Where we get fit and spin (wool)

Posts tagged ‘health’

GMO’s, The Devil Incarnate?

So this post is in response to some of the discussions I’ve engaged in lately. I got into it a bit on facebook this week with a person who was angry that New York turned down a bill to label foods for GMO content.

While I don’t pretend to know all the ramification of GMO’s, or genetically modified organisms, I do know that legally labelling them is difficult. For example, lets say that your bull has had a gene inserted to make him more muscular. Will the beef from his great-grandchild still need to be labeled? Will the owner of his great-grandchild even know? Will all animals have to be micro-chipped and tracked? Anyone in the food industry knows, they are already pushing for that. Welcome to “1984”! (The book). Plants are even more difficult, spores and seeds go where they like. Monsanto has sued innocent people on this basis! If you are interested, here is a good article outlining the possibilities. The greatest risk appears to be greater “weediness” in the weeds. Here is another good website exploring these issues. You will notice a lack of conclusions, because the research is new, too soon to draw conclusions. So, will we have to genetically test every plant before it is sold, in case the genes have crept in there? Right now, I would have to say, assume everything you are eating is genetically modified unless you are growing it yourself, from heirloom seeds and livestock. Of course, genetic modification is nothing new. The strawberries and other fruit you have been eating for your whole life are the result of a mutation that we purposely bred. Most everything we eat barely resemble their ancestors. Eaten many crabapples lately? While I agree there is a world of difference in breeding traits that latently exist in the species, and injecting a foreign gene, the results may not be that different. Are all the new peanut allergies a result of a protein that we have bred into peanuts, that many humans are sensitive to? The increase in allergies started prior to our having the ability to add mouse genes to plants.

Worrying about GMO’s is an all or nothing proposition – either we have to ban it now, or quit worrying about it. The genie is out of the bottle. Genes don’t stay put, they don’t stay where you intend them to. The proteins they create can be benign or deadly – milk or serpent venom, both come from genes. We decided that saving people from diabetes was worth the risk when we inserted genes into goats so they make human insulin in their milk so we can harvest it to treat the millions of diabetics. We certainly didn’t care what that did to the baby goats of that species. We’ve created many plants and animals for our benefit that couldn’t exist without us, the genes they carry benefit us, not them. I’m not saying there aren’t potential problems with GMO’s. Animal toxins, like snake venom are made from genes. We could possibly poison a large portion of our food supply by inserting a wrong gene in order to make them more insect resistant. However, the danger is no worse than any other danger to our food supply. We can’t get too crazy, the genes we add have to be compatible with the species, or it won’t survive and reproduce, and it has to not be immediately be poisonous to people. If this sounds like thin comfort, it is. We don’t know if any one of our efforts will be harmful in the long run. Fifty changes could be miraculous and wonderful, and the fifty-first could be horrendous. Life is not without risks. Feeding 7+billion people is not easy.

In my view, we have so many glaring problems with our food supply and diet, that worrying about GMO’s is like worrying about the leaky roof of the burning house. If you can save the house you can fix the roof, but if you can’t put out the fire, the roof is a moot point. Before you worry about the GMO’s, get rid of all the convenience foods, with sugar, white flour, artificial colors and flavors. Limit your red meat consumption. Replace half of your food with vegetables. Quite baking “goodies”. Stop eating candy. Eat plain yogurt, rather than the flavored stuff. Quite eating quite so much. Stop eating any breakfast cereal with more than 5 grams of sugar per serving. Read the serving size and measure if you have to. Don’t eat out. If you are already doing all that, and you have my permission to fret over GMO’s. Vote with your food dollar. Don’t eat soy products, Monsanto has that one sewn up. The corn you eat is largely engineered, so skip that one. Eating other grains is more iffy, but I would say most have probably been engineered, to at least make them more pest resistant. Shop at your local road side stand, take that produce and can, freeze, or dry it for the winter. Buy meat from your local farmer. These are smart ideas to do anyway.

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Another Post on the Contemplation of Spirituality and the Physical

I always warn you if I’m going to talk about God and the bible, so you can tune out if you might be offended. So here is your 5 second delay to hit the back button.

Ok, the rest of you with me? All right then. “”You know the story of the talents?

Mt 25:14 ¶ “For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property;
15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.
16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them; and he made five talents more.
17 So also, he who had the two talents made two talents more.
18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.
20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’
21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’
22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’
23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’
24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow;
25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’
26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed?
27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.
28 So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents.
29 For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’

Well, you know that is a spiritual allegory, and that the literal reference is to money.  But those verses keep coming into my mind when I think about physical fitness. I just spent most of the day with people over the age of 65. Those that were athletes or at least kept a higher than average level of fitness, enjoy a greater abundance of health in old age. those that didn’t apply themselves to their health when they were younger, get less able to do the things for their health when they get older. If you don’t exercise when you are younger, you can’t when you get older. If you don’t like to move when you are younger, you can’t when you get older.

Fortunately, just like the parable, it doesn’t have to be “5 talents”. Even if it is 2, or if you put any effort in, you will reap results. One lady I’ve been working with has gone from being barely able to exercise for 5 minutes, to being able to do 15 minutes. Another gentleman went from barely able to do a plank at all, to doing over a minute.  I’m watching pounds and years roll off of people. However, like the parable, if you refuse to do anything. If you say “I can’t”, and despise the body God gave you, you will reap the results.

Reason #43, Why I Like The Internet.

Last night, a friend and I were talking about the longest lived person, and when I googled it, to see what the longest verified life span was, I stumbled across a really cool site, The Blue Zones. For the uninitiated:

In 2004, Dan Buettner teamed up with National Geographic and hired the world’s best longevity researchers to identify pockets around the world where people lived measurably better.  In these Blue Zones they found that people reach age 100 at rates 10 times greater than in the United States.  They found the extra 10 years that we’re missing.

If you go to the website, you will see this has morphed into a book with plans, quizzes and advice on taking the clues we’ve gotten from these blue zones and turning them into action in your own life.

This plays into my belief (hope) that actions speak louder than genes, since I was dealt a bad deck genetically.  My obsession with fitness grew out of desires to outlive my short-lived ancestors, and to not spend the last years of my life in ill health. The more I read about fitness, the more I believe much of it is in our control, but that it takes effort and planning to achieve that control. For example, if you adore red meat, you may have to decide which you prefer, a long lifespan or lots of red meat. In other words, there is a cost to pay. In my mind, it is such a small one as to be negligible. However, seeing how people around me live and react, I can see that for many people it is far greater than I imagine.  I can’t see how desiring certain foods can outweigh the urge to have a long, healthy life, but it is so. I’ve talked to people who flat out tell me they would rather die young than give up certain foods, or eat others.

In any case, there are like minded people out there, digging deeply into the questions that interest me and, thanks to the internet, I can find out about it and read what they come up with.  I’m not saying that everything on that website is true, correlation does not equal causation, but it does seem to agree with other research out there. Check it out, decide for yourself, and share your conclusions with me.

Real life- Being skinny won’t solve all your problems.

I haven’t blogged for a while since I haven’t had any thing to fire me up. Sure, I never shut up about health and fitness, but to take the time to write an entire article, I must have something big to say. Plus, I am REALLY busy.

After reading this article, I have something big to say. Jen Larson had weight loss surgery and wrote a book about it. It doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, except that she is very articulate about how it didn’t solve all her problems. For me, it keys into my very strong thoughts and opinions on the lookism that pervades our society. I hear really nice people talk about how ugly someone is. Fat and ugly are treated as synonymous. I can’t stand the anti fat attitude that people have.

YES! I hear heads exploding all over the place. I can hear you screaming at your computer, “You? All you ever talk about is eating right and exercising? How can you say you aren’t anti fat?!?” I am anti bad health. I am anti hurting yourself. I am anti self-destructive behavior. As a health professional, I can tell you that using looks for losing weight is the weakest, least effective motivator. A friend of mine posted an article about “fuller figured” mannequins on Face book. My husband commented that if I saw it I would want them to lose weight. NO. I don’t think everyone should be a size 4. I want everyone to be as healthy as possible. I think you have to be happy with the body you have, even before you try to change it. If you read the article that Jen wrote, she thought if she fixed the “in your face” problem, everything would be fine.

“He said that like it was a fact about all fat people. All fat people hate themselves. All fat people know that what’s good in life is really only accessible to thin people. Thin is the most important variable in of life’s equations. Thin equals happy, thin equals beautiful, thin equals a life worth living.

The most embarrassing fact of my life – and oh, how many embarrassing facts there are in my life – is that it was true. I was angry at him for saying it, for buying into the cliché of the fat person. For assuming that my life would transform immediately. Because he was saying all the things I had secretly thought. He was reinforcing all the secret fantasies I had about the way everything about me would be more amenable and lovable and acceptable to the whole rest of the world.”

Alcoholics know, just stopping drinking doesn’t solve the problem. Psychology is more complex  than that. Being obese doesn’t just happen. It is an eating disorder, just like anorexia and bulimia.

I hated my hairy legs, I learned to epilate. I hated my glasses, I got laser surgery. You know what? When I fixed those things, other than the satisfaction of not having those things annoying me, NOTHING changed. Gorgeous or ugly doesn’t change life. Gorgeous women suffer from depression, anxiety, and get in stinky relationships. Ugly women suffer from depression, anxiety, and get in stinky relationships. If you think losing weight will change anything other than your health, take some time to rethink things.

The Mind Body Connection

In the world of physical fitness, the mind body connection most often refers to yoga, as if that is one of the few things that bring about a connection between the two. However, there  is no actual disconnect. Your body does nothing without the control of your mind, and you are a result of the million decisions you make each day: what to eat, wear, how much to sleep and every habit you have. What people  are really talking about in the mind body connection is making that connection more conscious and purposeful. Add the dimension of the spirit, and the conversation gets even more murky- where does that fit in? For actual yogis, yoga is a religious practice, not an exercise option.

As someone who has come rather late in life to a cordial relationship with her body, and that through karate, another practice which explores the relationship between mind, body and spirit, I often think about these relationships. As a Christian, I also try and see what the relationship between my heritage and beliefs are, and those of the eastern religions. I’ve written before of how I don’t see a difference between physical discipline and spiritual. Self control is one of the gifts of the spirit, and it leads to others. How can you have peace or joy if you are in the grip of an eating disorder, your finances are out of control, or any other addiction is running your life?

Ga 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 meekness, self-control; against such there is no law.

The main thought I’m striving for in this post is illustrated in 1 John:

1Jo 4:20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, cannot love God whom he hath not seen.

The physical is a mirror to the spiritual. I don’t know if there is a spiritual thing you can do that is not also physical, because everything we do is expressed by our physical bodies. even our thoughts come of a chemical and electrical brain. (Don’t bring up hormones    –   just don’t go there.)

Right now, since I am practicing fasting for the first time and it certainly is a discipline, that is the focus of my ruminations (pun intended). It is denying the physical in favor of the spiritual. Adding to my contemplation is the fact that my mother was anorectic, and I flirted dangerously close to it as a teenager. Eating clearly shows this mirror to the spiritual. Balance has to be maintained for optimal health, that either extreme falls out of spiritual/mental/physical health. To be clear, I am being pragmatic about this. I am fasting certain meals and reducing my food intake over all, rather than doing a 100% fast. I do believe in the spiritual benefit, but not at the destruction of the body. I am already at the lower end of body weight, and am very active. If God wants me to sacrifice my body, it will have to be for a far greater cause than an exercise in discipline!

In any case, eating occupies a unique place in our life, It is one of the basic human needs we can temporarily abstain from, but one of the few pleasures that can slide into abuse that we cannot refrain from. Our alimentary canal cannot be ignored, it derails the most spiritually minded, bringing them back to earth. We may think we’re too cool for school, till we burp or fart, or just the funny noises our stomach makes in the quietest times. God obviously cares about our food, as I’ve posted about before, there are 163 verses mentioning feast, and 140 with the word food in. Fasting is about penitence, mourning, seeking, a reaching out to God. Feasting is about celebrating and enjoying communion with Him. God would like us to do both, in season. Now that we know how important our digestive tract is to our overall health, it makes even more sense why God is so concerned with our eating. One of the first things he tells Adam and Eve is what to eat.

The symbolic and cultural importance of food cannot be ignored either.  Watch a gathering of people with and without food. With food, people linger longer, relax quicker, act more sociable. Without it, they quickly get their business done and disperse.  Food encourages socialization. To willingly abstain from food puts a person at odds with the society at large. To have a unique diet does the same, but nowadays, that seems to be a popular trend. In the face of the overabundance we have now, people are selectively shrinking their choices, in order to regain control of their eating.

Sorry, this post rambled a bit. It’s hard to quantify some thoughts. Thanks for bearing with me.

Personal Resbonsibility, What’s Yours?

Mea Culpa

I’m a big fan of personal responsibility. I don’t think we can clean up the world, unless we are cleaning our own house. However, I caught myself thinking something today that made me wonder about my own attitudes. I was cleaning the cat box. I use the clumping cat litter, and I was wondering if it is bad for the environment. My next thought was “They wouldn’t be allowed to make it if it wasn’t”. Outside of how ridiculous that thought is (can anyone say “superfund”?), it was an obvious dodge of personal responsibility. In this case, I want to dodge it, as I love this stuff. It makes keeping three cats easy, neat and not stinky. How often do we avoid considering personal responsibility because we don’t want to change?

The Tie In

I live in New York state. Often called the “Nanny state”, since we seem to have more “it’s bad for you” laws than any other state, other than California. Most of us poo-poo those laws, citing personal responsibility. The cat box this morning made me reconsider that. How many of won’t change until forced to, because we like the thing that might not be good for us? They don’t have to ban clumping cat litter for me to stop using it, but the negative qualities would have to be dramatically and forcefully shown to me in order for me to change.

I can’t say I quit smoking because of the indoor smoking ban, but it certainly helped. Going through the mini- withdrawals I had to endure each time I spent time in a public building was an added incentive to quitting. Make it easy to do the right thing, hard to do the wrong is the basis of behavior change. Is it wrong to have our governments to participate in these efforts? What if a company doesn’t exercise personal responsibility and makes a product that hurts people? Is our only recourse tort law? Of course, bringing up tort law reminds us that anything that can be used for good purpose can be used for bad, 10 times over!

That, of course, is the whole reason people are against the government getting involved in areas that should be relegated to personal responsibility, since  governmental laws ALWAYS have unintended consequences. One law does not fit all circumstances. In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg has gotten much criticism and praise for banning trans fat, supersized drinks and making it a law that calories had to be posted in menus. Are people only angry because they don’t like being told what to do? Is there a threat to trying to eliminate unhealthy things? To further complicate things, since we are already in the process of socialized medicine, do you have the right to do what you want, if I have to pay for it? Do I have the right to tell you what to eat if you weigh 250 and are a type II diabetic, and that is costing my tax money to pay for?

Let me know what you think. I don’t know for sure. I don’t want laws that stop me from doing what I like, but I can’t see the harm in guiding behavior in healthier lines, since we have companies doing so much to affect us psychologically and emotionally to buy their products that don’t help us at all. Can we educate everyone and inoculate them mentally to resist? Or do we legislate that companies cannot put certain things in their products, or use certain tactics to sell the items. Does knowing better actually lead to better behavior? I can attest that knowledge alone does not create change.

My Love Affair with Kale is Still Going Strong

Head of dark green kale.

A thing of beauty

How could it not?

Look at this. This was harvested from my garden on December 19, 2012. It’s still growing! Granted, this is an extremely mild winter so far, we’ve only had two hard frosts and a dusting of snow. The rest of the garden has long since gone to sleep. The broccoli might have survived, but I pulled it all up when it bolted so badly.

In case I needed reasons.

How can you not love a vegetable that is so hardy and productive, and so good for you? I had expected to be using what I had frozen by now. I have so much in my freezer that I can’t find other things. I have used some of what I froze, I made a lasagna with chopped kale instead of spinach. Believe it or not, my husband even liked it! In any case, this one vegetable, planted in a ring around the garden, has fed me every day since last spring. I have become addicted to kale added to my oatmeal. I did try the frozen in it, but it is not as nice of a texture, so the fact that those little powerhouses are still going strong makes me so happy. If it was a bad year, the deer would have eaten them all. The two days we did get snow, they immediately came in the yard and topped the whole back of the garden. I harvested a whole bunch then, assuming I was salvaging what I could before they got it all, but they haven’t been back and the rest are still growing.

Just a reminder

In case you can’t figure out why kale makes me so happy, here are some reasons, I copied this from an article on webMD:

One cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), 40% of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.

Kale’s health benefits are primarily linked to the high concentration and excellent source of antioxidant vitamins A, C, and K — and sulphur-containing phytonutrients.

Carotenoids and flavonoids are the specific types of antioxidants associated with many of the anti-cancer health benefits. Kale is also rich in the eye-health promoting lutein and zeaxanthin compounds.

Beyond antioxidants, the fiber content of cruciferous kale binds bile acids and helps lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease, especially when kale is cooked instead of raw.

Ok, so maybe I should be eating more cooked kale, but I have the rest of the winter to do that.

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