Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Put Your Oxygen Mask on First!

Is there an emergency drill? There certainly must be an airplane emergency, if you're having to put your mask on first! No, this is just my reminder that we need to take care of ourselves first before we can help others. You know, put your oxygen mask on first before you help the child next to you. So, from where you stand now, are you doing this? Are you taking care of yourself in the midst of the annual holiday chaos?

Holiday To Dos

1) Breathe. Take a moment to breathe. There is nothing as simple as taking a long, deep breath, but when was the last time you really took a long deep breath? Most of us run around breathing shallowly and not getting oxygen deep down into our belly. Try it.. you might like it! Start off slow though if you aren't used to it so your lungs can get used to the increased oxygen.

2) Get some fresh air and sunlight (if you have some!). If it's cold outside, bundle up and head on out. Enjoy the crispy air.

3) Smile. Look at a loved one and smile at him or her. It doesn't matter if we're talking about a significant other, a child, or a pet, or even your worst neighbor or coworker! Positive energy can transfer to others and can only serve to lift you up.

4) Get physical. You can take this however way you want - it's about moving your body in a good way. Physical movement and physical touch are things our physical bodies all crave, and setting off endorphins naturally is a great way to feel good throughout the season!

Luckily, this holiday season has not been crazy for me at all, but I have realized with all the best intentions in the world, that I have not been able to update my blog every week - as I had originally intended once I switched jobs at the end of November. I am happy to say that I have been taking care of myself more. Eating healthy has not been a problem for me, but relieving stress and getting exercise, fresh air and sunlight have been. So putting my mask on first has been taking care of the physical elements my body has been craving.

What ways are you putting your mask on first?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Changes in the Air and Giving Thanks for All of It

This month, my birth month, has been INSANE with changes, in a good way! Current job as project manager officially ended today. Go me! I liked all the people I worked with, but the job itself wasn't enough for me. I can certainly be the go-to person to get projects done, but it didn't fill me with the passion I exude when I talk about real food. That's why the past weekend at the Weston A. Price Wise Traditions Conference in Schaumburg, IL, I really felt I was in my element because I was surrounded by people who enjoyed real food as much as I do!

Next week is all about Thanksgiving, family, giving thanks, and, of course, food. Real food! But, mostly, the focus on next week is Gratitude, with a capital G. I am soooooo grateful for everything that has come into my life the past days/weeks/months/years/lifetime:

* I am grateful for a job that supported me the past two years while I was able to figure out "what I wanted to do when I grew up".

* I am so thankful to find a new job that really fits aligned with my passions and my values. New job starts on November 30th. I will be able to help bunches of people lose weight and become healthier, possibly even avoid becoming diabetic or reduce their medications, by educating them on making smarter, real-food choices.

* I am happy that, even though I have had to hear the messages a few times before it all clicked in my head, my awareness about my own health has improved. My drumming teacher exclaimed loudly today, "Is that you??" while looking at a Christmas photo from two years back. I looked at the photo and realized, WOW, I really do look so much healthier now than I had two years ago (and really, even two months ago). My weight hasn't changed much because I still pretty much fit into the same clothes, BUT the puffiness around my face and bloating elsewhere are gone. I don't seem so flabby now, even with the minimal walking/dancing that I do each week. I have been eating real foods now following the 80/20 rule, but it wasn't until I cut out the grains, gluten, and simple sugars completely and starting eating enough high-quality fats that my body started deflating. What a HUGE difference. And, I'm learning to listen to myself and not so much depend on what other people's suggestions on "the ideal diet". I had to figure things out for myself as an individual. I am unique, and so are you!

* I am making new connections with people in my community, some of which will be very helpful in my future real-food promoting endeavors.

* And, I am soooooo grateful for all the people who came before me on this path to promote real food. For all the farmers who decided enough was enough and are providing organic, free-range, grassfed/pastured products - thank you. For all the food activists, like the Weston A. Price Foundation's Sally Fallon Morell, who get up every day to promote wholesome food and dispel incorrect information to the public - thank you. For all the volunteers who helped organize the Wise Traditions conference and the real food bloggers (you know who you are!) so that more people can become aware of how their food gets to their plate - thank you. I am honored to be able to follow your footsteps, and hope to provide a voice to strengthen those already fighting the good food fight!

Now, I can't wait for all the roasting, fermenting, and cooking to begin!!


PS - If you are looking for some really awesome real food recipes to try out, check these out from the Wise Traditions' conference. The food there was AMAZING, and I can vouch for the tastiness! Thanks to Amanda Love, the Barefoot Cook, and Sally Fallon Morell (from her Nourishing Traditions cookbook) for providing these recipes.

Friday, November 6, 2009

November: opportunities, conference, and more

Life has been a whirlwind. My blogging activity had died down over the past month or so when things got really hectic at work. But this is where everything changes!

I found out about a part-time opportunity, really, more of a paid internship than anything, where I would be able to educate overweight, diabetics, and pre-diabetic people on becoming healthier by eating REAL FOOD. This is SO in line with my goals that I had to consider the opportunity. And without a hitch, I was hired in 15 minutes!

So, what this means is: more free time to work on the MS in Holistic Nutrition, work time is spent gaining experience at what I love to do, more free time to practice what I am learning in other wellness centers, AND more time to BLOG.

My blog garden (like my real-life garden) is in disarray. Sad, but true. I am hoping to add more creative, structured content regularly to really match what I am learning and to make observations on what I come across in actual clients.

This will be fun!

First, I have to get through the next two weeks of old work, Weston A. Price Foundation's Annual Wise Traditions Conference in Schaumburg, IL next week, and Thanksgiving! If you are planning on attending the conference, give me a buzz and let me know. I would love to meet people in person!


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Michael Pollan's Article - The Elephant in the Healthcare Room

I had to repost this article from Michael Pollan from the New York Times. Thank goodness for people like Michael Pollan.

September 10, 2009
Op-Ed Contributor
Big Food vs. Big Insurance
Berkeley, Calif.

TO listen to President Obama’s speech on Wednesday night, or to just about anyone else in the health care debate, you would think that the biggest problem with health care in America is the system itself — perverse incentives, inefficiencies, unnecessary tests and procedures, lack of competition, and greed.

No one disputes that the $2.3 trillion we devote to the health care industry is often spent unwisely, but the fact that the United States spends twice as much per person as most European countries on health care can be substantially explained, as a study released last month says, by our being fatter. Even the most efficient health care system that the administration could hope to devise would still confront a rising tide of chronic disease linked to diet.

That’s why our success in bringing health care costs under control ultimately depends on whether Washington can summon the political will to take on and reform a second, even more powerful industry: the food industry.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three-quarters of health care spending now goes to treat “preventable chronic diseases.” Not all of these diseases are linked to diet — there’s smoking, for instance — but many, if not most, of them are.

We’re spending $147 billion to treat obesity, $116 billion to treat diabetes, and hundreds of billions more to treat cardiovascular disease and the many types of cancer that have been linked to the so-called Western diet. One recent study estimated that 30 percent of the increase in health care spending over the past 20 years could be attributed to the soaring rate of obesity, a condition that now accounts for nearly a tenth of all spending on health care.

The American way of eating has become the elephant in the room in the debate over health care. The president has made a few notable allusions to it, and, by planting her vegetable garden on the South Lawn, Michelle Obama has tried to focus our attention on it. Just last month, Mr. Obama talked about putting a farmers’ market in front of the White House, and building new distribution networks to connect local farmers to public schools so that student lunches might offer more fresh produce and fewer Tater Tots. He’s even floated the idea of taxing soda.

But so far, food system reform has not figured in the national conversation about health care reform. And so the government is poised to go on encouraging America’s fast-food diet with its farm policies even as it takes on added responsibilities for covering the medical costs of that diet. To put it more bluntly, the government is putting itself in the uncomfortable position of subsidizing both the costs of treating Type 2 diabetes and the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup.

Why the disconnect? Probably because reforming the food system is politically even more difficult than reforming the health care system. At least in the health care battle, the administration can count some powerful corporate interests on its side — like the large segment of the Fortune 500 that has concluded the current system is unsustainable.

That is hardly the case when it comes to challenging agribusiness. Cheap food is going to be popular as long as the social and environmental costs of that food are charged to the future. There’s lots of money to be made selling fast food and then treating the diseases that fast food causes. One of the leading products of the American food industry has become patients for the American health care industry.

The market for prescription drugs and medical devices to manage Type 2 diabetes, which the Centers for Disease Control estimates will afflict one in three Americans born after 2000, is one of the brighter spots in the American economy. As things stand, the health care industry finds it more profitable to treat chronic diseases than to prevent them. There’s more money in amputating the limbs of diabetics than in counseling them on diet and exercise.

As for the insurers, you would think preventing chronic diseases would be good business, but, at least under the current rules, it’s much better business simply to keep patients at risk for chronic disease out of your pool of customers, whether through lifetime caps on coverage or rules against pre-existing conditions or by figuring out ways to toss patients overboard when they become ill.

But these rules may well be about to change — and, when it comes to reforming the American diet and food system, that step alone could be a game changer. Even under the weaker versions of health care reform now on offer, health insurers would be required to take everyone at the same rates, provide a standard level of coverage and keep people on their rolls regardless of their health. Terms like “pre-existing conditions” and “underwriting” would vanish from the health insurance rulebook — and, when they do, the relationship between the health insurance industry and the food industry will undergo a sea change.

The moment these new rules take effect, health insurance companies will promptly discover they have a powerful interest in reducing rates of obesity and chronic diseases linked to diet. A patient with Type 2 diabetes incurs additional health care costs of more than $6,600 a year; over a lifetime, that can come to more than $400,000. Insurers will quickly figure out that every case of Type 2 diabetes they can prevent adds $400,000 to their bottom line. Suddenly, every can of soda or Happy Meal or chicken nugget on a school lunch menu will look like a threat to future profits.

When health insurers can no longer evade much of the cost of treating the collateral damage of the American diet, the movement to reform the food system — everything from farm policy to food marketing and school lunches — will acquire a powerful and wealthy ally, something it hasn’t really ever had before.

AGRIBUSINESS dominates the agriculture committees of Congress, and has swatted away most efforts at reform. But what happens when the health insurance industry realizes that our system of farm subsidies makes junk food cheap, and fresh produce dear, and thus contributes to obesity and Type 2 diabetes? It will promptly get involved in the fight over the farm bill — which is to say, the industry will begin buying seats on those agriculture committees and demanding that the next bill be written with the interests of the public health more firmly in mind.

In the same way much of the health insurance industry threw its weight behind the campaign against smoking, we can expect it to support, and perhaps even help pay for, public education efforts like New York City’s bold new ad campaign against drinking soda. At the moment, a federal campaign to discourage the consumption of sweetened soft drinks is a political nonstarter, but few things could do more to slow the rise of Type 2 diabetes among adolescents than to reduce their soda consumption, which represents 15 percent of their caloric intake.

That’s why it’s easy to imagine the industry throwing its weight behind a soda tax. School lunch reform would become its cause, too, and in time the industry would come to see that the development of regional food systems, which make fresh produce more available and reduce dependence on heavily processed food from far away, could help prevent chronic disease and reduce their costs.

Recently a team of designers from M.I.T. and Columbia was asked by the foundation of the insurer UnitedHealthcare to develop an innovative systems approach to tackling childhood obesity in America. Their conclusion surprised the designers as much as their sponsor: they determined that promoting the concept of a “foodshed” — a diversified, regional food economy — could be the key to improving the American diet.

All of which suggests that passing a health care reform bill, no matter how ambitious, is only the first step in solving our health care crisis. To keep from bankrupting ourselves, we will then have to get to work on improving our health — which means going to work on the American way of eating.

But even if we get a health care bill that does little more than require insurers to cover everyone on the same basis, it could put us on that course.
For it will force the industry, and the government, to take a good hard look at the elephant in the room and galvanize a movement to slim it down.

Michael Pollan, a contributing writer for The Times Magazine and a professor of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, is the author of “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Goodbye August

I cannot believe I have let the entire month of August go by without one blog entry. OK, I'll fit one in just for today! It has been one crazy month, with my finishing my first full term of my core curriculum just last week. I will be glad for the summer haze to be over soon, even as temperatures still go sky-high at night these days.

Moving on to my weight management class (ugh!) and digestion class (yay!), starting next month. So, two more weeks of vacation before next term starts. I promise to write more once I'm in the groove again (at least within the next few weeks!). I have learned a tremendous amount lately on insulin resistance and systemic hormone imbalances and inflammation.

More later,

Friday, July 31, 2009

Eggplants, My Favorite Veggie

I love eggplants - I adore them. Eggplants, also known as aubergines, can be an acquired taste, especially if you did not grow up eating it. They come in different sizes, but mostly are purple (there are some white ones too). One of my favorite recipes (below) is one I grew up eating regularly. My siblings hated it, but I was always excited to eat it.. must have been the fair share of butter! As an adult, I love baba ganoush (a Middle Eastern dip), moussaka (a Greek stuffed eggplant), eggplant parmesan, grilled eggplant chips, etc. If it has eggplant in it, I'm there!

(photo credit: The Marmot)

Nutritionally, eggplants are not heavy hitters, but they are valuable! They are low in calories, some fiber, no fat, and are a rich source of manganese. They are a great way to round out a meal.

Japanese Eggplant Stirfry
A very simple recipe.. you can use Japanese eggplants (which are narrow and dark purple) or Italian, or Chinese. I think most other kinds would work, just eyeball quantities to match the amount you need. They do shrink down a bit when cooked.

Eggplant, peeled & cut into bite-sized chunks
Sea salt & pepper
Butter - from grassfed, pastured cows or organic preferably

In a large saucepan, place cut-up eggplant and enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. On medium-low heat, cover with a lid and steam them for about 15 minutes. Check the water level mid-way so that they don't burn! They should be fairly soft at this point and all of the water gone. Add a chunk of butter (or two!) to the mix. Salt & pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Thanks to Diane from The WHOLE Gang for inspiring me to post this recipe for her Friday Foodie collection!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Don't let HR 2749 Pass! Contact your Legislators Today!!

HR 2749, also known as the Food Safety Enhancement Act, did not pass earlier this week, and it could potentially be up for vote again today. We need to prevent this from happening for all the local, artisanal, family farmers out there. HR 2749 will impose extreme hardship on the people we need most in our food system by forcing them to pay high fees and provide extensive paperwork, all to do business.

There are three ways to contact your representatives:

1) Send an email through the Oppose HR 2749 petition on http://bit.ly/Oppose_HR2749
2) Got to "My Elected Officials" at http://www.house.gov and enter your zip code in the box on the upper left hand corner to find your legislators. Call and/or send a fax.
3) Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and asked to be connected to your Representative's office.

Get involved with your food!