Where we get fit and spin (wool)

I’m going to be nice. If you are on a diet where you have to avoid something, I won’t pick on you. Many people have to avoid certain foods for lots of reasons. If you think it is making you healthier, well, that depends on what you are replacing the banned food with.

This post was prompted by my amusement over my husband’s creamer bottle, proudly stating iIMG_4611t is gluten and lactose free. If you have celiac disease, or are lactose intolerant, that’s a good thing to know. However, if you think for one moment that either of those things makes creamer healthy, it doesn’t.  First, the ingredient list is closer to a chemistry classroom than a kitchen, and second, sugar is a top ingredient. Third, I don’t know how quickly you’d go through a quart bottle, but in our house, it’s about a one a week. I did the math. That’s 35 calories a serving, times 63 servings, 2,205 calories a week. That’s a whole days worth of calories in one extra ingredient. That is a perfect example of little things adding up.

Getting back to the “Free” business. Just because something doesn’t have an ingredient that is on your personal no-no list, doesn’t make it a good product. I know vegans that live on brownies and potato chips, since they make vegan versions. White bread is vegan, and there are a multitude of reasons to not eat it.

I’m lactose intolerant, so I might get enticed by our little creamer here, except for all the problems already mentioned. Nowadays there are dozens of options, from lactase pills, lactose free milk, soy, almond, coconut and rice milk. Since I look to milk for protein, carbs, and calcium, I opt for soy. Most almond milk, no matter how fortified, doesn’t have the same profile. When you decide something is off your eating list, you have to carefully consider what to put in its place.

Another example. Sugar is very bad for you. I could show you all the studies, but it is like using rocket fuel in grandma’s sedan. Unless you are very, very active, you won’t use it, and it will raise your blood sugar and increase the odds you’ll get diabetes. Like everyone else on this planet, I have a strong desire for sweets. So what to do? Rather than substituting something else, I try to keep the quantity of real sugar to a minimum. I try to avoid “mindless” sweets, and save my sugar for the “good stuff”, in my case, chocolate.

I found another funny example. Look. It’s a sensible choice. No fat, no cholesterol, no trans fat. Must be good, right? Turn it over and read the label. IMG_4646

IMG_4647 Twenty seven grams of sugar in a one third cup serving. That is identical to a Snickers candy bar. If you are trying to lose weight, fine. A snickers has 250 calories. If you are striving for all over health, and healthy foods, no.

I love my cranberries. I put them in almost everything. However, I don’t put 1/3 of a cup in. They are a condiment, and a source of sugar. I do try and eliminate certain foods, sugar being one, so I try and keep that overall amount of added sugar down to 25 grams. I wouldn’t want to  blow all of that on one serving of cranberries!

Moral of the story? Don’t trust labels or eliminating specific categories of food to make you healthy. Eat mostly vegetables, then fruit, then grains, meats and dairy and finally sweets. Read the labels. Learn all you can. Whatever your favorite belief system is about food, read the criticism of it and see if it is accurate. If you aren’t getting the results you want, rethink what you are doing. Don’t follow fads. Keep trying.

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Faith in Things Unseen

So I haven’t written in awhile, I’ve been so busy going back to school. However, an event today spurred me, since it is too long for a Facebook post.

I put a pond in about two years ago.IMG_4334

This is what it looked like in the beginning of summer, after I got two koi to add to my gold fish. The little colored specks are the fish. I get very attached to them. The light colored one towards the back, that’s Blondie. I really didn’t think she’d made it through the winter. Every time I thought she was gone, she fooled me. Other ones did die, I bought 6 more goldfish at the beginning of this summer, along with the koi.

All this time, I’ve wanted to deepen it. I felt we were too hasty to get it done and didn’t dig it deep enough. Especially since I kept finding dead fish in my pump, which I kept in the deepest part. I felt the fish were trying to get in there to hide from predators.

Well, I hadn’t seen a fish in weeks. Yesterday I put water clarifier in, the pond was very green. It must not have been enough, it only lightened the green, it didn’t make it disappear the way it did previously in the above picture. Today, I was convinced the fish were gone, and I thought “Now’s my chance to dig it deeper, with no fish to worry about.”

Can you guess where this is going? Oh me of little faith. Not only was Blondie and one of the koi alive, but someone had been busy. There were at least 5 goldfish that I had never seen before. Very little goldfish. I couldn’t have been more proud if I had hatched them myself.

empty pond, looking awful.

See that little muddy hole? There was still one more fish in there after I scooped all the others out. I never found him till I was done and started putting everything back.

Of course, I have to give credit to my helper.My long suffering husband. I'm sure this is not how he expected to spend his Sunday afternoon. Once my husband saw I was determined to do this, he came out to help.

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It was all worth it in the end.

I even made a new hiding place for them. Now they don’t have to commit suicide in the pump to get away from bad guys. Moral of the story: Just because you can’t see something, doesn’t mean it is isn’t there. And it might just be better than you thought. And you can make all the spiritual allegories you want. I will, and do.

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“Should I Juice?”

This is what a friend of mine asked me recently. Since I am obsessed with fitness and nutrition, I would have thought this question had been answered and settled long ago. I forget for people who don’t think about this stuff all the time, this might be the first time they heard of juicing. I have two answers. One, you’re a grownup, do what you want, and two, no, it won’t do what people are telling you it will do.

I told my friend that if what she wanted to do is fast, sure, go ahead. She said, “No, this isn’t fasting, as least they don’t say it is”. Let me assure you,unless you are on TPN, if all you are consuming is two glasses of juice a day, you are fasting. Or even three glasses. Just drinking the juice of a plant or fruit in limited quantities is not enough calories for a day. And yes, you will lose tons of weight, since you are not eating enough. And yes, you will gain it all back, plus some, the minute you resume normal eating because while you were fasting, you weren’t establishing better eating habits and you probably weren’t exercising because you felt like a limp noodle.

So my friend said, “what if I put it all in a blender and make a smoothie?” Well, that is better, at least you are getting the fiber and bulk, and that will slow down all that sugar from hitting your bloodstream at once, but still, what have you learned? Are you planning on eating that way the rest of your life? What is your transition plan? Plus, all those foods are delicious. Why put them into a blender and end up with something you can barely tolerate?

That brings me to my next point- most people pushing juicing are doing so to sell something. Either a powder to add to the juice, or a juicer, or their book. Anytime you see a “new” diet method, follow the money. What are they selling.

So, juice or smoothie if that’s what you love. Remember it has calories, so if you are adding juice to your diet, replace something else. In fact, you want me to support your juicing, tell me it replaced doughnuts in your life, then I’ll be on board all the way! A fruit and vegetable smoothie is a GREAT replacement to 90% of what Americans eat for breakfast. Add some yogurt or protein powder and have that. I’m not against those things by themselves, I’m against people trying to lose weight with JUST those, and no plan. Remember the “sensible meal” part, and learn what that is.

It’s Never Enough

Our society jokes about being “OCD”, and obsessive compulsive disorder figures in many tv shows like Monk, so it’s a familiar concept to many people. I’m not going to talk about the psychiatric disorder, but rather its precursor that is in all of us, that need to have or do more.

I have several friends who have Christmas villages that take over their houses every Christmas. It may take them months of free time to set up and take down. Yet, there is always something else to get for the village. As far as I know, they are still collecting.

My mother had anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder where there is no stopping the desire to lose weight by not eating. Their only goal is to lose weight, and there is no reasonable end point.

No reasonable end point. That’s the problem, isn’t it? While we get aggravated by the perceived slackers in our society, even they will play video games till they lose jobs or need Redbull to go on. It’s what appalls us about capitalism, that no matter how much money a person or a company makes, it’s never enough. It’s a biological drive run amuck, or subverted in ways we don’t see anymore. It’s why athletes take drugs to do more, it’s at the root of addiction, it’s why people amass huge collections. It can make people either impressive or pitiable. It took us to the moon, and causes there to be a “1%”. It is part of our nature, for better or worse, once you look for it, you see it everywhere.

We always talk about obsessive behavior in terms of the rewards. Hoarders supposedly have a sense of loss that the stuff around them staves off. Of course, if your obsessively focused behavior gains you money or status, the payoff is obvious, but I would suggest it is a drive, like hunger, and that the payoff is in satisfying it. I know for myself, I have that driven feeling very strongly, but fortunately I can channel it any number of ways, although once something takes hold, it is hard to stop it. I “need” to make things, and I “need” to exercise. I put those in quotes, as they both have the type of urge in them. It is an emotional/mental need for me, that if I don’t do it, I can’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t make anything during the last semester, I subverted all my drive into school. I literally went on a creative bender once school ended.

I usually like to end my blog entries with a solution. But is this a problem? I picked some examples that can end in problems, but the drive itself can lead to great things. I just want to float the idea, to get it out there for others to play with. Maybe if we start thinking about the drive itself, instead of its objects, maybe we can get a better handle on it.

What are your drives? Do you know the feeling I’m talking about? That need to do the thing,  that is gets you out of bed in the morning and what you go to sleep thinking about? Is it your motivation, or your bane?

The One you Feed

Alert- this  post features Christian thought.

So our Sunday school lesson this morning is on Psalm 119:9-16. I was struck by these verses, “9  How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.
10 With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!
11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!”

I was thinking how hard it is for me to memorize bible verses, and what it means to hide God’s word in your heart. It made me think about the story of the Two Wolves, an old Indian legend about the war in the human heart being a war between two wolves, one good and one bad, and the one that wins is the one you feed. Reading God’s word is feeding the good wolf.

I don’t know how many of you know about neural plasticity, the idea that our brain actually reshapes as we learn, a blessing since we don’t grow new neurons, and damage does occur. When we learn things, our brain makes new physical connections between the neurons. When someone has a stroke, other parts of their brain can “rewire” to take over for the damaged parts, making connections to cover those lost areas. We can see this happening for physical tasks, like walking, talking and feeding yourself. This also true of the more nebulous things like feelings, personality and remembering phone numbers.

This time of year is difficult for me, I get sad and maudlin. All the negatives in my life, from childhood to mistakes in raising my own children rear up and assault me in the emotionally charged atmosphere of holidays. Last night I did not allow those thoughts to take over, instead, I found the things that gave me pleasure, and focused on those. I have not had an alcoholic beverage in over 20 years, and I was musing on how quickly a bad mood  of such magnitude could arise as to cause fleeting thoughts of it to pass through. Through long experience I knew other choices to make, and made those instead, reinforcing the positive pathways in my brain.

Feelings come and go, we can stoke the good ones, and tamp down the negative ones. Our decision making ability is the one thing under our control. We can’t control emotions springing up, but, like water, we can channel those emotions so they can become positive things. We can choose what thoughts we allow, and where our thoughts will go. Thoughts are what trigger emotions. If you don’t believe me, just think about whether you turned the stove off, or if a bill is overdue!  If we spend time in God’s word, or around positive people, or reframe our experiences for the positive, we can remake our thoughts. Reframing means changing the context of a thought. For example, I can think “my friend didn’t call me because she is angry with me”, causing a cascade of negative feelings, or I can think “my friend didn’t call me, because like me, she is busy and had no reason to call”, causing no feeling. In other words, don’t go borrowing trouble.  If any of you are suffering from depression, I don’t mean to make it sound easy, I have been there, I know you need help getting a foothold on that ability to reframe.

Which brings me to my last thought. Every time I read about a person changing their life, it comes down to making up their mind to do so.  But most of them had tried changing more than once. Most of the people who succeeded had failed previous attempts. I really think it is like Dumbo’s magic feather. For those that don’t know, Dumbo was an elephant whose enormous ears allowed him to fly, but he didn’t believe he could, so his friend gave him a “magic feather” and convinced him it gave him the power of flight. I think most of us just need a magic feather. You have to have faith that you aren’t in this alone, that you can do what it is you are attempting, and that it will work. Without that faith, attempts fail. I had tried to quit smoking numerous times before I succeeded. Someone said to me “don’t smoke, even if your butt falls off”, and that thought carried me through. It reframed the situation for me. Instead of thinking “can I get through stressful situations without a cigarette?”, it became “nothing is more important than quitting.”

Of course, as a Christian, I believe God is the ultimate object to have faith in. If anyone is familiar with 12 step therapy, you know that they frame it as a higher power, which can be anything outside yourself. Sometimes you need a “subcategory” of something to have faith in, like the fact that others have done what you are doing, or that the process is worth it.

I wrote all of this to pass on what it has taken me years to learn, and what benefits me on a daily basis, as someone who has suffered from anxiety and depression, who did go down the road of addiction and come back. I hope my explanation is clear, and that you might get some benefit from it.

Your New Normal

For the longest time I’ve struggled to find the right way to convey the idea of what it takes to go from living an unhealthy lifestyle to a healthy one. I found it the other day from an unlikely source.

I was sitting in my kinesiology class and we were talking about upper motor neuron lesions, and brain plasticity. My instructor said that people with these kinds of injury don’t get normal back, they get a kind of new normal.

While weight loss and fitness are COMPLETELY different from spinal cord injury or head trauma, the same idea does apply. If you want to get fit, you have to make a new normal. It is truly the concept of not dieting, but changing your eating habits for life. It isn’t going to the gym for a quick fix January first, and dropping out by February, but rather swapping post meal tv for a walk. It is making new choices at the grocery store, the restaurant, in our leisure activities and our social events.

We are the product of the sum total of our daily activities. If that involves more in than out, we gain weight. More out than in, we lose it. So, we have to make a new normal that pares down the in, while increasing the out. Every choice we make is part of creating the new normal.

The analogy to recovery from brain or spinal cord injury goes a bit further. Just as you would not get up out of bed and walk a week after suffering such a condition, but rather you would struggle, and work and have triumphs and setbacks, so it is with creating a new lifestyle for yourself. You set yourself on the path, and you cannot even see the destination at first. You just make one choice, then another. Eventually you pick up steam, the earlier choices are cemented in, and you layer on the new ones, until finally, one day, someone asks you, “how did you do it?”

If there is anything I hope you gain from this analogy is to change the mindset of quick weight  loss – THERE IS NO WAY TO DO THAT AND BE HEALTHY. They are starting to refer to the “Biggest Loser phenomena” because the people who lost weight on the show really struggle to keep it off. It has to be slow, incremental, permanent changes.

If anyone is offended by my analogy, I apologize, and I hope I’ve made it clear I am not saying the two situations are in any way the same in seriousness or pain.

Scrooged

man shaking his finger at you.

You are hereby absolved from your Christmas baking. Yup, you don’t have to do it. I know what you are thinking, “I was enjoying this lady’s blogs, but now I’m wondering if I’m reading stuff from a nut job. I mean, here it is August, why are you talking about Christmas now?” Well, I figure if I say it now, you’ll have time to let it digest. Plus, if I say it any closer to Christmas, I’ll probably get hate mail.

So back to the Christmas baking. Either you are the Nana, MeeMaw, Gigi, Grandma, Granny, Mom, Aunt or other producer of the family Christmas goodies, or you are the recipient. If you are the recipient, pass this on to the producer. You know who they are! They are the martyrs who tell you, “I was up till midnight last night making three dozen pfefferneuse, two dozen chocolate chip and two batches of kringles.” They are the ones who bring the huge plates of cookies to the office parties or give them as gifts. They strive to outdo each other as the preeminent cookie supplier. Points are given for both quantity and quality. They wouldn’t dare have less than three kinds of cookies on hand for any occasion from November 30 to the end of January.

They are also the ones who complain that they can’t lose weight, or they gained x number of pounds over the holidays. So stop it. Just stop.

I can hear the screams of outrage now. “I can’t, my family expects it.” “What fun are the holidays without goodies?” “Lighten up, you have to live.”

So how serious are you about your health? Do you really want to lose weight, or do you want to just complain without really doing anything? How about that family? Do you really want to set your children and grandchildren up to be overweight as well? Do you seriously want to train them to be unhealthy? It scares me how we have this mindset to give our children food that is bad for them, simply because it is not making them fat at the moment. What do you think happens when they stop growing? Also, if that food is unhealthy for you, why do you think it is any less so for children? While it is a topic for its own blog post, we are training our children to be unhealthy by giving them the white flour, sugar, salt, processed meats, and fats that we know we shouldn’t eat. Our society is a bit schizoid as well in its competing beliefs that we should party for two months and not gain weight. Generally, people gain 1-5 lbs over the holidays, and never lose it. Half of that is alcohol, so there is another part of the equation, but telling people to not drinking is even less popular than telling them to lay off the baked goods!

If you can’t stop, may I suggest modifying. Instead of baking two or three kinds of cookies, bake one batch of one kind. Do not bake another till the first is gone. When you have multiple kinds, people feel obligated to take one of each, encouraging over-consumption.

Think about it. All the time you save not baking all that stuff will give you time to go for a walk or to the gym. If all this is causing you to have a glassy eyed look of horror pasted on your face, well, you have a few months to adjust to the idea. And when you come out of hibernation in the spring a few pounds lighter instead of heavier, you’ll thank me. Really, you will.

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