and a baked potato and it was a meal fit for a king. Not the most experimental menu item, but still rather satisfying.

One of our large challenges is going to be portion sizes. We’re allowed an almost unlimited amount of fruit and veg, but we’re as used to overeating on meat as the rest of the US.  The burger patties were pre-portioned, so we were allowed one each. Satisfying but not overly filling, we followed our meal up with a fruit salad for dessert. Fresh Pineapple, nectarines, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries with no added sugar; it truly didn’t need any. Once all of the flavors mingled and we started eating my son’s father looked over at me and said, “This is probably the best thing I’ve ever tasted in my whole life”. That made me smile.

In addition to my excursion to Trader Joe’s, I’ve been picking up a few clean eating foods here and there the past month. I’m extremely pleased with one brand I’ve come across in particular. Bobs Red Mill has a line of products to suit our new dietary needs without sacrificing flavor in the littlest bit. As I was browsing the aisles in one of my local markets two weeks ago, I came across their line of products. All lined up on the shelves and minimally packaged in their clear plastic bags, and I was instantly smitten. I picked up the seven grain blend pancake mix. We had these for dinner last Thursday. I altered the recipe just a smidge and made them with unsweetened vanilla almond milk (about ¼ cup more than the recipe called for) to lighten up the heavy batter just a little bit.

They were amazing with just a couple of tablespoons of 100% all natural organic preserves. They were also unbelievably filling and I was only able to eat three 4” pancakes.

 

My adventure actually started Saturday when I started overhauling my kitchen supplies. Sure I was going to have to throw away a bin full of food I approached my kitchen with apprehension.

I took an inventory of my freezer and found:

Three bags of broccoli

One bag of Green Beans

Two pounds of baby scallops

2.7 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 pound of ground chicken

8 Salmon Filets

1 Salmon Steak

Two Ahi Tuna Steaks

A pound of lean beef steak

And a couple of bags of frozen fruit.

I cleaned out all of the non-clean-eating friendly foods and donated them to my parents and other family members. I’m happy to say that there is nothing left in my kitchen that doesn’t meet our clean eating standards and I didn’t have to throw away much at all.

I gave up all the powdered drink mixes, baking mixes, cereals, processed boxed entrees and “instant” sides. Still, when I go to grab a snack or pack my meals for work, I don’t feel deprived. Almost any recipe I love can be adapted for clean eating and I have a fridge and pantry completely overflowing with nutritious clean eating options for meals and snacks.

My finances recently took a hit (with all the days and holidays off deducting hours from my paycheck) and I’m going to be watching every penny for the next few weeks but looking at what I have available for meals, I don’t feel broke in the least.

In fact, the burgers we had last night were topped with a cheddar cheese that was so decadent that I almost feel rich. If you have the ability to get to a Trader Joe’s, I highly recommend the Londoner Cheddar. It’s white cheddar, medium sharp, and it just melts in your mouth. Slightly tangy, it’s got a very mellow after bite and it went phenomenally well on our lettuce wrapped burgers. With cheese like that you don’t need mayo or ketchup. Just add a slice of heirloom vine ripened tomato and you’ve got a meal bursting with complex flavors to tease your palate.

I even found a clean eating indulgence. I LOVE peppermint patties and was actually upset that I’d have to give up my York brand (along with snickers and balance bars) but I came across a version that TJ’s carries made only with Dark Chocolate, Honey, and Peppermint oil. I daresay they’re actually superior to the York version and I couldn’t be happier.

My son’s father got a good laugh out of my Vacuum Sealer binge, in which I vacuum sealed just about everything perishable to extend refrigerator shelf life but, since he’s benefitting through the fresh and tasty meals I’m making, he was smart enough not to make any wise-acre comments. Now, if I could just get my finicky almost three-year old on the “let’s eat something other than bread and cereal” train, I’d truly be over the moon. One day at a time, I guess.

 

It’s not a “Diet”, it’s a Diet.

I’ve had people ask me why I’m going on a “diet” when I’m not overweight and have a healthy BMI. You’re fit and healthy, why change what’s obviously already working for you? Questions like this annoy me to no end, I’m going to be honest about that.

Really? Are we so focused on weight that a change in eating habits has to be a “diet”? There are many definitions for the word Diet. One of them is “the foods eaten, as by a particular person or group” . In other words, the whole of everything I eat on a regular basis is my diet. It does not mean I am “on a diet” in the culturally over-utilized manner of phrase.

So here’s my answer to that question. True health is not just about weight. In fact, weight is one of the smaller factors to health in my opinion.

Oh my god. I just totally pissed off quite a large number of people, I’m sure. Whatever. Be sure to send your hate-mail to LDD@idontgiveashit.com.

There is so much more going on in our bodies to damage our health than just being overweight. It’s simple, change your diet, change your lifestyle, and your weight will likely change too. Even if it doesn’t, you’ll still be way healthier than you were when you started.

Here’s a quick review of the changes I’m making to my diet.

No more refined flour, sugar, or grains. This means that if the word “enriched” or “processed” appears on the ingredient label, it stays on the grocery shelf. Real grains don’t need to be enriched because they haven’t had their nutritional value stripped from them in a chemical process. White and brown sugar is out as well. Were you aware that brown sugar is just white sugar with molasses added in? It’s not closer to natural than refined white sugar. Sugar substitutes are off the edible list. On the list is, honey, molasses, 100% pure maple syrup (not that Aunt Jemima HFCS crap) and maple syrup sugar. There are a few others but all sugars are to be consumed in moderation.

No more highly processed foods. This removes most prepared, boxed, canned, and frozen foods from my diet. Flash frozen fruits and veggies are okay, frozen pasta or rice dishes or entrees are not. If an item has more than 6 ingredients or more than 1 ingredient I can’t pronounce or identify as actual food or if the words Refined, polished, enriched, BHT, BHA, HFCS, MSG, Partially Hydrogenated, Aspartame, etc…  Yes, there are a lot of words to avoid. The simple way to handle this is, if a third grader can’t pronounce it, or you can’t trace it back to its natural food origins in less than 5 seconds, put it back on the shelf.

Humanely raised and slaughtered, hormone free, free range Meats, Dairy, and Eggs. This should be a no brainer. If you are a meat eater, you should be sickened by the way we treat the animals we consume. If that doesn’t bother you because “well, how is eating them humane?” first of all, get off my page because I already don’t like you. Second, think about the chemicals. Between hormones to make them grow faster, constant antibiotics to keep them from getting sick in the horrible conditions they’re forced to live in, chemicals used to treat and preserve the meat after slaughter, etc…. that’s a lot of chemicals that are held in the meat and released during cooking and into your body when you consume them. Likewise, fish should be wild caught, but keep in mind that whether wild or farmed, all fish is high in chemicals and contaminated with mercury. It’s simply a matter of science and proof of how badly we’ve harmed our environment.

More fruits and veggies, organic when necessary. I’m not rich… not even close. But I do have a good number of grocery stores and fruit markets in my area that sell a large variety of fruits and vegetables fairly cheap. I cannot afford to buy organic everything, especially with the restraints on meats and dairy. Amish chicken and free range beef, plus cage free brown eggs and hormone free milk means I have to restrict my organic fruits and vegetables to the “dirty dozen” the majority of the time. Those fruits and vegetables that contain the highest amount of pesticides are:

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Grapes
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes

I’m a fan of everything on that list, so I’m going to have to make some substitutes and sacrifices when money is tight. To help preserve the food I do buy (because I don’t have anywhere to compost yet and I HATE wasting food) I purchased a food saver vacuum seal machine. So far, I’m pleased with it. I might even write a review of it after I’ve used it a bit longer.

Now, why is organic, unprocessed, whole foods such a focus for me? Simple… When I was a child my father explained to me that I should never use more than one household cleaner at a time. Bleach and Ammonia emit chemical fumes and, even if you don’t mix them directly together, these fumes can linger and combine and…. Explode. My little brain was fascinated. That started my fascination with what I like to call the “joker effect”. If you remember your Batman movie mythology correctly, the line of beauty products that the Joker produced was only dangerous when two or more products were mixed together. You could use the perfume or the hairspray with no ill effects, but if you used both. Hoo Boy, bad things happened.

We have hundreds of thousands of chemicals that are used for everything from food preservation, to flavor enhancement, to pest control, etc… each of these is subject to FDA approval and regulation. They’ve all been “tested” (to whatever degree you trust the overworked and underpaid government authority that approved Thalidomide and Aspartame) individually, but it would be impossible to test these products against each other in all the possible combinations in which they are consumed. (For more information: How the EPA regulates pesticides)

Pesticides alone are currently under intense public scrutiny and have been labeled by many in the realm of science as “obesogens”. A family of chemicals that alter the human metabolic process in such a way that diet and exercise can potentially be futile.  (Read an article at the NIH: Obesogens: An Environmental Link to Obesity for more information.) Chemicals, such as pesticides, have also been linked to a higher rate of heart disease and cancer. But in our society I’m pretty sure that the statement “They’ll make you fat” would be more successful in deterring people than “It might give you cancer”.

Those are the meat and bones of my new “diet”. When evaluating how I wanted to change my eating habits, because I’ve always wanted to eat more healthily, I had to ask myself two things.

  1. Can you see yourself eating like this 10 years from now?
  2. Can you maintain this “diet” 90% of the time.

If you can’t answer both of those in the affirmative and mean it, then it’s not the right diet change for you. A change in diet, one that will make you healthier, has to be sustainable. It has to be something you can carry with you for the rest of your life to be truly successful. It also has to provide wiggle room. We all have parties, graduations, weddings, summer events to attend. We can’t always be expected to skip the slice of cake, or the occasional Italian beef sandwich. We just have to “cheat” in moderation and within limits. An ice cream cone is okay a gallon of Ben and Jerry’s is not. A simple rule of thumb, don’t keep cheat foods in the house. If you have to go out to have them, they’ll be more difficult to binge on. Walk to your local ice cream shop for that ice cream cone. You’ll get some exercise and still have your “cheat” treat.

I’ve said it before and it bears repeating… how is it that on the whole, we’re  so much more informed about what is and isn’t good for the human body, but we’re unhealthier than ever in human history? Get back to the basics, eat like your grandparents (or great grand-parents) ate, and you just might find that you feel a thousand times better.

On my journey to clean eating I’m going to try to review products that I find, devices that I use and recipes that I make. I hope you’ll all join me in adding healthier choices to your diet and stop using the word “diet” as something you only do to lose weight.

My thoughts for the day-

-LDd

A Warrior Woman Rises!

Warrior Dash was amazing. I’m totally hooked. Not a fan of the running part, mostly because I slacked off the last couple weeks with my running program, but I loved the obstacles. I feel like I zipped through all of them. Next year, however, I want an earlier run on the first day. By my wave on Day 2 the course was destroyed and there were numerous times where I had to proceed with extreme caution, including an entire half mile where I feel like it took me 20 minutes for what should have taken 5. But, I finished in 1 hour, 6 minutes and I completed every obstacle.

Fire Jump

I moved like I had blinders on, my only concern with forward momentum. One of the last obstacles, a steep hill rope climb with wooden slats to help you up, had a line at the bottom. For good reason too, it was at the end of the half mile mud disaster and the wooden boards and rope were completely slicked over with slimy mess.

 At the far edge I noticed there was no wait… there was also no rope. After a quick survey of the climb itself I decided I could barrel through with no rope. Carefully placing my feet on the bottom slat I reached up and forward to grab the next slat so I could get a foot hold on it. I spider crawled my way up to the next level of muddy mess until I was through. As I waited for my teammates at the top, I treaded carefully to a quasi-dry patch to catch my breath and exhaled in victory. I was three obstacles and about .2 miles from the finish. That last half mile of slipping and sliding through the mud took a lot out of me, but I felt accomplished. The rope wall climb, the horizontal cargo net, the rock climbing wall, the barbed wire army crawls… it was all so much more fun than I expected.

 I can’t wait until next year. I’m going to get my running up to par and then next year I want to finish time under 45 minutes. I also want to fund raise as a Warrior for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It’s a great cause and I feel that these challenges need a higher purpose for me to find them truly satisfying. This year I donated my shoes (which were in okay condition prior to the race) to Green Sneakers for cleaning and reuse. That coupled with the fact that this was my first race (of ANY KIND, let alone off-road obstacles) made finishing a very satisfying accomplishment.

Mission Accomplished

Mission Accomplished!

My shopping for my “clean kitchen” continued yesterday with an enormous grocery trip that consisted of 4 dozen cage free, vegetarian fed brown eggs (on sale for 2.49), about 25 lbs of fruit and veggies, 10 lbs of chicken, and 4 pounds of steak. Now I need to spend a day cooking, portioning, and freezing meals for the next two weeks. Which will put me into my deadline of July 1st. If I can keep it to 150 every two weeks, I’ll be ecstatic. But I’m pretty sure I’m going to over-run my budget on occasion. On the plus side, the 4th of July is coming up… this is my favorite time to stock up on post-holiday sale meats. Two years ago I purchased 77lbs of various meat cuts for 82 dollars. Portion Packaged and frozen, that purchase lasted me 9 months. I’m hoping to repeat that this year… though I might need a deep freezer by the time I’m done.

After resting following Warrior Dash (glad I took a day off of work) I’m looking at my finances and my schedule so I can plan my training program. I’ll let you know how that pans out.

 Hope everyone is enjoying this early summer weather as much as I am!!

Always challenge what you think you’re capable of. You’ll probably surprise yourself with the results!

The SHIT they put in our food and other highlights.

By now it should be quite clear that I am not a writer. A poet, I used to be. A mother, I am most definitely. A woman striving to live the “good” life, absolutely. I share what I feel is worth sharing and sometimes I blog to clear my head.

Today is a little of both. I haven’t blogged in a while and my brain is swimming with thoughts I need to express; some of which may actually be worth sharing.

Progress, on almost all fronts, has stalled to a certain degree. Following a money crunch, I couldn’t re-up my fitness classes this session. And, without appointments to keep me on track, I got lazy. Well, as lazy as one can get when you still have a two-year old to keep up with and a life to live. I’m not gaining or losing weight and my clothes still fit great, so I’m not going to sweat it too much. I know I’ll get back into my classes because I enjoyed them so much and I actually miss them.

We took a family trip to the Dells, where I formed a whole new obsession for Bikinis. I now have four of them. My reasoning is that I’m looking for the “Perfect” bikini. But, since I’m limited to JC Penney (where I can charge them) I doubt the “perfect” bikini is going to be found this season.

My little man, who is so close to being 3 that I don’t want to call him 2 anymore, started swimming on his own during that trip. Safely bundled up in his life vest he now kicks and paddles back and forth from mommy to daddy and back again. He jumps off the short ledges, disappears under the water, and pops back up with an enormous grin on his face. It brought tears to my eyes. Bittersweet, proud, and sad tears that only a parent could fully understand. My beautiful little man is growing up and these “little” days will be coming to an end way too soon.

Warrior Dash is this Sunday and I’m fairly certain I’m going to die. But not before completing it. I’m more worried about the heat (projected high of 92) than the running; and the obstacles just look like fun to me. If I can finish under an hour I’ll be happy. But, yeah, I might die afterward. If I do – at least I’ll die with a smile.

I’m preparing for July 1st, when my new, back to basics eating habits are fully enacted. I’ve been cleaning out my cabinets and fridge, trying to put new practices into place in increments and cleaning out all the “junk”. I’ve always been an enthusiast for whole foods. But I’ve been accepting of the “junk” in our lives as a necessary evil or perhaps, just a familiar friend. But as I more actively read labels, more and more products go back on the shelves permanently. Mac and Cheese? HOLY CRAP. Bye. I can make that from scratch in the same amount of time the boxed stuff takes.

I realized that the whole grain, high fiber, super yummy, no HFCS, etc bread that I buy from Trader Joes goes bad in a matter of days if I don’t keep it in the fridge. At first this upset me. Then I realized – wait for it – REAL FOOD SHOULD GO BAD IF NOT REFRIGERATED!!! I know, right. It was like a super startling epiphany. It is NOT natural for bread to sit on your counter for two weeks and not sprout mold. It’s not natural for it to stay soft for two weeks without refrigeration.  There’s a lot of things about our food that we’re used to that isn’t natural. In fact, it’s biologically, ecologically, and chemically just wrong!

And at the same time, there are other things that work in the reverse. Fresh eggs, just laid, can last for weeks (over a month) on your counter or in the coop. But, once washed and processed, they must be refrigerated and they keep for two weeks – Max. I watched an episode of “how it’s made” that included Eggs and it infuriated me. Now, keep in mind that I already buy cage free, organic, humane brown eggs but was willing to substitute regular eggs when money is tight because there’s a big difference between 88 cents and 2.49+.  Not anymore.

Hens (which normally have a life span of 8-16 years depending on the breed and living conditions) are kept in an environment where they are exposed to artificial UV light 24 hours a day, to simulate daylight, and fed a steady diet of hormones, both of which increases egg production. They lay 1-2 eggs a day (normally the best breeds lay a max of 1 egg a day or an average of 1 every 36 hours) and reach the end of their “useful” lives after only 72 weeks. Do the math, that’s a little over a year. And then, of course, they’re sent to slaughter where their unnaturally large chicken breasts (sometimes over a pound each) are sold to consumers for 3-4 dollars a pound.

I’m sickened. Truly, some days I think I should become a vegetarian, because the way we treat the animals we consume makes me sick to my stomach. But I’m far too honest with myself to try becoming a vegetarian. What I can do is purchase meat from animals that have been humanely raised, organically fed, and ethically kept and slaughtered. I already did this when I could afford it. Now, if I can’t afford it, then I either eat less meat or none at all. I can’t keep contributing to the artificially low-cost of meat that is achieved through such heinous methods. It’s a personal decision, and one I came to surprisingly easily.

This will mean some tweaking of my budget come July, because in addition to getting rid of all products that are highly processed and cooking from scratch, I now have the added expense of higher quality meat and eggs. I’m hoping this will balance out with the lower cost of fresh veggies, grains, rice – etc. We’ll see.

I don’t understand how we became so accepting of all of this, pardon my French, shit that we allow in our food. In a relatively short period of time in human history we moved from a 100 percent natural diet where even canned goods were generally homemade to a diet that is 85% chemically or genetically modified. And we wonder why we’re fat. Evolution hasn’t provided us the genetic tools to digest this garbage we’re stuffing into our bodies any more than it’s provided us a way to clean the pollution from the air before it goes into our lungs and our bloodstream. How is it that at the same time we learn more about the human body and how to keep it healthy, the more processed and polluted our food becomes. Technology is allowing us to learn so much more – but it’s also allowing for the development of all this shit that’s going into our food. We were healthier in our food habits back when the human race, in general, didn’t know anything about how, why, or what was healthy.

You wanted to eat, you had to cook. I bet it was a lot easier to eat less (for example) potato chips, when you had to obtain, peel, soak, and fry your own. Hence the logic behind my new lifestyle… When you think about food and snacks, you’re more likely to reach for fruit, vegetables and nuts if the alternative is time-consuming prep work and cooking. That should be reserved for major meals. And if all you have in the house is healthy snacks, you won’t be eating a full bag of potato chips or M&Ms, because they just aren’t there to be eaten.

This isn’t a diet. It’s a return to the way we were meant to look at food. It’s a return to the way we were meant to eat food. And it’s going to be difficult as hell for someone who was raised on a “modern” style of eating. I’m not going Paleo, or Atkins, or Southbeach or whatever trendy title is being thrown around. I’m just trying to get back to the natural way of eating for humans. Fruit, grain, nuts, meat; Less additives and processing and more real food.

I’ve also been looking more into the future of my education. I want to go into Nutrition. Period. I don’t know how I’m going to manage the internship that’s required to get my R.D. but, that’s two years away – minimum. So I’m not going to borrow trouble. I’m just going to pursue my dreams and do what I can, when I can, to make things happen. If it means I have to get my Masters (which usually includes the internship) and take out a huge student loan to live on when I do it, then so be it.

I’ve always been fascinated by the different nutrients, vitamins, bacteria, and acids that occur in food. I find it amazing the way they work inside our bodies and I honestly feel that I’ve finally found my calling. So I’m going to reach out with both arms and step into the unknown. I’m going to hope that, through sheer stubbornness, everything works out.

I’m also looking at buying a house – but I think I’ll leave that story for another post.

Women: Our Sisters; Our Enemies. It’ Time for Change.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “The only thing holding women back is other women”. It is absolutely ridiculous the way women feel they have to compete with each other by tearing each other down. Snarky comments, unwarranted insults, callous judgment; we’re terrible to each other. What we don’t see is that it’s not only hurtful toward the person you aim it at, it’s self-detrimental as well.

I get that we’re conditioned from birth to be the prettiest, to compete for the attention and affection of other, to be jealous of any girl/woman who has something we covet. But at some point in time, we all grow up. One would think that in growing up we’d be able to teach our daughters, nieces, siblings, etc… to be better women.

The other day I saw a heavier woman jogging on the side of the road. A few years ago I would have thought to myself  –  “Keep going girl, lord knows you need it.” Now I think “Good for you, keep it up!”

It took years of mental conditioning to go from criticizer to cheerleader. We pick on each other on the basis of looks, weight, personality, intelligence, fitness, clothing, boyfriends/girlfriends, occupation, gpa, parents, siblings, children, child rearing practices… the list can literally go on and on. Every single nuance of your life is open for criticism so that another woman can benchmark and unconsciously rank herself against you.

She’s prettier than I am: -1pt

Her house is larger -5 pts:

She drives a nicer car: -3pts

 She’s got much larger boobs: – 1pt

but

Her husband is fatter than mine: +3 pts

Her son got a D in English, mine got an A: +6 pts

Her nose is crooked: +4 pts

Her lawn looks like crap: +3 pts

Her ass is sagging: +6pts

If we could count cards in Vegas the way we tally our social ranking as women, we truly would rule the world.

The problem is, we don’t keep it completely internalized either. The above tallying would converse something like this:

“You look great today, Sally , are you trying new makeup? I don’t know how you keep up with your mortgage payment, don’t you every worry that John will lose his job and you’ll get foreclosed on? The leather seating in your car is so extravagant, it’s too bad it’s not available on my car, but you know my car is eco-friendly, so no animals were hurt in the process of building it. Do you think that much cleavage is appropriate for our outing today? I mean, we’re heading over to a “play-date” so my son can help Johnny Jr. with his English homework. Speaking of Johnny Jr., it looks like all this studying has him behind on his chores, I couldn’t help but notice your lawn is overgrown…. Oh, Johnny Jr. doesn’t handle that? Please tell me John won’t be out there mowing shirtless again. Maybe all of us could hit the Gym together later, I mean, I go every day so my ass doesn’t start sagging.”

And this would be the conversation between “friends”. Can you imagine the out-and-out hostility between people who don’t know each other?

Even with as enlightened as I try to be, I rank myself without thought sometimes. It’s hard work to deprogram a habit you’ve had ever since your school friends pointed out that you were still carrying a Teddy Ruxpin lunchbox when they had already moved on to Barbie or Rainbow Brite. These habits start in grade school. Even my optimistic self can’t conquer them overnight.

When I catch myself rating what I have, how I look, or anything else about me, I have to pull myself back. I have a great family and supportive friends, I’m active and fit and healthy and I’m providing my son with the best foundation I possibly can. I have to work harder at not judging myself than I do at not judging others.

How much do you judge others? How much do you judge yourself? Is there a male perspective out there you can share with me?

Women, answer me this, why can’t we be one large sisterhood? Our mothers and grandmothers fought for equality with men in the workplace, in the political world. They fought for the freedom of choice. We can choose to work. We can choose to vote. We can choose to raise our children as we see fit.

Why, when they struggled for this equality, do we now see fit to terrorize other women based on their choices or even worse, on their looks?

The next time you feel you have the right to judge another woman, think about whether or not you’re doing it just to make yourself feel better. Seek out your own insecurities and attack them with the same vigor you attack other women and maybe, just maybe, we can finally take a step towards building a web of support and cheering on other women that changes the future of womanhood for the following generations.

Smile sympathetically at the woman whose child is having a meltdown in a public place instead of shaking your head in disdain.

Cheer on the woman who has the confidence to jog in public for working to better her health.

Be supportive of a woman’s choice to breastfeed, or bottle feed, or co sleep or detachment parent.

Embrace the crooked noses, the uneven skin tones, or any other physical trait that makes a fellow woman unique.

Spread laughter and acceptance so that you can reap laughter and acceptance in return.

To any woman who reads this who has ever been judged by herself or others, let me say “I accept you, I support you, and I will cheer you on as you struggle to make your path in this world. Be happy with who you are and I will be happy for you as well!”

Just my thought of the day.

The 30 Day Challenge

I consider myself diet conscious. I try to eat right. I’m working on exercising more. I have a keen interest in nutrition and the holistic benefits of natural food. I’ve considered going vegetarian, but confess readily that I’m an omnivore so it’s unlikely to happen. I devour nutrition books and information the way other people shovel down French fries (figuratively speaking). I know what’s good for me, I know what’s bad for me, and I strive for moderation and balance.

Even then, I know that it’s not quite enough.  And, because I am easily distracted, I know I’ll never step my game up and meet my own standards of food unless I challenge myself to do better. So today, I’m thinking, it’s time to start planning. It’s going to take planning before I can implement my 30 day food challenge. It’s going to take preparation and the steely resolve of the truly determined.

Unfortunately, I cannot achieve everything I would like to. Veggies and fruit completely grown at home (or at the very least through a crop share), Amish Chicken raised locally on a sustainable farm that produces equal quality in their cage free eggs. A diet completely lacking in refined sugars and flours that doesn’t sacrifice taste. A handsome, half naked, tousle-haired Australian chef to do all of the cooking for me – because I do NOT have this thing people call “free time” often enough. Clean counters, cabinets and refrigerator shelves that house only the easiest, most nutritious snacks and meals. The list goes on and on… truly.

Current Progress

I gave up sugary drinks as a child because soda makes me sick to my stomach, literally.

I love broccoli, spinach, kale, lima beans, green beans, black beans, white beans, cucumber, bell peppers, and tomatoes. I strongly dislike carrots but I eat them because I know they’re good for me. I’m not a fan of corn and avoid it whenever possible.

I cut back my coffee intake, even though I drink it black, to help my sleep schedule.

I drink, on average, a gallon of water a day.

I eat a ton of fresh fruit, veggies, yogurt, eggs, and chicken.

I exercise a minimum of 4 times a week for 45-90 minutes each time.

I get approximately 8.5 hours of sleep each night.

I have reached the point where I consistently consume the 1250 calorie minimum I set for myself (this was a big one for me.).

The New Plan

Remove all refined flour items from my diet. No crackers, white pasta, cookies, etc. 100% whole grain from here on out.

Remove added sugar and sweeteners from my diet as much as possible. This means checking labels and deciphering the ingredients.

Adhere to portion sizes strictly.

Reduce intake of highly processed food.

Add two fish meals a week.

Institute a “meatless” day of the week.

Reevaluate my cabinets, counters, and fridge contents. Donate or pitch any items that don’t meet my new goals. Stock shelves with handy snacks.

Increase and diversify my vegetable intake; shop at local farmers markets when possible.

Maintain workout schedule.

Maintain water intake.

The Hurdles to Overcome

All of this sounds easy, until you consider my life and the people in it. We can start with my 2 year old son, who is on what the doctor calls “the white diet”. Common for children his age, he eats only chicken nuggets (fried with smooth batter texture), chips, crackers, and pretzels. We have tried everything with him. My parents even stopped arguing with me when they saw how he would sit there and refuse to eat, even after having fasted all night while sleeping, for three hours. He’ll honestly cry for three hours and refuse to eat ANYTHING that doesn’t fit on his personal approved list. I kid you not. He doesn’t eat cookies, candy, ice cream, Jell-O, or even cake, because he has “texture” issues with them. That’s one difficult factor.

The next factor is my parents who, bless their hearts, feed me dinner about 3-4 nights a week because I work and am in school 9 months out of the year. Typical dinners include a lot of white pasta, heavy sauces, and double portion sizes. Add in my sister, who is a huge believer in eating healthy but also a faithful Herbalife user who, (no offense because I love her to death) seems to think that I shouldn’t eat two of my daily meals, I should drink them instead.

My best friend and hetero life-mate is also my partner in crime. We have the ability to support each other in our goals, but also tend to rationalize and justify each other’s slip ups. This is a double edged sword, but I wouldn’t give up time with her for the world.

Then there is my son’s father. He’s a healthy guy who’s lost a lot of weight, toned himself up, and is running a new business as a personal trainer. He’s a great inspiration and adheres (mostly) to the chicken, rice and veggies rule of weight loss. He’s also my biggest deterrent in this, because I cannot stand the idea of eating the exact same thing 3 – 6 times a day, or worse, the same meal for breakfast, the same lunch, the same dinner, etc… every day. If my meals are that boring and repetitive, I’ll never make it.

An additional complication is that I spend so much time shuffling from my place to my son’s father’s place, travelling with an overnight back twice a week. Whatever I eat has to travel well.

The Planning

Now, I know that people overcome obstacles worse than these all the time but we are all different and, knowing myself as well as I do, I know my own limits.

Here is where the planning comes in. I purposely set a start date for this challenge of July 1st, over a month away, to give me time to get over the stress of training for Warrior Dash as well as give myself some downtime following a rough spring semester. It gives me time to purchase items I need and organize my life and living space better. It allows me to investigate and collect recipes. And all of this allows me to formulate a plan of attack for the food prep I’m going to have to do every Sunday. Because that is pretty much the only day I have each week to prepare my meals for the week.

I’m going to need to pack a full day’s meals every night before bed. Breakfast, snacks, lunch, snacks, etc.  On days when I won’t be home I have to pack or plan dinners for me and my son’s father.

I have to figure out how to accommodate my son’s picky eating (which our doctor says he’ll grow out of eventually) without tempting myself.

And, more importantly, I have to get the people I love on board with it. They don’t have to join me, but I don’t need them unintentionally sabotaging me either.

I’ll keep you all posted with updates as progress is made. And, if anyone has any recipes or ideas to share, I’d love to see them!

Keep Calm and Tread On.

 

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Judgement Day

Warrior DashJune 17th, 2012
Judgement Day: A day to push past my limits, cavort in the mud, and celebrate with a beer!
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